A Libertarian Replies to Mike Rosen
by Ari Armstrong
[The following article originally appeared in the August 2000 edition of Colorado Liberty.]
Colorado Libertarians have long held radio personality Mike Rosen in guarded esteem -- esteem because he frequently expounds pro-freedom ideas, guarded because he usually tempers his market philosophy with Republican pragmatism.
In his July 7 editorial in the Rocky Mountain News entitled "Libertarians not party animals," Rosen discounts the Libertarian Party as a discussion group touting utopia. He does credit the Party with "doing battle in the war of ideas" and with effecting marginal change, and he praises Libertarian idealism, writing:
"No other ideologically-based organization in our country understands and appreciates better the philosophy on which our nation was founded. I revere many libertarian ideals, brilliantly articulated by great thinkers like Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, and Murray Rothbard."
Rosen's comment, "the Libertarian Party is more like a discussion group," may have been true for much of the Party's history. But that's starting to change. Colorado Libertarians are running more candidates than ever before. Hypothetically, this year the Libertarians could capture a majority in the state house.
Nationally, Presidential Candidate Harry Browne is earning extensive national coverage and a place in the polls. The Party is also running a majority of U.S. Congressional races. On the local level, over 300 Libertarians hold public office across the nation.
Rosen claims that libertarianism is an unpopular idea. He says people "want their safety net." However, Rosen forgets that most people are so sick of politics as usual that they don't even bother to vote. Many of these non-voters are libertarians at heart. In addition, many libertarian sympathizers continue to waste their votes by supporting Republican and Democratic politicians who promise individual rights but deliver only bigger government. The Libertarian Party has more than doubled in the past four years, and every indicator suggests continued rapid growth.
Unfortunately, Rosen mischaracterizes libertarian political philosophy as one of atomized individuals. "As rugged individualists, libertarians are strangely out of character joining anything as communitarian as a political party," he writes. He claims the Libertarian solution to Social Security requires individuals to "fend strictly for yourself." This is false.
Instead, at its National Convention the LP stressed individual liberty, personal responsibility, and community. Libertarians argue that big-government has destroyed community networks of charity that existed before the rise of the welfare state, as detailed in David Beito's From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State.
When the fraudulent Ponzi scheme known as Social Security is finally repealed, individuals will again assume the responsibility of saving for their retirements and funding private charities and church organizations to help those in need. Today's system creates inter-generational conflict. Thus, the welfare state fractures society, while Libertarian policies will heal the wounds inflicted on our communities by the force of the state.
Rosen's suggestion that George W. Bush's proposal for Social Security constitutes "partial privatization" is laughable. Bush wants to push a small part of the Social Security tax into mandatory, government-regulated savings accounts. But government regulation of the stock market isn't "privatization," it's socialism. Besides, Bush has no way of paying off current benefits, so in reality people will have to pay the same amount into Social Security and still be forced into mandatory accounts.
Rosen characterizes libertarian foreign policy as "at best delusional and at worst downright suicide." Like George Washington, Libertarians believe the United States should avoid foreign entanglements. As Browne has noted, we have a strong national offense but a weak national defense. What's suicidal is trying to play policeman to the world, sending America's sons and daughters to die in foreign lands for ambiguous goals and engendering the wrath of terrorists everywhere.
Rosen says Libertarians are impractical and utopian. But libertarianism is true to social, personal, and economic realities. There's nothing "utopian" about wanting people to employ the persuasion of the free market rather than the brute force of the state to achieve social goals.
What's impractical is Rosen's strategy to "work for the lesser of evils." That strategy has brought us to the brink of a 50% tax burden and the police state. Rosen cites Ayn Rand but he apparently needs a refresher course. In a short essay entitled, "Doesn't Life Require Compromise?" Rand writes,
"There can be no compromise between freedom and government controls; to accept 'just a few controls' is to surrender the principle of inalienable individual rights and to substitute for it the principle of the government's unlimited, arbitrary power, thus delivering oneself into gradual enslavement. As an example of this process, observe the present domestic policy of the United States."