Wednesday, July 4, 2012

10 Final Thoughts on Politics for 7/4

Before turning my blogging attention to Spider-Man, Batman, and the debaters of the July 25 Dionysium (Fred Van Lente vs. Dan Raspler, 8pm at Muchmore’s!), some final thoughts on politics.  Then, just in time for July Fourth, this blog (and its affiliated Facebook and Twitter pages) quietly and passively submits to the new, health-conscious, social-democratic era.

(Or at least, in the current statist climate, maybe I shouldn’t bother opining on politics without pay – it doesn’t necessarily win friends or entertain, after all.  I suffered a pair of rare Facebook-unfriendings in the past few days, one by a leftist who thinks I want children to suffer and the other by a conservative who thinks I should be supporting Romney – anything to beat Obama.  I’m inclined to think this is not wholly coincidental and that the Obamacare decision has reminded people there’s a divisive election approaching.  Whatever.) 

1. In more important news, it’s amazing how many of my young anarcho-capitalist acquaintances seem to be learning archery and/or moving to the wilds of New Hampshire, the sorts of things we libertarians used to imagine doing but which I didn’t think anyone was motivated enough to do.  People are lately getting very motivated, which despite my lament in the prior paragraph, is encouraging. 

(Now if only there were as many women around forty who wanted to avoid government and kids but seek out philosophy and sci-fi as there seem to be in the younger set.  Most of the ones over thirty I encounter usually seem to want kids urgently or to be rather bitter Democrats.  But there may be hope.)

2. Though she is not, as far as I know, an anarcho-capitalist, here’s a young woman shooting and renocking with the speed of Legolas.  Yeah!

3. The goal is not violence, of course, but a society as free of it as possible – and that means devolving political decision-making (which under government is always in the end a threat to jail people and thus violence) down to the level of the individual, so that no one’s body or property need be subject to violent threats by the collective, be it a nation, state, city, or mob. 

Widespread respect for property rights (a beneficial practice, not some arbitrary metaphysical assertion) means each individual charting his own course and acquiring whatever resources people think his services valuable enough to trade for.  Many trades but few occasions when preferences need be squelched by being forcibly overridden – thus a very tight correlation between property-rights-adherence and maximal utility/happiness. 

That doesn’t solve all the problems in the world (and barely even begins to describe the system), but by getting rid of government, this legal/moral framework eliminates a surprisingly high number of the currently existing problems (even ones most people think government is ameliorating), including the basic, ultimate definitional problem with democracy: the problem of having to get the rest of humanity’s approval before you can do anything with your own body and property. 

I very much doubt you have a simpler legal formula than the one I suggest or, no matter how complex it may be, one that does half as much good.

Philosophies such as anarchism, liberalism, conservatism, and libertarianism have all served at one time or another to facilitate the goal of individual, property-owning liberty (as the Tea Party or even some small elements of Occupy Wall Street yet may – and as the first draft of the Declaration of Independence endorsed explicitly).  To the extent those philosophies stick to that goal (or at least served humanity as training wheels enabling us to totter in that direction), they are valuable and understandably have their loyalists even when they falter.  To the extent they deviate from that goal, though, they are impediments. 

One’s political/legal loyalty, in the end, should be to property, the great social problem-solver, and the rest of the content of these political philosophies – which admittedly can get very complicated and divisive – is largely a matter of strategy, coalitional affinity, and rhetorical choices. 

Keep that in mind whether the future brings prosperity, revolution, or a comfy government-subsidized hospital stay.  Whether the best path forward will involve a prominent role for, say, Gary Johnson, a retired Ron Paul, Rand Paul, an improved Mitt Romney, or the “liberaltarians” over at BleedingHeartLibertarians, I do not pretend to know.  Always, I hope people will end up happier in the future than in the present, even when I am uncertain what is most likely to get us there. 

4. Face it, though, GOP: Hard as it may be to believe, you really are probably going to lose the election because of Gary Johnson.  First, you drove him from
the debates and thus the party.  Then you marginalized Ron Paul.  Next, you probably won’t pick Rand Paul for v.p. nominee. 

And then Johnson is probably going to take a healthy 5% from Romney in right-leaning swing states – while leaving Obama largely untouched in liberal states, which tend not to care about Johnson as much.  Libertarians shall have their revenge, in short.  We will then endure four more years of Obama – but afterwards libertarians will come back again, this time to pick up the pieces, at time when perhaps America, like the broken society at the end of Atlas Shrugged, is finally ready.

Until then, maybe I should just keep quiet and watch.  I mean, unless you pay me. 

(FUN SIDENOTE: I think belatedly supporting Gary Johnson has now led to me being chided by some conservatives, leftists, and even some libertarians, since some of the libertarians hate him for not being Ron Paul, in essence.  Some of them hate us all for not being Ron Paul, I sometimes think.  A Mitt/Rand ticket might yet heal many divisions, even while creating a few others.)

5. I’m more than happy to celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration today – but by contrast I confess to mixed feelings about the Constitution (traditionally celebrated in September).  The Anti-Federalists thought the Constitution was a bad idea – as I was vividly reminded by Chris DeRose’s book Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe: The Bill of Rights and the Election That Saved a Nation, which does a fine job of depicting an unusually high-quality congressional race between those two men – but perhaps leans too far in Madison’s direction, hero though he is.

The Anti-Federalists, amongst whom Monroe was sometimes counted, thought the Constitution gave too much power to the central government – and how can we now argue with them?  The current wave of Constitution admiration – which may yet put Tea Party types and libertarians in power – is welcome, given the alternatives (better a government constrained by a constitution than one constrained by nothing).  But the next step is recognizing that even constitutional government is too much government.  Like agnosticism, it is a shaky step on a road that should logically end with a firmer absence of belief (speaking of which, it’s interesting that during Madison and Monroe’s campaigns, then as now, they had to worry a great deal about courting the Baptists even though neither of them had any interest in turning theology into law – both being keen to avoid legal privileges for established religions).

In addition to laying bare half-forgotten divisions among the Founders, DeRose occasionally alludes to something that gives me a new, rather subversive/revisionist respect for the early citizens of the United States: They had almost as little respect for Congress as we do – even when their representatives were people like Madison and Monroe. 

The Federalists have trained us to think it’s a shame the states were reluctant to chip in to the central government – but when you hear about state governors also being reluctant to dispatch troops to defend the Continental Congress, you almost start to think they may have been rather prudent – and prescient (especially given that at the time interest on the U.S.’s foreign debt was $440,252 a year and the annual budget $2,508,327).

Monroe, Patrick Henry, and George Mason are all among those who opposed the adoption of the overreaching and centralizing Constitution, Henry writing (as DeRose recounts): “I see the awful immensity of the dangers with which it is pregnant.  I see it – I feel it...When I see...the consequent happiness or misery of mankind – I am led to believe that much of the account on one side or the other, will depend on what we now decide.” 

Just as anxious but in the pro-adoption camp, Alexander Hamilton, knowing quite well how suspicious Americans were of unleashing a more powerful central government, wrote to Madison during the ratification process, “Our chance of success here is infinitely slender, and none at all if you go wrong.”  Hamilton and Madison were brilliant, but are we so certain a world influenced by the independent States would not now be a far freer one?

Aside from one lapse, Monroe and Madison managed to remain friends throughout their adult lives, even when they were opposed on some of the most momentous political questions in history – and despite the fact that even then, candidates had to deal with annoyances such as Madison’s district being drawn to favor his Anti-Federalist opponents.  (By contrast, a footnote mentions, the Hamilton family did not remain on good terms with the Burr family – Alexander Hamilton Jr. was a lawyer and represented Aaron Burr’s wife when she divorced the man who had killed the elder Hamilton.)

6. In our day, the right-wing band Madison Rising hopes to get a million views of its rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Election Day.  Beats watching liberal Aaron Sorkin recycle lines of dialogue a few hundred more times. 

Madison Rising is admittedly a bit more pro-military than some of my fellow libertarians might like – but as my copy of George Washington’s Military Genius by Dave R. Palmer reminds readers, sometimes liberty and the ability to fight do go together.  If you’re intrigued by the brief references to Washington’s brilliant and then-innovative spy network, you might also check out Washington’s Spies by my friend Alexander Rose.

7. I see that my friend Paul Crespo, meanwhile, is running for the Florida statehouse, where he would likely provide an excellent combination of energy, integrity, and fiscal conservatism.

8. I think the fact Gary Johnson was a Republican just before his current Libertarian run means the Republican Liberty Caucus should endorse him without feeling guilty about it (they’re supposed to be working within the GOP even as they promote libertarianism).  They could plausibly frame the endorsement as an effort, in part, to influence the GOP itself, so it’s not as if they’d seem merely estranged.  Libertarians noticeably deciding the outcome of the election would make the liberty faction impossible to ignore thereafter. 

9. I would also be hard to ignore in this anti-John Roberts t-shirt I’m tempted to buy (from Glenn Beck). 

10. And if the books, music, shirt, and candidates mentioned above do not move you, I am informed that there is a very exciting book offered at a discount today, the Fourth of July 2012 at the Barnes & Noble website.  In all seriousness, what better purchase could you make today?

No comments: