Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Libertarian - just what is it?

So in talking with .justin he saw that I have started thinking about classifying myself as a libertarian instead of a Republican and he wanted to know more about what a libertarian is.

First of all, a bit of history. Way back when during the conception of our country most of our founding fathers were considered "liberals" in that they stressed the importance of human rationality, individual property rights, natural rights, the protection of civil liberties, constitutional limitations of government, free markets, and individual freedom from restraint. Thomas Jefferson called these our "inalienable rights." This viewpoint is often referred to as "classical liberalism" which holds that rights exist independently of government.

Starting in the late 1800's and finalized during the 1920's and 1930's a movement begin within American politics (culminated by one Franklin D Roosevelt, perhaps you have heard of him?) that changed the definition of "liberalism." In the United states socialists did not want to be called socialists (it brought connotations of communism and marxism [and some would argue rightly so]) so through time the socialist party corrupted and co-opted the name liberalists. This is why a "liberal" in Europe is often actually what we in the United States would call a "conservative" while what we call a "liberal" in the States is referred to as a "socialist" in Europe.

So a libertarian is one who holds to the beliefs of "classical liberalism" which should not be confused with modern liberals.

So now we know the history of what a libertarian is, what exactly does a libertarian believe? Here are some quotes that describe libertarianism:

The basic premise of libertarianism is that each individual should be free to do as he or she pleases so long as he or she does not harm others. In the libertarian view, societies and governments infringe on individual liberties whenever they tax wealth, create penalties for victimless crimes, or otherwise attempt to control or regulate individual conduct which harms or benefits no one except the individual who engages in it."
-- definition written by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service
"Libertarianism is what you probably already believe… Libertarian values are American values. Libertarianism is America's heritage of liberty, patriotism and honest work to build a future for your family. It's the idea that being free and independent is a great way to live. That each of us is a unique individual, with great potential. That you own yourself, and that you have the right to decide what's best for you. Americans of all races and creeds built a great and prosperous country with these libertarian ideals. Let's use them to build America's future."
-- David Bergland
Or my favorite of them all:
"Libertarianism is what your mom taught you: behave yourself and don't hit your sister."
-- Dr. Kenneth Bisson

Libertarian Principles
1. Each individual has the right to his or her own life, and this right is the source of all other rights.

2. Property rights are essential to the maintenance of those rights.

3. In order that these rights be respected, it is essential that no individual or group initiate the use of force or fraud against any other.

4. In order to bar the use of force or fraud from social relationships and to place the use of retaliatory force under objective control, human society requires an institution charged with the task of protecting individual rights under an objective code of rules. This is the basic task, and the only moral justification for, government.

5. The only proper functions of government, whose powers must be constitutionally limited are:
* settling, according to objective laws, disputes among individuals, where private, voluntary arbitration has failed
* providing protection from criminals
* providing protection from foreign invaders
6. As a consequence of all the above, every individual -- as long as he or she respects the rights of others -- has the right to live as he or she alone sees fit, as a free trader on a free market.
I am still not positive I am ready to make the full jump to the Libertarian party, I really need to figure out exactly where I lie politically, but for now I am definitely Libertarian leaning.


.justin said...

i don't mean to boil it down, but do you think jesus was a libertarian who chose to submit to the sovereignty of His Father, GOD? and would encourage a libertarian society, with others submitting to GOD the Father's Kingdom?

i'm still processing, but that was an initial thought i had...

A.ha. said...

ahaaa the politcs have started.

James D said...

I am with the libertarians on many issues but their stance on abortion is cowardly and wrong, in my opinion. Read their official stance here. Here's a good summary I also found on their site.

"Most libertarians are strongly in favor of abortion rights (the Libertarian Party often shows up at pro-rights rallies with banners that say "We're Pro-Choice on Everything!"). Many libertarians are personally opposed to abortion, but reject governmental meddling in a decision that should be private between a woman and her physician. Most libertarians also oppose government funding of abortions, on the grounds that "pro-lifers" should not have to subsidize with their money behavior they consider to be murder."

I don't want to start "ec" debate again but they support abortion for what is clearly a human life. Not just "ec" or first trimester abortion.

It is hard for me to sign on with a party and say, "They've got taxes right so I don't mind their support of baby murder." It's kind of like saying Hilter's healthcare plan is great so I don't mind the holocaust.

I don't rule out voting for any party but could not become a member with that kind of stance.

Ryan and Shalisa said...

While the "official" part stance of the Libertarians is one of pro-choice (although it isn't full pro-choice, as you linked to they don't agree with federal subsidies supporting abortion, but don't feel laws should be put in place restricting it either) it isn't quite that "cut and dry."

First of all, the main axiom of Libertarianism is the principle of non-aggression. This states that it is the government's one and only job to protect the individual from threats of or the use of cohersive physical force. Basically keep people from getting punched in the face.

Non-aggression is an ongoing obligation: it is never optional for anyone, even pregnant women. If the non-aggression obligation did not apply, then earning money versus stealing it and consensual sex versus rape would be morally indifferent behaviors. The obligation not to aggress is pre-political and pre-legal. It does not arise out of contract, agreement, or the law; rather, such devices presuppose this obligation. The obligation would exist even in a state of nature. This is because the obligation comes with our human nature, and we acquire this nature at conception.

IF you believe that life begins at conception, then the principle of non-aggression would extend to the unborn child as well and it would be mandated that the government protect that child. So the issue once again returns to "when does life start" which we will table for Brad's blog :p

But the issue of "the Libertarian Party is pro-choice so I can't support them" seems somewhat short sighted to me. In my opinion the abortion issue has progressed beyond political party lines and is now a candidate specific issue, not a party issue.

Looking at the current landscape in the Republican Party we have the top 2 front runners, Rudy Guiliani and Fred Thompson. Guiliani is outspoken about his pro-choice stance, and Thompson worked from 1991 to 1994 as a lobbyist for the pro choice movement! So to claim that the "Republican Party" is opposed to abortion is obviously hogwash, since the top 2 candidates are both pro-choice! Heck, the third candidate in most polling, Mitt Romney, has flipflopped on the abortion issue before and obviously holds no "clear" strong stance on abortion.

Contrast that with the Libertarian Party, and I quote:

Harry Browne, the LP candidate for President in 1996 and 2000 said he was personally very strongly opposed to abortion. Michael Badnarik, the LP candidate for President in 2004, was somewhat undecided on abortion - at first siding with the child's right to life over the mother's right to privacy (in his words, roughly). Gary Nolan, the presumptive LP candidate in 2004 early in the primaries is also pro-life, though it's unclear to what extent he would've sought to press his views if elected.

Ron Paul, by far the most prominent elected libertarian, representing Texas in the House of Representatives as a Republican, and the Libertarian party's 1988 candidate for President is and was pro-life. He was a practicing OB/GYN for many years and delivered many babies, which he cites as contributing to his opposition to abortion.

On the "abortion" issue, I choose to look at the candidate specifically, not the party affiliation since I know many pro-life democrats and have just given examples of very prominent pro-choice Republicans.

Hopefully that info helps you James, and if you have any questions over other Libertarian stances (Gay marriage, legalized prostitution, legalized gambling, legalized drug use - I mean come on there is plenty of ammo to use against the LP party... abortion is possibly the weakest of the arguments :p)

Susan deWaalMalefyt said...

I wouldnt say abortion is a weak argument just one that is brought up more than others....but with no doubt something that should be considered always no matter how weak it might seem. I am really enjoying learning all this stuff. :) keep posting

james d said...

as I stated at the end of my post "I don't rule out voting for any party but could not become a member with that kind of stance."

To clarify, I think we are in agreement that ruling out and person based on party is short-sighted.

But I also could not join a party who uses the slogan "We're Pro-Choice on Everything!".

I think the "personally against" abortion but politically indifferent is one of the most repulsive stances. It says that "abortion is murder but I'd rather get elected than stand against it."

To be fair, I am glad that Libertarians are against government funding. That is a great stance.

"Gay marriage, legalized prostitution, legalized gambling, legalized drug use"

I am not so against these.

Ryan and Shalisa said...

I only refer to abortion as a "weak issue" in that the Libertarian party is pretty much split down the middle on pro-life vs pro-choice.

I think we can agree that anyone who believes that life begins at conception would then view any abortion as murder, and I would agree that stating you are personally opposed to abortion but would do nothing to stop it is indeed very wrong. It is clearly a violation of the non-aggression principle held by the Libertarian party against the child.

Those that do not hold that life begins at conception likewise then view it strictly as a personal choice of the mother and there is no "loss of liberty" for the "fetus" of the mother who chooses an abortion. We are both in agreement against this stance, but I am trying to explain the "political reasoning" for the whole "were pro-choice in everything!" motto, as the libertarian party would abolish all laws that are "victimless."

I would ask why you are so opposed to any party that would publicly state that they are pro-choice, but have no issue being a member of a party that openly supports a pro-choice candidate because he is considered "the most electable."

To me it is the EXACT same hypocritical charge you would level at the libertarians that the Republican party is embracing. At least the Libertarian party has a reasoning behind their decision (they don't view the child as a child, and therefor is absent of any "rights") while the Republican party is morally opposed to abortion yet chooses to sacrifice their morals to have an "electable" candidate.

james d said...

I think there is confusion, I am not nor have ever been part of the republican party! Hell no!

Back to rational, I tend to vote more republican but not exclusively. The republican party has as many, if not more, moral cowards than the Libertarian.

I hope the clarification helps give context to my statements.

Off to small group... this is a good discussion!

Koralmae said...

Ryan, I must say I'm awfully proud of your ability to be a free thinker. You're an analytical dude who looks at an issue as objectively as possible, and you come up with your own opinions about matters. Regardless of anybody's position on anything, I always respect those who approach their thinking in the same way that you do.

What I find interesting is that we are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, but it's the Libertarian agenda that allows us to come together and agree on so much.