Libertarianism the political ideology of the live and let live is enjoying a surge in popularity. Some believe its hour has finally arrived and it can truly become an alternative to the Republican Party.
I understand its appeal. I like libertarians, and can read Ludwig Von Mises and listen to Murray Rothbard all day long. But it isn’t an alternative. It’s an electoral distraction.
Diehard libertarians disagree, of course. Last week the Libertarian Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, visited Alabama on a fund-raising tour. The former two-term governor of New Mexico made stops in Mobile, Montgomery and Birmingham touting his party’s message of civil liberties and personal responsibility. He probably met receptive audiences since more voters are identifying themselves as libertarians now than at anytime in recent memory.
This trend should worry conservatives, especially since the libertarian candidate cost the GOP votes and victory in last year’s gubernatorial election in Virginia.
But how many of these new libertarians really support what the Libertarian Party stands for?
Many call themselves libertarians because of a single issue pot. When comedian, drug legalization activist and self-identified libertarian Bill Maher attended one of conservative Grover Norquist’s policy discussions, he rattled off a list of things the government should be doing and how taxes should increase as well. Norquist laughed, and then asked if he represented the big government wing of the Libertarian Party. Maher didn’t get the joke.
Some identify with libertarians until they scratch beyond the surface of “Hey, freedom, baby!” and learn about the party’s actual positions. Others just don’t want to be called conservatives, much less Republicans.
There are certainly true believers who bear the scars of a generational battle with conservatives. William F. Buckley drummed them out of the Republican Party decades ago and they’ve been building a 50-state network ever since. Their sincerity is beyond doubt, but their judgment remains in serious question.
“It’s the libertarian principles that matter,” wrote a good friend while debating the issue over email recently. However, their beliefs seem more like doctrine than principles. Conservatives believe in principles limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise and apply them to unique problems while guided by tradition and morality. We have flexibility to make judgments.
Libertarianism, as far as I can tell, demands consistent application of its beliefs, regardless of their impact. Responses to an issue must always be X, no matter if X is harmful or unwanted. Consistency isn’t a virtue in government; its application will eventually end in tyranny or chaos.
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Libertarianism isn't an alternative to the Republican Party