I've thought about writing a post like this for a long time. It took me a while to write it, actually, as I am attempting to do things other than just blog. Started it December 30, 2011. I had it mostly finished by February 27, 2012, when I received an old copy of Russell Kirk's The Politics of Prudence and discovered, to my very great delight, that Dr. Kirk had included within that tome a chapter entitled, "A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians." I was even more delighted to discover that much of my own thinking agreed with Dr. Kirk's. I have incorporated a quote or two from his book into this material, appended a few more at the bottom of the post, and I recommend you go read the whole thing.
It's not like anyone's asked me for a post on this subject. It's more that...well, occasionally, it just comes up. It comes up in the form of people--even family members!--who ask, in all seriousness, "What happened, MOTW? You used to be a LiberTARian." As though I'd committed apostasy--that's how it sounds. Or it will come up when young Libertarians, possessing the zeal of the new convert, attempt the political equivalent of evangelism. They will do this both ardently and condescendingly, as though if you don't accept their thinking, it indicates a deficiency in either your thinking apparatus, overall level of learning, or personality, or possibly all three!
It will also come up when some drug-addicted, muddle-headed wreck attempts to cover his philosophical rear, that is, when he attempts to make his desperate attempt to justify his drug use sound like a stand for a noble political ideal, or when some libertine argues that his victims should have the "liberty" to murder his unintentionally-spawned progeny, so that he might be free of the consequences of unprotected and illicit sex.
To a degree, it's almost historically inevitable that the subject should come up. So much of historical American thinking reflects an enormous love of liberty that an unwary reader could easily be lead to believe that most Americans have been Libertarians, in thought, if not in name. Indeed, this passage from Unger's biography of Patrick Henry, Lion of Liberty, seems very reflective of much American thinking, even, in some quarters, today:
...in North America, where settlers isolated in the hamlets and woods of New England had lived free of almost all government authority for more than 150 years. They had cleared the land, felled great forests, built homes and churches, planted their fields, hunted, fished, and fought off Indian marauders on their own, cooperating with each other, collectively governing themselves, electing their militia commanders and church pastors and turning to assemblies of elders to mediate occasional disputes. Self-reliant--often courageously so--they had thought and acted independently for four or more generations, seldom hearing, let alone responding to, utterances from the church, throne, or Parliament in far-off London. Like Patrick Henry, they had lived in freedom, without government intrusion in their lives and saw little need for it.And as British parliamentarian Edmund Burke said in debate:
In this character of the Americans, a love of freedom is the predominating feature which marks and distinguishes the whole; and as an ardent is always a jealous affection, your colonies become suspicious, restive, and untractable whenever they see the least attempt to wrest from them by force or shuffle from them by chicane what they think the only advantage worth living for. The first spirit of liberty is stronger in the English colonies probably than in any other people of the earth; and this from a great variety of powerful causes, which, to understand the true temper of their minds and the direction which this spirit takes, it will not be amiss to lay open somewhat more largely.And yet, this American love of liberty is not to be confused with the notion that Americans are Libertarians. They never have been. Were love of abstract liberty all that there was to this people, I doubt we would have lasted fifty years as a nation.
First, the people of the colonies are descendants of Englishmen. England, Sir, is a nation which still I hope respects, and formerly adored, her freedom. The colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant, and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted from your hands. They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas and on English principles. Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found. Liberty inheres in some sensible object; and every nation has formed to itself some favourite point, which by way of eminence becomes the criterion of their happiness. It happened you know, Sir, that the great contests for freedom in this country were from the earliest times chiefly upon the question of taxing.
The thing that held this liberty-loving people together as a nation for so long was a fundamental, near-universal belief that the right to liberty, among other things, was nothing less than their heritage from God Himself--which happens to be, as will be discussed shortly, the touchstone of Conservatism, not Libertarianism. As De Tocqueville wrote:
I do not know if all Americans have faith in their religioin--for who can read the secrets of the heart?--but I am sure that they think it necessary to the maintenance of republican institutions. That is not the view of one class or party among the citizens, but of the whole nation; it is found in all ranks.And a few paragraphs later:
For the Americans the ideas of Christianity and liberty are so completely mingled that it is almost impossible to get them to conceive of the one without the other; it is not a question with them of sterile beliefs bequeathed by the past and vegetating rather than living in the depths of the soul.I don't have a lot of problems with Libertarians in terms of policy, not most of the time. I was a Libertarian, as I mentioned in passing. If memory serves, the Libertarians were actually on the ballot when I first registered to vote, and though they were shortly afterwards no longer an option as far as voter registration goes, for years, when I registered "Independent," what I meant was "Libertarian." I read almost everything Ayn Rand--although she was not herself a Libertarian party member, she is probably the closest thing to a patron saint Libertarians have--wrote, except for, as I recall, "Night of January 16th" and "We the Living." (As an aside: if you want a really cracking good novel reflective of Libertarian thinking, you cannot do better than Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Even if you don't agree with the politics, it is just terrifically fun to read, as are most of Heinlein's novels.) To this day, I have a profound lack of trust in government's ability to get much of anything outside its God-given role right and my personal list of areas where government has legitimate business is very short indeed. I still use Libertarians, occasionally, as resources, for, truth be told, Libertarians and Conservatives, as they are both opposed to statists of various stripes, do have some areas of overlap when it comes to the brass tacks of making policy. In practical terms, Libertarians and Conservatives often find themselves struggling not to make the law perfectly reflect their respective convictions but simply, together, to make sure it doesn't reflect statist convictions.
You can also argue that there is little point in Conservatives having problems with Libertarians, in that there are very few of what you might call "pure" Libertarians out there. Neal Boortz, for example, may well be the most famous Libertarian in America, but he has a few areas of disagreement with his party. Ron Paul, a Libertarian who's been elected to Congress and is, as I write, still running for president, disagrees with at least one major plank of the Libertarian platform. There are also rather a lot of Republicans who have strong Libertarian streaks, and other Libertarians traveling under Republican colors (Think Rand Paul, in addition to his famous father).
When I do have problems with Libertarians, it tends to be when Libertarians and/or libertarian-leaning Republicans represent their ideology as conservative thinking. I am not saying that they lie when they do this. Most likely, they really do think that Libertarian ideology and truly Conservative thinking are one and the same. Their dogmatic insistence on what is known as "Free Trade" is a good example of this. As far as they are concerned, "Free Trade" IS THE CONSERVATIVE POSITION and they will brook no argument! (I suppose I need, for some people's sake, to say what "Free Trade" is, as otherwise they might confuse support for "Free Trade" with support for a "Free Market." "Free Trade" is the idea that you have little or nothing in the way of tariffs or other barriers to foreign imports--and, you desperately hope, other countries will not put up barriers to your products. Or, if you have a "free trade" agreement with them, you hope desperately that they will not cheat.) However, anyone who has spent a little time looking into the subject will quickly find that it is not only possible to be a Conservative or a Republican and not support "Free Trade," for a very long time opposition to "Free Trade" was Republican orthodoxy, Whig orthodoxy before that, and Federalist orthodoxy before that, and to this day, there are Conservatives--Pat Buchanan comes to mind--who vehemently oppose it. But you will never get that impression from listening to a Libertarian-leaning Republican. Libertarian-leaning Republicans are all but prepared to throw anyone who questions "Free Trade" out of the Party, on the grounds that they are not truly conservative.
In the end, Libertarianism and Conservatism are not the same, and when, as has been the case during the recent Republican primaries, we have witnessed the spectacle of a Libertarian running under Republican colors--Ron Paul--calling other candidates "fake" Conservatives because they don't hew to his Libertarian convictions, it seems to me that some clarification is in order. I'll try, first, to explain what Libertarianism is, or at least as I conceive it to be (You can bet there will be Libertarians who will disagree with me! Especially the atheists--and the atheists are the ones most likely to leave a comment. You would be amazed at the number of atheists who stay up late at night, trolling the blogosphere for some theist with whom they can argue.), then to briefly outline what it means to be a Conservative (There will be Conservatives that disagree with me, too!), and then go over the Libertarian Party Platform 2010 (As of the date I started this post, this is the most up-to-date platform I have found. If, by the time I publish the post, they've changed it in some way, mea culpa.), making a few observations as I go. Perhaps that will help. Please bear in mind that I do not speak for all Conservatives and you may, if you ask a wide variety of Conservatives their opinions on what I say, find that you get more than one answer.
WHAT IS A LIBERTARIAN?
I have heard well-known radio host Neal Boortz, a Libertarian himself, define Libertarianism thusly (from memory, as best I can): "Libertarianism, in modern parlance, is fiscal conservatism and social liberalism."
When I was a Libertarian, I would have told you that a Libertarian was someone who believed that individual liberty should extend as far as it could without infringing on another person's liberty, that liberty necessarily entailed the right to own property, that government should exist only to prevent the initiation of force or the threat thereof against people and to punish fraud, that government derived its rights from the people and that it therefore could not have any rights that the people did not have, and that, specifically, this meant that the confiscation of property, that is, taxation, is theft. I would have told you that if it's theft when I put a gun to your head and take your money, it's theft when the government holds a gun to your head and takes your money. Libertarians will--at least they used to, I know I did--tell you that there is no fundamental difference between the political Left and Right, between Democrats and Republicans, that both ends of the political spectrum believe your life partly belongs to the State, the only difference being how much of your life belongs to the State. Libertarians, they will tell you, are off that conventional Left/Right scale altogether. Think about that for a few seconds. Leaving aside the greatest extremes of the political sphere, like communism, Libertarians are telling you that there is no fundamental difference between the party that created Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, that championed slavery, that wrote the "Jim Crow" laws, and the party that fought them all. Does that really make sense to you?
Now that I am not a Libertarian, I might, tongue only slightly in cheek, start by telling you that Libertarianism is what you get when people who are temperamentally anarchist realize that most people perceive "anarchy" to be a bad thing and that to be socially acceptable, they must at least appear to accept the idea that there is such a thing as legitimate government.
The reality is that Libertarianism is a rigidly insistent ideology, one of those bodies of thought that insists on the full implementation of its agenda, never recognizing (or perhaps never caring about) the faintest possibility that there might be very negative consequences to some of it. Given their heads, ideologues will ruin a country, even a world, in the name of fully implementing their ideology. One of the marks of the true ideologue is that when his ideas fail in practice, he can't bring himself to admit that there might be something wrong with his ideas. Instead, there is something or someone that fouled it all up. For the Statist, it is inevitably enemies of the people or insufficient power or funding or incompetent leadership. For the Libertarian, on the other hand, as for the anarchist, that something is generally government,. When the Statist's ideas fail, he inevitably demands more power, more government; when the Libertarian's ideas fail (if tried; pure Libertarian ideals are seldom put into practice), he inevitably demands that whatever government there is remove itself from the situation. You might even make the case that both the Statist and the LIbertarian have a very difficult time distinguishing between government and tyranny, with the Statist trending toward tyranny in the name of good governance and the Libertarian trending toward calling even good governance "tyranny."
Libertarianism is the ideology that results when you try to intellectually justify personal rights and liberty without reference to an eternal, authoritative source for those rights, that is, without reference to God. As Dr. Kirk wrote:
...the great line of division in modern politics, as Eric Voegelin reminds us, is not between totalitarians on the one hand and liberals (or libertarians) on the other: instead, it lies between all those who believe in a transcendent moral order, on the one side, and on the other side all those who mistake our ephemeral existence as individuals for the be-all and end-all. In this discrimination between the sheep and the goats, the libertarians must be classified with the goats--that is, as utilitarians admitting no transcendent sanctions for conduct.I think Rand understood the potential problem here. Atheist that she was, she had to answer the question about the source of man's rights without God, and she worked very hard to ground her thinking about Man's rights on what she thought to be an immovable rock, that is, Man's Life. The problem with that is that "Man's Life" is rather abstract; when you start talking about men's lives, concretely, either individually or collectively, things sound rather differently, that is, whereas Rand set up her system of morality with Man's Life as the standard, and it sounded reasonable, if you were to talk about setting up a system of morality with men's lives as the standard for good and evil, you might well expect to be laughed at! Without the idea of a Creator God, a man cares not so much (some might argue not a whit) for MAN'S life as for HIS life. Why shouldn't he? Absent the idea of a Creator and some sort of eternal consequence to one's actions, the only reason that any individual man should care about other men's lives, either individually or collectively, is that failure to exercise such care might have consequences in this life. You might be thrown in jail, or you might injure someone that you like. If no such consequences are to be feared, that is, if you don't actually care about anyone else's life, if no one can punish you, if you can get away with it, there is no reason to care about other men's lives or rights. Let me say that again in another way: if men cannot punish you for your crimes now, and there is no God to punish you for them after your death, there is no more reason to care about other men's lives than there is for you to care about a rock, a tree, an antelope, a bacterium, a cockroach. You can do whatever you like, you can get away with anything. And indeed, if there is no God, no eternal existence, you might as well, maybe even ought to do just what you like, for, shall we say, there will be no partying in the grave. Libertarians ignore the inevitable consequences of atheistic evolutionary thinking: everything about you, including your concept of "rights," including any care you might have for the lives of others, is merely an adaptation for the sake of the survival of the species, and even the survival of the species, in a Godless universe, is ultimately pointless. Love and family and friendship mean nothing at all. There is no one to care, no eternity, no purpose. You cannot even justify modifying your behavior for your descendants sake. You will not exist to care an iota about what happens to them.
In a Godless universe, there was no reason for Kim Jong Il not to do exactly as he pleased until his heart stopped beating and he became worm food. No one was going to stop him, and he did not think there was a God Whose justice he needed to fear.
And please believe me, if man, in a Godless universe, has no reason to worry about other men's lives in the concrete, he certainly has no reason to worry about MAN'S LIFE in the abstract.
This problem, Rand's problem, the intellectually unjustifiable attempt to justify man's rights without reference to Man's Creator, is, in my opinion, the festering core of Libertarian ideology, the problem at the heart of it. Libertarians want their rights, they want their liberty, but they cannot articulate a defence of them that does not quickly shatter under examination. I know full well that not all Libertarians are atheists. Indeed, it may well be that most are not. I am not saying that Libertarians in general are atheists. I am saying that by and large, they do not try to ground their vision of Man's rights and liberties in anything other than Man himself, that, even if they are theists, they end up trying to defend liberty as though they are atheists, and that is very hard intellectual ground to defend. I am sure that Christian Libertarians often take this approach because they want to ground their politics in ideas that atheists will accept, too, but that doesn't make the position any easier to defend. They wind up with a rigid ideology that does not deal well with nuance and shatters upon close examination, often leaving the impression in the minds of those unused to political thinking that liberty cannot be adequately defended at all.
Still, it has to be noted that Libertarians definitely favor liberty, even if their intellectual defense of it is shaky and even if, given their heads, they might make ruinous application of some of their ideas. Since the odds of them ever being given their heads in America are somewhere between "slim" and "none," in practical terms, as I noted earlier, they frequently make good political allies with anyone opposed to statism.
WHAT IS A CONSERVATIVE?
It's never an entirely easy thing to say exactly what a Conservative is. It doesn't help that many of the ideas associated nowadays with Conservatism were formerly identified as "liberal." Even now, in attempting to say what Conservatism is, people often wind up using the term "Classical Liberal." The fact that I have felt compelled to write about Conservatism, common-sense conservatism, laundry-list conservatism, Neoconservatism, Crunchy Conservatism, and Paleoconservatism shows that the waters, shall we say, have been muddied. There are streams within Conservatism, that is, just as there are very few "pure" Libertarians, there are very few "pure" Conservatives. Picking the strands of this tapestry apart and keeping them separate is difficult, as has been noted by writers other than myself', as you can easily make the case that Conservatism is more an attitude and approach to things than it is a universally agreed upon set of ideas, such that one can definitively say, "This is Conservative, it is on the list, that is not Conservative, it is not on the list." That has not, of course, stopped people from making a list (and I recommend you read that one, it is one of the best) of Conservative ideas. In the end, though, Conservatism is less a laundry-list of political points than an approach to life and to governance that presupposes certain truths, certain ideas.
I have little doubt, based on my reading of history, that many of those Conservative ideas reach back to the dawn of history, though they may not have always been employed and understood consistently or articulated as we might today. Some read Aristotle and find a Conservative; more than a few so identify Cicero. You can tell from that that it is not necessary to be a Christian to be a Conservative, though I do think that Conservatism reaches its peak when under the aegis of Christianity.
Conservatism, you might say, is the practice, perhaps the reflexive practice, of prudence, the prudential working-out of some basic ideas about the Divine and Man.
Conservatives, for the most part, take it for granted that there is a Divine order. When I say that they take it for granted, I do not mean to imply that they think the proposition incapable of proof or that no Conservative ever tries to prove it, but more that Conservatives may generally be said to regard the existence of the Divine as a matter so obvious as to require little or no defense. As Dr. Kirk says:
...if you should be seeking for a sound book of a conservative cast that has no religion in it--why, you might as well search for the philosopher's stone; or inquire, with Tiberius, what songs the Sirens sang.In a similar way, Conservatives further take it for granted that Man is not at the top of that Divine order, that is, there is a Power (or powers) higher than Man, to which men, even kings, are responsible. They further take it for granted that government is part of this Divine order. You can find this idea all the way back at the beginning of Herodotus, if not before. Conservatives might differ on exactly what the role of government should be or what the rewards and perks of governing should be, but they never really doubt that government is a necessary, normal, inevitable, and even Divinely ordained facet of human existence. Conservatives will point out that man is never really without government, not for long, at least not when there are more than a handful of men within walking distance of one another; you may find that this government is overthrown or that government is abolished, but a real, total lack of government, anarchy, never lasts long. Nobody likes it. Conservatives never really doubt that men need governing, not all men being particularly good or particularly intelligent and well-educated--Christian conservatives, in particular, maintaining that Man is sinful and rebellious by nature and by choice. Conservatives may also be said to presuppose that although men may not be counted on to always do what's right, they nevertheless have certain rights. Again, I am not saying that all Conservatives work these things out in rigorous logical detail, but I daresay that most Conservatives wouldn't disagree with me when I say that one cannot say that murder is wrong without presupposing that men have a right to life; that one cannot say that stealing is wrong without presupposing that they have a right to own property; that one cannot say that one really owns property unless he mostly or entirely controls its disposition; that he cannot control the disposition of his property without a certain degree of liberty (or, put another way, a person who works only to turn his earnings over to someone else, even if it is the state, is de facto a slave, if not de jure), and so on. More succinctly, Conservatives are generally people who believe in the Divine and divinely-ordained concepts of right and wrong and who necessarily believe, necessarily presuppose, that Man has certain inherent rights. They also think that if government is part of the Divine Order, then it must have a purpose and it must, too, have bounds. This whole package of ideas may have found its most succinct and well-known expression in the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...In my own case, the question that ultimately brought me from Libertarianism to Conservatism was, "Does government have the right to tax?" Some Libertarians might, possibly, concede that government has a right to tax, but in practice, Libertarians never seem to get around to finding a tax that is acceptable to them. A remarkable number of them (Neal Boortz is an exception) hate the Fair Tax; they hate the income tax; they hate tariffs; they hate property taxes; they hate sales taxes. The more hard-core Libertarians, as I mentioned earlier, will actually tell you that taxation per se is theft, theft by government. It was when I was reading through Paul's words in Romans about government being God's minister of Justice on this world that I began to understand that government is not only legitimate, but God-ordained, and when I began to understand the importance of him saying that "For this reason"--that is, as payment/financing for the enforcement of justice--"you pay taxes," I likewise began to understand that taxation for legitimate, God-ordained purposes is likewise God-ordained and therefore not theft!
It was difficult, having come to the conclusions that government and taxation are both divinely ordained institutions, to remain a Libertarian. On the other hand, in my opinion, "for this reason" rather implies "not for that reason." Government is Divinely ordained, but so are limits to government's role in human life (and this is explained at great length in Lex, Rex). The Conservative abhors lawlessness, but despises tyranny, at the same time acknowledging that human nature being what it is and human limits being what they are, the perfect balance between too little and too much government will not be achieved in this world.
With all this, and more, much more, rattling around in his mind, when there is a question of life or governance to be answered, the Conservative asks questions like, "What will actually happen if we do this? Are the potential consequences worth the risk? Are we competent to the execution of this change? What do the lessons of history teach about the sort of thing we are contemplating doing? What might an enemy do in response to this action? Before we change what people in this area have been doing for decades, for centuries, even for thousands of years, are we certain we understand why they've been doing it and what the consequences of changing it might be?" Prudent questions, the sort of questions that take it for granted that one tampers with a working system, even a badly working system, with fear and trepidation and no small amount of prayer, for men, including the most noble minded and well-intentioned, are flawed and limited and cannot foresee everything. The Conservative knows that the smartest of individuals sometimes make egregious mistakes, but people in mass, over long periods of time, tend to have reasons for doing things the way they do. The famous phrase is that the individual is foolish, but the species is wise. The Conservative approaches the prospect of changing long-established practice and custom, not with hubris, but with humility and respect. Conservatives are unwilling to assume doltishness on the part of our forebears. We try to give those who have gone before the benefit of the doubt, assuming that they did things for a reason, even if we have forgotten what that reason was, and we tread lightly and thoughtfully before casting aside the traditions they have left us. This does not mean that the Conservative reflexively opposes all change; he knows that a society must be capable of prudent changes to survive and thrive. Nevertheless, change must be thoughtful and prudent, not hasty, not emotional, not sweeping aside the whole of existing society. The Conservative knows, deep in his bones, that it is all too possible for the cure to be worse than the disease and it is probably better to put up with some small, bearable grievances than to risk catastrophe for the sake of quickly implementing wholesale change, the consequences of which are very hard, if not impossible, to foresee and manage. This idea, too, is found in the Declaration:
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.Further, history provides us with a textbook example of just exactly what I am talking about here: the French Revolution. If you want to know more, try Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, Further Reflections on the Revolution in France, and Letters on a Regicide Peace. Pay particular attention to the first. I said earlier that Ayn Rand is as close to a patron saint as Libertarianism has; if Conservatism has a patron saint, it is almost certainly Edmund Burke, and the Reflections have exerted untold influence on untold numbers of educated Conservatives.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, may be about as good an introduction to Conservatism as I can make in a small space. There is much more to say, of course. One might point out that Conservatives are well aware that there are no perfect solutions in this world, only trade-offs. To talk of perfection, of perfect solutions, in this life, is one of the marks of the ideologue (or perhaps an immature person), and Conservatives detest ideology, or at least decisions based purely on ideology. One might note that Conservatives detest decisions being made regarding a given field of human endeavor by those with no practical experience of that field of endeavor. Nor would it be amiss to say that Conservatives are mistrustful of platitudinous-sounding ululations and that we are always on the lookout for things that are not as simple as they seem at first glance.You might try clicking on the links given above, if you're interested in more, or, if you're interested in book-length treatments, you might try Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind, or his The Politics of Prudence, or Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny and Ameritopia.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you please, let us go on to the Libertarian Party platform. Let me reiterate that my commentary is just that--mine. I am trying not to represent my comments and thinking as the comments and thinking of all Conservatives everywhere. However, I do think that in most cases, thinking along the lines I lay out is to be found without much effort somewhere along the Conservative spectrum. Lastly, in most cases, there is more that I could have said, had I thought it productive. And with that, here we go...
Adopted in Convention, May 2010, St. Louis, Missouri. (As of the beginning of my writing on this subject, I haven't yet found anything from the Libertarian Party, per se, that has changed, so I think we may take it that this is going to be more or less the platform for 2012, as well.)
Ideologues, including Libertarians, often have a hard time stating their ideas without leaving themselves open to being tripped up by details. Their grand pronouncements often sound good, but when you start quizzing them on the brass-tacks details of how to implement them in real life, they often inadvertently reveal that they have painted themselves into philosophical or rhetorical corners, or that they have not thought the problem out very well.. As we shall see, there are several examples of this sort of thing in the Libertarian platform. Their rhetoric sounds better than the idea actually turns out to be. Critics might suggest that a platform is meant to be a brief document and that it is unreasonable to expect Libertarians to note every possible nuance applicable to what they say in the platform--and I totally get that--but more than a few times, the missing "nuances" are rather glaring.
As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.
In short, this is hubris. It's fine to seek a world where everyone has liberty, but the Conservative will ask: by what means do you intend to seek it? In the entire history of the world, has there ever been a time when all individuals have been sovereign over their own lives? In other words, the Conservative will note that this is a utopian goal. A fine goal, perhaps, but one that will never be realized. The Conservative thinks that we are having a hard enough time securing liberty to ourselves and our posterity, let alone to the rest of the world.We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.
I also note that this is, in part, Randian language. Randians and many Libertarians are forever on about "force" and/or not sacrificing their values for the benefit of others. You don't hear them talk about "duty" very much.
It's also easy to ask the simple question: What if a person values cannibalism (There are still a few, you know.)? How are you, in your ideal Libertarian world, going to avoid forcing the cannibal to sacrifice that value for the benefit of others? In other words, either Hannibal Lecter forgoes his values, or someone else forgoes his liver (and perhaps a nice Chianti)! How is this not an example of a theoretical idea that simply cannot be carried out in reality?
More hubris. No doubt a world wherein everyone respected individual rights would be freer and more prosperous. No doubt a freer and more prosperous world would be more peaceful. But how, Libertarians, precisely how, do you propose to ensure universal respect for individual rights? Just how do you intend to "banish" force and fraud from human relationships? Can you point to a time--post-Garden-of-Eden, that is--in human history that where force and fraud were not factors in human relationships? Is there even one such example you can cite?Consequently, we defend each person's right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.
Does this mean that Conservatives don't care about individual rights? Far from it! It simply means that we recognize that we cannot perfect the world. Even in our own country, force and fraud are commonplace. Even here, respect for individual rights is far from universal. We have work enough simply to ensure that things do not get worse in our own back yard. To cut to the chase: if force and fraud have to be utterly eliminated, and freedom is a must for peace and prosperity, no society on earth will have peace and prosperity until the second coming of Christ! No society that has ever existed on the face of the earth has ever known peace and prosperity!
Only a few short paragraphs ago, I told you, "When I was a Libertarian, I would have told you that a Libertarian was someone who believed that individual liberty should extend as far as it could without infringing on another person's liberty..." It appears that I was not too far wrong! Again, there is that utopian aspect to the statement: "The world we seek to build..." A world? Really? They're seeking to build a world? That doesn't seem more than a little over-ambitious? And I would say that the terms could be better defined. "'Any' person's right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest?" What about children? Should they have the right to prostitute themselves? It is peaceful and honest activity, is it not? What about the right to marry? Other examples will no doubt occur to you if you give the matter a little thought.In the following pages we have set forth our basic principles and enumerated various policy stands derived from those principles.
I also can't help but wonder exactly what is meant here by "authoritarian power." It can't be government--it says, "government or any authoritarian power," so we know that they are not one and the same, yet I'm having a hard time coming up with an actual example of a power that is simultaneously "authoritarian" and "not government." And how is that individuals are going to be made free from interference by "authoritarian power"? If you can't or won't define it, how do you expect to make the world free from it? Absent some sort of definition here, I can't help but think that the whole thing reflects a lack of...well, reflection.
These specific policies are not our goal, however. Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands.
Think about these words: "Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime..." and remember that we are talking about the platform of a political party in the United States. This seems like a pretty ambitious agenda to me and I can't help but wonder by what means they intend pursuing it or why on earth this generation of Libertarians thinks they can achieve what no other generation in the history of the world has ever been able to achieve.Statement of Principles
We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state...
Really? There's a cult devoted to "the omnipotent state"? Well, of course not. It's hyperbole, and I know it. Yet I wonder if the writer quite gets the magnitude of what he's suggesting with those words. Does he really think Americans in general are devoted to anything approaching an "omnipotent state"? No doubt there are some on the hard Left that might come close to that, but even most of the Liberals I know don't favor an "omnipotent state." For instance, they sure as the dickens don't want the state telling women they can't abort their children! I don't know about you, but to me, the suggestion that non-Libertarians are actually government-worshippers seems a little extreme....and defend the rights of the individual.
I am definitely on board with that.We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.
I wonder if our Libertarian friends have realized that by the terms of this statement, individuals should have the right to commit treason? That the neighborhood rake should have the right to seduce and knock up your teenage daughter? Don't misunderstand: I am not saying that Libertarians believe this. I am saying that whoever wrote this doesn't appear to have thought very carefully about what he was saying.Governments throughout history have regularly operated on the opposite principle, that the State has the right to dispose of the lives of individuals and the fruits of their labor. Even within the United States, all political parties other than our own grant to government the right to regulate the lives of individuals and seize the fruits of their labor without their consent.
I think you have to understand that this statement is intended to illustrate the point of view opposite to the one in the previous statement, and again, the Libertarian has managed to say something he might not quite realize he has said, that is, he has backed himself into a corner wherein he's characterized a government that criminalizes statutory rape as one that arrogates to itself "the right to regulate the lives of individuals." Prohibiting statutory rape is regulating the lives of individuals, isn't it? Did the Libertarian mean to do this? I rather seriously doubt it. But if you take the words in these statements at face value, there can be no doubt that they allow for this. It is as I said: often their statements sound good; they sound high-minded and noble. But when it comes to brass tacks--like whether they should specify "adults"--they often fall apart.We, on the contrary, deny the right of any government to do these things, and hold that where governments exist, they must not violate the rights of any individual: namely, (1) the right to life -- accordingly we support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others; (2) the right to liberty of speech and action -- accordingly we oppose all attempts by government to abridge the freedom of speech and press, as well as government censorship in any form; and (3) the right to property -- accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation.
We can explore this further. It is necessary, I would point out, to, in some respects, regulate the lives of individuals "without their consent." Surely no rational person would insist on obtaining the consent of the would-be murderer or rapist to regulate his life so as to prohibit murder or rape? The Libertarians will immediately object that they have already said that individuals should not be allowed to "forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose." That is my point: you cannot simultaneously prohibit such "forcible interference" and refrain from "regulating the lives of individuals without their consent." The Libertarian, in my opinion, has simply not thought this out very well. What he has to say sounds a great deal better than it actually is.
It's also helpful to understand that by "seize the fruits of their labor without their consent," the Libertarian is obliquely referring to taxation; that is, he is saying, at least in part, that all political parties save the Libertarian Party acknowledge that government has the right to tax. Well, that is true. They do.
To be sure, there are always people who do not want to pay the taxes, no matter how low or inconsequential some of them may be (and I am not arguing that today's tax burden is low and inconsequential!). But in a republic, in our republic, where spending bills originate in the house of Congress elected by the people, is it really true to say that those taxes are enacted without the consent of the people? That very point came up early in the history of our republic; during the Whiskey Rebellion, Hamilton and Washington and others reminded those rebelling against the excise on whiskey that it was the representatives that the protestors had sent to Congress that had enacted the tax, according to the rules of the Constitution that the people had voted on. How could anyone say that the tax was enacted without the people's consent, unless they meant that in order to collect the tax, government first had to knock on each and every individual door and ask permission? Do Libertarians really mean to argue that a tax should be voluntary, that given individuals should be able to withhold their consent to paying it?
Some do. I well recall reading, in, I believe, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Ayn Rand's essay, "Government Financing in a Free Society." In that essay, Rand argued forcefully for a system of fees instead of taxes. For instance, she suggested that contracts, to be enforceable in a court of law, should be subject to a fee. If you didn't pay the fee, and one party to the contract reneged on his obligations, too bad for the other party. I forget exactly how she suggested roads and military forces be financed, but to the best of my recollection, she managed to suggest ways in which all of them might be financed without taxes.
The Conservative first points out that there is historical precedent within our own country that suggests strongly that "voluntary" taxes will never be paid, or intermittently and unpredictably at best. This was one of the problems which the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were trying to solve. Think of yourself--or, if that seems too close to home, the people you know: if your taxes are voluntary, will it not be the case that, somehow, next week, next month, next year, is always better? High-minded as the idea might seem, taxes or fees paid only with the "consent" of each and every individual in a society will simply result in a government so starved of funds that it cannot carry out its duty to secure people's God-given rights, that is to say, such a government will soon give way, usually by force, to a government far less interested in the people's unalienable rights. I should also point out, as I mentioned earlier, that just as the rights are God-given, God-ordained, so is the means to pay for their protection.
It is kind of interesting that nowhere in the document do the Libertarians just come out and flatly say that they deny the right of the government to tax, but that is what they mean in many of these statements when they say things like, "We...deny the right of any government to do these things..." I remember. This is what I was told when I first joined the Libertarian Party. This is what Ayn Rand was driving at in her essay titled (as I recall) "Government Financing in a Free Society," wherein she seriously postulated things like a schedule of fees for certain government services. I understood then and I understand now the rationale she offered. I note only that the Libertarian is going to have a dickens of a time producing an historical example of a lasting society whose government was so financed.Since governments, when instituted, must not violate individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals. People should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. They should be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of individual rights, is the free market.
You can, however, find a historical example of a government that was at the point of breakdown due to, among other things, lack of the power to tax. It is in our own history. All you need do is look at the circumstances that brought the Congress together to revise the Articles of Confederation and ultimately led to the adoption of the Constitution of the United States.
I doubt many Conservatives would have serious problems with the rest of this section, as, of course, we maintain that, as the Declaration says, governments are instituted among men to secure those rights, not to violate them. Some Conservatives might say that government censorship might be necessary under some wartime circumstances. Some might even support censorship of pornography. Some would support eminent domain, some would not. The main issue is this: We acknowledge the right of government to tax for legitimate governmental purposes. Libertarians, in general, do not, though they do not come right out and state it clearly as often as they did when I was younger. Instead, they talk only of their opposition to "governmental confiscation" and so forth, and if you start talking about tax plans, they can't find one they like. They don't like the income tax, God knows (and neither do I). They don't like tariffs. They don't like the Flat Tax. They don't like sales taxes. They don't like the Fair Tax. When you oppose "governmental confiscation" and oppose every tax that mankind can think of, I think it's fair to say that you deny the right of government to tax, period, even if your platform doesn't explicitly say, "We deny the right of government to tax."
And again, I would note that it is very difficult to prohibit "robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation" without "regulat(ing) the lives of individuals."
I think most Conservatives would agree with the intent behind this section, though, again, I must point out that it is a bit sloppily written. Again, as written, this would support the right of a toddler to prostitute his/herself, a position I cannot bring myself to believe any Libertarian would actually try defending. I must note also that the Libertarian has inadvertently defined the free market as one that exists without taxation--taxation, again, largely being what they mean when they talk about people "sacrific(ing) their lives and property for the benefit of others." This, again, is utopianism. You are not likely to find a society that does not tax something and if you did, you would also find that its government, if any, would be completely inadequate to the demands of securing anyone's liberty. If taxation per se is incompatible with the freedom of the market, the market will never be free!1.0 Personal Liberty
Individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and to accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. No individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government. Our support of an individual's right to make choices in life does not mean that we necessarily approve or disapprove of those choices.
The first sentence seems almost meaningless. I am having a hard time thinking of a society, current or historic, that has prohibited "making choices" per se. The question is always: which choices are prohibited? That is, the most totalitarian of states doesn't try to tell you with which foot you must first touch the ground in the morning. The most liberal of states manage to find some choices to prohibit, even if no force is initiated against anyone. I hate to bring up statutory rape again, but there's a perfect example!1.1 Expression and Communication
Even a Libertarian "state," if you will, obviously prohibits some "choices." They don't want you to "choose" to initiate force, do they?
It's not enough to say just that individuals should be free to make choices for themselves. Reality is a little more complex than that, and you have to be more specific than that.
Now, about that "initiate force" thing. The wording has changed a bit since I was young, I think. I believe I recall that the standard way of uttering this element of the creed was to say something like "No individual, group, or government may initiate force or threaten to use force..." The difference is important.
Let us suppose that you are engaged in a heated argument with someone--over, perhaps, the disagreements between Conservatism and Libertarianism. Your verbal sparring partner, in a fit of apoplectic rage, declares that he is going to stab you and plunges his hand into his pocket.
Do you clock him?
If you do, have you not initiated force? What if it turns out he was going for a cigarette lighter? (Seen Gran Torino?)
For what it's worth, if I understand correctly (and I am no lawyer and you shouldn't take this as legal advice), in most states, the threat, combined with the motion, would have put you in reasonable fear for your safety, and thus entitled you to act in self-defense. And God knows that if he's previously shown you the knife (this is called "brandishing") and threatens to stab you, you ought to be on pretty firm legal ground in putting him on the ground. Even if self-defense necessitated a pre-emptive strike. The old Libertarian wording (as I recall it, anyway) recognized this problem. The new wording doesn't seem to. Again, it seems to me that the writers have not adequately explored the consequences of what they are saying.
We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology. We favor the freedom to engage in or abstain from any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others. We oppose government actions which either aid or attack any religion.
Well, I guess they wouldn't have liked the Northwest Ordinance, passed by the same Congress that passed the First Amendment and which says, in part:1.2 Personal Privacy
Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.I also can't help but wonder if they don't think that protection of individual rights, say, to free association, to "engage in...any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others" amounts to aiding religion. After all, if you protect a preacher's right to preach, you are to some degree aiding his religion, are you not? Again, this seems like something that they may not have thought through as carefully as they might, another instance where what they say sounds a far loftier than it really is.
Conservatives, of course, support freedom of expression and oppose government censorship as well, with, as noted previously, the possible exceptions that some Conservatives might support censorship of some speech during, say, a war and others might support prohibition of pornography.
Libertarians support the rights recognized by the Fourth Amendment to be secure in our persons, homes, and property. Protection from unreasonable search and seizure should include records held by third parties, such as email, medical, and library records. Only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes. We favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.
Really? Libertarians think that minors should be able to use dope? They did say "ALL LAWS," didn't they? And presumably, this would mean they also favor (and if you ask them, you will find that this is correct in many cases) legalizing prostitution. However, that sort of caviling aside, I would say that most Conservatives would agree with supporting Fourth Amendment rights. After all, Conservatives wrote the amendment.1.3 Personal Relationships
Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government's treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.
At least part of this reflects rigid insistence on ideology at the expense of practical success. Whether you like it or not, no matter what you think of it, no matter what the polls say, when matters involving homosexuality show up at the ballot box, they pretty much always lose. Americans may tolerate homosexuality, but probably no more than three percent of the population actually is homosexual and most of the rest of us are none too comfortable with homosexuality. Military folk, in my experience, tend to be a bit more socially conservative. And in my experience, Marines, in particular, absolutely cannot stand the idea of serving with homosexuals. But Libertarians don't give a squat. If military effectiveness, recruiting, morale, etc., all suffer for the sake of being able to say that "sexual orientation...has no impact on the government's treatment of individuals...in...military service," so be it.1.4 Abortion
You have to wonder, also, if this language means that the genders should play exactly the same roles in the military. Are Libertarians seriously suggesting here that women should be grunts?
Note also that this paragraph denies the right of government to define marriage and issue marriage licenses. Never mind thousands of years of human history defining marriage and hundreds of years of civil and common law dealing with the reality of marriage. The experience of mankind in general counts for nothing. As far as the Libertarian is concerned, when government comes into the picture, marriage should not be defined! Except that they do note that "consenting adults" should be involved, that is, they do propose restricting marriage--whatever that is--to adults, at least.
How the dickens do Libertarians propose to deal with child custody battles when they don't even know what marriage is? If you can't define marriage, how can you pretend to define family? If you can't define marriage, what effect does that have on the law of inheritance? I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that there is a huge amount of law which, if not regulating marriage, refers to it? How can you assume the existence of an institution which you cannot define?
Personally, while I think homosexual behavior is sinful, if two adults want to have a homosexual relationship, I am certainly not going to stand in their way, either literally or metaphorically. But that is a long way from saying that no definition of marriage should be defined under law, or that homosexuality shouldn't be an issue in military service.
Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
Rather a long-winded way of saying that Libertarians are pro-choice, isn't it? But that is what it means. So much for the "right to life" alluded to in the next point. Apparently it all comes down to whether or not Libertarians find that life convenient.1.5 Crime and Justice
This is, I think, one of those things that results when you are operating on the assumption that you must justify your politics as though the universe is godless, regardless of whether you (or the majority of people, for that matter) actually think there is a God. Libertarians are, I think, saying that government shouldn't prohibit abortion because they think it is a religious decision to some degree, and the government, they think, should assume a more-or-less atheistic position--they might call it a neutral position--by default. To a Libertarian, for government to recognize the existence of the Divine is tantamount to establishing an official religion. Conservatives, as I said earlier, pretty much take it for granted that there is a God and tend to think that a de facto atheism on the part of government is kind of stupid. For government at any level to recognize that there is a God and that our rights inhere in the Divine isn't to establish a religion. For Heaven's sake, it is nothing more than is said in so many words in the document that birthed our country! Conservatives also note that if you demolish the right of the unborn to life, you have to do it by tearing down the same foundations upon which the right to life, period, is built. In trying to allow for a right to kill the unborn, Libertarians inadvertently open the door for murder in general and undermine what they elsewhere hold to be a cardinal principle.
Of course, there are Libertarians that disagree with this plank and are passionately pro-life; Ron Paul is a prominent example. But still--that's what the platform says.
Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. Individuals retain the right to voluntarily assume risk of harm to themselves. We support restitution of the victim to the fullest degree possible at the expense of the criminal or the negligent wrongdoer. We oppose reduction of constitutional safeguards of the rights of the criminally accused. The rights of due process, a speedy trial, legal counsel, trial by jury, and the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty, must not be denied. We assert the common-law right of juries to judge not only the facts but also the justice of the law.
"Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life..." Except, apparently, the lives of the unborn. However, that aside, "Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property" is exactly right. I have a hard time believing any Conservative in this country would disagree. It is practically right out of the Declaration. And I think most Conservatives would agree with what I perceive to be the intent behind this section. But again, I can't help but note that the way this is written, it would, say, mean that peddling dope to minors would not be a criminal offense.1.6 Self-Defense
It's interesting that they appeal to the "common law" here. I rather doubt that most Americans have the slightest clue what "common law" refers to. I certainly didn't, not for years. But "common law" touches a whole host of issues and I can't help but wonder if Libertarians would acknowledge the appropriateness and authority of the common law when it says they're wrong. Most of the time, I think, Conservatives would. Common Law is basically the body of legal material worked out case-by-case and recorded over only-God-knows-how-many years in the English and American legal systems. As such, it represents hundreds of years of practical experience in working out the legal details of day-to-day life. Such experience is precisely the sort of thing Conservatives are reluctant to discard without very serious thought indeed.
Note also: trials, juries, and legal counsel all involve a cost that must be borne by someone. Perhaps the Libertarian thinks that the cost of legal counsel should be borne by the individual and, if he is unable to afford it, so much the worse for him. But what about the cost of the trial itself? The cost of the time of the jurors, of the judges? Does the Libertarian think those costs should be borne by the individual? If not, then by whom? Who is going to pay for someone else's trial if government has no "right to...seize the fruits of their (individuals) labor without their consent," that is, to tax? How many volunteers do you think you will find?
The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights — life, liberty, and justly acquired property — against aggression. This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group. We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. We oppose all laws at any level of government requiring registration of, or restricting, the ownership, manufacture, or transfer or sale of firearms or ammunition.
There's something about that "only" in the first sentence that troubles me. It took me a few minutes to realize what it was: this is another denial, perhaps unintentional, perhaps inadvertent, of government's right to tax. It is, after all, mighty difficult to tax if it is not legitimate to use force to collect, isn't it?2.0 Economic Liberty
"This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group."? One can't help but wonder what the Libertarian proposes to do upon happening upon a robbery, rape, or assault in progress. Will he quiz the victim first, or act first? I know, I know--it seems a silly question. But that's the way it's written. I suppose it's possible the Libertarian is, here, trying to guard against the possibility of someone being aided against his will. Or--and I think this is more likely--it might simply be another instance where the Libertarians just haven't thought their phrasing through as thoroughly as they might.
You might, I suppose, characterize my comments as nit-picking. I would counter that a person with a Conservative attitude seeks to avoid making statements overly susceptible to nit-picking, that is, the Conservative tries to avoid making flat statements that don't allow for real-world flexibility. He tries to avoid painting himself into a corner. The Libertarian, in my opinion, is prone to painting himself into corners, as are ideologues in general.
I believe the overwhelming majority of Conservatives would agree to the remaining material. God knows I would. To my mind, the Second Amendment protects a fundamental right, that to your own life. It makes no sense at all to talk of a person's right to life if you then turn around and talk about depriving him of the means to defend it.
Libertarians want all members of society to have abundant opportunities to achieve economic success. A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.
There is much here with which most Conservatives can easily agree, and some...well...2.1 Property and Contract
Once again we are up against the real world, where there are only trade-offs, not perfect solutions. In this real world, governments not only have the right to tax for legitimate governmental purposes, they must tax in order to carry out those purposes. Voluntary government financing has never worked, has never been able to finance a government strong enough to actually secure inalienable rights. And this is the brick wall you run up against: no kind of taxation is without economic effects, or consequences, if you prefer. They all affect something.
I have long thought about writing a post to be titled, "Government's Inside Fastball," said title having been inspired by a remark Ted Williams made in The Science of Hitting to the effect that terror is a pitcher's legitimate weapon, that the brush-back pitch, the inside fastball intended to back a hitter off the plate, is a perfectly legal, legitimate part of the game. Beaning the hitter is not, but brushing the hitter back is. And so it is with taxation. If taxation for legitimate governmental purposes is legitimate, and if all taxation has some economic effect, then some economic effect via taxation is legitimate and you must answer the question of which economic effects you prefer.
For decades, from the time of Alexander Hamilton and through Republican presidencies on up to Eisenhower, Republican preference--and Whig preference before that, and Federalist preference before that-- was to "control" and "manage" trade to some degree, that is, they preferred tariffs. Indeed, until the Thirteenth Amendment was passed, they had little alternative, for an income tax of the sort we now take for granted was unconstitutional! At any rate, under a federal government financed mostly by tariffs, that government was relatively small, certainly not the behemoth to which it has grown, and the United States went from a mostly agrarian economy to being simultaneously the world's most powerful agricultural force and the world's most powerful manufacturing force, and the standard of living rose, by world standards, to unimaginable heights. Libertarians will counter that tariffs artificially prop up prices for domestic products, and that is true, but I, at least, and more Conservatives than you might think will in turn answer, "And what is the alternative?" For in practical terms, you can really only tax two things: production (the income tax) or consumption (tariffs, sales taxes, excises), and of the two, if you object to redistribution of wealth or other ill effects of taxation, the income tax has proven far the worse.
Of course, the question of taxation is hardly settled within the Conservative community. Libertarian-leaning Conservatives, in particular, can often be found arguing against tariffs, largely on the ground that they caused or prolonged, via Smoot-Hawley, the Great Depression (This is a myth, by the way, said to be such by none other than Milton Friedman. If you're interested, there is an entire chapter on the subject in Pat Buchanan's The Great Betrayal, which you can, at this point, buy used for a penny plus shipping most of the time.) My personal preference is for the Fair Tax, which would, like tariffs, create an enormous tax advantage to manufacturing in the United States.
Property rights are entitled to the same protection as all other human rights. The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others. We oppose all controls on wages, prices, rents, profits, production, and interest rates. We advocate the repeal of all laws banning or restricting the advertising of prices, products, or services. We oppose all violations of the right to private property, liberty of contract, and freedom of trade. The right to trade includes the right not to trade — for any reasons whatsoever. Where property, including land, has been taken from its rightful owners by the government or private action in violation of individual rights, we favor restitution to the rightful owners.
There is little with which to disagree in this plank. A few observations must be made. For instance, given Libertarians' aversion to taxation, is "We oppose all violations of the right to...freedom of trade," a not-so-oblique reference to their preference for "Free Trade," that is, is this another denial of government's right to tax? When they say they support the right not to trade--and I am in full agreement with them on the point--is that as oblique a reference as can possibly be made to the idea that they don't think an hotelier should be forced to rent to a homosexual couple if he doesn't want to? And lastly, just how far do they want to go with restitution? I suspect that by the time we tried to right all the wrongs that have been committed in the history of this country, things would be hopelessly confused and few, if any, would actually be any better off. But certainly, as an ongoing principle, restitution is sound.2.2 Environment
We support a clean and healthy environment and sensible use of our natural resources. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Pollution and misuse of resources cause damage to our ecosystem. Governments, unlike private businesses, are unaccountable for such damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection. Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, and wildlife. Free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. We realize that our planet's climate is constantly changing, but environmental advocates and social pressure are the most effective means of changing public behavior.
I think they're on the right track here. I have long thought along much the same lines, even to the point of phrasing things very similarly to this: "Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, and wildlife."2.3 Energy and Resources
It is a curious thing that pollution tends to be worst in countries that are attempting industrialization but have a weak system of documentable property rights. It is as a country becomes wealthier, which is, in part, a result of documentable property rights (for a superb discussion of this, see Hernando de Soto's famous The Mystery of Capital), that they become better able to cope with pollutants. The people of poorer countries are too wrapped up in getting to their next meal to worry overmuch about what pollutants are doing to the landscape.
While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.
My knee-jerk reaction is to say that I agree whole-heartedly with this plank, but there are a few observations to make. One is that, unless I am outdated or mistaken, this may be an oblique reference to the Price-Anderson Act, which, if I recall correctly, greatly facilitates the construction of nuclear power plants in this country by capping the damages for which a utility might be liable in the event of catastrophe. I recall not inconsiderable discussion of this legislation 'mongst the Libertarians I knew when I was young, with the consensus being that nuclear power plants could not be built in this country without it, as it would be impossible for them to obtain liability insurance. I haven't looked into the subject in a long time and hesitate to say any more, save that doing away with nuclear power in this country will be a complicated affair, if it ever happens.2.4 Government Finance and Spending
Are tax breaks subsidies? What about tariffs? Even before I knew enough about tariffs to understand what "Free Trade" meant, I had tossed around the idea of a "floating" tariff on imported oil, such that the tariff would always be equal to the amount necessary to make it profitable to bring oil up out of the ground in the United States. Critics might say that this amounts to unwarranted monkeying-around in the marketplace, an artificial price support that would punish consumers. I would reply that all taxation has some effect in the marketplace and that government has a right to tax and is going to tax, and that therefore the question is, "To the degree we can affect the marketplace, what effect do we hope to achieve?" A tariff on imported oil would allow the lowering of income taxes and have the salutatory effect of greatly reducing our dependence on foreign oil. This is just an example. My point is that it is not as easy as just saying that government should stay out of energy. Government has perfectly legitimate prerogatives that will almost certainly have an effect on energy markets; we do well, therefore, to carefully consider just what effects we want to see.
What about energy production on federally-owned lands? Even leasing to private entities, how do you go about owning and leasing the land without exerting some control over pricing?
All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution. We oppose any legal requirements forcing employers to serve as tax collectors. Government should not incur debt, which burdens future generations without their consent. We support the passage of a "Balanced Budget Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution, provided that the budget is balanced exclusively by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes.
I have to note immediately, of course, that Libertarianism's reflexive aversion to taxation rears its head again here. Note that there is not a word here, not a word, in the plank on "Government Finance and Spending," on just how Libertarians think that government ought to get the money it spends! Surely that is more than a little odd? If they want to repeal the income tax--a goal I appreciate, being a big supporter of the Fair Tax--you would think that they might take this opportunity to state exactly what sort of tax system they would support! One might be forgiven for wondering if Libertarians support any kind of taxation at all. One might wonder, that is, if he hadn't already made up his mind, as have I, that they do not.2.5 Money and Financial Markets
I note also that there is no verbiage noting that even the most fiscally responsible governments frequently have to borrow massive sums in time of war.
With the rest of this plank, I have no serious quarrel. I, too, would like to see the income tax repealed, and strict adherence to the Constitution--although I have to note that ending all federal programs and services not required under the Constitution immediately and at once might be emotionally and intellectually satisfying, but it would lead to chaos. Phase-outs would be more workable, I think. I also agree that government should not incur debt, save, as noted, in time of war, but I have to note that, as far as I know, the last president to see the federal debt paid off during his term of office was Andrew Jackson. Saying government should not incur debt is far easier than seeing to it that government actually does not incur debt.
We favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types. Individuals engaged in voluntary exchange should be free to use as money any mutually agreeable commodity or item. We support a halt to inflationary monetary policies and unconstitutional legal tender laws.
This would, among other things, mean that government would no longer be able to specify in just what sort of money taxes and fees were to be paid. Of course, since Libertarians deny the right of the government to tax, they would see this as something of a moot point.2.6 Monopolies and Corporations
Monetary questions are complex and I do not propose to present myself as an expert or even adequately read on the subject. I do agree that "legal tender" laws might be unconstitutional (you will recall that the Constitution grants Congress the right to coin money, but that is not the same thing as saying that it can dictate what medium individuals must accept as a means of exhange). I likewise agree that a national bank, or Federal Reserve System, is not authorized by the Constitution (Neither of them is necessary to coin money). God knows I despise inflation and the ceaseless running of the Federal Reserve's printing presses. From ancient times, one of the most grievous mistakes a government can make is the debasement of money, whether by adulterating gold coins or by printing so stinking much paper money that one might as well wallpaper his house with it as attempt to buy bread with it. On the other hand, there is no question that an inadequate money supply has been the source of not inconsiderable problems from time to time in the past.
This is one of those areas where I simply do not consider myself sufficiently well-read to have a firm opinion. However, such learning on the subject as I do have tells me that the Libertarians are right on the Constitutionality issues here and may well be right on the economics of the situation.
I promise to read more on this subject eventually. In the meantime, I hope it doesn't drive you completely nuts that I don't know everything.
We defend the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of companies based on voluntary association. We seek to divest government of all functions that can be provided by non-governmental organizations or private individuals. We oppose government subsidies to business, labor, or any other special interest. Industries should be governed by free markets.
With the exception of noting that governments have a right to tax, and indeed must tax, which inevitably has some effect on markets, and that therefore there will always, in practical terms, be some considerations as to just what effects are preferred, I agree with this.2.7 Labor Markets
We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment. We oppose government-fostered forced retirement. We support the right of free persons to associate or not associate in labor unions, and an employer should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union. We oppose government interference in bargaining, such as compulsory arbitration or imposing an obligation to bargain.
In that first sentence, I immediately have to wonder if "any" person is meant to be taken at face value. I assume it is, but "any person" would be a whole lot different from "any person legally in this country," wouldn't it? In other words, I can't help but think that this language is consistent with Libertarian's predominantly open-borders, free-flow-of-goods-and-people ideology, about which more will be said shortly. To cut to the chase here, it appears that Libertarians are saying, in part, that you should be able to hire illegal aliens--assuming they allow for the concept of "illegal" aliens in the first place, which seems much in doubt.2.8 Education
On the other hand, God knows I agree with what they have to say about labor unions.
Education, like any other service, is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality and efficiency with more diversity of choice. Schools should be managed locally to achieve greater accountability and parental involvement. Recognizing that the education of children is inextricably linked to moral values, we would return authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government. In particular, parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children's education.
I'm at a bit of a loss to understand why they don't just come out and say that government should get out of the education business altogether. That is certainly what I think, and their first words on the subject sound like they agree with me. But the references to schools being "managed locally" and to "all funds expended for their children's education" sound a bit mushy.2.9 Health Care
Now, I am fully aware that not every Conservative thinks as I do about education, but I think history is on my side. We had better-educated people before compulsory education, and our history is replete with people--not just extraordinary polymaths like Benjamin Franklin, or lawyers like Patrick Henry and Abraham Lincoln, or presidents like Washington and Lincoln, but ordinary people--who achieved productive, satisfying lives without ever having suffered the alleged benefits of government education. Historically, for the most part, more government involvement in education has meant a less educated people, 'til now we are, as Mark Steyn says in After America, a people tremendously under-educated but hugely over-credentialed.
There are few things in this world I despise more than government education.
We favor restoring and reviving a free market health care system. We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want, the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions. People should be free to purchase health insurance across state lines.
I am so tempted to just say "duh!" and move on. I agree with every jot and tittle of this section. History and common sense and personal experience (I work for a durable medical equipment company) show that absent government interference in the market, health-care costs will drop precipitously.2.10 Retirement and Income Security
Retirement planning is the responsibility of the individual, not the government. Libertarians would phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system. The proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals. We believe members of society will become more charitable and civil society will be strengthened as government reduces its activity in this realm.
By and large, I agree with this. I would suggest that absent the widespread influence of Christianity, individuals might not be quite as charitable and civil as Libertarians would like to believe, but I certainly agree government activity will lower the level of private charity and civility, whatever level they might happen to be at without governmental involvement.3.0 Securing Liberty
The protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of government. Government is constitutionally limited so as to prevent the infringement of individual rights by the government itself. The principle of non-initiation of force should guide the relationships between governments.
Well, some of that is not too far from what the Declaration says: "To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men..." I only have a caveat regarding that "non-initiation of force" phraseology. It is easy, too easy, to paint oneself into a corner with statements like that.3.1 National Defense
We were discussing defense against the knife in our RyuTe class the other night. Our teacher had shown us an example of an attack wherein the attacker has concealed the knife from your eyes by holding his knife and hand behind his leg, only to whip it out and slash across--well, whatever he can catch with the knife. The question arose as to what the law allows you to do if you already know he has a knife. Our instructor said, "Did he show you the knife?" In other words, did he brandish the weapon? To intimidate you into giving up whatever it was he wanted? If so, whether he concealed the knife afterward makes little difference. After brandishing the weapon, a motion in your direction apparently constitutes assault and you are well advised not to let it escalate into battery.
In other words, if you've seen a knife and have reasonable fear that the guy is about to cut you with it, you can probably clock him before he starts cutting and most courts won't convict you. I suspect even a jury of Libertarians might not convict you, even if you "initiated force." The possibility that an analogous situation might arise between governments makes me hesitant to fully agree with the Libertarians' language here. On the other hand, I sure as thunder don't support the Neoconnotion that the world must be democratized--by force, American force, if necessary. Let other nations rule themselves as they see fit. It is no business of our federal government how other nations govern themselves.
We support the maintenance of a sufficient military to defend the United States against aggression. The United States should both avoid entangling alliances and abandon its attempts to act as policeman for the world. We oppose any form of compulsory national service.
I would like to say that most Conservatives would agree with this. I am pretty sure that Pat Buchanan would. However, the reality is that this subject is the one on which most conservatives are most prone to be, of all things, not terribly conservative. Neocons, in particular, being devoted to the export of American-style "democracy" around the world, would probably object, both to the idea and to the wording. Other sorts of conservatives, confusing, in my opinion, the maintenance of something of a Pax Americana with national defense, might not be wild about this section either.3.2 Internal Security and Individual Rights
Well, about that, all I can say is that those of us conservatives who lean Paleocon or "Old Right" scarcely recognize Neocons as Conservatives at all, and suggest that Neocon thinking on this subject has exerted an unhealthy influence, far out of proportion to the actual numbers of Neocons, on Conservatism in general. We are working to rectify the situation and hopefully one day return American defense policy to some semblance of prudence. Or, in other words, I pretty much agree with this plank. The purpose of the United States military is--or at least should be--to defend the United States, not to enforce world peace. I have long felt that if our armed forces were devoted exclusively to defending the United States, they would likely be able to do a bang-up job of it in every respect and probably for less money than we are spending now.
The defense of the country requires that we have adequate intelligence to detect and to counter threats to domestic security. This requirement must not take priority over maintaining the civil liberties of our citizens. The Constitution and Bill of Rights shall not be suspended even during time of war. Intelligence agencies that legitimately seek to preserve the security of the nation must be subject to oversight and transparency. We oppose the government's use of secret classifications to keep from the public information that it should have, especially that which shows that the government has violated the law.
There's not much in this section that I disagree with, except that we might ask: What information "should" the public have? In "time of war," especially? Surely the Libertarian would concede that in wartime, there is such a thing as information that would best be not made general public knowledge? Put another way, if Libertarians "oppose the government's use of secret classifications to keep from the public information that it should have," does that mean they support "government's use of secret classifications to keep from the public information that it shouldn't have"? If so--and it seems so to your humble servant--they have effectively stated nothing, managing only to imply that they want to be the ones deciding what the public should and should not know. If not, if they oppose the government's use of secret classifications, period, they should have said so a little more bluntly. I can't help but think that this language may well be another example of what Libertarians say sounding a great deal loftier and higher-minded than it really is.3.3 International Affairs
American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world. Our foreign policy should emphasize defense against attack from abroad and enhance the likelihood of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements. We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid. We recognize the right of all people to resist tyranny and defend themselves and their rights. We condemn the use of force, and especially the use of terrorism, against the innocent, regardless of whether such acts are committed by governments or by political or revolutionary groups.
I think many Conservatives, especially of the Paleocon variety, would agree with much, probably all, of this, with, perhaps, the only caveat being that we might add "where prudent" in order to avoid painting ourselves into a rhetorical corner.3.4 Free Trade and Migration
Even Thomas Jefferson found it necessary for the sake of America's shipping to send the Navy and Marines to Tripoli to deal with the pirates.
We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.
I cannot even begin to tell you the wealth of mischief contained within this passage.3.5 Rights and Discrimination
I can't help but wonder at some of the words here. The potential for them to be intentionally "loaded" is most certainly present. For example, "free trade," as noted previously, has a recognized meaning in economist-speak, and it is different from meaning simply, say, "lack of coercion." Is the Libertarian obliquely (or perhaps not so obliquely) saying that he supports the removal of all tariffs and trade barriers between nations? Given their general antipathy towards taxation and the remaning language under this heading (as well as my memory of article after article from Libertarians and Libertarian-leaning Republicans and economists on this very subject), I think the answer is, "Yes!"
Now, I am not here to tell you that Conservatives uniformly oppose Free Trade. Such is not the case. More than a few will say that they support it, often quoting Adam Smith in the process. Others will say that they can see how, in a perfect world, Free Trade would make sense.
And then there are those who lean Paleocon, or Old Right, like myself, who note that we do not live in a perfect world and other countries always find ways to protect their own markets. Some are more aggressive about it, some less. "Free Trade" is a chimera, a fantasy. It does not exist in the real world and it is utopianism to insist on it in the realm of public policy, it having the effect of unilaterally disarming one's country in the never-ending trade wars. We have lost millions of manufacturing jobs and seen real wages (wages adjusted for inflation) stagnate for decades since we began listening to the Sirens sing of Free Trade. It has been a disaster, in some cases making us dependent on foreign sources for vital supplies (rare earths, for example), manufactured goods, even, in some cases, things vital to our defense. And yet the ideologues, the LIbertarians, the Free Traders, will not, indeed, probably cannot, see even the smallest negatives. That is the hallmark of the ideologue: he will never acknowledge that something is wrong with his idea, no matter how close he comes to pulling his house down 'round his ears.
Now, look at that stuff about "political boundaries" and "borders." First, let me note that those words "political boundaries" are loaded. Unless I am very much mistaken, they reflect a notion that nationhood is largely a matter of arbitrarily-drawn political boundaries. And indeed, I have noted on occasion that Libertarians often seem to think that people are interchangeable, almost commodity-like. What matters to them is how much their labor costs, and where the best price is available. Otherwise, a Uighur is much the same as a Texan. Some of the stuff I have heard and read reminds me of a Samuel P. Huntington quote cited by Pat Buchanan in his Day of Reckoning:
Comprising fewer than 4 percent of the American people, these transnationalists have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite's global operations. In the coming years, one corporate executive confidently predicted, "the only people who will care about national boundaries are politicians."There is more. One can readily understand how people trying to "escape from tyranny" might find it convenient not to be "unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries," but are Libertarians seriously contending that political freedom cannot exist unless the entire world implements an open-borders policy? It seems too fantastic, too extraordinary--but that certainly seems to be the way the material reads! Think about that: you are being told that your political freedom depends on whether Mexico lets Guatemalans and Hondurans cross without "unreasonable constraints."
Does that make sense to you?
"Economic freedom," we are told, demands the unrestricted movement of people--isn't it interesting that the Libertarian refers to "people" as "human capital"? Apparently seeing them as merely economic units?--across national borders. Again, does the idea that your economic freedom depends on the ability of, say, Jordanians to cross Israel's border, make sense to you? Oh, I know what the Libertarians are driving at: the idea is that people will naturally go, if possible, to where they can make the most, and if travel is unrestricted, ultimately, people and prices will come into adjustment with each other, and every item on the shelf will reflect a labor cost no higher than absolutely necessary. The unreasonable restriction of not allowing free movement across borders prevents this process, so that consumers often have to pay a higher labor cost than necessary; paying a higher labor cost than absolutely necessary due to government interference in the market for labor is therefore, according to Libertarian-leaning economists, an abridgement of "economic freedom."
I note, of course, that most nations do control their borders and that the world labor market will therefore continue to be restricted, and there is not a thing on earth the Libertarian can do about it, not really--so what is this really all about?
I suspect strongly it is about, basically, allowing cheap foreign labor to come into the United States without any serious restrictions. That this is, again, more-or-less unilateral disarmament in the "economic wars" doesn't concern them. They are ideologues.
Libertarians would, you would think, have to know that simply saying, "We favor American borders completely open to both goods and people" won't play well with most Americans. It would make them look like idiots, for any simpleton knows that not everyone trying to cross our border is a simple campesino looking for work in El Norte. Some are vicious criminals, some carry diseases, some might even be terrorists! So the Libertarian, it seems to me, has to insert the language about controlling the entry into this country of people who present a credible threat to security, health, or property.
But who is to say what is "credible?" And when is the determination to be made? And just how do you "control the entry" of undesirables when the movement of human "capital" is "unrestricted"? To exert "control" is to "restrict," is it not?
I would say that any sovereign nation has the right to determine who can and who cannot cross its borders and further, has the responsibility of looking out for the rights and security of its own citizens first. Thus it has ever been, and barring an act of God, thus shall it ever be. Contending ceaselessly for borders open to basically anybody is to spit into the wind, and, as Benjamin Franklin famously said, he who spits into the wind spits into his own face. I would contend, moreover, that for Libertarians to agitate for unlimited and largely unrestricted immigration from all points of the globe is to spit in the face of most Americans. American citizens have every right in the world to expect that their government would control borders and deal with immigration with an eye, first, to the rights and security of American citizens.
We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant. Government should not deny or abridge any individual's rights based on sex, wealth, race, color, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation. Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs.
I think that most Conservatives would agree with this as far as government's role is concerned, though some, perhaps many, would wonder why that opening sentence is in there. Is the idea to imply that drawing distinctions "based on sex, wealth, race, color, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation" necessarily constitutes bigotry? If so, I would suggest that it depends a lot on just what distinctions are under consideration. I would also note that Libertarians sure as the dickens don't hesitate to draw distinctions based on political preference, often, in my experience, being downright snotty to anyone not happening to be a Libertarian, so if that implication is intended, I would say that they don't have as much room to talk as they may think.3.6 Representative Government
As written, I don't have a problem with, "Government should not deny or abridge any individual's rights based on sex, wealth, race, color, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation." History and personal experience has shown, though, that if you are not careful, "rights" tend to spring up out of people's muddled thinking. For example, this statement is not too far from what the Fourteenth Amendment says. The intent of the Fourteenth Amendment was to ensure that Black Americans were not denied rights of citizenship granted to Americans of other hues. It does not create or enumerate rights. It simply guarantees that such rights as exist will not be denied on the bases enumerated therein. And yet I have seen the Fourteenth Amendment cited in arguments regarding homosexual "marriage," on the grounds that since people of other sexual orientations can marry anyone they want, homosexuals should be able to marry whomever they want!
This is ridiculous. For one thing, as far as I know, in no state of the union can anyone marry whomever they want. They cannot marry someone against their will, they cannot marry more than one at a time, they cannot marry outside their species, they cannot marry close relatives, they cannot marry people under a certain age. They may not be able to marry without a blood test. There are a number of restrictions on whom one can marry in most states. There is no right for anyone to marry whomever they want. For another thing, and more importantly, that interpretation is effectively reading the amendment backwards. Instead of using the Amendment to guarantee the equal application of existing rights, that argument effectively uses it to create "rights" ex nihilo according to the whim of anyone so inclined. Of such mischief there can be no end, if ever it is allowed to get a foothold. I suspect Libertarians would agree with this much and hope that they see the potential for mischief in carelessly-worded statements regarding "rights."
Of course, I agree with the remark about parents and children.
We support electoral systems that are more representative of the electorate at the federal, state and local levels. As private voluntary groups, political parties should be allowed to establish their own rules for nomination procedures, primaries and conventions. We call for an end to any tax-financed subsidies to candidates or parties and the repeal of all laws which restrict voluntary financing of election campaigns. We oppose laws that effectively exclude alternative candidates and parties, deny ballot access, gerrymander districts, or deny the voters their right to consider all legitimate alternatives.
It will occur to the more cynical and experienced readers that this could have been summarized as, "We oppose any legislative maneuvers that keep Libertarians off the ballot." More importantly, though I think most Conservatives would understand and agree with the goal of making sure that voters don't have their choices limited by the powers that be, it seems to me that this is another example of Libertarians' tossing words out there without sufficient thought.3.7 Self-Determination
What is a "legitimate" alternative? Who gets to decide? How do you avoid having fifty candidates on a ballot, with four of them having a realistic chance at winning and the rest being on there because they had the filing fee and just wanted to see their names on the ballot?
On the other hand, I have never been happy with government interference in internal party proceedings, tax subsidies, limits on contributions, and gerrymandering, either, and I expect that most Conservatives aren't, either.
Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of individual liberty, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to agree to such new governance as to them shall seem most likely to protect their liberty.
I doubt very many Conservatives would have much problem with this. It is pretty much right out of the Declaration of Independence, after all, and out of Lex, Rex before that. The question I would have is, "Exactly where does the Libertarian draw the line?" In the Declaration, it's noted that the pursuit of "new governance" is not something to be undertaken lightly; some Libertarians, I think, might have us seeking "new governance" every time an election produced results not in complete accordance to the gospel according to Murray Rothbard.4.0 Omissions
Our silence about any other particular government law, regulation, ordinance, directive, edict, control, regulatory agency, activity, or machination should not be construed to imply approval.
One of the smartest things they could have said.
Quotes from Russell Kirk's The Politics of Prudence
The term libertarianism is distasteful to people who think seriously about politics. Both Dr. F. A. Hayek and your servant have gone out of their way, from time to time, to declare that they refuse to be tagged with this label. Anyone much influenced by the thought of Edmund Burke and of Alexis de Tocqueville--as were both Professor Hayek and this commentator--sets his face against ideology; and libertarianism is a simplistic ideology, relished by one variety of the folk whom Burckhardt called "the terrible simplifiers."
For the ideological libertarians are not conservatives in any true meaning of that term of politics; nor do the more candid libertarians desire to be called conservatives. On the contrary, they are radical doctrinaires, contemptuous of our inheritance from our ancestors...
The libertarian groups differ on some points among themselves, and exhibit varying degrees of fervor. But one may say of them in general that they are "philosophical" anarchists in bourgeois dress. Of society's old institutions, they would retain only private property. They seek an abstract Liberty that never has existed in any civilization--nor, for that matter, among any barbarous people, nor any savage.
First, the great line of division in modern politics, as Eric Voegelin reminds us, is not between totalitarians on the one hand and liberals (or libertarians) on the other: instead, it lies between all those who believe in a transcendent moral order, on the one side, and on the other side all those who mistake our ephemeral existence as individuals for the be-all and end-all. In this discrimination between the sheep and the goats, the libertarians must be classified with the goats--that is, as utilitarians admitting no transcendent sanctions for conduct. In effect, they are converts to Marx's dialectical materialism; so conservatives draw back from them on the first principle of all.
Second, in any tolerable society, order is the first need. Liberty and justice may be established only after order is reasonably secure. But the libertarians give primacy to an abstract Liberty. Conservatives, knowing that "liberty inheres in some sensible object", are aware that freedom may be found only within the framework of a social order, such as the Constitutional order of these United States. In exalting an absolute and indefinable "liberty" at the expense of order, the libertarians imperil the very freedom that they praise.