Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Declaration of Independents by Nick Gillespie & Matt Welch
I heard about The Declaration of Independents when the authors were interviewed by John Stossel on his TV show. I love the play on words in the title and I love the subtitle: How Libertarian Politics CAN FIX What’s Wrong With America. I have a soft spot for libertarians.
Unfortunately, the book was sophomoric boiler plate stuff. Not a lot of original thinking. Although I probably agree with most of what they say, it was uninspiring. They write in a very unserious way, so definitionally, it’s hard to take them serious.
They believe that because we live in a era that is increasingly individualistic, this is the perfect time for a libertarian triumph. I agree. We are able to customize just about everything around us, yet we have a government that increasingly takes away our choices. It’s hard to see how young people, who grew up with non-fat, half-caf vanilla bean latte, with a double pump of sweetener, a single pump of white mocha, double-cupped and made upside down are going to be OK with exactly one choice in government run retirement plans or four Obamacare options or one choice of school to send their children to based on their zip code.
So what is libertarianism anyways? Here’s how they define it: “[It] is about a default preference for the freedom to peaceably pursue happiness as we define it without interference from the government.” Sounds good to me.
They site examples of how things are moving in a freedom-loving direction including rock-n-roll loving Iranians, airline deregulation, the move away from “the company man” to a much more entrepreneurial economy, to the pluralism engendered by the web. We as a people have become “The people formerly known as the audience.” as stated by Jay Rosen. One-size-does-NOT-fit-all.
They believe that because of our mounting debt, the door will open soon to some real reforms in areas the government has the biggest footprint: K-12 education, health care, and retirement. These are are the biggest areas, with the most expensive and least efficient systems in our society, and are begging for customization and transformation.
The authors would love it if we would stop giving our reflexive support the two dinosaur parties that carry the blame for so much of what’s wrong with our system today. I feel this is a worthy thought, but practically impossible. Our system was built for two parties. The only way for another party to appear is that one must first go. The Republican party was built on the ash heap of the Whigs. The Democratic party has always existed. There is simply no precedent for a third-party rising to power. And our nation is so polarized and knee-jerk loyal, I don’t see either party going away anytime soon. The real trick would be to do what actually has been done in the past and highjack one of the major parties. I think libertarians will find the best fit in the Republican party, but you could make a case for either one. Whichever party allows themselves to be co-opted by libertarian philosophy will enjoy the benefit of majority support for a long time.
For policy prescriptions, they have a few ideas to transform the big three: Education, Health Care, and Retirement. In Education, basically vouchers. The money follows the kid. Open up the health care system we have to real free market reforms. Privatize Social Security. I’m with them on all this. Their details, however are very slim. I do believe, like them, that these areas are way too important to leave to the government.
Good thoughts. We’ll need something more serious to take us forward.
*Fun Fact: One of the authors, Matt Welch, grew up in the tiny neighborhood I live in, Lakewood Village.