Friday, March 24, 2017

Donald Trump Victory Lesson #1: Why Pure Libertarianism Won't Win, and What's the Best Compromise

This is a series of articles about learning lessons from Donald Trump's victory, and how to re-invigorate liberalism in the current situation.

NOTE: in this article, socialism is used in a broad sense to mean government intervention in the economy. It does not mean communism.

Every US election, American libertarians keep hoping that the Republican Party will finally nominate someone libertarian. When they inevitably nominate someone conservative instead, libertarians still put up with them, hoping that there's still a next time, that it may just take time for their party to come around. They even put up with Bush Jr and his Iraq War and same-sex marriage hysteria. In 2012, they were hopeful for Ron Paul, but he fell short, really short. In 2016, Rand Paul didn't make much of an impact either, and Donald Trump, anything but libertarian, became first the nominee and then the President. And we're talking about the world's most libertarian country here.

The libertarian alliance with social conservatives was always a sell-out of core libertarian values, and has had the effect of encouraging young people to join the far-left in my opinion. But now that the religious right is diminishing due to demographic changes and conservative parties have to become more Trump-like to survive, libertarians may instead find themselves in bed with the likes of Trump for a long time if they don't start thinking about their position.

The truth is, pure libertarianism can never win elections. Why? In elections, people vote for their own interests, or their own liberty. For the economically disadvantaged, their 'liberty' can only be fulfilled if there is some government intervention. In other words, democracy will always guarantee some kind of socialism in practice. The Neoreaction, made up of many former libertarians, seem to be the first to see this. Their decision? To start opposing democracy altogether. But that really defeats the point of libertarianism. Classical liberalism and other forms of liberalism alike support democracy because it's the only way liberty can thrive. Democracy does not guarantee liberty, but authoritarianism guarantees a lack of liberty, eventually. Dictators can only keep their job by stifling dissent, because there can never be a scenario where we have a stable society and stable government but with lots of unresolved dissent. So the libertarian converts to neoreaction have essentially chosen to get rid of liberty altogether, because they hate socialism. Not a good choice, in my opinion.

(By the way, many neoreactionaries support Donald Trump. But that's weird, I think, because Donald Trump is, in my view, a socialist, even if he doesn't think he is one. A non-socialist would not support protectionism. He's not the same kind of socialist as Obama or Sanders, sure, but still a socialist. Like communism, Nazism, democratic socialism are all different but all socialisms.)

If authoritarianism and some form of democratic socialism are the only feasible choices, then I would wholeheartedly choose the latter, because there can still be some liberty (or even a lot of liberty) in that choice. Within democracy, we can still have the most libertarian form of socialism, which would still contain freedoms like free trade, free speech, and so on. There would be some tax to finance government programs and welfare, but it wouldn't be at prohibitive levels. The economically disadvantaged would then be able to share in the liberty, freed from their economic need. They would be able to make a rational choice against other, more authoritarian, forms of socialism.

In fact, we should start embracing this libertarian socialism, because if we don't, other forms of socialism will prevail instead. Like Trump-style no-free-trade socialism. Or new-left politically-correct-or-else socialism. Then there would be no hope for liberty.

I'm not saying that libertarianism should be abandoned. We can still have libertarianism as a ideal to look up to. But in reality, libertarianism alone is not going to govern any nation. In practice, a libertarian socialism at least provides the most liberty, and is much more libertarian than the other forms of socialism on offer, both left and right.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Emerging Liberal Majority: Will It Happen After All?

In the later Obama years, many American progressives were optimistic that a permanent Democratic majority, made up of young people and minorities, was emerging. They believed they owned the future, because the demographics favor them. In fact, they expected the Republicans to start having difficulty winning elections starting from 2016.

Ever since Donald Trump's win, this theory has been questioned. Perhaps that is due to most people being short-sighted to the point of thinking that the present is always predictive of the future. For example, while in Obama's America dreams of a permanent progressive majority were being made, during the same period in Australia under the conservative Tony Abbott, no progressive commentator thought something like that may happen in Australia too. Perhaps now America is in the position Australia was in three years ago, at least psychologically.

A balanced prediction of the future should not be influenced by psychological factors like who is in government right now. Rather, it should be based on real, long-term evidence. And right now, the evidence seems to be mixed. A recent analysis showed that, while the proportion of young, presumably liberal-minded voters and minority voters is ever increasing, there have also been trends towards a slightly increasing share of these voters going Republican in each mid-term election since 2006. Overall, it appears that while the Democrats may have a future demographic advantage, it doesn't look as assured as some people may think.

Knowing the statistics outlining trends is one thing, but we also have to know the reasons behind these trends. Right now, I would say we need further research to determine those reasons precisely. But from my own experience, I believe one important factor is that American liberals have become less liberal in recent years. Under the influence of the social justice warrior mindset, American progressives have increasingly embraced restrictions on free speech and freedom of conscience, and many young people and minority voters have simply had enough. In last year's election, some young adults said they would vote for Trump just to combat political correctness, with many of these voters previously voting Democratic or Libertarian.

It is perhaps still too early to say whether the emerging liberal majority will happen or not. But I believe this is actually in the hands of liberals. The age of statist conservatism is over, in any case. People no longer want government social engineering, and will support whichever side that offers the least. If liberals go back to their roots and embrace liberty and equality, the support will come. If, however, so-called liberal progressives show that they are just as authoritarian as Donald Trump but only in the opposite direction, then more and more people will become fed up.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Challenge on Trump Travel Bans shows State Rights are actually Liberal too

It has long been said that state rights are a bastion of conservatism, something that liberals and progressives don't believe in. While states' rights have favored conservative policies in some instances, I have never understood why this should be a general rule. After all, libertarianism, a branch of liberalism, also supports state rights.

The Trump administration's travel bans have served to highlight this. When the federal government overreaches, in any given direction, it's better for the states to be able to challenge them. State rights are ultimately a protector of liberty, when the federal government does not take liberty seriously. Centralization, on the other hand, has always been among the favorite tools of authoritarians.

Of course, state rights have been invoked against marriage equality and anti-segregation laws too. But that's the fault of authoritarianism, not the fault of states' rights itself. For example, in Australia, marriage laws can only be changed by the federal government, resulting in exactly zero states having marriage equality at the moment. In a truly liberal society, individual rights should trump collectivist designs, whether state or federal. But that's another issue altogether.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Donald Trump's Victory is a Failure of Liberalism

Ever since Donald Trump's victory last year, there have been many theories flying around: that people don't take feminism seriously, that people actually want some protectionism, that Hillary Clinton was seen as too establishment, that many voters are racist and would therefore love to see mass deportations, etc. While I won't go into the individual merits of these arguments, I think they all miss the central point.

Donald Trump won because liberalism failed.

Liberalism has been forgetting its roots for many years now, and ever since the advent of the religious right vs the social justice warriorism this has only accelerated. So-called liberal progressives have begun embracing things like limiting people's freedom of speech and conscience, in the name of social justice. While traditional liberalism has sought to end racism, sexism and homophobia via civil rights, anti-discrimination laws and rational discourse, social justice warriors have embraced more coercive and social engineering methods, like enforcing a level of political correctness similar to that found in 1984. Meanwhile, ever since the Bush era, the traditionally small-government right wing, under the increasing influence of religious right, have increasingly favoured an intrusive Christian state over a libertarian state.

The sensible center of liberty and mutual respect, freedom of conscience, limitation on government intrusion and rational discourse has been abandoned. The political field has become more and more like a choice between different tribes of authoritarians. Against this backdrop, Donald Trump's authoritarianism has become nothing unusual, and is simply another choice. If the other versions of authoritarianism have failed, why not give Trump's version a go?

Right now, many liberals and progressives are fearing that Trump will use his authority to roll back women's rights and LGBT rights and initiate mass deportations. And their fears do have plenty of ground. But just one year ago, many of the same people, perhaps believing that the Democrats will be forever in government, thought that the government was their friend and one of the most important weapons in their fight to change the world.

The lesson? Authoritarianism is only good until you are the one being oppressed. Liberty is the only reliable friend.