Realistic Libertarian is not an oxymoron

As Bruce Bartlett demonstrates in Cato Unbound:

In other words, the first thing that libertarian or conservative small government advocates need is a clear-eyed understanding of where we are and where we are going, absent drastic and unlikely changes in law and policy. In my observation, many—even most—tend to be ignorant of the actual fiscal facts and excessively optimistic about what it would take to change current trends. And because many of them hate the federal government and view all those who serve in it as crooks, imbeciles and fools, they tend to know almost nothing about the legislative process or the actual operation of the political system.

Implicitly, many in the small government community put themselves in the position of the world’s most powerful dictator, able to simply slash government programs willy-nilly, without regard to programmatic details, the real world consequences for those who depend on such programs, and without having to worry about where the votes will come from to achieve their goals. I often hear libertarians says things like just cut spending across the board, eliminate X department, or abolish this or that program, as if slashing government is as easy as waving a magic wand.

When they come to realize the extreme difficulty of making even minuscule changes in the growth path of federal spending and the inherent contradiction of their implicit position—needing non-libertarian means to achieve libertarian goals—many libertarians and conservatives withdraw from the political process altogether, refusing even to vote because they see it as lending credibility to a system they find abhorrent. The result of this disengagement is to leave the forces in favor of bigger government with even less resistance to their goals.

Occasionally, a third party effort such as Ross Perot’s in 1992 will tempt the politically alienated small government constituency. But the result of all third party efforts is to undermine the major party closest to it ideologically, often delivering victory to the greater threat from its own point of view. Thus, Ralph Nader’s quixotic campaigns only had the effect of helping George W. Bush—certainly a greater danger from Nader’s perspective on the issues than either Al Gore or John Kerry.

I would add that the net effect of the Libertarian Party over its history has been to drain political activists with a libertarian bent away from the two major parties, thus reducing the ranks of those with such a bent in the major parties and strengthening the hand of the statists. In my opinion, libertarian goals would be much better advanced by abolition of the Libertarian Party and its replacement by an organized libertarian interest group along the lines of the National Rifle Association or the pro and con abortion groups that could mobilize libertarian voters, contributions, and other resources within the existing two-party structure, instead of outside where it is and always will be impotent. The constitutional requirement that a president receive an absolute majority of votes in the Electoral College effectively means that we can never have more than two viable political parties.

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A libertarian advocating new

A libertarian advocating new taxes, without any corresponding cuts, is frankly sickening. It reminds me of a football team saying "We're going to lose anyway, so we might as well stop tackling people so we don't get hurt!"

You fight because you believe that you are right. Sometimes you lose. That doesn't mean you stop fighting. Right and wrong aren't determined by who gets more votes.

Mr. Bartlett, your libertarian card is hereby revoked. Your "Bandwagonarian" card is in the mail.

I would welcome a serious

I would welcome a serious debate among libertarians and small government-types on a realistic political strategy for achieving their goals. Simply damning the existing system and withdrawing from it is just a prescription for accelerating the trend toward bigger government.

There simply is no realistic political strategy for achieving their goals.

Restraining government is hard political work. Voting for bread and circuses is easy. Those who take the easy path get precisely the same government as those who attempt the heavy lifting. So there is negligible incentive for the individual to attempt the hard work, or to even think the matter through carefully.

Libertarians cannot prevail in collective politics on any large scale.

A non-partisan political

A non-partisan political caucus is a fine idea. I agree that it's more likely to do good than a political party.

But lets face it. If we really want to see a libertarian reformation in this country, the place to concentrate our efforts (and funding and manpower and attention and organizational skills etc.) is on youth outreach. AKA propaganda aka publicity aka indoctrination, particularly focused on the young: late high school through early post-collegiate. Organized in such a way that the organization rewards members who work to increase the membership.

You know, like Amway. Or the Democrats and Republicans. You know, real political movements, not philosophies and think-tanks and circus side-shows.

There simply is no realistic

There simply is no realistic political strategy for achieving their goals.

Definitely. But to a pragmatist, that just changes the question to: What is the political strategy for achieving as many of their goals as can realistically be achieved?

Shouldn't pragmatists

Shouldn't pragmatists consider that their energies might be better spent outside politics?