So my preferred candidate jumped into the race and immediately shit the bed. “Surprisingly for a libertarian,” reported Reason magazine, “[Gary] Johnson, who recently resigned as the CEO of Cannabis Sativa, a marijuana marketing form, said that he would sign a bill banning the wearing of burqas in America.” Burqas are horrible but the whole point of libertarianism is that one person doesn’t get to impose his tastes on another.
To his credit, Johnson immediately realized the absurdity of his position and, the next day, conceded he’d made a mistake.
I’m not giving up on my favorite former marijuana CEO. Anyone who would dump their guy after one stupid utterance would have already bounced through every candidate in the race and be throwing their weight behind a write-in for Alvin Greene. Yet I find myself, to my astonishment, drawn to the candidate who is philosphically the most distant from the libertarian point of view. Are my convictions so shallow that I could favor two nearly opposite opponents for the same position?
Yes and no. My libertarianism has always been more philosophical than tied to actual goals of the Libertarian party. I think that consenting adults should be free to do whatever they want to the extent that they are not infringing on anyone else’s rights, and the Libertarian party shared that philosophy much more strongly than do either of the major parties. But it also promotes an absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment that terrifies me (and that does, I believe, infringe on others’ rights by exposing them to absurd dangers) and a fixation on tax reduction I do not share. Sure, I would love to pay less taxes, and I think government should do much less than it does. But this is based on a distrust of large organizations, and governmental organizations in particular, to work effectively. If I believed taking a third of my income in taxes was actually helping poor people or preventing crime, I would be all for it.
I look to a third party in part because the two major parties are inherently corrupt and in bed with each other to perpetuate the growth of the governing class. Anyone who doubts this need look no further than the spectacular growth in incomes of the area around Washington D.C. over the past decades. So, I have reasoned, even if some of the Libertarian Party’s aims scare me, I will support it and hope its candidates get elected so they can steer the debate and influence direction and (I hope) be constrained by their minority status from enacting anything really troubling.
With similar logic, I am now feeling the bern. Bernie Sanders is a socialist. He favors single-payer health care. He wants to make college free, which is to say 100% tax-supported, and which I have argued earlier will just raise the entry costs for a plethora of jobs that don’t really require an advanced degree. He’s not the guy for any self-respecting Libertarian.
And yet. He, alone among the candidates (I’m still waiting on Gary) is calling out the corruption of Wall Street as the chief source of our growing income inequality. He, alone among at least the major party candidates, seems to be honest and decent and principled. He, better than any of his opponents, is calling out the most important problems for the next president to address.
His solutions to those problems are in many cases nutty. But given the motley assortment from whom we have to choose, is it enough that he at least diagnoses the problem correctly? Can I rely on the assertion that cooler heads will prevail when it comes time to craft solutions, that, in having to work with a more mainstream Congress, he will have to temper his more extreme ideas and at least push us in a direction we need to go?
I live in California so it’s largely academic anyway.