The Awakening Libertarian Masses ?

Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie and David Weigel Matt Welch have a front-page piece in this week’s Washington Post Sunday Outlook section devoted to explaining to the Beltway glitterati just what this libertarian thing is all about:

When a fierce Republican foe of the wars on drugs and terrorism is able, without really trying, to pull in a record haul of campaign cash on a day dedicated to an attempted regicide, it’s clear that a new and potentially transformative force is growing in American politics.

That force is less about [Texas Congressman Ron] Paul than about the movement that has erupted around him — and the much larger subset of Americans who are increasingly disillusioned with the two major political parties’ soft consensus on making government ever more intrusive at all levels, whether it’s listening to phone calls without a warrant, imposing fines of half a million dollars for broadcast “obscenities” or jailing grandmothers for buying prescribed marijuana from legal dispensaries.

And while the media focuses on opposition to the Iraq War as the primary reason behind the phenomenon of people who have never been involved in politics before rallying behind a grandfather from Texas, Gillespie and Weigel Welch argue that there’s more to it than that, and more to it than just Ron Paul:

[I]f war were the only answer for his improbable run, why Ron Paul instead of the perennial peacenik Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic congressman from Ohio whose apparent belief in UFOs is only slightly less kooky than his belief in the efficacy of socialized health care?

Part of the reason is Republican muscle memory. Paul’s “freedom message” is the direct descendant of Barry Goldwater’s once-dominant GOP philosophy of libertarianism (which Ronald Reagan described in a 1975 Reason magazine interview as “the very heart and soul of conservatism”). But that tradition has been under a decade-long assault by religious-right moralists, neoconservative interventionists and a governing coalition that has learned to love Medicare expansion and appropriations pork.

So Paul’s challenge represents a not-so-lonely GOP revival of unabashed libertarianism. All his major Republican competitors want to double down on Bush’s wars; none is stressing any limited-government themes, apart from half-hearted promises to prune pork and tinker on the margins of Social Security.

The real test isn’t going to come from who wins in New Hampshire, or who wins the Republican nomination. The real test will be whether the events of 2007 and 2008 encourage others in the Republican Party (and I say Republican Party, because the prospect of the Democrats ever becoming a free-market party again are essentially nil) to turn take their party back from the authoritarians. Gillespie and Weigel Welch, at least think that it will:

Ron Paul may lose next year’s battle — though not without a memorable fight — but the laissez-faire agitators he has helped energize will find themselves at the leading edge of American politics and culture for years to come.

Let’s hope they’re right.

Update: Edited to note the fact that Matt Welch was the co-author of this Op-Ed piece, not David Weigel.

  • aaron

    I said it over at but, it has become apparent to me that the libertarian voting block now represents the most powerful voters in the US. Albeit so not the largest, the most powerful. We must come to realize we can swing elections against either side, from local to federal. In this next coming election I believe any libertarian/paleoconservative/consitutionalist candidate can make an enormous showing and win. Just my opinion but, it’s going to take more than Ron Paul in the white house to really start seeing changes. Now seems to be the time. Thanks for the site btw. I come by often through google searches.

  • Scott From Oregon

    I used to think the constant push and pull between the parties was a good thing. Keeping the balance between keeping our poor fed and keeping our taxes low and government small.

    When you put a bunch of elected people in a large room all year every year, they tend to want to DO stuff.

    What happens then, is you get an expanding government with bloated rules and regulations, all as a direct result of people thinking they were chosen to DO, not simply govern. ALl one needs to do is look at the tax codes for American. I mean, WTF?

    Ron Paul is telling me what needs to be UNDONE. He is standing on the mantle of ideas that tells me he recognizes the audacity of the Federal government. My social beliefs tend to lean Liberal, in that I believe society has an obligation to support its weakest members in one of the richest countries on the planet. However, it takes little imagination to see how this could be better accomplished in a more local arena.

    Federal government downsizing is my main reason for supporting Ron Paul.It is time to take away the toys from “The deciders”…

  • Kevin


    Matt Welch was the co-author of this piece, not David Weigel.

  • Doug Mataconis


    Politics is mostly about making compromises on little things to achieve a broader goal.

    Even if Ron Paul is elected President there is a lot that he won’t be able to do without the support of Congress — and in order to get that support he’d have to give people who might otherwise disagree with him something that they want.

    That’s the way politics has worked in this country for more than 200 years, and it’s unlikely to ever change.

  • Doug Mataconis


    Thanks for catching that one.

  • rjones2818


    Dennis Kucinich is probably the best Demoocratic candidate for personal liberty. As far as ‘socialized medicine’ goes, what’s better? Spending enough for coverage of all Americans but taking 31% out for what could be called ‘privatized bureaucracy’ (profits, advertizing, CEO salaries and the like) where 46 million are uncovered or spending enough for actual coverage of all Americans in a Not-for-Profit system?

    Also, unregulated markets will tend to feed greed every bit as well as what we have today.

  • Charlie N.

    This is a Great Article and I really appreciate that someone is looking at things from this perspective. While I hope and pray for our country that Ron Paul can and will win, in a way it will be a victory if he can make enough of a showing to cause a much broader audience to take notice, and have others walk in his footsteps…

  • Citizen of the world

    Just by abolishing the FED, and returning to gold standard… the world will change for the better.

    And for US citizens…. You are becoming very poor right now. Ron Paul (or any candidate that endorses his economical views) is your only hope to save you from become a 3rd world country.

  • bob

    “We need lawtakers and not lawmakers.” -Mystery Cookie

  • Dale Mastarone

    What is going on with the Ron Paul Revolution is dramatic, to say the least. Going back just a couple of years, what happened in the mid-term elections (2006) was supposed to mean change — but all we got was more of the same claptrap from the “new” majority in the Congress, the shift from Republican control to Democrat control. It appears resoundingly that there is one political party with two names, results are usually the same, a bigger and more intrusive government!

    What I personally consider happening in the 2008 election is that Ron Paul is elected in a legitimate landslide because his message is liberty — and by year 2010 with President Paul’s bully pulpit — that many dedicated statesmen and stateswomen will run for Congress speaking the same message as Ron Paul of limited government and individual liberty (that is supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution) and those are elected and America cleans house (and the Senate, too) and we are back on track to what the Founders envisioned with a Constitution-respecting federal government.

    Of course, it could happen sooner — all in the year 2008 — provided that enough stateswomen and statesmen in time to get their message out actually run for office utilizing the Ron Paul platform (that is the ONLY platform that is reaching to the heart and soul of the masses) to have sufficient number voted into the Congress to ultimately outlaw (repeal) the laws that are not constitutionally authorized. Then our children and grandchildren can have the shackles of government loosened from them — and it will be up to them to be ever vigilant to see that anyone elected to public office — from local dogcatcher to president — has a historical record of living up to his or her oath of office (if previously elected to public office) or is reasonably expected to do so by personal history of keeping solemn commitments.

    This country CAN be turned around, it really isn’t “politics as usual” anymore — as demonstrated unequivocally by the tremendous support that the Ron Paul Revolution has received by individual citizens aware of where we are heading if it continues as “politics as usual”.

    There are literally millions and millions of Americans that are far more qualified to serve in the Congress than those that are presently “serving” [themselves]. If you are qualified — than step up to the plate, run on the Ron Paul platform and become elected — and be a part of steering America back on the constitutional course that the Founders charted for us. And while you are in the process of campaigning for local, state or federal office — please do so as Ron Paul does — humbly. Never make promises you have no intention of keeping. Ron Paul states often that it is NOT his Revolution — it is the People wanting to return to America’s roots of freedom and justice for all that is responsible for such outstanding support. If you do not run for public office on the platform of Hope for America — then, by all means, please encourage others to do so and actively support them.

  • rhys

    “Spending enough for coverage of all Americans but taking 31% out for what could be called ‘privatized bureaucracy’ (profits, advertizing, CEO salaries and the like) where 46 million are uncovered or spending enough for actual coverage of all Americans in a Not-for-Profit system?” -rjones2818

    I don’t have insurance, because I don’t want it. That implies that I don’t want to pay for other people to have it either. I don’t care how many ‘Americans’ are not covered. If you are not willing to pay for the profit incentive, start your own non-profit. Don’t use the government to steal my rent money so that you can insure someone who would rather buy cable t.v. than health insurance, yes – it is that cheap if you buy a plan with a high deductable.