“THIS IS THE MOST LIBERTARIAN GENERATION THAT’S EVER EXISTED”
Will public disgust with creeping government drive more people than ever toward limited government principles? A very good and interesting story from Illinois’ The Telegraphabout how the movement Ron Paul ignited now also correlates with public attitudes and national trends:
To begin: This is not a story about Ron Paul.
Not exactly, anyway. And yet to get where we want to go we will start at OPA!, a Greek restaurant on the edge of town where Clark County Republicans and tea party conservatives gathered on Nevada primary night for what looked undeniably like a Ron Paul rally.
In one corner was Cindy Lake, the acting chair of the Clark County Republican Party and a delegate to this summer’s Republican National Convention. A self-described “libertarian Republican constitutional conservative,” Lake became a Paul convert in 2007 after she heard him advocate for something she passionately supports: the freedom to buy raw milk.
Nearby stood Megan Heryet, celebrating her GOP primary victory in a state Assembly race. Heryet, a real estate agent, substitute teacher and mom, is hardly a Paul fanatic. But she did back him in Nevada’s caucuses earlier this year, primarily because she is a big proponent of being free to make decisions such as choosing to give birth to her second child at home instead of a hospital. “It’s about being left alone,” she said.
And there were the Bunce brothers, Richard and Carl, who marshaled a four-year “Paulist” takeover of the Nevada Republican Party. The tax system is their biggest irritation. “This is the land of the free,” said Carl. “How free are we when we’ve got a government that can choose how much money we keep in our paycheck?”
But we promised this wouldn’t be about Ron Paul and, in fact, it really isn’t. Rather it’s about unpasteurized milk and home births and taxes and, yes, freedom.
Something’s going on in America this election year: a renaissance of an ideal as old as the nation itself – that live-and-let-live, get-out-of-my-business, individualism vs. paternalism dogma that is the hallmark of libertarianism.
Paul, the Texas congressman and GOP presidential hopeful who champions small government and individual liberty, is one manifestation of it. We saw that with his rising popularity during the Republican presidential primary season and, now, the recent “takeovers” of political conventions in Nevada, Minnesota, Maine, Louisiana and elsewhere that will result in a sizable faction of Paul delegates at the GOP convention come August…
But what looms are far larger questions about whether an America fed up with government bans and government bailouts – with government, period – is seeing a return to its libertarian roots. And, if so, what that might mean in a potentially close presidential race and long after election 2012 is a mere memory.
“There’s this kind of growing distrust of the institutions of government, and so it leads folks to step back and say, ‘Well if they’re not working, then we ought to have less of them in our lives,”‘ said Wayne Lesperance, director of tmw Hampshire.
Paul’s libertarian message joins people “who probably under any other circumstances would not see the world the same way and gets them politically involved,” Lesperance said. “It is a challenge for the Republicans to wrap their arms around this and harness this in a way that gets them an electoral victory.”
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This will all be hotly debated this week as thousands converge on the Las Vegas Strip for a libertarian fete called FreedomFest. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul – Ron’s son and the future hope of many limited-government enthusiasts – will speak, along with a slew of libertarian-leaning politicians, scholars, economists and entrepreneurs, from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and publisher Steve Forbes to Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president.
When the festival first began in 2002, some 850 people attended. Last year, there were 2,400. Festival founder and economist Mark Skousen will tell you this is a sign, albeit a small one, that libertarianism – or something an awful lot like it – is surging.
“It is a rebirth,” said Skousen, and a reaction to a feeling shared by many that America has moved too far afield from its founding principles. “This country was established for the very thing that we’re fighting right now: excessive government control of our lives. In today’s world everything is either prohibited or mandated. … You have to have medical insurance. You have to wear a seat belt. … They have to pat you down (at the airport).”
Skousen has a simple analogy for all of this: “If you restrict a teenager, they rebel. I think that’s what people are feeling…”
In its annual governance survey conducted last fall, Gallup found that a record-high 81 percent of Americans were dissatisfied with the way the country was being governed. There were increases, too, in the responses to questions that gauge a more libertarian-view of governance: A record 49 percent said they believed government posed “an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens”; 57 percent believed the federal government had too much power; and 56 percent said they would be willing to pay less in taxes and accept fewer services (a position advocated during the campaign by Paul)…
Many pondered why Ron Paul, at 76 years old, attracted some massive crowds of 20-somethings to his rallies and, according to exit polls, consistently won the 18-29 age bracket early in primary season in states such as New Hampshire and Iowa.
Twenty-six-year-old (Students for Liberty President) Alexander McCobin has a response for that: “This is the most libertarian generation that’s ever existed, and it’s because libertarianism is just correct…”
To any remaining naysayers, they warn that this is neither a passing fad nor a “Ron Paul phenomenon” that will fade once he’s gone from the scene. They see hope in other up-and-coming libertarian-leaning Republicans: Justin Amash, a Michigan congressman seeking re-election whom Reason magazine christened “the next Ron Paul”; Kurt Bills, a Minnesota state representative who is running for U.S. Senate; and, of course, Rand Paul.
“Everything we’ve done up to this point is based on ideas. … It carries on well past Congressman Paul,” said Carl Bunce. “Hopefully we’ll start to bring more voters to bear into the Republican Party – all those apathetic voters that were like myself.”
When that happens, he said, “our ideas of liberty and freedom will persist.”