Ever since I was a young boy of eleven years old, American politics has fascinated me. This should surprise precisely no one who has known me for more than a week. I remember drawing caricatures and cartoons of then-president George H. W. Bush and then-candidates Bill Clinton and Ross Perot during the 1992 campaign season. (See the drawing, included.) I made my own political cartoons, based on my extremely limited knowledge of the political system, the major parties, and geopolitical events. My parents thought I would grow up to become a political cartoonist.
My family was a pretty typical middle-class conservative Christian WASP household, so of course we voted Republican. In my opinion, when you are young and uninformed, there are two major stances you can take politically. You can accept and defend your parents’ views or you can rebel for the sake of rebellion and pick the “opposite” party out of spite. I respected my parents and their views, and their view on free-markets and morality also made a lot of sense to me, so I went with the former.
Even though I was pushed towards the right, I’ve always had both major parties surrounding me and accessible to me, first due to the make-up of my family. My dad’s side was pretty conservative. Family on my dad’s side tended to be professionals (doctors and business owners) from the South with military backgrounds. My mom’s side was pretty liberal. They were blue-collar wage workers from Michigan, with a couple of California hippies thrown in for good measure. Our places of residence also afforded me the opportunity to be exposed to left and right. First, we lived in a very blue part of a very red state (the New Orleans metro area) and then in a very red part of a very blue state (rural New Jersey). I wasn’t surrounded by only one viewpoint, ever, so I learned how to disagree with someone without hating him, something I think many liberals and conservatives need to learn.
As I became older and more aware of the ways of the world, I started to rely less on party lines for opinions. It seemed to me that the talking heads in the media were just picking a side and defending it no matter what. A major turning point in my own political journey was the invasion of Iraq during the second Bush Administration. If you remember the 2000 election, one of George W. Bush’s major campaign points was a non-interventionist foreign policy. He painted himself as a change from the warmongering and meddling Clinton administration. (Sound familiar, Obama voters?) When “conservatives” like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity defended the Iraq War after blasting Clinton for Somalia and Kosovo, the hypocrisy and sycophancy became too thick to ignore.
I do not wish to go through my whole political transformation at this time, but I may at a later date. Instead, I want this post to serve as kind of an introduction to a short series on the positives and negatives of the two major political parties as well as the fastest growing political philosophy: libertarianism. I am well aware that there are probably as many political philosophies as there are people in the world, but for the sake of pragmatism I’m only going to write about these three. (Some of the bigger ones, like the Socialist Party, Green Party, Reform Party, and Constitution Party are not discussed as I see these as mainly extreme versions of either left- or right-wing ideology. Feel free to disagree, in the comments.) I’ll be painting in broad strokes, so don’t be surprised if you hail from one of the major parties and disagree with my assessment. I’m trying to characterize the official party lines, without caricaturing them. No “Democrats are godless Communist elitists” or “Republicans are ignorant Nazi rednecks” allowed.
What’s the purpose of doing this? Usually, by the time people are adults, they are pretty set in their ways. Political and religious debates are usually pretty fruitless. That said, my purpose is two-fold. The first is selfish. It’s a way for me to exorcise my own demons and to atone for my sin of supporting “the stupid party” in my youth. It’s a way to explain myself and my positions to those interested. Second, I hope that those reading it will reflect on their own values versus the stated positions of their chosen party. Too often, political discussions are about tearing down your opponent’s position without really reflecting on your own. One must remember that just because someone disagrees with you, that doesn’t make him stupid, ignorant, or crazy. Maybe he just disagrees. We are all subject to the same human faults and errors. Maybe your position is totally wrong, and the only reason you hold to it is because your party leaders laid it out for you. The author of the Gospel of Matthew said it best: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) When you take the plank out of your own eye, you may find that your values don’t actually line up with your party. Whether I succeed in these stated goals remains to be seen; I guess I’ll assess after the posts are written. Keep in mind, since I grew up in the USA and have spent 99.7% of my life in the USA (yes, I calculated) I will only be discussing American political parties. Amerocentric, yes, but write what you know, right?
Table of Contents
The Republican Party
Both major American political parties have stated purposes and stated platforms. In this short series, I intend to assess whether or not those platforms are beneficial for the people of the United States. I also intend to show how the actions of party leaders violate the stated purposes of their respective parties.
Republican Party Platform and Stated Positions
The Republican Party presents itself as the party of limited government. The party favors states’ rights over federal power. They are the protector of Judeo-Christian morals, supporters of a strong national defense, and friend to small business. Of course, none of this is true. The GOP can be proven to be in violation of all these principles when you contrast theory with behavior.
First, the positive. The mindset behind limited government is beneficial to both commerce and liberty. What is “limited government”? Limited government is the idea that government should be kept small and efficient. Government should be limited to essential services; things like police, fire, and national defense. Government should not be involved in healthcare, welfare for the poor, environmental protection, etc. These are best left to private individuals because government bureaucracy is wasteful and it is not subject to the same market forces as private industry. The smaller the government is kept, the less wasteful of limited resources our society will be.
Limited government is also more beneficial to individual liberty. One needs only to look to history to see how a monolithic centralized government always tramples the rights first of minorities, then of everyone else. Look to the governments of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Mao Zedong for a brief overview. The bigger the government, the more hostile it MUST be to individual liberty because as the size and scope of government increases, more time and resources must be consumed to support the rulers and taken away from the masses. The purposely vague “greater good” of the collective is preached by the power brokers, and their definition of the greater good always trumps the rights of any one individual.
There’s a huge problem, though. Limited government is extremely hard to define, if not impossible. How do you define limits? Certainly everyone will disagree on what the limits should be. Even if we could magically make everyone agree to the limits, there’s no guarantee the people wielding the power will confine themselves to these limits. A constitution does nothing to limit government power because the judicial system will interpret everything to be constitutional if it suits the needs of the ruling class. Lysander Spooner, an anarchist lawyer from the 19th Century, wrote, “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.”
A good example is the recent ruling of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare. This legislation is blatantly unconstitutional because it violates the Commerce Clause, the very clause its supporters used to argue in its favor. However, Chief Justice Roberts, a “conservative” judge appointed by Republican George W. Bush, upheld the constitutionality of the law by torturing the definitions of “fines” and “taxes”… With conservatives like these, who needs liberals?
Let’s pretend that limited government is possible/feasible for a moment. Has the Republican Party ever supported limits to the power of the federal government? No. It never has. Some conservatives will tell you that the Republican leadership has simply “lost the way.” That’s not the case. Ever since the first national Republican leader, Abraham Lincoln, the party has been the party of mercantilism and military adventurism. If the Republican Party supported limited government and states’ rights, then why did Lincoln’s government violate states’ rights by invading the South? Why did they set up a military dictatorship in many areas of the South during Reconstruction? These are the reasons why the South was heavily Democratic until the 1960s. If the modern Republican Party favors states’ rights, then why do Republican leaders continue to use the DEA to prosecute American citizens that live in states where marijuana has been legalized? The answer is it’s just rhetoric.
Moral Superiority?: Overview
The GOP is the protector of Judeo-Christian morals, right? The problem in arguing for/against this point is that every Jew and Christian has a different idea of what “Judeo-Christian” morals really are. The Torah and the Bible are both unclear on many issues. The Ten Commandments say, “Thou Shalt Not Murder”… but God orders thousands, if not millions, of murders in the Bible in the form of the genocides against the people living in the Canaan valley. Does “God Hate Fags” like the detestable Westboro Baptist Church claims? Certainly one can make a case against homosexuality based on the Bible. Then again, it could also be argued that King David was a bisexual, and he was a man after God’s own heart. Ever since the late 1970s/early 1980s, the “religious right” has been a huge influence on Republican politics, but the religious right cannot agree on what their morality should be.
For a moment, pretend that Judeo-Christian morals are unanimous among the Christian community, whatever that means. (There are approximately 41,000 denominations of Christianity in the USA alone.) Is it the government’s job to enforce them? What about the separation of church and state? Should Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists be punished for living by a different religious (or secular) code, simply because they are in the minority? Americans criticize Muslim theocracies for oppressing Christian minorities in their boundaries, and rightfully so. Shouldn’t we “take the plank out of our own eye” first?
Moral Superiority?: The Drug War
The drug war is a major issue in which conservatives and Republicans claim the moral high ground. The argument goes, “Drugs are bad for you, therefore they should be illegal in order to protect people from themselves.” There are several problems with this line of thinking. First, not all drugs are bad for you. The “gateway drug,” marijuana, has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, ease pain, and treat glaucoma. Second, making something illegal does not eliminate the want for it, it just creates a black market. Remember alcohol prohibition? Third, don’t people have the right to their own property, including their own bodies? If I want to destroy my life with drugs, shouldn’t that be my choice, not yours? Many drug addicts want to recover, but they are afraid to seek help because of the legal ramifications. Certainly we can better help drug addicts recover if we know who they are, and if they are not in prison. The indelible Tom Woods mocked this position as follows: “If someone has a drug problem, prison rape is the best solution I can think of.”
Strong National Defense?
This is probably the most difficult issue to discuss for me, personally. My family has a rich history of military service, even though I personally do not. Several of my close friends have joined the military. However, I am strongly opposed not only to the unjust wars the US is currently fighting, but also to the bloated military industrial complex that is draining our economy and creating enemies overseas. I am aware that any time anyone says anything negative about the military, it’s usually followed up by an emotional gut reaction, not facts. Anyone criticizing the military tends to be labelled a “pinko” or “ungrateful for our freedoms” or a “coward.” The true cowards are those who are unwilling to critically examine facts and evidence in order to avoid confronting their possibly flawed belief systems.
I must clarify the anti-war case, briefly. Being anti-war does not automatically make you a pacifist. If an enemy threatens your life or property, you have the right to defend yourself, including using lethal force, if necessary. (Adherents to the Republican Party are usually pretty good on the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms for self defense.) This is the only time violence against others is acceptable, however: in defense. This position is a simplification of the just-war theory, and wars of aggression and/or occupation are not permitted according to this theory.
The current United States military campaign to be the world’s police is anything but defensive. The US currently has between 600-900 military bases (depending on your information source) in other countries. What is the US military doing in all those countries? Is it really for defense? Remember, the Roman Empire thought they needed to continually expand the empire defensively and it collapsed under the cost of maintaining the corrupt, bloated system. History is repeating itself. If the US wants to influence the rest of the world, isn’t it better to do it by example through hard work, creation, and trade rather than with bombs, force, and death? Niccolo Machiavelli, in his classic work, The Prince, argues that it is better to install a colony of civilians rather than a military garrison, as the locals would reject the soldiers but may accept and assimilate the civilian population. Has human nature changed so much since his day that this is no longer true?
Is the current US foreign policy constitutional? Conservatives and Republicans, you claim to respect, admire, even revere the Constitution. Does the Constitution allow for the United States to be the world’s policeman? Does the Constitution allow for the President to start wars? Does the Constitution allow for the President to assassinate whomever he wants with drone missiles under secret orders? The answer should be obvious to someone with even a passive interest in the US Constitution. (To me, the constitutional argument is not as effective as the moral argument, but it works.)
Currently, the US is involved in a “War on Terror.” We were attacked on 9/11, so we must fight terrorism to make sure it never happens again. That’s the argument, anyway. Why was the US attacked in the first place? The CIA calls it “blowback,” or the unintended consequences of meddling in foreign countries’ affairs. Chalmers Johnson, a frequent media contributor, has written a book on this very subject, titled (you guessed it) Blowback. It’s well worth the read and outlines various terrorist campaigns against the US and the specific reasons the perpetrators had for carrying them out. This is not meant to excuse terrorist acts, which are heinous violent acts, but it is important to understand what is happening rather than cower under the bed while our men and women in uniform go off to fight the boogeyman.
Even if you reject the premise that 9/11 was blowback, there are logistical problems fighting a “War on Terror.” How do you go to war with a tactic? How do you define victory? How do you measure losses vs. gains? What if invading other countries and drone-bombing their children actually causes more resentment for the US, and therefore more terrorism? I have not heard any good answers to these questions.
Maybe the biggest hypocrisy in the Republican Party is the following: Republicans claim that they are in favor of small government but they neglect to mention the second biggest government program of all: the military industrial complex. Why do you reject President Eisenhower’s warning? Even without the endless wars, is the US military beyond criticism? Is there not one single place where we can trim the fat off the military budget or improve protocol? One hundred percent of veterans with whom I’ve discussed this issue can name at least one area in which the military is extremely wasteful of taxpayer money and/or supplies. The long time veterans can name several.
Wasting the resources of the American taxpayers and creating enemies overseas with acts of aggression do not promote a strong national defense. If anything, they make us less safe.
Friend to Small Business?
Most small business owners, though not necessarily Republicans, are fiscally conservative. It comes with the territory. In order for a business to grow in the marketplace, it must conserve its resources (labor, finances, and physical goods) and use them wisely to turn a profit. The business must bring in more money than it spends. This is Economics 101, and even young children understand it. The Republican leadership claims to be a friend of small business, and the more fiscally conservative of the two major parties. Again, this is untrue. When was the last time a Republican president shrank the national deficit, national debt, or oversaw spending cuts? (Answer: never.) When was the last time a federal Republican Congressman or Senator (other than Ron Paul) spoke out against Social Security and/or Medicare? These are the largest and third-largest spending items in the federal budget, and the businesses hit hardest by them are the small businesses. Often, small businesses won’t hire new workers because of the burdensome taxes associated with hiring a new employee. Large corporations can absorb these costs; small businesses often cannot. The reason you won’t hear any politicians from any party speak out against them is because to do so is political suicide. The elderly population collects these entitlements and they vote the most often.
Again, some defenders of the Republican Party may agree with me, but say the Republicans have just lost their way and need to get back to the party’s roots. This is wrong. Again, since the beginning of the GOP, it has doled out favors to large corporations (read the history of the railroads, United Fruit Company, and Standard Oil for a few examples), been in favor of protectionist (anti-free market) tariffs, and war.
The Republican Party likes to spend money on the same things as the Democrats, but the Republicans do so with deficit spending instead of raising taxes. As bad as higher taxes are for small business, deficit spending is actually much worse in the long run because it comes with interest payments.
Reject the Republicans
The Republican Party champions itself as the party of states’ rights, limited government, strong national defense, and the free market. These are all admirable ideals, but the Republican Party fails to align itself with even one of them. This essay is not meant to be a dissertation on the history or principles of the GOP, but rather an overview for recovering and pre-recovering Republican voters. Don’t take my word on anything I’ve written; if you are interested in the points I bring up, the information is readily available. It is also not meant to be an attack on Republican voters, but rather a plea for them to examine their beliefs and values. Does your party represent the values you hold dear? Do your leaders represent you? Sadly, I think the answer is an obvious “no.”
The Democratic Party
Democratic Party Platform and Stated Positions
The Democratic Party presents itself as the party of the working man and of oppressed minorities. The party favors racial and gender equality as well as equal rights for those with alternative sexual orientations. They protect the rights of workers and seek fairness for the blue-collar guys against the large corporations for which they work. They are anti-war, and a strong advocate of a clean environment. (If you read my essay on the Republican Party, you’ll see where this is going already…) While these are admirable goals, none of these apply to the Democratic Party. The Democrats, like the Republicans, do not support the ideals they claim to represent, and, like the Republicans, trick their constituents into believing that they have the average American’s interests in mind.
Racial equality is a noble goal, and something our society should work towards achieving. We are all human beings after all, endowed by our creator (whether you believe it’s God or nature) with the same inalienable rights. Very admirable, in theory. How does it play out in practice?
National leaders in the Democratic Party, whether they are politicians or activists, love to paint the Republican Party as the racist party. While it’s true that racism can easily be found in the current and historical Republican Party, the truth is that racism is not confined to just one political party or ideology. How could it be? When these Democratic leaders label someone a “racist” they are doing so not to encourage debate, but rather to shut it down and slander the target, whether that target holds racist views or not (usually they do not). Subscribers to the Democratic Party’s philosophy need to examine the party’s own history of not just racism, but institutionalized racism, that continues into today.
It is much easier to identify the Democratic Party’s racism in American history prior to 1960, so I won’t go into a lot of depth. You can research yourself. Here are some brief “highlights”: Andrew Jackson, the first Democratic president, was the man most responsible for the Trail of Tears (the forced relocation which drove from their homes and killed hundreds of thousands of Native Americans). For this reason, many Native American tribes won’t use the $20 bill since it features the face of Jackson. The great hero of the modern Left is (arguably) Franklin D. Roosevelt. His racial crimes include rounding up Japanese American citizens and putting them in concentration camps, putting a Klansman in the Supreme Court (Hugo Black), and persecuting the black press for treason solely based on their skin color. The Democrats were proponents of African slavery up to the Civil War, and the KKK was essentially the militant wing of the Democratic Party in the deep South during Reconstruction. The Democratic Party was also responsible for some of the first drug control laws, specifically aimed to punish Chinese immigrants.
The change in perception came in the 1960s with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson. JFK and LBJ were not civil rights advocates, as many modern Democrats claim. JFK had Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wiretapped and investigated by the FBI to undermine his work towards racial equality. LBJ, on signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, remarked, “I’ll have those niggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.” He is also quoted as saying, “These Negroes, they’re getting uppity these days. That’s a problem for us, since they got something now they never had before. The political pull to back up their uppityness. Now, we’ve got to do something about this. We’ve got to give them a little something. Just enough to quiet them down, but not enough to make a difference. If we don’t move at all, their allies will line up against us. And there’ll be no way to stop them. It’ll be Reconstruction all over again.” I would argue the Civil Rights Act was a power grab by the federal government.
I can hear the protests now: “All this was in the past! The modern Democratic Party has changed.” Fair enough, it has changed, and probably most people who identify themselves as Democrats are not racists, as used to be the case. That is not what I am arguing, however. Democratic racial policies are still inherently racist. Take affirmative action, for example. The entire idea behind it is that people with dark skin cannot succeed without the help of paternalistic white people. Yet anyone who points this out is often quickly labeled a “racist” by the staunchest Democratic supporters, again, to shut them up, not to foster debate.
Many have argued that the best way to achieve racial equality is not through affirmative action and quotas, but through equal access to education. After all, education leads to skills, which lead to better work opportunities and more wealth. So where does the Democratic Party stand on education? It is fiercely loyal not to minorities but to teachers’ unions that trap minorities in failing public school systems that don’t even teach a large percentage of students how to read. How is a young man or woman who happens to be a racial minority supposed to succeed in the world and escape a life of poverty and violence if they are not given the tools that a good education will give them? No wonder gang violence and drug abuse is rampant in the ghetto. The people who live there have no hope of escape. The cities where Democratic leadership is the strongest have the highest rates of violent crimes and poverty. (I’m looking at you, Baltimore, D.C., and Detroit.) In fact, President Barack Obama, who is half-black himself, was instrumental in shutting down a voucher program that would allow poor black families to get their kids out of the failing, violent DC area schools that he would never let his daughters attend. A cynical man might say he values towing the party line more than he gives a damn about his constituents.
My reasons for opposing the Democratic Party’s positions on gender equality and gay rights are similar to my reasons for opposing their take on racial equality. Namely, the idea that women and homosexuals cannot achieve and care for themselves unless they have a paternalistic government to take care of them. It’s insulting at best, and at worst actually undermines any hopes of equality. The Democratic Party, as recently as 2012, has been active in a campaign meant to smear any opposition to their gender equality programs. The call their opponents perpetrators in a “war on women.” What about women who are not Democrats? Is a Republican or independent woman waging a war on herself? Ridiculous.
On taking office, the Obama administration passed a law requiring employers and schools to provide free birth control and sterilization services to employees and students. What’s wrong with that you ask? Well, a 20 year study by the CDC showed that 99% of women of child-bearing age were able to get proper birth control without involving their school or employer in their bedrooms. Imagine that. Women are smart and capable human beings. Forcing the government into women’s bedrooms paints them as incapable and dependent on government. (Ironically, it is the opposition that is often portrayed as “intrusive into the bedroom.”) What about women who do not want birth control? Either they do not believe in it for religious reasons, they are abstinent, they are post-menopausal, or they have another of several reasons why a woman may not want birth control. The new law forces these women to pay for other women’s contraceptives against their will. Do the rights of these women to keep their money not count for anything?
Further, the Democratic position on women is insulting because it portrays gender issues as issues only involving the bedroom and reproductive rights. Is it only men who care about jobs? Do women not care about war? The economy? Taxes? Education? By grouping all women together, you lose sight of the individual American women (about 150 million of them) each with their own hopes, dreams, fears, values, thoughts, beliefs, etc. Isn’t that just objectifying women in a non-sexual way?
The Democratic Party presents itself as the party of the working man. They claim to protect the rights of workers and seek fairness for the blue-collar guys against the large corporations for which they work. This point is unique in my series of essays, because I actually would argue that prior to FDR’s presidency, the members of the Democratic Party more or less did represent the interests of the working class. For example, Andrew Jackson’s revocation of the central bank’s charter was a great victory for sound money policy, liberal politics and the working man. The New Deal changed all of that, however, and the fascism instituted by President Roosevelt continues in the rhetoric of the Democratic Party line to this date. (The anti-New Deal radio crusade of Democrat Al Smith is worth the read.) FDR actually ran his first campaign on a platform of ending Herbert Hoover’s disastrous financial policies. (Hoover was NOT a free-market advocate like many modern historians claim… the Republicans have always been in favor of mercantilism and cartels. See my post on the Republicans for more…) Once he took office, however, his administration made a conscious effort to duplicate the fascist policies of Mussolini’s Italy as well as pack the Supreme Court to protect the unconstitutional New Deal. He helped organize several industries into state-mandated cartels, including banking, farming, and manufacturing. Today’s Democrats are largely Roosevelt Democrats, not Jefferson/Madison liberals.
Today’s Democrats support the monetary policy of the Treasury Department and the fiat currency issued by the Federal Reserve, just like the Republicans. (Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, is the president who signed the Federal Reserve Act.) Barack Obama voted for Bush’s banking bailouts that robbed the middle class of much of their spending power and savings in order to give rich bankers golden parachutes. Once in office, his administration continued the bailouts. Democrats, just like the Republicans, are elected by multi-national corporations that expect special privileges if they fund successful campaigns. This is nothing but crony capitalism, and it benefits the super rich while destroying the middle class. Both major parties are guilty, the Democrats are not exempt.
This is, by far, the easiest propaganda concerning the Democrats to debunk, especially in the age of Barack Obama and his administration’s murderous drone strikes and multiple front war on terror. Candidate Obama ran his 2008 presidential campaign on a platform of ending Bush’s war in Iraq. President Obama extended Bush’s Iraq exit date, tripled the troop surge in Afghanistan and started wars in Libya, Yemen, and Syria. He’s claimed he has the right to murder anyone his administration deems a terrorist, including Americans on American soil, using secret evidence that no one is allowed to see. “Just trust me.” In fairness, Mr. Obama never claimed to be anti-war… just against the unpopular Iraq War. Even in 2008, he supported the Afghanistan War and told the voters that he intended to intensify American presence in the graveyard of empires. Anyone who votes Democrat because they are anti-war is either not listening to the candidates, or is in a state of cognitive dissonance. (Of course, there are a few exceptions… Dennis Kucinich immediately comes to mind. These are few and far between, however, and are mostly labeled “fringe kooks.”)
Warmongering Democrats did not start with Obama, however. In the Twentieth Century alone, we had Woodrow Wilson getting the US involved in World War 1, FDR in WW2, Truman’s annihilation of two Japanese cities (full of innocent civilians) with atomic bombs, and LBJ’s intensification of the Vietnam War, including the idea of “carpet bombing.” The “left” used to protest these wars, but now it seems most Democrats are perfectly happy with murdering people in other countries if our government doesn’t like their government, as long as it is a Democrat ordering the troops, sanctions, and drone strikes. The modern Democratic Party adherents are truly despicable hypocrites when it comes to warfare.
Democrats like to argue that without government to enforce the environmental mandates they set, we would all be living in a world of toxic waste. The water would be undrinkable, the air unbreatheable, fauna and flora would constantly go extinct, etc. Aside from the fact that many of these fears are being realized even in the face of strict environmental controls, the larger elephant in the room is that the US federal government is the biggest polluter of any other organization in the world, and the biggest in human history. Even if you don’t count war, which you should (it’s horrible for the environment, with the shell casings, poison gases, and toxins left by military vehicles), think of the office supplies needed to run a bureaucracy. It is estimated that the feds spend $1.3 billion in printing, and $440 million of it is wasteful. Government agencies print more than small businesses because they don’t directly pay for it; the taxpayers do. The same goes for the government’s fleet of cars and other vehicles. The gas bill is given to the taxpayer, so the government worker doesn’t care about conserving gas. What about funding for green initiatives? One word for you: Solyndra. The truth is that there is a huge demand for green technology, but when the government gets involved and promises “free money” to green business, the less ethical business owners will certainly step up to claim it whether their product is truly green or not, and whether their business model can succeed or not.
Reject the Democrats
The Democratic Party presents itself as the party of the working man and of minorities. They pretend to favor equality for all people regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. They proclaim that they protect the rights of workers, are anti-war, and advocate for a clean environment. These are all admirable ideals, of course, but the Democratic Party fails to promote even one of them. Like my brief essay on the Republican Party, this is not meant to be a thorough history or in-depth look into the principles of the Democratic Party, but rather an overview for Democratic voters so they can question their motives and values. Everything I’ve written about is available on the web, in depth, for anyone curious to know more. Many on the left like to say, “Question authority.” I agree. (Although in 2013, Mr. Obama has told college students in no unspecific terms not to question his government.) “Question authority” applies to Democratic leadership as well as any other artificial authority. Everything I’ve written about is available on the web, in depth, for anyone curious to know more. If you read this and think I must be wrong, please do some research and prove me wrong.
The Libertarian Party
As I mentioned in the introduction, I’m only going to focus on a total of three parties: The Republicans, the Democrats, and the Libertarian Party. Obviously, I chose the first two because they are the two major American political parties and both have rich and sordid histories from which to draw examples of their collective evils. So why did I choose a relatively new and comparatively insignificant party as well? I chose to also include the Libertarian Party for a couple of reasons: First, it is the fastest growing political ideology due largely to the escalating wars, taxes, and police state coming from both the Democrats and Republicans. Second, the Libertarian Party attracts both former Republicans AND former Democrats, something most other third parties cannot do. (Most Constitution Party members are disgruntled Republicans, most Green Party members are disgruntled Democrats… You get the idea.) Third, I agree with most of the Libertarian Party’s platforms, and I think one must be the most critical of himself.
Libertarian Platform and Stated Positions
What does the Libertarian Party purport to stand for? At its most basic, it claims to stand for smaller government. (The libertarian philosophy is the intellectual heir to classical liberalism.) The reason a lot of Republicans jump ship and join the Libertarian Party is because they realize the truth that the Republicans are not, and have never been, the party of smaller government. I’m not going to get into that here, because I already explained it in my post about Republicans. Penn Gillette, the famous illusionist and an outspoken libertarian, describes the libertarian philosophy as “Take a right on money and a left on sex.” That’s a humorous paraphrase of the description “fiscally conservative, socially liberal.” As in any political philosophy, there are as many variations as there are adherents, but most libertarians can agree on the major points. Here’s a brief overview:
On war: The US should not be an empire with military bases all over the world and should not meddle in the affairs of foreign countries. The preferable method of interaction between nations is peaceful trade.
On business: Big corporations benefit from taxpayer bailouts at the expense of the middle class. The incestuous relationship between large corporations and the federal government should be severed and business should be made to compete in a market free of government regulation, engineering, and rewards/penalties.
On welfare: Federal welfare programs have institutionalized poverty and created a class of citizens completely dependent on handouts. The poor are then exploited as political pawns during election season. Welfare programs should be abolished and replaced with private charities.
On taxes: The federal income tax is unconstitutional and should be abolished. Some libertarians want a flat tax instead, some want to abolish income tax completely.
On social issues: The federal government should stay out of all transactions between consenting adults. Social evolution should be organic, not state-mandated and directed.
Better minds than mine have written extensively about all these topics, and more. (See my Links page for some good resources.) With the advent of the internet, libertarian writings are more available than ever in all of human history. For those who do not trust consolidated power, and for those who believe in the non-aggression principle (basically the Golden Rule), the libertarian philosophy is, at the very least, a great place to start thinking about our relationships to businesses, our communities, and other nations.
The libertarian philosophy is the only philosophy that is intellectually and morally consistent. If it is wrong for citizens to murder others, it is wrong for the government to murder and call it “war.” If it is wrong for citizens to steal, it is wrong for government to do it and call it “taxation.” If it is wrong for citizens to kidnap, it is wrong for government to do it and call it “rendition.” You get the idea. It is a good policy, not for governments but for all people, to treat others as we want to be treated. If you don’t want your kids to be murdered by a drone missile, then don’t support your government doing it to someone on the other side of the world.
Of course, libertarianism is not perfect; no societal organization is perfect because they are all created by fallible human beings. Small government always leads to the largest government because a free market creates tremendous wealth. Those in the government, like in any other organization, wish to grow and they can do so more rapidly when more wealth is available to be taken from the productive members of society. This is not a small problem with the philosophy. Another inherent flaw is that libertarianism is rational. Human beings have shown that we can be rational, but we can also be wildly irrational and erratic.
How the institutional Libertarian Party is inherently against libertarian philosophy
Libertarianism’s bigger flaws come not from its philosophy but from its organization. Specifically, the organization of the Libertarian Party that was founded in 1971. I believe its very existence is a violation of its principles. Since it is a political party, its aim MUST be to get elected to government positions and achieve power to impose their ideology. That’s what political parties do, it is their only purpose. I think the aim of achieving political power is anti-thetical to what both the libertarian philosophy and non-aggression principle teach. (This is why many make the distinction between a libertarian, and a Libertarian.) You cannot turn the mafia into the Salvation Army by infiltrating it. I think libertarians are better off rejecting state power altogether as all power corrupts. (And absolute power corrupts absolutely.)
From a pragmatic viewpoint instead of a philosophical one, the Libertarian Party has been a complete failure. Has the size of government grown or shrank since its inception in 1971? This should be obvious, especially in the Bush-Obama era. See the chart below for an overview or government spending to GDP. How many political offices has the party consistently held? I don’t know the answer, but it is negligible. How much private money has it wasted trying to become part of a system that is supposedly against everything the party stands for? Again I don’t know, but I think libertarians are better donating to private organizations that are working to nullify laws (such as the Tenth Amendment Center) and educate people (such as the Mises Institute) instead of to a party that is trying to become part of the oligarchy.
How some libertarians, including me, sabotage the message
It’s fascinating to me that many who call themselves libertarians are also conspiracy theorists. (I’ve touched on this point before, here.) I think this is harmful to the liberty movement because it makes libertarians, already an outlier in the political discussion, seem gullible, incapable of rational thought, or just plain crazy. Many people will be turned off to all of a conspiracy theorist’s arguments, regardless of their strengths or weaknesses. The best way to illustrate this point is with an analogy: Pretend a man is charged with murdering his wife. There are two eyewitnesses to the crime, the man has no alibi, and the DNA and other evidence is very strong against him. In order to convict this man, should the prosecution try to convince the jury that this man probably killed his wife because he killed Kennedy? Of course not. The prosecution should clearly outline his guilt using the concrete evidence and testimony against him. It’s the same with the state. Why try to prove the government was behind 9/11, or Kennedy’s assassination, or the Boston Bombing when so much other evil is concretely evident to all? No one denies that the US government is the only government to use nuclear weapons on a civilian population. Why focus on 9/11 truth when the Hiroshima and Nagasaki truths are staring us all in the face?
Another way libertarians dilute or destroy the pro-freedom message is by pretending they know things they don’t know. (I have been guilty of this one from time to time–remember, take the plank out of your own eye so you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.) Often, those supporting the state will say things like, “Who will build the roads?” or “Who will protect us from terrorists?” If you are a libertarian-leaning person and know about these topics and have developed good answers to these questions, feel free to discuss. (For example, I worked with government transportation departments for seven years, so I love getting the “roads” question.) However, if you don’t know about a certain topic, it’s alright to say, “I don’t know.” That’s actually one of the points of libertarianism–that you and I ultimately don’t know what’s best for other people and do not wish to inflict our opinions on others through the violence of government decree. (As an aside, both of the questions I posed here have been answered, in depth, by libertarians. The links I provided are just one of many possible solutions. Again, in a free society, there are no “one size fits all” solutions.)
Reject the Libertarians
The Libertarian Party presents itself as an alternative to both the Democrats and the Republicans. Jaded Republicans will like the party’s free-market platform and fiscal conservatism, while jaded Democrats will like the party’s anti-war platform and social liberalism. The problem arises not in the philosophy but in the organization and action plan. The Libertarian Party, by its very existence, legitimizes state power. Like all other political parties, the Libertarian Party aims to use government power to impose its will on the people. This runs contrary to the philosophy of libertarianism which prefers social change, progress, and financial exchanges to come from private individuals and free markets instead of state power and corporate monopolies. The Libertarian Party has done a lot to educate the people, but has failed to rein in government. In my opinion, those who adhere to the philosophy of liberty are better off rejecting ALL political parties. Better to vote with your wallet than at the ballot box. Better to support organizations that are fighting the system rather than trying to assimilate into it.
Conclusions I’ve Reached
What conclusions have I reached?
This exercise has taught me a lot, about history, myself, and other people. I guess the first (and most obvious) fact is that my writing needs some work. (I believe an artist or writer must be his own worst critic, and improvement comes by doing.) In re-reading some of my other essays, I’ve noticed some structural problems and incomplete arguments. So sue me. I may go back and polish, but probably not. There’s a certain honesty in the raw drafts. (A cop out, I know. Again, sue me.)
We don’t understand history
In my research, I learned a lot about American history that public schools do not teach. For example, did you know the city of New Orleans was a military dictatorship after the Civil War? I didn’t. My public school didn’t think that was important. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but that should be for the student to decide, not the bureaucracy at the Department of Education. Even worse, my public school didn’t even teach world history. I had to learn about it in my college art history class, and my learning continues to this day.
A frightening truth that I’ve learned about people (including myself) is that we are extremely ignorant about our own history. Americans are probably most guilty. Freidrich Hegel said it best:
The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. Anyone who doesn’t know a lot of history should probably quietly withdraw themselves from any sort of political discourse. After all, to paraphrase the author of Proverbs, there is nothing new under the sun. All “new” ideas and “progressive” policies have been explored and tried in some form or other in the past. (A good example are the many parallels between the ancient Roman Empire and the current American Empire, from the monetary inflation, to the constant expansion, to the obsession with sporting events.) If you’re unaware of how a policy affected the civilians of the past in a given area, how can you possibly make a good decision about its merits? Most people don’t take the time to research, and they rely on sound bites and lying politicians to make decisions. I am only human, and of course I am often guilty of this very thing.
Consider the Federal Reserve’s current inflationary monetary policy. How many Americans know that the Federal Reserve is the nation’s central bank that controls the money supply? Thanks to the libertarians, and especially Ron Paul, many more do than did ten years ago. But it’s still not enough. Even fewer are probably aware of the damaging effects inflation has caused in history and around the world. I’m thinking of the Roman Empire right before its collapse, Germany during the Weimar Republic, modern day Zimbabwe, and modern day Japan (to a lesser extent). How can you be for or against monetary inflation if you don’t even understand it? A cynical man might say that those in power want to keep the majority of people ignorant so they can rob them with impunity before they even know what’s happening.
Modern Political Discourse is Very Superficial
Another trend I’ve noticed when “debating” others in political matters is that people (again, including me) are very susceptible to falling for confirmation bias. This means that if a study or statistic supports your point of view, you are more likely to accept it. If the opposite is true, you’re more likely to reject it. Everyone does this, whether they are conservatives, progressives, liberals, libertarians, or anywhere in between. I believe this is an evolutionary trait. Long ago, supporting your tribe ensured your survival. Being skeptical of the feared “others” sometimes meant the difference between life and death. Now, thanks to our rapid technological advances and scientific understanding, this isn’t so important. Confirmation bias often makes meaningful debate almost impossible.
In the age of social networking, people like to post snapshots of themselves. I’m referring to snapshots into their psyches as well as literal photographic snapshots. The problem with posting political tidbits on Facebook or Twitter is that you only have room for a declarative statement, no supporting arguments nor debate. Couple that with the inflated egos and fragile feelings of the current generation and you’ve got a recipe for lies, distortions, and nonsense. Have you seen this meme?
What should be immediately apparent is that this is not an argument. (To the author’s credit, it doesn’t claim to be.) The problem, then, is that it creates an unearned association between the progressive movement and “passing opportunities to the next generation” without a valid argument or any reasons. What has the progressive movement done “to pass opportunities to the next generation?” No examples are given. In fact, if one were to study history, he would find that the progressive movement is either responsible for or has supported the following: fiat currency, eugenics, nation building, World Wars I and II, and unsustainable debt. That’s just off the top of my head, and I’d argue these things oppose the interests of the middle class. Yet people who consider themselves progressives and those who are leaning that way will see this and think, “Yeah, that’s right! I do support the middle class, so I must be a progressive!” It’s a case of prejudice reinforcement. To make matters worse, the content is from the “American Voice of Reason”… Declarative statements such as this cannot be considered reason. Reason requires critical thinking, arguments based on facts and observations, and conclusions based on evidence. None of these things are provided here.
This is just one example of the kind of nonsense you’ll see on Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest of the myriad of social networking sites. This is what qualifies as political discourse in our modern sound-bite and slogan society. This is propaganda. No wonder politicians are able to persuade voters to support policies that are against their interests with minimal effort.
Another example of the superficiality and stupidity of modern politics is Mr. Obama’s most recent campaign slogan, “Forward.” In the context of domestic governance and foreign relationships, this means precisely nothing. Does this mean we’re moving forward with plans to keep bombing the Middle East? Does it mean we’re looking forward to a time when the bombing stops? It could legitimately mean either one, depending on the reader’s point of view. It’s a catchy slogan, I guess, but nothing more. I don’t really know how to even criticize this, because it doesn’t mean anything.
I don’t mean to single out progressives or Democrats; all political movements and parties do this. These were just recent and obvious examples that caught my eye on a friend’s news feed.
Partisan Democrats and Republicans HATE libertarians
(Please note that in this section, I am using “libertarian” as an umbrella term to include all groups questioning government power. This includes, but is not limited to, libertarians, anarchists, minarchists, paleoconservatives, and classical liberals.)
The realization that partisans hate libertarians was probably the most disturbing revelation, but in hindsight it should have been obvious to me. Both Democrats and Republicans wish to use the power of the state to control the other side and mold society into their vision of a utopia. They may not agree on specific issues, but they agree on methodology. That the state is a just and necessary organization is taken for granted. Take the two issues of drug prohibition and gun control. In general, Democrats will argue that drug prohibition is immoral or that it doesn’t work, but in the same breath will argue in favor of gun control. The Republicans will take the exact opposite stance. Neither side will recognize both as immoral and impossible. Drugs and guns are extremely common in our society despite the laws prohibiting both. Libertarians are the only people who question the modus operandi, and argue that peace and cooperation are preferable methods of societal organization rather than force and violence. Democrats and Republicans cannot let this argument take root, because it paints them both as supporting a monster. Also, any alternative view is an attack on their perceived power and control, and must be vanquished. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the two major political parties would try to squash any opposition to their duopoly. The libertarian movement is the fastest growing movement, and attracts defectors from both sides, so it is the most clear and present danger to the dominance of the two major parties.
Your typical partisan voter will attack the libertarians for similar reasons. No normal person wants to hear that he’s supporting tyranny or evil. It’s easier to shut out arguments you don’t like rather than face them. It’s easier to call someone crazy than to really reflect and criticize your own beliefs.
Another reason Democrats and Republicans hate libertarians is because people in the liberty movement tend to be pretty outspoken, and often can become annoying and repetitive. I can definitely sympathize with this sentiment, as I have been guilty of trolling the ‘net looking for a fight. It’s not constructive, but for some reason it is hard to resist. On this point, I’ll admit that new methods are needed in the political arena. What those may be, I don’t know. Let the market decide!
What do we (the liberty-minded) do now?
What can the liberty movement do to reach people? The short answer is, “I don’t know.” I’m sorry if you were looking for something profound, but the honest answer is that I do not know. I am only one man. That is the point! The earth has 7 billion human residents, why do we need answers from leaders who don’t know the answer? Every single individual should have the keys to his/her own destiny. We are not pawns on a chess board for politicians and industrialists to manipulate at will. I also do not believe there is only one answer.
The war-making capabilities of modern states are terrifying, so I believe an armed revolution is off the table. Even if it were on the table, those never end well. The victors just become the new oppressors. Think Animal Farm. I think the next revolution must not be one of violent overthrow, but one rising up in people’s hearts and minds. Individuals can be tortured or killed, but ideas are indestructible. As liberty-oriented people, we need to plant seeds of liberty and a better future in people’s minds and to show freedom by living it. Actions speak louder than words, after all. It’s also important that we do not isolate ourselves from the rest of society. How will the message be spread if the liberty people only associate with other liberty people, like some sort of political cult?
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading these essays and hopefully you’ve gained something from them. As I mentioned in the introduction, my goal was not to attack any particular political philosophy but to explain why I have rejected the political system. I hope I’ve been at least slightly successful in that regard. I’d love to discuss further, send me a message or leave me a comment. Thanks for reading.
Reject Your Political Party Series
A Disclaimer About My Politics
Thanks for reading this post, I hope I challenged you in some way. Agree with me? That’s cool. Disagree? Even better. I’m just a random guy on the internet, voicing his opinion (at the time of writing this blog post – check the date; opinions change as more facts and experience are gathered). But imagine if I had the political power and will to force you to agree with me! That would be terrible, and that’s the point of voluntarism and non-aggression. You should not be forced to agree with me. Please extend me the same courtesy.
“The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’ meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’ meaning ‘blood sucking parasites’.” -Larry Hardiman
Political Blog Posts
- The Democrats Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- The Republicans Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- The Libertarians Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- Democracy ≠ Freedom
- I Don’t “Feel the Bern.”
- Confessions of a Public Servant
- Leaders vs. Rulers
- Libertarianism is Better Than Progressivism
- Why I Do Not Vote (And Neither Should You)
- The Traffic Court Swindle
- Top Five Reasons I Don’t Argue Politics on Social Media
- Why Meaningful Debate is Impossible
- Dos and Do Nots for the Liberty Minded
- “There ought to be a law…”
- A Defense of Fugitive Slaves
- Conspiracy Theories are Dumb
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