Open Letter to Glenn Beck on Libertarianism


Dear Mr. Beck,

On your radio program you recently did us all a great disservice by misrepresenting the libertarian philosophy. I am already well aware that you are not a fan of Ron Paul and would prefer that any of the other Republican candidates receive the 2008 presidential nomination. However, as one who always claims to want to have open and honest debates about the issues, I expected more of you. Remember, it isn’t about left and right (though I have an extremely difficult time seeing much of a difference between these two "ideologies" these days) but about right and wrong. In order to have this discussion, shouldn’t one start off honestly by making sure that everybody has the right information? Since you also claim to be one who thoroughly studies out all sides of an issue, I have a hard time believing that you were ignorant in your misrepresentation of libertarianism. However, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and take the time to educate you on the beautiful philosophy of liberty.

The comments about libertarianism that I am referring to came during the radio program about Darwinism and how the environmentalists were actually subverting the process of evolution. I admit that I don’t have a perfect recollection of what you said, though this may be largely due to the fact that your comments made my "blood start bursting out of my eyes." In order to define various political philosophies, you used an analogy of a pack of running wolves with one or two stragglers. "The left," you stated, would use force to have the entire pack slow down so the straggling ones could keep up. You were correct in stating that public education is a perfect example of this immoral use of force. Though doesn’t it strike you as odd that Ron Paul was the only Republican candidate that has called for the abolition of the Department of Education during the debates? Maybe all of the other Republican candidates are more to "the left" and less principled than you would like to admit.

However, your "ignorance" truly kicked in when you stated that the libertarians actually desire to have some of the wolves fall behind and want to see them with needles sticking out of their arms. This, Mr. Beck, is the philosophy of libertines, not libertarians. Though the two words sound alike (it’s your public education which is most likely to blame for this mix-up), as Walter Block likes to point out librarianism (i.e. the study of libraries) also closely resembles both of these words. Whether or not the wolf should leave the group has nothing to do with libertarianism as this philosophy only concerns itself with the issue of when force should be used to violate the free will of the "wolf."

Libertarianism is the belief that each and every person has God-given or natural inalienable rights. These rights are numerous and it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to list all of them out. However, the most concise definition is that of the classical liberal tradition which states that we all have a right to life, liberty and property. Each individual has the exact same rights and thus any right that I want to claim I have to concede to everybody else. I believe that we are justified in defending our rights and the rights of others, even by force if necessary. Yet, we have only been authorized by God to use force to violate the free will of another individual to protect these rights. Individuals may choose to delegate the protection of their rights to a third party (i.e. government). However, this third party is only morally justified in performing functions that each individual would be justified in doing by themselves. Ezra Taft Benson, a recent leader of our faith, confirmed this truth – "There is one simple test. Do I as an individual have a right to use force upon my neighbor to accomplish (a particular) goal? If I do have such a right, then I may delegate that power to my government to exercise on my behalf. If I do not have that right as an individual, then I cannot delegate it to government, and I cannot ask my government to perform the act for me." Thus, the only moral function of government is to protect our rights from the aggression of others. Anytime a government does anything other than this, it violates rights of others and, being that these rights have been given by God with a purpose, these acts are immoral and against His grand plan of happiness for us. Furthermore, a government must never violate the rights of one individual in order to protect those of another for "all men are created equal" and all rights are equally sacred.

Since I am already aware that you and I see eye to eye for the most part on one having a right to life and property, the difference seems to boil down to liberty. What does it mean for an individual to have a right to liberty? Bruce McConkie, another prominent leader of our faith, defined this as "the privilege to be free and to be unrestrained in all activity except that which interferes with the equally sacred rights of others."

Based upon the principles above, force should not be used to slow everybody down to the speed of the stragglers because no rights have been violated. Likewise, if a few wolves desire to peacefully go off in another direction, then force should not be used to have them stay with the group. The laws you are insinuating would do just that and are backed by the threat of death for those who want to peacefully exercise their free will or moral agency. Though I do not wish for others to destroy their own lives, I will not condone the use of force to destroy the God-given right to liberty. As Jefferson stated "The care of every man’s soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglect the care of it? Well what if he neglect the care of his health or his estate, which would most nearly related to the state. Will the magistrate make a law that he not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from others; but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against their wills."

You do not appreciate it when "liberals" claim that "conservatives" desire for all poor people starve to death because "conservatives" do not want the government to redistribute wealth. This is based upon the principle that force should not be used to violate the sacred right to property. It is my hope, though, that those with abundance will choose to voluntarily take care of those in need. This same principle applies to liberty.

Mr. Beck, though I highly doubt this letter has convinced you to respect the right to liberty, I implore you to be more honest in the future in your descriptions of libertarianism. At a minimum, use the word "libertine" when you give similar descriptions. Since the vast majority of Americans have been blessed with a public education, you will most likely have the same "shock" effect as using the word libertarianism and you will not display as much ignorance in your discussions.

July 16, 2007