In response to the election, many on the political Right have expressed dismay on the fate of liberty and the chances for a return to Constitution-based governance. Hopes for real autarchy have all but disappeared. It is clear that, in terms of liberty and self-sufficiency, the country has been in bad shape for a while now and many would agree that it has been getting worse. If this election proves anything, it is that the majority of Americans endorse this course of action, and are actively seeking to bring an end to free enterprise and personal responsibility.
A few points must be made upon reflection:
1. This is nothing new: The majority of the people have been willing to increase the size of government for more than a hundred years now, and so it is not a surprise that they chose to do so here as well. Many people voted for Obama in 2008, and this seems to be more of a continuation of that effort than a departure from alternative efforts. This, despite the fact that it was clear that a second term would mean an intensified push toward socialism. Anyone hoping to defend freedom and promote autarchy must contend with long-standing beliefs and movements that oppose liberty and autarchy, beliefs and movements which will not be going away any time soon.
2. People don’t want to decrease freedom; they want to increase security: Although it is tempting to write off Obama’s voters as ardent communists who want to shackle the producers of society, or otherwise lazy free-riders who want to vote themselves public funds, the truth is much more complex. To begin, most Obama voters aren’t voting for their own good, but rather for what they see as the overall good or the good of the underprivileged in the world. Theirs is a vote of compassion, not of selfishness. They believe that it is necessary for government to step in an dictate people’s actions in order for there to be what is called ‘social justice’, which amounts to fair and equal treatment of all citizens and, most likely, a equal distribution of necessary goods.
Now, we can debate whether government is necessary or even helpful in providing these things, but it must be recognized that the people who vote for statists are largely interested in providing these things, and not in diminishing freedom. Ultimately, they must be commended for their compassion, because, after all, it is good to want to help others in need and protect the helpless.
3. The defeat of Romney is not necessarily a defeat of liberty: Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, wasn’t the greatest defender of freedom the world has ever known, and so his defeat isn’t really a defeat of liberty. It is true that Romney’s stance on several issues was better than Obama’s in terms of freedom and personal responsibility (Romney wanted to reduce taxes, for instance), but it was just as bad as others (he wanted to ‘Repeal and Replace Obamacare’) and worse in some cases (diminishing civil liberties in the interest of national security). As such, it cannot be said that liberty was really dealt a blow this election–it wasn’t really in the fight.
With these three things being said, we can work to improve our prospects for the next election by focusing on three efforts:
1. We should get a better understanding of the big historical picture: This election is not the result of the last four years or ten years or even thirty years of political maneuvering. It is the result of centuries of historical forces of which politics is only the most immediate and acute. A review of the political and economic changes in the last 500 years will help us to understand our current state and better frame our expectations and ambitions.
2. We need to eliminate the us-versus-them mentality that pervades the political sphere: It is true that people have voted for Obama and, to many, this seems like a vote for socialism. But those who support him do not want what liberty lovers do not want; they simply want the helpless to be protected. The real problem is that they assume that government is the solution. They think that it is necessary for the government to control the majority in order for the helpless few to have a chance. And so they must be seen not as evil, corrupt, or even wrong-headed, but rather as misinformed or misdirected. Viewing it from this angle makes it clear that fighting will do no good, and rather that calm, lucid explanation is the only way.
3. We need better candidates: During the primary (as it has been for decades), the focus was on ‘electability’. And so the Republicans systematically eliminated everyone that stood for anything. The result (as it has been for decades) was a candidate with no principles and an eagerness to compromise. No one can be excited about such a candidate. One wonders if it is possible for a candidate to make it to the top without compromising, and certainly a case can be made that no truly good person can survive in politics. But there are examples of principled candidates who have made it close to the top, if not the very top. Ron Paul comes to mind. It might be said that the only thing that kept him from reaching the very top is an inability to communicate his ideas in a calm, level-headed manner. Combine Paul’s principles with the rhetorical prowess of Romney (or Obama for that matter), and there might be a legitimate option for true lovers of liberty.
These, of course, are the short-term initiatives. To really move forward, we must engage in a three-part effort to relieve, reform, and reconstruct the politio-economic system as a whole. It just so happens, there is an argument for that out there too.