I've always thought of libertarians as being the politically homeless. Most libertarians are serious thinkers, although those who call themselves libertarian but are focused on a few civil liberties which fit their lifestyle choices are not serious thinkers -- the pothead libertarian berating the Man because pot is illegal but doesn't know Murray Rothbard from Robert McNamara, who doesn't know either, really, is not a serious political thinker. Most serious libertarians are politically homeless because neither political party has challenged statism in any meaningful fashion. However, as our national problems have become more alarming, the honest modern liberal might soon find it difficult to commit to the Democrat Party, and, seeing as how they've fought so hard and long against Republicans and it would be too much of a chasm to navigate, there will be no political home for them, either. The honest liberal can no longer pretend, and still maintain integrity, that the progressive agenda is anything other than a recipe for financial disaster and an unacceptable restriction of freedoms. For my purposes here, I'm describing the average liberal person who is not necessarily an ideologue, and more likely someone who shuns ideology, values tolerance, pulls for the underdog, morally supports social causes like climate change initiatives, gay marriage, the end of the War on Drugs, defends civil liberties and still believes that the market is valuable with proper regulations, proper social consciousness and oversight.
When economic times were better, the political game of liberal vs conservative, or Republican vs Democrat could be played as a diversion, a cultural game of the intellectual, socially conscious elite and do-gooders against the capitalists and fundamental religious moralists. On both sides of the political game there have been opportunists who are also not serious political thinkers, like those who vote for one party or the other for a single issue and a special interest -- such as the union member who believes Democrats treat unions better, so he/she votes Blue out of economic interest.
It appears we're at a point where the country has more at stake than anytime I can think of in the recent past, and government actions are critical because government officials have so much power to affect our lives, especially with the passage of the healthcare bill which gives government unprecedented control over a sixth of the economy. In this type of politically-focused atmosphere, there is little room for superficial political game-playing, and those playing politics as usual are being revealed as foolish and un-serious -- it's an affront when we consider the nature of our financial problems and high unemployment. Serious times call for serious people, and liberals who before could say that all the fret and worry over statism is hyperbole, now have to go deeper in their political understanding or appear out of touch, disingenuous or ignorantly in denial.
It's boiling down to serious progressives who believe we just need smarter, more enlightened technocrats and more government power to get things done and those on the Right like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio who believe that government has to be limited and that economic freedom in the private sector needs to be established in a meaningful way. The old establishment politicans attempting to maintain the status quo appear obsolete and desperate to protect their privileged positions. The Big Government Republicans who at one time made their careers by compromising and playing the game of appearing as stalwart, patriotic defenders of the American Way against tax and spend, peacenik, permissive liberals now seem ridiculously out of place. The establishment Democrats who were never that radical appear to progressive believers as weak and uncommitted to the transformation of America and a true anti-capitalist transition to the progressive ideology.
Two contrasting ideas of the government's role in society are being presented as the nation stagnates in uncertainty and rising debt. The Right says let the dogs loose in the private sector, and the Left says give government more power to "invest" and win the future. The mixed economy has run its course, and either we'll go full-bore statism or we'll limit government power and implement a free market. The modern liberal can no longer claim that the Right is hyperbolic, and that we simply need a good mixture of statism and targeted free market principles -- the two don't mix, and this is becoming more obvious each day. Wisconsin is the first big break in the mixed economy -- reality meets wishful thinking and reality will win. The honest modern liberal has to accept reality and reject progressivism, but this will not be easy, because liberals have so demonized the Right in the political game that any concessions to limited government and a free market will be a defeat to their world view. But liberals have to come to terms with this -- the stakes are too high. It's time for serious men and women to stand up and drop the partisan stances. Republicans have to drop the posture of anti-liberal. There's nothing wrong with being liberal, per se -- our country was founded on liberalism. The problem came about when modern liberals moved toward the socialist ideas of progressives in a wrong-headed effort to establish some vague idea of social justice. Liberals bought the anti-capitalist spiel, but capitalism was never the problem. The problem has been a statist system which lured rent-seeking corporations into the State apparatus as partners by promising them protection and favors. This collusion of government and rent-seeking corporations perverted capitalism, and a non-existent free market was blamed.
State power players have lured in corporations, unions, special interest groups, minorities, the media, universities, Hollywood, defense contractors, intellectuals, the Fed, Fannie and Freddie, bankers, and have gained practical control over the entire economy. Surely this is not what liberals had in mind. Liberal aversion to social conservativism has been a cultural aversion and liberals lost sight of something far worse developing all around them -- State power and the loss of economic freedom, not to mention wars, hyper security fears and civil liberty violations. Liberals were concerned under Bush, yes, but now there's the same abuse of power under Obama. So what does a liberal do? Deny reality? Pretend it's different? Or does the liberal face reality and think in terms of the big picture?
Our challenge as individuals is to come to terms with useless divisions which are the wrong battlefield on which to fight. The State has effectively dvided the country and placed itself as the Great Caretaker, providing security from birth to death. A liberal can no longer be considered liberal if this situation of State power is not frightening and is not resisted. I will write more to clarify these ideas in the coming days.