Having witnessed more than a couple knock-down, drag-out scuffles between various factions of the ostensible “liberty movement” over the last few days and weeks and months, it’s not really surprising to me when people disagree. One of the best–and most entertaining–ones occurred on Facebook (Where else?) just a few weeks ago. One side suggested that “Amerika is a police state!” They provided examples and context. The other side responded with, “C’mon! No one was jailed for calling the POTUS an idiot this week, right?” That’s also a pretty solid point. And, as is true of most of these debates, debates that balance on a sliver of disagreement between two tiny factions of what is itself a very small faction in the U.S. political landscape, both sides are somewhat correct.
Romney bans certain kinds of guns; Obama supports war and Bush-era doctrines; Romney enacts (even more) socialist-fascist health care; Obama has a near opaque administration in spite of the desire to be transparent.
The so-called “left” promotes a policy (say, universal healthcare or the individual mandate or the health care exchanges). The “right” opposes it. The opposition is usually superficial and us used as talking points to obtain votes. The object of power is power, after all. Assuming the policy becomes law, and assuming (as is often the case) it receives widespread support, the right becomes less vociferous about repealing the law. At best they want to reform; usually either nothing happens or the mildest of cosmetic changes are made, if only to appease the fringe party supporters. Today’s progressive, becomes tomorrow’s conservative. Already, for example, the financially devastating Obamacare that was such a hot topic a year ago is starting to go away in the eyes of most–that is, if you don’t have a business facing ever-higher health care costs. Soon the right will stop talking about repealing it or replacing it with something else. Florida governor Rick Scott, who initially opposed setting up the FL healthcare exchange, has changed his tune–how unexpected!
On the other “side” of the political spectrum, the totalitarian and warmongering right wing, whose most recent icon and trend setter is GWB, pushes for war and empire and crackdowns on civil liberties. The left claims to oppose it. When Bush II was in power the progressives, ever irate, regaled us with their smugness (and, as we now know, insincere) opposition to the Bush administration’s policies and tactics. Enter a democratic president. Oh my–what happened!? Suddenly Obama adopts and relishes in continuing core Bush doctrines as well as expanding into new territories of despotism: droning and NDAA come to mind. Today’s warmongering conservative is tomorrow warmongering progressive.
I for one welcome our new unipartisanship overlords.
You could also mention the regulatory state and the entitlement state, but the above makes a pretty good listing of the top things we libertarians would get rid of if we could.
How are we doing on these issues? I spoke with some radical libertarian friends—it’s fun musing as to which one you would abolish first, if you could—and here is the basic take:
war: not great, but they are getting harder for modern debt-laden welfare-states to afford;
the Fed/central banking/fiat money: not great, but bitcoin could pose a threat;
government schools: not great, but at least, in the US, homeschooling and private schools are legal;
taxation: not great, and getting worse, but there seems to be a limit to the level of taxes the state can get away with imposing on the economy;
the drug war: still horrible, but significant inroads have been made in the last election, with marijuana being legalized on a state-law basis by Washington and Colorado; and
intellectual property: getting more and more out of hand, but being seen as more and more ridiculous and unjust. Copyright is getting easier to evade with various technologies like encryption and bit torrent; and patents are being seen more and more as ridiculous and protectionist.
Overall, the biggest cause for hope is probably the recent progress made in the insane, evil war on drugs.
“How Shakespeare Changed Everything,” KERA Think (Aug. 22, 2012). This is one of the most fascinating interviews I’ve heard in some time—with Stephen Marche, author of How Shakespeare Changed Everything, which details the amazing influence Shakespeare has had on our culture. Interviews with such knowledgeable scholars highlight how great it is to have a society of 7 billion people that can afford to support scholars who can devote such depth to specialized topics. This interview is just a delight to listen to; I have the book on my to-read list. The main libertarian takeaway is some of the examples given to how Shakespeare’s plays have been reworked and remixed over the ages in various contexts. (I touch on some of this in posts in the tag Everything Is a Remix.)
“The Rise and Fall of an Improbable Food,” KERA Think (Aug. 23, 2012) A very interesting interview with Andrew F. Smith, author of American Tuna: The Rise and Fall of an Improbable Food. The story is absolutely fascinating: about how tuna went from basically trash-food status with zero percent market, to huge popularity in just a few years in the early 1900s; and then how its popularity increased even more when there were other food shortages during WWI; then how production was hurt when 600 of the tuna boats were pressed into service during WWII and many Japanese-American fishermen were put in concentration camps and other tuna fishermen put into the Navy; how the mylar bags were adopted in part to avoid import tariffs; how the US government encouraged the tuna industry in other countries, in Japan and South America, after WWII in part because of shortages it has imposed by previous policies, leading ultimately to the devastation of the American tuna industry. Utterly fascinating interview. And it highlights the tragic effects of and distortion caused by state intervention in the market.