Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Libertarian Discussion - Part II

My son Ben sent the following reply to Discussion About Libertarians.
(Same disclaimer as before: In the following correspondence I do mention that libertarians and Ron Paul supporters are not fully overlapping groups. Some libertarians find fault with many of Paul’s positions, and some of his supporters are merely contrarians or anti-war, not libertarians. I state that at the outset, however, as some of my following comments treat them as identical. Please regard that as generalization, and perhaps sloppiness on my part.)

Two technical questions:
1. Does the President have the power, without any approval from Congress, to remove all of the troops from all military bases worldwide?
2. Does Congress lack that same power? Can they order the President/order the military to bring the troops back home, or can they merely cut the funding so that the President has no choice but to bring troops home?

That wasn't what I expected, but it was fun anyway.
A perfect libertarian question. Technically, a president might have that right, though it has never been tested.
And it's not ever going to be tested. No one who advocates such a thing will get elected, because his own party would sabotage his candidacy. Even the Libertarian Party. Anyone who looked like they might do it by surprise would be similarly rejected. And if someone snuck through and tried it, he would engender such outrage in not only the Congress, but the Depts of State, Defense, and Commerce (at least) that he would be unable to govern. If 95% of the government is against you, you can't function. Everyone will just immediately pass legislation overruling you - and yes, they could get enough votes for a Constitutional Amendment quickly if need be, because the citizens don't want to be left out either.

And that's a good thing, not some antidemocratic evasion. The Constitution is not a spell book. If libertarians want to remove all troops from around the world, they should elect people who want that. They can't elect those people because THE PEOPLE OF AMERICA DON'T WANT THAT, ASSHAT! THIS IS A REPUBLIC! WE ELECT PEOPLE WE THINK WILL GET IT RIGHT AND IF THEY DON'T WE ELECT SOMEONE ELSE! (Deep breath) We do not empower even presidents to say "Y'know what? I think the Constitution allows me this new power. I'm gonna do it." Look at the problems that Bush had even trying to expand Clinton's version of the Patriot Act in accordance with new technology. Not only did a lot of Democrats go nuts, so did the libertarians!

This is exactly the sort of discussion you want to bring to a larger level, rather than argue about the technical details. Because libertarians of that stripe are looking for some magic, some shortcut, some loophole, much like the guys who say you don't have to pay taxes because of ridiculous idiosyncratic interpretations of various laws. You might ask him about the tax protesters, BTW. It's a good measure whether he is a certified unreasonable person who can only see things one way, and accuses all who disagree of refusal to see the obvious or of something even more sinister.

Libertarians maintain that their views are just common sense, and their reading of the Constitution is just common sense. They are the fundamentalists of politics. No, they are the KJV-only fundamentalists of politics. You simply have to back out into larger issues, discussing the forest rather than the trees. To all their assertions, a good response is Sez Who? Who says the president has that authority? Who says that's what the Constitution means? Why have 200+ years of other smart Americans not agreed with your interpretation?

Don't worry about the current events. They have their own current events. They will come up with all kinds of things you never heard of but they are sure are the central events of the republic, the events on which all hinges. Stick to the current events that you do know and counter with those.


Anonymous said...

Hi. I've been reading your blog for a very long time now and I've enjoyed your insights. However, I won't be frequenting your blog anymore. See, you just called me (or at least people who believe a few things I believe) an asshat. What a nice thing to say! Did it never occur to you that there might be some good brothers and sisters out there who just happen to disagree with you on this? Who you might offend? I don't know you, but this is very unlike the blogger I felt I'd gotten to know. I thought you were better than that...

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I would have hoped that my disclaimer would be enough to note that I do not put all libertarians in the asshat category.

The particular idea, of putting forth the notion that a president should be elected who would take major foreign policy steps in consultation with virtually no one, I do continue to think ridiculous. I hope that was not your plan.

cold pizza said...

Anonymous has left the building.

The electoral system works pretty well. Fringe candidates with fringe ideas might be able to make it in niche markets (local elections) but have a hard time making it to the ballot on the national stage because their ideas are, well… fringe. There are many planks in a national political platform and if you come with lumber ill-suited or rough hewn, you’re not going to be allowed to play. Just because one or two boards are bright and shiny doesn’t negate that the rest of the wood is trash.

If you have a political movement that can positively address the issues that concern a majority of citizens, while remaining in the world of real politik, taking into account the complex external forces acting globally, then you will be treated in a mature, respectfully manner. If you focus exclusively on only one or two ideas with no clear plans for the rest then you’ll be treated with well deserved scorn like the mooncalf you are.

Go Paul!
(Go now! Go FAR away! And take Hillary and Huckabee with you when you go!)


@nooil4pacifists said...


Agreed. Neither liberal judicial legislating nor libertarianism provide a shortcut to evade popular sovereignty. There is no democratic deus ex machina; instead, we must debate and persuade 50.1 percent of the voters.