“Politics is about people.” – Selina Meyer
(my favorite fictional President, from the HBO series Veep)
So when Selina Meyer says, “politics is about people,” it is so hilariously unbelievable when contrasted with the behind the scenes reality that it is a natural punchline. You can imagine the cliche speech that would follow this line in reality, or so many real, slightly less cliche iterations of this pronounced by politicians with uncalled for self-righteousness. Then there would be the list. I think I gave a version of this speech when I was running for Congress in New Mexico. “This campaign is about everyone in this district! It’s for the Navajo on the reservation, the oil men in Farmington, the artists in Santa Fe, the peanut farmers on the eastern plains.” And at the time, I meant it. I knew that what I was advocating would be good for them because freedom is good for everyone.
I can’t let the Republicans and Democrats keep using this framing without contesting it. So here I go, diving headlong into the worst cliche possible. If we are to say that our philosophy of libertarianism is really better for everyone, we should be able to prove it in a way that will speak to everyone. So here goes this noble, if quixotic attempt, to explain what libertarianism means for people and why freedom is for everyone.
Freedom is for the young black man sitting in a jail cell for a victimless crime. When you punish someone for a crime with no victim, you are the criminal. Government is criminal to violate our freedom to decide what we put in our own bodies and use that as an excuse for the racist drug war. Freedom is about ending the drug war. That means no more lives ruined by a system of injustice, depriving everyone of the value that they can bring to the world. That means no more drain on society funding a police state that only makes us less safe.
Freedom is for the family pulled apart by “child protective services.” When government has the power to invade your privacy and take your children away in the name of protecting them, bad things are going to happen. Because the people who run these office operate without consequences for overreach, there is plenty of overreach as well as corruption in the foster child systems. Freedom means that for anyone wishing to provide services to families in any form, they will have to answer directly to the communities who pay for them and not violate rights in the name of protecting rights. This means that children who need a safe place to go will have it, and families that should stay together will.
Freedom is for the veteran who is contemplating suicide. At least 20 veterans commit suicide every day in the US. The most effective treatments for PTSD are kept illegal on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry and everyone else who has an interest in the drug war. Freedom is about that veteran being able to pursue effective treatment without being a “criminal.” Everyone benefits from veterans being empowered to be productive members of society when they leave the military.
Freedom is for the struggling single mother with a sick child who can’t get the right treatment because it’s illegal. As a result of the drug war, millions of Americans are denied the best available medical treatment and suffer as a result. Children have out of control seizures. Depressives turn to pharmaceuticals or alcohol. Cancer patients die sooner. Freedom means increased health, and a healthy society benefits everyone.
Okay I could keep going, but I don’t think I need to. No, really, I could do this all day. I’d start to repeat myself when it comes to how freedom helps all of these cliche people, but I think the point has been made. These cliche people really do represent real people. Lots of them. Even for the people who don’t think they are directly victimized by government, they all know someone who has. Part of why I got into politics, or rather “anti-politics” as I like to call what we do as libertarians, is that I wanted to apply these noble ideas to help real people. Even if you just want to fight the idea wars and never get your hands dirty in politics, just remember that these are real people we’re talking about. Social media flame wars can be about ideas, but because ideas have consequences … politics is about people.