Sunday, August 19, 2012

Paul Ryan vs. Libertarianism

Here's a little exchange from a post this morning that pretty much sums up how frustrating any election can be for libertarians:

  • joshua corning|  |
    Conservatives are calling him a libertarian...but they are saying it like it is a good thing.
  • Mad Scientist|  |
    TEAM RED is all talk. They'll still vote for Bush IV instead of Johnson.
  • joshua corning|  |
    My point was that there are people of all political stripes calling Ryan a libertarian...even though he is not.
  • Mad Scientist|  |
    Agreed. And all this means is we get to take the blame when Romney and Co. (continue to) fuck everything up.
  • Cytotoxic|  |
    We'll take the blame anyway.
Can you imagine valuing a fairly distinctive political philosophy and watching it get bastardized at every available opportunity?

By reporters, pundits, politicians, and lay people alike? 

Democrats create strawmen out of it and act like libertarians are either insane David Koresh type religious gun-nuts, or we're the most selfish people who've ever lived who want to dismantle government because we hate the sick, poor and elderly... and then they equate even the slightest reduction in state power suggested by anybody with the philosophy and apply the label regardless of anything else that person supports.

Republicans then take up the libertarian language and talk a big game on individualism and freedom, but their actual actions - in general - are anything but. 

I know everyone complains about "no true Scotsman" fallacies and litmus tests and all that, but let's be really clear about this. If you are supporting NDAA, the PATRIOT ACT, auto & bank bailouts, and any number of other interventions into the economy and restrictions of civil liberties... you are - quite explicitly - NOT a libertarian.


Just because Paul Ryan is moderately capable of doing math and offered a budget which plans for ever so slightly less spending over time than the plans offered by anyone else does not make him a libertarian. It just makes him someone who is only slightly - and I do mean slightly - more sane on government spending than anyone else who has any mainstream notoriety within Team Red.

Libertarianism is about non-aggression and freedom.

Balancing budgets and things like that is good policy, but it's not libertarian policy. Reducing the size and scope of the state is libertarian policy (and it's great policy, by the way), but it's also naturally going to come with reducing budgets. If you don't have military outposts in 120 countries around the world, and you're not running an immense welfare bureaucracy, and you're not involved in regulating everything from shoe rubber to health care... well... you don't need to spend so much.

You also don't need to tax people so much.

But that's actually very different from the economics of our nation's debt situation. That is completely unsustainable, but that's not a matter of political ideology. That's a matter of arithmetic. It's extremely apolitical and very much non-partisan. What to do about the debt situation gets more political, but even so, there are a number of reasons why we have a spending problem and not a problem with "revenue", as some would like to euphemistically refer to taxation.

In any case, here's the point for those who are unclear about it. Paul Ryan's interest in reducing the deficit does not make him anything close to a "libertarian". Here's a handy venn diagram I made to help illustrate the point:

Take note, note takers.

Oh... One other thing. Jack Hunter hit the nail on the head earlier today about why libertarians like myself don't really like Paul Ryan:
Paul Ryan is good on entitlement reform. He’s certainly better than 90% of Republicans on this issue.

But then there’s the rest of his record. Here’s a rundown of some of Ryan’s record compliments of the Cato Institute’s David Boaz:

'As I say, the test for a fiscal conservative is how he votes on budget-busting bills. And there, Paul Ryan has a real problem. Consider his votes during his 14 years in Congress and particularly during the 8 years of the Bush administration:

  • FOR the No Child Left Behind Act (2001)
  • FOR the Iraq war (2002)
  • FOR the Medicare prescription drug entitlement (2003)
  • FOR Head Start reauthorization (2007)
  • FOR Economic Stimulus Act (January 2008)
  • FOR extending unemployment benefits (2008)
  • FOR TARP (2008)
  • FOR GM/Chrysler bailout (2008)
  • FOR $192 billion anti-recession spending bill (2009)'

Despite this record, most conservatives are still excited about Paul Ryan. Most libertarians are not.

Do most conservatives agree with Ryan on these votes? With the arguable exception of Iraq, no. But Ryan is still their guy. Their someone.

Do libertarians agree with Ryan on these votes? No. Therefore, he doesn’t represent something they can get behind.
Jack pretty much nailed it. Now, let's stop having this stupid discussion, everyone. Paul Ryan is no libertarian. Not by a long shot. If you're a reporter, it might behoove you to actually learn what libertarians believe, rather than assuming that - like Republicans and Democrats - there is no coherent philosophy at all and it's all just a hodgepodge of policy preferences.

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