Restore the Libertarian Brand

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A recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times points out that while undergraduate students “largely reject the Republican Party, they are not supportive of the Democrats either.” The article goes on to state that a “a huge opportunity exists for whichever party is wise enough to pay attention to the growing number of Gen Zers in college today.”

The authors of the op-ed are Jeremi Sur, a professor of public affairs and history at the University of Texas at Austin, and Samuel J. Abrams, a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College and a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

What do Sur and Abrams propose? They say that “moderate pragmatism and greater efforts at connecting with them now might be a better strategy with these voters than rigid ideologies, which they are already rejecting.”

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Maybe there is another possibility. Maybe these students are rejecting both Republicans and Democrats precisely because of their joint commitment to the welfare-warfare state ideology that has characterized America for the past 90 years. 

Democrats and Republicans — progressives and conservatives — like to pretend that there are big ideological differences between them. Philosophically, however, there isn’t any difference between them at all. In an overall sense, they both agree on the role that government should play in our lives.

Consider some of the welfare-warfare state agencies and programs that both Democrats and Republicans favor: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public (i.e., government) schooling, farm subsidies, trade wars, minimum-wage laws, economic regulations, education grants, occupational licensure, SBA loans, FDIC, the Federal Reserve System, fiat (i.e., paper) money, tariffs, income taxation, immigration controls, the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA, Gitmo, torture, assassination, indefinite detention, foreign interventionism, foreign wars, coups, alliances with dictatorial regimes, foreign aid, war on terrorism, USA PATRIOT Act, Homeland Security, gun control, the departments of Education, Labor, and Agriculture, and much more.

Maybe, just maybe, young people instinctively don’t like all that Republican-Democrat statism, even if they don’t know why.

Unfortunately, the libertarian movement isn’t in a position to capitalize on this phenomenon. That’s because for many years, libertarianism has abandoned its radical nature in favor of a hybrid philosophy, one that, for pragmatic reasons, combines conservatism with libertarianism.

In the beginning, libertarianism rejected all forms of socialism, interventionism, and economic regulation. It stood for liberty — genuine liberty — a way of life in which people were free to keep everything they earned and were free to do whatever they wanted with it. That meant that all charity was voluntary. No state-mandated welfare programs whatsoever, including Social Security and Medicare, the two crown jewels of America’s welfare state.

It also meant no economic regulations, including minimum-wage laws. Free enterprise meant precisely that — economic enterprise that was entirely free from governmental control or regulation. 

Libertarians favored open borders — i.e., free trade and open immigration. 

Libertarians opposed drug laws and called for the legalization of all drugs, not just marijuana.

Libertarians also favored a limited-government republic, a type of governmental system characterized by a relatively small military force. That was America’s governmental system for 150 years. No Pentagon, no military-industrial complex, no empire of domestic and foreign military bases, no CIA, no NSA, no torture, no state-sponsored assassinations, no indefinite detention without trial, no denial of due process, no foreign aid, no coups, no alliances with foreign dictatorships, and no foreign interventions and foreign wars.

At the core of libertarianism was the non-aggression principle, which holds that people have the right to live their lives any way they choose, so long as they don’t initiate force or fraud against others.

But then disaffected conservatives began leaving the Republican Party and the conservative movement and coming into the libertarian movement. Unfortunately, however, they did not leave all of their conservative baggage at home. They brought much of it into the libertarian movement and ended up transforming the libertarian brand into a hybrid conservative-libertarian mush. 

Examples: Today many libertarians favor saving and reforming Social Security, the most massive socialist program in America. They also favor saving Medicare and are willing to settle for the adoption of “health savings accounts.” They favor replacing Anthony Fauci as director of the National institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases but are loathe to call for the abolition of that federal agency, the Centers for Disease Control, and all other federal agencies that deal with health matters.

They favor legalizing marijuana but not cocaine, heroine, or opioids. 

They favor the national-security state type of governmental system and settle for simply reducing the budgets of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA and reforming their operations.

They favor selective foreign interventionism — that is, only when it is in our “national interest.”

They favor trade wars and sanctions against China, Cuba, Iran, and other official enemies of the U.S. national-security establishment.

They favor America’s system of immigration controls and the police state that comes with it. 

Libertarianism has become a reform-oriented movement, one that is committed to reforming, but not dismantling, the welfare-warfare state way of life that both Republicans and Democrats have foisted upon our nation.

At the core of this conservative-libertarian hybrid philosophy is pragmatism — the idea that libertarians, to be successful, must water down their principles and embrace a reform-oriented conservative-libertarian mush.

What are the chances that a hybrid conservative-libertarian reform-oriented philosophy will attract those young people who are disaffected with both Republicans and Democrats? The chances are nil. To attract those students, as well as many others who are disaffected with both Republicans and Democrats, to the libertarian cause, it is necessary that the libertarian movement restore its original brand — the brand of liberty. 

The post Restore the Libertarian Brand appeared first on The Future of Freedom Foundation.

* This article was originally published here

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