We’ve been watching the Republican primary closely and there is a polarization of Conservatives against the Libertarian wing. Ron Paul is a poor articulator of libertarian philosophy, so I’d like to give it a shot.
Libertarians believe in the principle of inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property – for all people, applied equally. We believe the individual is of supreme importance. Individuals should be free to exercise life, liberty, and property so long as they do not violate contract or infringe upon another person’s rights.
Importantly, rights must be defended for those who are different from ourselves. If we cannot hold to a principle when it doesn’t affect us personally or maybe even makes us uncomfortable – then we have no rights at all, we have only tyranny of the majority. If we do not have the rule of law, applied and respected equally, then we do not have security of rights we have anarchy.
Libertarians believe in principle not pragmatism. Supporting the lesser evil or suspending principle for what seems beneficial in the short term is unacceptable.
What does this mean practically and applied to policy?
The Christian church in New York has been singled out to be thrown from public buildings, though any other community organizations are free to continue meeting. I find this deeply troubling as a Christian. What if the issue at stake was the freedom of Muslims to meet in schools? A wiccan? I only truly have a secure right to worship as a Christian when those of any other faith have that same right or my right rests on political whim.
The political view of the day is populism which is concerned for people as groups or society as a whole. With this approach, one isn’t concerns for a small percent who are negatively impacted. A Libertarian is concerned for people as individuals. It is better 10 guilty go free than 1 innocent be convicted.
It may seem to us that the measures put in place for terrorism are applied to obvious terrorists. One might say it is ok to detain without trial, because these are people who are fighting for the enemy. But if they are so obviously guilty, we should have no difficulty securing a legal judgment.
To die at the hands of a terrorist attack would be a tragedy. But terrorists are a known risk and a known evil. A far greater tragedy is for the “good” institutions of government to sweep up innocent people and destroy lives because someone mistook their patterns of activity. A great shame it is to definitely lose liberty because one might be impacted by terrorism.
Military use represents the greatest divide between Conservatives and Libertarians. Most Republicans believe government is the problem, they don’t want government getting too big or taking over their healthcare. Libertarians believe in small government at home AND small government abroad. We don’t trust government at home or abroad. We don’t believe government can solve complex problems or build free societies abroad any more than they can at home.
A strong defense is a necessary function of government. But it should be a defense, not an offense. Just as there are many sharp objects and potential dangers in our day to day life, there are many potential worldwide threats. But to run around and eliminate all risk in both cases would be to trade a possible bad situation for a definite loss of liberty.
Ron Paul has some obvious faults, he’s not a great speaker, he’s had some real lapses of judgment, but he gives voice to philosophies of liberty the founders believed in and a growing number of Americans are desperate to hear again in the political dialogue.