A call to bring to government the same expansion of personal choice and freedom that has swept other areas of American life, through the application of libertarian principles.
The past four decades have seen an astonishing increase in personal choice and opportunity in commerce and culture. The dominance of a few institutions offering limited options, from Kodak and AT&T to the communist bloc, has been swept away by market forces, withdrawal of government protections and the democratizing torrent of information from the Internet. Government alone has remained largely unaffected, which explains why it is so expensive and unresponsive. So contend former and current Reason editors Gillespie and Welch (McCain: The Myth of a Maverick, 2007). In this rambunctious and rambling indictment of contemporary American politics, the authors gleefully tear into the Republican and Democratic parties, arguing that the spectacle of our horse-race politics is meaningless because regardless of what they say about themselves, both parties’ actions expose them as spendthrifts in love with unwieldy centralized control. Gillespie and Welch believe this regime is tottering because voters—the “independents” celebrated in the title—increasingly reject party identification and because both parties have together spent the country into bankruptcy. The authors see salvation in a move to more libertarian principles, an independence from politics “in which a majority, however slim, acquires the right to control the lives and property of the minority.” However, the authors leave unstated exactly what this means and how this is to be accomplished, beyond exuding a sunny confidence in innovation and markets unconstrained by government controls. When they turn to specific institutions like public education and retirement entitlements, their prescriptions are discouragingly shopworn. Their conjecture that a “nongoverning minority of independents and disaffected party members who come together in swarms to push or block legislation … [is] the future of American public policy and elections” offers little hope or direction for responsible constitutional government.
An enthusiastic, entertaining libertarian critique of American politics, brimming with derision for the status quo and optimism for the future and confident of the right direction, but disappointingly silent about which roads to take.