Idealism is an admirable thing, but often impractical in many ways. I have come to the conclusion that the attractiveness of Libertarianism to the Conservative voter is pretty equivalent to the attractiveness of Socialism to the liberal voter. Thus, as a political ideology, it is as impractical in the modern United States as would be adoption of full scale Socialism. There are a number of factors for this, of which I hope to discuss a few.
Now, Libertarianism is quite a broad topic and ranges from “Right” Libertarianism all the way to Socialist Libertarianism. (Wikipedia) For the sake of this discussion, I will use the basic tenets of the Libertarian Party (www.lp.org) since it more closely represents what people accept today as the definition of Libertarianism. Given that we have a Libertarian candidate for President of the United States, present on the ballots of all 50 states and, who has achieved double digit support according to some of the latest national polls, it bears a discussion.
The United States Libertarian platform emphasizes individual liberty in personal and economic affairs, avoidance of “foreign entanglements” and military and economic intervention in other nations’ affairs, and free trade and migration. It calls for Constitutional limitations on government as well as the elimination of most state functions. It includes a “Self-determination” section which quotes from the Declaration of Independence and reads: “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of individual liberty, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to agree to such new governance as to them shall seem most likely to protect their liberty.” It also includes an “Omissions” section which reads: “Our silence about any other particular government law, regulation, ordinance, directive, edict, control, regulatory agency, activity, or machination should not be construed to imply approval.”
This includes favoring minimally regulated markets, a less powerful federal government, strong civil liberties (including LGBT rights), (the party supports same-sex marriage), the liberalization of drug laws, separation of church and state, open immigration, non-interventionism and neutrality in diplomatic relations, free trade and free movement to all foreign countries, and a more representative republic. The party’s position on abortion is that government should stay out of the matter and leave it to the individual.
The Libertarian Party opposes all government intervention and regulation on wages, prices, rents, profits, production, and interest rates and advocate the repeal of all laws banning or restricting the advertising of prices, products, or services. The party’s recent platform calls for the repeal of the income tax, the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services, such as the Federal Reserve System. The party supports the passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which they believe will significantly lower the national debt, provided that the budget is balanced preferably by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes. Libertarians favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types. The party also wants a halt to inflationary monetary policies and legal tender laws. While the party defends the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of companies, it opposes government subsidies to business, labor, or any other special interest. (Wikipedia)
Sounds good, right? So, what’s the problem?
- Our current political system favors those with money and power. Those with money and power can have significant influence of our elected officials, who especially need money and influential support to get elected and re-elected. In turn, those who give, expect something in return. In most cases, it is some sort of preferential treatment in the creation of laws and regulations, or some intervention that helps them.
- Many of the planks of the Libertarian social platform flies in the face of deeply held religious beliefs of some. How could they embrace legal abortion, unfettered drug use, same-sex marriage, unlimited pornography and legal prostitution? On the other hand, the party’s approach to liberal ownership of guns is appealing to many.
- Libertarian polices calls for a hands-off approach to most foreign entanglements, closing of military bases around the world and an overall reduction of military spending. Again, for many, this is unacceptable and leaves the country vulnerable to attack.
This is just three examples.
Now, don’t get me wrong, many people would be willing to fully embrace these beliefs and many have. But given that Libertarianism is being peddled mainly to more conservative voters, I see it as an ideal that cannot be easily achieved.
And the fact, that you have two candidates that are former Republican Governors seems to support that fact. Certainly, the Bernie Sanders supporters favor much more Government intervention and involvement, especially in education and welfare and thus would lean toward the Socialist ideology.
So, in conclusion, I find Libertarianism to be an idealistic ideology given the way our politics and government operate today and because some of the tenets are counter to the religious beliefs of many conservative voters.
What say ye?