We Are All Libertarians Now
by Susan Westfall: The
War on Ron Paul
was asked to explain whether or not it was "a common libertarian
belief that any government is bad." This sticking point
was one that in the questioners' own words caused them to "lose
interest," and despite being "in agreement with a lot
of libertarian thinking...talking about deregulating everything,"
turned them off. I was asked this because of my support for and
recent article about Ron Paul, who despite decades of serving as
a Republican Congressman, is still consistently labeled as a libertarian
in almost every media interview with him or discussion about him.
The subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, implication by the media
is that either the word libertarian in and of itself (or perhaps
just the idea of being a libertarian) is somehow not quite right,
maybe even unacceptable, and most certainly not electable.
At this point
I would like to make it clear that the people posing their questions
seemed genuinely concerned with simply understanding better the
issue of greatly reducing the size of government and not with deriding
libertarianism. In fact, they assured me that they "like a
lot of libertarian principles," but deregulation and "pursuing
an idealized notion of a free market," is not an answer
they understand and this, I assume, could affect their vote in 2012.
However, their wording of the overarching question first asked shows
how successful the media campaign against libertarian ideals over
the years has been. The application of the label "libertarian"
to someone's political character these days insinuates that said
person is not only promoting an absence of any government whatsoever,
but is almost eagerly awaiting the advent of anarchy and its chaotic
and bloody results. Somalia is often used to demonstrate how such
kooky libertarian ideals will end.
as with any other group, have beliefs that are wide and varied.
I won't pretend to know them all, or purport to having done a deep
or intensive study of the matter. "Libertarian ideas are like
stones dropping into a body of water, making waves in so many directions
that no one is sure where they come from," says Lew Rockwell
Case for Libertarian Hope. An exact list of what libertarians
believe in, stand for, or wish to attain might theoretically be
compiled, but in reality would not be applicable to all its advocates.
That said, there are at least two basic concepts that appear to
be foundational to libertarianism: individual liberty and doing
no harm. Everything else, in my opinion, is just extrapolation and
lends to a general confusion that inevitably dilutes their strength.
liberty is based on two concepts: life and property. Your life and
your property are yours, and yours alone. You are free to do with
them what you will, as long as you don't harm another with your
doings. We exercise the choices we make regarding life and property
through an ideal held dear by ALL people, no matter the political
or religious label attached to them: that of free will. We choose
what to eat and drink, where to live and how, what to think and
believe, who to befriend or not, whether to be honest or lie, if
we will act morally or immorally...the list could fill tomes. All
individuals, regardless of race or gender, are born with this gift
by which, at the very least, they are able to think, rationalize,
and create. It is an accepted fact that free will is dictated by
no person other than the one exercising it. If people are religious,
they exercise their free will to adhere to God's laws. However,
I doubt any of them seriously believe that a bolt of lightening
will shoot out of the Walmart ceiling tiles to strike them dead
should they decide to shoplift. God does not compel mankind through
force to follow His laws regarding morality, the treatment of fellow
man, or any other of His dictates. God gifts mankind with individual
liberty and extolls us to use it to exercise our free will, follow
His guidance, and choose wisely in all things. If we choose unwisely,
we and we alone will suffer the consequences – not our parents,
not our neighbors, and not the rich people who have more than us.
Does government then deem itself more powerful, more all-knowing
than God? It must. Through legislation written by Congress the federal
government: denies us the liberty to exercise our free will and
dictates our choices for us; takes our wealth through taxation and
redistributes it to others; and forces us to comply with its dictates
through threats of imprisonment and/or fines. Pretty presumptuous,
not to mention overbearing. As Ron Paul is fond of saying, "It
makes no sense whatsoever." It makes even less sense to label
people who believe in the right of individual liberty to exercise
free will as kooks, anarchists, or extremists.
So since government
is most assuredly not God, what is the role and purpose of government?
Thankfully, we have a document that lays out just exactly those
things. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution enumerates specifically
the 21 duties the federal government is authorized to perform. Unfortunately,
the legislative branch ignores it, the executive branch appends
it, the judicial branch undermines it, the States are remiss in
their duty to guard against all of the latter, and the people have
forgotten that they ARE the government. So instead of a Constitutional
Republic that would restrain bureaucracy, protect liberty, and enforce
laws, we now have a 'democracy' that is so gargantuan in size that
it is unsustainable. One grows dizzy trying to count the number
of departments, programs, bureaus, divisions, sub-departments, and
offices instituted to enact all the
unconstitutional legislation written over the last one hundred years
to regulate and restrain the people. But will Congress cut it back?
Not unless the people insist, and too many still don't understand
that most of what government does is not really beneficial, but
in actuality detrimental to the peoples' well-being and in direct
opposition to the general welfare of their Republic.
The mere mention
of cutting government back to a Constitutional, and thus affordable
size, gives rise to immediate cries of doom, gloom, and destruction.
Without the benign munificence of whatever sacred department or
program targeted for removal it is intimated that: old people will
be dropping like flies in the streets; no one will have a home;
all our children will starve; the country will be overcome with
unbearable pollution; everyone will die from poisoned food and bad
medicine; and so on till the cows come home. Used to fuel the peoples'
fears and maintain the status-quo, reporters seldom question
whether any of these programs or departments are efficient or even
worthy of expending scarce tax dollars on. Take for example the
Environmental Protection Agency. This hallowed body purports to
protect us from polluting corporations through tough regulations
without which, supposedly, America would be wallowing in untold
amounts of toxic pollution and all life would perish. In reality,
its very policies often encourage corporations to continue polluting.
If it costs less to pay a fine for polluting than it does to make
renovations needed to meet regulation standards, then corporations
will pay the fines and continue polluting. The government collects
the fine money, no reform occurs, and the pollution continues on
for years. What marvelous protection! If the EPA really wanted
to protect the environment by enforcing tough regulations, there
would be no optional fine payments or the fines would exceed renovation
costs. And why do we need an agency for this anyway? Constitutionally,
that's what the court system is for...to protect property from pollution
or any other damage and to fairly decide compensation and punishment.
Strictly and properly enforced court decisions would soon force
corporations to curtail bad habits they are now actually encouraged
to continue, by the very same agency supposedly protecting us.
example of government proficiency is the Food and Drug Administration.
It ensures that we have safe medicines and food. Right? Surely it's
worth the expended dollars to keep us safe from death and injury.
Economist Randall Holcombe begs to differ. "The policy experts
who have evaluated the costs and benefits of drug regulation have
almost uniformly concluded that the costs of the regulations are
not worth their benefits," quotes Thomas Woods in
his book Rollback.
Shouldn't we at least listen to these experts on FDA policy? It's
not like, as Mr. Woods says, "a free people would...stand around
scratching their heads...[wondering] what to do about [food and]
drug safety." He proposes, and rightly so, that private firms
such as Underwriters Laboratories could easily take over the job
of informing customers of safe products, and at no cost to the taxpayer.
In addition, at recent
hearings on the Hill arguments were heard regarding the FDA's
over-regulation of medical devices and an approval process that
stifles innovation. Once again we find government is not always
efficient. Why expend tax dollars on something private companies
and the market could probably do better?
Even if people
don't always agree why, in light of the fact that there is simply
no money to continue funding them, the need to cut many of
these regulating bodies is fast becoming an accepted norm. However,
since the answer to the question "But, but how would we protect
everyone?" is often the free market, another hurdle is quickly
rolled out by the media for people to stumble upon. Horrors! The
free market is the harbinger of all disasters that have befallen
us, both old and new. As such we certainly can't trust it to regulate
anything. Hogwash! "The free market" has not been free
since 1913, when the FED began centrally planning our economy and
intervening in the market. Any intervention in the market disrupts
the natural balance maintained by demand and production. The market,
if left to operate free of restrictions, reflects real consumer
demands for goods and services. This in turn is used to set the
price of goods based on ease and speed of production. If we understand
that economic value can only be placed on an object based on whether
consumers need or want it enough to pay for it, and that needs and
wants change arbitrarily with social circumstances and can't be
predicted accurately, then the idea that any regulating body could
possibly out-perform the natural balance the market achieves is
ludicrous. As soon as any restrictions are placed on the market,
either through legislative regulations or central planning controls,
the balance shifts away from the consumer towards the producer.
This imbalance quickly leads to big businesses and corporations
rapidly beating a path to Congress to purchase special favors that
will benefit them, but never their consumers. No wonder government
jumped so quickly into the Keynesian fueled vehicle for intervention
provided by his scientific rational for central economic planning.
It placed them firmly in the driver's seat, big producers in the
back seat paying the fare, and consumers in the trunk...if they
were lucky. More often than not the consumers find themselves choking
on dust at the road side. "The free market protects consumers
and restrains government and big business," Ron Paul articulates
asked how free markets could protect us. Big government advocates
were more than happy to throw off those restraints and invite their
cronies along for the ride.
government's role in the market is to ensure that trade in goods
produced remains regular and unrestricted between whatever parties
want to have commerce, and to enforce and uphold contracts between
those parties. It is not to control through legislation what can
be produced in the name of regulating commerce. Nor is it, or has
it ever been, to legislate into being an entity to plan the economy
for the general welfare of the people. Intervention in the free
markets by government created bodies based on Keynes's theory for
central planning is the actual harbinger, and true culprit, of all
our present woes. This understanding is becoming clearer to people,
and is evidenced by a growing resurgence of belief in the idea that
more government seldom translates to better government.
One need not believe in any particular political theory to find
the idea of smaller government attractive. In fact conservatives,
republicans, constitutionalists, independents, and tea party people,
as well as many dreaded libertarians, easily find common ground
for smaller government. When asked about the size of government
recently on the Diane
Rehm show, Ron Paul commented, "[It should be] as small
as possible." During that interview he further explained, "There
is nothing wrong with describing conservatism as protecting the
Constitution, protecting all things that limit government. Government
is the enemy of liberty. Government should be very restrained."
at the polls for Dr. Paul demonstrates that people are not finding
his defense of liberty and small government such unacceptable ideas,
despite his being labeled a libertarian by the media. In fact, judging
by how frequently we now hear similar platitudes pass the lips of
many a politician who previously derided Ron Paul for his stance,
I would say his ideas are very acceptable to a majority of people.
So much so that it seems quite sensible to proclaim that, "If
we believe in having the liberty to exercise our free will and if
we believe in smaller government, then perhaps we are all libertarians
Westfall [send her mail]
is a mother, a libertarian, and an educator.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.