Currently viewing the tag: "Libertarian Party"

Arguably part of that mighty stream of anti-libertarian pieces coming out of Salon, Alternet, and other left-leaning publications these last few months, Tyler Lopez’s “Libertarian  and gay rights: the party failed to take a stand” article (published at Slate) is a bullshit generalization that leads, inadvertently, to larger questions of the definition of rights and oppression. But it falls wildly short of an honest critique of libertarianism.

Reason’s Brian Doherty has already addressed the piece’s simplicity, noting that the official Libertarian Party was anachronistically gay-friendly at its inception, including their nomination of the gay John Hospers as their first presidential candidate.

In the barely-post-Stonewall era, with homosexuality newly not an official mental illness, the Libertarian Party platform started out advocating for a repeal of all laws that restricted consensual, adult sexual activities. A few years later, as I noted in an October PolicyMic piece, and Doherty also notes, Ralph Reico wrote a long essay that said “the Libertarian Party was born believing in gay rights.” He later noted that the stance for libertarians candidates in 1976 was as follows on gay marriage:

  • Repeal of legislation prohibiting unions between members of the same sex, and the extension to such unions of all legal rights and privileges presently enjoyed by partners in heterosexual marriages.

Not too shady for the ’70s, no? Apparently no.

With that bold beginning, why then, according to Lopez, has the Libertarian Party “failed” on what is arguably the biggest civil rights fight of modern times?  His piece trolls all good libertarians by using a photo of 2008 Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, but it doesn’t actually mention him. Which is strange, because the ill-advised selection of would-be President Barr, the author of, if eventual disavow-er of, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), would be a way for Lopez to score points (or, to put it more nicely, to cement his thesis). Lopez, though, begins with the very tenuous critique that the official LP website doesn’t have a whole tab devoted to Gay and Lesbian issues. Never mind that acceptance of gay people is a tenet of the platform, now and forever, the party dropped the ball by not giving the gays a tab.

Lopez goes on to scorn the lack of press releases the party has put out about LGBT, then sarcastically scorns them for trying to portray Democrats as being bad for gays. Well, they’re trying to get voters, just like any party. And is it illegitimate for the LP circa-2010 to have been pragmatically going after Obama for not repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or  DOMA? What’s so sinful about them trying to win gay supporters? Isn’t that a good thing?

Having admitted that yes, maybe, a little bit,  the early 70s LP was more pro-gay than was in fashion at the time, Lopez is as plodding as possible in his praise:

Libertarians like to tout the fact that the party supported marriage equality in 1971, when it was founded. Sort of.  In fact, two years after Stonewall, the party’s platform called for the abolishment of “victimless crimes,” which lumped homosexuality with prostitution, polygamy, recreational drugs, abortion, and gambling. While certainly not a ringing endorsement of the LGBTQ community, the mere acknowledgement of gay people’s existence was an important step forward for an American political party. It’s also true that in the 1990s, the Libertarian Party (having no elected representatives) did join a small handful of Democrats in opposing DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, despite overwhelming public support for both measures. This might seem like a case of talk being cheap, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Plenty of Libertarian candidates take strong positions on gay rights.

Note the subtle implication that to include gay issues with “vices” was to equate them with immorality in the libertarian world. Never mind that many libertarians do not see any of those other “moral failings” as objectively wrong either (some do, but would never presume to do anything but bother you about it). And never mind that 42 percent of people thought gay sex should be illegal in 1977 (dipping much lower into the conservative 1980s). Definitely never mind that gays have been a part of the libertarian movement since forever and particularly at the dawn of the official party.

Nope, Lopez cannot damn with enough faint praise, because, you see, the LP “never left the 1990s.” They care only for the the right to be free from state oppression, not the right to be free from individual discrimination. Lopez also notes that libertarians — some libertarians — would prefer that marriage become a private contract, thereby removing the should government endorse this question all together. This is true for some small government folks, but not all. But even conservatives including Tucker Carlson and Glenn Beck have come around on the minarchist compromise that, namely, if someone is receiving the government perks of marriage, there is no legitimate reason to bar homosexuals from that privilege.

Lopez goes on, into questions of employment discrimination, and he ends on a dishonest note:

Rather than boldly argue for equal rights for everyone, Libertarians have merely argued for the dismantling of everyone’s rights—the right to legal marriage, the right against workplace discrimination, and so on. That’s not liberty; it’s giving the green light to entrenched systemic discrimination. Libertarians could have led on this issue. Instead, they’ve fallen unforgivably far behind.

Again, Lopez could have written, “for a party with a long, impressive history of being accepting towards gays, the choice of Bob Barr in 2008, was regressive and bizarrely socially conservative.” He could have admitted that there was nothing wrong with needling Barack Obama’s spending 16 years pretending to be unsure about gay marriage for political reasons. And Lopez certainly could have used a column inch or two to give props to Gov. Gary Johnson, the 2012 LP presidential candidate who came out for gay marriage while still trying to run as a Republican. But Lopez does none of this.

It’s fine that he believes in a world of positive liberties, where employers cannot discriminate, and where rights are more than just equal protection under the law. But the difference between positive liberties (the right to, say, healthcare, education, anything that requires the labor, time, or money of someone else) and negatives ones (freedom from government restriction on speech, trade, etc.) should be clear even to someone who believes in positive rights, as modern liberals do. You may agree that we, as a society, should all get together and pool our money and give everyone medical care, but you must admit that that mandates a great deal more planning than the First Amendment’s “Congress shall make no law…”

To muddy these warring definitions of rights like is dishonest, because it masks the general definition of a libertarian. Lopez might as well have written “libertarians could have lead the way on gay rights if they became liberals.” He may be disappointed that libertarianism isn’t something else than what it is, but there’s no reason to not give the Party props for solving the first part of his equation — that gays should have the same rights and freedoms as heterosexuals — long before the majority of the political world did. Libertarians didn’t “fall behind” on gay rights, they went down a different path.

Watching the second Obama-Romney debate last week was like taking a trip back in political time.

Obama calling for more government jobs and cheaper education loans to lift us out of the recession.

Romney threatening to use tariffs against the Chinese if they don’t jack up their currency’s value so America can regain the manufacturing prowess we really haven’t lost.

Was I back in the recession of ’49 or ’53? What’s a “tariff” anyway?

And haven’t we heard that tough talk from Republicans about smaller government, fiscal responsibility, lower and simpler taxes and less regulations before? Like for the last five decades? Like $16 trillion ago?

Foreign policy sounded just as familiar.

The two men out-neo-conned each other on our interventionist Middle East policy, which has been a tragic and bloody bipartisan failure for 60 years. The final debate is going to be more of the same bi-stupidity.

Instead of questioning our aggressive presence in that backward region, they wasted their time arguing over whose fault it was our Libyan ambassador didn’t have the protection he needed, or who said the stupidest thing in the wake of that fiasco.

Their boasting and strutting and interrupting about who was going to do more to assure America’s energy independence sounded familiar too, only this time I think I heard one of them call it “energy security.”

Total energy independence for America — like bringing peace and civilized behavior to the Middle East — is an impossible and foolish promise that only the politicians who say it every four years think is not impossible and foolish.

In a global marketplace, worrying about energy independence is about as silly as saying we’ve got to achieve steel independence or chocolate independence. If the federal government got out of the business of limiting oil and gas production on the land it owns (which it shouldn’t own anyway), we’d have all the energy we need.

The longer the “debate” went on, the weirder it got. Obamney and Romma were dancing around on the stage so much I lost track of who was the Big Government guy and who was the Bigger Government guy.

Both swore allegiance to the Second Amendment. But neither said a peep about actually shrinking the welfare/warfare beast in Washington. They just tried to come up with cleverer ways to tax people they don’t like so they can keep spending more on their pet expenditures — college loans and more union teachers for Obama, more aircraft carriers for Romney.

There was no talk from either man about slashing federal spending. No talk about making income taxes flatter or fairer or nonexistent. No talk about getting the federal government totally out of education, health care, energy and 99 percent of all the other things it does to make our lives less free, more expensive and more annoying.

And how about those questions Candy Crowley chose from our fellow citizens, whose participation in the democratic process is so vital to our choosing the president who’s going to mess up the next four years? One word comes to mind — pathetic.

Of course they’re undecided voters. Not one had a clue about what’s wrong or right about the country or what role government should or should not play in the lives of an allegedly free people.

Didn’t one Long Islander wonder what Romney or Obama thinks about the horrible damage done to America by the bipartisan drug war? Or domestic drones? Or the TSA? Their questions could have come from a bunch of third graders — or the White House press pool.

After enduring Wednesday night’s duet in big-government bipartisanship, the average Ron Paul libertarian was, as usual, left somewhere between depressed and suicidal.

There was no choice, not even a lesser evil. Obama’s been a disaster with his warmed up New Deal ideas. Romney sounds like Nelson Rockefeller with better family values. Either way, unless an alien spaceship arrives in time to install Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party in the Oval Office, it’s four more years of the same crapola.

People wonder why libertarians say they can’t tell the difference between Republicans and Democrats. It’s because there really isn’t any.