Sunday, May 13, 2007

Why would I ever want to vote Libertarian?

As I stress repeatedly, my politics are pretty complicated and often not well-served by any particular political label. You can see in my political beliefs elements of thinking from the libertarian, Green, Democratic and old-school Republican thought. For all that variety, though, the label that seems to elicit the most derision and "running away shrieking" is the L-word, libertarian.

And some of that running away shrieking is understandable, the usual images of libertarians tends toward Stan Jones, rather than Milton Friedman, and frankly, most people, myself included, do think that government-provided fire departments are probably a good idea.

(And, by the by, for those party-line Democrats in the audience who think that Milton Friedman and Satan are synonymous, I'll remind you to reflect on his participation in the ending of the draft.)

This leaves me in an awkward position, however, since people tend to recoil so much by the adjective "libertarian" that they stop hearing whatever else I'm going to say. So I've decided to try and talk about the moments when I feel my impulses run in that specific direction, and hope that litany will provide some insight.

When I have to "show my papers" to get an "over-the-counter" remedy for my sniffles, and nobody in power thinks this is stupid, I want to vote Libertarian.

When owning a few harmless sex toys is a crime, and nobody in power thinks this is stupid, I want to vote Libertarian.

When "freedom of religion" feels limited to Christian beliefs, and nobody in power seems concerned, I want to vote Libertarian.

When the Ninth Amendment is held by courts to have no effect or meaning, and nobody in power is concerned in the least, I want to vote Libertarian.

When most of the money paid by the uninsured for prescriptions go to pharmacies, not pharmaceutical manufacturers, and yet the political debate on prescriptions is focused on the latter, easiest targets, I want to vote Libertarian, or at least "something else."

When the FDA prohibits uninsured people I care about from buying drugs from overseas, when "Canada" is made out to be a third-world country only for the purposes of the quality of drugs that happen to be shipped there to serve political and financial ends, and when few in power can stand up and stay "this is stupid... and hurting people", I want to vote Libertarian.

When the FCC is more concerned about the word "fuck" than people having their heads blown off, and nobody in power is willing to say this is stupid, I dream of voting Libertarian.

And when people I care about can't enjoy the legal protections marriage would afford the children they are raising, when those kids are put at risk out for reasons that fail to meet any sensible interpretation of "freedom of religion", and when not a single major-party political candidate can come out and simply state "This is wrong, this is stupid, this is harmful, this shall not stand.", I feel the urge, strongly, to vote Libertarian.

And for those of you who care about your major parties, I urge you to think about your own parties participation in these failures of government. I urge you to try and see if you can make a difference in even a single stupidity from this list. Because, if you can't, I might be tempted, despite better judgment, to not vote for the "lesser of two evils" in '08 and vote again, as I did in '04, for someone outside the major party duopoly.

You wouldn't want that, would you? At times it feels as if many of you almost assume that, by virtue of claiming to be the "lesser of two evils", hold the deed and title to my vote. You don't, and neither does your party.


dafydd said...

Amen! Now, if only Libertarians could come up with a more rational plan than private fire departments and ending social welfare...

Pat Greene said...

Whether I would even be tempted to vote for a third party candidate depends on exactly how much less evil that lesser of two evils is. In 2000 and 2004, the answer was "A whole hell of a lot."

I have not made up my mind about 2008, yet. But in 2004, we were very clearly dealing with a president who was willing to toss the Constitution in the trash wholesale -- remember, the NSA wiretap scandal broke *before* the election -- so as far as I was concerned voting the SOB out was the most important issue going.

As far as "nobody in power cares"? Um, not really. The law that made ephedrine only available behind the counter? 156 Democrats (and 14 Republicans) voted against it.
The Military Commissions Bill, which stripped habeas corpus from detainees in Guatanamo? In the House, 160 Democrats voted against it (along with just 7 Republicans -- 34 Democrats, primarily from Southern states, voted for it). With the exception of Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, every single one of the 34 Senators who opposed it was a Democrat.

From a consumer standpoint, much of the emphasis on pharmaceutical companies is not just because of profits but also because of questionable business practices. Walgreen's may make far too much money off a prescription drug (I don't know, I haven't seen figures, I'm taking your word for it), but they do not offer enticements to doctors to prescribe it for off-label uses nor do they underreport adverse affects, both of which pharmaceutical companies have been known to do in the past.

(Yeah, the sex toys thing suck -- and that's a state issue. The increasing intolerance towards non-Chrisitanity is in large part a *media* issue. Just ask Keith Ellison, the freshman Congressman from Detroit who was the subject of much right-wing ire, including Republicans in Congress, when he wanted to take the oath of office (not the official oath, which is done without any books, but the "photo-op" one later) holding a Koran. Much of the outcry was caused by people like Rush Limbaugh or people playing to the media.)

The one area I do agree with you is the Supreme Court. The Democrats in Congress did not do enough to keep Alito off the court. Or Roberts. That is a really big failure, which we are going to be paying for a long time.

The system is not perfect, and you work with what you got. You may not like the Democratic presidential candidates -- I'm only so-so on them myself. (I really wish Russ Geingold or Barney Frank would run.) They're not progressive enough. But they scare me a hell of a lot less than the Republican candidate.

As it stands now, third party candidates have no chance of getting elected to national office, which would make a vote for a third party candidate a protest vote. Under certain circumstances that might be okay (I am more than willing to vote for a third party candidate against Dianne Feinstein in the next Senate election, for example, and probably will) but I do not think the next Presidential election is going to be one of those times.