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Libertarians and the GOP

Apparently a lot of bloggers of the libertarian persuasion are wondering if they have a meaningful role to play in the Republican Party, or if there is instead an impending split between libertarian GOPers--who mostly vote Republican for the tax cuts and de-regulation of business--and so-called "social" or "cultural" conservatives, who are mostly concerned with issues like gay marriage, abortion, etc.

Randy Barnett at The Volokh Conspiracy thinks that libertarians should ditch the Libertarian Party and settle for trying to re-form the GOP in the libertarian mold from the inside. Someone at Sanity in Mad City argues that libertarians who vote for a third party will only be helping elect a liberal Democrat--Nader voters in reverse. Jackie Passey briefly considers joining the Republicans, but decides that she doesn't have it in her to associate with the many homophobes, anti-choicers, and war mongers who inhabit the party.

What's troublesome to me is that libertarians tend to assume that of the two major parties, the Republicans are ideologically closer to them than the Democrats are. I contend that an intellectually honest, morally responsible libertarian--unlike, say, libertarians who write posts entitled "The merits of anti-semitism" or who feast on live puppies--should support the Democratic party over the Republicans.

The reason I specify that this only applies to "morally responsible" libertarians is because there seem to be at least two distinct types of libertarian. One type is genuinely anti-authoritarian; they believe that government taxation ought to be kept to an absolute minimum, but they also believe that governments should not be violating the civil rights of citizens, should not be discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, shouldn't be waging wars of aggression, etc. The folks at Catallarchy seem to exemplify this type.

Another type pays lip service to the anti-authoritarian rhetoric, but when push comes to shove, seem to be more concerned about lowering their tax rate than ensuring civil liberties. These types, who put their own economic interests above any moral concerns about discrimination or war, are not, in my opinion, deserving of our respect.

While the GOP is clearly the proper home of the latter breed of libertarian, the Democratic Party seems more suited to the former type. If one's libertarianism is genuinely motivated by a belief that the exercise of state power is an inherently bad thing, the GOP is the last place you should call home. The Republicans are truly becoming the party of quasi-fascism, promoting an ideology of unquestioning obedience to the state. The Patriot Act alone should be enough to convince any genuine libertarian to run screaming from the party of George W. Bush.

Not to mention the GOP's committment to ending women's reproductive rights, using the American military machine in the service of corporate interests no matter how many lives it costs, prosecuting the war on drugs, and generally eroding any freedoms that the American people have managed to claim over the last 200 or so years.

The only significant point of agreement between libertarians and Republicans as far as I can see is taxes. (It is possible that another point is the de-regulation of big business, but this is similar insomuch as the underlying concern is a preference for laissez-faire capitalism.) But for Christ's sake, is your tax rate so important that you are willing to trade lower taxes for all the aforementioned atrocities that the GOP is intent on bringing about?? Is having slightly more money in your bank account worth the suffering of so many??

The answer, for any reasonable and moral libertarian, must be: not a chance in hell. And thus, any reasonable, moral libertarian who has decided to eschew third-party politics and to vote for one of the two major parties must, without question, vote Democratic.

I'm not a libertarian; I view capitalism not as the best means to human flourishing and freedom but rather as a significant obstacle to it. But I don't believe that free-market libertarianism is an unreasonable ideology; I myself once identified with it. So I realize that many, perhaps most, libertarians are good, intelligent people who wish to make the world a better place.

That is why they cannot, in good conscience, support the Republican Party.

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