Why I’m No Longer A Libertarian

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.

Weeds Of Our Discontent

The worst kind of political errors are ones where conservatives give liberals an unearned moral victory in a grab for the high ground. 

Carly Melin – who was a 25 year old HamLaw graduate who was airlifted to northern Minnesota precisely in time to meet residency requirements to run for the seat for which the DFL had hand-picked her, when she was elected in 2010 – is taking on Big Law Enforcment on their opposition to the proposed Medical Marijuana bill, in this case in an interview in a Northern Minnesota newspaper (emphasis added):

[INTERVIEWER]: Gov. Dayton has said he will not sign the medical marijuana bill this legislative session if it does not have support of law enforcement. In fact, he made a campaign promise to that effect. The Minnesota Law Enforcement Coalition has made it clear they will not endorse the bill. Where does that leave you?

[MELIN]: We never expected the bill to be passed as written. We expected to use it as a starting point to discuss legislation going forward. Unfortunately, the Law Enforcement Coalition will not discuss specific provisions of the bill with us, and have instead stated that they are opposed to the legalization of medical marijuana for any purpose. In other words, they have a blanket opposition. This makes it very difficult to have a conversation on how to shape the bill.

 Q: Why do you believe MN’s law enforcement agencies are so adamantly opposed to medicinal marijuana?

A: There are many individual members of law enforcement who are supportive of medical marijuana. In fact, one of them is a co-author of the bill, Rep. Dan Schoen, state representative and police office from Cottage Grove, MN. Law enforcement in northeast Minnesota have discussed some flexibility, which is a lot further than we got with the statewide leaders. It is the head honchos and lobbyists down in St. Paul who are the problem. Marijuana being illegal is big business for law enforcement. The forfeiture of property relating to marijuana crimes brings in big revenue to law enforcement agencies. They are worried that legalizing medical marijuana is a step toward the decriminalization of marijuana, which in turn would impact their budgets. I hope that isn’t the basis of their opposition to medical marijuana because there are sick Minnesotans in need of this medicine, but in my experience carrying this legislation they primarily express concerns that this will lead to the recreational use of marijuana.

Leave aside the potential benefits of legalizing recreational marijuana use (I’m not a weed kinda guy, but it’s cut out one of the foundations of the Drug War that’s made parts of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Richfield and the Brooklyns such lovely places); this is pot for sick people.  Nothing more. 

Melin’s right – and it’s galling for a libertarian-conservative.  Allowing cops, district attorneys and the like set medical policy is just as stupid as letting letting health insurance companies write a national healthcare law.  The entire reason for the opposition is the protection of their own little fiscal fiefdom. 

As Craig Westover points out on Facebook (I won’t link to it, since not all of you are Facebook members), this is a fundamentally conservative stance, getting government out of the relationship between doctors and patients. 

This is an issue where conservatives – especially those who care about liberty in its many forms – should be out front.  Not cowering before a law-enforcement group that is largely beholden to “progressivism”.

Big “L”, Small “L”

(SCENE:  at a chi-chi coffee shop in South Minneapolis.  Mitch BERG’s eyes go a little wide with sticker shock before he orders a light roast with room for cream and Splenda)

(As BERG turns to leave, he notices a table with three diners – Carpal POX, Garth MULLER and Viktor VON SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE.  He tries to slip out the door, but MULLER notices him).

MULLER:   Mitch!  Come over here! 

BERG:  OK.  (He puts his coffee on the table and sits).

Continue reading


To:  Principled Libertarians
From:  Mitch Berg, Uppity “Establishment” Tea Party Peasant
Re:  Bamboozled

My Libertarian Friends,

I likely agree with you all on more than we disagree.  Some of you like to focus on the disagreements, which makes for fun rhetoric, but whatever; I would call myself a constitutional limited government conservative.  The battle to limit the power of government is a long, uphill slog – against the gleefully statist Democrats, and against a GOP establishment that has plenty of constituents that benefit from the Big State, as well as a crucially large Tea Party faction that is quite the opposite. 

Whatever.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


Now, one of you folks’s signature lines is that you’d rather be irrelevant at the polls than violate your principles.

And generally – and I say this with all due respect – Libertarians achieve that wish with flying colors.  Their irrelevance at the polls is legendary; most LP candidates are doing well to poll in full single digits – to the left of the decimal point, anyway. 

And the big “Ron Paul” takeover of the Minnesota GOP has had mixed results.  Some districts – like my SD65 – saw excellent efforts by solid candidates that turned out lots of new GOP voters.  Others – the 5th CD – turned out more like frat party gags gone awry, run by people who chuckle amongst themselves about the contempt they feel for the GOP and Republicans. 

As a general rule, Libertarians (with the Big L) are happy to remain magnificently above the scrums of daily life, gazing down on all the silly worker ants and their door-knocking and sign-pounding, focusing on big thoughts and dreaming of the utopia we’ll all share (from our neutral corners) once  you get those damn brainwashed sheeple to see the light. 

All is in its place, right?

So for the Virginia Libertarian Party, it must have seemed like Free Pot and Raw Milk day; someone gave them actual money to run a campaign. 

Of course, that “someone” was an Obama bundler

And the Libertarian candidate for Governor came in with a little over six percent of the vote.  And I’m going to hypothesize with little fear of contradiction that in and among the people who wouldn’t have voted anyway there was a preponderance of a couple of Republicans, maybe several, for every Democrat. 

Which was precisely why an Obama bundler rounded up all the money, of course – for the same reason that Liberals With Deep Pockets ® donated to Tom Horner.  To siphon votes

Now, many of you believe there’s no difference between the two major parties.  I reject that premise (while stipulating that the GOP has a ton of room for improvement, which is why I’m firmly in the Tea Party wing of the party, and have been since long before there was a Tea Party). 

But whatever it is you believe about the difference (?) between the two major parties, I gotta ask you; what do you think about having your movement and its principles co-opted in all their above-it-all grandeur to help solidify the control of the most gleefully, overtly statist of the parties?

“It’s not my fault” might be true and is still an evasion. 

Only Libertarians and Republicans in the comment section on this one, please; the kids have all sorts of other places on my blog to romp and play; comments re the Democrat point of view will likely be deleted without ceremony. 

I don’t do that often – but I am today.

It’s my blog.  Don’t like it?  Talk to the hand. 


Growing Pains

 Some of you know my political backstory – I’ve written about it a time or two.  In 1994, disgusted by the GOP’s capitulation to Clinton on the 1994 Crime Bill along with George HW Bush’s reversal on taxes, I left the Republican Party and joined the Libertarians. 

Over the course of four years, I did what most libertarians do; thought big thoughts about liberty.  I also ran for office under the Big “L” banner – and did better than I thought I would.

But it was mostly thinking big thoughts.  Libertarians were big on debating principles, and even bigger on deriding those who, by their calculus, didn’t – or at least those whose principles weren’t drawn in as big, stark letters as their own seemed to be, to them and each other. 

I left the Big “L” after about four years.  I had – and have – principles. 

  • One of them is “don’t screw up the country, and try to prevent other people from screwing it up too bad”. 
  • Another?  A slight modification of Buckley’s Eleventh Commandment:  “Vote for the most acceptable candidate, from a fiscal, security and liberty perspective, that can win
  • One last one?  “Perfect is the enemy of good enough”.  If I eschew imperfect candidates – say, candidate who champion my principles 51%-85% of the time – then I’m doing my little bit to make sure someone who agrees with me even less, as in “0-15% of the time” (that’s the current, extremist version of the DFL’s track record) is actually running things.  Raising taxes.  Vacuuming my personal info into “MNCare”.  The whole nine yards.

 And I figured there was a better chance of doing my part toward that end, and actually having some effect in the great scheme of things, by working within an actual party that had a chance of doing something useful than via endless navel-gazing in the Libertarian echo chamber. 

And so I left the Libertarian Party – partly because the party line on foreign policy and national security is (I’ll be charitable) simplistic, but mostly because the Big “L” Party is never, ever, going to have anything to do with passing actual policy into law; the most it can ever hope for is to serve as a spoiler, taking liberty voters’ votes away from the other parties, mostly the GOP.

And in 15 years of varying involvement – from observer to amateur pundit to even-more-amateur activist – the party has come a long way.  In 1998, Arne Carlson’s legacy loomed large in the party; today, it’s virtually gone, and good riddance.  It’s been largely squeezed out (everywhere but in the media’s consciousness) by an uneasy, sometimes fractious assembly of business conservatives (who may or may not care about social issues or liberty), Tea Partiers (who focus on the “limited government” aspects of “liberty”) and, over the past couple years, “Liberty Republicans”. 

These last came to the party in 2012 as an organizational juggernaut that acted about as “libertarian” as a North Korean synchronized dance team – at least in terms of taking control of party functions and sending people to Tampa.  The best of them – the ones in CD4 were among ’em – brought with them the pragmatism that led to a couple of really promising campaigns.  The worst of them – I’m not naming names – left us a display of nihilistic principles-over-pragmatism that bordered on onanistic

None quite as dismal, thankfully, as the recent resignation by a group of libertarian Maine Republicans, who resigned in protest over…

…convention rules?

Walter Hudson has an excellent piece over at Fightin’ Words on this whole deeply dumb incident.  And I think there are lessons for both of the “sides” of the debate in the GOP – especially the “Liberty” clicque’s penchant for walking away from it all when the “establishment” doesn’t carry them up to the front of the room on their shoulders:

The critical failure which informs this move manifests from activists’ perception of the party as a servant which ought to work on their behalf, rather than a vehicle which must be actively steered in a desired direction. If I had a nickel for every time I heard an activist whine about the party not treating them well, as if that were its purpose, I’d be set for life…This common sentiment from libertarian activists completely absolves them of any responsibility for changing the party. Instead, they proceed from the rather absurd notion that Republicans ought to advocate views they do not agree with in order to earn libertarian support. That’s not how politics works.

Or, in many cases, endless prate and gabble about how stupid – racist, homophobic, war-mongering – Republicans are for not folding like a Wal-Mart end table. 

And then there’s this line’s first cousin – the “Under Thirty” crowd.  The GOP, we’re told, must embrace the Ron Paul Agenda in whole because so many under-thirty conservatives and Republicans are so very libertarian.   More on this next week.    

Libertarian Republicans need to dispense with the notion that their “individual integrity” is defined by the party’s compliance to a libertarian agenda. Holding the reigns of power in a party office does not mean you “support” every little thing anyone in the party says or does. If resignation remains the default response to any deficiency within the party, it only enhances the victory of those who remain.


Principles – or at least saying you have them, as opposed to having to defend them against a lifetime of real-world experience – are easy.  Convincing other people about them is not.

No one has ever “learned their lesson” from an activist resigning in protest. The concept ignores political reality and smacks of a narcissistic valuation of one’s political worth. “Oh, you resigned?! Well then, let me completely realign my entire worldview in order to get you back,” said no party officer or elected official ever.

And the corollary of that truth, as I’ve been saying for years; political parties don’t “learn lessons”.  They respond to the will of those who show up. 

Which is why I, and my impure mutt’s-breakfast of conservative and libertarian and pragmatic beliefs keep showing up.

Read Walter’s entire article, if you would please.

Open Letter To Ron Paul

To:Ron Paul, Personality Cultist and Former Presidential Candidate
From: Mitch Berg, Crabby peasant and former big-L Libertarian
Re: Dumb

Mr. Paul,

Y’know, I try. I really do.

But when I see things like this on Twitter…:

…I’m more than a little tempted to say that the best thing you can do for your libertarian cause, and those of us who subscribe to at least parts of it, it so shut up and find yourself a little piece of pasture to go out to.

And go out to it.


That is all.

Posting this on Facebook yesterday caused a bit of a kerfuffle.  Some Paul supporters asked me why I was attacking Libertarianism.

I’m not, of course; I am a libertarian-conservative, and have been since long before it was cool.  I was – and am – criticizing Ron Paul.  But it’s a little discouraging how many of his supporters conflate the two.

I Endorse Paul

It’s long been the policy of this blog to never, ever endorse candidates.  Partly because it seems arrogant – I mean, who cares what I think?  And partly because even if I do have any influence over what people think about how they vote, I’d much prefer that that influence go to helping, in whatever way I can, to get anyone who’d be influence by my opinion to think more confidently for themselves instead.

But today, I’m going to break with that tradition.

On this, the eve of the Iowa caucuses, I’m going to give an unqualified, fervent endorsement for Paul.

Paul represents one of the  most important things I believe – the need to push libertarian legislation and policy into the mainstream of American political thought.

Oh, yeah – just so we’re clear, I’m talking about Senator Rand Paul.

I know.  He’s not running for President – not this time.  And that’s fine – because I’m not endorsing him for President.

I’m endorsing his approach to pushing the ideas and ideals of liberty into the mainstream of Republican politics.

Oh, his father, Ron Paul?  The guy breaks my heart.  Yeah, he’s a big-L libertarian and all, but even if you leave out the racist rants from thirty years ago (and even if we do, the media won’t allow the electorate to ignore them – and the electorate should be aware!), he’s basically claiming he can balance the budget on the back of defense, while he’s proposed nothing as far as cutting and reforming entitlements, which is basically saying “the dog ate my homework” if your campaign is ostensibly based on, y’know, reforming government.

No, I’m endorsing Rand Paul for the very reason I’d love to be able to endorse his father.  When I left the GOP in 1994, I did it because I wanted to belong to a party that believed in Liberty, the Bill of Rights, Originalism, and the whole idea that this nation is built on inalienable rights, not entitlements deeded to us by the Government.

And I spent four years interacting with people whose entire involvement in politics was to endlessly reiterate pure ideology, secure in the knowledge that they’d never have to actually tackle a budget or try to downsize a bureaucracy, since none of them were ever going to get elected to anything, ever.  Ever.  And I came back to the GOP, reasoning that it’d be easier to get the GOP to adopt enough Libertarian ideals to be palatable, and still be able to get people elected to get some – enough – of those ideals moved into some sort of policy.

Ron Paul has been a GOP Congressman for a long, long time.  And he’s had a positive effect on the GOP – when he’s bothered to exert his influence in the party.  But in 2008, when it became clear the nomination was far out of reach, he endorsed Libertarian party candidate Chuck Baldwin for President.  Which is marginally less useful that lighting up that endorsement and burning it – and set a noxious example for Paul’s followers; if you don’t get what you want, walk away.

An example too many of his followers claim they’ll follow, if Paul doesn’t win the nomination.  It’s especially true of the “Young Republicans” who, we are told, are very solidly behind Paul – and, some say, likely to sit out the election if Paul doesn’t get nominated.  Which is – I’ll be tactful – a lousy idea, this notion that you’ll “teach the GOP a lesson” by rewarding the US with another term of Barack Obama.

Parties don’t “learn lessons”, they reflect commitment.

And if you take your toys and go home, that’s exactly what will happen; the GOP will reflect your (withdrawal from ) commitment; Obama will benefit from it.

Answer this honestly; do you believe the nation will be better off under Obama than under even purported “RINO” MItt Romney?  Why?

And that’s why I’m endorsing Rand Paul – not for President (yet) but because he, unlike his father and way too many of his father’s supporters, knows that politics is a marathon, not a sprint; and that the cause of Liberty is better served by working within, and sometimes fighting like hell within, a party that is sympathetic (if not always actively enough) to Liberty, as opposed to the party that believes it’s just another word for having your wants satisfied.  And he knows that if he and his Liberty-loving followers don’t let up, they can get it all – elected, and  the opportunity to get their ideals actually enacted into law.

UPDATE:  Commenter “Courier J” notes that I got the name of the Libertarian Party’s candidate in 2008 wrong – it was Bob Barr.

I was only partially wrong, of course; Rep. Paul came on the Northern Alliance when he was in town for the “Campaign for Liberty” event, just before the RNC (the same day Sarah Palin was chosen as McCain’s running mate).  He gave a fairly churlish interview in which he urged conservatives disaffected by McCain’s coronation to check out Larry Hagelin (of the Natural Law party), Barr, and Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, whom Paul eventually did endorse.

Which was, of course, the point of my post.

The Principle Conundrum

Back in 1994, I left the GOP; I was angry that they’d caved in to Clinton on the 1994 Crime Bill.  I joined the Libertarian Party.

I came back to the GOP in 1998.  It wasn’t that I didn’t agree with the Libertarians, at least in the broad outlines.  It was that the Libertarians had no chance of ever governing anything – and no idea how to effect any governance even if they did  manage to win an election.

Rock-ribbed principle is a great thing; it drives movements that move mountains.  But once that movement gets into office, those same people have to work with other people who believe very different things.

And it’s there that the hard part begins; upholding one’s princples, and meeting people who also got elected to office, to uphold very different prinicples, halfway to do the job of running a government.

The problem is, there is no way for anyone to remain absolutely pure to principle, if by that you mean “never play ball, on any level, with the opposition”.

It’s how you get all the influence of a Libertarian Party.

Gary Gross writes over at True North:

Apparently, some TEA Party organizations are slamming people like Col. Alan West for being RINOs. That’s led to Col. West defending himself on Laura Ingraham’s show this morning. Bully for him and bully for Ms. Laura for her steadfast support for Col. West. Here’s the tape of their conversation:

Go ahead and listen.

And remember – if you win you have to govern.  If you can’t govern, you won’t win again.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to ditch your principles to govern; it does mean you should bargain them at the highest price possible.

The Big “L”

In 1994, disgusted by the GOP’s cave-in to the Clinton Administration on the 1994 Crime Bill, I ditched the GOP and went over to the Libertarian Party.

Michael Medved’s ridicule aside, it was a great experience.  I learned a lot about how politics does, and doesn’t, work.  Part of the learning was from being a Libertarian – I read a lot.  Part of it was from becoming active in the first place; when I noticed that, for whatever reason, people weren’t rushing to the Libertarian Party with me, I got to learning a little about how the mechanics of government actually worked.

Which led to me leaving the Libertarian Party in 1998.  I figured that I had a choice; be an absolute Libertarian purist, and think big Libertarian thoughts and never, ever have an actual direct effect on how government, taxation, spending and the machinery of how government affects us really works (other than by siphoning voters out of the two party system, which is a little like trying to stop a NASCAR race by stealing gasoline from SuperAmerica), or get back into the political party that was the least un-friendly to my beliefs.

Which was, and remains, the MNGOP which, imperfect as it is, at least puts liberty on its short list of things to pay serious lip service to (and that’s looking at it at my most cynical; there is a crop of freshman legislators who do, I think, get it).    I’m a proud member of the libertarian conservative wing of the Minnesota GOP.

Still, there’s a Big-L Libertarian Party out there.  And the state shutdown is hog heaven for them:

Less government is good government, as far as Tylor Slinger is concerned.

As a member of the executive board of the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, the resident of St. Paul’s Highland Park sees benefits in the state government shutdown.

In Slinger’s eyes, this isn’t “tea party” radicalism or anarchist rhetoric.

And it’s there we see the reporter’s (Frederic Melo) bias or, maybe, just plain ignorance.  The Tea Party is inextricable from libertarianism; in a Venn diagram of conservative/libertarian political thought, the Tea Party tucked in where the “libertarian” and “conservative” rings overlap.  The “radical” bit is pure editorializing – although to many in the Minnesota establishment, the idea of cutting spending, “services” and taxes is distilled radicalism itself.

“We think that the shutdown clearly illustrates how centralizing political power to an elite group places the rest of us at their mercy,” said Slinger, 24, who works as a communications specialist at a bank. Slinger is also running for a St. Paul City Council seat.

“While people’s immediate reaction will likely be based on … their daily reliance on governmental services, the longer the shutdown lasts, the more opportunities each individual will have to find more reliable alternatives.”

Slinger has the big picture points exactly right, of course – hey, I did say I was a libertarian-conservative, right?   Government entitlements do exist to perpetuate themselves; bureaucrats have no less well-developed a sense of self-preservation than the rest of us.

With more than 20,000 state employees suddenly finding themselves out of work, such statements have made the Libertarian Party few friends in Minnesota and, at best, uneasy allies on the national stage.

Which is a tautology; state government workers are (hypothetically) angry at a party that opposes the idea of excessive state workers.  Notify the media…

…well, OK.  Melo is the media.

Melo does bother to note the same conflict many of us who navigate the border between Conservatism and Libertarianism run across:

Unlike Slinger, Amy Brugh, a public policy director with the Minnesota AIDS Project in Minneapolis, sees no benefit to a shutdown whatsoever. Her largely state- and federally funded programs are assets to taxpayers, she said, not hindrances.

As a result of the shutdown, “47 of our 57 employees are either laid off full time or reduced time without benefits,” Brugh said. “It means that three of our programs are completely closed down, so clients won’t have access to their case managers, or to transportation to get them to medical appointments or to the pharmacy, or for benefits counseling.”

Those include specialized services that an AIDS patient can’t just lean on friends and family for, Brugh said. And without the right care, each one of those clients could end up in an emergency room, with taxpayers footing the lion’s share of the bill.

“A Libertarian not wanting to pay tax dollars should actually be in favor of our programs,” Brugh said.

And again with the tautologies; in this case, “government runs Ms. Brugh’s program because government has always run Ms. Brugh’s program”.

It’s one of those historical “what ifs” that people of libertarian bent run through their heads; what if, say, the AIDS epidemic had broken out in a society that had never undergone the New Deal, the immense socialization that accompanied World War II, the Great Society, Medicare Part D and Obamacare?  What if American society had developed through the 20th century without the underlying assumption that the federal government was there to do anything but defend the borders, sign treaties, adjudicate disputes and enforce contracts?  If society had developed without the “ideal” of having its social needs taken care of by government – and it had been able to turn the output of its stunning prosperity to private rather than public charity, the way it always had?

It’s an intellectual parlor game,of course –  because the Libertarians are right about one thing; government has made our society dependent on itself.

And as De Tocqueville warned, it may not be possible to unravel that dependence.

Mission accomplished, big government!

The question those of us on the Center-Right keep asking – is it possible to have government, but only just the right amount?