Yet, perhaps inevitably, one is hard-pressed to find politicians who are libertarians and likely to move our laws in that direction — small government, secure property rights, no intrusions into people’s private lives and sexual habits. So libertarians experience a lot of fatalism-reinforcing moments like the one I did one morning this week listening to Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby’s WABC radio show (it’s what comes in clearest on my alarm clock radio): Curtis and Kuby were running down a list of the current presidential candidates and their potential when, lo and behold, a listener called in to recommend Republican candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), the one consistent libertarian in Congress, voting no against any bill that increases the size or power of government no matter how popular.
And, of course, the caller turned out to be the least articulate Ron Paul fan on Earth — libertarians, in my experience, are usually good talkers (it’s a disproportionately intellectual movement for the simple reason that it has no popular support and thus no common people to bring down the average IQ of the movement). The caller sputtered that Ron Paul supports the Constitution, and then he was hammered by Kuby with surprising vehemence for merely trotting out a vague symbol that we all love — and the caller had nothing to add, and I sighed, thinking how every politician except Paul is prone to trot out vague symbols (I’m told Mitt Romney’s speeches are especially prone to this sort of vague, pleasing doubletalk, so perhaps he’ll do well) — favoring honest work, families, America, democracy, what have you — while Paul is quite clearly and concretely and explicitly in favor of abolishing every single government program there is aside from a minimal Justice Department and national defense.
The caller was soon dismissed for bringing up an obscure candidate with unknown and thus irrelevant views, and there’s some sort of perverse self-reinforcing status quo bias at work there, I suppose — or perhaps I should call it social democracy, which seems to be the default view of most people in New York City, not to mention Europe: the view that whatever we all more or less agree is politically palatable is by definition what is true, a great formula for intellectual stagnation if ever there was one, especially in environments that are fairly intellectually homogeneous to begin with. It is a dark time for the rebellion.
(I would also like to note that Ron Kuby, while he looks like a hairy, aging prospector, sounds exactly like Tom Hanks. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but for voice reasons alone, Hanks should get the part if there’s ever a biographical movie.)
Looking for Signs of Hope
There are some libertarian-leaning politicians in more local offices, luckily, including my friend Dan Greenberg, a state rep (as a Republican) in Arkansas, who was recently interviewed on a John Stossel special about his efforts to outlaw the practice of politicians naming buildings and monuments after themselves (Dan called the measure — very unpopular with his fellow legislators, as you might imagine — the “Edifice Complex Prevention Act”).
Until Dan runs for president, though, and barring a big surge by Ron Paul, those looking for remotely-libertarian-ish presidential candidates will have to be content with trying to figure out who’s more libertarian, New York City’s own former mayor Rudy Giuliani (who is ahead in the polls, would certainly be the most locally-entertaining opponent for Hillary Clinton, and has a surprisingly coherent and even philosophically rather than merely politically nuanced positions list on his campaign site, with a nice, albeit convenient, tone of federalism throughout — though he’s still the maniac who wanted to enforce anti-jaywalking laws in New York City, which makes about as much sense as trying to outlaw the alphabet) or former senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee. I must say that Rudy becoming the Republican standard-bearer would be a nice way to end the strict allegiance of the GOP to Jesus and Ares and push it back toward worshipping Mammon the way I want it to and would take the wind out of the sails of a lot of easy leftist arguments against the right. I want the GOP off the road to Damascus and back on Wall Street. Blogger Karol Sheinin, one of my co-organizers of the monthly Manhattan Project gatherings, is rooting for Thompson, though, and maybe she’s right.
All this hair-splitting and searching for the least-bad option would be unnecessary, of course, if more people in our society still understood and shared the capitalist sentiments so beautifully expressed by then-young animators Hanna and Barbera in an amazing cartoon pointed out by Katherine Mangu-Ward of Reason and Alina Stefanescu the other day.
Since we don’t live in a society quite that enlightened, I may as well drown my political sorrows by attending the anarchist book fair at 55 Washington Square South today, before seeing the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. The anarchists will no doubt be left-wing ones, but they will share my anger at having to pay taxes this weekend, which is more than can be said for most Democrats.
UPDATE: Just as I was beginning to feel a bit saddened, amid the very dense crowd of enthusiastic young anarchists at the book fair, by the fact that libertarian events don’t tend to generate the same level of enthusiasm, I looked up and noticed that there were only two banners hanging in the NYU-affiliated church where the book fair was taking place: one for the anarchist publisher Autonomedia, which was unsurprising, but the other hailing the “RON PAUL REVOLUTION” — and the “EVOL” was printed in a quasi-backwards fashion that suggested the word “love,” so one Republican candidate for president in effect had a symbol of his “LOVE REVOLUTION” hanging over all the young anarchists, some of whom might have understood the philosophical logic behind this but most of whom, I suspect, would have disapproved — and I didn’t easily spot any straightlaced College Republican or Libertarian Club types who appeared likely to have hoisted the banner, so I suspect it was put up before the scarier bulk of the crowd arrived — not that I mean to insult them, and even a few minutes’ immersion in their energy was fun.
(It compensates for the previous night, when I was made to feel old by being likened to Grandpa Simpson for talking about the post-9/11 rise of blogs — and also made to feel old a bit earlier in the day when I met Bryan Talbot, writer/artist of my favorite comic book miniseries, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright — who I had thought of as an old, influential hand at his craft — and learned that he was reading the same Jim Starlin comics [about the character Adam Warlock] as a teen that I was, not so much because he is young but because I am, it turns out, getting pretty old myself.)
Wanting some souvenir but reluctant to pay for an item I could not philosophically condone, I ultimately left with a free postcard encourging people to party in Trafalgar Square after Thatcher dies (offensive, but nicely designed).
On the walk from the book fair north to the Aqua Teen movie, I also noticed a college-age male walking along University Place with a stark black and white “AuH2O” t-shirt with a picture of Barry Goldwater’s face. There is hope yet.