Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rise of the (Small "l") Libertarians

Yesterday brought us two well-publicized pieces in the Washington papers discussing the rise of libertarians as a political force to be reckoned with. The first piece is this column in the WaPo by Reason's Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch. Their column discusses largely how Ron Paul has tapped into a latent libertarian sentiment in the electorate. They seem to give quite a bit of credit to Paul for helping to push the sentiment, but also suggest that he is tapping into a wave that has been building for a couple of years.

The second piece is an article in the Washington Times, featuring quotes from Gillespie and the Great Tyler Cowen (for some reason, I always have an impulse to preface Cowen's name with "the Great"). The article focuses largely on the wave of libertarianism in American culture as a whole, and seems to piggyback on Michael Kinsley's column a few weeks back. (NOTE: the Times article incorrectly calls Kinsley pessimistic about the rise of the libertarians, when in fact he is quite libertarian-friendly).

Anyhow, I thought the juxtaposition of these two articles provides a good opportunity to point out something I've noticed of late. To wit, libertarian themes are increasingly all around us in American culture; most of this actually pre-dates Paul's campaign, as well. Indeed, I would argue that the Bush/Cheney disregard of civil liberties has pushed Hollywood and music in an increasingly libertarian direction. Indeed, the majority of movies I've seen in the last several years have revolved around libertarian themes of essentially "screw the rules." There's even been a rise in "screw the IRS" themes, which were present in Pursuit of Happiness and Stranger Than Fiction, to name just two that I've seen in the last 3 weeks. Sure, most of these movies may or may not be consciously libertarian, but the patented libertarian influence is clearly there.

We have a situation where a show (South Park) created by two pretty blatant libertarians and largely revolving around their socio-political commentary has been on the air for over 10 years.

Of course, these are just some examples. I would love some more in my comments section.