Home > conservative, liberal, libertarian > How Liberals and Conservatives Are Losing the Battle of Ideas

How Liberals and Conservatives Are Losing the Battle of Ideas

The Young Activitists

New ideas, by their very nature, find root in the fertile soil of young minds. Liberals are no longer the bearers of new ideas. Conservatives are still ridiculous. Both groups are hoping enough interested people are out there who prefer their brand of statism and phony philosophies, both of which have been tainted (perhaps from their very inception) by an obvious desire to control individuals and individuality itself.

The young activists in the Republican and Libertarian Parties are truly the most progressive movement out there, 21st Century Libertarians: Homosexuals and Straights, Queers and Squares, Blacks and Whites, Capitalists and Voluntary Socialists, Anarchists and Government Employees, Soldiers and Peaceniks, Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. (Queue liberal heads exploding everywhere.)

The young activists are showing up and doing their best to drag the Bush Republicans out with the trash. And who would serve in their place? Who do you think? Do you think?

The new dynamic in American politics is Statism vs. Libertarianism. Remember when people use to make jokes about how the government made no sense and was terrible? Now they’re saying, “Wait, why are we joking about this?” Remember when people said, “Live and let live?” People are beginning to say, “Yeah, that’s something we should actually do.”

It is rather beside the point to mention Republicans by and large only pay lip service to Libertarianism. People are waking up to this fact and are saying enough is enough. Statism should be a thing of the past. The Bush Republicans are in trouble; they took first place in the contest to see who Libertarians would try to displace in the Swamp.

When Anti-War, Non-Violence, and Freedom are Truly Considered

However, the Left Statists are also in trouble. While Libertarians have taken up an electoral assault at all levels to the Republican Party, they have also meted out punishment to Liberals in the political conscience of the entire world.

Liberals have tried to keep clear of Libertarian political philosophy by claiming it all boils down to Bush Republicanism or worse by throwing out names like “racist” or “sexist” or “exploiter” instead of taking up fundamental issues like the freedom of association head on.

But it’s not that easy. Libertarian philosophers, economists, and politicians have gained access to media outlets, and more importantly, social networks and the internet. That’s right. More importantly.

Libertarians have become a force to be reckoned with in the minds of the American public, and we see support around the world increasing as well. Conservatives are trying to paint Libertarians as Liberals. Liberals, who used to be known for supporting personal freedom, are doing their best to paint the Libertarian message as Conservative, i.e., all things racist and sexist, with a broad brush of hate.

Behold the Name Calling Olympics

Libertarians are quite comfortable sitting back and watching while Conservatives call Liberals “sluts” and Liberals call Conservatives “racist” and “sexist.” It’s actually quite amazing when either group actually complains about what the other side is doing. It’s like when a child calls his sister stupid and then complains when she calls him stupid back. But when it’s adults on air with access to millions of people, the farce and entertainment factor grows a thousand fold.

The knee jerk reaction of either side these days is to simply call the other some sort of pejorative as if this settles the whole affair. Liberals are the most buffoonish when they do this, since they try to pass it off as actual intellectual commentary. You see Left Statists on the air talking about how the only reason someone would be against Obama is because they are racist. Deluded people are usually the only ones who don’t see the absurdity of their delusions. Many Americans see this sort of talking going on and think to themselves, “That’s really not an answer for all these valid critiques of Obama. Neither is pointing out that some people didn’t have those critiques of Bush. Some people did.”

Libertarians are simply answering all critics with consistent arguments. When these critics reply by impugning the personal beliefs and motives of Libertarians, it’s actually a win for freedom. Remember: a boxer isn’t great because he’s the best in the gym, he’s great because he wins. If Liberals and Conservatives weren’t so obviously bad at answering fundamental questions about freedom, whether economic, sexual, personal, professional, whatever, Libertarians wouldn’t be so obviously gaining ground in the realm of public opinion. Yeah, it’s all fine and good when a Libertarian writes a great book. It’s even better when he or she schools a Liberal or Conservative in public.

Obama, Obama

Left Statists really don’t have much to hang onto when it comes to the current President. Their philosophy has been reduced to, “Vote for the guy who will make sure we can do what we like on the weekends, the hell with anti-war and civil liberties. We’ll care about that when a Republican is President.”

One need only become a regular reader of Glenn Greenwald’s blog to understand the extent to which Obama has further dragged the United States into a fascist, menacing police state that claims life and death over all people and their freedom, ownership over all resources, and the ability to wage war without the consent of anyone but the President and associated counselors.

Liberals constantly like to paint Libertarians as hypocrites. Why don’t you avoid using roads if you think government shouldn’t have a monopoly on the roads you can’t avoid using!? (Hysteria ensues.) That’s really the topic of another blog post, but the point is that if Liberals are asking, “Oh, well, look, you actually do use some government services. How do you explain that?” why can’t Libertarians ask, “Oh, well, look, your preferred road builder is actually killing and imprisoning hundreds of thousands of people every year. How do you explain that?”

Neither Conservatives nor Liberals are Anti-Corporatism

Many people who identify as Christian Conservatives, Romney Republicans, Left Statists and Occupy Wall Street Punching Bags don’t want to see an end to the current power structure in the United States. The television news and print media discuss fundamental issues about power as if it is the personalities wielding these powers that are insufficient and lacking.

Only Libertarians are advancing popular political thinking by questioning whether a political system now well over 200 years old needs some revisiting and self-reflection rather than cheerleading, ever greater legalized plunder, and nonstop attacks on human freedom.

But not your typical Statist! Why, if only we had the best and brightest, I’m sure our perfect political system would work! If only the subsidies were handed out correctly! If only the power to compel a certain morality were given to this President or that President! If only the central bank were more/less politicized! If only taxes were higher/(a little) lower! If only spending were (much) higher/higher!

Republicans aren’t looking for real cuts in spending, and Democrats are looking for more spending. Neither side is doing anything to stop bailouts in any meaningful way, and the feast of rent-seeking at the teat located on Capitol Hill goes on unabated.

Libertarians are the only ones discussing truly anti-corporatist measures like ending all subsidies, ending all bailouts, ending all government-issued monopoly advantages, ending all public school monopolies, and ending all incarceration for victimless crimes. These are radical policies. These are the ideas invigorating young folk, not half measures and unkept promises. People don’t want to see something a little different. They want a lot different, and they want it now.

Even if you throw some of the corrupt players on Wall Street in jail, doesn’t the game go on? Even if you increase (or even decrease) taxes on the rich, aren’t you leaving in place a system that allows rent-seeking to go on, letting people get rich based on government fiat and the enforcement of monopoly advantages with courts and police forces? Even if you elect a Democratic Nobel Peace Prize winner, won’t you still have an increase in the number of wars, war spending, and abuses of civil liberties?

A healthy conscience demands answers to these questions. Conservatives and Liberals offer none.

All Your Intertubes are Belong to Us

As the 24-hour news cycle settles comfortably into its third decade, people are beginning to see the entire forest, not just the trees. Politicians and talking heads are no longer heroes; they’re actors in a script that most people see is just a script.

The real discussion about political events and philosophies happens on the internet. When you load up CNN or Fox News or any other mainstream outlet, the comments are about as interesting as a dry water fountain. However, when you see friends and friends of friends and amateur bloggers duking it out on social networks and blogs, crowd-sourced criticism becomes very valuable. The internet is a crucible into which lies and stupidity go to be smashed apart and die.

Libertarians are using this medium to highlight all the critical thinking that was going on when all the glowy boxes in houses were one way streets. Back in the day, when something stupid and obviously ridiculous was said on TV about the government, you had a smaller group of people at your disposal with which to reflect upon that stupidity. The thought of it is chilling. How terrible it must have been to get an inkling that something stupid was said and you didn’t quite know how to put it.

But nowadays, there is much criticism of the government’s public statements as well as the statements coming out of the traditional news media. Hackers and whistle-blowers are cracking the edifice of government secrecy that journalists have failed to breach in a very long time. If journalists are the watchmen of government, your average internet user has become the watchmen of journalists.

As a rule of thumb, most established news outlets are largely uncritical of government no matter what era or government you’re talking about, including ours. Perhaps especially ours. Previous to the advent of the internet, both official and news media propaganda was harder to criticize. In addition, the duopoly Democratic and Republican parties control was harder to avoid since the obvious answer to something you didn’t agree with was the most widely available criticism of that thing.

No longer is this the case. Now when people turn on the cable news, it’s with the understanding that within a day or two, they will have come across no less than 500 opinions about what was said. Now a typically Statist debate can be shown for what it is: thinking within a very dimly lit and confused box. Libertarians are now able to ask why anyone should have to settle for picking one sort of government harassment over another.

The Future Looks Great

No longer does the sun set so gently on Bush’s successors–Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich–nor their Left Statist critics. Let’s be clear here. Much to the GOP’s chagrin, (they’re resigning over it), and the Democrat’s chagrin (anti-war when convenient), a large number of people from all walks of life are rejecting the idea that government is their best friend just because they’re homosexual, or minorities, or Christians, or women, or men, or veterans, or soldiers, or anything else. The Libertarians are here to stay.

The problem with establishing a legal duopoly in the electoral process, or trying to perpetuate a duopoly in the realm of ideas that has already broken down, is that if you ever lose control of either, you’re on the outside trying to get in. Now you’re the one being smashed in the crucible.

Libertarians need only keep doing what they are doing to grow their numbers, to show old ideas for what they are, and to keep lighting the fires of new ideas wherever the fuel of human curiosity is available. Peace is no longer a concept that applies only to nations, but also to the state of affairs among all men and womenTrue freedom is not licensed or granted by a group, but recognized as necessary for the blossoming of the individual. And the more critics of freedom try to reduce it to hate and selfishness, the more firmly will it take hold in the minds of thinking people who are not so easily dissuaded from rational discourse.

  1. March 26, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    A little long but it gets right to the point. The Libertarian and Ron Paul movements (including many variants who may not appreciated being lumped in) are the only ones applying any real brain power to actually improving the human condition. In particular the “major parties” are locked in a desparate scramble to divde the pie their policies are shrinking. Government can’t possibly grow the pie. Only freedom can do that.

    Drew, great job getting to the heart o0f the matter.

  2. Tim
    March 26, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Great article! I’m being moved more and more from “conservative” to “libertarian”. I’ve been reading Thomas Sowell for years, and recently been watching a lot of Milton Friedman interviews.

    I’m still worried about our nation. Although people are coming around to the realization that government is not only NOT the answer to their troubles, but the cause of many of them, I feel it may be too late. Even with a new president, it will be hard to go back to the ideal limits of government. We are certainly close to the point of no return.

    Again, good article!

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