Time to Vote Libertarian?
That depends on what you think of the Libertarian Party.
In November, there will be a significant third party represented on the ballot of all 50 states: The Libertarian Party. This offers a vote of dissent for both the unhappy Bernie Brigade and diehard #NeverTrump folks.
Eight declared candidates have announced their official campaigns for the Libertarian nomination, with former Republican New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and 2012 Libertarian nominee leading that field. A second candidate whose name appears popular in the “minimum government, maximum freedom” group is a business owner, Austin Peterson. And there 16 other presidential candidates who are “recognized by the Libertarian Party based on minimal criteria.” How quintessentially libertarian. The nominee will be chosen at the party’s convention at the end of May.
So exactly what is a capital-L Libertarian?
Many will respond that one who pursues ultimate self-governance is a Libertarian. That sounds good if that self-governance holds all others harmless for behavior when proven reckless or negligent. However, in our society, the exercise of one’s “rights” are not confined within a closed circle; that exercise is almost always a consequential matter to others, with the burden — rightly or wrongly — too often carried by society.
While it sounds great to legalize drugs, when you overdose with no insurance, who pays your bills? If the government does not have the authority to “define, license or restrict personal relationships” as the Libertarian platform specifies, the Libertarian apparently stands with the 0.3% of the U.S. population creating havoc in defining gender based on how one feels on a given day.
While white papers and philosophical musings point to men such as John Locke, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine as libertarian forefathers, the modern version of libertarianism has devolved into fragments of “libertinism” that emphasize personal license without a moral framework. That isn’t Liberty as governed by Rule of Law.
The cornerstone of classic libertarianism is prioritizing the individual who makes choices and stands fully accountable for those choices, while protecting others from the potential negative consequences or burden. In the case of those claiming to lean toward this self-governance, many of the supporters of this subdivision of political thought actually want to be governed by self-will, a vast difference.
Self-governance is, as described by University of Texas professor Paul D. Miller, a “culture of public responsibility among a citizenry; that is, a widely accepted norm that citizens can and should take a role in public decision-making. People must believe that they have the right, duty, and ability to govern themselves.”
By contrast, self-will tends to act not out of duty but emotion and personal gratification. A true Libertarian, while touting free markets and the absence of preferential interference characteristic of big business cronyism and abuse of power in today’s government, supports the legalization of drugs, opposes restrictions on abortion and rejects any influence or structure relative to marriage or other dynamics that impact our society. Libertarians also prefer open borders to a fault.
The Libertarian Party platform opens with this declaration: “The protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of government. Government is constitutionally limited so as to prevent the infringement of individual rights by the government itself.”
So while personal liberty is the supreme moral good in the ideology of the Libertarian, the blur between Liberty and license is at issue.
In the ledger of social issues, Democrats have turned into the Social Justice™ crowd who value government over every other institution that serves to benefit our society — whether faith, family or private organizations. Republicans are home to those who seek to guard the value of the family and the role of one’s faith as a preference is given to private solutions versus government agencies. Here, Libertarians join the GOP against the Nanny State but recoil at any social interference which, in effect, enables the Left to push things like abortion on demand and sympathizes with the militant Rainbow Mafia’s extortion demands.
Relative to law, both Democrats and Libertarians are suspicious of law enforcement and take the approach to punishment as rehabilitative of the “justice-involved,” while Republicans default to support first responders.
Further, on the front of national security, Democrats and Libertarians are more closely aligned. The GOP, while not as interventionist as in years past, still advocates that the U.S. engage as a leader of coalitions for the purpose of world safety and national security.
More could be contrasted but an essential question is unanswered. Where has Libertarianism worked?
So much of Libertarianism assumes self-discipline and civic reciprocity of good to yield the utopian portrait of life that occurs without a moral compass or code.
Maybe Mitt Romney’s #NeverTrumpers can team up with the Libertarians to get enough voters to defeat the Republicans. The Bernie folks can vote Libertarian in hopes to get legalized marijuana and change gender on an as-needed basis.
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people,” John Adams once said. “It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with the Libertarian Party. Its ideas aren’t always bad, but it assumes too much good in our modern culture.