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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Shifting Toward Libertarianism

by

People sometimes ask why libertarians have had a difficult time achieving success in the political arena. The answer is: Because libertarians are calling for an entirely new paradigm, rather than simply a reform of the status quo. Given the opposition that many people have toward major change, the task that libertarians have is much bigger and more difficult than that which the reformers have.

Consider the welfare state and warfare state.

All that the reformer has to do is come up with plans on how to rein in federal spending, without touching Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the drug war, and other welfare programs, departments, and agencies. No matter how bad things get, many people will grasp at any new reform plan that is presented to them. What matters is that the welfare state be preserved at all costs, even if it must be altered or modified in some way.

It’s no different with the warfare state. People are convinced that the nation could not survive without a massive military, military-industrial complex, overseas bases, CIA, and the entire national security state edifice. They will consider plans to abolish some expensive military boondoggle or close some outdated military base, but the last thing they want to hear is that it’s the military, CIA, and national security state that are themselves the real threat to the freedom and well being of our nation.

In fact, the very thought that the federal government, both with its welfare and warfare functions, is different from the country doesn’t even begin to compute in the minds of many people. For them, the federal government and the country are one and the same.

Moreover, many Americans remain absolutely convinced that both the welfare state and the warfare state are core components of America’s “free enterprise” system. In their minds, such welfare programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, food stamps, bank bailouts, FDIC, the Federal Reserve, foreign aid, and income taxation are all part and parcel of our great “free-enterprise” system. And it’s the same with respect to the military, including all the bases, personnel, and tens of thousands of private businesses that depend on military largess. In the minds of many Americans, it’s all part and parcel of our “free-enterprise” system.

So, it’s not difficult to see why such Americans feel so uncomfortable when they encounter a libertarian. All their lives, such Americans have believed that they live in a society based on “freedom and free enterprise.” But then they encounter a libertarian, a person who is striving to restore freedom and free enterprise to America.

That makes many people very uncomfortable. After all, striving to restore freedom and free enterprise implies that the status quo entails the absence of freedom and free enterprise. Obviously, the absence of freedom and free enterprise is the opposite of freedom and free enterprise.

Thus, the libertarian causes people to question something they’ve believed all their lives. Many people would rather not do that. Questioning a paradigm under which one has operated all his life is not an easy process, especially when one has lived his entire life living under what he considers to be reality and truth.

So, the easiest thing becomes to simply ignore the libertarian. Don’t listen to him. Shun him. Keep him away. Perhaps even silence him. That way, he can’t make the person feel uncomfortable.

Ultimately, however, fundamental change can come only when enough people in society demand it. What will cause a sufficient number of people to reach a critical mass that will shift America toward libertarianism?

Well, reality has an interesting way of mugging people in the face, whether they like it or not. The welfare-warfare state is cracking apart everywhere. Of course, the statists are blaming it all on “freedom and free enterprise” and arguing for more welfarism and warfarism to get America back on its feet.

But the reality, which we libertarians continue to emphasize, is that the root of the problem is the welfare-warfare paradigm itself. For people who desire a decent, normal, functional, harmonious, and free society, there is no other choice but libertarianism. Reforming the welfare-warfare state isn’t going to accomplish anything positive and is instead likely to make things worse.

The good news is that more and more people are discovering the virtues of libertarianism every day. They are achieving the “breakthrough” that enables them to see the welfare-warfare state for what it is: an immoral and deadly paradigm that is threatening the freedom and well-being of the American people. They are shifting toward the libertarian paradigm, along with its foundation of morality, liberty, private property, and a limited-government republic. When a critical mass is reached, the change toward the new paradigm could come very suddenly and unexpectedly, much like when the Berlin Wall came crashing down.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.