Libertarians (small 'l') Need to Speak Up

We will always have articles accusing "libertarianism" of being everything from "fascist" (huh?) to "right-wring" to "juvenile." Those advocating for classical liberalism will be linked to racists, plutocrats, crony capitalists, and other perversions of limited government and negative rights. (I still hate the "negative" rights label, inherently a rhetorical device that insults various philosophical and political schools of thought.)

When I read "Somalia is a libertarian paradise," I know the comment poster is either ignorant or intentionally lying. The basics of classical liberalism include:

  • Rule of law, with an egalitarian legal system;
  • Enforced contracts, protecting parties in transactions;
  • Property rights beginning with the individual's ownership of self;
  • Limited, effective, and reliable government.

Now, for the sad reality that libertarians in the United States need to address: there are horrible people who will hide behind "freedom" to be the jerks they are.

A bigot doesn't want to be told, by legal dictate, that all customers must be served. A crony capitalist will favor lower taxes (not really a "libertarian" ideal, by the way) and oppose (some) regulations. A gun-rights advocate will ignore history, context, and talk about "Constitutionally limited government" and "freedom."

You can't advocate for smaller government, simple laws, and personal freedom without the loonies rushing to join you. Therefore, libertarians with some knowledge of economics, history, and philosophy must speak up and explain that libertarianism comes in both left and right variations (whatever that means) and represents a focus on the individual over the collective.

I am for small government. And I know that sometimes jerks will abuse the freedoms I support. That fact compels me to speak out against hatreds and intolerance, even if I don't support regulations mandating decency. Bigots wrapped in the Constitution dishonor liberty and freedom. The American Civil Liberties Unions used to know this, which is why they defended the rights of some horrible people (Skokie, Illinois, comes to mind).

Government shouldn't care who you marry, what you ingest, where you worship, or any other personal choice that doesn't directly affect others. I'm not a fan of any legislated bigotries nor any legislated tolerance.

We already have a Fourteenth Amendment. Section 1 states exactly what we need:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

There you are: "equal protection of the laws" seems to apply to all laws, and all people. I don't understand how that simple language doesn't make racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, et al, laws and treatment illegal. "Constitutionalists" out there, it's pretty clear that you cannot discriminate or restrict basic rights. Get over it and start reading the Constitution beyond the Tenth Amendment.

Neither the Republican nor the Libertarian Parties in the U.S. represent the "libertarianism" or "classical liberal" views I embrace. But, the Democratic Party with its faith in government-based solutions is, at least on many issues, also far from my views. Like many, I find myself without a political home, convinced our two major parties are more interested in slow evolution of the status quo, more often reacting to social changes after-the-fact instead of either party actively promoting individual liberty accompanied by responsibility.

The GOP leadership won't stand up to religious moralism, ahistorical gun-rights zealots, corporate interests, xenophobes, and so much more. It's why I cannot and will not support the Republican Party. If you read, from cover-to-cover, the works of Adam Smith and the utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill, you find something more nuanced that political voices promote. F. A. Hayek was not Ayn Rand, either.

In advocating for simple laws, meaning clear, equitable, and enforceable, I am not advocating for lawless anarchy. Nothing disgusts me more than the common strawman that somehow libertarianism is anarchism. It is not. A simple, tiered progressive tax system with no exemptions, no special treatments, is not anarchy. It's easy to enforce and doesn't let any individual game the tax laws.

You can support maintaining roads and bridges without being a wild-eyed socialist. Pragmatism alone suggests roads are a good thing. Someday, we might have electric cars, powered by solar energy, but we'll still have roads — they aren't going away. And asking people who use the roads to pay for them is simplistic.

A capital-L Libertarian I know complained about his taxes supporting bridges he doesn't use. That's an example of intentional ignorance. He might not use the bridges around where we live (unlikely, unless he never travels), but almost everything he needs to live a comfortable life is transported over those roads. The clumsy rhetoric of Elizabeth Warren aside, we do rely on shared infrastructure and it must be paid for. But, that does not mean we can or should build pointless, ineffective, inefficient, infrastructure simply to create busy work.

I do not support California's high speed rail system. Why? Because transit within metropolitan areas stinks and should be addressed first. If we must pay for transit, we should subsidize workers getting to their daily jobs. High-speed rail won't do that. Just try to get from one side of Los Angles to the other, especially East to West. The bus lines and light rail are a mess. Fixing that would help far, far more people earn livings, pay taxes, and rise economically than building high speed rail might do.

Being a "libertarian" doesn't mean you give up sanity in the name of some perceived rights and self-sufficiency that never was.

Gun rights? Didn't any members of the NRA listen to or watch "Gunsmoke" or maybe read some Western history? Guns were banned, yes banned, in many small cities in the West. You turned them in as you entered town and retrieved the gun as you left. It was understood that you needed a gun out in the country, where lawmen weren't within cellphone range. But, nobody assumed you had a right to carry a sidearm in town. Dodge, Tombstone, Wichita, and even Houston banned sidearms in town. It was assumed you could trust the lawmen of the Old West to protect you in a city, and that everyone was safer with only a few guns in town. Beyond the city, you might need the gun for wild animals, highwaymen, rustlers, and general scoundrels. Also, you could have a rifle at home in most cities of the West. I suppose that's because you didn't walk around with the rifle.

As I have stated, repeatedly, I don't support the Democratic Party, and have no home elsewhere. I believe in capitalism, limited government, and meritocracy. I don't support government solutions to most problems. I never trust any large organization to do what is best for individuals.

Being pragmatic and an (almost) classical liberal is frustrating. But, such is life.

Read the following (yes, I realize they are imperfect):


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