Over at Vice, the highly Reason-y topic of libertarian kids today gets a respectful treatment from writer Vinnie Rotondaro. But Rotondaro's choice of talking about — and including photos of — his two good buddies (both gents) and discussing how cool they are for several grafs before mentioning their libertarianness is interesting. It seems clear that Rotondaro was trying to avoid assumptions of socially inept Ron Paul worshipping basement dwellers (somebody get a cryptozoologist to find these fabled beasts, but never mind...). He in fact he pretty much says as much:
Most people, when they think of a libertarian, picture some kind of outsider, a weirdo—a lip-smacking Texas fireworks salesman in a ten-gallon hat, or someone like that sloshed constitutionalist whose DUI arrest video went viral last year. I’ve often heard liberals write libertarians off as “idiots.” But Danny and Matt are two of my best friends, and they aren’t idiots. They’re smart, thoughtful guys. I don’t exactly agree with their politics, but I understand where they’re coming from. Both voted for Obama in 2008. Now they can’t stand him. But they’re not so keen on Romney or the political right, either. Danny and Matt are fed up with everything, the whole political system.
“I see shenanigans,” Danny told me. “As an American, and even going back historically, being a Virginian—part of a legacy of people who stand up to power—I think the reality is that the government can’t solve our problems at this point.”
Matt, remarking on the federal government’s appetite for spending, said, “It’s like we have this plate full of food, and it’s just an enormous plate. It’s obscenely huge. We’re never going to finish it. But we just keep adding to it and piling on.”
While both of these complaints are standard republican talking points, Danny and Matt differ from the average GOP member in that neither is socially conservative.
“I think conservatives went to shit with Jerry Farewell and the Moral Majority,” says Matt.
And, they aren’t into war.
First, let's take a moment to appreciate the descriptor: "a lip-smacking Texas fireworks salesman in a ten gallon hat." Even as a slur against libertarians (imagined or otherwise), well, it is much lovelier than "Ayn Rand! Robber barons! Monocles! Kochtopus!" And again, I waited for the expected scorn for libertarianism, but it didn't come. Even the comments are a mixed bag, with some enthusiastic fans of libertarianism, and others claiming that it's a philosophy for the prosperous and the pale-skinned.
To underline his thesis, Rotondaro drops a link to a Harvard Institute of Politics Poll about how kids today really are embracing more economic freedom, while generally being the more chill on gay marriage and marijuana than their boomer parents.
A few lines further, the Reason Foundation's polling director Emily Ekins makes an appearance:
Where political reality could break down, she says, is over social issues. Ekins tracked self-identified conservatives under the age of 35 on social, fiscal and foreign policy issues using data dating back to 2004. Over time, they remained fiscally conservative, but grew more and more socially liberal – a classic libertarian mix. And if the precepts of political science have anything to say about it, she says, it looks as though they’ll stay that way.
“If people do change over time,” Ekins explained, “they tend to become more economically conservative. But that’s typically not the case with social issues. So what we've seen is something like a permanent shift, starting now, over social issues.” If Republicans want to get those votes, she said, they’ll need to soften their stance on social conservatism. If Democrats want them, conversely, “they’ll have to clamp down on being so economically liberal."
Bottom line, one party or the other will need to change the way it does business.
Here's hoping, of course. But in general it's nice to once again see libertarianism treated as a legitimate political option, not just a "look at these weirdos" trendpiece...Even if Rotondaro's beginning part smacks a little of trying to hard to prove an opposite point, that is, libertarians! They're moderately handsome dudes who do sporty stuff! But hell, they're also friends of the non-libertarian author. So much for political bubbles and social media echo chambers spelling our doom, maybe.
Go check out the Reason-Rupe poll archives here. For a good look at just why the kids might be gettin' all liberty-minded, check out Nick Gillespie's latest, "The Real Class Warfare is Baby Boomers vs. Younger Americans."
And, there's this book on the subject of an exciting new future of libertarianism, you might have heard of it...