With the election of Joe Biden as president, the question naturally arises: Where do libertarians go from here? Do they pursue the reform-oriented, conservatism-lite positions that have come to characterize much of the libertarian movement? Or do libertarians go all out for the next four years for a genuinely free society — that is, one that is committed to removing, not reforming, all infringements on freedom?
A recent piece in the New York Times gives us a clue as to these two different directions that libertarians can take. It’s entitled “Biden Can’t Be F.D.R. He Could Still Be LBJ.”
Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson were the two presidents who brought us Social Security and Medicare, the two crown jewels of the welfare state.
What does that have to do with the two possible directions for libertarians?
Unfortunately, a large segment of the libertarian movement has made peace with FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society. This segment is absolutely scared to death to confront and call for the repeal of Social Security and Medicare. They are scared to death that the general public, including the mainstream media, will reject them or that it won’t take them seriously. Even worse, many of them believe in these socialist programs and ardently support them.
Instead, they have decided to dedicate their lives to coming up with ways to reform Social Security and Medicare through such schemes as Social Security “privatization” or “health savings accounts” or “getting rid of Obamacare” or straightening out the Centers for Disease Control.
In the process, they effectively give up on opposing the entire welfare state, which constitutes one of the two biggest infringements on our rights and liberties and which has wreaked so much destruction on so many people. That’s because any objections to other welfare-state programs, such as farm subsidies, food stamps, or corporate bailouts ring hollow given the ardent support for Social Security and Medicare. To make a credible case for repealing lower-level welfare-state programs, it’s necessary to make the credible case for repealing all welfare-state programs, including the two crown jewels, Social Security and Medicare.
At the risk of belaboring the obvious, Americans will never be free under a welfare state. A political system in which the government is using the tax system and the IRS to take money from one person and giving it to another person, even in the false name of “care” or “compassion,” is not freedom; it is the opposite of freedom. Freedom — genuine freedom — necessarily means the right of everyone to keep everything they earn and decide for themselves what to do with it, including retirement and healthcare decisions.
Moreover, freedom and the free market produce the best of everything, including higher standards of living and systems based on private charity.
With Biden now conjuring up images of FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society, the reform wing of the libertarian movement will necessarily have to remain silent or even supportive, given their support of Social Security and Medicare or at least their silent acquiescence to these socialist programs.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The conservative-oriented segment of the libertarian movement can join up with those of us who are fighting for the genuinely free society. Imagine if every single libertarian were on the same page across the country making the case for the end, not reform, of welfare-state socialism. Our chances for achieving our goal of liberty would be tremendously accelerated because it would be easier to find others to join us in our cause.
When it comes to the drug war, libertarians are mostly solid. Sure, there are still some who just want to legalize marijuana but most libertarians favor ending the drug war immediately. No gradualism. Legalize all drugs. And not 40 years from now, but now.
Why not the same attitude toward the welfare state? Why show faith in freedom with drug legalization and show a lack of faith in freedom with the welfare state?
It’s no different with the warfare state or the national-security state, which constitutes the biggest infringement on our rights, liberty, and well- being. While opposing the “forever wars” and favoring “bringing the troops home,” conservative-oriented libertarians are loathe to advocate publicly for a dismantling of the entire national-security state apparatus and for the restoration of a limited-government republic. Again, they fear that people won’t approve of such a radical position and that the mainstream media will not take them seriously.
But if we are to achieve our goal of a free society, a dismantling of the national-security establishment and the restoration of a limited-government republic are absolutely essential prerequisites.
Imagine if every libertarian across the country were suddenly on the same page — the freedom page — the libertarian page — the page that calls for restoring a limited government republic to our land. We would be that much closer to achieving our end of a genuinely free society because it would be easier to find others to join us in our cause.
Ultimately, every American, including every libertarian, must ask himself some critical important questions: Do you want to be free or not? If yes, how bad do you want to be free? Do you want to be free now or 40 years from now? Do you believe freedom works? Are you ready to commit yourself for the next four years to making the case for genuine freedom to our fellow Americans rather than the case for reforming or softening the welfare-warfare state tyranny under which we live?