Libertarianism the political ideology of the liveand let live is enjoying a surge in popularity. Some believe its hour hasfinally arrived and it can truly become an alternative to the Republican Party.
I understand its appeal. I like libertarians, andcan read Ludwig Von Misesand listen to Murray Rothbard all day long. But it isn't an alternative. It'san electoral distraction.
Diehard libertarians disagree, of course. Last weekthe Libertarian Party's 2012 presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, . The former two-termgovernor of New Mexico made stops in Mobile, Montgomery and Birmingham toutinghis party's message of civilliberties and personal responsibility. He probably met receptive audiencessince more voters are now than at anytime in recentmemory.
This trend should worry conservatives, especiallysince the libertarian candidate cost the GOP votes and victory in lastyear's gubernatorial election in Virginia.
But how many of these new libertarians reallysupport what the Libertarian Party stands for?
Many call themselves libertarians because of asingle issue pot. When comedian, drug legalization activist andself-identified libertarian BillMaher attended one of conservative Grover Norquist's policy discussions, herattled off a list of things the government should be doing and how taxesshould increase as well. Norquistlaughed, and then asked if he represented the big government wing of theLibertarian Party. Maher didn'tget the joke.
Some identify with libertarians until they scratchbeyond the surface of "Hey, freedom, baby!" and learn about the party's actualpositions. Others just don't want to be called conservatives, much lessRepublicans.
There are certainly true believers who bear thescars of a generational battle with conservatives. William F. Buckley drummedthem out of the Republican Party decades ago and they've been building a 50-statenetwork ever since. Their sincerity is beyond doubt, but their judgment remainsin serious question.
"It's the libertarian principles that matter," wrotea good friend while debating the issue over email recently. However, theirbeliefs seem more like doctrine than principles. Conservatives believe inprinciples limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise andapply them to unique problems while guided by tradition and morality. We haveflexibility to make judgments.
Libertarianism, as far as I can tell, demandsconsistent application of its beliefs, regardless of their impact. Responses toan issue must always be X, no matter if X is harmful or unwanted. Consistencyisn't a virtue in government; its application will eventually end in tyranny orchaos.
Libertarians take a principle the right to keepand bear arms, for example and stretch it to cover "the right to own anyweapon," according to the . So if you don't believe that yourneighbor has a right to carry a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, you mightnot be a libertarian.
If you believe in publicly-funded primary education either through public schools or vouchers you might not be a libertarian. Theparty's website reveals how they take a principle that declares "education ofchildren is a parental responsibility" and apply it to mean "individualswithout kids in the school system should not be forced to pay for a system theyaren't utilizing." So only children whose parents could afford tuition wouldget educations. Our nation would collapse in a generation.
If you believe our borders should be enforced andillegal aliens deported, you might not be a libertarian. The party's websitestates that anyone who makes it to the U.S. should be able to stay. That's theprinciple of freedom of movement consistently applied.
If you believe the FDA should inspect the medicinesyou give your child, that Medicare should be around for your parents, and thatMedicaid should be available for the truly poor and disabled, then you mightnot be a libertarian.
If you remain unsure whether you're an authenticlibertarian or just a dissatisfied political drifter like my good friend you can visit the Libertarian Party of Alabama's website. It has a clearissue-by-issue guide to help you decide. Perhaps you'll find that you're lessof a libertarian, and more of a conservative, than you care to admit.
(J. PepperBryars grew up in Mobile and is now a writer living in Huntsville. Contact himat and .)
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