Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Myth of the Small Government Libertarian

I’ve always considered myself a political smoker and drug user. I don’t smoke or take drugs, but I don’t politically oppose their legality. While I don’t oppose their use, I find it foolish to believe that they should go completely unregulated.

Nurses shouldn’t be allowed to smoke in the nursery of a hospital where newborns are sleeping. You shouldn’t drink if you’re about to perform surgery. You shouldn’t be allowed to smoke crack while driving (at least pull to the side of the road… you know who you are).

But all in all, I think the availability of personal vices should be unlimited, with the primary rule being, “My right to swing my fist ends at the tip of your nose.”

On May 23rd, it will no longer be legal to smoke cigarettes in New York City parks.

Now, I thought they went too far when they banned cigarettes from bars. That decision didn’t make any sense to me. Was there a problem of people saying, “Um, excuse me, I’m trying to meet someone who I can drive home drunk with so I can have unprotected sex… and you’re blowing smoke in my face!”

Frankly, I think fighting should be legal in bars. If you don’t like it, stay the fuck out of bars. I don’t go to bars, and I am in no way oppressed by it. I don’t start a campaign to legally mandate better lighting, more food options, and kitsch on the walls, thereby turning every bar in the country into Applebee’s. I don’t like bars, so I don’t go in them. It’s not calculus.

Now, while I think you should be able to have drunken fist fights in bars, I almost get the NYC ban on smoking in parks. Almost. I’ve been to NYC a few times, and the parks are about the only place you can go to escape the ever-present scent of car exhaust, homeless people, and food carts (I’ve never been so nauseated and hungry at the same time before). I don’t know if smoking in parks was ruining the whole experience for some people, and I can’t pretend to care what goes on in NYC, so I won’t bother commenting on it further.

But there is a rising backlash against this legislation. As one can imagine, it is largely right-wing Republicans who oppose it, but I believe the most vocal group in opposition to these types of measures are Libertarians.

Which brings me to San Francisco Happy Meals. Not long ago, the City by the Bay decided to put firm restrictions on the content of any meal served with a toy (regardless of the type of restaurant, McDonald’s, fast food or otherwise). In the end, you can get a healthy kid’s meal with a toy or an unhealthy kid’s meal without a toy.

I don’t know if this legislation was the result of spineless West Coast parents being unable to tell their kids “No,” or if there was a problem in regards to a lack of healthy options available. I really don’t care, because (again) I don’t live there.

When the Happy Meal fervor was still fresh news, I said (and I’ll point it out again now that NYC is banning smoking in parks): why are “small government” advocates so opposed to the actions of… well… a small government?

It’s not a mystery, I don’t have to explain it to you. It’s not difficult to grasp the fact that “small government” doesn’t actually mean anything, and that it’s merely a slogan for opposing federal measures that are disliked on other grounds. So, why is this canard so often repeated as a founding principle among a group that routinely opposes the actions of small governing bodies?

Small government is implied to mean a local government more in tune with the individuals making up that community. The idea behind lionizing “small government” is that it’s easier to govern a state or city in a way that is approved by its citizens, much easier than catering to the myriad of needs across a nation of over 300 million people (I would argue it’s not… but I’ll get to that later).

But there is a glaring fallacy in the assessment I have presented: simply saying that one is in favor of smaller government does not mean that one is required to agree with everything a smaller government does. I support not only a national government, but a global one spanning every person on Earth… though that doesn’t mean a global government measure which issued a law banning black people from having children would be something I support.

In short, agreeing with a system of government does not mean one supports everything about a particular government’s agenda. With so many small governments across the country, it would be hard imagine a libertarian being in favor of every single measure that each town and state managed to come up with.

Kennesaw, Georgia may not be a town you have heard of, but many people outside of the US recognize it as the place that has mandated that all heads of household must own a gun.

*takes a deep breath*

You can choose to turn the comments into a gun “debate” (see also: circle jerk), but I will ignore anything discussing guns. The point here isn’t whether guns make anyone safer… it’s that there is a government mandate for you to purchase something (which is the very thing people who oppose the questionable healthcare bill from last year claim is tyrannical).

Meanwhile, South Dakota and many other states seek to turn their female population into concubines, nothing more than birth factories who are at the whim of any rapist. Decide what happens with your own body? Not a chance when it comes to abortion. Hell, they want it to be legal to kill an abortion doctor. Where are the Libertarians in these battles?

Another definition of “small government” is simply the belief that government should get off our backs and stop telling us what to do… supposedly. When it comes to something like gun ownership or abortion, these right-wingers abandon this principle of government neutrality and non-intervention because the government is, in their perception, correct.

Funny… it’s only oppression when left-wing policies are enacted by small governments. When right-wing policies are shoved down our throats… it’s just plain, good-old fashioned common [non]sense.

Of course, when you do any real research and find that nearly all Libertarians vote Republican (if they vote at all), that the Libertarian party is co-funded by most of the same pro-crony, big-business interests, and that “Libertarian” candidates like Ron Paul are actually just abortion hating Republicans who vote along party lines like every other right-winger…

You start to realize that Libertarians are the “New Coke” to the Republican’s “Coca-Cola Classic;” like New Coke, Libertarians won’t be around for long (only until they lose their usefulness and their cover is blown), and like New Coke… it’s all a marketing scheme to just get you to buy another Coke product.

[As a side note, I wanted to include the Tea Party in my drink analogy, but the only beverage I could manage to associate it with was whole milk… nothing else was fatty or white enough. I know, “tea” is already a drink, but can you honestly picture any of those people sitting down in a café with a cup, a saucer, and a scone? Maybe southern sweet tea…]

My point is this: tyranny has nothing to do with the size of a government. Tyranny is not stopped by dividing the world into quarrelling sub-groups that wish to oppress their citizens in their own unique ways. Unlike a penis, it’s not the size of a government that counts: it’s how you use it. And before you ask, yes, I worded that correctly. I don’t care what your dad told you about the “motion of the ocean,” he was just trying to make you feel better.

A bad policy is a bad policy whether at the global, national, state, city, or even household level. Whenever I hear people going on and on about how small government is superior, I can’t help but think of another concept practiced by tyrants: “divide and conquer.”


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