“When two men always agree, one of them is unnecessary.”
-William Wrigley, Jr.
As noted in a prior piece, libertarians have a nasty habit of getting into dick-measuring contests over who is the most libertarian. While it is great that libertarian philosophy is coherent and consistent over the years, this consistency can be stifling at times and may ultimately encourage dogmatic behavior.
When a libertarian expresses any opinion that strays from the philosophical or party line, they are often immediately attacked by fellow libertarians. A circular firing squad quickly forms. Instead of bullets, harsh words are exchanged instead. Words like “statist”, “socialist”, and “bootlicker” are used as weapons. The mother of all the insults (the McNuke, if you will) is:
“You’re not a real libertarian.”
Republicans do a little of this; their equivalent insult is “RINO” (Republican In Name Only.)
Democrats hardly do any of this since the southern Democrats have gone the way of the Dodo; their party is more ideologically homogeneous than it has been since the Civil War. And not in a good way.
I’m just going to go ahead and admit that I’m not a real libertarian—at least by the impossible standards of most libertarians. Let’s just get that out of the way. I will confess my sins here.
I am not an anarchist or an an-cap
There are plenty of anarchists in our midst, most of which are the anarcho-capitalist (“an-cap”) variety. Long story short, there’s really no government to speak of, but property rights still exist. But who records which property is owned by what person? Where and how are property disputes resolved?
I’m more of a minarchist; essentially a government still exists, but it’s reduced to very core functions: military, courts, police, and not much else. In that system, you still have courts to sort out property records and disputes. The government doesn’t do much, but it at least acts as a clearing house for records and such.
In anarcho-capitalism, hypothetically people would voluntarily set up insurance companies, private courts, and arbiters to deal with these things. I find the idea appealing in the abstract, but I am skeptical.
I don’t hate cops
Hatred of law enforcement is strong in some libertarian circles. Edgelords delight in throwing around words like “pig” and “bacon.” Not me. While I am skeptical of the police (as I tend to be skeptical of everything), I don’t hate them or think that they shouldn’t exist. And I understand that dealing with violence, criminals, emergencies, and volatile situations literally as your full time job has to be quite stressful.
In a time of looting and rioting, the radical left is seen as crazier than usual for going on their “defund the police” rants. The same applies to us. (The big difference is that libertarians are far better prepared for this hypothetical police-free utopia than progressives are.)
I think of a quote from Tombstone (one of the most quotable movies of all time):
“I’m sorry, sir, but we got to have some law.”
(Disclaimer: I am extremely white, so my experiences vis-à-vis law enforcement may not be typical.)
I don’t hate the military
Along similar lines, I don’t hold any particular beef against those that choose to serve their country in the armed forces. Do we need a military presence in 150 countries? Of course not. Do some people enlist for the wrong reasons? Sure. But do we need a military and should we respect those who serve honorably? Also, sure.
It’s an ugly world out there. Some bad actors absolutely deserve to be shot, blown up, vaporized, wood-chippered, or otherwise murderized. We should strive to keep such extracurricular activities to a minimum, but as the global hegemon, our hands are never going to be 100% clean.
I favor incremental rollback of various government programs
Many Libertarians stick to the catechism 100% and call for ending every government program they don’t like (which is most of them) on day one. That’s a non-starter for many people. Just to pick two examples: Social Security and Medicare. If those programs were to end tomorrow, what’s the plan for people currently benefiting from them? What about those of us who are still working and have been paying in for years? Do we get a big chunk of that back?
Going “cold turkey” sounds good and it has the simplicity factor going for it, but it would likely be a hot mess and a shock to the economy. When it comes to devouring the welfare state, I’d be happy to take one bite at a time as opposed to unhinging my jaw and trying to swallow the beast all at once.
I don’t much care for “open borders”
A common argument in liberty circles: how can you open the borders while the welfare state is intact? Some folks argue that the problem in this scenario isn’t the open borders, it’s the welfare state. Fine. But if you deal with one but not the other, one can imagine chaos ensuing.
Also: managing borders and knowing who is coming and who is going is a very basic function of government. I believe that, by and large, people and goods should be free to come and go. But it’s not beyond the pale to make sure we aren’t letting bad people or bad goods in.
We don’t need a wall on any border, but a speed bump isn’t asking too much.
I don’t believe in most conspiracy theories
The same government that we continuously criticize as being incompetent is unlikely to be competent enough (or leak-proof enough) to pull off many of the outlandish conspiracies they are often accused of. Question everything, but also question your questions.
I’m not a pothead
The stereotype that libertarians are just conservatives who like to smoke weed has some truth to it. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) However, I’m more of a drinkin’ man myself. I’d rather talk about beer vs. bourbon than indica vs. sativa. My Secret Service code name would probably be “Bottom Shelf.”
But you do you, baby doll.
I’m not a huge gun nut
My “arsenal” consists of an undisclosed number of .38 Special revolvers stashed in various undisclosed locations. That’s it. I value simplicity and reliability, and they serve quite well in both regards.
I believe in free trade, but I still try and buy American
True story: I am pushing fifty and have never owned anything but American cars. I have a particular affinity for Ford Mustangs. Bonus: Ford didn’t take any TARP money during the 2008-2010 auto industry crisis. Good for Ford.
I don’t “blame America first” for terrorism, or everything wrong with the world (see also: Israel)
Remember when two-time Libertarian presidential nominee Harry Browne wrote an op-ed piece on September 12, 2001 essentially blaming the United States for the terrorist attacks? Pepperidge Farm remembers. Ron Paul has also made some similar arguments.
There is some truth in these arguments, but the American people largely recoil when their faces are rubbed in it. Libertarians end up coming off as tone-deaf anvil whackers, as James Lileks might say.
The United States does a lot of bad stuff overseas, but I think we are still a positive force, not the least of which is judged by how many people are still trying to get in here. Voting with your feet (or your wallet) is a more solid indicator of your true feelings than what’s coming out of your mouth.
The weird abortion quandary
The Libertarian Party takes no solid position up or down on one of the most contentious issues of our time, namely abortion. The only stance the Libertarian Party takes is that no matter what you believe, the government shouldn’t be involved. That compromise actually works for me, but it leaves many passionate people unsatisfied.
There are pro-abortion libertarians and anti-abortion libertarians. (See what I did there?) This issue, more than almost any, inspires a lot of single issue voters. The LP’s attempt to split the baby (pun intended) leaves many high and dry on that single issue and makes no one happy. (Perhaps it’s Schrödinger’s Baby; it is both split and un-split.)
I could go into some of my other deviations from libertarian orthodoxy, but I’ve given ya’ll enough ammo as it is.
At the end of the day, despite my various minor heresies, I’m good enough, I’m libertarian enough, and doggone it, people like me. I still hold many beliefs that Joe Six Pack might consider “radical”, but I also try and live in the real world.
If you agree with your friend, your lover, your spouse, your religion, your chosen ethos, or your political party 100% of the time, you are probably not in a “relationship” with that other party. You may actually be in a cult.