Above: The porcupine, symbol of the US Libertarian Party
At the age of 19, I found Tibor Machan’s The Libertarian Alternative* in my university’s library. I’d encountered the idea of radically limited government in the novels of Ayn Rand, but the economic and historical arguments in Machan’s book won me over. From that day on, I voted for the Libertarian candidate in every election. In 2016, I chose Trump as the lesser evil, though I hung on to my Libertarian registration until just a few weeks ago.
Mine was not a casual commitment. In the 1980s I joined the Arizona Libertarian Party where I served on the State Executive Committee and ran for office. Though we weren’t successful except in opposing boondoggles like Light Rail–which was later built anyway–I still had hope. Someday Americans would wake up to the promise of freedom, both social and economic. That hope peaked in 2008 when the libertarian-leaning Ron Paul did well in Republican Presidential primaries. Most corporate media outlets refused to say his name or report his numbers, proving how much the Establishment feared and hated us.
At the same time, I became increasingly disenchanted with the LP’s national organization. It was filled with regime collaborators, some of whom had cheered on George W Bush’s moronic foreign interventions. Others advocated the one-sided “free trade” that devastated America’s industrial base and shipped our jobs to China. Worst of all was the financial “shock theory” wherein predatory American investors rushed in to plunder newly privatized economies such as Russia in the 1990s. These policies were disastrous for 99% of the people they affected.
I realize that the LP’s platform is too extreme for most Americans. In particular, it needs to soften its “drug legalization” plank. The point isn’t to make hard drugs more available but to remove the perverse legal incentives that make the drug problem worse. But this turned out not to be the Party’s worst problem. I’ve reluctantly concluded there are several more.
Anarcho-capitalism: Many libertarians advocate a stateless society based on human rights, private property, and voluntary organizations. It’s a wonderful idea but no one can say how we’d get there. I wrote a sci-fi book (Centrifugal Force, available at https://www.amazon.com/Centrifugal-Force-Vaughn-L-Treude/dp/0988244209) about one possible path. It was meant to be a trilogy, so the story never gets to its utopian conclusion. Though I suppose a stateless “anarcho-capitalist” society is theoretically possible, why hasn’t it happened? Free societies tend to be more prosperous, so we should have gotten there purely by social evolution. The reason is most likely that such societies are unstable. All it takes is an organized gang of criminals to murder and pillage the peaceable, mind-you-own-business citizenry on an ongoing basis. Voila, you have a “government.” The people won’t be unified enough to fight back effectively.
Big business: In Ayn Rand’s novels, entrepreneurs are mostly heroes who fight wicked governments. Reality doesn’t bear that out. Even in the golden age of capitalism, tycoons like Carnegie and Rockefeller stamped out their competition by supporting favorable regulations. At best, corporations are impersonal machines motivated solely by profit. These days it’s much worse: “woke” CEOs use the shareholder’s money to push their own political agendas. Amazingly, this is legal. They also band together to monopolize markets, increasing their power and profits. Libertarian theory claims that monopolies are impossible, but this assumes a free economy to begin with. In the real world, politicians are only too happy to use corporations to rule us.
Immigration: The Libertarian Party platform has traditionally advocated open borders. Yes, borders are artificial, but the political situation renders this philosophy ridiculous. Our welfare state attracts the poorest and least productive to come here and be a drain on the system. So-called “civil rights” laws make it illegal to discriminate against these new arrivals even when their behavior is incompatible with our culture. But the biggest problem is that too many newcomers will change the nature of our society. Not all cultures appreciate or desire liberty. In any nation that practices universal suffrage, the most aggressive and prolific immigrants (such as Islamic fundamentalists) will seize control and erase what little freedom we have.
Race and ethnicity: Libertarians embraced the progressive ideas of human equality well before conservatives did. Though they also oppose laws against “racial discrimination,” the rationale is that free market economics make prejudice unprofitable. Behind this is the assumption that all human groups are identical in motivation, capabilities, and temperament. After much soul-searching, I’ve abandoned that belief. Though I try to judge all people as individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses, the groups they belong to vary significantly. They differ in susceptibility to disease, personal ambition, and the tendency to cooperate with others. “Equity” between racial groups is unlikely or impossible, even if inept government interference is abolished. This inherent inequality will make any diverse society a contentious one.
Though libertarianism doesn’t forbid America’s white majority from organizing to protect their interests, it doesn’t encourage it, either. In their efforts to win American hearts and minds, the LP mostly follows the progressives’ erroneous “blank slate” theory. In the real world, some groups hate freedom, and their unhappiness with our system does NOT give them the right to enslave us.
Anarcho-tyranny: The worst thing about libertarian theory is that it’s given the American ruling classes an excuse to abandon rules and tradition as they see fit. Corporations are free to plunder and treat people like property, while we individuals require government licenses and permission for every aspect of our lives. To selectively free the rich and powerful from restraint makes our oppression worse, as monopolistic companies impose their collectivist views on us. This is called anarcho-tyranny–freedom for the powerful (and their hired agitators) and servitude for the rest.
My viewpoint has evolved since 2015, when Hillary Clinton’s “Basket of Deplorables” speech put me firmly in the Trump camp. Libertarianism makes sense in theory, but it doesn’t cut it in the real world. The system that best strikes the balance between freedom and fairness is Populism. It’s a philosophy that puts the interests of the common people first in the tradition of the great Andrew Jackson. Yes, the man made mistakes, particularly in screwing the Cherokee, but in most issues he was on the right track. So was Donald Trump, at least in his rhetoric. As Lincoln said, we should have “charity for all and malice toward none.” That doesn’t mean we have to surrender our country to self-righteous elites and alien invaders.
Long live Populism!
Left, North American porcupine by Needsmoreritalin at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 2008
Right, Libertarian party logo by Hdebug, original by Lance W. Haverkamp, CC by-SA 4.0 2020