Monday, May 22, 2006

The Sensible Libertarian

It is a conflicted feeling to call oneself a libertarian while writing on a public library computer after listening to NPR on the drive and reminiscing on the John Prine concert seen on PBS over the weekend.

I've always told people that there are three types of libertarians: faux, hardline and sensible.

Faux libertarians generally listen to Neil Boortz. They are hard core Republicans on every issue but like the cache of being able to call themselves something different. It's rebellious. It gives them a thrill. They generally hate government and use buzz words like government schools. Oh but ask them about immigration, open borders and pre-emptive war and watch them squirm. They know nothing about libertarianism.

Hardline libertarians are generally good people. They follow the libertarian mantra of the only good government is no government. They stick to both the economic and social principles until it enters absurdity. Leglalize drugs but also dismantle all public health care. You can shoot smack all you want but when your dying in the gutter, they will walk on by. The hardliner says that the free market or the legal system will handle all corrections. Of course that only works in the through the looking glass world where when someone dumps nuclear waste in a stream, the downstream neighbors either don't care or get a fair settlement in court. Exactly what is a fair settlement for all of your descendants having third eyes?

The sensible libertarian recognizes that government is not evil but it should limited to what is absolutely needed. I have always said that I am a libertarian but I think the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a pretty good idea. Government does a lot of bad things. Start with the I.R.S., our insane tax code and proceed outward.

But government also does a lot of good things. Like this library. For a miniscule cost to the tax payer, a person can come in here spend thirty minutes on a computer reading the news from across the world, read various local and national papers and find books that you may not be able to find in a local bookstore.

Now the hardliner and the faux would cast me as lazy. I could easily get my own computer, subscribe to any paper and order any book. They would be right. But they would be wrong about the young missionaries sitting next to me whose only contact with home is the few minutes a day they sit at these computers. They would be wrong about the young girl who spent less than 15 minutes researching a topic for a school paper and then scampered off to find a reference book. They would be wrong about a lot of things.

I challenge the hard liners and the fauxs to spend one day making a list of every service they use that is provided or enhanced by the government. I think the enormity of that list would be sobering.

Screaming in a vacuum or living in ideological fantasy land is easy. Acting with good sense is never easy. Maybe one day when the sensible libertarians start making themselves known we might have a true third party in this country.

Update: There is a very interesting discussion on this topic at Being Amber Rhea.


Ray said...

So, does a sensible Libertarian vote Democratic in November?

griftdrift said...

Possible. I've voted Democrat many times, Libertarian many times and Republican a few times. The fact is you are never going to agree with a political party 100%. I usually vote for the one or the candidate I agree the most with. Unless there are extenuating circumstances like 2004. Bush had to be beat so I voted for Kerry.

Matt said...

I would be really interested in seeing the complete list of government services that you (a sensible Libertarian) would consider "too much goverment" vs. "poorly run government". The IRS is overly complex and perhaps poorly run, but is it a bad service? I think if you that you might find the lines between sensible Libertarian and sensible Democrat are fairly blurred.

griftdrift said...

The IRS is a good place to start.

You see taxes are a shell game. This thin slice for that thin slice. They satisfy one part of us every two years while making the rest of us simmer for another four years. In the mean time we all feel screwed.

You want true tax reform?

Stop talking about numbers or slices or whatever.

Make the tax code simple enough that 25% of the current I.R.S. personnel can process the returns and start from there.

Richard Campbell said...

Question for you: closed shops. Allowable under libertarian principles (right to freely contract between the employer and the union), disallowable (individual right to work trumps), or is there no principled stand there?

griftdrift said...

I'm not sure I understand your question but I will take a stab.

There is no right to work.

Work or work not. There is no try.

Jeremy said...

Maybe one day when the sensible libertarians start making themselves known we might have a true third party in this country.

Hold on - are you suggesting that libertarians have not been successful politically because they're too extreme (hardcores) or too conservative (fauxs) and haven't united around the so-called "sensible" ones?

It sounds a bit like a cop out. If you can't achieve your goals via mainstream politics, then you can't use that against people who disagree with your approach. Either your way works and you're right, or it doesn't and we're right. Turning the tables on us for not having the conviction of your beliefs is lame.

There's a reason why hardcore libertarians (anarchists) don't support mainstream politics. You're right: there is no free market compensation for a generation of kids with three eyes. However, there's no real government protection against that, anyway. It's not anymore "sensible" to promote regulation... indeed, it's less so because it serves to cover-up a problem in the market rather than fix it.

Perhaps sensible libertarians can pursue their strategy, hardcore libertarians theirs, and faux libertarians can... well, fuck off. I have no problem working with anybody on issues, but to blame a broad political approach's failure on me simply because I don't think it works is ridiculous.