We're all libertarians now
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
By Beth Cody, Writers' Group member
Iowa City Press-Citizen

The weekend before last I attended the Iowa Republican Convention in Des Moines as a member of the libertarian wing of the Party.

As I sat through speech after speech intended to rouse us to fight for the glory of the Republican Party, I noticed a rather encouraging increased emphasis this year on limited government and reduced spending.

There was much talk of Constitutional limits of power, of the impending debt-related economic disaster that awaits us, of reigning in the Federal Reserve and above all, of cutting government spending.

And I was frankly amazed that Ron Paul was invited to be the keynote speaker in the evening event of the convention, considering that Party officials didn't have the time of day for him two years ago when he was a presidential candidate.

As I (mostly) facetiously remarked to my husband who attended with me, "Apparently, we're all libertarians now."

Of course, there was the usual breast-beating about "protecting marriage" (from gay people who will somehow ruin my marriage by getting married), "protecting our borders" (by keeping out immigrants who create more jobs than anyone else) and "keeping America strong" (by policing the world and spying on citizens).

But the war-mongers and morality police were noticeably less prominent this year.

Could mainstream Republicans have really again become advocates of limited government?

Or is it simply that once again, the Party has "seen the light" after being handed their heads by voters disgusted with bailout-earmark-crony-capitalism Republicans who spend and regulate like Democrats?

It is a bit suspicious that the Party had comparatively little to say about runaway government spending when they were increasing the spending themselves (although it's true that President Obama's sudden acceleration is unprecedented).

The doubts remain.

I believe that mainstream Republicans (if not the Party itself) basically hold that smaller government and more liberty are the right direction.

However, they do not seem to realize how their positions on certain issues stand in opposition to liberty:

? Modern Republicans (unlike those before 1950) no longer understand that war is a major instrument of government expansion, used to increase government spending and power and to strip Americans of our freedoms. Defending our borders from attack is legitimate. Controlling the entire world from more than 700 overseas military bases is not.

? Today's Republicans have come to believe that since personal moral behaviors are a good thing, therefore such morals should be legislated using the coercive power of government. This does not lead to freedom, only to authoritarian government.

? Also, the majority of Republicans have become defenders of Social Security and Medicare, the main engines of our impending fiscal destruction. Any spending cuts that do not drastically reduce these bankrupt entitlement programs will make little difference to overall spending.

So why, then, am I still a registered Republican, with all these reservations?

Because I believe that economic freedom is the most important issue of all, from which all other freedoms derive, and of the two parties in our rigged two-party system, the Republicans at least theoretically advocate free(r) markets.

(The Democrats now openly despise markets and property rights, aren't even credibly anti-war anymore, have become Nanny-Staters and are trampling civil liberties in their stampede to establish a theocracy of political correctness.)

The Republicans are currently the only force strong enough to restrain the Democrats' unbridled lust for bigger government, so I will stand with them when they stand for liberty (and reserve the right to vote Libertarian when they do not, as in the last election).

Republicans might at least slow the growth of government. And perhaps as conditions get "progressively" worse, more will rise up against our current bankrupt and authoritarian policies.

Perhaps then the focus of the Republican Party will return more firmly to its roots of limited government, individual rights, free markets and peace. Time will tell.