Archive for the ‘Libertarianism’ Category

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10 Conservative Principles

July 29, 2009

I was recently introduced to Russell Kirk’s “10 Conservative Principles.” These, he says, are the closest thing to ideology and dogma present in the persuasion of conservatism, as conservatism is neither.

I have largely departed from a purely “conservative” worldview as of late, mostly because I feel that libertarianism is the true heir of the American Revolution. Conservatism promotes the mixture of state politics with religious doctrine; libertarianism holds that religion exists outside the sphere of state politics and can only be freely practiced without state involvement. Conservatism promotes the mixture of corporate interests with those of the state; libertarianism seeks a complete separation of the state from the economy just as from religion. The list goes on. Libertarianism is the best way to promote that central ideal of the American Revolution: the right to be left alone.

But the beautiful thing about libertarianism is that it does not prescribe doctrine, belief or morals. It is a theory of the state, not a moral code. A libertarian may pass moral judgment in any way he wants on anything whatsoever; what separates him from the “liberal” or “conservative” is that he does not see the state as a legitimate apparatus for promoting that particular view and imposing it on others. A libertarian may be pro-choice but still vehemently oppose abortion; he may support the legalization of marijuana but oppose its general use; he may be an avid philanthropist but categorically reject the welfare state. Libertarianism does not preclude an individual from passing moral judgment; it merely seeks to prohibit the state from doing so.

Over the next few days I will take a look at Kirk’s 10 Conservative Principles and discuss them in relation to libertarianism.

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Race politics and police powers

July 27, 2009

The Gates arrest in Cambridge, Mass. last week re-introduced America to the ongoing problem of race and identity politics. Henry Louis Gates, a prominent black professor at Harvard, was arrested for disorderly conduct outside his home when a Cambridge police officer was dispatched to the house to investigate a possible break-in. Officer James Crowley determined that the home indeed belonged to Gates, but arrested Gates after he became loud and violent and refused to cooperate with a request to produce his identification.The incident report has been published on The Smoking Gun. Read it and draw your own conclusions.

President Obama’s reaction was to say that the Cambridge Police “acted stupidly” and used the arrest as an excuse to launch into a tirade about racism in America. There was no discussion of whether the officer acted within his Constitutional and legal boundaries, which is the question that everyone should be asking. Rather, Obama harped on how black and Latino men are only arrested because of the color of their skin.

Libertarians should be asking themselves what it means to have a president who claims to be “post-partisan” and “post-racial” but then argues every chance he gets that minorities should not be subject to the same rules that apply to everyone else. While this case plays into legitimate questions of the role police play in protecting Americans’ rights to life, liberty and property, bringing race into the debate mucks everything up and serves as a distraction from the real questions about police powers.

The fundamental issue here is the overwhelming politicization of the police functions of the state. When governments control police, politicians like Obama get to dictate how those police conduct their daily business, rather than the people whose rights the police are hired to protect in the first place.  How are race politics interfering with your rights to protection?

Obama and Gates should stop playing the race card, and should instead ask  how public (i.e. “government”) ownership and administration of protective services directly interferes with the ability of individuals to hold police accountable. Situations like this could be avoided in the future. That will require an introduction of free-market, non-state  solutions to Gates’ problem.

Murray Rothbard produced a chapter on free-market solutions to the problems of police powers and protective services in For a New Liberty. Check it out.

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Obamacare has no choice but to fail.

July 23, 2009

I have faith in the American system as I see this healthcare debate continue. Not only is the public realizing how much money and liberty Obama’s plan will cost them, but the Blue Dog Democrats alike are starting to wake up, and may actually be the ones to protect us from this government invasion of our already barely-free healthcare market.

One news story I read characterized Obama’s plan as something about to “awaken a sleeping giant.” We can only hope that this could be the one event that makes the public realize what this president is doing to exterminate this country’s belief in individual sovereignty. As the American people become less and less thrilled with the accumulation of federal debt and the nationalization of major sectors of our economy, I think that they will turn back towards the light.

I am reminded of a quote from Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You:

“We may dispute upon the question whether the nestlings are ready to do without the mother-hen and to come out of the eggs, or whether they are not yet advanced enough. But the young birds will decide the question without any regard for our arguments when they find themselves cramped for space in the
eggs. Then they will begin to try them with their beaks and come out of them of their own accord.”

As Obama, the self-proclaimed mother-hen of sorts, ramps up his war upon the American Dream, the people will fight back. This is against our Constitution, our free markets, our culture of classical liberalism and pluralism and our way of life.  In the end, it will work out the way it was supposed to. Americans will have to pull the plug on Obamacare or lose their freedom, and when faced with tough decisions, Americans will choose their freedom over involuntary servitude, whether the paternalists in government want to accept that or not.

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Patrons and Punishers

July 21, 2009

“Some writers have so confounded society with government as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.  Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse the other creates distinctions.  The first is a patron; the last a punisher.”

Thomas Paine, 1776

This opening paragraph of Paine’s 1776 revolutionary pamphlet, “Common Sense,” is one of the best statements of a libertarian credo I have encountered.  Rather than view government as an extension of society, Paine chooses to distinguish the two. They become mutually exclusive, opposing, and even inimical counterparts to each other. The dichotomy that follows is equally poetic.

I do take some issues with Paine’s characterizations. Not so much what he says, but how he says it. For example, I don’t believe Society is produced by wants; it is more like a natural state of human existence (which, Paine explains on the next few pages, inevitably replaces the State of Nature). Government attempts to replace society by doing away with natural institutions and processes and replacing them with artificial ones.

Does government restrain our vices? Possibly. Certainly it makes it hard to pursue impulses to kill, cheat, lie, or harm others. But perhaps Paine could not foresee how Government would soon come to create the very vices it was meant to restrain. Vices such as a sense of entitlement created by the welfare state come to mind.

Murray Rothbard, in For a New Liberty, argues that government is an entity that has a monopoly on criminal activity in a geographical area. When Paine says that government restrains vices, perhaps what he should have said was that government prevents citizens from engaging in vices, but then goes on to commit those vices itself.  In those terms, a government is an entity which prevents citizens from killing, assaulting, robbing, extorting, and other crimes, but then commits those acts itself in order to pursue its illegitimate ends.

Paine’s statement that “[government] creates distinctions” is right on. When government fails to protect the liberty and property rights of every individual equally, it creates warfare between different interest groups. We see this with affirmative action programs, with the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, and with Obama’s plan to tax top earners to fund his socialist healthcare bill. Government that fails to protect all life, liberty and property rights equally–like ours–is bound to create distinctions.

But my favorite line completes the paragraph. “The first is a patron; the last a punisher.”

I will let that line speak for itself. When will government be a protector rather than a punisher of human greatness? Such a government has never existed, but hopefully someday it will.