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Friday, August 29, 2014

Has the Libertarian Movement Arrived?

I've written about libertarianism before ("What Do We Mean By Justice?" "Wealthy GOP (Libertarian) Donors Backing Same-Sex Marriage" "Libertarianism on Steroids" "PorcFest: Libertarianism to the nth Power"). Briefly, it's a philosophy that holds that human freedom is the highest good and thus it opposes almost any form of government intervention that places limits on that freedom. It's often associated with the Republican Party because they both champion free markets, dislike government regulations, and are skeptical of the efficacy of government-run social programs.

Conflating the two, however, is a mistake. Libertarians push for limited government in all areas of society, not just the economy. Thus, most libertarians opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, most support same-sex marriage and abortion rights (or at least oppose efforts by government to limit peoples' choices in such matters), most favor the decriminalization of marijuana, and most abhor anything that smacks of government heavy-handedness. For instance, in light of the events in Ferguson, Missouri, Senator Rand Paul wrote in an op-ed piece for Time ("We Must Demilitarize the Police"),
If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn't have expected to be shot. 
The outrage in Ferguson is understandable--though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response. 
Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. Police look inward. They're supposed to protect their fellow citizens from criminals and to maintain order with a minimum of force. It's the difference between Audie Murphy and Andy Griffith. But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.
Or consider his views on the war on drugs ("Has the 'Libertarian Moment' Finally Arrived?"):
I think the war on drugs has had a disproportionate racial outcome. Three out of four people in prison are black or brown. White people do drugs too, but either they don't get caught or they have better attorneys or they don't live in poverty. It's an inadvertent outcome, and we ought to do something about it. As a Christian, I believe in redemption. I believe in a second chance. I think drugs are bad. I think even marijuana is deleterious. However, a 20-year old kid who does make this mistake ought to get his right to vote back, ought not to be locked up in jail for 10 or 15 years.
Not your standard Republican fair, which is why it's highly unlikely he'll secure the Republican nomination for President.

The Libertarian movement was featured in a recent New York Times Magazine article ("Has the 'Libertarian Moment' Finally Arrived?"). It presents a nice overview of the movement with interviews of some of its leaders and a few of its critics. However, as Nate Silver points out in an article on FiveThirtyEight ("How Viable Is Rand Paul for 2016?"), it is unlikely that the Libertarian moment (or a Rand Paul moment) has arrived.

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