The Threat of Liberty

Via Reason, I found this article which digs into the spate of vehemently anti-Libertarians screeds which have been recently popping up on liberal websites and publications. Salon became a hard-core anti-libertarian site so gradually I hardly even noticed. Slate has been shifting against libertarians. The New Republic published a rancid little article trying to dig into the supposed libertarian ideals of Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. LGF and Balloon Juice have been screaming about us for years with a horde of liberals in their wake blaming libertarians for the financial crisis, the government shutdown, income inequality, global warming and the failure of the Cubs to win the World Series.

It’s odd that so much ire is now focused on libertarians. The Libertarian Party has precisely zero elected officials at the national level. The most libertarian member of Congress is probably Rand Paul, who is pro-Life and somewhat culturally conservative. And these “libertarians are destroying the country” articles alternate with “libertarians are a fringe movement and have no real power” articles. Apparently, we’re invisible but powerful. We’re silent guardians, watchful protecters.

Libertarians are Batman.

I don’t agree with everything that is in Borders’ article but I think he finds the real reason for the anti-Libertarian screeching:

Progressivism’s cracks have finally been exposed. Progressives will urge that Obama is not the change they hoped for. But the Affordable Care Act should have been progressivism’s shining moment. Of course, it was anything but. First the president lies to the population, then joins his party in forcing Americans to swallow the bitter pill of Obamacare. He then unleashes the technocrats and gives contracts to his crony buddies to create a $500 million non-functioning Web site (and that’s just the start of the crony bonanza). The president then assures everyone that the wasted resources, high premiums, and diminished options are for the greater good. People start to get wise to it. Progressivism’s cracks are exposed. Add the failure of Cash for Clunkers, the failure of Solyndra, all the bailouts of banking cartels, and the “rescue” of the auto manufacturers and unions. The list goes on and on. The more progressive technocrats try to do, the more they botch it. Of course, something similar can be said about all the faith-based initiatives of the Republican years: you know, like the creation of the TSA, the War in Iraq, “stimulus” packages, and all manner of pork barrel projects. Progressive purists will try to argue that all of this has been a series of pragmatic patches to a failing system. For America to truly be great, they say, Republicans must not be so “obstructionist.” But President Obama, with his pen and his phone, has seized dictatorial power. Apparently, the ends justify the means. This is the foundation of progressive ideology. And it’s failing.

For all the lip service progressives pay to the “problem” of income inequality, they consistently back the most illiberal and inegalitarian policies. Is there anything fair about showering taxpayer resources upon this energy company or that—and making their CEOs’ wealth more secure in the process? Is there anything equitable about shoring up the U.S. banking cartel with permanent legislation like Dodd-Frank? And what chosen “one-percenters” are benefitting from the crony-infested Obamacare legislation, which rains goodies down on drug-makers, healthcare providers, and insurance companies in equal measure? On the other hand, while libertarians don’t mind the sort of inequality that comes from people successfully creating happy customers, wealth, and jobs, we really—no really—don’t like collusion between business interests and government power.

Exactly. Barack Obama’s election was supposed to herald the final triumph of progressivism. We were supposed to get New Deal II (remember Time’s cover with Obama as FDR?). We would see single payer healthcare, the end of global warming, the end of income inequality, abortions for everyone, impoverishment of the wealthy. And it would be so awesome and amazing that the American people would never again turn aside from the One Truth Path. This was when the rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet would begin to heal. We were the ones we had been waiting for.

Now, we’re five years in. Obamacare is a mess, at best. The economy is stagnant, at best. Income inequality is rising, cronyism is greater than ever, big money is more powerful than ever. The Democratic Congress got tossed out on their ear. Obama narrowly won re-election but his poll numbers are approaching Bush levels.

And so the progressives, faced with the failure of their last great push toward paradise, need to blame someone. Because it certainly can’t be their calcified ideas or their bumbling messiah.

The progressives would like to blame Republicans for their failure to create a progressive utopia but … that doesn’t really go very far. The Republicans are basically Democrat Lite these days with a little religion thrown in. And the Democrats’ biggest failures — Obamacare, the stimulus and Dodd-Frank — took place when the Republicans were still in their “clown car on fire” stage. They can complain about Fox News all they want, but in the end … it’s just Fox News.

Moreover, while the American people are turning away from the Democrats, they aren’t exactly turning toward the Republicans. More than ever, Americans are getting sick of both parties. Congressional control has been more volatile in the last 20 years than it was in the previous 80. The electorate has taken turns thwacking each party at the polls. And millions are abandoning both parties for independence.

So in the absence of the usual villains, they are turning toward libertarians. For a long time, I’ve been tweeting a response to the anti-libertarian idiocy: to many people, libertarianism is whatever it is they don’t like. The progressives really don’t like the way the political winds are blowing. It’s a rude shock in the Age of Obama. So whatever the nature of the opposition — the Tea Party, religious conservatives, moderates, Occupiers, Koch Brothers, constitutionalists, Green Party, rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists — at the bottom, it’s really got to be those evil libertarians and especially their Koch Brothers fifth column.

And maybe they’re a little bit right. I won’t say that Americans are becoming libertarian, per se. Medicare and Social Security enjoy massive support and our country is very socially conservative, in morals if not in law. But the country is moving in a liberty-ish direction: against the war on drugs, live-and-let-live on culture issues, deeply cynical of big grand government programs. Libertarians are still on the fringe, but the fringe has been growing very large in the last few elections.

And that’s the real problem for progressives. Progressives think of themselves of the future, but they are really the past. The future of politics is not some illusory progressive center. The American people have seen where that leads — crony capitalism, rising inequality and corruption. No, the future is the fringe. The two main parties will always dominate, but a growing chunk of America wants nothing to do with them. They would rather build broad coalitions around specific issues: NSA surveillance, taxation, government spending, school choice, SOPA/PIPA. On all of these issues, we see growing trans-partisan coalitions that are not terribly interested in the politics qua politics but interested in the right thing being done no matter who is in charge. If the party currently in power won’t do the right thing, then *thwack*. Out you go. Let’s give the other guys a chance to not be stupid.

So, yeah, libertarians deserve some blame. And we’re easy to kick since we’ve been around a while. But in the end, libertarians are just the leading edge of a growing political movement — a movement that ranges from hard-core conservative to hippy-dippy liberal – that is saying, “To hell with both of yous.”

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  1. Seattle Outcast

    More seriously, a number of history/government dweebs I know have been heralding Obama as the last president of the “3rd American State” or something like that. Most of them thought Bush II was going to be that person, but a couple of them touted out the wisdom that there is always one, or two, complete screwups in office there to soundly pound the nails into the coffin of the current paradigm and usher in the new one by being soundly rejected by the nation.

    To their thinking – the first government was from the Revolution to the Civil War, and the 2nd government lasted until FDR gave the us the “new deal”, which should be done with in a couple years while we figure out what directly we are going to go next.

    Looking back at our history it’s hard to reject this – and that we are in prime time for the change (80 years and change being the life expectancy of government paradigms). Since human society tends to run on pendulum swings – the progressive movement should be replaced with something heading the other way on a path toward extreme conservatism. True libertarianism is unlikely, but a version of it seems a good bet in the short term.

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  2. CM

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  3. AlexInCT

    Exactly. Barack Obama’s election was supposed to herald the final triumph of progressivism.

    Only to dunces and retards (sorry to people with real mental retardation for comparing them to liberals).

    Many of us predicted just this scenario – albeit even I have to admit that in my wildest dreams/nightmares I didn’t see things being this bad, the left falling down this hard, and doing so while causing a level of political and economic damage to the country that is simply indescribable – based on past performance and history, only to be dismissed as cooks. I expected a repeat of the Carter years, only we got something that now make Carter‘s reign look like it wasn’t so bad at all. And these fucks have not finished doing the damage they intend to yet.

    Nothing hurts progressivism more than progressives doing their thing and getting their way. The real life repercussions of the shit they believe in and do are always going to result in massive pain for the very people they pretend to be helping and everyone else as well. You would think people would learn, but I guess it’s generational, and every 30 or so years we got to experience the butt fucking again to be reminded of how stupid it is to let people that actually believe the shit the left does past the age of 10 hold the reigns of power.

    Obama, our first black president, will give true racists a talking point I wish they would never get. Hillary can do the same for women/feminists if these idiots can pull another fast one. And seeing as they have so many people on their dole and scared to lose their free shit, they might get that done.

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  4. richtaylor365

    It sounds like you (Hal) are saying that Libertarian-ism is experiencing a new metamorphosis due to a rejection or dissatisfaction with Progressive ism, if so, that is some wacky dot connecting. Libertarians were around way before Obama’s failed progressive experiment, and if you look strictly at ideology, Libertarians are much more aligned with the right ( limited government, more autonomy over one’s life) than the left. If Libertarians were really interested in a bunk buddy, they would cozy up to the Tea Party, now that is a movement hatched directly from dissatisfaction with Obama and his ilk.

    Only to dunces and retards (sorry to people with real mental retardation for comparing them to liberals).

    Initially, I was prepared to give him some benefit of the doubt and adopt a wait and see attitude. Yes, I was paying attention to what he did in Chicago and in the Senate, but he ran as a man of the people and he was saying the right things (the most transparent government in history, no lobbyist in his administration, all bills posted on line 72 hours before a vote), all that good will given to him by the people……………and he crapped all over them.

    And regarding Hillary, a new book is coming out;

    The Journal had a review on it this morning, the plaudits and platitudes were relentless, machine gun like, and delivered for the soul purpose of identifying only the second perfect person in the last 2000 plus years. Oh boy, another person claiming to slow the oceans and heal the planet.

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  5. Hal_10000 *

    It sounds like you (Hal) are saying that Libertarian-ism is experiencing a new metamorphosis due to a rejection or dissatisfaction with Progressive ism, if so, that is some wacky dot connecting.

    Not really. What I’m saying is that the current political mess is pushing more people to independent status. That benefits libertarianism, to some extent. And so the progressives turn around and decide that the problem is libertarianism, not their own failed ideology.

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  6. CM

    Would opinions on raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment insurance benefits be reasonable indicators of how libertarian the population is? There may well be reasons to say no, but if yes, then the most recent polling suggests there is still a strong support for government playing a reasonable role in society:

    On minimum wage, voters support raising the federally mandated minimum, 72 percent to 27 percent, including a majority of Republicans, who support it 52 percent to 45 percent, according to a Quinnipiac poll out Wednesday.

    As the Senate debates whether to extend unemployment benefits that expired in December for three months, the poll finds American voters supportive of the idea, 58 percent to 37 percent.

    How do you get a ‘growing political movement’ of any real measure when even the majority of Republicans support raising the minimum wage?

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  7. Hal_10000 *

    CM, that poll can also change depending on how you ask the question. When you ask if people would support raising the MW if it caused a bump in unemployment, the numbers change dramatically.

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  8. Hal_10000 *

    What’s rising is mostly the popularity of independents of all stripes, which includes libertarianism. I do agree that the libertarian movement has some problems getting beyond young white men. That’s at least in part because we have idiots of our own.

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  9. CM

    How do you break through the perception that a libertarian society won’t just concentrate wealth/power/control in the same places it is now, leaving more people more vulnerable (providing them with greater opportunity in theory but in reality less opportunity due to human nature – because I do think that’s the perception)?

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