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.