“Welcome to the party!” is about all one can say to the Libertarian Party slate — former GOP Govs. Gary Johnson of New Mexico and Bill Weld of Massachusetts — vying for the presidency. Fix the boys a triple martini with a beer chaser. Everybody’s a little nutty around here.
The Libertarians, whose public face used to be, generally speaking, Ron Paul, clearly aren’t going to win the presidency. They never do. They specialize in touting notions of near-total liberty, for which the voters — most of whom like government control, in one form or another — are, to say the least, unprepared.
Nick Gillespie, writing for Reason magazine, the unofficial voice of the movement, thinks Americans are increasingly demanding what the Libertarians favor, namely, “more peace around the globe, more choice here at home, the ability to innovate and speak freely.”
Which sounds OK until you look a little closer and begin wondering which Americans he means: the Bernie Sanders throngs, the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter fraternities, the unions, the corporate recipients of government subsidies, Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries, the large number of Americans unwilling to concede that “choice here at home” should include drug use and abortion-on-demand. The belief of “choice” in sexual identification remains an outlier for, I would guess, a huge majority of Americans.
The Libertarians are, by and large, so pure in conviction you wonder why they don’t just buy a Pacific island — using bitcoins or gold ingots — and set up shop in a place resistant to visits from Reality.
On the other hand, here they are again, hoping to impress American voters — if not with their claim to seriousness amid the clown show of 2016 politics then with their philosophical consistency. The catchphrase of the libertarian (I employ the lower-case “l” when I mean the spirit rather than the political party) is, “Let it all hang out! Do your thing!” In other words, “It’s your” — I don’t think most libertarians, being rationalists, would say “God-given” — “right to advance your own calling in life. Freedom’s the thing. The more of it, the better.”
I’ve been confabulating with libertarians since the Year One. My future wife was dating one when we met. He was libertarian enough to let me call her and advance my claims, but that’s another story. The present libertarian story, far more relevant to present circumstances, is of the survival of the freedom instinct amid the yahooism of 2016. The Libertarian ticket hasn’t a prayer against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. (Which of the two they would draw more votes from I’m not prepared to guess.) The ticket has, at worst, the chance to tell a story.
I am predisposed to dislike particular elements of the story. Libertarians are flagrantly wrong in their general indifference to unborn life. They are disastrously wrong about the consequences of not caring who marries whom and what sex a man or woman decides to “select.” You can’t run much of a society without underlying agreement on the most important norms. And said society — sad to say — has to fight wars a whole lot more often than libertarianism acknowledges.
Ah, but then comes economic freedom. Now they’re talking our language, the libertarians are. They don’t like government intervention. Why should they? The minimalist regulation of yore has turned into state direction or outright control of most areas of economic activity. See: Obamacare; rule-making for the “too big to fail”; the push for an unaffordable minimum wage; the drive to destroy carbon fuels; so on and so on. One exemplar of the nosy-nanny approach to economic policymaking will head the Democratic ticket, having edged out an out-and-out socialist.
Here’s Gary Johnson’s big chance: Lambaste, castigate, beat up on (something The Donald probably won’t attempt) the stupidity and futility of governmental meddling in matters most intelligently left for consumers and producers to sort out via the transactions of the marketplace.
Does that render Johnson’s ticket the desperately sought alternative to Trump and Clinton? That might be going farther than the evidence justifies. But in this lousy, stinking, no-good political year, the heart leaps when we behold, or simply hear, a message of freedom.
Don’t blow it, governor.
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