Free -- To Get The Fundamental Stuff Wrong!
I filed this column and almost immediately started to feel badly about going after LTH again, but then the paper came out on Sunday, and most of the real estate was devoted to a "roundtable" discussion of political philosophy between 5 really, really conservative writers for the Tribune (Turley-Hansen, Patterson, Hill, Templar, and the Freedom house libertarian guru). Yes, they wanted a range of opinions, from Y to Z.
My suggested headline was above but the editor went partisan instead.
A DEMOCRAT'S VIEW OF LIBERTARIANISM
East Valley Tribune, Dec. 2, 2007
Nobody told me, the lone dissenting voice hereabouts, that last week's Perspective section would be the annual tribute to R.C. Hoiles, the founder of the Tribune's current owner. The sweet salutes to our Orange County Editorial Overlords made my teeth hurt, reminding me how the Arizona Republic used to insist what a really swell guy publisher Eugene Pulliam was, because he only had your interests at heart.
Newspapers should leave the tributes to ownership to outsiders; it's hard to do a "balanced" piece on the boss (or the current bosses' deceased ancestor) without sounding like Yankee PR department tributes to George Steinbrenner. The Republic never could be as refreshingly accurate about their owners as The New York Times, which wrote that the Pulliam family "has long been a political force in Indiana and Arizona -- indeed, one investment banker pointed out that neither state observes daylight time 'because Eugene Pulliam always refused to change his clock.'"
But what was most striking in this year's celebration of the grandfather of the people who sign our checks is how readily Hoiles's followers forgive his apostasies. Apparently one of the most cherished libertarian freedoms is getting to choose which parts you accept, and which you don't.
The Tribune printed some of the home office's editorials applying Hoiles's philosophy to current issues. The top issue was terrorism, and according to libertarianism, the war in Iraq was a mistake; we should bring the troops home from all overseas outposts. "Terrorists may 'hate us for our freedom,' but they are able to recruit people to attack us because we are in 'their' countries, trying to run them."
One of Hoiles's biggest fans is the writer to my right, Linda Turley-Hansen, who last week on "Founder's Day" wrote how while she won't always agree with Freedom, we need Hoiles's ideas to "pull us back towards rational thinking" and "balance." But those ideas, that the war in Iraq is counterproductive and we should bring the troops home as soon as possible, are totally opposite to those of Linda Turley-Hansen, who declared on Memorial Day weekend that we must stay and must win in Iraq, which is an absolutely fundamental battle that we cannot avoid, that "retreat will unleash incomprehensible consequences."
Turley-Hansen also decries our open borders, and that immigration is placing our national identity and culture at risk. But the libertarian position on immigration is that "the right to decide where one wants to live and move there through one's own resources doesn't belong only to those born in America. The most effective and just way to regulate immigration is through market forces." In other words, open borders, and welcome all comers; it's an economic, not cultural, issue.
So how does this work? In May, to Turley-Hanson, nothing is more important than "winning" in Iraq, and our very national survival is at stake. In November, she says while she doesn't always agree, we sure need more libertarianism. But libertarianism gets "wrong," according to Linda, the absolutely most important, fundamental crisis we face, but somehow, that's O.K.
Linda in May says those who want to end the war and bring the troops home are "stupid" and "prepared to sacrifice the nation." Libertarianism says end the war and bring the troops home. But Linda in November thinks libertarianism is cool. These disagreements about Iraq and immigration? Mere trifles, easily overlooked.
Which is my problem with "libertarianism," at least as practiced around here. It's not a philosophy, it's a Chinese menu, where you get to pick only those dishes that suit your preexisting palate. Individual freedom is paramount -- except when we want the state to force women to bear unwanted children, or insist that government fight a "war on drugs."
This a la carte "Linda libertarianism" isn't a philosophy, but rather the latest attempt to make selfishness a moral value. I should pay less in taxes, and if I'm younger and healthier than average, I certainly don't want to share any of your health care risk. You, on the other hand, should fight my wars. Such a deal!