Thursday, June 23, 2011

The libertarian conundrum

By Bob Gaydos
One thing is certain about libertarians -- or Libertarians, for the politically serious -- at some time they will take a stand on an issue that is in perfect harmony with yours. And, just as inevitably, they will soon take another stand diametrically opposed to yours. It’s their hallmark and the overwhelming reason that a political party arguably more committed to a core philosophy than any other party has so much trouble expanding its base and, in America’s two-party system, finding a political partner with whom it can comfortably coexist.
Ron Paul
Think about it. How do you deal with a candidate who opposes the death penalty and abortion, is strongly opposed to a military draft, has
voted against an amendment to prohibit flag-burning but favors legalizing prostitution and medical marijuana and doing away with Social Security, the FBI and the IRS?
Well, if you are among the political activists who attended the recent gathering of the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, you make him the easy winner of a straw vote on potential Republican presidential candidates in 2012. In fact, Ron Paul, the man who won 39.7 percent of the votes in New Orleans, is an old hand at such victories having won a similar vote earlier this year at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Not bad for a 75-year-old doctor who was the Libertarian Party candidate for president in 2008. But Paul is a Republican congressman from Texas and, in fact, has always been a Republican, probably because he agrees with their no-tax-is-a-good-tax philosophy and their oft-repeated arguments against government involvement in people’s lives. But, see, Paul, who is a tea party guru, too, really believes that stuff, which means, while he’s against government regulations, he also opposes government snooping and denial of individual rights in the name of national security. And most conservative Republicans have a problem with that kind of, well, logical purity.
I think I’m like most Americans in that I don’t think much about libertarians most of the time. I tend to notice them when presidential politics resume and, honestly, most of the time it’s to wonder how the most ardent libertarians (or Libertarians) came to have such a negative view of the political system which has brought this country so far in a mere 235 years. Also, they have had some really strange leaders. What stirred this current interest is a public posting on Facebook by a former colleague of mine which suggests his dismay with the attitude of Republican conservatives to some of the statements of Paul.
My friend posted: “What divides libertarians from conservatives is the conservatives' failure to realize, or their unwillingness to concede, that toleration is not equivalent to endorsement. It should be obvious that to tolerate something is not the same thing as to approve of it. If toleration required approval, toleration would not be a virtue. What value is there is being prepared to tolerate only those things of which you approve?”
Now, that’s why I “friended” this guy. He understands that in a diverse, democratic society like ours, the only way to coexist with a semblance of serenity, if not dignity, is to tolerate differences of opinion. That would seem to be a basic requirement for any political group that preaches about moral values all the time. My friend also dismisses my suggestion that libertarians might be more comfortable with Democrats, who are clearly more tolerant of diverse views and groups, because, he says, both political parties think libertarians are “crazy.” Which is probably true.
Still, there’s Ron Paul atop the straw polls, speaking his mind more unabashedly than any other Republican candidate dares, arguing against the war in Afghanistan and the Federal Reserve, opposing U.S. involvement in Libya and introducing a bill with Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) to end the federal war on marijuana and let states legalize, regulate, tax, and control it without federal interference. Paul is against pre-emptive wars and being the world policeman. He opposed the Iraq war, wants all U.S. troops brought home, did not vote for George W. Bush, has opposed affirmative action for any group, thinks rights are individual, not collective, considers abortion to be murder, voted no on banning physician-assisted suicide and declaring gay-marriage unconstitutional, favors prayer in schools, opposes replacing oil and coal with alternative fuels, rejects letting illegal immigrants earn citizenship and strongly opposes free trade agreements. He’s all for owning guns, but thinks the Patriot Act has seriously harmed civil liberties.
It either makes no sense or is the most cohesive political philosophy around. Actually, it kind of reminds me of that beer commercial for “The most interesting man in the world.”
I wouldn’t vote for that guy either.

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