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Liberty: An Independence Whip, July 1, 2010

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Libertarians write their own invitation to the party
First and foremost, libertarians like liberty, the idea that individuals have as much space as possible to make as many choices as possible (there’s a reason that Reason’s most recent anthology is called “Choice“). And unlike conservatives and liberals, who always fetishize some choices and demonize others, we’re pretty consistent. We generally like school choice and reproductive choice, for instance, and think you should have your choice of religion (including none at all) too, and drugs, and partners in life and business.

We recognize, too, that such a scheme is predicated upon tolerance and pluralism. Your right to boss me around should be as limited as my right to tell you what to do. There are legitimate areas where social consensus must be reached (defense, maybe courts, and a few other things) but since reaching that consensus is typically very expensive and ugly, those areas should be squeezed down to an absolute minimum. And if you make a mess, you’re responsible for cleaning it up.

More important, though, is the fact that libertarianism is not as rigid or programmatic as The Nolan Chart or your garden-variety Ayn Rand fan would have you believe. I like to think of it as an adjective rather than a noun. In any given situation, is your default position that people ought to have more freedom rather than less? If so, you just might be a libertarian (especially if you don’t find Rush—the band, not the bloviator—totally awful). Do you believe in decentralized, John Stuart Mill-like “experiments in living“ rather than top-down, command-and-control lifestyles (whether right-wing or left), then you might be a libertarian. Are you incredibly good-looking, witty and learned, the sort of man that women want and men want to be like (and vice versa)? Libertarian.

The only reason we have a rather clunky word like "libertarian" is that the anti-liberty forces (the "progressives") appropriated the term "liberal" in the late 1800's and early 1900's to mean "socialist." They do that a lot--take terms that people think mean one thing, and twist them to make them mean something else entirely.

Watch them. Watch how they talk. Watch what they actually mean when they say things like "fairness" and "freedom." They don't mean the same things that fairness and freedom mean to you.

To them, "fairness" means that people who go out and work hard and earn wealth by their sweat and wit should give some or all of that wealth to anyone who can imagine a grievance--now or any time in the past--against the person who has earned the wealth. It is not "fair" for people who work hard to have more than people who don't work hard. "Fair" means that everybody should have the same amount of stuff. Except, of course, for that elite who decides what level of stuff is "fair" for everyone else to have. That's "fairness."

And "freedom" means not freedom of action--which is what most people think when they hear the word. No--in the mind of a "progressive," freedom is a state of mind--it is a kind of nirvana--where a person's every need and whim is met. Of course, reasonable and rational people know that it is impossible to meet any one person's every need and whim, let alone the collective needs and whims of an entire nation. But "progressives," for all their bluster, blather, obfuscation, and rhetoric, are not reasonable, rational people.

This is something else which is critical to understand about "progressives." When you are discussing things with a doctrinare "progressive," you are not talking to someone who is capable of understanding rational argument. They are totally consumed by their emotional side--their feelings--and because of that, they are impervious to any argument, because they simply know that they are right and that you are wrong--an unfeeling, heartless bastard--for not instantly and completely agreeing with them.

And this is the key to understanding why "progressive" policies fail. It is because they are emotionally-driven, knee-jerk reactions to all of the various unfortunate situations which occur in this imperfect world. "Progressive" policies are never well thought-out, and the unintended consequences of those policies--such as the inevitable bankrupting of the country because of the expansion of Social Security and Medicare--never occur to "progressives" because they are totally focused on "helping people right now."

Don't get me wrong: most "progressives" are not really bad people. They are useful--perhaps even necessary--to a society as a control, a check, a conscience. But they should never, ever, ever be allowed to run things. They simply don't have the necessary intellectual tools to actually design and implement effective and truly humanitarian policies. When they are put in power, you get things like depressions, New Deals, Vietnam Wars, and Obama. Progressivism kills, but it kills in a way that it's easy for "progressives" to point the finger elsewhere and walk away whistling happy tunes.

Progressives aren't (usually) evil. They just can't ever be trusted with political power.

(If we ever get to the point where I need a similar rant against "conservatives," I'm sure I could whip one up. But conservatism hasn't been a major problem of Western civilization since . . . well . . . maybe the Spanish Inquisition? Or the European-African slave trade, maybe? Although the human slavery question tended to work itself out over the 17th and 18th Centuries in most of Western civilization without a lot of opposition, with the notable exception of the American Civil War, where it took a very bloody, messy, nasty war to finally decide the issue in the American South. But that's still 150 years ago now. Since then, conservatism has really not been an issue. And no, fascism is NOT a political philosophy with its origin in conservative/Christian thought. It's a mutant offspring of 18th Century Marxism/German social democracy/progressivism. That's just the historical fact of the matter. Go look it up.)

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