What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Tallapragada
In 2007, among a pack of warmongering big-government statists, one man was repeatedly laughed to scorn for his “fringe” ideas. That man was Representative Ron Paul of Texas. For several decades, he has been a popular face of libertarianism, opting to promote his ideals through the Republican Party. But his nickname of “Dr. No” is indicative of the general response he has been treated with by colleagues both within his party and across the fictional aisle. While hundreds of congressmen said “Yes!” to big government, inflation, taxes, intervention and central planning, they in turn emphatically said “No!” to Ron Paul’s contrasting ideas.
The times they are a’ changin’.
Interviewed a few days ago, Rep. Paul, once again a presidential candidate, said “I’ve never been as optimistic as now.” A recent economic crisis has shown the proven wisdom of the positions he has advocated for three decades. A nascent political movement whose genesis came from his last campaign shows the popularity of the ideas, if even only superficially understood and advocated. A recent poll suggests that a majority of Americans are fed up with the government’s many interventions. Ron Paul has good reason to be optimistic, as do we who advance the cause of liberty. The message has in recent years found a receptive audience.
To be sure, libertarianism comes in many varieties, to say nothing of the fidelity with which individuals adhere to those varieties. Common to all these individuals is the elevation of the individual over the state, and the repudiation of aggression against peaceful people. In light of a government which wages war without regard for the law, riddles innocent fathers with dozens of bullets for no reason, gropes toddlers, invades the property of families selling milk, and thousands of other unnecessary and aggressive interventions, it is curious why it’s taken so long for people to increasingly lean libertarian.
Intelligent Americans recognize and reject the superficial back-and-forth between the two main political parties. They understand that both parties embrace statism and subscribe to interventionism, even if for their preferred policies or in differing degrees. These individuals, looking for an alternative, often find a compelling home in the basic tenets of libertarianism. This is mainly due to the fact that out of existing political philosophies, only libertarianism has a foundation of consistency and principle. All others rely upon immorality and deception, for in applying these others philosophies to public policy, each violates its own supposed principles.
That more individuals are flirting with (if not wedding themselves to) libertarianism is not to be unexpected given today’s circumstances. The revolution’s key classical liberals developed their philosophy through education, but the principles they espoused were made popular by contrasting them to the King’s abusive empire. Today, individuals reading Bastiat and Mises and Rothbard and Hazlitt and Hayek find persuasive and principled arguments within libertarianism’s umbrella. But these policies are also made popular primarily be demonstrating to the average American their striking contrast against the abuses and aggression of the state.
The explosion of the tea party movement onto the national political scene was aided in large part by a presidential administration which boldly advanced its unconstitutional and oppressive interventions. Had John McCain or another candidate been selected, it is likely that the tea party would not be enjoying the limelight as it currently does.
So, too, with the public interest and inquiry into libertarianism. As the government further intervenes into the lives of peaceful people and productive businessmen, libertarianism will continue to rise in popularity and prominence. As well it should.