Once in a while, a relatively new Gentle Reader will ask me The Question:
"You advocate virtually nothing but pro-freedom positions, and you defend them ably and eloquently. I can't help thinking the Republican Party isn't the place for you -- that you belong in the Libertarian Party with the rest of us. Why aren't you one of us? Indeed, why aren't you one of our foremost spokesmen?"
[The above is a synthesis, composed from the specifics of several queries I've received over the course of the current presidential campaign. It is not meant as an attribution to any real individual, living or dead, regardless of political affiliation. Void where prohibited by law. No Libertarians were harmed in the making of this synthesis. We are an Equal Opportunity Quote-Synthesizer.]
Let's deal with the easy stuff first. I'm not a Republican. That is, I'm not registered as a Republican with the Board of Elections, I don't pay dues to any branch of the GOP, and I've frequently been greatly dissatisfied with the performance of Republicans raised to public office. Yes, I do vote for Republican candidates -- when I vote. I have an ironclad rule for when I vote, which I expect I'll use for the rest of my life:
If the answer is no, I'll stay home.
Second, I was once a member of the Libertarian Party: national, state, and county branches. Indeed, I was once the state chairman here in New York. I left in disgust after I realized that the crazies had established a beachhead and were vying for power. Ever since I left, the crazies have achieved deeper and deeper penetration. I want nothing to do with an organization run by crazies, or dominated by them.
Third, I've come to believe that party affiliation is destructive of my aims. I want to be thought of as a part of the mass of "nonaligned voters," over whose affections the major parties must contend -- and I want the parties to be aware of my dissatisfactions with both of them at all times, not just before an election.
Ultimately, it's about priorities. I have some. They're not a match for the priorities of any organized political party.
The major parties' priorities are identical: to elevate their candidates to high office, and thus retain and increase their significance in America's capitals. They are "vote-maximizing machines" (David Friedman), and will take no position their strategists believe would undermine their ability to contend for votes and the power they confer.
Most minor parties in the United States are narrowly focused. For example, consider the Right-To-Life Party, the Green Party, and the Consumers Party. Outside their specific areas of platform concern, these parties are essentially silent. But as Herman Kahn has told us, an obsessive focus on a handful of desiderata inevitably brings about ruination on all the rest.
And so we come to the "parties of principle:" for example, the Libertarians and the Socialists. Suffice it to say that I'm not a socialist, that I regard socialist thinking as inherently incorrect, that I consider its members to be either dupes or villains, and that I would cross the street to avoid one. But what about the Libertarians? Were they not badly infested by the hairy-eyed, wouldn't that be my natural home? And isn't the infestation a direct consequence of decent, self-respecting individuals disdaining to establish standards and see them enforced?
Here's where priorities come into play. Have a particularly pithy quote from that self-described "bomb-thrower of the Right," Ann Coulter:
Marriage is a legal construct with legal consequences, particularly regarding rights and duties to children. Libertarians would be better off spearheading a movement to get rid of stop signs than to get rid of officially sanctioned marriage. A world without government stop signs would be safer than a world without government marriage.
It's true that eventually -– theoretically -- there could be private institutions to handle many of these matters. But for anyone calling himself a libertarian to put eliminating official marriage above eliminating Social Security and Medicare is certifiable.
It's exactly like drug legalization: Sure, all good libertarians want to legalize drugs, but the question is whether that is more important than legalizing the ability to locate your widget factory where you want to put it. Even purists can have priorities.
Now, there are a couple of contestable points in the above. For example, it could be argued that government intrusion into the well-being of children, the mechanisms of adoption, and so forth has done far more harm than good. (This is especially notable in the case of government-run schools.) Nor is marriage "a legal construct." It's a purely social institution that predates the State by millennia. Indeed, it functioned far better when it was treated as such than it does today. But Miss Coulter's core point -- that a narrow focus on drug legalization and same-sex marriage bespeaks perverse priorities -- is indisputable.
Yet party Libertarians often seem completely consumed by these things. Moreover, they'll crawl down your collar at the first sign that you don't agree with them completely and without reservation.
So: While I call myself a libertarian -- more frequently these days, a libertarian/conservative -- I decline to associate myself with the party of the same name. I can't abide the typical party Libertarian; I can't accept his obsessive focus as sane, much less normative; and I refuse to align myself in a fashion that would suggest to others that the priorities attributed to that party and its more vocal members are priorities I respect, much less share.
At any rate, political parties, despite many representations to the contrary, are transient things, as ephemeral as the mayfly. Regardless of how they originate, their innate dynamic is to become hypocritical: proclaimers of principles and purveyors of platforms in which their own kingmakers put little or no stock. The importance of a homeland for freedom -- a well-defended homeland for freedom -- is infinitely more durable. As no party will pledge itself both to individual freedom, to the measures required to protect it, and to a set of sane priorities from which it will not deviate, I prefer to remain unaligned.
And thus be it ever, where this free man shall stand.