Monday, May 28, 2007

Libertarians

I had a great ride with my older daughter yesterday, returning her to college after a weekend home. Good conversation peppered with fun and serious stuff was pretty constant. We talked about family, school, friends, cars and politics. As I said, a great ride.

One point she came up with that carried the conversation for a while was that she thought she might be a Libertarian. I was surprised at first, because she has professed Democratic Party leanings previously, but could see the pull of it. For youth looking at the large share of Social Security costs they will be presented with, at a government gone wild in amassing all sorts of debt for reasons that the populace doesn’t agree with, and at social programs that get stalled, under-funded and abused, Libertarianism can seem to make sense.

But it doesn’t. Libertarianism is a return to the old west. No laws, just the rights of property and business owners to do as they wish. No public schools, no FDA, no border patrol, for sure no EPA, no Social Security, no Medicare, lower taxes and no services, just the rule of who has what they have and a gun to protect it. Who needs public libraries and parks, they’re for sissies anyway, right?!

I’ll say it out loud right here: taxes and government are good things. It’s the people that get put in charge of them that can bring the bad upon it. (As an aside, and to keep this within the context of religion & politics, churches are much the same – the church is a wonderful thing, but it is often the people that can muck it up. Fortunately, one can choose a different church. We’ve only got one country.) Without taxes we wouldn’t have roads, we wouldn’t have schools and we wouldn’t have police nor firefighters. Gone would be any assurance that our prescription medicines were the actual item or even did as they claimed. Gone would be any oversight of our food industry. Gone would be the armed forces that protect us.

Now, if you are a Libertarian in a remote part of the country, all of this may sound good. Home schooling the kids, off the grid, patrolling your own turf, hunting and farming for your meals are all viable possibilities for the small scale survivalist. I think for some this may be ideal. But not for the many that live in close proximity to each other, that shop in town regularly for supplies, and that want the comfort community brings. Very simply, we have grown too big as a nation to not make use of the savings of scale and the safety government is supposed to provide.

As for Libertarians in the cities and towns across this nation, my sense is that they are typically small business people that have been misguided. They are often hung up in what the government won’t let them do (because it pollutes or takes advantage of workers) or what the government charges them (for the infrastructure that makes their business viable in the first place) and they think they don’t want government. What they are, is either disinclined to go in and fix the government they have or, having done so, been outplayed by the powers that be.

And that is what a democracy is all about – choosing wisely and electing the powers that be. The people elect officiasl that are supposed to do what the people want them to do, which is generally what the candidates professed in their campaign. People that don’t want to be part of the democracy should, well, move to some remote part of the world and live off the land. America is a place of business, for sure, but also a place of the worker – or at least it is supposed to be. The Constitution doesn’t start with “We, the business owners…” or “We the people so darned rich that we don’t even know what business our family is invested in...” No. It starts with “We, the people…” and that includes all the business owners, all the trust fund kids and hedge fund operators, all the workers and even those that aren’t able to work or can’t find work. We, the people, can do mighty things together if we can get together, get past pure greed, realise that more than enough is certainly enough. And we aren’t near there at the moment, in fact I think we’re losing sight of the possibility in the fog of consumerism and greed.

We, the people, place people into government to create an environment that is conducive to business and profits, which is supposed to be conducive to having employees that can buy the darned products. We, the people, want to keep the environment in a manner such that business can keep producing, that people can keep living, and that some of the beauty of our country can be kept for future generations.

The only thing worse than a dyed in the wool Republican that votes the party line thinking it the right thing to do for God, for business, and therefore for the country, is a Libertarian. Libertarians are often Republicans that have given up because their party has left them in the dust of higher corporate earnings and tax advantages for the extremely rich. Other Libertarians are just stoners that want drug laws repealed. And yes, with apologies, other Libertarians may well be fine folk that think a world can work without government, but they are either stoned, stupid, ignorant, ill-informed, in denial, or purely selfish. In defense of my daughter that I dearly love, she is simply young and rightly fed up with the government as she sees it.

So, back to the most far-reaching premise of the fourth paragraph – it’s the people in government that muck it up. We need to fix that. We need to get rid of lobbyists, of corporate campaign donations, of any money coming into politics at all. The First Amendment should not apply to supporters of political campaigns except in regard to anyone standing up and speaking their mind. The 527 corporations are insidious at best and should be outlawed. Guess who created them? (that's a rhetorical question)

Greed centers on money. Follow the money and see the greed. We need to elect officials that want to serve the people, build a better country for the long run, and be happy with a couple hundred grand a year and the best publicly sponsored retirement plan (actually the only retirement plan that anyone can be sure will be there) in the world.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should have spent an hour doing a modicum of research on the (small "L") libertarian philosophy before writing on the subject. Much of what people believe they "know" about libertarianism is based on hearsay. Much of what you wrote was based on ignorance. (I'm not being insulting. We're all ignorant of various subjects.) Much of what you wrote was downright incorrect because of your lack of knowledge on the subject. Can you even define "libertarian" correctly? Don't feel too bad if you can't. Many people who ascribe the term to themselves can't even do it.

Bryan Morton
libertarianChristians.org

5/30/2007 12:37 PM  
Blogger Christian Democrat said...

Well Bryan, I'm thankful that you read my blog and took the time to comment. Even more thankful that you have your libertarianChristians.org. Faith does transcend politics.

I may well be underinformed about libertarian doctrine as I tend to pull most of my thinking on things from people I talk to, web articles and the L.A. Times. The Times, as you probably know, gives little press to the libertarians.

My personal experience mostly relates to four different guys I know that call themselves libertarian, or, when pressed, say that is probably closest to their political thinking and yes, you are correct, it is really an unknown definition. With such a small membership that like all political parties has a range of opinion, a single definition may be difficult.

For what it's worth, I did go to the libertarian party web site www.lp.org (where they go with capitalization, by the way) and read a good bit of what was there.

Perhaps you could do the readers here a favor and define libertarian thinking for us. Better still, as you are writing on behalf of libertarianChristians.org, if you would pull those two thinkings together into one piece, that would be ideal.

Thanks again for the comments.

5/31/2007 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Libertarian Party is pretty disappointing. In the early '70s some libertarians got together a decided that one way to educate people would be to get libertarians on some ballots where they could debate the mainstream political ideologies. Somewhere along the way, the idea was perverted into a desire to win elections and gain political power. As soon as the desire for political power became the goal, the moral and ethical side of the libertarian philosophy was thrown on the altar. One of the problems created by the formation of a Libertarian Party was the adoption of the premise that problems need to have definable political solutions. Another problem which creeps in is Utopianism. We live in a fallen world full of fallen people and Utopia is subjective, varying greatly from one individual to the next. Utopia is not an option. No political philosophy will ever bring about a 100% solution to any problem without creating a different problem from someone else's perspective. From that perspective, what can we hope for? We can hope for a foundation from which all people are treated from the same moral and ethical position. If you ask most folks, "Do you believe in equal rights?" most will answer in the affirmative, but how many can correctly define rights as opposed to privileges or the proper roll of government as it pertains to the defense of rights? Socio-political thought is not simple especially if many centuries of mistakes have been heaped upon one another. Could Christ have boiled down the essence in one sentence? Yes, and in fact He did. He said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." A simple but perfect definition of a libertarian is a person who does not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving personal, social, political or economic goals. That to me, sounds a lot like Do unto others... Now, before I get too long winded, let me tell you that I've considered myself to be a libertarian for about seven years. From knowing nothing to what I know now, took about five years of personal study and in that time, I've had to examine and alter much of what I thought I knew. There's not a Reader's Digest version and like honest Bible study, understanding the implications of libertarianism isn't something which can be easily or painlessly gained. There is much conviction in both which might explain why there are so few of both. Christian is a pretty popular title, but there are very few who are willing to really examine their lives to the point of heartbroken conviction. Being willing to honestly assess and let go of previously held political beliefs can be just as painful. If you are willing, I'd like to continue this conversation. A good next step would be a little reading.

http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html

Peace,
BryanDMorton@bellsouth.net

5/31/2007 11:13 AM  
Blogger Christian Democrat said...

A little reading!?! ;>)

I've taken a look and will give it some time now and more when I can, but that's a book you've asked me to read.

Again, thanks.

5/31/2007 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping an open mind. If you have questions, please feel free to ask.

His humble servant,
Bryan
BryanDMorton@bellsouth.net

5/31/2007 4:57 PM  
Blogger Christian Democrat said...

Having read/scanned Frederic Bastiat’s paper, “The Law” which is a well-considered and idealistic piece if written in the style of it’s day, I recognize a fine set of ideals that were certainly fretted over and knit together over a period of time worthy of such endeavors. It is a great paper showing the desire for the collective good of mankind aligned around individual rights and in a perfect world it would be a wonderful thing. But our world is far from perfect.

As a centerpiece of Libertarian Party ideology “The Law” speaks well of their greatest hopes but relies too strongly on the good nature of people when protecting their turf and selling their wares. People aren’t good by nature, especially when personal gain is available as measured by whatever desire may be in place. That’s why we have laws that govern people to greater degree than the Libertarians think needed, we don’t trust unknown individuals to do the right thing in every situation. We do trust the community to provide better guidelines than an individual may consider proper in a variety of circumstances.

Rather than refute Bastiat’s paper I chose to go to www.lp.org, the official web site of the Libertarian Party, and check out what they define as “The Issues.”

On their views of Crime and Punishment I largely agree. The primary item is the repeal of drug laws that I do agree with. Just as with trying to legislate morality, any attempt to legislate the control of substances that can be used without harm to others is a dead end. People will go wrong given the opportunity and drugs are but one example. Further, by making criminals of drug users, we may be inviting them to further criminal behavior.

Two other benefits of legalizing drugs are the elimination of overcrowding in our prisons as correctly pointed out by the Libertarians and, certainly not on their platform, another revenue stream from taxes on said drugs in the marketplace.

As for punishment of other crimes, yes, we need to enforce the laws that remain in strong manner, universally, as a deterrent.

As for The Environment I have several differences of opinion with the Libertarians. Their platform gives many examples of the government being the primary polluter in our nation, and that may be true, but it is the reckless greed of those in government that have allowed that to happen. Giving private property owners the freedom to do as they wish and move on has no basis in logic – the value of the land in a gold mine, for instance, is gone once the lode runs out. The use of chemicals to extract the ore can widely pollute the land for generations to come but the mining company doesn’t care, they have run a profitable operation, completed the process, and are done with it. There needs to be oversight of government and privately owned environmental concerns.

As for “The Family Budget,” an attack on taxation, they get it right in saying we are over-taxed, but wrong in the idea of what to do about it. Very simply, we need to clean up the programs in place, eliminate pork in the budget, cut subsidies that are not a benefit to the nation, and offer no subsidies to a profitable enterprise. I’ll agree with the statement that some families pay upwards of 50% in taxes when all is accounted for, and mine may be one near that category but my sense is that we can lower taxes and cut the deficit through better governing at every level. In truth, all parties claim to have this at their core but none live up to it.

Foreign Aid is something we would expect the Libertarians to be against and such is the case. $14 billion per year is a pittance if it were spent more wisely. The Libertarians summary point on this topic is that “If Americans truly want to help other countries, they can best do so not through failed foreign aid programs, but by improving the U.S. economy, so that U.S. businesses have funds to invest abroad, and pursuing free trade policies.” I simply don’t agree with that statement as I trust the corporations that operate at that scale to care nothing about our economy and only about their bottom-line. Growing our economy is a grand goal, but the measure of growth should be the savings of the people, not the Dow nor the gross expenditures of the nation as a whole.

Interestingly, not one issue on the Libertarian web site has anything to do with the war in Iraq, the military/industrial/congressional complex, or military aid to other nations that may need it. Were Libertarians in power during WWII would we have saved the world? I think not. It is not America’s duty to save the world but in some cases, not Iraq but certainly to include a real war on terrorism that is taking place though it gets little press, it serves American interests both corporate and personal to fight the good fight wherever it may be.

Being Against Censorship sounds right but freedom of speech is taken too far. I personally oppose the 527 corporations and all that they stand for. Anyone with money should be able to buy airtime to show their own face, tell their own story, and let the public accept it as they may. Advertising, which I know a bit about, can be entirely too misleading and has no place in the political spectrum other than the use of a good writer for the speech giver to make use of.

I’m pro-gun. While I greatly enjoy the safety our police and sheriffs give us I think every home should have a gun or two and everyone in the home should know how to operate them. Shotguns are the best for home safety- they don’t go through walls too well, thankfully. I am against the availability of armor piercing rounds, of automatic weapons and .50 plus caliber weapons. Any good marksman can make do without these. Gun registration is a good idea, and every gun should be test fired with a round being sampled and put into a database that, yes, our government should keep to help solve the illegal use of any gun.

As for Health Care, the Libertarian Party espouses tax-free medical savings accounts, deregulation of the medical “industry” and the dissolution of the FDA. These are simply stupid ideas that don’t deal with the reality of the situation. Without reigning in the medical consortium and without a single-payer medical insurance program we are doomed to a future of ever rising health care costs and increasing medical related bankruptcies. Tax-free medical savings accounts do nothing to control costs. Deregulating the medical industry will work as well as deregulating the electricity producers did in California, dissolving the FDA and replacing it with “more agile free-market alternatives” will bring a host of snake oil to the shelves with even better advertising to sell it. I wager that our medical industry spends more on advertising, by far, than we spend on foreign aid as a nation. Heck, I bet they spend more on junkets, lunches and dinners than we spend on foreign aid. Have you ever seen one of their dinners? One anniversary my wife and I went to our favorite French restaurant, not cheap by any means, only to find the banquet hall taken over by about 60 local doctors being fed by one of the great pharma companies. We were having a nice bottle of wine, theirs, by the case, was from the most expensive part of the list. Doctors should prescribe pills because they work, not because they’ve been dined into submission.

The Libertarians are in support of the Internet! With their style of government the Internet never would have been invented.

Being Pro-Immigration (albeit without some rights to social welfare programs) is a Libertarian standard. I agree on that point, but they take it further by wanting to give privacy rights, meaning no ID cards and little documentation after the immigrant arrives. This is a tough issue but I think many of the illegal immigrants (which the Libertarians don’t mention) should be allowed to stay as long as they come clean and have been contributing to society. Many should be sent home. I don’t buy into the Democratic Party’s concept of bringing families together and giving them all citizenship unless they can be self supporting with certainty. On the issue of current legal immigration I’m not far from the Libertarian position but on the issue of illegal immigration it seems they are in denial.

The Libertarians policy towards Poverty and Welfare is abysmal. So is what has been done for the past 40 years in America. The solution is not to eliminate welfare, but to reform it. Everyone should work at something, and for welfare recipients that should be public work if they are able. We will always have the poor with us. If they are able to work, let’s give the something to do and pay them for it.

I especially love (not!) the Libertarian concept of dollar for dollar tax credits for contributions to charity. If we lower taxes as they wish in the first place, where will that money come from – shall we increase the deficit?

Privacy is a wonderful thing. What goes on behind closed doors and in private conversations should be the peoples’ own business UNLESS they are terrorists, which is a very real threat. The Patriot Act is a sham, and all the more so for how the current administration is abusing it, but the folks that protect us need access to a great deal of that which should be private. Amending the Patriot Act to allow that information so gathered can only be used to protect the nation from outside attack would be a great idea, adding criminal penalties for those that abuse the information would be even better. My understanding is that already a great deal of unnecessary private information has been gathered along the course of seeking needed information and has been ignored as it should be but the issue of discretion is certainly one to be discussed among those that have such information available to them.

Surprise! (again, not!) The Libertarians want to allow private savings accounts in lieu of Social Security. Sorry, it wasn’t set up to work that way and it won’t work that way. The concept that I hear so often is that “investing the money privately would yield several multiples of what Social Security will pay out in the end. The Wall Street folks would love us to believe this but it is only sometimes the case, and a highly profitable industry for them besides. When the market crashed, as it will crash again, many lost much. Individuals that can live below their means, save and invest wisely as we all should, can consider those small Social Security checks in their retirement as a bonus but I’ll take it a step further: retirees that make over a generously calculated amount should not receive Social Security.

Finally, Taxes. Quoting from the Libertarian web site: “Libertarians believe that if government's role were limited to protecting our lives, rights and property, then America would prosper and thrive as never before. Then the federal government could concentrate on protecting our Constitutional rights and defending us from foreign attack. A federal government that did only those two things, could do them better and at a small fraction of the cost.” This statement is pure propaganda – it has elements of truth that mask the unspoken lie artfully. Limiting government’s role to protecting three things would then allow business to do whatever it darned well pleased, sell whatever, however, and charge accordingly. In this utopia, who would protect against monopolies?

To sum it up, my sense is that Libertarian principles are well intended at their heart, but misused in practice. As I noted previously I have several friends that fall into the Libertarian camp or the outskirts thereof, and I respect them as strongly as I disagree with them. But I sure won’t vote with them.

6/04/2007 8:52 AM  

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