Libertarian-Socialism in the Real World
This version of libertarian-socialism is not the anarchic-communism that was described by French revolutionaries in the 18th or 19th century. On my daily bicycle commutes, I would think about the politics of the day. It started to seem like a conversation between a patriotic American libertarian and a patriotic American socialist. They were on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but their shared desire to heal their country was driven by patriotism which made for some interesting conversations in my head. Libertarian-Socialism: American Style was born.
Truly libertarianism and socialism have valid ideas to be applied to a nation’s political culture. The universe of politically viable solutions is shrunken when limited to one or the other. It is the blending that brings about a wealth of options and solutions. It may seem like political alchemy, but libertarian-socialism is real and is a practical point of view, yet the fires of discord along the left/right axis obstruct this synergy.
For 30 years in traffic, I have been riding the bike. There are 100,000 pedaling miles on this body. Out there on the bike, I have lots of time to think. The bicycle helped crystallize certain political truths for me. One reason why I ride my bike to work is that I feel free out there on my human powered vehicle. I can cut across a parking lot, ride on the sidewalk, jump a berm or otherwise make my own route on a bicycle. I bend, even break some traffic rules and do whatever I want to get where I want to go when I want to get there. The libertarianism of the bicycle is undeniable.
The police mostly ignore my lawbreaking ways and when they do not, I have had more than half of my bicycle tickets dismissed in court. It is very, very libertarian commuting on my bike in traffic. I have 100,000 miles while pedaling for 30 years in traffic in the Land of Cars. I might consider myself a magnificent bicycle rider, but it does not matter how magnificent of a rider I am. I must depend on other drivers to not make a mistake and run me over for me to have survived this long. More importantly, I need these drivers to be able to adjust and avoid me when I make a mistake.
How is that possible? All these thousands of drivers, driving inches away from me, but I ride on. They have not run me over. They have not killed me, while I pursue my libertarian quest for freedom. They have not run me over, all these different people: a 90-year-old man, a 50-year-old grandmother, and numerous 17-year-old teenagers are among the many souls that drove by me over these 30 years. They did not run me over and put their tread on my back.
In this state and in this nation, we have a system where we license people to drive vehicles. It seems to work pretty well. This socialist program of training and licensing individuals before allowing them to operate a motor vehicle works for me in the pursuit of my libertarian goals to be free. And, there it is: my first example of libertarian-socialism manifested in the real world.
During much of bicycle commuting, I have used a flag on my bike to increase visibility. I used the Gadsden Battle flag for many years, because it was yellow, and it made me a little more visible in traffic. Plus the “Don’t Tread On Me” phrase was/is a cycling pun. That is how that version above of the Gadsden Battle flag became the cover of the book.
Many tell me I am a dreamer. Libertarian-Socialism is just another, feel-good, but an impractical worldview. Many would say the same about pedaling to work on a bicycle, too. Many useful benefits at a casual glance, but not very practical. However, I DO commute on my bicycle. I have been doing it for most of my adult life in the land of cars, Southern California. There is a lot of time to think out there pedaling in traffic. The framework of libertarian-socialism grew in clarity during the commutes.
As I rode my bicycle through traffic, I saw Libertarian-Socialism is everywhere. The most successful aspects of America were created and executed with a libertarian-socialist vision, though unnamed as such. Libertarian-Socialism: American Style represents the possibility of a bright future for America. If only Americans could quite the left/right war, the future truly was bright.
The partisan wars prevent even the discussion of controversial ideas, let alone any real action to solve them. The two parties have divided the great issues of the day, without necessarily any rational reasons, other than the opponents are on other side. This knee jerk reaction for conservatives to oppose whatever liberals support, and vice versa, leads to little reasoned debate and therefore no solutions. Solutions will come from both sides. The conversation between the patriotic libertarian and the patriotic socialist seeks to facilitate the participation of both sides. This is the core of libertarian-socialism.
Once there were liberal Republicans, but those few that still exist are now known as RINOs, “Republicans in Name Only”. To be tagged as a RINO is to be marked for expulsion from their own party. Democrats, likewise, have their own litmus tests that candidates must pass and the appellation of DINO has been heard of late. The two parties have become exclusionary, costing the United States the special synergies between liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats that once brought about dynamic thinking in politics. These less ideological, earlier versions of the political parties allowed for a push and pull tension in four directions, instead of just two. The libertarian-socialist vision of American politics seeks to re-ignite natural synergies by recreating the multi-polar political tension that once made American politics functional.
The liberal/conservative chasm that divides America, largely mirroring the Democrat/Republican fault line, has fractured the nation. Libertarian-Socialists can bridge the chasm of ideology. The conversation between that patriotic libertarian and the patriotic socialist shifts the paradigm from Democrat versus Republican back to America. In the beginning, the Democrat-Republicans were one party in America. It was one party, not two, and libertarian-socialists look for reconciliation if not reunification of an “American” ideology.
Politics and the media in America have polarized society so much that the concept of a Democratic-Republican seems impossible. For the true American, even simple common sense no longer seems to exist. This situation is not entirely by accident. The partisan ideologies pushing common sense to the fringe are driven by moneyed power’s desire to protect its elite status and lifestyle. Freedom and liberty FOR ALL cannot exist in a climate of excessive government and corporate power, but privilege can be protected for sure! America is on the road toward authoritarian capitalism that minimizes individual liberty, because that is safer for the economically privileged.
Libertarian-Socialism brings disruption for the rich and the powerful. Moneyed power will stoke the fires of discord and spend billions to oppose libertarian-socialist ideas. This discord has crippled the meritocracy that once was America’s greatest strength. The libertarian-socialist conversation is a direct threat to the wealth and power of the oligarchs. Some balancing of the current economic inequality will be a consequence of libertarian-socialism. This balancing of the economic playing field is an existential threat to the 21st-century robber barons as those of lesser economic class are freed from the current monopolies of power.
It is the ideas that spring from the patriotic alliance of the libertarian and the socialist that are so very dangerous to moneyed power. Libertarian-Socialism is dangerous because it threatens these monopolies not through violent revolution, but with ideas so powerful, they change American behavior on Main Street. Libertarian-Socialism seeks to bring unity instead of division to Main Street. Only united can Main Street find the strength to resist the powerful forces that divide the 99% into warring factions.