The libertarian left (of which I have been an ardent supporter for several years) is either making the best of a bad situation (by merging into the two-party system that exists in many Western nations, most notably the US, the UK, and Australia, to have a say in things for a change) or is a complete political sell-out (by merging into the two-party system that exists in many Western nations, most notably the US, the UK, and Australia, to have a say in things for a change), and I can’t decide which.

These days, as the US presidential election campaigns reach the climatic period before November, I’ve been re-watching some speeches of my favourite libertarian-turned-republican, Ron Paul. He’s said some great things about WikiLeaks, like this:

And this:

Although these speeches were made some time ago, I think a lot of what he says stands even more strongly today. The US government’s pursuit of Assange is futile (just like Jesse Brown reiterated last week) and, moreover, its logic is faulty. There is no question of treason, nor of threats to national security. No one has been killed as a result of WikiLeaks’ revelations. There has been no question of fabrication of the published material. In other words, the US government implicitly accepts the truth of what has come to light: That it has acted with unethical ulterior motives, and that it continues to do so, now pursuing Assange and other whistleblowers as ‘traitors’ with the effect of distracting both the press and the general public from its unethical activities.

So kudos to Ron Paul for defending WikiLeaks, Assange, freedom of information, and all anonymous whistleblowers who supply classified information for release.

But, Dr Paul: Would you still be defending these fundamental freedoms if you were president of the United States today?

Because it’s hard to imagine that you would, given that you might be considered a political sell-out for turning to the Republicans when your stated beliefs are clearly libertarian. Why did you leave the libertarians? Because they have little real chance of having a say, in power or even in presidential debates, because of the overwhelming dominance of the two-party system. Practically since the establishment of American democracy, competition for political power has been a two-horse race between Democrats and Republicans, and smaller parties have had little weight, or voice, in influencing policy. Many libertarian politicians have felt compelled or coerced to leave genuinely liberal parties to join traditional ones simply because of the political leverage of such parties. Given the little leverage the US Libertarian Party has, it isn’t suprising you changed teams years ago, Dr Paul. For better or worse, you’re a political sell-out. You’re power-hungry, or at least hungry to have a say that people will actually hear. You’re sleeping with the enemy. Whatever you want to call it.

Of course, the type of sell-outness expressed by the small parties currently holding up the UK and Australian coalition governments is a whole different issue not to be discussed here; though I would argue their dilemmas are similar to yours, Dr Paul.

Moreover, at least in the UK, that small party isn’t doing enough to support these fundamental freedoms of people. Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats, infamously further left than Labour, might be expected to have their noses deep in the cause to campaign for an individual’s right to political asylum, and to be subject to a law that applies equally to all people. But they don’t, at least not enough. And why not? Because they, too, are formerly feasible leftist/liberal politicians, supporting civil rights and liberties, education and green living, press freedom, peaceful foreign policy, and social equality. And they, too, are now sell-outs, power-hungry, sleeping with the enemy.

Whatever you want to call it, really.

The bottom line is that I’m still skeptical of any support for WikiLeaks and other non-governmental movements fighting for freedom of information that comes from either governments (perhaps with the exception of Ecuador and Latin America) or politicians of major opposition parties, because the source of that support seems as likely to be politically convenient as it is to a reflection of a genuine concern for progressive change.

The thing is, as much as so many people – so many of us – have been applauding Dr Paul’s support of freedom of information, I remain skeptical of his motives, and I won’t be convinced of them until and unless he expresses the same support in presidential office, and acts in support of such freedom. For now, his support is still questionable; it is a convenient criticism against the Obama administration, and it suits his position as a member of the main opposition.

So what support can we count on?

The support we can count on for WikiLeaks, and for all whistleblowers, is support that comes from those who have nothing to gain. Support that comes from people who are risking their welfare or their lives to inform the public of what it does not yet know, and yet who have no direct personal reward – no income, no recognition, no guarantee of safety. People who are willing to lose – to be pursued by governments, to be arrested, to receive contempt from people who want everything to stay the same, stay the same – in order to get information out into the public domain. It’s the support of those people you can count on, because that support has no direct personal rewards; in fact, it can cost them their lives.

People like this:

Let’s keep the pressure going on governments to stop this ridiculous persecution and step up to their neglected responsibility to be fully and permanently transparent.