Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Declaration of Independents (the book)

The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics can fix what's wrong with America

by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch
Publisher: Public Affairs (June 2011)
hardcover:  ISBN-10: 1586489380
kindle version:  ASIN: B0080K3TRI

Available at Amazon 

If you are one of those folks who yearns to turn off the TV every time a news bulletin comes on, who cringes whenever there's a political ad, who gets depressed when elected officials can't make decisions because they're mired in bipolar partisan politics, and you've come to believe politics is playing too big a role in our lives, this may be the book for you.

While there are a great many books out there these days dedicated to the advancement of liberal, or conservative, or Democratic or Republican views (which I don't review), few books that talk about policy or government do what "The Declaration of Independence" does -- focus on the great many people in this country who have declared "a pox on both their houses" and either refuse to get involved in civic life at all, join a third party, or become unaffiliated.

The authors do an excellent job of describing the current party hyper-competitiveness and how it leads to governance that can be, to put it kindly, little short of dangerous to the rights and liberties of the American people.

We've all heard third parties decry the fact that campaign/election policies that claim to be "fair" and "transparent" often serve only major party interests, pushing third parties from national view. Many of these complaints are uttered in an atmosphere of helpless victim-hood, lending credence to the view that it's useless to vote for a third option -- nobody wants to vote for a victim. So people opt out, content to be unaffiliated, and, for these authors, that's a perfectly useful option.

What Nick Gillespie (Editor in Chief at reason.tv and reason.com) and Matt Welch (Editor in Chief at Reason Magazine) manage to do is inject some real hope into the political landscape. They believe that as more and more folks reject the major party partisan approach, the dinosaurs may be starved out after all, because there are (contrary to the hopelessness many of us feel) solutions to even the largest fiscal challenges. The failures come not because the problems are difficult, they maintain, but because parties insist that solutions can only come through a political process inherently fraught with partisanship, those programs cannot work and the body politic is beginning to notice.

As editors at "Reason," these authors have been discussing current issues, hearing the pros and cons over and over again, and trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff, and as a result, they've put a good deal of thought into this book, with a real will to bring a clear understanding of all aspects of our current challenges; it makes sense.

If you're looking for a bit of hope, or if you need to find a way to explain to your partisan friends why their path takes us all in the wrong direction, you will appreciate this book. It is also available in a kindle version for those who like to highlight sections and find them easily (say in mid-conversation with someone) when challenged to explain their views or why they insist on staying independent.

The title includes "How Libertarian politics CAN FIX [sic] what's wrong with America" yet surprisingly, there is not a lot of libertarian jargon or focus on libertarian principles in this book. At least not in the partisan sense. There is no plea for folks to switch from unaffiliated to Libertarian. The authors seem to feel that, at the core, common sense solutions are libertarian, and they would work if only the major party partisans will pay more attention to solutions than playing king of the hill.

Not every independent is going to agree with the authors, but this is a bit of a fresh breeze blowing through the overheated rhetoric and emotional minefields that pass for "political discourse" these days.  It's a great tool for thinking through the issues of the day, pro and con; I won't say there aren't a few zingers pointed at the status quo, or that there aren't some assumptions made that readers might find disturbing, but if you're looking for a new path through the political jungle, it is a useful guidebook, and the upbeat tone is very, very welcome.

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