Since its inception, mankind has invented two entities to ensure that it behaved in a manner that was conducive to the formation of productive societies: God and government. In this post, I will limit myself to the latter. The grand pageant of humankind has tried, and continues to try to this day, various methods to structure our society. Over centuries, we have lived in tribes, kingdoms, dictatorships, aristocracies, plutocracies, social democracies and various other social orders that distributed power among their constituents in varying ways. In other words, the annals of history are now replete with examples of experimentation with different systems of government. In the face of all these examples, libertarianism offers a view of the government that is profoundly different from anything tried before — a microscopic one. It postulates that the only way to keep a government responsible to the people it represents and free from tyrannical leanings is to shrink it to a size so small that it does not get in the way of any individual pursuing their life’s ambitions. It states that ours is a society of individuals who are endowed with certain inalienable liberties, and it is this liberty that forms the bedrock of all societal progress and achievement.
“The grand pageant of humankind has tried, and continues to try to this day, various methods to structure our society.”
While discussing liberty, it is also essential to discuss the extent of our freedom in a libertarian society. One of the most common rejoinders from the opponents of libertarianism is stated somewhat like this: “How do we separate libertarianism from libertinism?” In other words, does the free exercise of liberty imply that anybody can do whatever he or she wants? Needless to say, the answer to this question is no. A libertarian society can only exist when an individual exercising his or her freedoms does not encroach upon the freedoms of others. Hence, such a society requires a foundation of laws and statutes to serve as a social contract binding to those who choose to live in that society and partake of what it has to offer. All libertarians argue for is that the citizens who are the informal signatories of this contract are a free people and have a say in determining the terms enclosed in it.
Let’s now enter the core questions regarding the role of government — why is the government something that must be whittled down to size? Why must citizens not regard their government as an innately benevolent body that can be trusted with their money and with power? I’ll leave it to the Senator Rand Paul. R-Kentucky, to answer this question with an amusing yet apt quote:
“The government isn’t inherently stupid. It just doesn’t get the same signals.”
The government, at the end of the day, is a monopoly on force. If not held accountable by the people, government officials are prone to succumbing to the base instincts in all of us to use whatever power is available to them, legitimate or otherwise, for personal gain or profit. It seems somewhat ironic that advocates for socialism rant against what is perceived as income inequality when the largest instances of income inequality occur in societies where their ideals are implemented. In Venezuela, the richest persons include the daughter of Hugo Chavez and a handful of other tycoons while the rest of the population stands in bread lines. In India, another country with a bloated bureaucracy, the politicians live lives of opulence and luxury, accepting bribes and swindling the very people they claim to represent, while their constituents languish in poverty and famine. Even in the United States, the country that is closest to the libertarian ideal, elected members of Congress arrive to their positions with very limited wealth and depart as multi-millionaires. Every four years, we have had to watch as creatures would emerge from the swamp that is Washington D.C., and campaign to clean up the very swamp that they had recently been bathing in. And every four years, we as a people would give one of those creatures our vote, only to see them return to their distinguished tradition of corruption and partisanship, on the backs of the American taxpayer.
Donald J. Trump was different. The moment he stepped into the race, both the Democratic and the Republican establishments immediately denounced him, thinking that would sink his campaign. In other words, all the snails and the toads that had been living in the swamp thought that it was an effective argument against Trump to tell the American people that he was not one of them. We have gotten used to politicians denouncing the establishment swamp on the campaign trail and still trying unbelievably hard to get the swamp’s endorsements. What added to Trump’s credibility was that when he spat at the swamp, the swamp spat back.
Donald Trump is a unique phenomenon that incites the one force that libertarians feel is integral to maintaining a responsible government: opposition to its policies. All that was needed was for him to take office before over a million of people took the streets to march in opposition. It is safe to assume that if Trump ever strays to the side of the authoritarian, as every president before him invariably has, every force in our republic will be deployed to oppose him. All the popular anger that was lulled to sleep during Barack Obama’s presidency as he passed one overreaching executive action after the other shall now be channeled. People will take to the streets, the courts shall rule against him, the media will attack with a vengeance, the Democrats will try to take him down and even Republicans will not hesitate in opposing him. In other words, the Trump phenomenon lends itself to smaller, more restricted government.
What frustrates me about most libertarians is their pursuit for ideologically pure choice in candidates rather than an ideologically pragmatic one. Some of President Trump’s positions, including those on abortion and mass surveillance, trouble me a lot but I look around and find no other viable alternative. Hence, I go with the candidate under whom the surveillance state will be no worse than it was under Obama but, in addition, I get a candidate who just enacted a federal hiring freeze and will appoint Supreme Court justices with a fidelity to the Constitution. Libertarians, especially right-leaning libertarians, need to learn to get behind the least objectionable candidate until a national consensus is built around the libertarian values I listed above. If they continue running away with Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, then they should get used to arguing for small government with Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer in charge of the nation.
“What added to Trump’s credibility was that when he spat at the swamp, the swamp spat back.”
To conclude, I would like to say that I support Trump because, not only is he the closest to the libertarian ideal, but the very idea of him incites the popular forces that keep government at bay. Plus, he is committed to no government or financial entity, in fact, he is scorned by most of them. Thus, in a country that was founded on the principles of liberty and limited government but was veering dangerously close to dependency and entrenched corruption, it took a character like Donald J. Trump to make the entire political system great again.