Why Freedom Loving Americans Are Not All Libertarians

Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, editors of the libertarian magazine Reason, have an op-ed in The Washington Post where they see having a candidate who polls at around five percent as being a sign of a revolution. The two are correct in pointing out trends, many of which I’ve discussed here in the past, of a desire for greater freedom. I’ve often noted the trend for “Starbucks Republicans” and “South Park Republicans” to break with the GOP over its support for the war and the social agenda of the religious right. Similarly I’ve commended Democrats for opposing the war and restrictions on civil liberties (even if more weakly than I would like) but have warned that if they return to “tax and spend” economic policies which have unfortunately become associated with liberalism they will become a minority party for yet another generation.

With these trends, why are libertarians in general and Ron Paul in particular only supported by a small minority? There are a number of reasons for this.

Libertarianism, especially as advocated by Ron Paul, is not the only pro-freedom philosophy and in some cases does not advocate freedom as seen by most Americans. Most see freedom in terms of how government impacts their lives, not whether the Federal Reserve is ended or American returns to the gold standard. Americans who reject the social policies of the religious right will find many of the same faults in Ron Paul, who denies that the founding fathers envisioned a secular society characterized by separation of church and state and who claims that the founding fathers envisioned the United States as a Christian nation. Paul’s support for federal legislation banning so-called partial birth abortions and legislation to eliminate the legal distinction between a zygote and a fully developed human contradict his claims of both supporting freedom and supporting state’s rights. Accepting such anti-scientific ideas is particularly disturbing considering his training in Obstetrics.

The stress for state’s rights is also not what most Americans are looking for when seeking freedom. What matters is the relationship between the individual and government, regardless of level of government. Turning duties performed by the federal government over to the states might sometimes be good, but this is not necessarily a matter of greater freedom. Often it is the reverse. Paul’s lack of acceptance of the 14th Amendment, which extended Constitutional liberties from the federal government to the states, could result in less freedom. It is often necessary to protect the rights of the minority from the majority. It is far easier to gain a majority to restrict liberties in a state or local area as opposed to nationally, which is why many white supremacists and neo-Nazis support Paul, realizing that his philosophy would inadvertently help them promote their goals.

Another reason most Americans do not support libertarians is that, while generally skeptical of government, most do believe that government is needed in some areas. Katrina demonstrated both where government is needed and why political leaders who always claim government is the problem and not the solution are incapable of meeting the legitimate needs for government. The free market provides for most goods and services more efficiently than government, but there are some areas where the market fails. For example, the free market does a poor job of providing health care to the individual market as insurance companies have a financial incentive to simply deny coverage to those likely to cost them money. While conservative politicians offer a number of ineffective solutions, most voters do realize that government is needed to reform the system. Government is also needed to encourage a transfer to new energy sources, both in response to global warming and to bring about energy independence.

Support for Ron Paul will also be limited by the belief by Paul and many of his supporters in a number of conspiracy theories involving the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. People are not going to turn to those whose sanity they doubt regardless of whether they agree with Paul on issues such as opposing the war, opposing current drug laws, and in defending civil liberties.

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  1. 1
    Jim says:

    Very good points that you have raised. Ron Paul is actually a couple steps too far ahead in that same line of thoughts that you have mentioned. Take for example:

    1. Government impact on individuals. What enables that huge growing government impact on our daily lives? It’s the Federal Reserve paper money system. Nanny State is inherently expensive, whether it’s for cradle-to-grave care or big-brother watching over everyone. All the income tax that IRS collects barely pays the interest on federal debt. What enables all big-brothers and nannies is the zero-cost money press. That’s why government spending mushroomed in the 20th century, after the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. The Internal Revenue Act of the same year 1913 was only there to make everyone accept Federal Reserve Notes. The real power is creating money out of thin air; tax is just for the sake of having everyone accept the paper money. With the power of printing money at next to no cost, the federal governmet acquired the power to tax each of us 50% just by double the money in circulation without ever getting our consent. That power of taxing without consent is what enables all the big brothers and nannies.

    2. Federal vs. State government. Vladmir Putin once said that communism did not work in the former USSR because there were still capitalistic countries around; likewise, Karl Marx had the insight that communism had to have world government (universal state) as pre-requsite. Why? Because otherwise individuals would be able to vote with their FEET! That’s why. Voting by feet was what made the United States a great nation, as europeans of all nationalities fled tyranny on their continent to our doors. State Sovereignty as envisioned by the US Constitution was a safeguard against monopoly of power by the Federal Government. If a welfare program is thought up in one state, the local residents are free to try it out in their own states; if it works, other states would copy it; if not, the local productive members would simply vote with their feet and move. Likewise, if a big brother program is thought up in one state. At the universal-state Federal level, the invididual citizen has no recourse in the face of ever-growing Federal Government if individual states are not allowed to try different policies. Monopolistic power is what results in corruption and abuse; the Federal Government is the monopolist of government services.

    3. Katrina showed that private enterprises, if left to their own device, are quite capable of helping people in time of need. Walmart water trucks arrived long before any FEMA water, and they were stopped at the outskirt of the city by FEMA officials! Healthcare is another example: government regulations and licensed monopolies have created by supply shortage of doctors and medicine; then government subsidized programs have created artificial demand that cost next to nonthing for its favored clients: politicans, government employees and special targetted groups. Any wonder why healthcare is getting more and more expensive for everyone else? Government is the problem, not the solution. Once again, Ron Paul cuts to the root of the problem: the politicians are able to do this song and dance while fooling the public into believing that somehow government is there to do good precisely because it has the unlimited power of tapping into our pockets through inflation.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    If this is how Paul thinks he isn’t a couple of steps ahead. He’s way behind–decades if not centuries behind.

    1. This shows why Americans concerned about freedom are not flocking to Paul. The Federal Reserve is hardly the top priority of most.

    2. This shows why Paul’s views are seen as being opposed to freedom by many who take a close look. Voting with your feet and moving is hardly what someone whose freedoms are being restricted by a government wants to hear. The real solution is nation-wide restrictions on the power of government which prevent government on all levels from infringing upon liberty. We currently have Constitutional protections which defend the right of the minority from having their rights denied, but Paul’s idea of state’s rights would end this.

    3. You must be kidding. If the lesson you take from Katrina is that government is always the problem you show once again why Paul’s philosophy is rejected by freedom seeking Americans. Katrina showed that there are times when government is necessary, and that those who follow a simplistic philosophy that government is always the problem cannot be relied upon to be running the government.

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