Mitt Romney is a corporatist. He supports the existence of the Federal Reserve. He supports drastically increasing our military spending. He once gave a speech about shutting down coal plants as governor outside of a coal plant. He is absolutely not a libertarian.
Barack Obama, however, is obviously no better. The valid arguments against Mitt Romney aren’t arguments that Obama can use, because they would be suicide. Barack Obama can’t exactly bring up Ben Bernanke or foreign policy, because they’re so similar in those areas.
Because of this, Obama is simply going to demonize Romney for being rich. He’s going to demonize his investments. This is the simplest reason any self-respecting libertarian should defend Romney from the wrong attacks by Obama, without becoming blind or partisan. This is true for anyone, even if the person being attacked for being “too rich” was George Soros or Michael Bloomberg.
Barack Obama is going to demonize his job as CEO — as an “evil rich man”. He’s going to fabricate some aspects of his attacks, but this should be clear:
Obama’s arguments against Mitt Romney will be for all of the wrong reasons.
And yes, the reasoning behind attacks matter. Reasoning always matters.
The Libertarian Response: Ignore or Defend?
The greatest temptation for the libertarian would be to just look the other way while the Democrats attack Romney. To ignore Obama’s attacks on Romney for being “too” rich. For the attacks on Romney for “outsourcing”.
It would feel good on some level, because few libertarians feel anything but contempt for Romney because he’s, well, absolutely not a libertarian.
I’ve noticed this to some degree on popular “liberty” pages on Facebook. For almost all of them, there is a deathly silence when Obama attacks Romney’s investments, his overseas banking, or his “low” tax rate. This is missing a huge opportunity.
I passionately believe that ignoring the attacks and not defending Romney is the worst thing possible for the liberty movement, because it essentially allows the demonization of the rich to be even more prevalent and without a coherent, principled answer — and the anti-rich rhetoric is the most dangerous rhetoric of all, because the downfall of the honest rich is the downfall of us all.
Why we believe is just as important as what we believe.
In other words, reasoning matters. If someone votes against Romney because he’s rich, that is absolutely not a victory for liberty — that’s economic bigotry and is why Obama is able to destroy so much of this country in the first place.
It’s not, of course, either/or. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are both fundamentally wrong about an incredible amount of economics and political theory. To be against one does not mean we must be for the other.
Why We Should Defend The Rich
This isn’t just about Romney. This is about the rich overall. When people bash “the 1%”, including many libertarians and anarchists I’ve seen, they are being intellectually lazy. “The 1%” is not meant by them to refer to statists — those are more common than one out of a hundred. It’s not even about people getting government paychecks — that would be more like “the 50%”.
No, when people bash “the 1%”, it’s because they’re taking part in an absurd narrative that a huge portion of the American population — people making pretty good money — are all part of some conspiracy movement and get away with anything, don’t pay much in taxes, and rule over the rest of us.
This is absurd and sheer foolishness. It’s simply age-old anti-rich bigotry. It’s about hating the Romneys of the world because of success — it’s about as close to upside-down philosophy as we can get.
And it’s dangerous. And it won’t end with Romney. The rhetoric and the philosophy of anti-wealth and resentment will still be there when Romney is long gone. And it will impact policy, and taxes, and the economy — and everyone will pay for it.
Libertarians Should Fight All Bigotry
If someone says we should vote against Obama because he’s black, they should be ashamed of their ignorance, and hopefully libertarians and conservatives alike will put them in their place.
In the same way and for the same reason, if someone demonizes Romney because he is rich, then they should be ashamed, and libertarians should respond just as strongly as if there was an attack on Obama’s race.
The defense shouldn’t be because they like Romney — but because they know that blind resentment of prosperity is another form of bigotry that is just as divisive and destructive as any other form.
Never forget that politics isn’t just about making people win or lose. Politics is about philosophy. And essentially all of Obama’s philosophy is wrong.
The exact same thing goes for people who hate the rich. This is the ultimate battle for America, because it’s revealing. People who don’t care about the rich are revealing that it’s not equality under natural law that they care about, it’s not the rights of men, it’s not actually property, it’s not even “rights” in general that motivates them — it’s something else.
And libertarian or not, that wrongful motivation is incredibly dangerous and destructive. This is going to be awkward, I know. I’ve made such a big deal about this — because I’ve seen so few defenses of Romney in libertarian circles — that I’ll likely be criticized by those who would rather just ignore the attacks. But that’s wrong, and I will have no part in it.
Here’s to the war against bigotry, no matter who it’s against.