As the economic crisis continues to deepen, a lot of Americans are questioning the system that allowed it to happen, for good reasons. The writing was on the wall when Barack Obama was elected President, in a move that sent a very strong signal of the desire for political change in America.
As the U.S. government has struggled to deal with the economic crisis, the American public has grown more skeptical of the ability to solve it, when it seems that bailouts, stimulus packages and housing programs have little effect on economic recovery.
If an economic recovery is unattainable, then the only alternative is economic restructuring, meaning that current systems will have to be replaced by new ones. The Obama administration’s response has recently been to move left on the political spectrum, for instance by proposing national health care (as an eventual goal) instead of privately provided health care. This is actually a type of restructuring, as it amounts to the replacement of a system.
The response from Republicans has been confused and offered little else than calls to curb spending. With respect to the economic structure that allowed the crisis to build up, Republicans were the ones to create it (along with Clinton). As a result of that, the incumbent American right has little to say in terms of criticisms of the economic structure, and that is where Libertarians come in.
Voices from the Libertarian movement have grown stronger in recent months. the reason for that is simple: Libertarians advocate economic restructuring from the perspective of people on the right that is unrelated, and in some cases goes in contrast to, the views of traditional Republicans.
To sum up so far, Libertarians and Democrats currently claim to have economic solutions, whereas Republicans, in essence, don’t.
The Libertarian movement in The United States is multifaceted and sometimes confusing. The thinking behind the philosophy is always based on individual liberty, if you leave aside some more unusual philosophical currents such as “communist libertarianism”. The libertarian movement is by far the strongest in the U.S. out of any country, and perhaps as many as over 10% of the population describe themselves as libertarians.
Libertarians don’t like to be placed on the traditional political scale, but I would argue that there is no problem doing that, and that anything else would be philosophically incoherent. The political scale is rather simple: the more government intervention one supports, the further left one is, and the less government intervention one accepts, the further right one is. The furthest right is an anarchist, and the furthest left is a communist.
The reason that libertarianism in America is surrounded by confusion is that cultural issues have a much stronger position in politics than in most other countries. In the public consciousness, things like abortion, gay marriage and drug politics have been thrown into the traditional political scale. This however, is not philosophically coherent. The traditional political scale is based on notions of government intervention, or lack thereof.
Both Libertarians and Republicans support a hands-off approach to income distribution and the economy in general, but Republicans do not support a hands-off approach to cultural issues, which Libertarians do. That fact sometimes makes Libertarians appear, in the eyes of Americans, to be further to the left than Republicans. I argue that this cannot be so.
You cannot create a working political scale based on inherently different and complex issues such as abortion and gay marriage, which is why you must break such issues out of the political equation in order to reach philosophical coherence.
Libertarians support even less government intervention than Republicans, often dramatically so, which makes them further to the right than Republicans, and indeed further to the right of any other significant political movement in the world.
As I mentioned earlier, the reason that Libertarians have come into the spotlight more recently is that they have offered different ideas as solutions to the economic crisis. These ideas are meant to deal with the problem that there is an enormous mountain of debt in America, and that the current state of the economic system is unsustainable. The ideas are not without merit, considering how deep the crisis is, but I believe them to be far too dramatic, and very misguided.
A lot of Libertarians believe that the gold standard should be re-introduced, and that the Federal Reserve should be abolished. The results of doing that are very complex, but it has to do with the money supply.
By re-introducing the gold standard and getting rid of the Federal Reserve, the government would be much more constrained in its spending, and the size of government programs would have to be dramatically reduced. In other words, such a move is completely in line with the philosophy of as little government as possible.
Citizens would, for the most part, not rely on the government for the stability of their money, they would rely on gold itself. If the gold standard were introduced today, either the value of everything in society would have to go down dramatically, or the price of gold would have to go up dramatically. Either way, it would completely change the country.
Making these suggestions a reality would almost amount to a dismantling of the government as we know it. This in addition to the further and dramatic deregulation in most areas of economic, financial and private life that Libertarians support can only be described as anarchism. “Freedom of choice” can usually be translated as “every man for himself”, but that doesn’t sound as good.
It is therefore strange that Libertarians should come into the spotlight during this crisis, which was created to a large extent by deregulation, weak government oversight and a weak government in general.
Furthermore, Alan Greenspan, whom many today recognize as one of the major culprits of the crisis, is a life-long libertarian and follower of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. And although he was working within an institution that Libertarians wish to have abolished, he was doing so in the most Libertarian way he knew how: by deregulating and supporting an unfettered market in any way he could.
Moreover, I advise that the winner-takes-all voting system should be destroyed (which, by the way, would almost certainly lead to The Libertarian Party becoming much more influential in U.S. politics. But that’s OK, because all I care about is that every vote is counted!)