Saturday, April 2, 2016

Political change happens on the margins

The Enduring Libertarian Moment - The Atlantic - Conor Friedersdorf:

March 31, 2016 - "Back in 2014, when everyone was debating whether or not America was experiencing a libertarian moment, I urged against judging the matter using the standard that much of the press reserves for libertarians, where conservatives and progressives are judged with the understanding that political change happens on the margins, whereas with libertarians, antagonists and sympathizers alike act as if success means a radical shift toward an ideologically pure, uncompromising libertarian utopia.

"In reality, libertarian ideas will only ever be implemented partially, in a system of checks and balances, where even modest reforms are difficult to achieve. The real question is whether future electorates will support policies that enhance liberty compared to the status quo. If that's what is meant by a 'libertarian moment,' we're arguably coming off several important ones, and can expect more in years to come.

"In recent memory, whole states have legalized marijuana and millions of gays have won the freedom to marry a person of their choosing. Technology continues to be both a blessing and a curse to liberty-loving people. Libertarians face a long, hard fight on surveillance, for example, and there's no guarantee of victory. At the same time, the rise of ubiquitous video had an unexpected benefit: So far, instead of bringing Orwellian dystopia, it has allowed citizens to capture unprecedented footage of police officers, proving a degree of brutality and abuse that libertarians have long known about but that most other Americans had to see in order to believe.

"Police killings and overzealous incarceration are horrific infringements on individual liberty. The prospects for reforming both seem relatively bright. The fact that criminal-justice reform and drug-war reform now have conservatives and progressives behind them underscores a larger truth: A lot of libertarian victories aren't going to coincide with political success for libertarian politicians, because as libertarian ideas become electorally viable, they get co-opted by establishment politicians....

"Some libertarian gains won't even be grounded in libertarian philosophy. The failure of the Iraq War turned Americans away from neoconservatism and liberal interventionism more than any newly embraced principle.... Now, both major parties are willing to elevate presidential candidates who argue for noninterventionism.... Bernie Sanders is frankly anti-war. The only heartening thing about Trump's rise is seeing someone stand on a Republican debate stage, declare the Iraq War utterly idiotic, and then win GOP primaries even in the most jingoistic states in the union....

"We're a big, sprawling, complicated nation that faces an array of complex policy challenges. Libertarians don't have all the answers any more than any other ideological faction. But they do have one advantage over their more mainstream competitors.

"It springs from the law of diminishing returns: We've tried the most popular conservative and progressive ideas. Where libertarians have a realistic chance of winning over their fellow citizens — standing for strong encryption, eliminating inane professional licensing laws, insisting on due process, avoiding wars of choice, ending the war on drugs, reducing the prison population, reforming police — 'libertarian moments' would bring America huge benefits. That's why they'll be embraced by majorities who aren't yet sold on the entire libertarian philosophy."

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