The upcoming Iowa Caucus is, as always, generating a good deal of media attention. People are eager to see who Obama's challenger will be. Although we have presidential elections every four years, it feels different as of late. Maybe we feel like we all have more at stake now with an economy slowing to a mere crawl? Or it could be the erosion of many civil liberties in just a short decade. Whatever it is, people are interested.
In the last two weeks, a number of people have approached me to ask which Republican candidate I like for president. When to their surprise I utter Ron Paul's name, they tend to give me the same kinds of responses. "He's good and honest but so extreme." Or else they'll say, "I like his fiscal sense but his foreign policy is just outdated."
Now, I'm not writing this to defend my candidate of choice, but rather to simply talk about my personal brand of libertarianism. After all, any candidate I support, I support with some reservations and some difference of opinion. The only candidate who will agree with everything you believe is yourself.
However, I consider myself to be somewhat Libertarian in my beliefs, and I'll even use the term to describe myself. To some, Libertarian means extreme isolationism. To others its a fiscally conservative philosophy that is also socially liberal. Other's view it as an anarchist philosophy that desires no law or order (drug legalization is often associated with this.)
As is the problem with many labels, a word by itself doesn't always capture that entire perspective. In fact libertarianism in itself probably has the most diverse following of any major American political perspective. I'm just going to tell you what it means to me.
To me, in simple terms, it is the ideal of using government in a way that maximizes freedom and protects liberty to the full extent possible (particularly those freedoms outlined in the Constitution.) This means that although I may personally disagree with something socially, I may still want the government to protect someone's right to do that. I say this because choice is not only important to a libertarian, but important to any free society. Without choice, freedom does not exist.
Appreciating choice, I support other nation's having the opportunity to choose and be free. This doesn't however lead me to an isolationist perspective, but simply one that is "less interventionist." Especially at the grass roots level, the people of a nation have to embrace choice for themselves. After all, if we would have asked ourselves what we could have learned from past foreign endeavors, we would already be traveling down this path of less intervention. From Korea, to Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, one would have thought we would have learned something about intervention.
If I've learned one thing concerning foreign policy from my government, its that long war campaigns not only wary a country financially and emotionally, but the inevitable prolonged collateral damage emboldens and multiplies your enemiees against you.
In very simple terms, this summarizes my Libertarian perspective. However, how philosophy breaks down into specific policies is case by case and a conversation for a different day. If you ever want to discuss more specifically, feel free to leave comments and I will respond.