Labels are necessary to make distinctions, although labels don't completely define each individual who might fall under a label. There are liberals who lean more toward the progressive worldview, and there are liberals who lean more toward a libertarian worldview. The same goes for conservatives. Then there is disagreement regarding broader categories such as Left and Right which bear little resemblance to the orginal Left/Right divisions. It's perhaps time to reassess Left and Right, since the differences within each political group can be significant. Awhile back I wrote an article stating that a distinction between statism and anti-statism probably makes more sense in today's environment.
Statism is embraced by both Left and Right, so statism transcends the old Left/Right division, although there are distinct differences in what each political group wants out of a powerful State which basically controls the economy. The Left, broadly speaking, might want the State to redistribute wealth, while the Right, broadly speaking, might want the State to maintain predictability in the economy and to prevent a dynamic society from destroying certain traditions which serve a hierarchical order.
Then there's an emerging movement which has revived many of the values and ideas of classical liberalism, and although I've called this the New Right, I think the label is misleading and too restrictive. This movement leans toward libertarian thought, but I'm reluctant to use that label, because it's also misleading and too restrictive. In a broad sense, the movement is anti-statist, but not necessarily anti-government. Andrew McCarthy wrote an article at NRO describing some of the problems, as he sees them, with this movement. For now, let's call the movement AS for anti-statist. McCarthy embraces most of the tenets of the AS movement, or revival, although McCarthy is a terrorist hawk who believes the non-interventionist/libertarian part of the AS revival is extreme. McCarthy calls Rand Paul a libertarian extremist. It's true that national defense is a legitimate role of government, but when a military/industrial complex is built to protect overwhelming State power, I don't know how this is balanced with a limited government/free maket world view.
National defense, foreign military interventions and welfare/entitlements -- the welfare/warfare state --seem to be the sticking points which prevent a large coalition of libertarians and limited government conservatives which could transcend this set of labels and create a new political force in America. I think the most important issue facing Americans today is the role of government going forward. Government muscle which protects a large and powerful State machine has infiltrated into the lives of every American in one way or another. In many ways Americans have become dependent on government even when they'd rather be independent. There are issues regarding the government safety net and entitlements which complicate the matter of dependence and independence, especially for anyone over 40. The welfare state has set up a system which pulls us in from the beginning with or without our consent, so when the subject of limiting government power comes up, there's concern over retirement, healthcare and protection from foreign threats for those who aren't wealthy and aren't getting any younger and who feel insecure in a dnagerous world. Many people who are anti-statist in most matters of government still expect government to honor SS, Medicare and national security, but these government expenditures are unsustainable at the present rate of growth.
The problem with the AS revival is taking the next steps, and McCarthy's article is an example. McCarthy says yes to limited government and a free market, but McCarthy still wants America to eradicate terrorism wherever it might exist, and he probably draws the anti-statist line at curbing the cost Medicare and SS rather than an innovative private sector replacement of these programs. McCarthy agrees that defense spending is out of control and needs to be brought under rational, prudent control, but McCarthy cannot embrace non-interventionism, which he calls isolationism. And McCarthy has no problem giving the State practically unlimited power to deal with enemy combatants, because the Constitution allows greater powers in times of war. The question is whether the threat McCarthy perceives is as great as he and our government say it is, and whether our government's continued responses to terrorism are warranted.
The welfare/warfare state has created divisions in American society, and the AS movement is conflicted. If we allow the State to expand its powers regarding welfare/entitlements and foreign interventions in the name of fighting terrorism, will the AS movement be reduced to winning a few economic battles but losing the battle for limited government and a free market? The question is whether the AS movement can innovate and create new paradigms (I know, it's a trite expression) for the 21st century regarding retirement, the safety net, healthcare and national defense. I believe we can, but it will be difficult, because statism has become so ingrained in our lives and ways of thinking. I believe even liberals who aren't lost to progressivism can become a part of this AS revival and help develope new ways of dealing with social problems and national defense. I'm not sure how anyone can look at our relationships with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and say that continued involvement is wise. If we bring our troops home, this is not defeat and isolationism -- it's completion and reassessment. It's moving from one way of dealing with foreign threats to another way. We can learn from our successes and and failures, then create a much better plan for national defense -- one that hopefully doesn't allow crony defense contractors and power-hungry politicians to have their way with tax-payer dollars. The same goes for welfare and entitlements -- we need a new plan that utilizes what we learned regarding successes and failures, but not another top-down government plan from a handful of technocrats.
Until the AS movement can coalesce around dynamic views which will empower the private sector and limit government power, the State will continue its march to central control and command. I'm inspired that different political groups are beginning to acknowledge the failures of statism, but there's a long way to go to create a true opposition to statism. Anti-statist is not a good label, but it dos clarify some fundamental problems.