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Takeover Artists Are Welcome Here

by Pat Cunningham Friday, Oct. 24, 2003 at 6:06 PM (815) 987-1353

Within limits, I think libertarian impulses are healthy for the body politic. But when it comes to libertarian trust of industry captains, I prefer the government to impose reasonable regulations on business for the public good.

Takeover artists are welcome here

Pat Cunningham, Rockford Register Star, October 23, 2003

One of the disadvantages of living in a populous state like Illinois or in an urban area like Rockford is that we don't get masses of ideologues moving in with plans to transform the place into their idea of paradise.

There are just too many people hereabouts and there's too much diversity for political revolutionaries to gain much of a foothold.

CONSEQUENTLY, WE miss out on the fun of staving off a takeover by one group of wackos or another. We miss out on learning the lessons that Idahoans, for example, have learned in dealing with an attempted takeover of their state by white supremacists or that residents of some communities have learned in fighting off the theocratic schemes of religious cults.

We also miss out on the jolly good time the folks in New Hampshire soon will experience.

New Hampshire, if you don't know, was selected earlier this month as a laboratory for a political experiment by a group of libertarians. Their plan is to have 20,000 people of their philosophical ilk move to the Granite State and turn it into a libertarian utopia by taking over the government and repealing all the laws they don't like.

Libertarians don't like most laws. To them, the ideal government is one that only barely exists and does little more than fix potholes and put bad guys in jail. This notion may strike us as worthy -- until we consider what life would be like without the legitimate functions government performs with respect to the environment, civil rights, consumer fraud, public health, national defense and other matters.

I, FOR ONE, DON'T trust corporate America not to pollute the environment and not to sell shoddy, unsafe products. Libertarians can place as much trust as they please in the captains of industry, but I prefer that government impose reasonable regulations on business for the public good. To the extent that those regulations become unreasonable, they should be adjusted. But heaven save us from the laissez-faire remedies libertarians would bring to the situation.

DON'T GET ME WRONG. I think libertarian impulses, within limits, are healthy for the body politic. We should all be at least a little skeptical of government's natural hunger for more power. Moreover, the rise of the Libertarian Party in the Rockford area and throughout Illinois in the past decade has been good insofar as it's promoted greater interest in the political process. But I'm not so sure I want these people running things.

Similarly, the people of New Hampshire will have to ask themselves if they really want their state and local governments dismantled by a gang of anarchists. At least they're lucky to have the opportunity to ponder such a question.

Here in the Rock River Valley, we don't get too many chances to beat back the rise of extremism. Yes, we've had raucous rallies by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party in the past few decades (not that I would paint libertarians with the same brush), but they were nothing more than traveling circuses featuring casts of outsiders.

And yes, we've had the occasional flap over naughty books in the public library or government sponsorship of prayer in the parks, but none of this has involved anything on the scale of what lies ahead for New Hampshire. Too bad.

AN ATTEMPTED TAKEOVER by libertarians or any other faction outside the political mainstream would be a welcome development. It might snap the local populace out of the civic stupor that finds most folks shunning the ballot box every time an election rolls around. It might also promote widespread dialogue on the fundamental questions of the role government should play in our lives.

So, listen up, libertarians. If things don't work out in New Hampshire, give us a try. We'll be happy to reject your ideas.

Pat Cunningham has been with the Register Star in various roles for nearly 30 years. He is Page One Editor.

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