Don't Libertarians Believe in Liberty?

Once upon a time, I rode on a bus through frozen Alaska reading Ron Paul’s book, Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues that Affect Our Freedom. As a member of a U.S. Army cavalry squadron, I had spent parts of a field exercise that week trying to make sense of what happened the month before, when President Obama was reelected. I had been perplexed by Dr. Paul’s criticism of his own Republican Party before I really understood the levels of corruption and substandard representation present in Washington, but as I read, I began to see fault in many of the GOP’s longstanding policies.

With a year in Afghanistan already behind me, the libertarian stance of nonintervention, when feasible, resonated with me as a better way to avoid endless warfare, out of control spending, and anxiety-provoking foreign policy issues. I believed, and still do believe, in traditional family values and conservative social positions in my own life, but I saw merit in some libertarian concepts regarding the very social issues that render the GOP uncompetitive in various regions of the country. Finally, I agreed with Dr. Paul’s views on taxation and fiscal conservatism, which, if implemented, would come to fruition as a nation of people pulling their own weight.

At CNN’s Libertarian town hall on June 22nd, the party’s nominee, Gary Johnson, described libertarians as “fiscally conservative, socially accepting, tolerant”. At face value -- while forgetting to mention maximizing liberty -- he is spot on.  The irony in his comments became obvious when he heaped praise on Hillary Clinton, referring to her as “a wonderful public servant”. William Weld, his running mate, went as far to reference his lifelong “real bond” with Clinton and refer to President Obama as “statesman-like” before hammering only Donald Trump, who is certainly not above scrutiny.

Using Johnson’s stated pillars of libertarianism, here is my unsolicited assessment of the duo’s comments based on what I know about both party philosophy and the principles of liberty:

Fiscally Conservative

Libertarians religiously point out that government cannot create revenue, noting that the only revenue it has comes from the confiscation of the citizenry’s earnings. It doesn’t get much more fiscally conservative than anti-taxation. When you throw in the belief that the welfare state is the root cause of governmental dysfunction, you can take them at their word when they claim to be fiscally conservative.

Under President Obama, roughly 50 million Americans are currently receiving food stamps. Additionally, nearly $1 trillion has been spent on welfare every year since 2013. There is little doubt that Hillary Clinton, if elected, would have no plans to curtail illegal immigration or the consequences reaped by letting it continue. Recent data indicates that illegally immigrated families receive more in welfare benefits than actual American families do. In short, Clinton and Obama have been at the helm of American government during the greatest period of public dependency ever. A pat on the back for Clinton and Obama by Johnson and Weld does not echo the supposed fiscal conservatism of the Libertarian Party.

Socially Accepting and Tolerant

Modern Americans have very little politically, socially, morally, or culturally in common. The social conservatism that appeals to many here in Texas does not resonate in New England. Trump-style economic populism that is catching on in the Rust Belt does not resonate in Utah. In national elections, the GOP has been hamstrung over social issues significantly. The Libertarians appeal to many supporters of limited government based on their pledge to stay out of the everyday lives of Americans. 

The Clinton-Obama team has openly celebrated many recent cultural victories for the left over the years, spiking the proverbial football in the faces of those who sought to uphold traditional institutions fairly; however, when things don’t go their way, the pair has vilified their political opponents without mercy. In Houston proper, a city that has an electorate that is nearly 2/3 non-white, voters rejected last November’s HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) “anti-discrimination” ballot measure by a whopping 61-39% margin while electing the standard Democrat mayor. Naturally, the American left vilified conservatives, who mostly live in the deep-red Houston suburbs and were not even able to vote on the measure.

One of President Obama’s most blatant attacks on his political opposition came when he permitted the IRS to target conservative organizations prior to the 2012 election. President Nixon was impeached and forced to resign over a far less egregious crime against his opposition in an era when significantly fewer media were available for instant consumption. The de facto endorsement of the Clinton-Obama duo by Johnson and Weld does not reflect the supposed tolerance of the Libertarian Party.

Extra Innings

Further eroding Weld’s claim that Obama is “statesman-like” is the fact that the president has openly sought to skirt Congress to institute his amnesty plan. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has just squashed his November 2014 revelation of newfound executive power. When I think of statesmen, Jefferson, Madison, and Adams come to mind – not someone unfamiliar with the concept of checks and balances.

As for noninterventionism, both major parties leave plenty to be desired. I am no pacifist, but it is alarming to me that our military spending is greater than the next seven countries’ military expenditures combined, with very little return on investment. Critics will long cite President George W. Bush’s forays into Iraq and Afghanistan as evidence of Republican warmongering, but the Clinton-Obama duo does not exactly extend olive branches to the rest of the world. Some of these interventions may be justifiable, but my point is that much of the present Middle Eastern crisis, as well as the rise of ISIS, can be traced to the president’s foreign policy and Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. Without even mentioning Benghazi, Johnson and Weld speaking so glowingly of the Clinton-Obama team undermines the stated Libertarian Party position of noninterventionism.

Conclusion

Johnson and Weld have probably turned many frustrated Republican exiles back into “lowercase L” libertarians. They were either seeking to move left to increase their share of the vote, or openly looking to help Clinton’s campaign in a not so subtle fashion. Given such an audience, Ron Paul would have lashed out at both parties and urged voters to support him based on merit without offering any quarter to his opponents. If the Libertarian Party actually believes in limited government, the faces of the party have made dubious comments by speaking so highly of a duo that has fostered a culture of dependency, sparked division and resentment, and presided over a world in flames. The Libertarians have chosen poorly.

Seth Keshel, former Army Captain and Afghanistan veteran, is a conservative grassroots leader in Texas.

Once upon a time, I rode on a bus through frozen Alaska reading Ron Paul’s book, Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues that Affect Our Freedom. As a member of a U.S. Army cavalry squadron, I had spent parts of a field exercise that week trying to make sense of what happened the month before, when President Obama was reelected. I had been perplexed by Dr. Paul’s criticism of his own Republican Party before I really understood the levels of corruption and substandard representation present in Washington, but as I read, I began to see fault in many of the GOP’s longstanding policies.

With a year in Afghanistan already behind me, the libertarian stance of nonintervention, when feasible, resonated with me as a better way to avoid endless warfare, out of control spending, and anxiety-provoking foreign policy issues. I believed, and still do believe, in traditional family values and conservative social positions in my own life, but I saw merit in some libertarian concepts regarding the very social issues that render the GOP uncompetitive in various regions of the country. Finally, I agreed with Dr. Paul’s views on taxation and fiscal conservatism, which, if implemented, would come to fruition as a nation of people pulling their own weight.

At CNN’s Libertarian town hall on June 22nd, the party’s nominee, Gary Johnson, described libertarians as “fiscally conservative, socially accepting, tolerant”. At face value -- while forgetting to mention maximizing liberty -- he is spot on.  The irony in his comments became obvious when he heaped praise on Hillary Clinton, referring to her as “a wonderful public servant”. William Weld, his running mate, went as far to reference his lifelong “real bond” with Clinton and refer to President Obama as “statesman-like” before hammering only Donald Trump, who is certainly not above scrutiny.

Using Johnson’s stated pillars of libertarianism, here is my unsolicited assessment of the duo’s comments based on what I know about both party philosophy and the principles of liberty:

Fiscally Conservative

Libertarians religiously point out that government cannot create revenue, noting that the only revenue it has comes from the confiscation of the citizenry’s earnings. It doesn’t get much more fiscally conservative than anti-taxation. When you throw in the belief that the welfare state is the root cause of governmental dysfunction, you can take them at their word when they claim to be fiscally conservative.

Under President Obama, roughly 50 million Americans are currently receiving food stamps. Additionally, nearly $1 trillion has been spent on welfare every year since 2013. There is little doubt that Hillary Clinton, if elected, would have no plans to curtail illegal immigration or the consequences reaped by letting it continue. Recent data indicates that illegally immigrated families receive more in welfare benefits than actual American families do. In short, Clinton and Obama have been at the helm of American government during the greatest period of public dependency ever. A pat on the back for Clinton and Obama by Johnson and Weld does not echo the supposed fiscal conservatism of the Libertarian Party.

Socially Accepting and Tolerant

Modern Americans have very little politically, socially, morally, or culturally in common. The social conservatism that appeals to many here in Texas does not resonate in New England. Trump-style economic populism that is catching on in the Rust Belt does not resonate in Utah. In national elections, the GOP has been hamstrung over social issues significantly. The Libertarians appeal to many supporters of limited government based on their pledge to stay out of the everyday lives of Americans. 

The Clinton-Obama team has openly celebrated many recent cultural victories for the left over the years, spiking the proverbial football in the faces of those who sought to uphold traditional institutions fairly; however, when things don’t go their way, the pair has vilified their political opponents without mercy. In Houston proper, a city that has an electorate that is nearly 2/3 non-white, voters rejected last November’s HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) “anti-discrimination” ballot measure by a whopping 61-39% margin while electing the standard Democrat mayor. Naturally, the American left vilified conservatives, who mostly live in the deep-red Houston suburbs and were not even able to vote on the measure.

One of President Obama’s most blatant attacks on his political opposition came when he permitted the IRS to target conservative organizations prior to the 2012 election. President Nixon was impeached and forced to resign over a far less egregious crime against his opposition in an era when significantly fewer media were available for instant consumption. The de facto endorsement of the Clinton-Obama duo by Johnson and Weld does not reflect the supposed tolerance of the Libertarian Party.

Extra Innings

Further eroding Weld’s claim that Obama is “statesman-like” is the fact that the president has openly sought to skirt Congress to institute his amnesty plan. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has just squashed his November 2014 revelation of newfound executive power. When I think of statesmen, Jefferson, Madison, and Adams come to mind – not someone unfamiliar with the concept of checks and balances.

As for noninterventionism, both major parties leave plenty to be desired. I am no pacifist, but it is alarming to me that our military spending is greater than the next seven countries’ military expenditures combined, with very little return on investment. Critics will long cite President George W. Bush’s forays into Iraq and Afghanistan as evidence of Republican warmongering, but the Clinton-Obama duo does not exactly extend olive branches to the rest of the world. Some of these interventions may be justifiable, but my point is that much of the present Middle Eastern crisis, as well as the rise of ISIS, can be traced to the president’s foreign policy and Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. Without even mentioning Benghazi, Johnson and Weld speaking so glowingly of the Clinton-Obama team undermines the stated Libertarian Party position of noninterventionism.

Conclusion

Johnson and Weld have probably turned many frustrated Republican exiles back into “lowercase L” libertarians. They were either seeking to move left to increase their share of the vote, or openly looking to help Clinton’s campaign in a not so subtle fashion. Given such an audience, Ron Paul would have lashed out at both parties and urged voters to support him based on merit without offering any quarter to his opponents. If the Libertarian Party actually believes in limited government, the faces of the party have made dubious comments by speaking so highly of a duo that has fostered a culture of dependency, sparked division and resentment, and presided over a world in flames. The Libertarians have chosen poorly.

Seth Keshel, former Army Captain and Afghanistan veteran, is a conservative grassroots leader in Texas.