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Libertarian vs. Republican: Issue Resolved.
by Jeff Williams

I am a libertarian.

Which is to say, I support a level of government as defined in the United States Constitution. I believe in the ideas of freedom, property rights, and individual rights. I want government out of the boardroom and out of the bedroom. I want a government that doesn't define moral standards, redistribute wealth, control the economy, and divide people into separate factions along racial, ethnic or religious lines. In short, I support the words of Ayn Rand when she wrote:

"The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence....The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, and to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law."

So what are my options in joining a political party? The Democrat Party? Well, I just threw that in there for comic relief. The Libertarian Party? Obviously, but they are burdened by the problems of obscurity, a perceived extremism, and that nagging problem of only getting 1% of the popular vote. The Republican Party? Well, I certainly don't support the whole of their platform, but they are the only legitimate alternative power to the Democrats.

So, my choice as I see it is as follows. I can support the Libertarian Party, whose platform I support almost entirely, but whose platform I fear I shall never see implememted in reality. Or I can support the Republican Party, whose actions and platform I hold some deep reservations about, but who still represent the best force to combat big government in the form of the Democrat Party.

But, then again...

I think I would rather choose obscurity, for at least I would support a Party who I truly believe in. I can't see myself sacrificing all of my politcal principles, to get some of them implemented, while at the same time getting programs that I oppose implemented. No, to support the Republican Party would be to support their programs that I completely disagree with. The only reason I have to join the Republican Party would be political rather than ideological, and that simply isn't an option for me.

So what helps me make the decision to support the Libertarians? I have isolated the two biggest problems in the Republican Party. One is political, and one ideological. I'll try to cover those reasons in this essay.

My first point of contention with the Republican Party: Politics
Frederic Bastiat once wrote
"The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended."

I realize that we have a two party system, and that politics today is essentially divided up into Republican vs. Democrat. I realize that.

It doesn't mean that I have to accept it!

This problem possibly stems from the same reason why I dislike Rush Limbaugh and many other Republican media outlets so much. The Republicans continuously complain about the liberal bias in the mainstream media. Well, I certainly agree, but that is only part of the problem. What exactly do I get from the conservative media that I'm not getting from the liberal media? A different side of the same scandal? Concentration on Democrat scandals rather than apologies for them? Apologies for Republican scandals rather than concentration on them?

This next part is a bit of an exercise on the part of the reader. I am going to list a few popular political magazines.

First, some popular conservative/Republican magazines:
The American Spectator
National Review

Now, some popular libertarian-oriented magazines:
Reason
The Freeman

What I was attempting to show, if one looked into these magazine links, is the nature of the articles contained in them. In the conservative magazines, a great many of the articles are devoted to criticism of the opposition party, and with exposing scandals of the Democratic Party. In the libertarian magazines, almost all of the articles are devoted to the issues and ways to fix problems. In short, the conservative media outlets are devoted almost entirely with politics, while the libertarian media outlets are devoted almost entirely with philosophy.

And couldn't you say the same thing about Rush Limbaugh, or many other Republican media outlets? When Rush spends 3/4 of his show blasting Clinton, it gets pretty boring. Yet the other 1/4 of the time he spends explaining his political views are wonderful. (So what exactly IS Rush Limbaugh? 3/4 entertainer, 1/4 politician?) Obviously the libertarians, by not being a political force, can focus the majority of their time on spreading their messsage and philosophy rather than focusing on political attacks. And the Republicans are locked in fierce battle with the Democrats and often have to use every political weapon available to pass their platform. But it seems to me that the Republicans spend too much time fighting political wars and not enough time fighting philosophical wars. You can try to blame the focus on the mainstream press, by saying that they only focus on the political battles being fought, and not enough on the issues. But what is the excuse of the mainstream conservative media? The other advantage that many libertarian media outlets hold is that they defend no particular party, but simply a libertarian philosophy. Too often, many conservative media outlets spend much more time being an outlet for the Republican Party than they do being at outlet for the underlying philosophy behind that party.

It has been said by the Republicans that the Democrats stand for nothing except the opposition of whatever the Republicans stand for. Curiously enough, I will make a mirror image of the same charge...The Republicans stand for nothing except the opposition of whatever the Democrats stand for. So what we have is two parties who stand for nothing, and for the opposite of nothing, and vice versa. Ask any libertarian what they stand for, and they will give you a concise consistent political philosophy. Ask most Republicans what they stand for, and they will list a litany of issues and positions, or will simply state that they stand for the very vague notion of "smaller government." Ask them to explain the concept of "smaller government" and you will often find them stumped, or returning back to the practice of quoting issues and positions rather than any type of underlying philosophy.

I for one certainly don't know what the Republican Party stands for. They've done a very good job of pointing out how scandalous the Clinton regime has been. Well done, guys, but I figured that out five years ago. And I figured it out without the help of the mainstream liberal press. I thought I understood what the Republicans stood for, but whatever I thought I understood disapeared rather quickly when this current Congress took office.

Many Republicans are good and honest men, but take the wrong approach in defending their views, and too often get wrapped up in bad political strategy. And many Republicans fail to understand that many Democrats are good and honest men too, but ones who simply have political philosophies that don't work and that violate the Constitution. Too often, their debates get nasty, and both sides allow themselves to act like children rather than men. If Republicans had more of a solid philosophy to defend themselves with, they would certainly hold the upper hand in political debates.

A look at Republican literature is probably the most telling of all. It seems to advocate the kind of government that I want to see. But unfortunately, rarely do I see the kind of Republicans that exist after November that I see before November. Is it that they simply don't practice what they preach, or is it the surface of another problem?

My second point of contention with the Republican Party: Philosophy
Do the Republicans really believe in what they say? And what is it that they really say?

Are Republicans the kind of people who truly believe in free market capitalism, and laissez-faire government? Do they really support the Constitution? Their action may betray their words in some cases. If so, why the War on Drugs? If Republicans are so strong in their belief that tobacco companies can sell their products, then why are some drugs still illegal? Isn't there a free market solution to the problem of narcotics and other hazardous drugs? Why attack the FDA, but defend the DEA? Why attempts at censorship material on the internet such as pornographic material? Why attempts to control or regulate content on television, in Hollywood or in some music albums? To protect the children? Isn't that the Democrats' latest tag line? What about wage and price controls implemented by Richard Nixon? What about the latest proposals for trade barriers by Pat Buchanan? What about the millions of dollars in corporate welfare, to companies like Archer-Daniels-Midland? Was part of the latest budget deal that the Democrats get to keep funds flowing to the NEA if the Republicans get to keep funds flowing to ADM? Why support the NRA, defender of the 2nd amendment, and attack the ACLU, defender of all of the amendments in the Bill of Rights?

A point was raised recently by a colleage of mine about the concept of altruism. I could, and I do plan to, write an entire essay on the concept of altruism. One basic problem is that the idea of altruism is deeply rooted in Juedo-Christian culture and teachings, and many conservatives are afraid to attack the very idea of altruism itself. However, for this essay, the point I simply wish to make is on the idea of forced altruism, or the concept of allowing the government to define the concept of altruism, and to take on the traditional role once taken by churches and charities of caring for the poor and needy. Attempts by the Republicans at reforming such programs as welfare and medicare will undoubtedly lead to charges of "mean-spiritism" and "starving children" by their opponents. Blame the Democrats for demogoguery, but go back to the quote from Bastiat and blame the Republicans for taking the wrong approach to the debate. The libertarian approach is to attack a different aspect of the program...the fact that government shouldn't be doing what private charities and churches should and can do much better. It is true that the libertarians have the enviable position of being able to take unpopular stands such as those and not lose political support, but the Republicans have had little success with their current stands too. It is difficult to convince the taxpayers that it is their responsbility to pay for and care for the needy and poor without giving them the resources, in the form of huge tax cuts, to do so. The practice of Republicans in attacking indiviudal welfare while defending corporate welfare makes this difficult to accomplish.

And I could, and I will, write another essay on the obvious split in the Republican Party. Well, obvious to everyone except the Republican Party that it. The Republican Party must either be in denial or in official denial to not recognize the split within their own party. How can anybody honestly say that Presidential candidates as vastly different as Steve Forbes and Pat Buchahan belong in the same political party? This split will only work to the advantage of the Democrat Party and their mainstream media friends, who only have to tap the wedge in a little deeper to ensure the political success of liberals. Is this one of the reasons why Republicans don't like to focus on philosophy? Because they realize that there many be three or four different and conflicting philosophies within their own party?

Why are the Republicans having such a difficult time winning over the voting public? Are they spending too much time talking in politics and not enough time in philosophy? Do they spend too much time redefining "cuts" as "slows in the rate of growth"? Do they spend too much time attacking government programs rather than having the Democrats defend them? Should they spend less time attacking the ideas of the programs themselves, but rather more time attacking the idea that the government provides those programs? Are they blaming the liberal mainstream media more than they are blaming themselves?

I agree that what remains of the voting public is a fickle electorate, but the fact is that both parties can depend on only 1/3 each of that electorate, and find their power and control of the government depends on the moderate swing-vote made up of the remaining 1/3. This, of course, doesn't even take into fact that nearly 1/2 of the people registered to vote even do so. I can blame a portion of that on simply apathy, but I am unconvinced that the low voter turnout of the 1996 elections was based simply on apathy and a large Clinton lead in the polls. I attribute the huge decline in voter interest more to the fact that the overwhelming majority of people in this country feel that neither the Democrat or Republican Party best represent their views. It isn't that people don't care, but that the politicians don't care instead.

How many potential Republican voters are turned off by the Republican Party lack of defense of individual rights? How many potential Republican voters are turned off by Republican claims to support laissez-faire government, but don't see those claims put into practice? How many are dismayed by the Republicans compromises with the Democrats? How many potential Republicans, like myself, are out there...wanting to believe what the Republicans say, but turning away from what they DO? How many want to vote for the Steve Forbes candidates, but don't want to share that vote,and the power that comes with it, with the Pat Buchanan candidates? How many more like me are there who refuse to vote for Republicans because of that party's committment to politics instead of philosophy, and their complete lack of any kind of consistent political platform?

How many are like me? And why was the voter turnout in the last election so low? How many would rather live in obscurity than support either one of the current two big political parties? The machine works for approximately 1/3 of the American people. For the rest of us...it is broken.


Other Resources:

Reflections on Why the Conservative Movement Will Never Roll Back the State
by George L. O'Brien

Libertarian Party
Republican National Committee


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