So what exactly is this liberatarianism and what is it demanding of us? As a political party it is not especially well supported ( candidates rarely get more than 5%) but people seem to self-identify with it's tenants or vague philosophy en masse. As a strain of the broader conservative movement it seems to dominate here in the Rocky mountain and south- west. But what is it?
This spring organized signature gatherers showed up at the malls and shopping centers of Montana to garner support for three ballot initiatives they hoped to have us voting on this November. The "lightening rod" was called the anti- eminant domain initiative and played off the basic and very prevelant anti-government , anti-regulation sentiment whipped to frenzy level by a recent court case which allowed government condemnation for economic development purposes. Language also buried in this two-part initiative , of which most signers were not aware, would make any government regulation (excepting those protecting health and safety) which restricted profit-making to be considered a "taking" of property and make the regulating agency, city, county, state, liable for reimbursement costs.
Now in this county, plenty of people would have knowingly signed such a petition, but regardless, it ran into issues of fraud and was taken off the ballot by a district judge. Some investigation found the signature gatherers were being paid handsomely (so handsomely they faked a bunch) and the money trail eventually wound to an incredibly wealthy New York City real estate developer named appropriately enough ,Frank Rich. It turned out Mr.Rich was financing similar ballot measures all across the region, at tremendous cost to himself, because of his strong libertarian ideology. The almost perfect capitalist contradiction. Though I guarantee the irony would be totally lost on both him and his minions. Buying "grassroots" democracy to further liberty that would subvert grassroots democracy? Be that as it may, what is this world they hope to bring about? The people through a process of direct democracy, fighting the monied forces of development and speculation, have tried (unsuccessfully for the most part) to design land use regulations to protect the things they collectively find to be of value. Aesthetic values, open space, clean water, habitat, have all been fought over tooth and nail here and Mr. Libertarian Rich Guy wants to butt in all the way from NYC and declare individual propery rights sacred. If someone wanted to build a feedlot or asphalt plant next to my house it is his/her God given right.I would be obligated to pay him all the profit he didn't get to make off his nuclear power plant. Whaco. So their perfect world is a chaos of unchecked individual desires,where one worships property and is driven by selfishness . Lovely.
I have had some interesting debates with a fellow from Bozeman named John Baden, a self described libertarian who runs the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment. He also hates the Endangered Species Act because it restricts the freedom of corporations to make (huge) profits. He , like other industry sponsored foundations and think-tanks of the libertarian right such as Heartland Institute or the Reason Foundation, promotes an Ayn Randian "free market" utopia where every creature is assigned a dollar value. He works against "smart growth", land use planning ,environmental regulation or any other democratic process which might promote the public trust. For him, Margaret Thatcher, and the pathetic "sagebrush rebellion" types wedded to the myths and pathos of rugged, frontier individualism,
"there is no such thing as society."