Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Letter from a Lone Conservative

Hi. My name's phillip low. I'd really love to sit down and compose some kind of eloquent introduction -- who I am, why I'm doing this, what this blog is for -- but I've just returned from a trip to China, and I'm running behind on, well, everything. That said, I know I need to start doing this now -- I'll be able to maintain it once I get some momentum going, but I'll never get started unless I make myself. (Which probably already tells you more about me than I'm comfortable with you knowing.)

In any case, I'm going to throw up an old post from one of my other blogs. Sorry for the abrupt leap to the most intimate part of our relationship -- give me a few days and, I assure you, the post-coital part of our dialogue will be delightfully stimulating.



ME: I'm a libertarian.
SOMEBODY: That's okay, I respect that.

It seems to me that whenever I reveal my political leanings, I get some variation on that response. I'm tempted to reply "I know that's okay, and I didn't ask you to respect that," but that would be less than civil. More to the point, there seems to be a kind of understated condescension to it -- it's okay for me to be a libertarian because I'm completely unthreatening to you. Y'know, I'm kind of like a Republican Lite, same conservatism without the political clout to back it up -- much like a wounded puppy pretending to be a wolf. Pat on the head, that's cute, let's get back to some legitimate political discourse now.

Furthermore, nobody seems to really believe that I actually mean it when I say it -- I'll say something like "I don't believe in government support for the arts," and people will say "Oh, yes, I see what you mean, we're too dependent on it, you want to reduce it somewhat, make a push for private funding," and, no, I mean that I don't think it should exist. Yeah, my company's struggling, just like everybody else's, but if it finally does collapse, I'll be able to look myself in the mirror and say that we didn't have to rely on money stolen from ordinary citizens under threat of imprisonment. There's just no way I can twist that around in my head and make it seem like morality to me. Some people claim that this system -- which they refer to as "taxation", and I refer to as "theft" -- is the basis of civilization. If so, not any civilization I want to be a part of. I may be persuaded that it is necessary, but if so it is a necessary evil, and not something to be championed.

There is additional level of absurdity to this in that I *am* an artist, so that a portion of the money I make entertaining people is taken by the government to fund *other* artists, my direct competition, and frequently goes to theatres that I wouldn't be caught dead in, because an elite group of people decided that their work has more socially redeeming value than mine. I find this ridiculous. If only we could devise some system whereby individual citizens could determine which theatres they wanted to survive, and -- oh, wait. We have such a system. It's called "free enterprise."


The alarming expansion of federal power of this particular (Republican) administration, and the long national nightmare that has resulted from it, makes an alliance with Democrats appealing. Indeed, despite our differences on, say, economics, it's a kinship that goes back decades -- the Libertarian Party in this country was founded by men and women working alongside the remnants of the hippie movement in the early 1970s. But I can never lose sight of the fact that if the Democrats do get what they want -- control of the White House -- I'm going to be turning around and coming after them just as fast and twice and hard.

Albert Camus identifies two types of political ideologues: the revolutionary and the rebel. The revolutionary is the one with a grand vision, the one who wants to tear down the dictator so that they can become the dictator. The rebel wants simply to assert his own human dignity. The world that the Democrats envision for themselves -- a world where wise, benevolent leaders make the decisions regarding who deserves what, who dream of equality by cutting down the great to lift up the weak -- seems to me to be a kind of beautiful lie. I don't want to make those decisions, and I don't trust anyone else to make them for me. I got no mind to conquer. I just want to go my way, and I want everybody else to be free to do the same.


George Washington was a President who believed in the restraint of the executive branch -- that true decision-making power lay with the legislative. He rarely used his veto powers, unless he believed that laws were being passed that were demonstrably unconstitutional. This is a man who, during the French Revolution, took down a portrait that had been given to him by the French government, out of fear that merely having it hanging in the White House might be construed as taking sides in the conflict. (I can't help but look at such an absolutely noninterventionist policy with a kind of melancholy longing, these days.)

In fact, there was one strong, controversial position that he adopted, passionately, and he was widely criticized for it: he warned the American people against the rise of political parties, cautioning that their reign would spell the end of everything he and his fellows had struggled to build.

I bring up this story because I'm an alternative party supporter, and it seems to me that every election year, there's countless articles by left-leaning columnists, very politely and articulately spelling out to me why I am stupid, selfish, and destroying our democracy. I would like to take a moment to respond to those, if I could.

First of all, yes, I am an idealist; yes, I follow party politics; no, I am not simply voting for the candidate who seems the coolest guy, or the one I would most like to have a drink with. I would not like to drink with any of them. Yes, it is a question of personal morality and integrity for me, as opposed to simply "the good of the state." Perhaps this makes me selfish; there are worse labels. I infinitely prefer the selfishness of voting for a cause that I believe in, to the hypocrisy of voting for a cause that I have devoted a significant portion of my life and career to fighting against.

You do not automatically have the right to my vote. If you want it, then you have to work for it. If I choose to give my vote to somebody else, then that somebody is not "stealing" my vote from you; they have competed fairly, and competed better than you did, and I would not have voted for you anyway. If I'm not on your side, then it's because you're not on mine.

I'm accused of being short-sighted; it seems to me that those who think only in terms of the battle directly in front of them are the ones thinking in the short term. I am playing for higher stakes. I am investing in a world where this bloated, inefficient monster -- the two-party system -- is nothing more than a footnote in our history texts.

To those of you voting in this Tuesday's election, I urge you to consider the following:

1) If you truly support one of the two major-party candidates -- congratulations! I can't tell you how deeply I envy you, or how I dream of the day that a candidate I believe in has a snowball's chance in hell of winning.

2) If you're considering voting for a candidate that you despise, simply out of party loyalty -- please consider the possibility that, while you are investing in a short-term triumph, you are also investing in long-term dismissal and degredation by the party that you swear fealty to. The message that you're sending is clear -- they only need to pay lip service to the principles you hold dear. They could nominate an orangutan and you would still vote for them.

(Incidentally, I am particularly exasperated with the gay community, who is so willing to blindly follow wherever the Democratic Party leads -- when it's clear that the Democratic leadership doesn't give a fuck about you. They hardly even bother to pretend to have any interest in your rights anymore. They might as well give you a careless shrug and say "Well, where else are you gonna go?")

3) To those of you who don't follow politics, who don't watch the news or read the newspaper, who get your opinions from late-night comedy shows and decide you might as well go along with the people surrounding you -- please. Don't vote. An uninformed vote is worse than no vote at all. The choice whether or not to vote is, indeed, a right of yours, a valid choice for you to make, and don't let anybody tell you differently.

4) To those Democrats who, every two years, try to bully me into voting for their party, relying on insults to my intelligence, rather than appeal through the powers of persuasion -- eat a dick.


One more point -- the major issue on the ballot this year is not the War on Terror, or tax cuts, or gay marriage. It's an issue that's impossible to get people excited about, because there's no shocking images or tear-jerking human interest stories to accompany it. It's nothing more than the first, tiny step in a battle that could one day topple the two-party system once and for all. That issue is Instant Runoff Voting, and far, far, far too few people know anything about it. If you haven't heard of it, I won't try to persuade you -- all I ask is that you look it up, and decide for yourself, because you're an adult, and you can make your own decisions.

That is, after all, what libertarianism is all about -- is it not?