Thursday, November 13, 2008

Please Don't Shoot Me

In the aftermath of the election, online discussion has turned in some cases from which of the two candidates or parties are better, to an analysis of whether either of the two major political parties represent Joe Glass of Red Wine with Dinner, or whoever happens to be writing/reading a particular blog. Many of these discussions end in the land of Objectivism, the Libertarian Party, or both.

A surprising number of the computer people I know profess Objectivist and Libertarian leanings, and despite the irony of having a group of people banded together to be left alone, I understand their motivation. After all, I'm originally from Arkansas. Hillbilly blood runs in my veins, and I occasionally have to fight the urge to chase someone from my property with a shotgun. Usually it's my neighbor down the street who is clandestinely (he thinks) encouraging his little yippy dog to poop in my yard.

I professed to be a Libertarian myself back in the day, and I may even have voted for their candidate for president back in the 70's. (That whole decade is a bit of blur for me.) But the Libertarians have the same problem that afflicts the two major parties -- their "base".

Every party has what we call a "base", which means "fringe element without which they cannot win elections", as far as I can tell. The Republican base is known as "The Evangelicals", who seem to be people that spend all day in church and are hanging around waiting for God to finally destroy the world so they can go to Heaven (also known as the 1950's). The Democratic base is "The Left". These seem to be people who smoke their clothes and have abortions at every opportunity, and are waiting around for the Republicans to destroy the world so that they can be reincarnated in a world of love and harmony (the 1960's).

The Libertarian base seems to be the KKK, NORML, religious groups who believe the evangelicals are poseurs who are phoning it in, gun nuts, and anyone else who thinks they should not have to pay taxes. While I would be comfortable being associated with at least one of those groups, I can't hang with most of the rest.

The other inconvenient truth that keeps me from being a Libertarian is that it is not the 1830's. Except for a good part of the population of Alaska and a few others, we are not self-reliant pioneers, living off the land and defending ourselves from bears. The world is a complicated and highly interconnected place. Modern life requires an enormous amount of infrastructure, which in turn requires significant government involvement and organization.

So what is a reasonable person to do? There are millions of people who don't believe that Government and Society are the same thing, that individuality is an important component of the Land of the Free, and that our democracy should not be for sale. I don't have the answer, though I think proportional representation may be part of the answer. Whatever it is, it's going to have to start on the local level. We will never have a Libertarian President (or Green Party or Workers Party Animal Rights Party or whatever) until we have congressional representation from those parties. So get out there and organize your friends and try to get elected to something.

One final thought. In the end, we ask for the government we get. When Hurricanes Gustav and Ike blew through our region a couple of months ago, the small government Republicans and Libertarians were lined up with everyone else demanding water, ice and the legendary blue tarps. Congressional earmarks are only evil when they are not going to our State. It's up to each of us to change what we don't like.

I will take up Objectivism another day.

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