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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Libertarians and the GOP

In Reason magazine, Ryan Sager asks: Have libertarians been driven out of the GOP? His answer: Yes.
Two years ago, I wrote a book imploring the Republican Party not to follow its worst elements off a cliff—not to evolve, in short, into an insular party with little-to-no appeal outside of the rural, the southern, the Evangelical. As the McCain campaign flames out in a ball of Rovian disgrace, scorching the center in an attempt to fire up the base, it's difficult to reach any other conclusion than that the battle for the soul of the Republican Party has been lost.
I think it's more complicated than that. The soul of libertarianism has been deeply damaged in 2008. That's the result of the Ron Paul phenomenon -- socially conservative and conspiracy-minded -- which was touted, far more than not, by Reason magazine (and deplored by Sager). Now, Ryan falls back on the definition of libertarianism as "fiscally conservative and socially liberal." But that's a dwindling segment of what passes for libertarianism these days. Ron Paul and Bob Barr, whatever their fallings out, are libertarianism's most prominent figures now.

So, I'm not an admirer of the Rovian politics and social conservatism that Sager decries. But if libertarians are no longer at home in the GOP, then I (who have long called myself a libertarian and still wear the label, however uncomfortably, now) say that has a lot to do with where libertarianism has been going, and not just where the GOP has gone.

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