Monday, September 10, 2018

Interview from the Archive: Matt Kibbe says the Libertarian Party is "likely to be of more importance" down the road, explains why

Editor's note: This article was initially published on March 20, 2017.

Story by Joseph Ford Cotto

Libertarianism has seen better days.

A few years ago, certain political forecasters claimed that the future of America's center-right belongs to libertarians. Since the 2012 presidential election, however, protectionism surged -- not only in the GOP, but among Democratic ranks as well. Now, amid the age of Donald Trump, libertarianism's once-ascendant nature seems a distant memory.

"I fear that the classical liberal/libertarian idea and ideal will be seriously tarnished by the policies and politics of the Trump Administration," Dr. Richard Ebeling, one of our time's greatest Austrian School thinkers, recently told me.

He continued: "Virtually all of Trump’s proposed policies involve a continuation or an intensification of government involvement in social and economic life. He acts as the all-knowing government central planner when he calls in business executives and tells them where to invest and what products they should make to 'create jobs.' He undermines respect for and protection of essential civil liberties when he ridicules the freedom of the press and their way of reporting on his administration’s actions and his words."

Ebeling went on to state his worry "that with the assistance of the mainstream media the Trump Administration’s anti-freedom policies will tarnish the real case for a free society and a free market. That is, people who want lower taxes and fewer regulations on business will be identified as the people who also believe in torture, discrimination against immigrants, violations of civil liberties, and the instigation of trade wars because of aggressive nationalist attitudes."

One group not giving up on libertarian ideals is Free the People, a consortium which claims its "goal is to get ahead of politics, and engage in the cultural exchange that will set the political agenda for the next 50 years. We want to set the conversation, instead of settling for rhetorical scraps tossed to us by the political class. We want to make the community for liberty a cool thing. Using cutting-edge technology and storytelling, we’re building a grassroots constituency that can translate good ideas into education, conversation, and social activism."

Matt Kibbe is at the helm of this ship. FTP describes him as "President and Chief Community Organizer", making this fellow the only non-leftist I have ever known to use the Barack Obama-popularized 'community organizer' label. 

Needless to mention, he is a unique individual.

"An economist by training, Kibbe is a public policy expert, bestselling author and political commentator," his FTP biography tells. "He served as Senior Advisor to Concerned American Voters, a Rand Paul Super PAC. He is also Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Austrian Economic Center in Vienna, Austria.
"In 2004 Kibbe founded FreedomWorks, a national grassroots advocacy organization, and served as President until his departure in July 2015. Steve Forbes said 'Kibbe has been to FreedomWorks what Steve Jobs was to Apple.' Newsweek pronounced Kibbe 'one of the masterminds' of tea party politics. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann called Kibbe 'the second worst person in the world.'"
Kibbe recently chatted with me about libertarianism, its role in American life, and his organization. Some of our conversation is included below. 
Joseph Ford Cotto: Prominent economists and politicians often say that free trade will benefit America in the long run. Many Americans disagree strongly. What is your take on this situation?
Matt Kibbe: I think history is clear that free trade benefits nations, just as we benefit as individuals by trading with our neighbors. Why wouldn't we want to buy things from other countries if they can make it better and cheaper than we can? I'd go so far as to say that specialization and trade is the foundation of economic prosperity.

Cotto: Libertarian economic theorists tend to believe that trade deficits are of minimal importance. Do these deficits really have a great impact on America's economy?

Kibbe: I've always felt that the word "deficit" is very unfortunate in this context, because it makes people think of the budget deficit, which is actually a problem. A trade deficit just means that we buy more then we sell from certain countries. That doesn't make us poorer, just as the fact that I buy more from my grocer than he buys from me doesn't make me poorer.

Cotto: While libertarian ideals are popular with many segments of our nation's populace, the Libertarian Party has notoriously failed at making a significant difference on the American political scene. What might account for such an odd situation?

Kibbe: I've always said that politics is a lagging indicator of culture. What you see in the political realm reflects the values of the past more than the present, because political institutions are slow to change. I'm very optimistic about the future. The Libertarian Party got more votes than ever before in the 2016 election, and I think it's likely to be of more importance as young people continue to discover these ideas.  

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