(Hello, I'm new to the forum and this is my first post. I've spent quite a bit of time on other forums, I was a participant in the Occupy movements, and I am very concerned with the current path of this country. Please feel free to be as honest as you'd like with your feedback and criticism -- that's why I'm here. Thank you.)
In 2003, at the outset of the Iraq War, I went to numerous peace marches and rallies against the war where I collected my fair share of pamphlets in support of different perspectives, individuals, and ideologies. One that stood out to me at the time was a pamphlet in support of Ron Paul primarily because he supported a number of positions that progressives generally agree with: halting intervention abroad, closing military bases, abolishing the IMF and the World Bank, legalization of marijuana. I was struck with a sense of skeptical unease… what is this thing “libertarianism,” what are its roots, why does it exist?
Since then I’ve spent hours debating people online, and in person, who tout the libertarian perspective, and reading their literature -- or what amount I could stomach. The result is that I now have a number of misgivings about the ideology. Paul's pamphlet was designed with the specific purpose of appealing to liberals and progressives of the type that you’d find in San Francisco. It included all of our popular talking points like the ones listed above, but what was most important, it turned out, was what was left out. These were the underpinnings of Paul’s ideology, the ones that say nearly all forms of taxation are unjust, that the free market produces the most efficient and desirable outcome, that we should move toward privatization of government services: health, education, some might even go as far as police and fire services. The Cato Institute, a self-proclaimed defender of ‘liberty’ in the way that libertarians define it, has decried democracy itself for its lack of compatibility with libertarianism.
This is where the point of view begins to get frightening, especially when you look around online and see the absolute wealth of publications and organizations touting this perspective, from the Heritage Foundation to Cato to Mises.org to Reason magazine to FreedomWorks. Where does this perspective come from? Why is there seemingly such a great deal of resources that are used to espouse it? I’ve come to believe that there is a conscious effort behind it. It is an ideology that plays directly into the hands of the most powerful and wealthy in this society. It targets social services and says they should be cut, it questions what it really means to be poor (trivializing the experience of the poor in this society), it opposes tax increases on the wealthiest Americans.
It has successfully derailed the debate in this country to the point where discussion on these issues is nearly impossible. I am of the belief that social services maintain a certain level of social mobility, which is essential to offset the power relationship between the rich and the poor. Since the Reagan deregulatory policies of three decades ago we have seen a consolidation of wealth, and the trend has only continued in the same direction. We have cut spending and taxes, and we continue to see that consolidation. What many libertarians fail to realize is that this also translates into a consolidation of power. Power over media, over the political process, over courts, over our lives in general. We need to protect the basic social services that allow us to maintain the level of social mobility we have: we need to maintain our educational system and work to fix the problems with it, to extend medical care to those who need it, we need drug rehabilitation programs, safe roads and police and fire services, and libraries. These are the things that make up the very basis of our society, and they are under attack.
What we need to do in this country is not to move in the direction of privatization and the free market, instead we need exactly what Cato has said is incompatible with the society they desire: democracy. It's necessary for us to reclaim the democratic system in this country and make it genuinely representative of the American people. We should work to expel corporate money from politics and ensure that the people have a stake in the system. Taxes and tax revenue can be tools that we use to improve our own society, which we democratically govern. They do not have to be the tool of some alien force.
So liberals and progressives, I can understand some desire to be attracted to the one honest and consistent politician left in our political system: Ron Paul. And as a result of that, I can understand being attracted to the ideology he supports. But before we move too far in that direction, I ask that we check ourselves and come to terms with the fact that we can own our democratic system and make it work for us. Government can be good, government can be the thing that provides our children with education, provides a way out for our most poor and desperate citizens, and protects our rights to the freedoms that have been guaranteed to us by the Constitution of the United States. It does not have to be something that is alien to us. It’s only a matter of reclaiming the system and making it genuinely representative of the people it’s intended to represent.