My old friend Gary Miller is giving a speech to a Young Republican group tomorrow.
Or maybe a College Republican group. And it might have already happened, for all I know.
But the particulars aren’t as important as the theme of his talk; “Why I’m No Longer a Republican”.
Gary was of course the proprietor of “Truth Vs. The Machine”, one of the great paleocon GOP blogs of the mid-2000s. Over the past year or two, he’s left the GOP and become a Libertarian; at times, he’s even described himself as an “Anarcho-Libertarian”, one of the small crowd of Libertarians who believe that the only good government is a non-existent government.
And, I suspect, he’s going to describe the genesis of his disenchantment with the GOP, and his eventual move into the Libertarian sphere of things.
I’m sure it’ll be worth attending. Although I’d probably get carded and 86ed.
But for the benefit of those YRs that might be interested, I thought I’d describe a full circle. Because where Gary is now, I was, close to 20 years ago. The details were different, but the disenchantment was the same. As to the final results? Well, we won’t know that for quite a while.
Underwhelmed: I’ve told the story on this blog, and on my show, many times; in 1994, disgusted with Republican support for the 1994 Crime Bill (the last great successful push for gun control in this country), I quit and joined the Libertarians.
I called myself a Libertarian with a big L for four years. I ran for State Treasurer, and won a moral victory in the 1998 election; my only platform plank was to abolish the office of State Treasurer. That election, the people of Minnesota voted in a Constitutional initiative to abolish the office, proving they didn’t need pols to do their abolishing for them – and you can’t get more Libertarian than that).
And then I left. There were really two reasons.
Screaming Into The Void: If a Libertarian proposes a policy in the woods, and nobody hears them, do they really exist?
Judging by how American government has morphed over the past two decades, the answer is obviously “no”.
I left the Libertarian Party because it’s a party of great, brilliant ideas, declaimed with authority to rooms full of people who vigorously agree, and who remain magnificently above the fray, neither having to try to implement any of those ideas as policy nor, in many cases, claiming to want to try. To some, the fact that politics is about compromise – battling to a consensus with people who disagree with you – is an invitation to perdition; one might need to compromise ones’ core principles!
So while they think their big thoughts in their salon full of other big thinkers, the non-Libertarian do-ers, unworried about sullying their principles because “getting power for ourselves” was their guiding principle, would be out on the street actually convincing the unconvinced to give them more of it.
And the more I tried to discuss this, the more I realized that while Libertarians paid lip service to the idea of actually winning elections and affecting policy, to way too many Libertarians the goal seemed to be able to say “I told you so” to the rest of society as it slowly turned away from the light.
And that struck me as completely pointless.
So I thought “where can I go where I can work on pushing more Liberty into actual policy that affects real people?” I went back to the GOP more or less by default; I figured it was a more hospitable party to the idea of “liberty” (and I was right – there is not and can never be a Tea Party, or any Pauls, Rand or Ron, in the Democrat Party).
Quixotic? Sure. No moreso than trying to change society from within an echo chamber, though.
Reality Bites: The other reason? Libertarians – collectively and singly – are right about just about everything. Freedom is better. Government largely is the worst possible solution to every issue. Decentralized is better than centralized. Markets are better than regulations.
But there are threeissues about which Libertarians – individually, rather than as a Party – are dead wrong:
- People are social
- Human nature is not a construct.
- Evil exists.
The classic Ayn-Randian Libertrian vision – and to some extent, our founding fathers had it as well – is that society is a mass of autonomous, disconnected equals, whose fate is governed entirely by their own merits and talent in navigating The Market.
But humans are social animals. We gather instinctively into groups – marriages, families, clans, tribes, villages, congregations, religions. Some of them are voluntary, some aren’t. All of them have rules. Those rules sometimes take the form of “laws”, and laws are by their nature enforced by something, whether it’s Don Knotts or Catholic Guilt or a SWAT team.
Of course, those rules – “laws” – exist for a bunch of reasons, the most useful and justifiable of which trace back to our evolutionary imperative to make sure our next generation grows up healthy and able to take care of us and able to raise yet another generation. Rules like “if you have a kid, take care of it, dont’ run off, don’t kill it”. Then ” don’t kill other peoples’ kids”. Then “Don’t kill the people that take care of those kids”. Then “don’t steal the means by which people feed and care for the next generation – food, land, property, means of production”. And finally, “don’t go taking the land and killing the people that are the who and where our next generation gets raised”.
Put another way – thou shalt not kill, steal, lie, cheat, covet other peoples’ stuff or piddle on whatever order we do have.
And in a nearly perfect world, those rules have to be arrived at by consensus – so we, the people, end up with the bare minimum of “government by consent of the governed”, meaning me. I want my government to be my employee, not my self-appointed master.
And I want that government to exist for, and deal with, a strictly limited list of things; enforce our contracts, impart consequences on those who do violate the bare minimum of rules we do have (mostly related to using force and violence against others)…
…but, most importantly, when I find my property crawling with Methodists with guns and bombs and knives, to respond with snipers and paratroopers and tanks, to drive the Methodists from all of our property as we sing “Constitutional Capitalist Collective, F**k Yeah!”, and “we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the Strictly Limited Government way…”.
Those are really the only three reasons why anyone should have to interact with anyone else on a non-social basis. And as it happens, they are the only three that matter…
…and are the ones on which libertarian purists are the most lost in the philosophical clouds.
So that’s why I’m no longer a Libertarian.
I’m a libertarian-conservative who votes to prevent as much damage to liberty as possible, election by election.
To some, the distinction is meaningless. To others, it’s meaninglessly precise. Either way, that’s me, and that’s why.
I shoot because shooting is fun; it’s the best stress relief one can get alone; it’s the best way there is to ensure ones’ safety from violent crime.
But why am I a Second Amendment activist? The honest truth – it’s exactly, precisely because of displays like this (safe for work, albeit crude and deeply stupid); it’s Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who was asked whether his city, ravaged by gang gun violence, is benefitting from having the strictest gun controls in the US:
Is Chicago’s idiotic (and possibly soon-to-be-unconstitutional) gun ban effective?
“Oh!” Daley said. “It’s been very effective!”
He grabbed a rifle, held it up, and looked right at me. He was chuckling but there was no smile.
“If I put this up your—ha!—your butt—ha ha!—you’ll find out how effective this is!”
For a moment the room was very, very quiet. I took a good look at the weapon. It had a long bayonet. (Was it seized during the Civil War?)
“If I put a round up your—ha ha!”
I am a second amendment activist because it’s a thumb in the eye of authoritarian scumbags like Richard Daley.
This post is an expansion of a comment in a thread way down below. Partly because my monkeying with my code this morning put a crimp in my morning blogging schedule. Partly because the subject deserves it.
I oppose the death penalty, not because I break with most conservatives on the issue, but because I am a conservative.
Stay with me on this one.
Conservatism is about upholding time-honored truths.
One of those truths is that the individual – one of the “Free Association of Equals” that our society is supposed to be, in the conservative view of things – is of supreme importance, and should be protected from the excesses of government. It’s why we conservative natter on about things like the Tenth Amendment – because we uphold the worth of the individual; there are some things that, to protect the individual, the government should just stay out of.
This directly contradicts the notion that individuals are “eggs” to be broken in the interest of the state’s convenience to make a social “omelet”. Frequent liberal commenter “RickDFL”’s left a remark in the comment section yesterday, that actually sent me looking for a remark about eggs and omelets that I coulda sworn Lenin or Stalin or Mao or Hitler made. No dice – the closest I got was Stalin’s “one death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic” – but Rick (I puke in my mouth a little bit in writing this) is right; it’s something one of them would say.
Conservatives do believe that the pursuit of good requires sacrifice; the Americans who died at Omaha Beach and Gettysburg and Chosin Reservoir were also of incalculable value, and they did nothing to deserve what happened except serving their country, and their loss was a tragedy for all of us. But they died (most of us believe) for a greater good, in a time and a place and for a cause for which there was no alternative, and which helped bring immense good as a result.
Killing an innocent person to “deter” the guilty? It brings no good (the guilty party goes free forever!) (I mean, what DA is going to say “oops – killed the wrong guy the first time! Let’s try this again!”), there is an alternative, and, lest we forget, it kills an individual who did no wrong – which is exactly who this society is supposed to protect.
And it echoes Andrea Dworkin (or Catherine McKinnon? Jeff Fecke? I get confused) who said it’d be “good” if men got falsely imprisoned for rape, to make all the real rapists a little more afraid. It’s an idea straight out of the worst of the French Revolution (which had no problem executing the innocent “pour l’encourager les autres“), carried on via Stalin and Hitler and Mao and Pol Pot.
Hypothetically, if the system could be “perfected”, would I support it? Sure. But that’s another tenet of conservatism; mankind can never be perfected; the hypothetical is pointless. And to a conservative, protecting people from the problems that human imperfection brings to government drives what government is supposed to do – including impelling government to back out of big parts of our society.
- Mankind – including prosecutors and the police – can never be perfected, and…
- these imperfections kill the innocent, and…
- killing the innocent is immeasurably evil, and…
- since a foolproof alternative exists that surely and swiftly punishes the guilty (remember – life in supermax without parole begins at sentencing; death takes an average of 12 years) while protecting the innocent, and…
- protecting the innocent is one of society’s supreme goods, then…
…abolishing the death penalty is supremely conservative.
To me, the logic of my stance depends on the five interconnected points above – all drawn from orthodox conservative beliefs to a finely-polished “t”. If you want to disagree, by all means do it in the comment section. But if you can’t successfully attack that five-point chain of logic, I’m not sure you’ll get a lot of traction with me.
I was pretty smug about what I believed when I went to college.
There, I encountered a number of professors who agreed with my smug, self-satisfied beliefs – and one who challenged them, assaulted them, turned them on their heads.
Of course, I went into college a liberal – and Doctor Blake was a self-described “monarchist”. Doctor Blake cajoled me into reading Crime and Punishment, Modern Times by Paul Johnson, The Gulag Archipelago, and PJ O’Rourke’s essays (the ones that later became Republican Party Reptile). I entered college as a kid who had been just too young to vote in 1980 – and in 1984 I voted for Reagan (and in 1996 may have done it again, although I don’t remember).
The challenge to my “beliefs” was a whack up side my intellectual head. It was also one of the things I went to college for in the first place.
Of course, Dr. Blake wasn’t on a mission to create young Republicans – indeed, I barely remember him discussing current events or politics in class. He was not on a mission to indoctrinate kids, and while when called upon he did talk about why he was a Republican and why the Democrats were wrong, it was never as an abuse of his position, at the front of a classroom.
Which is where the line needs to be – and all too often isn’t.
So as I join with King Banaian and Janet Beihoffer in hoping you can attend Indoctrinate U at the Oak Street Cinema starting this evening, I’ll also draw your attention to the latest Katherine Kersten piece. Not every professor, it seems, is as forebearing as Dr. Blake:
t’s become a common complaint that U.S. campuses are home to a stifling liberal orthodoxy where contrary beliefs are persecuted. Doyle says it’s no illusion.
A new film, “Indoctrinate U,” documenting that atmosphere, opens near campus tomorrow.
Bethany Dorobiala, a senior political science major at the U of M, knows just what Doyle is talking about. Dorobiala was one of the few students who agreed to speak on the record about the problem.
In many courses, Dorobiala says, professors load up reading lists with books that reflect their ideological agenda. “If you speak up in class and present an alternative view, you may risk being ridiculed by a professor twice your age with a PhD.,” she said. “Students who agree with the professor’s politics are regularly praised and encouraged.”
Dorobiala has encountered this disregard for intellectual diversity in classes outside of political science. “In geology class, I had a teacher who made side comments bashing President Bush,” she said. A rigid orthodoxy prevails on issues as disparate as the death penalty and global warming, she says, and some professors regularly pontificate on topics outside their discipline.
Read the whole thing. Check out the movie.
Challenge is good. Abuse is bad.