Utopias vs. Ideas
I like libertarianism not because I am a utopian who believes that I can somehow create a Libertarian country congruent with my personal beliefs, but because libertarianism is a great source of personal ethics and societal ideals.
For example, let's take my status as a homosexual, somebody who prefers romantic and/or sexual relationships with people of my own gender. For most of my life I lived under laws which made it a felony for me to have sex with other men. Those laws never stopped me from having sex, and I certainly didn't feel guilty for breaking those laws, because I was engaging in harmless consensual activity between two (or more) adults. Even though I didn't live under a libertarian system of government, I applied libertarian ethics to my own behaviors. When I've advocated for my personal rights, I haven't limited my interactions to other libertarians, I've organized with Log Cabin Republicans and Stonewall Democrats to pressure the major parties to change their policies toward homosexuals, and I've supported various non-partisan groups as well.
Meanwhile, homosexuality has slowly gained a measure of public acceptance, probably because more people of all political identities have internalized some libertarian beliefs about sexual ethics, at least as far as what two people do behind closed doors. We still find plenty of discrimination against homosexuals, but at least I won't be convicted as a felon now for having sex with my boyfriend in my own bedroom. That's a huge step for me!
I find inspiration from libertarianism for other public policy and private behavior issues also. For example, I recently debated school vouchers with some of my friends, because my locality is running a pilot program for 1000 students this year. I think school vouchers are great, because they give poor students the same types of choices I had. During my childhood I went to a combination of private, parochial, and public schools, depending on which schools appeared best qualified to fit my personal needs as a student. My friends think that school vouchers will "destroy" public schools, because they think in terms of offering one government solution to everybody instead of allowing creative market forces to meet diverse sets of educational needs.
I apply libertarian ideas to other pet issues of mine, such as the US war against Iraq, terror-inspired restrictions on civil liberties, and laws against drug use. I don't believe that libertarian ideals will ever consistently control the public stage, but I think it is important to voice libertarian approaches as each issue arises in the public consciousness.
When it comes to voting, I'm not sure that all people who like libertarian ideas should always vote Libertarian. Somebody in a battleground state might choose to vote for Kerry because they don't want the Republicans controlling the entire machinery of the federal government, or for Bush because they don't want their income taxes to go up. Somebody might choose to vote for Nader because he's the most prominent independent candidate with new ideas for reforming government. Or, somebody might choose to vote for Badnarik because they want to increase the overall vote tally for Libertarians and make the two major parties worry about how they can appropriate our best issues.
Utopia isn't my goal. An informed debate is my goal.
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