This is the third (but unlikely the last) in a series that revolves around what to this observer is obvious: Libertarians—those perennial "also-rans" in American politics—are loony. The first installment (BW, Opinion, "Libertarians Are Loony," Jan. 23, 2008) addressed the attention this creaky little philosophy was getting because of the presidential campaign of squeaky little Ron Paul, and dealt with the unnatural and undeserved trust Libertarians put in the magical medicine of free markets, which can cure all ills if allowed to operate without government interference ... according to Libertarians.
The second installment (BW, Opinion, "Still Loony," July 29, 2009) was a direct response to a local libertarian who had accused me of knowing nothing about Libertarianism in particular and economics in general. It is common among Libertarians to insist that they, and only they, understand the truth about commerce and trade. And since unregulated, unfettered and unchallenged commerce and trade are as essential to their creed as the cross is to Christianity, anyone who doesn't see things their way is a heretic. (Think of them as the Jehovah Witnesses of politics—only to their credit, they don't walk our neighborhoods and foist little pamphlets off on us.)
As you may have guessed, this entry ("Loonier Than Ever") was born from the news of Ron Paul's boy, Rand. (I am guessing that the younger Paul was named "Rand" in homage to the Holy Mother of libertarian gospel, Ayn Rand. But you never know. Having spent some time around Kentuckians, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that "Rand" was just a hillbilly spelling variation for "Ron, Jr.")
For several days, Paul the Lesser had been trying to extricate himself from some sticky doo-doo of his own making, the result of an explanation he gave as to why he continues to have reservations about the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Had Rand been in Congress for the passage of that momentous legislation, he might not have voted for the provisions that made it illegal for private businesses to exclude African-Americans from their property and services. Even though he insists he's not a racist, no, no, and has never, ever thought about being a racist, no, no, and thinks racism is just awwwwful, in accordance with Paul's revered libertarian code, property rights are as fundamental to the Constitution as the rights of an entire ethnic group not to be treated like dog shit throughout their lives and throughout this land.
Get it? It has absolutely nothing to do with the racist stain that has plagued our nation since long before its founding and continues to corrode the fabric of our society. It must all be about Mom and Pop's freedom not to do business with whomever they choose not to do business with, even if it means any number of people must suffer the consequences of having their own commerce and trade restricted. Which means, of course, that in effect, property rights are more fundamental to a Libertarian's concept of America than the rights of a living, breathing human being. The human being's color is simply incidental to the real principled stand here, which is that no one, least of all the federal government, should be able to tell a business man what he can or can't do.
And seeing as how the tea baggers—and by extension, the whole Republican Party—are now so enthralled with libertarian chic, I must say the libertarian lifestyle has gone beyond mere loony.
It is now officially dangerous.
The trouble with the cult of libertarianism is that we are all Libertarians to one extent or another, depending on the issue before us. For instance, if smoking dope or engaging in homosexual acts is your only passion in life—the only matter you feel strongly enough about to rise from the Barcalounger and vote over—libertarian is the church for you. In theory, they are very sympathetic to dope smokers and gays. In practice, we don't find them pushing nearly as hard for cultural liberties as they do for total economic licentiousness. But at least they talk a good live-and-let-live theology, even if they aren't in any apparent rush to enact it.
But be not deceived. The Libertarian defense of liberal social norms is not because they care dearly for pot smokers and drag queens. With an ideology so separated from the world of cause and effect, their articles of faith don't include the results of what unregulated freedom can mean even for the participants, let alone the bystanders. This is why Rand Paul felt not only justified but down-right righteous last week when he attacked President Barack Obama for sounding "un-American" after the president criticized BP. To a devout Libertarian, such incidental damage as the death of an entire ecosystem must be secondary to the more sacred covenant of laissez faire. To a pious Libertarian, better that 1,000 consumers vomit up salad bar salmonella, better that 1,000 factory workers drop into the maw of the machine, than we suffer the evil of federal overseers.
Libertarianism is that dimension where a principled stand must transcend the world of mere mortals ... as long as it's a libertarian principle and a Libertarian making the stand. Like with any other blind faith, its congregation is willing to sacrifice what ever it takes, including the congregation, to bring the Word to life.
And the Word?
"Me! Now get outta my way!"
And if you believe a modern society can survive like that, you're as nuts as they are.