Cynicism and Disenfranchisement – Could Ron Paul’s Libertarian world really work?

I consider myself a Libertarian idealist. I have not always been so, but the older I get, the more I yearn for a world that is truly free. I don’t think that I am alone in having these feelings, many people that I talk to have them as well. When my brother introduced me to Ron Paul, five years ago, I found what he said truly appealing and spot on with my personal opinions. Up until that time, I had no idea what a Libertarian was, or how my political belief system aligned with their ideals.

One of the more interesting things I find is that regardless of political affiliation, people I know who are introduced to Ron Paul (in a way more substantial that a sound bite) tend to find that some part his message resonates with them as well. But it’s funny, for every person that has something good to say about Paul, there is almost the same person who thinks that there is no way for his ideal to live in our society. Listening to Ron Paul interact with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show reminded me of how much of what Ron Paul says seems so unrealistic– and I’m a believer in the ideals!

In a seemingly unrelated conversation the other night, I was talking with friends about the future, and how previous generations thought so many things were impossible that eventually came into being in their lifetime. The question was asked, “What is it that we think is impossible that might happen in our lifetime?” The first thing that came to me was: “flying cars”. 60 years ago, the futurists imagined us in a world with flying automobiles. Then the 21st century arrived, and it is possible that we were actually further away from owning a private flying vehicle than we were in 1950.

It’s not that we don’t have the technology to build flying cars, every few years people create working prototypes. Over the last half century, human knowledge has grown at an amazingly fast rate and I wouldn’t be surprised if some study shows that many us believe that there is almost nothing (that doesn’t violate the currently known laws of physics) that is impossible for us to achieve in our lifetime. So, how long until we get those flying cars?

We don’t suffer from a lack of imagination today, we suffer from cynicism. A lot of people know that we could make flying cars right now, but those same people also know that there are many other issues preventing flying cars from becoming the replacement to our current forms of transportation. If only small fraction of the local population had a flying car, we can imagine the nightmare that might ensue. Problems with controlling where and how they fly, dealing with noise abatement and emission controls. Dealing with the consequences of one or more of them falling out of the sky during rush hour traffic… oh, and let’s not forget the whole host of new national security issues in our post 9/11 world.

When Ron Paul talks about bringing home all of our troops, when he talks about eliminating the Federal Reserve and the Department of Education, when he talks about abolishing the Federal Income Tax and moving back to a Gold Standard; when he talks about these things, I think it is no different than talking about a future with flying cars– it might be technically possible, but our gut says actually making it a real thing is seemingly impossible. But don’t take that to mean, for one second, that we don’t all want a flying car.

Libertarianism is an ideal, and like any ideal there is something inherently unlikely about it. I think that main difficulty with Libertarianism is that the ideal only works with an empowered populace that has some degree of concern and vigilance regarding the freedoms that they enjoy. When Paul talks about a Libertarian society, it always talking about some utopian society where people seem to care and are tuned in to what is going on around them– this type of society is markedly different from what most of us see around us.

In Jon Stewart’s interview with Ron Paul, he offers an observation on Paul’s desire to move the power back to the States and away from a powerful Federal government by asking, “So, oppression isn’t good from the Federal level, but if your State wants to oppress you…” to which Paul responds, “… you have more control over it if it’s local…” Paul really has a grasp of the ideal, but if you’ve involved yourself at all in local politics, you will realize that there is a massive amount of disenfranchisement within our local societies. People have no sense of power, so they surrender any influence they might have to a chanced hope that the politicians will sort things out in a way that is best for the People.

When people hear Ron Paul speak about his ideals, there is often a certain amount of resonance with his message. I think this is because we as human beings yearn to truly be free, but our cynicism regarding the goodness and trustworthiness of others and our lack of faith in the complicated systems we have created around us, combined with an inherent realization of how incredibly disenfranchised we are as a People contribute to that gut feeling that the plan Paul has for our nation is utterly impossible– not because it can’t be done, but because it simply won’t be done.

I think it would take two or three generations for people to grasp and desire a Libertarian ideal as something that is real and achievable, but I don’t think that makes Ron Paul’s message and desires any less timely and powerful, but I think in order for him to set a vision that the People can see as achievable he is going to have to adjust his message and begin to speak from a place that realizes that such a revolution would take a lifetime or two of work, but that the value of such an ideal can help chart a course to a better life.

I hope in the coming months, Paul can connect with more of our country and infect them with a vision for a future that they may not ultimately see in their lifetime, but can believe is a better path to the future. Something that is a guidepost for the future and not an ideal that we can’t possible measure up to. I hear from time to time little tid bits from Paul that acknowledges that his vision for the future has to operate in the curent world that we have created for ourselves. He needs to chart a course that helps people see through their cynicism and helps reengage them in a process that allows the People to govern themselves.

This is a future that I believe is possible, but one that will require personal and societal sacrifices as well as a strong vision of the future. Here’s to hoping that Ron Paul’s vision is truly a planted seed that grows– and to a future where I can fly my car to work.

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