I was pondering this after a conversation with my parents last night. My parents are liberals and Democrats, and have been for as long as I can remember. Not die-hard party-liners...I remember in the 1980 election, both my parents prefered John Anderson, the third party candidate, to either Carter or Reagan. In this last election, they voted for Al Gore, despite the butterfly ballot. (Yes, my parents live in the infamous butterfly ballot county. Almost immediately after going to vote, my mother spoke with my brother and ranted about the horrible ballot design in at the polls. A few hours later, he was hearing about the same thing on the news. My parents say it was even more confusing on the actual ballot than on the sample that most everyone has seen by now.) My father is still bitter about the election outcome. My mother isn't.
Mom: "Gore is an egghead. I'm sure he would have managed to mess up different things by now."
Dad: "He wouldn't have appointed John Ashcroft as Attorney General."
Me: "You know, Missouri liked John Ashcroft so much that we elected a dead man instead of him." (Really. We did. Mel Carnahan was the Senate candidate for the Democrats in 2000, and he died shortly before the election. Jean Carnahan, his wife, was picked to succeed him, but it was too late to change the ballot.)
I agree with my mother. What I'd heard about Gore and Bush led me to believe they were about equally likely to do different things that I didn't like. I voted for Harry Brown. Neither of my parents recognized his name. They didn't know I had mutated into a libertarian over the last decade. I used to be a Democrat. I even voted for Michael Dukakis. I was probably one of five people in the whole country surprised when George Bush won in '88.
I claim to be a Libertarian, but I'm not really one of those, either, and it's not just their blanket pledge about the use of force that I don't agree with. It's not so much that I think the libertarian policy is always good. It's that I think it's much closer than the mainstream parties'. If the Libertarian party, by some fluke, became as powerful as the Republicans are now, and Democrats were relegated to minor third party status, I might well be a Democrat again. (I don't think I'd be a Republican if they were the minor contigency. The things I like about Republicans -- limited opposition to taxation, gun control, and 'big government' are the same things I like about Libertarians.)
I don't think the Libertarians coming to power would be an altogether good thing. For example, I believe education through high school is a right of all children, and should be funded by the government through taxpayer money. That is, by me. I don't think I, or any other taxpayer, should get a choice in this matter. I don't necessarily believe that this has to be through public schools. I'm fine with voucher programs as long as they cover the full cost of tuition at a private-run for-profit school. I am not fine with vouchers which only partially subsidize the cost of private schools.
A Libertarian I was reading argued that public education was pernicious, because it's free. "As long as parents do not have to pay for the school, they don't have to be involved with it." I strongly disagree with this, because, frankly, a parent does not have the right to tell a child you cannot get an education.. Yes, parents have the right to educate their children according to their beliefs. Homeschooling is fine -- as long as it's schooling. As long as the child is learning skills and information which will allow him to function productively as an adult.
But if I have a kid, I shouldn't be able to tell him "Sorry, I don't feel like paying for school, you just stay home and stare at the TV all day." Because it's not my life I am ruining. It's his.
Further, society benefits as a whole from an educated populace. Democracy doesn't work with ignorant voters (resist temptation for smart aleck comment here). Businesses benefit from skilled workers. Productivity rises. Unskilled adults are more likely to turn to crime, and they are certainly more likely to live in poverty. Good things happen from education. It's the foundation of our whole way of life. Just because 99% of parents would pay for the education of their children if they had to does not mean society should say "Tough luck" to the remaining 1% born to parents who don't care. I'm not willing to write off that many losses. They're too important. Too numerous. They need a chance. (Not to mention I'm afraid that the fraction of parents who "don't care enough to pay for it" might be larger than 1%.)
Anyway...now that my reader has hopelessly lost track of my thread, I'll get back to it. Libertarianism, at its extreme end, means only paying for a military (and only as much military as is needed for the defense of the nation) and a police force. Maybe firefighters, depending on who you ask. It's awfully basic. That's more basic than I'm willing to go, but I don't think Libertarians have any prayer of getting there, so I vote for them in the hopes that they can curb funding on things government clearly doesn't need to pay for, like massive works of abstract art in the lobbies of government buildings.
But I never explained any of this to my own parents. I tried explaining a little of it to my boyfriend. But they don't agree with my view, not from the outset. And I guess it's just not important enough to me to argue about it. See. That's where the cowardice comes in. Am I sensible in not wasting my energies on those who reject my view from the get-go?
Or do I merely lack the strength of my convictions?