You can chat with me in person about the thoughts below by joining me at Langan’s tomorrow night to watch (or at least discuss) the election returns.
By contrast, as of this writing, for reasons unknown and likely boring, I am apparently banned from the building across the street from Langan’s, containing multiple organizations for which I’ve written over the years. But don’t ask. That’s a story I’ll tell another time, after I reemerge from a hiatus to get some serious ghostwriting and other work done -- unless it’s all been tidily resolved by then, I suppose. I’m not one to seek conflict.
I began blogging here the week of the 2006 midterm elections (despite a couple dozen retroactively-added archival items and having edited a science blog for a few years before that, for those paying close attention). That’s when the Republicans lost both houses of Congress after having dominated them for most of the prior twelve years.
Call me as cold-blooded as Ultron if you will, but even in 2006 my Machiavellian long-term hope was that though I often railed against the Democrats (and libertarians who allied with them), the Republicans would learn from a much-deserved defeat and that when the day came that they once more claimed both houses (that day being tomorrow), they would be at least a tiny bit more libertarian than they were when previously in power.
(I was also hopeful in late 2006, just to touch on my other three favorite subject areas, that 1. the punk- and New Wave-influenced indie music beloved in Williamsburg and elsewhere would flourish, 2. superhero movies would now always aim for the high standard set the previous year by Batman Begins, and 3. science would become as hip as my geeky American Council on Science and Health co-workers at the time thought it was. Things haven’t gone too badly according to these metrics. Or this Metric.)
Funny how being out of power makes people more libertarian -- but it hasn’t just been the usual in-power/out-of-power dynamic.
With Sen. Rand Paul now talked about as a real contender for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination, there is an explicit, recognized, much-debated libertarian faction within the GOP in a way that there wasn’t before. I had hoped vaguely that a dash of libertarianism (even if no one ever used that word) would permeate the whole conservative establishment; others hoped it wouldn’t or expected that sentiment to flourish in the other party; and what happened instead was more schismatic -- part of the GOP becoming explicitly, even feistily libertarian while the rest resisted or looked around confused and befuddled.
Metaphorically speaking, I had sort of planned for a subtle refurbishing of the whole (seemingly neocon-dominated) building, but instead part of the building sort of fissioned off and became its own annex -- which may yet become where the important things happen. Or, sort of hoped to see a change in the overall density of a bowl of soup and instead got one distinct, highly chunky area that may yet turn out to be the tastiest area, if you follow me.
In any case, whether or not the GOP’s gotten more libertarian over the past eight years, I have, and by “libertarian” in this case I really mean “more anarchist than the so-called anarchists.” I mean, it’s almost uncontroversial now, I think, to say that we obviously face global governmental, military, policing, corporate, media, and NGO establishments that work together to promote projects not necessarily in the commoners’ best interests, including perpetual war (watch this as a little reminder, fringey though it is).
It’s enough to make one turn away from establishment debates and, a bit like a classic pacifist, emphasize change at the personal level (no use of coercion at all against other people or their property) that has vast social, political, and immediate interpersonal implications, rather than continuing to pursue the endlessly complicated top-down method of trying to interest our “leaders” in “good policy.” They aren’t interested.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m still rooting for Rand Paul in 2016 -- just as a sort of indicator, though, you understand. Probably can’t hurt. And, though I don’t like it when libertarians (such as the so-called liberal-tarians) water down libertarian principles to gain allies outside the movement, I have not become such a perfectionist as to turn my nose up at a rare coalition-building opportunity such as a senator and potential president being regarded as a leader by both the Tea Party and the libertarian movement.
(I just read a comment online by a South American libertarian who says he looks with amazement at the U.S.’s Tea Party movement because there is nothing remotely as libertarian or anti-government on such a scale on his continent. Be at least a little grateful, libertarians.)
But, as I say over and over, we can think about coalitional tactics and still reject the asymptotic approaches to, watered-down versions of, and palatable “mainstream” formulations of our philosophy itself. Play nicely with others by all means -- but at the same time have the guts to say (politely) that all government should cease to exist. If you won’t, consider the possibility that you aren’t really helping.
By all means devise and even work on fallback plans. But now that a fairly large number of people are aware there’s more to philosophy than right-vs.-left (something I wasn’t at all sure they’d noticed eight years ago, when I continued to speak in mostly right-vs.-left terms myself), I think professing hardcore, explicit, across-the-board anarcho-capitalism should be Plan “A” (so to speak).
And, after all, just looking at things in a purely pragmatic way, I contend our other options do not look great (they include, for instance, the collapse of civilization). So when, for example, someone tells you in moderate tones that dreams of repealing Obamacare are foolish, suggest that the only way the GOP or other free-market activists will be taken seriously is if we start (right now) talking about the more intellectually consistent goal of ending Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, hospital subsidies, and the FDA (because private mechanisms would be better, as in the end they always are).
It is time. (Or at least it soon will be. I’ll be back to say more -- in a less Facebook-fighting, tweet-combative, blog-snarky, public-feuding, impatient way -- after a brief taking-care-of-business interlude, interrupted only by a link in a week or so to one last movies podcast before I leave Gerard Perry on his own.)