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69

THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 69, April 15, 2000
Capitol Gains

Trumping "The Body"

by Michael R. Allen
mrallen@spintechmag.com

It has been years since the word "libertarian" meant more than wanting less government than we have now. It once indicated a set of beliefs that included individual rights, private property, limited (or no) government and freedom of association. It meant that no one would be forced to do anything by the state. Libertarians understood that paper-manipulating bureaucrats like Alan Greenspan hampered the free market and that war-making presidents like Ronald Reagan threatened individual rights.

Of course, now the label sticks to anyone who proclaims himself "socially liberal and economically conservative." Lately it has come to rest on Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura and his political fellow-traveller, Donald Trump. Why? Well, Ventura is for gay rights and lower taxes. And the Donald is for Ventura.

Both men recently left their vehicle, the Reform Party, because it wasn't in keeping with their brand of "libertarianism" (dropping the ironic quotation marks hereafter). Specifically, the party will likely nominate Pat Buchanan to run for president. Buchanan has committed several heresies in the eyes of the libertarian Ventura: he is culturally conservative, economically nationalist and firmly noninterventionist.

The party could have pleased the two libertarians had it selected a better candidate, like Lowell Weicker or John McCain. Weicker was always for social liberalism and thought of himself as a fiscal conservative -- he was a Republican, after all. He seemed pretty libertarian to Ventura. And McCain was McCain, a man who had fought in the noble sport of war. These were the men Trump and Ventura wanted to run for the Reform nomination instead of Buchanan.

If anything, Trump and Ventura want to be popular -- which means to do what is popular, like using the label libertarian and attacking Buchanan. Fortunately, their popularity has not yet produced success.

Buchanan has been assailed primarily for his outspoken noninterventionist views, though his other views have hurt him also. Buchanan knows that war only makes for more government intrusion into people's lives, whereas Trump and Ventura believe -- along with the political establishment -- in the moral necessity of intervention. Embracing the central tenet of meaningful libertarianism, Buchanan is much more of a libertarian than either of his enemies.

As to his economic nationalism, Buchanan is no worse than anyone who thinks government schools and subsidized mass transit are worthwhile endeavors of the limited state. The conservative pundit has never called for expanding either public schools or transit, but the brawny governor has. As it is, the governor has endorsed a lot of ideas that are anathema to real libertarians.

Ventura has been praised for some of his more libertarian views. As a matter of fact, on Fox News (12/14/98), he called himself "libertarian" and claimed to know and support the ideology. In his infamous Playboy interview, he showed that he adheres to what now passes for libertarian -- just not the libertarianism of Murray Rothbard or even Milton Friedman. Most tellingly, he showed the thoughtlessness of his ideology by making a major faux pas.

When asked about prostitution, he sensibly said that "prohibiting something doesn't make it go away." Then, asked why this view was unpopular in the United States, he proclaimed that religion was responsible.

"Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers," posited Ventura. "It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business."

Perhaps the governor is not aware of the number of non-religious liberals who are cheerleaders for anti-drug and anti-prostitution laws. Perhaps he isn't aware of the large number of Christians who have left the public school system to find freedom. If Ventura was a principled libertarian, he would applaud the Christians who have found freedom without asking for tax dollars. Instead, he chooses to demean a voluntary association without looking at the facts.

Sure, there are a lot of authoritarians on the religious right -- but no more so than on the impious left. But it is popular to bash religious conservatism. It's also popular to support medical marijuana, more money for government schools and phased-in tax cuts -- three pillars of Ventura's philosophy. On close inspection, the governor seems to support nearly everything that is politically popular right now, though most of that is not good for human liberty. Whatever this is, it is not libertarianism.

It seems Ventura has one tenet of his philosophy developed: he wants to be what Lew Rockwell calls a "modal" libertarian, or at least a cousin to the Clintonist left. They can have him, and Mr. Trump. Let the word libertarian recover from the assault the Ventura camp has perpetrated.


Michael R. Allen is the editor and publisher of Spintech Magazine (http://www.spintechmag.com).


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