Monday, July 14, 2008

Why I'm not Libertarian

I kind of waffle between Democrat and Libertarian politics. This past year has been more on the Democratic side but I could see going back. One of the reasons I'm not part of the Libertarian Party (as it currently exists) is that I worry about what kind of environmental policy they'd have. Doing good environmental policy requires the kind of big picture thinking that I don't hear libertarians talking about. For example, what do you think Bob Barr's position on energy and the environment is? If you answered "he doesn't have one" you win! Personally I think that's a bit... err... crazy.

Alan Jacobs puts in well:

"... However, we also know that no empirical claim could possibly be better established than this: People, left to their own devices, simply do not make wise decisions about their natural environments. They almost invariably chose short-term goods that leave their descendants with damaged and impoverished conditions; and often the damage is irreversible. And even when hard lessons are learned by one generation, they are likely to be forgotten by the next, or the one after that.

Moreover, these the stakes in these matters are raised dramatically in technologically powerful ages such as our own. If a libertarian with a hands-off environmental policy were to be elected President in this country, and were to implement such a policy, the vultures would descend so quickly and do so much damage — especially to water resources, and especially in the West — in a single four-year Presidential term that recovery could take decades if it could be achieved at all. I think this would be a tragic result, and my reasons for thinking so are simultaneously civic and Christian (the latter deriving from the Biblical mandate for what people are now calling “Creation care”). Is a significant increase in personal freedom worth such a price? I don’t think I can say that, not given my current state of knowledge, anyway.

Of course, this is all speculative in the extreme. Bob Barr is not going to be elected President, and even if that miracle did happen he’d be faced with a Congress that wouldn’t let him do much of what he wants to do (repeal the 16th Amendment, for instance). So it might be worth my while to cast a symbolic protest vote for Barr, and I may well do that. But it makes me uneasy to contemplate casting a vote for someone whose candidacy I can’t truly endorse."

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