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In an America of short attention spans and stunning growth and power of centralized government, it would seem that the libertarian ideal is buried, lost or unrecognizable.
Of course, that's the problem with how things seem, rather than how they are.
In order to illustrate, here are ten reasons for libertarians to be optimistic, elated and even jubilant.
10. The most viewed movie in America last week was V for Vendetta. Americans, and the world, are starved for anarchic models centered on human freedom. For the first time in a long time, Americans of all ages are envisioning ' some eagerly and some hesitantly ' what it would mean to strike back, to step outside, to call the state's bluff.
9. Thanks to the Internet, people everywhere are rediscovering the concept that, 'Ideas are bulletproof.' Libertarian ideas reflect the very best of the Enlightenment, and fuel the most honest of economic theories that we know as the Austrian school. The greatest minds that have influenced American history were libertarians. As a person gripped in fear and pain will assume a fetal position, America , in her coming extremity, will reform along the lines of her libertarian origins.
8. Speaking of the Internet, libertarianism is triply blessed. The Internet embodies and demonstrates a peaceful and valid marketplace where people seek, exchange, trade, share, grow and organize. It opens the door to a massively expanded range of 'local' communities that great states and central planners have always sought to limit and destroy. The Internet paradigm has changed the way people think about themselves, the world, and central planning. This attitude and understanding is simply irreversible. The Internet is the epitome of decentralized survivability, and its existence ' treasured and admired by billions of human beings ' stands each second as the libertarian antithesis to the central state. To paraphrase Kennedy, 'We are all libertarians.'
7. The state is dying. As when a horse ages, it becomes less capable even as it attempts to participate in its usual activities. It is harder to keep ' i.e., more vulnerable to disease, more difficult to maintain in top condition, inefficient in its digestion, often requiring special care and expensive food. In other words, an aging horse becomes cost prohibitive to keep in time and resources, even as it delivers ever fewer benefits to its owner. Like all relationships between the enabler and the enabled, any emotional attachment to an old horse or the dying state is largely one sided. We are the enablers of our great central state, as it dies before our eyes. The state, like an old horse, doesn't care who feeds it, or who loves it. It wants merely to be fed. The human owner/state enabler both remember and remind themselves of the good times. Both interpret every weak movement as a sign of love, affection, strength, and good will. In this, we are deluded. But the state is dying, and we see the signs everywhere. It is a cause for optimism.
6. The state has stepped in the poo, and is now tracking it all over our living room. Whether it is the daily murder and mayhem of our Iraq occupation, the unaffordable, maniacal welfare state, disastrously incompetent state 'response' in defense of our cities (New York on 9-11 and New Orleans last August come to mind), or the ludicrous wars on terror or drugs or illiteracy ' we can all see the government stain, and smell the government stink. The tragic track record of our American government specifically speaks for libertarianism. This terrible record serves to highlight what really works, which is only and always freedom and individual liberty.
5. Our tax system is utterly despised by most Americans ' including the salaried, the working poor and the self-employed. Further good news ' this tax system is ignored or avoided by many. Contempt for funding the state precedes the inevitable state collapse. Even as we speak, the American state can no longer fund its excesses, and has shifted that burden to our grandchildren. This is how the Soviet example fell to its knees, and then came apart at the ragged seams. Our own dollar is going the way of the ruble. The good news is almost everyone in the world realizes this, not just libertarians, and many are already preparing in the wide variety of ways that one prepares for any structural collapse. Find a new place to operate, and get out of the way of the falling timbers. Many Americans are already ahead of the curve in doing this, and it is individualism and libertarianism in action.
4. Liberty remains a popular word, as are freedom and individualism. While centralized states always seek to own and objectify these words, they defy ownership and refuse to be objectified. They are living words, they inspire, and they particularly inspire the young and the foolhardy and the bold. They always will, and libertarians can always be happy about that.
3. As the state falters, it will seek what the people want, and speak of liberty, and take libertarian ideas as its own. We saw this clearly in the 1960s, and in the late 1970s, when a malaise in America brought the optimistic libertarian rhetoric of Ronald Reagan to the fore. We saw this in the malaise of the late 1990s, when George W. Bush ran in 2000 on what can only be described as libertarian platform of decentralized freedom and small, republican government. Of course, Reagan was never allowed to pursue the slightest dismantling of the state, and it grew massively. Clinton embraced freedom conceptually, even as he adored central planning and the state. His impeachment may have had more to do with his unacceptable accidental constriction of state budgetary flows and military growth than the odd sexual encounter. George W. Bush understood fully the difference between talking like a libertarian and gaining the purple robes of absolutist state power, and has steadily and consistently pursued the latter. But if politicians must all sound like libertarians to be elected, and this has been the case for over 40 years, it may be a sign of an American libertarian base that has become a quiet majority.
2. Freedom works. Central planning doesn't. Americans get this intuitively in their own lives. Increasingly, we realize that it is our own lives that truly matter, and the lives of those we know and love. For this reason, the state today can't recruit its needed public servants or soldiers. For this reason, government contractors and state corporations, while happy to feed at the till, become a major source of cold, hard truth about how government operates, what it does and how poorly it performs. The burning embers of Halliburton and Enron, Blackwater and the Lincoln and Rendon Groups, light the way to a libertarian future.
And the number one reason for libertarians to be optimistic is that liberty and libertarians are both wired for success. As Butler Shaffer reminds us in quoting Terry Pratchett's observation that 'chaos always defeats order because it is better organized.' We live in the real world, and we recognize the fundamental rules of human productivity and community. Thus informed, libertarians appear brave and confident to others. We are not uniquely brave and confident, but we do see the world and human potential with exceptional clarity, and we look upon both without fear. Libertarians have little reason or rationale to greet each new day with anything other than joyful, energetic optimism.