|Graphic from The Cato Institute. Click to read more of Bastiat|
I had a great conversation with a friend about the above quote. In it, he brought up a few interesting points. I think they're worthy of comment because they touched on the way many people (usually on the Left, as observed by Bastiat, above) think about Libertarianism, and some of the misconceptions they hold. Primarily, the misconception that Libertarians are Anarchists.
Libertarians are not Anarchists.
A Libertarian wants a limited government: an Anarchist wants none. Or consider this... the difference between a Libertarian and an Anarchist is the difference between a lover and a rapist. It's not so subtle after all, is it? That doesn't keep people from getting it wrong. Take this parody:
People all across the political spectrum like roads, bridges, infrastructure, museums, and a safe society. I like them, too -- and I'll even throw in schools and doctors to boot. But I want their governance to be at the proper level (federal, state, local, or personal) and no more governance than is necessary. That's pretty simple.
Furthermore, just because the government shouldn't be involved in something, that doesn't mean I wouldn't band with other willing people and chip in for the benefit of myself and others.
It's an issue of control
As you'll see in the case of "intellectual property" (in the next post), much of government regulation is about control... controlling your actions, controlling your charitable giving; even controlling the very expressions of your thought despite the "guarantee" of the First Amendment. We put up with a little of that for the public good, thus we have laws against slander and libel. However, we have to be very careful that such things don't go out of bounds. Sadly, the law is often used not for the public good, but to exert petty control over the private actions of citizens.
All sorts of people are Libertarians, They believe in greater or lesser degrees of government. You can click on the logo to the right to read the Libertarian Party's platform. Here's what I mean by it:
- The FEDERAL government should do everything required of it by the Constitution, and nothing else. That "nothing else" isn't just my preference, BTW... it's mandated by the Tenth Amendment... one which is often dismissed as not meaning anything. "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Well, it does mean something, "if gentlemen will allow that the fact is as stated" (as James Madison put it). That's why it was debated and ratified. It means "limited government". If it's not granted in the Constitution, it's not in Federal power.
- The STATE government should do everything required of it by the State Constitution and no more. Note that it doesn't have to duplicate the functions of the Federal government. Note that it can do things the Federal government can't, except those things that the US Constitution prohibits. Note that the States don't need to have the same rules... diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks. It's a big country. And if you don't live in South Carolina, keep your nose out of South Carolina politics.
- Your LOCAL government should take care of your municipal and community needs to whatever extent its citizens have decided. So long as it's not prohibited by the US and State Constitutions, that is. Local safety, community schools, sanitation, etc... those things that to coordinate any group of people who want to live together nicely. Again, diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks, and various levels of government involvement in accordance with the vote of the People. For instance, where I live, the citizenry, through the City, own the utilities. In practice it's great. Utilities are a natural monopoly, and public ownership means that our property taxes can remain low. I would not vote for State or Federal control of the utility grid though, as that removes the benefit from the people.
- What's remains is called YOUR LIFE. Live it. It's YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. Live up to it.
The basic rule is that the highest rank in a Libertarian society is Citizen. All authority is delegated to the government; thus the various levels of government have only the authority that the People allow. Go back and re-read the Tenth Amendment and see if that doesn't click for you.
Because all people have the same rights, it naturally follows that your freedoms don't entitle you to infringe on someone else's. No natural right may force an obligation on another. Primarily this means you have to be tolerant of others. They're not you, they don't think like you, and if you think they must think like you, then prepare for a lifetime of disappointment. It also means that others are not obligated to work for you and provide for you, although as a society we encourage one another to be generous. (Remember Bastiat's quote? There's a difference between government and society). Put another way, you don't have a right to freedom from offense, and you don't have a right to slaves. But on my most tolerant days, there are some things I can't get behind. This is going to take the form of a little rant, so if you don't like rants, just skip it.
- If the team doesn't pray before a football game, I can't get behind the offense you take at this "attack on religion", because nobody's stopping you from praying. So bow your head and forget about what everybody else is doing.
- I can't get behind manipulative goading of the People into class envy. The proper reaction to "you have things I don't" isn't "give me your stuff!" It's "how can I do what you did?" For the record, the first step in doing that is to stop listening to the Left about how unfair your life is. They tell you that Life isn't fair when they mean it's not equitable. Because there is absolutely nothing fair about taking by force what one man earned to give to another who did not earn it. The deliberate inflammation of petty jealousies is as unimaginative as it is transparent.
- I can't get behind people using their religion as a hook on which to hang law. "We're a Christian nation!" they cry. Well... no. We're a nation OF Christians, and that's a whole different story, because we're also a nation of Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and Native Americans and Sikhs and Shintos and Jainists and Unitarians and B'hai Faith and Satanists and Wiccans and Jedis and Taoists and New Agers and Druids and Zoroastrians and Neopagans and Agnostics and Atheists and Deists and Humanists... even Scientologists and Pastafarians. Even among the Christians, we're not a nation of Christians, but of Anabaptists and Baptists and Calvinists and Catholics and Episcopalians and Lutherans and Methodists and Mormons and Pentecostals and Presbyterians and Quakers and Seventh-Day Adventists and more. And sometimes they don't get along. And ALL of these are equally protected by and prohibited from imposing their beliefs on others by the First Amendment. If you can't find a good enough secular reason for a law, then leave it to God.
- I can't get behind the constant race-baiting by the professional liars who claim to act in minority interests. It's there when every minority Conservative voice is shouted down as an "Uncle Tom" or a "house nigger". It's there when the ONLY black Senator, Tim Scott, isn't invited to the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's speech in Washington DC. It's there when rappers like TI are given a hard time when they clean up their act because they're no longer Black enough. It's there when the Liberal media insist on calling George Zimmerman (a mixed-race Hispanic) a "White Hispanic". He downplayed his ethnicity, but apparently Latino-on-Black violence isn't divisive enough for the media. And it's there every time that these people, who do these things, have the unmitigated effrontery to call other people "racists."
And I can't get behind legislation by un-elected non-representatives. You see...
There is a Shadow Government
I'm not talking about some nefarious Illuminati meeting in a dark chamber and pulling the strings. I'm talking about something that's blatant, and public, and in-your-face.
The constant push for centralization and government control brings with it supreme inefficiencies. We have created agencies and bureaucracies of millions [pdf] of people who are paid by draining the public coffers so the Federal government can enforce regulations that apply to local jurisdictions. These regulations were not created by constitutionally-designated, freely-elected lawmakers, nor even approved by such after due consideration; but by appointed and hired bureaucrats. The regulations they create have the force of law; the fees and fines they can impose have the effect of taxation. This bureaucracy forms the body of a government that we did not elect, and which does not represent us, and which endures independently of an election cycle. Seeing as how we already have State and local governments, the inefficiency of this additional "shadow" government is simply not acceptable to me.
But do not imagine that this means I am an anarchist. That would be a gross mis-characterization. Libertarians are not "absolutist". Even Bastiat argued the need for public assistance. Far from being "unrealistically idealistic", Libertarians are REALISTICALLY idealistic.