Technology with attitude

The Rise Of The New Libertarianism


Washington Times has an article about the growing number of “Celebertarians” and how they’re just one indication of a growing third way movement in this country.

For instance…

Comedian Drew Carey can be seen on a series of funny-but-not-kidding Internet-TV episodes sponsored by the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based think tank. So far, Mr. Carey has recommended the privatization of highways as a solution for metropolitan traffic congestion and criticized the federal crackdown on medical marijuana.

Mr. Carey joins the libertarian fold along with the illusionist-comedians Penn & Teller and HBO talk-show host Bill Maher, who has called himself a libertarian for several years.

It’s not at all clear, to be sure, that the latter understands what the term means.

The acclaimed playwright-intellectual Tom Stoppard most certainly does: Describing himself as a “timid libertarian” in a recent interview with Time magazine, he complained bitterly of the nanny-state intrusiveness of the British government.

Ouch. What’s with the jab at Maher? Kind of unnecessary, but this is the Washington Times after all.

So why is this happening? Well, as I’ve pointed out in the past, we’re seeing a third way emerge that’s focused on being socially liberal but fiscally conservative. And yes, that’s essentially what people are deeming libertarianism these days. That’s not exactly correct, but it’s close enough.

Those two ideas make a lot of sense to people, including rich Hollywood types who want to be left alone and keep more of the money they make. It also makes sense to the growing number of technologically savvy folks who can fact check Dems and Repubs’ statements, call BS on them within minutes and post it on Digg for hundreds of thousands to see.

However, articles like this speculate that we’re not going to see a viable third way any time soon, and I tend to agree. Not when politicians like Ron Paul are running as elephants and dashing any hopes of a credible third party run.

And to that point, Politico reports that Dems and Repubs are still looking to capture the 19% who voted for Perot in ’92, but they’re not having much luck:

Though Perot has been off the stage for a decade, strategists in both parties recognize that his supporters remain a key bloc and that voters’ dissatisfaction at the end of the administration of the second President Bush has echoes of the mood when his father was booted from office.

What’s more, neither party has geared up to focus on pet issues of the Perot crowd: opposition to immigration, unfettered trade and foreign wars.

It’s a policy mix that one of the main students of the Perot movement, College of William & Mary political scientist Ron Rapoport, refers to as “economic nationalism.”

“I just don’t know how effective the Republicans will be at dealing with this issue and capturing this constituency as a constituency,” said Rapoport, who has tracked hundreds of Perot activists since 1992.

Not when the Republicans are so in bed with the religious right. The party is being torn in half and the Republicans are going to have to choose a side eventually. It has always been a marriage of convenience and maybe it’s about time for Republicans to embrace libertarianism for real and leave the social conservatives to try and form their own party. They’ll probably vote together at some point anyway.

And still more on how celebrities are contributing to the rise of a new libertarianism…

Libertarian economist Tyler Cowen of George Mason University says the new breed of Swiftian commentary found on shows such as “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” though not explicitly libertarian, also has contributed to the current libertarian moment. […]

And, while Republicans in the wake of George W. Bush have no claim on coolness, it’s simply not tenable these days to spare liberal Democrats from the scalpel of satire.

“The Democrats aren’t that strong on new ideas,” Mr. Cowen says. “It’s not like the ’60s, when they seemed cool. They seem tired to me now. I feel like their big plan is to raise our taxes. Culturally, it’s just not that exciting.”

Indeed. Dems could win the Oval Office, but if they want to engage the hearts and minds of this new voting block and have any hopes of getting a majority in the House or the Senate, they better start thinking about how they’re going to pull it off without these vital swing voters.

I guess we’ll see…