Politically Independent


Longtime readers of this weblog know that politically speaking I've always been more or less libertarian. (Little-known fact: many years ago I started a run for the House of Representatives on the Libertarian Party ticket, but my wife and I moved that year so I never got on the ballot.) Back in 2012 I thought that participating in the Republican Liberty Caucus might be effective because the county I live is solidly Republican, but once Trump was nominated for president in 2016 I switched my voter registration to Libertarian. After the recent election I decided to switch again, this time to Independent. Here's why.

First, I'm not much of a party person. As Nietzsche wrote in Human, All Too Human: "He who thinks a great deal is not suited to be a party man: he thinks his way through the party and out the other side too soon."

Second, I've come to disagree with several libertarian positions, which I need not detail here because I'm still thinking through these matters and in any case it's not my role to put political policies into practice and thus my opinions are unlikely to be fully informed or even all that momentous. (Indeed, I am coming to see the value of holding fewer opinions, but that's a topic for another day.)

Third, I now disagree with much of what we might call the libertarian ethos. What crystallized this for me was reading a review of the book A Libertarian Walks into a Bear, which describes what happened when a swarm of rapid libertarians descended upon Grafton, New Hampshire to build a so-called "Free Town". It turns out that these ideologically driven people simply weren't good neighbors. At some level I don't care what your politics are as long as you treat folks right, and that starts in your own neighborhood. But if you come into a peaceable place like Grafton, soil the nest, and then saddle your erstwhile neighbors with cleaning up the mess you left behind, then I have a problem with your lack of character.

Fourth, my continuing encounter with Aristotle has led me to place greater emphasis on community and what he called civic friendship. This, too, is a topic for another day; however, one aspect that looms large in my current thinking is the scrupulous avoidance of partisanship, whether political or ideological. I've started work on a series of essays that explore this theme from a number of angles, with a special focus on the crucial differences between an ideological approach to life and a philosophical approach to life. Although I'm excited about this project, I won't say more until I've written at least a few of the essays.

Finally, it seems to me now that finding a political home isn't truly important, compared to family, friendship, community, work, creativity, learning, self-improvement, health, and just about everything else in life. So independence it is!


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal