In what could be called the first volley of the 2016 Republican primary, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called the strain of libertarianism concerned with recent NSA civil-liberties violations a “very dangerous thought.” He also accused Republican lawmakers such as Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) of forgetting the lessons of September 11.
Christie’s comments underscore a growing rift in the Republican Party between the more libertarian minded and those who adhere to more traditional Republican stances of social conservatism and strong foreign policy. It’s high time for the Republican Party to have this fight and to see which faction voters will favor. My bet is on the libertarians.
Governor Christie came to prominence by forcibly, and laudably, attacking recalcitrant teachers’ unions. He has been an effective proponent of limited government in some areas, but, like so many Republicans, his support has been piecemeal, which undermines other parts of his message. The fight for limited government needs fewer fair-weather fans. Enter the libertarians.
Libertarianism’s ascendency is not surprising. In the face of endless wars, endless debt, endless spending, and endless violations of our civil liberties, most politicians are giving us endless prattle assuring us to go about our business and to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” The man behind the curtain, unfortunately, is an increasingly unified political class that is becoming more divorced from average Americans.
As the warfare/welfare state grows, it becomes more likely that libertarianism can happen to you. It’s easy to ignore government when it is small, but when it storms your business with armed SWAT officers to make sure your barbers are properly licensed, libertarianism can happen to you. People are increasingly encountering obstructionist, if not oppressive, government in their everyday lives. It’s not surprising that more people are adopting libertarian stances on a variety of issues.
New revelations about massive NSA domestic-spying programs (revelations that libertarians warned us about) are just the latest example of libertarianism “happening” to more people. Staying away from a massive government dragnet of its own citizens may be impossible, and unsurprisingly, 56 percent of Americans now believe that federal courts fail to provide adequate limits on NSA surveillance.