Libertarian Does Not Equal Libertine

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Exercising
my God-given right to squander my meager wealth as I choose, I went
to buy the Kid one of those camera-equipped cell phones. Capitalists
effectively advertise these things and the teen set feel they are
deprived if they don't have one. They understand prestige. The buyer
must function within very narrow specifications.

The clean-cut,
well-dressed young man with whom I had dealt before is personable
and very knowledgeable about his job, the equipment and the contracts.
Hah! The contracts! Another capitalist gimmick; the price of the
unit isn't dirt cheap, although surprisingly inexpensive for all
you get and for the quality of the image, the quality of the sound,
the saturation of signal in this area. The hook is in the requirement
to sign a two-year contract for service with this company…; they
can't fool me; that's where the profit is. I signed and I paid.

The clean-cut,
well-dressed, personable young man and I had chatted throughout
the dealing and the equipment preparation; the sim card had been
installed, the number checked (no change), the check signed, the
rebate instructions explained (another capitalist gimmick: how many
people lose the proof-of-purchase, wait until too late, forget or
just don't get around to sending in that rebate offer application?).
It was time for me to take my leave.

But, LewRockwell.com
has recently run three articles I wrote and I'm eager to get the
word out to clean-cut, well-dressed, personable and intelligent
young men…, or young ladies as the circumstances dictate, about
my thoughts thusly recorded and about the LewRockwell.com
site. I leaned over his desk/work station and asked, "Do you
have any, uh…, Libertarian, uh…, leanings?"

I really haven't
perfected that opener — and I wasn't particularly clean-cut or well
dressed at the moment.

The flash of
disbelief, tinged with an instant of terror, that passed over his
face and settled into a deeply suspicious, even contemptuous visage
told me I needed to work on that opener. With a quick explanation
that libertarianism is a socio-politico-economic school of philosophy
that espouses freedom I lamely ended with a protest that it was
not the same as libertinism, nor was I a libertine.

He seemed to
accept that and seemed to relax a bit. I hurriedly explained my
mission, beyond buying the new, slim, camera-phone, and signing
the two-year contract, wrote down the links for him and beat my
retreat. I wasn't optimistic about having made a convert but he
did say he'd check out the links.

It was obvious
to me that this young fellow had heard the word "libertarian."
It was quite apparent that he had a considerably different, probably
incomplete, understanding of the meaning of that word than I do.
He will receive a copy of this article whether or not it is ever
published.

From the panicky,
contemptuous expression I deduced that his understanding was in
the sense of "libertine." That, I think, is a common miss-sense
of much of the public, who pay any attention at all, regarding the
logical, workable, even noble ideas of libertarianism. It's a concern
I've felt for a long time; I even had some notes jotted down that
I dug out to put these thoughts together.

A concise definition
of the two words, in comparison, is found at The
Columbia Guide to Standard American English
from which it is
copied as follows: "A libertarian is a believer in
free will or, more frequently, a supporter of absolute freedom of
thought, word, and deed
[provided the action does not infringe
on the freedom of thought, word and deed of others]. A libertine
was once a freed slave in Rome, but today a libertine is
morally unrestrained, a profligate, dissolute person, and the word
as both noun and adjective is a pejorative."

It bears repeating:
Libertarianism embodies the idea that every individual is free to
think, speak and act as he chooses provided that those expressions
and acts don't materially infringe upon the freedom of others to
think, speak and act as they choose. Libertinism is simply nasty
behavior…, in my opinion.

This is based
on the concept that each and every person owns himself (generic
"him"), that each and every one is personally and individually
sovereign.

Libertarianism
is most pertinent in three realms of our existence: political, social
and economic. Based on the tenets of libertarianism these are three
distinctly separate realms, as they should be. In our present system
there is tremendous overlap of the political over the social and
the economic at great cost to all three.

In the political
realm libertarianism stands for the most minimum of government,
government to exist only for the protection of life, liberty and
property, and in the furtherance of those rights, perhaps, protection
of the borders and shores. This includes a minimum of taxation,
and that minimum not to include taxation on income.

The Constitution
of the United States of America, as it was intended, is nearly a
libertarian construct, especially when the first ten amendments
are considered. The Founders were very much libertarians, those
most overtly so being Patrick Henry, George Mason and Thomas Jefferson.

The Constitution
was created to strengthen but also to limit the central governance
of the federated States and to guarantee rights to the people. Leanings
toward further centralization, leading to partisan divisions among
the Founders, were led by Alexander Hamilton and John Adams and,
implicitly, by George Washington.

The word "libertarian"
seems to have arisen about that time but was not used by the Founders
and apparently was first used as indicative of free will
in the metaphysical sense. "Libertarian" apparently didn't
take on its current meaning of freedom of thought, word and action
in political, social and economic usage until the mid-twentieth
century.

There is an
American national Libertarian Party and there are state Libertarian
Parties. There are many libertarians elected to lower offices but
none to Congress. There have been Libertarian presidential candidates
for many years.

The Party has
been adversely affected in the past by fringe elements that have
attached themselves and have garnered much attention for their social
issues. They tend not to be supportive of general libertarian principles.
These have been rather flamboyant libertines who espouse and flaunt
their life style…, which doesn't attract many from the heartland.

Socially there
isn't much dispute among the convinced: libertarianism proscribes
any governmental restraints on action that doesn't infringe demonstrably
on others' well-being. This means the hedonists are supported in
their right to freedom from governmentally coerced proscription
of their behavior. They need not be considered conventionally correct
or morally correct or socially approved for such behavior.

This means
there should be no governmental regulation of alcohol, drugs, gambling,
prostitution or other activity between consenting adults. I don't
apologize for repeated use of the "G" word because libertarianism
doesn't object to the restriction of activities by and within voluntary
associations such as churches, social or fraternal organizations,
or any other groups that do not use coercion.

Libertarians
do not support any sense of encouragement for the use of alcohol,
drugs, pornography, gambling, prostitution, etc., by or among consenting
adults. Libertarians decry the abuse of alcohol, drugs, pornography,
prostitution, etc. Libertarians absolutely oppose the use of coercion
in the practices of alcohol or drug use, pornography, prostitution,
etc.

Libertarians
encourage aid for habitués of alcohol use, drug use, prostitution,
etc., from foundations, corporations, societies, associations, churches,
families, individuals, etc., but believe strongly that there is
no role for government in this endeavor. There is no role for government
in any welfare schemes; non-coercive sources of funds for relief
of all sorts of misfortune flow fairly freely even in our current
over-taxed circumstance; the private organizations do a much better
job than the government.

If taxes were
a much, much smaller percentage of our gross domestic output the
funds available privately for relief of misfortune would be much,
much more. Misguided government funding of welfare schemes weaken
family; there would be less need for governmental or organizational
funding if families were less stressed by such misguided funding
and by tax drainage on the family budget.

Finally, libertarianism
allows for no governmental constraints on, aid to, taxing
or regulation of business. Aside from some flagrant incursions from
time to time this was the state of American business and commerce
from colonial times until World War I.

The progression
of interference that blossomed with wartime regulations in WWI actually
started in the 1860s, in another war, but they were limited enough,
mostly to the railroad and banking industry, that they didn't hold
back prosperity too significantly before WWI. Those were the golden
years that built the foundation of American wealth that allows the
continued building of the economy today despite the restraints of
government.

Libertarian
principles hold that with a laissez faire (non)management of the
economy, with money stable by being based on gold and with lack
of welfare disincentives, individual and cumulative wealth of the
country would be immensely greater than it is. This is considered,
reasonably enough, to be a societal good.

Libertarian
economic principles are best articulated in the Austrian School
of economics, so-called because its early formulation was by Viennese
economic philosophers, Carl Menger and Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk
in the 19th century. It was then developed further down
through the 20th century by Ludwig von Mises and by Friedrich
von Hayek, who were both Austrians and who both came to the United
States.

Murray Rothbard
was the intellectual heir of the Austrian School and carried it
much further until his untimely death in 1995. Today there are many
teachers, researchers and students of the Austrian school scattered
widely over the U.S. and the world.

Located here
in Alabama, across Magnolia Street from the Auburn University campus,
the Ludwig von Mises Institute is the research and educational center
of classical liberalism, libertarian political theory, and the Austrian
School of economics. Working in the intellectual tradition of Ludwig
von Mises
(1881–1973) and Murray
N. Rothbard
(1926–1995), with a vast array of publications,
programs, and fellowships, the Mises Institute seeks a radical shift
in the intellectual climate as the foundation for a renewal of the
free and prosperous commonwealth.

Lew Rockwell
is the founder and president of the Mises
Institute
in Auburn, Alabama, and vice president of the Center
for Libertarian Studies
in Burlingame, California. He is an
opponent of the central state, its wars and its socialism.

Lew also is
editor-in-chief of this web site, LewRockwell.com.
LRC highlights the news and commentary that he finds important,
or simply interesting. He describes this immense task as his "hobby."

Libertinism
gets short shrift as a closer. In religion the libertine is a freethinker
or a non-thinker; the libertarian may be of any faith. The libertine
is a dissolute, unrestrained by convention or morality; the thinking,
principled libertarian does live by convention and morality,
albeit there may be a wide range of convention in the libertarian
community.

The important
distinction is that the true libertarian lives by his principles
which include, above all, that all people own their own self and
that no coercive agency may dictate their behavior, while the libertine
either has no principles or his principles do not interfere with
a hedonistic, dissolute life.

The 25th
was the Kid's fifteenth birthday, too. The camera-phone was a great
success. He says this was the greatest Christmas/birthday ever.
He says he loves us. Now I have to find the "proof-of-purchase"
and send off for the rebate.

January
2, 2006

Chuck
George [send him mail]
is a retired orthopedic surgeon in Alabama.

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