Forget Ron Paul, or even his son Rand, by far the greatest booster of libertarianism in America today is unquestionably Barack Obama. With the astonishing ineptitude of his all-pervasive statism, the president is manufacturing libertarians everywhere he goes.
And it’s not just the massive Obamacare boondoggle, although that’s the worst and most public example at the moment. Every aspect of the administration from the extraordinary (and growing) deficits to the clueless foreign policy is an advertisement for the overweening incompetence of big government.
As Bill Clinton told us in his 1996 SOTU, “The era of big government is over.” It just took us another seventeen years — with five of them under this metastasizing bureaucratic monstrosity of Mr. Obama — to get there.
In fact, this government is metastasizing so rapidly that the same Mr. Obama almost never knows what it’s doing — or so he says. He only reads about it, we are told, in the papers, as we do. (Since I suspect he avoids the Drudge Report and Instapundit, he may even be behind some of us.)
Meanwhile, the man who considers himself King of Fairness has fostered a society unprecedented in its unfairness and stratification, at least in recent memory. The very people he is supposed to help suffer most of all.
So we are told, especially if we watch John Stossel’s show, that the times are changing and we are entering the era of libertarianism. That’s fine by me, because much about libertarianism attracts me. But before we all become a culture of wild and crazy Hayekians, we should pay close attention, because just like almost everything in life, libertarianism isn’t perfect. It’s an ideology that when tested in the real world may not be the answer to everything. (Just who is going to fix those potholes on the Ventura Freeway?)
But if small government is coming, if Barack Obama has inadvertently succeeded in turning America libertarian or at least quasi-libertarian, what is needed now, and soon, is some sense of what that really means practically. What in government is worth preserving?
We don’t hear a lot of discussion of that. And looking toward the coming election we should because it is a tremendous opportunity not only to seem forward thinking, but actually be forward thinking. The problem with the word conservative is that it appears to be facing backwards when, in reality, Obama’s leftist ideology is much more an artifact of the past. Conservative or libertarian or something in between, we need to recapture the future.
We should examine how to shuck strategically much of our government to be more streamlined, more futuristic, to give us the opportunity to be entrepreneurial and modern, to solve problems as individuals and companies without government intrusion. Nothing is more weighted down than liberalism, as Obamacare shows clearly. This is a moment people are prepared to see that.
The situation is actually analogous to losing weight and getting into shape. When you do, many things change. You have more energy, more ideas. You are more optimistic.
But I would be remiss in not noting that no matter how small you think the government should be, how libertarian or quasi-libertarian, that ends at the water’s edge. These freedoms, which after all come directly from our Constitution, are the very things that have made our enemies hate us, from Hitler to bin Laden. They are an argument for an even stronger defense. This is where Ron Paul gets it wrong. Libertarianism is great domestic policy. In the foreign policy arena, not so much. There it becomes a license for its own demise.