Life lived as a Libertarian in today’s political order involves a lot of head-scratching. Partly that’s just because you’re an outsider – and anyone who’s outside the mainstream will tend to have a clearer view than others of the mechanisms the mainstream uses to perpetuate itself. For American politics, that means you often notice before they do when Democrats and Republicans are talking past each other – or splitting non-existent hairs (Romneycare is like TOTALLY DIFFERENT from Obamacare, mkay you guys? I mean, bucept all the particulars.)
But it’s just that little bit more frustrating for libertarians, because we shouldn’t be outsiders. We’re liberals in good standing too, ya know! We believe in limited, representative government with protection of civil rights and an impartial system of laws the same way Republicans and Democrats do. Most libertarians are actually not radicals – we’re pretty happy with the Constitution and tend to think that the US has done a better job than most countries of getting liberalism right. So we shouldn’t be outsiders, but somehow we find ourselve on the sidelines anyway.
Ironically, it’s as likely to be because of that lack of radicalism as anything. It kills your street cred when you want to massively reform something without burning it to the ground first. Or something – I haven’t totally figured it out. Point being, when you’re outside but feel like you should be inside, you spend a lot of time trying to get in. Which in our case – or at least my case – means a lot of time spent trying to think of metaphors that will bring the point home to Republicans and Democrats that they’re doing it right in general, but wrong in almost every particular.
So, when I stumble across approaches that just might work, I try to catalogue them, and I did that today. This comment on one of David Henderson’s latest posts at EconLog just struck me as brilliant:
Almost everything government does is about limiting and dictating the ways in which cooperation is allowed to happen. Vast amounts of regulatory effort are expended trying to enforce compliance with these prohibitions on cooperation. The black market is nothing more than unauthorized cooperation.
Funny that it’d never occurred to me to frame it that way. "Funny" because one of my biggest frustrations is having to constantly fight the ueber-individualist straw man everyone seems to like to set up for us. In a room full of arguments against libertarians you can’t swing a stick without hitting one that claims we’re so selfish we barely even talk to other people. And yet the irony is that they’re all, to a man, favoring arguments that some independent human insitution or other should become impersonal and be given over to the government, which just limits our freedom of association ever further.
So I’m going to start trying this one. If you’re for community and cooperation, then Libertarianism is actually your man, and not any form of statism, because Libertarianism actually lets you cooperate when you want, where statism, more often than not, forbids it.