by Geoff Olson
Libertarianism has always left me dumbfounded, like some kid on a ham radio picking up transmissions in broken English from an unidentified country. I understand most of the words, but the overall sense eludes me.
I’m sure Libertarians would insist there’s no confusion in the source or signal, just in the receiver: a snarky newspaper columnist on the infrared portion of the political spectrum.
Libertarianism is an umbrella term for a body of political beliefs that intersect on one major point: the primacy of individual freedom over state intervention. American Libertarians want the state out of the boardroom, the bedroom, the gun cabinet, the computer cache and cupboard stash. And for good measure, out of the hospital, the schoolhouse, and pretty much anywhere else big gubmint sticks its giant, red clown nose.
Donald Trump is not a pristine Libertarian option, but he’s now closer to Air Force One than former Republican Congressman Ron Paul ever managed.
There are policy positions in the movement that have won over many millennials and disaffected lefties. For example, Ron Paul wants an end to CIA-backed coups and foreign wars, along with domestic surveillance of citizens. But he also wants the state footprint reduced to the enforcement of business contracts and and not much else. It’s not just throwing the baby out with the bathwater; it’s gutting the nursery as well.
It may not be an exaggeration to say US Libertarians would prefer to see remaining government services run like a volunteer fire department.
This brings me to my concept for a reality TV series, “Living Libertarian.” A Canadian couple heads down to the US with the intent of living for a full year like “freemen on the land,” unencumbered by all government connections and responsibilities.
I imagine the results would be less Big Brother than Big Bother. The couple would soon discover they could not eat in restaurants that go without irregular health inspections. They also wouldn’t be able to drive a motor vehicle, since road construction is state-subsidized and all big automakers other than Ford received post-08 bailouts. And forget about cruising the Internet, that spawn of a seventies-era federal initiative to connect the computer departments of government-funded universities.
The two would have to find an off-the-grid cabin, as utility companies are heavily regulated at the state and federal level. At this point the dispirited duo might be tempted to drink themselves to death, but alcohol is also regulated and taxed south of the border, so that route of escape is out, along with FDA-approved drugs.
Opting out of the gene pool by holy handgun is also out, since the firearms industry is directly subsidized through mammoth Pentagon and law enforcement contracts. Short of holidaying in that Libertarian paradise, Somalia (which has been without a recognized government since 1991) the couple would have to find more creative ways to off themselves. Having opted to travel south of the border without extended Canadian health insurance, they’d have to get it right the first time. There’s no way they could end up in a US hospital under Obamacare.
At least they would be able to smoke as much weed as they want as Libertarians – as long as they didn’t purchase it in Colorado or Washington, where legalized marijuana is taxed at the state level.
The reality TV series would highlight how pervasive government is in the average American’s life, in ways valuable to some and vice-ridden to others. But what about Soviet Canuckistan? Prior to tracking their freedom-seeking couple’s adventures in the US, the series could arrange for them to visit with the leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada.
Rick Moen is the guy who campaigned in the 2014 Fort McMurray—Athabasca by-election by saying he wanted “gay married couples to be able to protect their marijuana with guns.” I have no doubt he’s sincere and that a lot of Canadians would champion that sentiment (I’m onside myself, at least three quarters into the statement).
Alas, the Canadian Libertarian Party, originally founded in 1974, has yet to elect a single representative to the House of Commons and “has never received more than 0.25 per cent of the popular vote” according to Wikipedia.
Perhaps the ungarbled, unscrambled transmission of “Living Libertarian” could raise that figure eightfold, to two percent.
The Vancouver Courier, June 15