There’s an opinion among certain liberty-minded people that participation in a political system is equivalent to condoning all the crimes and wrongdoings committed by that political system. Basically, by voting or by engaging the political system, people are perpetuating the evils of big government. This is a common opinion held by agorists, anarchists, and other sub-strains of libertarian thought. Specifically, agorists advocate purely voluntary economic exchanges, education, and private market innovation by entrepreneurs as alternatives to political action.
Agorists and their philosophical allies represent one side of a divide amongst people in the liberty movement, the other half of which are people who desire to directly engage the political system in order to maximize freedom and spread the message of liberty. There is no reason why both groups cannot coexist, especially because we need a combination of political action, philosophical education, and innovation to beat the incredible odds that liberty advocates are facing.
But let’s be serious. Libertarians, constitutional conservatives, and moderate liberals with economic sense still comprise a numerical minority in America today. In other countries, it would be a feat if they could fill a football stadium. And yet, for the past decade, our numbers have been growing with each new legislative horror and constitutional overstep by the executive. If one looks at the case study of the last two election results of Ron Paul, who ran on the Republican ticket in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012, one can see this growth. In 2008, Ron Paul garnered just over 1,200,000 votes during the Republican primaries, whereas in the 2012 primaries, he received just short of 2,100,000 votes.
This may not seem very significant, but one must consider the odds against which Ron Paul and his supporters were fighting. Mainstream media outlets were caught blatantly ignoring Paul’s electoral successes in favor of backing the establishment favorite in both 2008 and 2012. The most significant barrier, of course, was over 80 years of welfare and warfare being burnt into the collective mind of Americans of all generations.
But Ron Paul himself is a perfect example why engaging the political system can bring positive results. People who are looking for immediate results might as well just lock themselves in their mom’s basements now, because the world doesn’t work that way.
All of us are upset about Ron Paul’s campaign not gaining enough traction during the 2008 and 2012 elections, but the optimistic and realistic amongst us can see the silver lining of these defeats, and that silver lining can be seen in American politics today in 2013. We have several Senators and Congressman who are doing everything they can to fight for liberty in Congress. However, because these legislators don’t fit the perfect molds of some people in the liberty movement, they are rejected along with the entire political process.
These people in the liberty movement are not alone. Not surprisingly, there are most likely millions of Americans who are just as disenchanted with Washington politics as the “voting is aggression” libertarians. They, too, are looking for someone who inspires them to actually go and cast a vote for someone in an election. Millions of people found this inspiration in Barack Obama in 2008, although most of them have probably breathed a heavy snort of disgust by now and have gone back home to watch TV or something.
Ron Paul seized the attention of legions of Americans young and old, and gave them a flicker of hope that things can change in Washington. Democrats, Independents, and Republicans were brought together under one candidate championing common sense and liberty.
Ron Paul himself has been fighting for liberty for over 30 years. I’m sure that if we asked him, he would say that this is no time to give up the fight.
If there are no liberty-minded people running for public office, then the lovers of big government and big budgets will happily step in. The Oathkeepers, who are a group of former and current law enforcement and military members, reaffirm their constitutional oaths to obey the Constitution, and to disobey any non-constitutional order. Who can truly argue that more Oathkeepers in police uniforms, in our intelligence services (Edward Snowden, anyone?), or in our Armed Forces is a useless or a negative thing?
Advocates of liberty don’t have to be parts of these institutions to further positive change, but they shouldn’t discourage others from participating, either. Libertarians have enough of a negative image as esoteric shut-ins, and we don’t need to validate that image. But on a more practical scale, Americans will be better off with more federal legislators like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Thomas Massie, and Justin Amash. Libertarians will be better off with more Oathkeepers in uniform who will respect their constitutional rights. The liberty movement will be better off with libertarians and liberty-minded people fighting tyranny and big government in every level of society, at every chance they get.