Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Notes on the 'libertarian west'

Libertarians, small and big, are stuck with mixed bags. No politician electable in all of the 50 states, can measure up. The best an analyst can do is size up proclivities. Maybe the leave-us -lone contingent can move the culture. But politics might not be the avenue; federalism just might be.
Back in the real world, the West's libertarian leanings should remind us of the virtues of federalism. If Idaho and New Mexico could set their own rules about land use and marijuana without Washington interfering, they wouldn't become Hayekian utopias, but they would become much freer than they are today. That's valuable whether or not they also serve as swing votes.

But federalism only takes us so far. Foreign policy is set in Washington, not the states, and the same goes for the powers of the national executive branch. When Larry Craig criticizes the PATRIOT Act and Bill Richardson denounces the Iraq War, they may speak for much or most of their region, but that region can't set policy on its own. What it can do is produce politicians who, for all their flaws and inconsistencies, still speak the language of liberty more adeptly then the mad power-grabbers and mealy-mouthed accommodationists who dominate their parties.

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