Elections are awful if you love freedom. It’s mostly about politicians making promises they can’t keep through spending other people’s money. There wasn’t really anything different in the 2016 presidential election cycle in that regard. Both Democratic and Republican Party presidential candidates present variations on the same theme:
- more government spending
- greater intrusion into people’s personal lives
- increased political concentration of power and control over economic and social life.
This year it may have been a little more entertaining because the two candidates took the gloves off and let us know what they really thought of each other … and in Hillary’s case, the American people.
NOTE to self – if you ever lose your mind and run for president, refrain from calling 40% of the American electorate “deplorable” mental midgets who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the American political system. They will prove that they understood what you meant and decide to punish you for it.
During election season, it appears to those of us who like freedom that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and we might as well just give up. Stop talking about liberty, because liberty can never win. Depression seems like a justified mood. In 2012, when I threw in a vote for the Libertarian candidate at the last minute … literally deciding when I got into the booth that I couldn’t vote for Obama and wouldn’t vote for Romney, it really was hard to see the future as anything worthwhile. The debt was just getting deeper and that wouldn’t change with Romney, so …. It was a protest vote. Somehow, supporting a candidate who had no chance of winning helped me to feel more optimistic for our future. Casting that same vote this time around helped me to feel a lack of ownership in this election outcome and that too makes me feel our future is brighter.
No, I don’t think Trump is going to fix anything. But I think we the people might.
When Karl Marx died in 1883, wise socialists had good reason to despair of ever seeing the triumph of socialism. The world they lived in was dominated by the hated capitalist system. Governments were relatively small in countries like Great Britain and the United States. Markets were free and there was almost no regulation of any of the economy. Taxes were low and government budgets tended to be balanced or running surpluses. The monetary systems of most countries were based on gold or silver. Most people believed that a free market-based, limited-government liberal system was an overall good. Even “the workers” were suspicious of socialist radical agitation aimed at ending private enterprise and installed a government-managed society.
The socialists could only really hope that Marx had been right in his claim that human evolution would bring about his socialist utopia and bring about a communist future. But, the socialists didn’t sit passively waiting for capitalism’s demise. They talked about what they believed to whomever would listen and they gained adherents as the 20th century dawned, mainly because they understood that history would not move in their direction unless they changed popular opinion. They began to speak and debate with their friends and neighbors. They contributed to public lectures and published pamphlets and books. They founded newspapers and magazines, and distributed them to anyone willing to read them. Though their goal was collectivism, they understood that the world ultimately changes one mind at a time.
In time, they overcame prevailing public opinion, defeated powerful special interests, while not losing lost sight of their eventual goal of a socialist society.
So, here we are, standing on the cusp of a new era. Just 25 years ago, it looked like Soviet-style central planning was destroyed, but it wasn’t. In 2008, it looked like socialism had won in the United States, but in the eight years since it shown itself to be very good at enriching rich people and corporations and leaving the middle class sliding toward poverty. Now, in 2016, we’ve seen the electorate balk against the elitists. What emerges from this is up to us. We can’t look to government to bring people around. We must find that ability within ourselves.
Classical liberals need to offer a consistent, logical and principled explanation and defense of the ideas of individual liberty within a free market society. We must fully believe in the moral and practical superiority of freedom and the free market over all forms of collectivism. We must be neither embarrassed nor intimidated by the arguments of the collectivists, interventionists, and welfare statists. We must have confidence in the truth of what we say, to know in our minds and hearts that freedom can and will win in the battle of ideas. We must focus on that point on the horizon that represents the ideal of individual liberty and the free society, regardless of how many twists and turns everyday political currents seem to be following. National, state and local elections merely reflect prevailing political attitudes and beliefs. Our task is to influence the future and not allow ourselves to be distracted or discouraged by who gets elected today and on what policy platform.
Because liberty is an individual ideal, we must each become as informed as we can for the case of freedom. The more knowledgeable and articulate we each become in explaining the benefits of the free society and the harm from all forms of collectivism, the more we will have the ability to attract people who may want to hear what we have to say.
Socialism, communism, fascism, Nazism, interventionism, welfare statism they’ve all been tried in the last century and each has failed. If one looks back in history, to the period of time beween 1800 and 1900, you find that classical liberalism, with its concept of the free man in the free society and the free market, grounded in the idea of peaceful, voluntary association and individual rights, was highly effective at lifting people out of poverty and promulgating concepts like the end of slavery, the cessation of cruel and unusual punishment and the institution of the rule of law.If we keep that before us, we can and will win liberty in our time – for our children and ourselves.
If we keep that in mind, we can hope to win liberty in our time.