Also posted at IPR.
Back in the Reagan and Bush Sr. years (1980 to 1992), I believed that when the baby boomer progressives got to the top of the power pyramid, they would bring US troops home from around the world, end the drug war and the militarized police-surveillance-prison industrial complex at home, and stop the interlocking partnership of politicians, bureaucrats and big corporations.
Although the cold war ended, and the Democrats won control of the White House and (for a couple of years) both houses of Congress, the drug war only intensified. More people were arrested and imprisoned for drugs under Clinton than under Reagan or Bush Sr. Corporate-government collusion just kept growing. Iraq kept being bombed and embargoed to the point that hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps a million, (about half of them children) died from the effects. Madeleine Albright said it was “worth it.” A pharmaceutical factory in Sudan was bombed by Americans. The military-industrial complex was certainly not curtailed.
Given these facts I could no longer in good conscience support the Democratic Party. I needed an alternative that supported ending the drug war, bringing home the troops, winding down the military-industrial complex, demilitarizing the domestic police forces, and at that time the only such choice on my ballot was the Libertarians.
While I was ready to vote for them, I was not one yet and wanted to know more about them. At the time, as a new party inquiry I received “Libertarianism In One Lesson” by David Bergland and afterwards read through the books in the “for further reading…” section at the end.
To my relief, Libertarians also turned out to be genuinely against government-corporate collusion as well as against the whole poisonous big government agenda of the “moral majority”/”Christian Coalition” social conservatives on sexual issues, freedom of expression, separation of religion and government, etc.
I discovered that there were libertarian perspectives on a variety of progressive goals – Julian Simon’s books and articles about environmental issues were a big help.
I read that, far from educating poor children better, government schools were actually consciously promoted as means of socializing children into cannon fodder for the war machine and obedient workers for big corporations. This certainly made sense when compared with my actual experiences in schools.
I read about ways in which, far from helping poor people, government poverty programs actually trapped poor people in poverty, while a slew of taxes and regulations prevented poor and blue collar “working class” people from starting small businesses . . . while empowering big corporations that are actually advantaged against small business competition due to their ability to mobilize teams of lawyers, lobbyists and accountants.
I learned that government is itself the biggest polluter – the exact extent not being fully known due to military secrecy. I learned that in many cases government subsidizes pollution and/or insures/exempts polluters from legal consequences.
I learned that libertarians did in fact offer answers to the problems that progressives want to use big government to solve, and through a process of reading and debate over a couple of years in the early 1990s those solutions began to make more and more sense to me.
I realized that many of the same arguments that I was making as a drug peace activist – that something being bad did not mean it should be illegal, and that making it illegal often caused more problems than the original problem and/or made it worse – applied across the board, including to economic issues, educational issues, environmental issues, etc. The corollary that just because something was good did not mean it should be made mandatory also eventually made sense.
I always had a natural strong dislike for authoritarianism, bureaucracy, government offices with their waiting lines and forms . . . yet for some years believed that they were necessary to protect the environment, educate children, insure fairness for employees and consumers, help the poor, sick and disabled, etc. However, due to the reading I did, I came to believe that, in fact, big government is actually actively detrimental to all these progressive goals.
I no longer believe that the same entity which locks people who have not victimized anyone up in prisons and sends people to fight in imperialist wars overseas, bails out banks and big corporations, and so on, is the entity we should turn to achieve any such worthy goals. Nowadays it seems to me that it amounts to putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.
Nor do I believe any longer that it is the only way to keep big business from abusing people; I now tend to see big government and big business as intertwined entities that work in tandem against the common people, rather than balancing each other out as I once believed they did.
I believe now that the “right people” will never fix the problems of our existing government, unless they are strong enough to voluntarily give up power, which rarely happens. I’ve learned that the incentive system that exists under any form of coercive monopoly always leads to the abuse of power.
Today we can see another Democratic president once again continuing and worsening the abuses of his Republican predecessors against peace and civil liberties, and continuing the increasing intervention of government on behalf of big corporations.
Under both Republican and Democratic presidents, and Republican and Democratic congresses, in every combination, over the last 20 years we have seen trillions of dollars taken from Americans and spent to kill millions of foreigners and thousands of Americans . . . massive bailouts of corporate criminals . . . millions of Americans locked up, and thousands killed every year in the drug war . . . an ever growing problem of domestic surveillance and militarized police . . . seizures of homes and small businesses for the benefit of corporate developers . . . and much more.
Nor do I see a solution to these problems coming from the more extreme left either. Europe certainly has its slew of problems under democratic socialism, and the authoritarian “scientific” socialist nations, even far more so.
I believe now that the stated goals of the left can best – indeed, only – be achieved by libertarian means.