Bill Steigerwald Bill Steigerwald, 10/13/2005 [Archive]

It's Not Easy Being Libertarian

It's Not Easy Being Libertarian

By Bill Steigerwald

For anyone who values individual freedom, free enterprise and a limited government that minds its own business at home and abroad, the real world of big, dumb, dangerous government and partisan politics can be a mighty discouraging place.

But being a libertarian is still better than being a Republican or a Democrat. Look around at what decades of their bipartisan bungling and misrule have wrought, if you can stomach it.

We've got a foolish, bloody and botched $200 billion war in Iraq. We have a $40 billion-a-year war-without-end on drugs at home. We have a $2.6 trillion federal budget coming in fiscal year 2006.

Plus we have a future full of federal deficits and waste and pork and over-regulation and Medicare freebies and Social Insecurity and FEMA follies and military interventions and an eternal war on terror and much, much more government spending and taxing and meddling and blundering -- for as far as our grandchildren's eyes can see.

Partisan Republicans and Democrats hate each other. But from a libertarian point of view, both parties are horrible.

Looking back, has it really mattered in the long run whether Ike or LBJ or Nixon or Reagan or Clinton or Bush I or Tip O'Neill or Newt or Dr. Bill or Tom Daschle temporarily ran the federal leviathan or controlled its cashbox?

Once they felt the power throbbing under the government hood, 'small-government" Republicans became as stupid, unprincipled and dangerous to our liberties and wallets as big-government liberal Democrats. The Gingrich Revolution of 1994 was actually just a three-inch, conservative speed bump on the superhighway to Bush II's $2.6 trillion spending sprees.

Meanwhile, for 50 years, new bad laws have been written by Republicans on top of old bad laws written by Democrats, and vice versa. The Federal Register, which quantifies the yearly growth of the regulatory state, contained 75,676 pages in 2004, a new record. No wonder federal government regulations cost us an estimated $877 billion in 2004.

Republicans and Democrats both have been competing since World War II to invent new entitlements for the poor, the young and the elderly and to reward their pet special interests. Meanwhile, our self-serving public servants in Congress have rigged the federal electoral system so incumbents have to be dead or on death row to lose their seats.

Neither major party has a monopoly on failure or idiocy. Reagan ended the totalitarian military draft but he and Tip O'Neill teamed up to mindlessly escalate the equally totalitarian federal drug war.

Was Ike-JFK-LBJ-Nixon's war in Vietnam less of a mistake than Bush's war in Iraq? Were the lies, blunders and expansions of state size and power during the FDR, JFK, LBJ and Clinton years bigger or worse than those during Nixon's or Bush II's. Or just different? Or ones your favorite tribe benefited from?

Come to think of it, though, it's actually a good time to be a staunch libertarian.It's frustrating to see state power always grow at the expense of freedom. But being a libertarian means you can at least sleep well, because you're not ideologically, emotionally or morally affiliated with the political gangs responsible for constructing the massive welfare/warfare/security state we'll be stuck with forever.

Bill Steigerwald is a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. E-mail Bill at© Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, All Rights Reserved.

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