September 23, 2014
The bumbling croak of former congressman Barney Frank should have been put out to pasture long ago. Frank retired in January 2013, but he is still solicited to mouth off his opinion in the media”for what reason, I have yet to comprehend. As a lawmaker, he was notorious for gay rights advocacy and trashing Wall Street. Even though his two favorite lovers, the government housing subsidizers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, helped usher in an economic depression, Frank is given a pass. He’s allowed to pontificate about whatever topic strikes his fancy, no matter how clueless he is on the subject.
In a recent interview with the supercilious lefty group Big Think, Frank does his best to explain the growing acceptance of marijuana use and homosexuality in America. He mentions the “basic libertarianism” of the country as the reason why attitudes are changing; specifically, folks becoming more liberal and tolerant of others. He says it’s difficult to get the votes to prohibit something a shrinking minority believes is morally wrong, especially when that action doesn”t affect anyone else.
Frank is correct about a few things. America, which was founded on religious liberty and individual rights, does have a libertarian streak in its genetic code. Americans are fairly tolerant of one another, unwilling to impose their personal convictions by force. They get along with their lives the easiest way possible. They vote for the guy or gal who promises to plump their paycheck and make them feel good about the nation’s reputation. Most days, the average person isn”t thinking about freedom or the privilege it bestows upon everyone.
Where Frank errs is in implying that libertarianism is concerned with smoking reefer and same-sex nuptials. He doesn”t say that social tolerance is the key factor behind the relaxing of government prohibition. He invokes the popular take on the freedom philosophy: that it has nothing to say other than let kids smoke pot and Adam and Steve tie the knot. Thanks to a rowdy crowd of young Internet warriors, libertarianism is now one with libertinism. Guys like Barney Frank invoke the word when it comes to justifying their own sexual dalliances.
This grand perversion of Lockean-based ethics has done nothing to advance genuine liberty. In fact, it actually undermines the moral cause behind human freedom, making it into a trite fad that will quickly burn out before it has a noticeable impact. Some dewy-eyed optimists actually believe that the relaxing of marijuana prohibition is a sign of a nascent libertarian revolution. A recent New York Times article asked “Has the “Libertarian Moment” Finally Arrived?” The piece cited both pot and gay marriage as signs of libertarianism’s growing popularity. Indeed, both are small victories for social liberalism. But neither is indicative of a libertarian uprising. They are mere bumps on the road to serfdom. Freedom is not growing in popularity; begging the state for special privileges is still considered the “it” thing to do.
The welfare state in the U.S. shows no signs of going anywhere. President Obama’s health-care entitlement may be unpopular, but the political will to repeal it is nonexistent. It’s a practical nonissue this election cycle. The last go-around, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney couldn”t campaign fully against the entitlement for fear of losing supporters. Obamacare may be in its beginning stages, but as the cash continues to flow, and more Americans sign up for subsidized medicine, it will become another untouchable law. People will complain about its adverse consequences, but will ultimately accept the program’s benefits.
The same goes for the war on terrorism”which just received a shot in the arm thanks to the rise of the Islamic State. Just a few months ago, there was talk of a growing isolationism within the Republican Party. Overseas adventurism is clearly bankrupting Washington. As GOP lawmakers berate a Democrat president for nonstop debt accumulation, logic dictates that spending an estimated $2 trillion to build a democracy in Iraq was probably not a wise use of funds. Media figureheads speculated that the party of Robert Taft might return to its Old Rights roots.
Islamic State terrorists put that fanciful idea to rest. Republicans overwhelmingly voted to support U.S. air strikes against the militants. Not only that, but they also back President Obama’s plan to arm Syrian rebels attempting to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. If this is the new liberty-minded isolationism, Dick Cheney might be the new Murray Rothbard.
Whatever libertarian inklings are still left in America, they are no bulwark against a power-hungry Washington. The national debt continues upward, military escalation is still popular, special interests have yet to be deterred, and politicians cower at the prospect of cutting off the welfare spigot.