Dr. Ralph has been the editorial conscience, B.S. detector, and token Democrat on these pages from sometime around day one.
We're both members of Broadway Baptist Church.
When I was asking various people to fill in for my during my vacation this week, one of the topics I sent out was about the challenges faced by libertarians in this dark age of Buddy Bailouts, Crony Capitalism, and Troubled Asset Relief Programs.
I immediately thought of this post that Dr. Ralph did shortly after the election, entitled "To My Libertarian Friends". I've copied it in its entirety, along with a follow up. You can see my (rushed and hurried) reply in the comment field at his blog. I hope this one generates some discussion. Here's Dr. Ralph, winner of the Trotsky Lookalike Contest:
To My Libertarian Friends,
This is probably going to be my last political screed for a while, which affects only the 2 or 3 people who actually read this drivel. But before I drift into discussing things like technology and the folly of everyday life, I wanted to offer up a few final thoughts on the 2008 election.
Amongst my friends and associates of various political persuasions are several Libertarians: all extremely bright, intellectually curious people who are passionately interested in politics. I have a lot of respect for them. I don't necessarily agree with them.
There is a broad range of political beliefs that fall under the designation of "Libertarianism," all of which (to perhaps over-simplify) focus on the elevation of individual liberties and negate the power of the state. To restate: they believe in social freedom and economic freedom without interference and regulation from the government.
Sounds good, no?
The problem is, this ignores the reason all that regulation and interference is there in the first place. Not to put too fine a point on it, but people are jerks. Maybe not individually, but certainly collectively. And there are certainly outstanding examples of individual jerkiness to be found in the wild.
To what extent are we talking about removing "interference," anyway? And by whose definition?
Reforming drug laws and not interfering with people's personal medical and reproductive decisions (read: abortion rights)? I'm good with that. Permitting anyone, regardless of gender, to get married? I'm cool with that, too. The right to own as many assault weapons as I can scrape the money together for? ...You're starting to loose me. And there are a world of people out there for whom the latter example is fine but have major discomfort for the former.
And let's get a little more mundane -- what about something like zoning? Care to have your neighbor set up a rat breeding factory? Don't laugh -- this battle is going on right now in Fort Worth. What about civil rights laws? One could certainly argue they are interfering with someone's property rights.
This may be a reductio ad absurdum argument, but at what point does the absurdum kick in? It's one thing to be for less regulation. The devil is in the details.
Removing "barriers" to free trade is the other major talking point I hear much about: economic deregulation. Much is made of the "Invisible Hand" that is supposed to insure that free and unregulated markets benefit society as a whole.
This make about as much sense to me as Intelligent Design.
Again, this may sound good in the abstract, but I have little faith in real world application, especially in light of recent events in the financial world. Allen Greenspan, patron saint of deregulation, admitted after after the general market collapse earlier this year that maybe he was wrong in opposing all regulation and stated, "Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity -- myself especially -- are in a state of shocked disbelief."
The Invisible Hand bitch-slapped us.
And the idea that an unregulated John D. Rockefeller type monopoly serves the public interest seems naive at best. People forget that things get regulated for a reason, and the chief reason is to correct past abusive behavior.
After the November election the Libertarians would seem well-positioned to swell their ranks with thinking conservatives disgusted by the mean-spirited, intolerant, xenophobic anti-intellectualism that seemed to have taken over the GOP. So why don't I think the Libertarians will ever move beyond fringe status?
I'm not sure they want to.
As Otto von Bismarck once said, "Politics is the art of the possible." Compromise has come to be a word delivered in a sneer, but in a land as diverse as ours, the ability to work out deals with competing interests is key to being able to govern.
Can the Libertarians compromise their guiding principles? Should they?
It may be they best serve the nation like yeast leavening the loaf, as a source of ideas to be co-opted and co-joined by the majority parties.
Parting shot: here's Stephen Colbert discussing a topic near and dear to my Libertarian friends.
Click here for the video. This particular format makes my site go nuts when I direcly embed it.
Here's a follow up that he wrote just a few days ago:
To My Libertarian Friends, (part 2)
This is a follow up to my previous post, To my Libertarian friends, in which I laid out some of my thoughts and criticisms of the Libertarian Party, which includes amongst its numbers several friends and associates.
To sum up (so you don't have to be bored twice) I have a lot of respect for Libertarians (they tend to be extremely bright, intellectually curious people) but I don't necessarily agree with all of their positions. On economic issues, their faith in the Invisible Hand of the Free Market strikes me as a bit like believing in Intelligent Design. Their take on civil rights, workplace regulations, and some other areas strike me as naive at best.
Where they have my full agreement is in the area of personal freedoms. God bless 'em.To pull a few quotes from the 2008 National Libertarian Party platform:
*We favor the repeal of all laws creating "crimes" without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.
*Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
*Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships.
While the Democrats have cautiously embraced the pro-choice issue, they act like someone who farts in the elevator on the issue of gay marriage rights: they conspicuously avoid acknowledging the obvious and hope people forget the whole unpleasant business by the time they arrive at their floor.
Shame on them.
I'd venture to say the Libertarians will continue to see considerable growth in the decade ahead as gay conservatives see them as an alternative to the rabidly fundamentalist anti-intellectual nuthouse the Republican party is becoming.
And I hope they drag the Democrats along, kicking and screaming, for the ride.
Because it's about bloody time.
That's they joy of knowing Dr. Ralph, who posts at his blog, The Journal of Post-Ralphaelite Thought.