For decades, Republicans and conservatives have poked fun at libertarians for being a “marginal” movement, one outside the mainstream of American political thought and political power. Their message has been that libertarians should do as they did — become respectable and credible to mainstream America by making peace with the welfare-warfare state and devoting their lives to coming up with proposals on how to reform it.
Through it all, Republicans and conservatives have maintained their old, traditional mantra: “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.” They include it in their speeches. It’s on their stationery, websites, and social media.
But the mantra has always been a lie, and deep down Republicans and conservatives have known it. It is impossible to reconcile a devotion to such socialist and interventionist programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, education grants, foreign aid, FDIC, public schooling, the Federal Reserve, fiat money, economic regulations, the DEA, drug laws, the SEC, public housing, income taxation and the IRS, trade restrictions, immigration controls, and all the rest with “free enterprise and private property.”
By the same token, it is impossible to reconcile a national-security establishment, enormous standing army, military-industrial complex, CIA, NSA, foreign military bases, foreign interventionism, wars of aggression, regime-change operations, coups, torture, assassination programs, partnerships with foreign dictatorships, the war on terrorism, the Cold War, and all the rest with “limited government.”
Yes, that old conservative bromide — “free enterprise, private property, and limited government” — has been bogus, false, and deceptive for a long time. The fact is that in their quest to become credible and respectable and to garner votes to win political office, Republicans and conservatives became full-fledged statists a long time ago.
Thus, it’s no surprise to libertarians to read yesterday in the New York Times that the Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump, plans to outflank Hillary Clinton on the left by adopting many of the positions taken by self-avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s Democratic Party opponent for president.
Despite the handwringing among some Republicans, it can’t really surprise them. After all, isn’t that what Republican candidates have been doing for decades in their striving to be accepted by the mainstream and to be considered respectable and credible to them?
According to the Times, Trump is planning to adopt Sanders’ position on the minimum wage. That presumably means he’s going to call for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, thereby outbidding Clinton’s $12 an hour proposal.
Is that funny or what? Well, except for all the people who will be put out of work, including black teenagers, who have a chronic 40 percent unemployment rate owing to the current minimum wage.
Will Republicans and conservatives support Trump anyway? Of course they will. Because for them it’s never been about principle. It’s always been about winning political office and being acceptable and credible to the mainstream. That, not adherence to principle, always been the priority.
When was the last time you saw a Republican or conservative calling for the repeal of the minimum wage, as we libertarians do? Answer: Never! They might oppose an increase in the minimum wage but that’s as far as they’ll go. Calling for its eradication would not be considered acceptable or credible to the mainstream. It might cost them votes and popularity.
Meanwhile, the libertarian movement continues to grow in popularity, especially young people for whom principles are important. They are figuring out that libertarianism is the only philosophy that is genuinely consistent with the principles of free markets, private property, and limited government. They are seeing that most libertarians, unlike Republicans and conservatives, are unwilling to abandon their principles for the sake of expediency, popularity, acceptance, or votes, and they like that.
Ever-growing numbers of people are also figuring out that the root cause of America’s woes is the welfare-state, warfare-state way of life that liberals, Democrats, Republicans, and conservatives have foisted upon our land — and that the only way to restore a free, peaceful, prosperous, harmonious, and moral society to America is with libertarianism.
Libertarians should take heed of what happens to a movement that abandons principle for the sake of acceptance, popularity, credibility, and votes and a movement whose adherents resign themselves to becoming reformers, rather than dismantlers, of the welfare-warfare state. As we are seeing with Donald Trump, the result is a movement in which people stand for anything and everything except freedom.