The 'Liberaltarianist' Folly

The Current Mess

What's the difference between a Republican and a Democrat during an economic crisis? About three trillion dollars. That's the price tag, with interest, of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid Pork Package passed last week by Congress and signed by the president on Tuesday at a virtual campaign rally event in the capital city of an important swing state, Colorado. Witness the biggest one-time vote buying orgy in human history. And when this spree fails to revive the economy, prepare to witness more just like it.

It's true: libertarians have no love for former President Bush and his massive TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) bailout, nor should we. In fact, Bush's "compassionate conservatism" -- and its willing Republican enablers in Congress -- is the second big reason liberaltarianism ever became an issue. Bush's governing philosophy of "when somebody hurts, government has got to move," was the very antithesis of libertarianism.

But rescuing our horrible (and horribly tangled) public/private banking industry from complete disaster -- and taking the entire global economy with it -- is one thing. And it was one thing Bush (along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) did incompletely and incompetently. But as libertarians we should expect that kind of thing from government. It's quite another thing to endorse the kind of explosive government growth enshrined in Denver on Tuesday -- and which received the votes of only three Republicans, out of nearly 535 votes cast. When push came to shove, Congressional Republicans rediscovered their backbones (if not any actual principles; it's hard to say) and almost every single one of them voted against the largest one-time expansion of government in human history. The Democrats, bar seven of them, voted as one in favor.

In other words, "liberaltarian" doesn't just sound ugly, it is ugly.

I've glossed over quite a bit here, and left out a lot of issues many people will find more important than I do. That's the nature of trying to cover three entire political movements in the space of a 1,200-word column. My apologies. But the broad outline, I'm afraid, is pretty much dead-on: we'll never get the big bedroom and we're almost always stuck eating leftovers, but we're a part of the Republican family.

None of which is to say that libertarians should find some permanent home in the Republican Party. We absolutely should try to be the tail which wags the dog -- by withholding our votes from candidates who cross the line into nagging nanny-statism, or by forging temporary alliances with like-minded Democrats on whatever issues where we might need to. But for the foreseeable future, the Republican Party remains where we belong -- our dysfunctional, feuding, uncomfortable (and temporary?) home.