Let’s talk about the core ideology of Libertarianism. In my view, it basically comes down to the fact that every person has a natural right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No other person can take those rights away from you so long as you do not interfere with any other person’s right to the same. To put it another way, every person is a sovereign entity unto themselves, and authoritarian systems (governments) are by their very nature an impediment to this basic philosophical truth. That is how I see the world, and I think most libertarians would agree.
In the real world, we need governments to protect the citizens from those who’s actions harm the ability of others to exercise their own sovereignty. We also need things like functioning economies in order for complex societies to work. Our economy is organized by our government. They print the currency, which has no intrinsic value. They manipulate the value of the currency through policies like quantitative easing. They create the tax code, which has included a progressive income tax for generations. Their surrogate in the Fed sets interest rates. There is no possibility of a free market within such a system, because without government regulation the system wouldn’t even exist.
We can talk about eliminating the current economic paradigm, and this is a very interesting discussion for political philosophers, and would be a positive development for humanity. Personally, I currently am most aligned with a social libertarian perspective, or libertarian socialism if you like. However, I don’t think humanity as a whole has reached the kind of social enlightenment to allow such a system to work in most places. Today, we must work within the systems that we have.
Within our already heavily regulated economy, there is no philosophical truth that would dictate that salaried income is subject to taxation at a higher rate than investment income. There are no libertarian principles that necessitate the super wealthy not paying the same share of their income as middle income Americans. To redesign the tax code in a way that would uplift the greatest number of people, rather than continue the upward redistribution of wealth into fewer and fewer hands, is not increasing the size of government. Rather, it is just a different idea of how to allocate taxes collected through a government created and regulated system. You cannot really advocate participating in the current capitalist economy without being subject to the regulations that allow it to exist in the first place.
As a liberty loving person, I cannot find any consistency between a libertarian point of view and the Republican Party, which always supports more military intervention, stricter vice laws, decreased environmental regulation (which makes society responsible for the externalities of polluting industries, rather than those who profit from the activity), increased corporate subsidies, more regulation of people’s bedroom behavior, more militarized police forces and an increased surveillance state. The establishment democrats aren’t much better, for that matter. Neither party ever cuts budgets or decreases the national debt.
Proposals like universal single payer health care in place of forcing people into the for-profit insurance racket, expanded public education to include college, and a fairer tax code do not really rob me of any liberties, and they work to uplift the entire society. Let’s also not forget that single payer health care has been shown to cost less per capita than our current system, which is already completely regulated by government from top to bottom.
The aforementioned policies of the American right, along with a complicit Democratic Party that only pays lip service to a progressive populist agenda, absolutely make us a less free people. I cannot understand why self professing libertarians tend to vote for Republicans, except for that many have bought into the propaganda of the small government language used by a political party that has no actual interest in creating a less authoritarian system.
Bernie Sander’s policies may not be libertarian by definition, but he is certainly the least likely of all major candidates to enact the kind of liberty-robbing laws pushed by the current establishment. He believes in the right to privacy and freedom from mass government surveillance. He wouldn’t be so quick to sacrifice our troops and our treasury to profit motivated wars waged to secure western hegemony over the Middle East. He will also fight to reverse the ever-increasing influence of the wealthy over our political system. Whether wielded by governments or plutocrats, undue power by a small elite is always antithetical to liberty.
So called small government of the kind that right-leaning Libertarians advocate does nothing to protect the people from the tyranny of the ultra wealthy and their pocket politicians. They rig the system to insure their continued ability to hoard the lion’s share of the wealth and resources of the world. I don’t believe any other major candidate even comes close to Bernie in his respect for the individual liberties of all Americans, and his commitment to fighting the crony capitalism that is currently ruining our political system.