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The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong With America by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch

September 1, 2011 by  

It’s an old political axiom that to win a national election a candidate has to target the independents. Each candidate is guaranteed a certain percentage of votes from his political party’s faithful, but it’s the remainder of the voting public that swings the election to one candidate or the other.

Increasingly, the independents, often inaccurately called by the media moguls and political pundits “moderates,” are feeling more and more disaffected. In recent national elections they have swung back and forth as they sought the candidate that would best fulfill their hopes and dreams. Increasingly, they are disappointed and feeling disaffected that it seems that no matter which way they vote, they continue to get what they got before. More and more, they are looking for a new way.

And they have come to realize, as the inside jacket cover of The Declaration of Independents puts it: “We are held hostage to an eighteenth-century system, dominated by two nineteenth-century political parties whose ever-more-polarized rhetoric masks a mutual interest in maintaining a stranglehold on power.”

In The Declaration of Independents, Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason.tv, and Matt Welch, editor of Reason magazine, point out a third way.

Gillespie and Welch lay out their case promoting libertarianism, and the fact that the American populace seems to be moving that way, by describing how major shifts in the course of human affairs are rarely predicted ahead of time.

“You may have heard of confirmation bias, whereby people choose to notice and believe whatever rumors, news stories, and quasi-academic studies confirm their basic worldview,” they write. “Well, get your mind around existence bias, where the mere fact of a person’s, business’, political party’s, or country’s existence is taken as unspoken unchallenged proof that the same entity will exist in largely the same form tomorrow, the next day, the next month, the next decade, forever and ever, amen — this despite the fact that the Western world, and the United States in particular, stands out in the history of Homo sapiens as the most vigorous producer of constant, dynamic change. Dig up the time capsules for every decade preceding us, and you’ll find retrospectively laughable anxieties about seemingly intractable threats that no longer exist.”

Whether it was a Big Brother-style corporate behemoth called AOL Time Warner (which no longer exists), the threat of a takeover of the U.S. economy by Japan (which never happened) or perpetual war — and an accompanying perpetual draft — in Southeast Asia (which ended more than 35 years ago), things that seem to be existential threats one day are suddenly no longer quite as threatening. New threats to our existence come along to replace the old ones, only to disappear into the dustbin of time.

According to the authors, the dire threats of today — the recession, gloomy unemployment numbers and that fact that the first wave of baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are about to retire and go on the public dole — will eventually go away as well. The reason, they say, paradoxically lies in the fact that we can’t see the end.

Duopolies, they point out, don’t exist forever even if it seems they will: MCI and AT&T, Macy’s and Gimbels, Kodak and Fujifilm are some of the examples listed. They disappear because they become rigid, comfortable and too slow to react to changing times. The same thing is happening to the Republican and Democratic parties.

Gillespie and Welch point out that Americans have watched as first a Republican and then a Democratic administration flouted public opinion by bailing out banks, nationalizing the auto industry, expanding war in Central Asia, throwing good money after bad to prop up the housing market and continued the war on drugs that no one outside the Federal government pretends is comprehensible, let alone winnable. It seems these things will continue forever.

But what if the same elements that extend the incumbents’ advantage threaten to hasten their demise, just as it did one or both of the players in now-gone duopolies, they ask. And they point out the great innovations that have come about when duopolies fell or, better yet, when government took the shackles off of industries.

For instance, prior to 1970 an airline could not fly between two States without first receiving approval from the Federal Civil Aeronautics Board, and the airline had to agree to charge a fare set by Washington regulators. It was an arduous process that resulted in a government-managed cartel of major carriers shielded from competition. Then a strange thing happened.

Southwest Airlines challenged the process and took it to the Supreme Court, where it won. The result was more choices for flyers, better fares and — most important — safer airplanes.

And President Jimmy Carter’s action to deregulate much of what President Richard Nixon had regulated resulted in equally stunning results.

The authors also provide examples of how small, seemingly inconsequential acts by individuals can create a sea change in the society. Among them, the publication by Fred Eckhardt in 1970 of his home-brewing manifesto, A Treatise on Lager Beers, which resulted, eventually, in the overturning of many of the draconian laws against brewing beer in small amounts that remained long after Prohibition ended.

Like the issue of the airline deregulation, Eckhardt’s success was a typically American act that showed that “the conservative, corporate, organization man status quo, in cahoots with a protectionist and illiberal government, colluded for far too long to produce crap. Americans deserve to know better.”

Finally, the authors discuss how libertarian politics can help solve some of the nation’s problems, focusing specifically on K-12 education, healthcare and retirement: behemoths that seem now to be unfixable but that Americans are increasingly ready to fix.

Gillespie and Welch provide a positive, well-written manifesto on the way forward in America. If you don’t currently consider yourself libertarian, I recommend this book to you because you may find, after you read it, you are more libertarian than you know. If you consider yourself libertarian I recommend it to you, too, because you will be encouraged to learn there are more people who think — at least somewhat — like you than you thought possible.

Bob Livingston

is an ultra-conservative American who has been writing a newsletter since 1969. Bob has devoted much of his life to research and the quest for truth on a variety of subjects. Bob specializes in health issues such as nutritional supplements and alternatives to drugs, as well as issues of privacy (both personal and financial), asset protection and the preservation of freedom.

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  • 4-just_us

    The libertarian party would be a real change for the better.
    The democrats and republicans have been a waste of time. There
    like two sports teams vying for the trophy and the public likes to
    root for the home team. I would like to see our two party system
    change into system where they don’t have a divide-where they are
    all on the same team. We could vote for a congress person without
    picking a team to root for.There would be no power struggle for
    control of the house or senate.

  • Kevin Beck

    The unfortunate reason that any third party has not stolen the center is because of the inherent bias against things outside the status quo. The Libertarian Party has been hampered by ballot access laws from being able to present their national candidates fairly across the nation; any other “organized” third party would have the same problem, and would need to start locally. And one of the main objections that the Libertarians need to overcome is the comparison to Anarchists.

    We have too many puppet-masters in the media that portray the idea of “no government” as equal to “mob rules,’ implying that people cannot live in peace with their neighbors unless someone from government is instructing them not to kill their neighbor. The Libertarian movement needs to make it konwn that people live in harmony without the police standing right outside their front yards every night.

    We have a leadership problem that can’t tolerate NOT being able to instruct their subjects on how to live their own lives. When this mantra gets overturned, then we can start with a new leaf.

    • active citizen

      The idea of having no government to provide regulations is indeed what anarchy is isn’t it?? That would make it like mob rule in the sense of like examples from Afghanistan for example…Regional or local ‘strongmen’ or really the local elites or wealthy would just dominate. Without a public police force, these guys would be fine to themselves with their own private armies or security to keep out others from accessing their wealth. Inequality would be much worse than with government unless one makes the silly assumption that most of these elites will just donate away their funds and thus all people will be cared for. Ah but when you leave it to local elites to make their handouts, this philanthropy is not really free, more likely than not there will be strings attached or some other cause to giving in this sector but not another or not ever giving to this other group. So to me it makes sense that the government has a role of being the more neutral party in directing how things in society become a little more fair and just. It is better than leaving the discretion to just any random elite person. To just any random wealthy person. Government has a greater purpose than just the enforcement of contracts. So as long as ‘libertarians’ continue to characterize their freedom as freedoms from taxes or contributions to the society at large, sure they will always be associated with anarchy. Regulations have their role and most people have not forgotten the days where the invisible hand allowed for the slave trade, child labor, gross pollution, overcrowding, unsafe working conditions, wage exploitation, blatantly corrupt elections…etc the list can go on forever why people for the most part agree that government is a necessity and so are the regulations on the way business is conducted.

  • Scott

    I don’t think we will ever see a third party in my lifetime……..it would be great. I think the real last third party was the WIG Party, some thing like 200 years ago, i’m not sire.

  • Rayma Dorsa

    I am going for Ron Paul, I believe we need the Constitution and Ron Paul will bring it back and save America…besides we are going to need our military on the southern border before we are over run.

  • s c

    I’d appreciate it if someone would try to break off an ankle or two in the posteriors of Gillespie and Welch. What the flying hell do they mean ‘held hostage’ by an 18th century system? That “old” system would WORK if we could get rid of our in-house traitors, career criminals and useful idiots who have pervereted that system into something that is akin to a fetus that is about to be aborted.
    Our two, major political parties are more like two 19th century con artistes. Even the Supreme Court has a twisted way of warping the intent of the Founders. Is it any wonder why America is in such deep stuff?
    With 60 socialists in Congress, several generations of welfare dupes, legions of retarded wunderkind who found their way into politics, law enforcement hucksters who decided that they’d lose their job security if they didn’t look the other way when it comes catching criminals, ‘patriots’ who survive by helping us get into constant wars AND millions and milions of otherwise normal Americans who have decided that the best way to get through life is to turn OFF their brains
    (it’s someone else’s job to do it for me).
    This is one book I won’t be reading. Dick and Jane sound a whole lot better at the moment.

  • active citizen

    I tried reading this book and it is awful. Poorly written. The references they make in each of their examples is as if they were trying to impress high school kids (they make constant references to pop and rock stars to totally unrelated topics). They never provide any evidence for the free-market assumptions they apparently just take it as simple truth that all readers agree with. In addition, their description and examples of so called libertarians makes no distinction to ‘social’ libertarians or those that disagree with the free market rhetoric and proposals for total de-regulation. This book strikes me as aiming to glorify corporations too; that corporations will solve all our problems and that we should gear all of our policies and society to stripping regulations on their activity. I disagree with the content and even if one agrees with their message, you may still agree with me that this is a agonizing book to read. I am sure someone else expresses views of free-market capitalism better than these guys. Nowhere in here did I ever see support for the ‘free minds’ part…this book is just all ‘free market’.

  • http://þÿ Santiago Garms

    whoah this weblog is fantastic i really like reading your articles. Stay up the good work! You recognize, a lot of people are hunting round for this information, you can aid them greatly.

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