Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why Not?

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:

Is there a candidate whose proclaimed intentions are wholesome and sensible, and whom I wouldn't be embarrassed to seat at my dinner table?

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.

2 comments:

  1. Yeah, I'm not much of a "joiner" these days, but I do appreciate a good groundswell of real purpose.

    The Tea Party, if it is to succeed, must ever be an Idea and not a "party" if it is to move the Nation. It is quickly assembling itself into a touchstone of meaning for politicians and that has me worried a bit. Will it institutionalize and die like so many natural rebellions? Already I feel myself repulsed by some of the ones seeking to organize it to their own projections and aspirations.

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  2. I was shaving tonight and had NPR on because the Giants game was already over. They profiled some guy who believed that the Founding Fathers were pretty religious.

    He may have said a whacko thing, he seemed to have some facts straight, he didn't really seem very noteworthy to me, but NPR took him to the bank.

    They spent a good 5 to 8 minutes using the guy's oddest comments and bringing their own experts in to disparage his remarks.

    My take was, the guy's a nobody, it's a non-story. NPR's take was, "Let's debunk another clown on the right."

    The story had NOTHING to do with the current presidential race, NOTHING to do with economics or news in America at this time.

    Fast forward to. . . can you name the Libertarian candidate's name? (I think it's Gary Johnson.) You probably figure he's in favor of no government interference in drugs, marriage or fiscal policy, but have you heard any major news network actually report on his platform?

    Now, the point: I've read Romney's tax plan, and I read the president's commission's proposals. When was the last time you heard a major network actually explain what those were? As near as I can tell, NOT AT ALL in at least the last 3 months.

    So what are they talking about? Gaffes? Negative Ads? Contributions from so-and-so?

    American politics has become reality TV: devoid of meaning and filled with made up drama. That is, the very definition of bread and circuses.

    I can understand that a large proportion of Americans WANT to be diverted from the day-to-day truth of the world. And I can understand that pimps like MSNBC will cater to that. But where is CBS, ABC, Dan Rather, etc.?

    I majored in Broadcasting at S.F. State in the 70s and yes, there are a lot of liberals in the networks now. But for the entire American media to march in lock-step with the administration - whatever it's politics - is anathema and absolutely counter to common sense. If the media just mouths government platitudes, why bother?

    To bring this back on track, I echo Fran's argument that I don't associate with a party. How could I, when parties use media and the same silly agitprop to get any candidate who espouses their line elected?

    To my chagrin, I had the opportunity to face my representative in California's House. I asked him about Obama's "TOP" education race, whereby successful school plans would be rewarded with federal money. I say, "chagrin," because he answered with a platitude about poor kids left behind and I didn't have an answer.

    And this wasn't even covered by the media.

    It's not enough to say I'm a Libertarian or Conservative or a tea-partier, anymore. I have to TRY to become as knowledgeable as I can about what's happening with Executive Orders, Congressional shinanigans, crony-payoffs, banking fraud and media hyperbole.

    And the media bemoans the lack of bi-partisanship?

    WTF?

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