In Defense of Libertarians
Throughout the primary election season there's been a group unfairly villainized by the rest of the Republicans. Not the establishment (they can't be villainized enough for giving us McCain and trying to keep folks like Rand Paul from getting elected in 2010) -- I mean libertarians.
Republicans like to villainize libertarians for infiltrating their party -- but refuse to acknowledge that being libertarian and being Republican are not mutually exclusive. I wish someone had told me, but apparently all self-identified libertarians are the same caricature of a Ron Paul supporter who refuses to debate and instead just shouts "Neo-con! Neo-con!" at everyone with whom he disagrees.
I'm not what you'd call a "Ron Paul libertarian"; I don't think he's the end-all, be-all personification of what a libertarian is or what libertarians must believe to fit the title. Love him or hate him -- which seem to be the only two options -- I'd like to believe that everyone on the right can admit that Ron Paul has brought the mainstream of the far right a little closer to libertarian beliefs. Without Ron Paul, you wouldn't have candidates like Rick Perry and Rick Santorum pushing for trillions of dollars in spending cuts, nor would they be promising to outright eliminate regulatory agencies.
When I "came out" as a black conservative, I had to explain ad nauseam how the two were not mutually exclusive. I'm finding myself having to make the same point over and over with regards to libertarianism -- that the most vocal members of a given group do not speak for the whole. There is as much diversity of thought between fellow libertarians as there is in either the Democrat or the Republican Party. While I self-identify as a conservative libertarian, many people react to that label as though I cannot be both simultaneously.
Being a conservative libertarian isn't a contradiction of terms; it's actually a description of me as a whole more than just my political beliefs. I am conservative in my values system, libertarian in the belief that truly constitutional government should be small and have a limited impact on one's life. There's nothing ideologically impure in that.
Pundits like Alfonzo Rachel are dead-on when it comes to explaining why the Democratic stronghold on the black community is both destructive and ironic. Zo's Angry Black Man schtick is great, and it explains the benefits of capitalism and curse of the welfare state in a way that transcends racial politics. But it's his awesomeness in that regard that makes it all the more disappointing when he stoops to ridiculous claims, including that libertarians are inviting bigger government.
Aside from the queer suggestion that opposing something too adamantly invites more of it (somehow I can't picture him making that same argument about pro-lifers inviting more abortion), Zo's whole argument is based on the straw-man caricature of a libertarian that he feels more comfortable taking down. Given that Alfonzo Rachel spends so much of his time explaining his self-identity as both a conservative and a black man, it's ironic that he's so quick to alienate and mischaracterize a group that, by and large, agrees with him.
A lot of times, the only difference between a conservative and a libertarian is the "why." As a libertarian, I want Roe v. Wade overturned in part because the basis of the judiciary's ruling was in regard to the safety of abortion (which holds no bearing on the constitutionality of it) and also because abortion infringes upon the rights of others in the most obscene of ways: infringing upon their right to life. Many conservatives' argument against abortion is that it is morally abhorrent and a sin against human life and against our Creator. I agree on that, but I don't agree with Perry or Santorum on an all-out federal ban on abortion.
Personally, I believe that abortion being nationally unconstitutional and the resulting de facto illegality would -- and should -- provide states with the opportunity to draw the line on when the infringement upon the life of the unborn could be justified by any possible harm to the mother. Last month, a pregnant teen refused cancer treatment so that her unborn baby would have a chance at being born. She ended up giving her life for her child in the most literal of ways. Her choice was a noble one, but I believe that women who find themselves in that position should not be denied the choice to save their own life.
That is one example of where, in essence, conservative values and the principles of libertarianism have a great deal of overlap -- and the nuances involved in that overlap is where you'd find conservative libertarians like me and Republicans such as Barry Goldwater and Rand Paul.
Goldwater took a stand against his party in the name of libertarian constitutionalism several times. He demanded that we "get the U.S. out of the U.N." and voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act after a lifetime of supporting the Civil Rights movement because he found the bill's wording unconstitutional. (Rand Paul would later take heat from both left and right after he admitted that he likely would have done the same.)
Goldwater's willingness to be, for lack of a better phrase, "wrong for the right reasons" earned him an endorsement from Ayn Rand -- who, in spite of her legacy of being the matriarch of modern libertarianism, rejected the Libertarian Party for many of the same reasons I do. Among them, there is the consideration that many of the party's platforms focus on protecting a singular view of what choices freedom should allow, rather than protecting the individual liberty of being able to decide that for oneself.
With DHS guidelines on terrorism being ever-expanded to cover patriots instead of jihadists, more Americans than ever are recognizing that traditional values cannot exist without the liberty to protect those values. I can't speak for all other libertarians, because they are as ideologically diverse as the right wing itself is. What I can do, however, is try to get conservatives to realize that we're not infiltrating the GOP. In a way, simply by virtue of being libertarian, we are proving ourselves more conservative than the Republican Party.
Rachael Williams writes for libertarian-leaning blog Undoctrination.org and has been featured on sites such as The Blacksphere.