On Tuesday the Tea Party scored electoral wins for Republicans. But it may not be Republican sentiment driving the movement – it may be a libertarian surge.
We make a great mistake if we believe tonight that these results somehow are an embrace of the Republican party. What they are is a second chance. a second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be not so long ago.
-Marco Rubio in his acceptance speech. view view>
The problem for Libertarians (large “L”) is the public is not self-consciously aware the label describes their views. The CATO Institute found that 48% of attendees at the Virginia Tea Party Convention held libertarian views. Zogby polls have found that 44% of Americans hold “fiscally conservative, socially liberal, also known as libertarian” views and the number increases to 59% by simply dropping the line “also known as libertarian.”
So what is a libertarian, and how do I know if I am one?
You are a libertarian if you believe in limited government and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets.
A traditional liberal view
A liberal takes exception to assembly and free markets. They may believe regulation and tarrifs are necessary in trade. They may wish to enforce rules upon the types of associations one can make, at least certain associations such as corporations, political groups, or clubs with exclusion rules. They believe it is the role of government to pursue an equal and fair distribution of wealth.
A traditional conservative view
Conservatives have exceptions for religion, speech, and press. They traditionally believe social norms should be regulated by the government. A conservative approach might favor government controlling substances and societal ills. They may be willing to curtail certain forms of speech and press either for the sake of security or in protection of a particular type of life.
A libertarian view
A libertarian may personally believe in the same end goals as a liberal or a conservative, but they do not believe government has the ability to best achieve the solution nor the right to do so. Government exists to protect liberty and contract.
In reality “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” is terribly misleading and a better way to think is in terms of a 2 dimensional plane rather than a 1 dimensional left-right scale. Libertarianism is north, marxism (where the state controls all aspects of life) would be south. So if “fiscally conservative” brings to mind the farm bill, corporate bailouts, etc” or if “socially liberal” brings to mind anti-god curriculums, climate control, etc – remember that these are all on the marxist end of the spectrum and the libertarian end would not have the government involved.
What does this mean practically? If you just want government out of your life – you are a libertarian. If you want government to promote your agenda, you are conservative, liberal, or marxist.
But I’m uncomfortable about…
What about murder, rape, abortion, monopolies? Well, the far north pole is really anarchy. Not many are anarchists, not many are Hitler or Stalin on the south end. You can have a handful of issues where you want government involvement and still fall in the libertarian quadrant. The distinction lies in your general and primary principles.
We’ve all got a little libertarian inside of us. Where do you think you fall on the scale?