Quick disclaimer: I’m not 100 percent certain that there is a classic libertarianism I should be differentiating from… but on the off chance that there is and that the libertarianism I want to talk about, the type as I’ve seen it played out in today’s political landscape, is distinct and notably different on the issues I want to mention, I want to cut people off before someone that missed my point comes in and tries to take my head off for equating non-equatable political ideals. I’ve kinda been burnt on that before.
So, libertarianism has been, I think, seeing a bit of a hey day in recent years, particularly through Ron Paul’s past two presidential campaigns and the creation of the Tea Party movement. While the Tea Party movement has strayed, via its leaders/candidates, from the original message, a message that is almost like a distilled Paul campaign description, the feelings of the grassroots it started with are the same types of feelings people (often young people) had with Paul and with 2012’s Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.
Basically, libertarianism as it has come about today can be put in terms of a Venn diagram. On one circle, we have Democrats. Democrats are currently the party of social freedoms. Keep the government out of bedrooms, eliminate censorship, et cetera. It may not be doing so great with that, but it’s the pro-choice, pro-legalization, pro-gay marriage party, particularly compared to the Republicans. Their economics, however, are more restrictive and government involved. Tax and spend fiscal policies, regulations on banks and businesses, et cetera. The other circle hosts the Republicans. They’re the party that, on the social end of things, wants government all over everything. Nowadays, while they talk about small government, they simultaneously talk about constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage, increased surveillance, more military/wars, ban abortions… the legislate morality party. Their economics, however, are (in theory) more hands off than the Democrats. Roll back regulations, lower taxes, cut spending.
So, where the two circles meet is with Libertarians. They are the party of the laissez-faire, both in economics and social policy. Hands off the free market. Let people decide what they want to do, get government out of making choices for people. It’s the Democrats’ social policies and the Republicans’ economic policies.
…again, in theory.
See, the thing is, while Libertarianism is the confluence of similar ideals from the main two political parties in America, neither of those parties is really looking to pull away federal powers. President Barack Obama did, surprisingly, talk about looking into more clearly defining and limiting the powers of the Executive Office, but that’s not really a sentiment you hear too often from either party. The Republicans, more often than not, want to make certain issues states’ rights issues, but those tend to just be issues they don’t think they can win federally.
What confuses me about modern libertarianism is that, the more I hear from them, the more it sounds like they want EVERY issue to be a states’ rights issue. Insofar as, they would rather the federal government to bow in power to the state governments.
When America was being created as a nation, our first attempt at creating a government was an utter failure. A rope of sand, as someone called it. For about eight years, the law of the land was dictated through a document known as the Articles of Confederation. Basically, it didn’t recognize the United States as a singly governed entity, but rather a political alliance between the 13 separate states. If one of them was attacked, they’d help each other out. They were to assist one another, but still be mostly left to their own devices. And it failed pretty spectacularly, as the national Congress was almost completely ineffectual and each state felt no real reason to actually help out the other states, making commerce and land contracts and, well, everything begin to fall apart. When Shay’s Rebellion started in 1786, combined with everything else that was happening, Alexander Hamilton and others essentially staged a coup and reworked the entire government, writing the Constitution. The Constitution created a far stronger federal government while the Bill of Rights were added to help protect individuals and the states’ sovereignties.
Now, I understand the desire to get the federal government out of being involved with many things. As a liberal, I think marijuana should be legalized (huge economic benefit there), same-sex marriage should be legal, pretty much all the social policies should be left unfettered, by and large. I still think a completely free capitalist market runs contrary to democracy and would implode our ability to govern and be governed, but others disagree. What I don’t understand is the apparent desire of many modern Libertarians to seemingly peel back the federal government almost in its entirety and bring us back to the Articles of Confederation.
It’s thoroughly possible I’m completely misunderstanding or misrepresenting this particular political belief. But I have many friends that are Libertarians. And when they talk about their politics, they often talk about letting states have power as opposed to the federal government in nearly every issue. And that, it seems to me, is a bit contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.
The preamble to the United States Constitution talks about creating a more perfect union. Considering that was written up after the quite imperfect coalition under the Articles, it makes me think that maybe the framers wanted the federal government there to help encourage states and citizens to help other people out. Yeah, sometimes it means Texas has to help bail out California, that your tax dollars get spent in some state you couldn’t care less about… but the theory is, we’re all in this together. We are a united nation, a group of united states, and we leave no one behind.
Maybe I’m wrong. But that’s how it seems to me.