October 1, 2012

The Republican Party of Dwight Eisenhower represented a form of political conservatism that made peace with the welfare state created by the Democratic Party of Franklin Roosevelt. The Republicans and Democrats after WWII agreed that progressive taxation, investments in public education, investments in public infrastructure, investments in scientific research, and a commitment to the welfare state enabled the United States to be competitive internationally and prosperous domestically.

In the 1970s, the Republican Party began a gradual move towards libertarianism within Congress and ultimately won the White House in 1980 by appealing to a form of “Christian nationalism.” These two wings of the Republican Party, the libertarian and the fundamentalist, managed to coexist for over two decades. Today, the libertarians and fundamentalists are creating an insoluble division within the Republican Party, evidenced by the rise of Ron Paul and Rick Santorum as legitimate primary candidates in opposition to Mitt Romney.

I wish to speak to the libertarians who support Ron Paul and even to those who were enthusiastic about the Tea Party Movement in 2009 -2010, which has since ceased to exist on the national scene and merely causes havoc in state legislatures across the country. Libertarians and Tea Partiers ought to re-examine their positions and consider joining the Occupy Movement. Libertarianism’s two main concerns are individual liberties and unregulated free markets, but the notion that government should to “go away” is both misguided and impractical. Hear me out: libertarianism only makes sense in a society where corporations do not already control the government behind-the-scenes. There is no point in being “free from” the government in a society where corporations hinder the “freedom to” pursue individual goals due to their own abuse of power.

The Occupy Movement understands that government is the only institution that enables people to check the power of corporations to increasingly run society according to their corporate value system, which is the pursuit of profit at whatever cost to people. A society whose legal system and political structure serve corporate interests is no longer a society of individuals coming together for their collective benefit, it is a “state of nature” in which “survival of the fittest” is referred to as freedom and the powerlessness of the individual is referred to as consumer choice. Only government can protect workers from corporate abuse. Only government can protect the consumer from corporate abuse. Only government can protect the environment from corporate abuse.

The government is what makes a society worth living in because the government is accountable to the people. The government is what protects and empowers the people. The government is the voice of the people making laws for themselves. A corporate state is the voice of a few imposing laws on everyone else to the detriment of the common good. Libertarianism says the government should not regulate what is aired on television: let parents control whether or not kids are exposed to sex and violence. Libertarianism says the government should not force cigarette manufacturers to put health warnings on their products: people can weigh the risks on their own. Libertarianism says that government should not require automobile manufacturers to adhere to safety standards: businesses should be free to manufacture and market whatever they produce. Libertarianism says that employers should not have to pay a minimum wage: let the market decide how low wages can be. Libertarianism gives banks, insurance companies, and polluters everything they want: no government regulation on behalf of the citizenry.

The Occupy Movement understands that government is a good thing when it listens to the people rather than to corporate interests. The Occupy Movement also understands that the Democratic Party is continuing the type of “Big Government” begun under George W. Bush that is eroding our individual liberties. The Occupy Movement understands that the desire to have “freedom from” now applies more to corporate power exercised through government rather than government itself; and that government “of, by, and for the people” can ensure the “freedom to” pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

Libertarians have some noble, sincere, and patriotic concerns that can be combined with the Occupy Movement’s critique of neo-liberalism. “Big Business” is as much a threat to individual freedom as “Big Government’s” surveillance state. Let us join together, uniting the concerns of the Left and the Right, to challenge the abuses of power that threaten to fundamentally alter our way of life in the country we all love.

 


Comments

Elijah Saucedo
08/27/2013 4:58pm

Mr. Henry I would respond to your first paragraph by saying that these two divergent sects of the Republican Party can continue to exist in harmony as they did in the 80s if one side simply sees most of its influence dissipate. In 1980 one of the Koch Brothers stood as the Libertarian candidate for President.....needless to say he was a political after thought on Election Day. 30+ years later and the Libertarians have shifted the view of Republican Party politics. Mind you though this is built on its own contradictions. While Fundamentalist like Pat Buchanan of clash with prominent Libertarians like Ron Paul they have one huge thing in common with each other: Ronald Reagan. Yet what these two sides of the party won't tell you is how much they truly detested Reagan before Reagan's love affair with the American people began. In 1980 few members of the Republican Party were willing to be seen with "that damned cowboy governor" "extremist" causing Reagan to receive challenges from prominent rank and file members such as George HW Bush and Bob Dole. George N
Bush actually labeled the modern republicans economic program as "voodoo economics". One of the few people though who actually stood for Reagan was then Congressman Ron Paul. Quickly after Reagan become president Paul's hopes promptly dissipated. He found it troubling that Reagan and ardent supporter of the balanced budget actually ballooned the deficit. He found it somewhat confusing that Reagan could attack Jimmy Carter for producing a deficit of $38 billion while Reagan's deficits were three times that. In fact Ron Paul who actually has the gall to campaign as a Raganist(like all other Republicans) actually stormed out of the congress in 1984 as a protest to Reaganomics. While on the other side of the spectrum Santorum, Buchanan and all the rest of the "moral majority" stick the thumbs in their pants and romanticize about the good old days when Reagan ruled and people like Robert Bork were actually considered for a position higher than dog catcher and Jerry Fallwell appointed Justices to the Supreme Court while Dean Wycoff of my home state of California argued about how and why the federal government should "execute the homosexuals" and the homosexuality was a sin that was as bad as murder.

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