Can Libertarianism Win?: Doug Wead on Theory vs. Reality
My friend Doug Wead wrote a thoughtful piece earlier this week but this one particular passage is something I think needs to be emphasized. Writes Doug:
In some respects, we are the weak link. We in the Liberty Movement will have to decide whether we are willing to become more than theorists but also successful, winning, political activists. Some of the debates will get scary as our candidate may decide that we need to cut our military bases from 900 to 75, instead of zero. He will be backing us away from the abyss, on his own timetable and it may be too rapid for the general public and not enough for some of us.
I came to the liberty movement as a traditional conservative who was a news junkie. My favorite writers were people like Russell Kirk and Bill Kaufmann, but my day-to-day interest in politics was always trying to find opportunities to advance the antiwar conservatism of men like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul. It was my main passion then and remains a primary interest to this day.
That said, with the rise of Ron Paul and the mainstreaming of libertarian ideas, thinking about these issues in the abstract–in theory–was something new and somewhat alien to me. Five years into this movement, it still is. I still scour the news, looking for others who might be saying things that could be useful. The difference between now and say, 2005, is that thanks to Ron Paul, there are plenty of people saying the right things.
But can we possibly end the Fed before we audit it? Can we get out of every nation overseas without first just getting out of some? Many of my libertarian friends, as Doug notes, see politics as an all-or-nothing game, where you are either 100% or you are a “statist.” For them, there is no in between.
This is an attempt to fully apply theory to reality. And it will always fail because reality can never completely match someone’s theory. Ever.
I look at politics as having a perfect ideal to which you can get closer or further, while recognizing that you will never completely achieve this ideal. Getting closer means you’re winning. Getting further means you’re losing. You will never fully “win” any more than the best marriage can ever be completely perfect. The best marriage on earth is not perfect, as both husband and wife would readily agree.
Today, the liberty movement is unquestionably winning. The question is, and Doug asks it–moving forward, will libertarians be willing to measure achievement in tangible, real world terms? Or will they become mired in political ineffectiveness by demanding impossible theoretical outcomes?