What is libertarianism’s best strategy to gain a legitimate amount of power nationally (and then happily cede it to the people)? Libertarians of the small-l and big-L varieties have sought to gain power by either co-opting one of the major political parties (See; Ron Paul Revolution that the GOP squashed) or by finding candidates to run as a Libertarian that appeal to establishment voters (see: Aleppo). But I believe there is a third, and overlooked, option: get a candidate who does some libertarian things that irritate the major parties and the deep state apparatus, and allow those actions to result in political hysterics from ultra-partisans while average Americans see no net loss from the actions and in many cases a serious net gain. I believe this will continue to set in motion a series of events where the government can be shrunk to a level that’s at least tolerable to minarchists and other run-of-the-mill libertarians.
How libertarian is President Donald Trump?
The answer is: not very. I think that’s been established. The man swam in a pool of cronyism sharks his entire professional life. He, through desire or necessity, has been a rent-seeker. He has used eminent domain to further his projects. He has sought special treatment from political entities both domestic and foreign to further his interests. The man is no altruist. But does that make him distasteful, or does it make the system in which he operated distasteful? Personally, I will rarely fault someone for utilizing the same processes his competition would use, so long as it does not originate from a position of government authority. And Trump never held office before his inauguration. In other words, he never utilized political office for financial gain by, say, orchestrating government access to foreign actors that overwhelmingly donated to your personal foundation or for trade groups and banks that hired your unqualified husband to give speeches at ridiculously over-inflated fees. In other words, I don’t hate the player, I hate the game.
And yes, Trump is allowing Jeff Sessions to wage the drug war, which is a sticking point to a lot of libertarian minds. But I ask you, is it better to wage a drug war and uphold the concepts of equal protection and the rule of law (while allowing Congress to do their job and vote to legalize drugs the right way)? Or is it better to arbitrarily enforce duly enacted laws based on the geography of a person and/or their willingness to bend a knee to the state and support legalization with a ton of unlibertarian strings attached?
Some policy positives already achieved and in the works:
So now we come to Donald Trump’s libertarianism or lack thereof. The man, no doubt, will continue some of our military adventurism overseas. But he has already stopped our policy of running guns to terrorists and terrorist-sympathizers in Libya and Syria after the previous admin established those programs and destabilized an entire region, while thoroughly destroying the likelihood that a rogue regime would abandon its weapons programs and try to re-enter the international community (read: we came, we saw, he died). There has been no resurrection of the programs nthe last two administrations ran to ship guns into Mexico through the drug cartels, for different motives yet still in gross violation of Mexican sovereignty. And perhaps he will continue to not carry out targeted assassinations of American citizens that have never been charged with a crime, which the prior admin was all too happy to do in gross violation of the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, he has already started to roll back our country’s association with liberty-robbing agreements like the Paris Climate Accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Both of those agreements undercut the ability for American companies and consumers to freely negotiate what they were willing to exchange goods and services for. Removing our name from them is a step in the right direction, especially if it’s followed up with free trade agreements that haven’t existed in a century or more. That action is yet to be seen, but at least someone had the audacity to upset the globalist apple cart and stop a little bit of the insanity those agreements put us further along the path to.
As for civil liberties, Trump is still an unknown quantity. His statement about “roughing up” suspects is problematic to say the least. And I can only hope it was hollow bluster. But even so, it sets a very poor example and he should correct it immediately. Now, having said that, he has not furthered Obama’s policy of killing Americans without due process, but that’s not going to be enough. His willingness to stop going after businesses that exercise what should be a fundamental right to free association looks good so far. As do his overtures to Second Amendment causes. As does his willingness to tackle Affirmative Action and Title IX insanity. Holy crap, I just realized he’s been the best president on civil liberties we’ve had in recent memory. People that overlook the substance of these actions due to his boorishness need to reassess what their priorities are, in my opinion.
Furthermore, our business climate has benefited greatly from having an outsider installed as the head of the regulatory apparatus. Trump has already vowed, and started to carry out, a dismantling of the bureaucracies that stifle economic growth and freedom for Americans. From the onerous EPA regulations to CAFE standards being rolled back or passed to the states, there has been a serious uptick in confidence from the business and manufacturing sectors that Trump will get the government out of the way of prosperity. The hilarious irony there is that Trump was a crony his entire life, as I mentioned earlier. But perhaps he had no choice but to play the game the only way that could lead to success: do what the government tells you and push others out. Now, when given the reins, he seems to be more than willing to eliminate programs that he personally benefited from but that create barriers to entry for others. Yes, he could have opposed the system while benefiting from it. But let’s not pretend he’s some awful hypocrite because he played the hand he was dealt. Business “leaders” like Elon Musk, Mark Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, etc, etc, etc have done the same thing and so did their forefathers like Ford, Carnegie, Mellon, and others on back through the ages as long as there was a government agent with a hand in their pocket. So I’m willing to forgive that.
And lastly, he put what appears to be a strict constructionist on the Supreme Court in Neil Gorsuch. That is a marked improvement on any names mentioned by establishment candidates on either side of the aisle during the last campaign.
The other intangible positive results of a Trump presidency:
Another thing libertarians have always sought is a diminished reverence for elected officials and other “public servants” whose goals are often at odds with those of the people. Trump’s mere presence has caused probably 2/3 of the political spectrum to demand the reverence for the office be scaled back. They are now calling for more power in the hands of the states or localities and even ::gasp:: the people, on occasion. These are people that have been statists to the core. They are the Big Government democrats and NeoCon statist Republicans. And they are finally unified in an effort to diminish the role of the Executive Branch. This serves to re-establish the separation of powers that has become all-too-muddy with much of the congressional responsibilities being passed to Executive Branch agencies in an attempt to deflect responsibility and ensure easy reelection for entrenched politicians. The more responsibility that is pushed back into the laps of our directly elected officials and down to the state or local level, the better for us. It helps us create a more diverse political environment where “laboratories of democracy” are able to compete for ideas and human investment, rather than an all-powerful centralized state controlling everything. And one need look no further than minimum wage laws (since we have them, I’ll address it) to realize a top-down approach where the minimum wage “needed” in New York is imposed on small towns in New Mexico or Wyoming, where the cost of living doesn’t even come close, is a horrific idea. The Trump era is returning us to an ideal the founders embraced in that respect.
And he is returning us to another ideal the founders cherished: temporary service from business-people and non-careerist politicians. The flood of people on Trump’s coattails from all sides of the political spectrum is refreshing. Sure, many are moneyed and or celebrity candidacies. But so what? Its a step in the right direction any time we start to end political dynasties and careerists that sit in the Senate for 30 years as they grow further and further out of touch from average Americans. More turnover from political novices has a much better potential upside of shrinking our government than does further entrenching those who have pushed us to near financial ruin and reduced individual liberty.
The net result so far (in my opinion):
So let us all embrace the non-libertarian president. For one of these reasons or for another I might have missed. But embrace it nonetheless, because it has already borne libertarian fruit, and I suspect it will continue to do so for many of the right and some of the wrong reasons. Its the best we could have hoped for and probably the most libertarian moment in America for a hundred years.