Spending as much time as I do online, I often forget that most people do not, and that the distribution of political opinions of other members of the general “online community” does not necessarily correspond to those of the much broader “real world.”
In particular, I’ve observed the disproportionate number of libertarians (and Libertarians) online. There are many ways in which I agree with libertarian views, especially to the extent of individual freedoms, inasmuch as if what you’re doing doesn’t hurt anyone else, the government shouldn’t be telling you not to do it. (However, I think the libertarian view often struggles with looking beyond the end of one’s nose regarding the impact of individual actions.)
And so, in this election year, we come to Ron Paul.
Judging by the range of discourse you’ll find on a lot of websites, you’d think Ron Paul has secured 98% of the Republican vote and probably about 60% of the Democratic vote as well. And, based solely on opinions on the issues (as indicated here), even I agree with Ron Paul a lot more than I do with any of the other Republicans. (I have to wonder how many online libertarians really agree with Ron Paul on evolution, though… but I am guessing most of his tech-minded supporters don’t know he doesn’t believe in it.) But the issues don’t tell the whole story, as Wired’s blogger Tony Long (a.k.a. “The Luddite”) explained well in his recent post:
He almost sounds rational. But he’s not.
Like all absolutists — and make no mistake, libertarianism is absolutism as surely as atheism is faith — Paul is ill suited for this particular job. He’s running for president of the United States, remember, not for a seat in some gerrymandered Texas congressional district. If elected, he would be leading the most powerful nation on earth, one whose every action has repercussions in every corner of the world.
The biggest problem I have with libertarianism is its exaltation of absolute, Ayn Rand-esque individualism. Again, the Luddite:
There are 300 million of us now, not 30 million, and we canâ€™t all go running around unsupervised. This is where libertarian ideals get a little unwieldy. Besides, weâ€™re not all John Waynes, saddled up and gazing with flinty eyes across the prairie. Some of us can barely cope. Sometimes, Ron, them dad-gum polecats in Washington jest have to step in and take charge. Dang it all.
And so, we reach the great chasm between my personal beliefs and those of libertarians: individual freedoms are incredibly important, but we don’t all live in our own little, disconnected bubbles. We’re sharing this planet with every other human being (not to mention lots of other species of life — dismiss that if you like, but let’s see how long we can last on our own without them; Soylent Green won’t feed us forever). The things we do affect others, whether we realize it or not, and will continue to do so for generations to come. That’s a heavy responsibility. Perhaps the average online propeller head can dismiss it, but the President of the United States cannot.