I generally don’t get along with people who self-identify as libertarians.
This is partly due to my home town. Orange County is full of wealthy blowhards, and many of these red-faced yahoos like to believe they’re Promethean self-made heroes rather than grifters and heirs. They aren’t really interested in liberty as an ideal; they just want more money for themselves.
This is also partly due to the Internet, where “libertarian” usually means a socially isolated, idealistic, and poorly educated geek who prefers an unassailably perfect dogma to any compromise with the real world.
And of course I’m not one and can’t be. I’m a left liberal in U.S. terms, or what other countries call a Social Democrat. I like things like socialized medicine. I don’t mind taxes. It’s just a whole nother world.
But in the last few years I’ve had more in common with libertarians than ever. Our common dream — the ideas expressed in the U.S. Bill of Rights — is under the worst attacks yet. Things like the Patriot Act get me cheering for right-libertarian opposition figures like Chuck Hagel, and some very strange alliances have been made.
It’s heartening, because both left-liberal and right-libertarian people tend to be intolerant. Both groups care a lot about ideology and get pretty upset with each others’ ideas about how humans should relate.
More than five years ago, before 9/11, I was driving down to San Diego. Near San Clemente, the northbound side of Interstate 5 has a Border Patrol checkpoint intended to deter illegal immigration, smuggling, and people bringing in fruit with evil flies in it. It’s been a part of the landscape as long as I can remember, and I take it for granted.
Today was different. As I headed south, an unusual site greeted me. Coming up from the south was a convoy of maybe 20 cars and trucks. They were decorated with huge American flags, and some of the pickups had a few flag-waving people in the beds.
Two huge banners were flying over two of the bigger trucks: NO CHECKPOINTS ON AMERICAN SOIL / LIBERTARIAN PARTY
Wow! I’d never thought of that. They were right, too. Goddamnit, I realized. I don’t want checkpoints anywhere but the border itself! They shouldn’t be able to stop me just any time…
And they didn’t stop these people. They blew the checkpoint at a respectful and safe 25 mph or so. The Border Patrol guys stepped back and just kind of dealt with it, and I didn’t see anyone pursue them. Maybe they got pulled over by the CHP or something further north. I assume they were ready to get a ticket or go to the station if they had to do so.
I am proud of those people for reminding me that I’d let a chunk of my freedom go and not noticed. I’m also proud of them for getting off their asses and risking something to make that point publicly, instead of just flaming people on internet forums or engaging in competitive harrumphing.
So, I found out, I have more in common with libertarians than I thought. I don’t care about tax hikes or seatbelt laws, and I like social welfare spending. But I prefer someone who hates checkpoints, the Patriot Act, wiretapping, and censorship to someone who bends over for that shit.