A Note of Optimism
by Ari Armstrong, October 14, 2003
Libertarians tend to be a glum lot. But I think there's a lot to be excited about. I was just talking with a city council candidate who recognized a question I was asking as a "libertarian" one. Indeed. We may not be getting all the answers we want, but at least people are starting to ask the right questions.
Poor Limbaugh. (I refuse to call him "Rush," which refers to the Canadian rock band.) I wish the guy well. The obvious silver lining is that this conservative icon -- the conservative icon as far as many are concerned -- has brought new attention to the absurdities of the drug war. Every drug warrior who has not called for Limbaugh's long-term imprisonment is oozing hypocrisy. It will simply be impossible now for conservatives to promote harsh prohibitionist policies, at least not without thinking to themselves, "but not for our poor Limbaugh!" Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has granted new protections to doctors who may wish to discuss medical marijuana or recommend it to their suffering patients. The Tipping Point approaches.
People are starting to move. The Colorado Freedom Report is approaching its Five-Year Anniversary. The Free State Project has chosen its state. If it is successful, it may well erect that beacon of liberty we're straining to see. Frank Atwood is helping in the effort to repeal the grocery tax in Littleton. Troy Dayton of Boulder is promoting a new video that will help educate people about their rights. Sheriff Bill Masters is working on a compilation of essays called, "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War."
The Gazette has always been libertarian-leaning. The Rocky Mountain News' editorial board regularly defends economic liberty, and it has recently noted some of the positives of jury rights. The Denver Post mentioned the Free State Project to voice skepticism about it, but it mentioned it, nevertheless. That paper regularly features commentary opposed to drug prohibition.
Arnold won in California, and that cup is half full. Arnold has expressed support for the free-market economics of the Austrian and Chicago schools. And he's a libertarian on a variety of social issues. Colorado Republicans have helped libertarians in supporting (some) economic rights and the right of self-defense, even as they've convinced many voters their Nanny politics in social areas is oppressive. And the Democrats are beating up Bush over the overreaching PATRIOT Act and the run-away federal deficit.
The rumor in the winds is that somebody's getting close to winning the X-prize, which will help mark the dawning of a new era in space. The Chinese are launching their own space programs, which at least demonstrates a relatively pro-technology perspective, though not a free-market one. As that giant awakes in the fresh air of freer markets, though, it may well find the logic of freedom inescapable. And a European firm is developing new solar technology that, while less efficient in the technical sense, promises to provide vastly cheaper solar energy to the masses. In the future, "the grid" will be seen as a vestige of centralized power structures. If the 20th Century was in many respects a movement toward centralization, the 21st Century shows signs of empowering the sovereign individual.
I just finished reading the first Harry Potter book, part of a series likely to be more influential with the younger generations than politicized education. Many of the themes in the Potter books are essentially libertarian -- a recognition of individual merit and voluntary cooperation, a rejection of moral relativism, a skepticism of rigid bureaucracy, and a respect for initiative. Painter Michael Newberry recently moved back to the States from Greece, and, in addition to his art, he is working with The Foundation for the Advancement of Art. Here in Colorado, L. Neil Smith is working on a follow-up to Pallas, which I hope will be his best novel yet. In the world of pop culture, the final films of the Matrix and the Lord of the Rings will be released soon, and both of these series contain important libertarian-friendly themes. Music is, appropriately, mostly politics-free. But the happy-go-lucky rock of local band Dressy Bessy captures the upbeat spirit that somehow is bubbling up in our culture despite all the horrible stuff going on around the world. I simply adore the band's recent self-titled album.
I think the key for libertarians is to go to the dance and stop being wallflowers. We may not always like the music, and our toes and those of our partners might get stepped on now and again. Also, remember the words of Dumbledore: "[I]t will merely take someone else who is prepared to fight what seems like a losing battle next time."