I'm not usually one to bring my political views to bear, chiefly because they have changed a lot over the last 10 years. In some ways, I could sympathize with Kerry in his being labeled a flip-flopper simply because I try to have an open mind, see issues from as many sides as are presented to me, and try to choose what seems to be the most viable given the current data and my presuppositions. I'm not one to doggedly cling to an idea just because it is the one I previously selected as my own (or at least I try not to); if new data is presented or new arguments that make an alternative seem to be better, I'm not so intellectually inert that I won't ever change.
Unfortunately, I guess that approach to life can make one a flip-flopper, but I’d say in that respect, being a flip-flopper is a good thing to be. Changing my views (or at least my professed views) based on popular winds of opinion or the advice of my campaign managers, however, is not a good reason to be a flip-flopper, and that’s where Kerry and I differed, or so it seemed to me.
All that said, I find myself wanting to say something about this post over on the Future of Freedom Foundation. Personally, thanks to a very persistent Libertarian boss I once had, I’ve flirted with Libertarianism. It certainly has its appeal, especially in this relativistic age. I think Mr. Hornberger, though, is painting conservatives with too broad a brush (what else is new?). In that vein, I’d say that we can sum up Libertarianism with the old dictum of “live and let live.” It takes freedom to an extreme, such that it becomes the core tenet of their political creed.
Unfortunately, it leaves out the central good of government, which is to promote the common good. Certainly freedom is one of the chief goods that we have as humans, but it is not the only one. It seems to me that government must also take action to promote the common good, which includes other goods such as public decency, protection of innocents, affordable transportation, and care for the poor, to name a few. And it is precisely in these other areas that the Libertarian and I differ.
While they might agree that these are common goods, they would argue (or have with me at least) that all these can and should be promoted through private organizations and peer pressure, not the government. But as I see it, such an argument is flawed in that government, in a very basic sense, is just such a social organization, particularly a democratic republic such as our own. Libertarians speak of taxes being akin to stealing and government being the modern day Robin Hood, but that would only be true if we were governed by a non-representative government. It is this point, in fact, that catalyzed our founders to form this new republic.
As I see it, Libertarianism is the rich person’s religion. It shares many similarities with feudalism. In fact, if Libertarianism were fully applied today, I think we’d see just such a social structure emerge—those who can afford to fund their liberties would have them; the rest of us would have to attach ourselves to one such lord or another in order to ensure, as much as is possible under such a social organization, some subset of the liberties we have today. Maybe the lords would be corporations, maybe they’d be individuals, but when you privatize every common good that is provided by government, that’s what you end up with.
It is, in fact, Libertarianisms failure to account for the common good that I find myself unable to attach myself to that party, despite its superficial appeal. Of course, I don’t find myself able to attach myself to any of the current parties in our system, which is why I’m registered as an Independent. Each of the parties have compellingly good platforms on different things, but none fully aligns with what seems to me to be the best approach to government. Sadly, our mostly bipartisan system is just woefully inadequate. And painting folks with broad brushes such as conservatives and liberals just doesn’t work; somehow I just don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.