Who are the libertarians?
Issue #120 • November/December, 2009
Who are the libertarians? What do they stand for? Libertarianism is not a difficult concept to understand, though it’s often misrepresented by those who don’t want you to look too closely at it. In a nutshell it says you and I should have as much freedom as possible, that we are not allowed to infringe on another’s freedoms, and that we are responsible for our actions.
Libertarians believe that each person owns his or her own life, body, and property. We don’t believe the fruits of our labors should be confiscated, under threat of punishment, to support the welfare state — whether that confiscation is for individuals or corporations. We’re the most fundamentally American of Americans. But you may be, too. What do Libertarians view as the legitimate role of government? We see it as protector of the individual’s rights, an adjudicator of contracts between free citizens, a defense against foreign invaders, and not much else. Also, in the words of noted libertarian, David Boaz, “No one has the right to initiate aggression against the person or property of anyone else.” This means I can’t assault you or take your property. This is even if I’m an agent of the government or if a majority of the people say I can. But, if I do, you are entitled to self-defense to protect you and yours. Protecting you and your property from criminals is also seen as a legitimate function of the state.
I’ve said for years that, if you want to know what the Libertarian Party platform is, you can pretty much just read the U.S. Constitution. If the Founding Fathers, the men who gave us the Constitution, came back — Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Mason, Franklin, and others — would they be Republicans or Democrats? I’ll tell you: They wouldn’t be either. They’d be Libertarians.
This may come as a surprise to you, but many Libertarians do not believe in constitutional rights…and neither did the Founding Fathers. Read the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers, and the Anti-Federalist Papers. You’ll discover that what the Founders and today’s Libertarians believe in are God-given or Natural Rights that predate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They are not granted by either document. They are not granted by our government, either, although politicians, judges, and bureaucrats who are supposed to serve us would like you to think they are the providers of our rights and that they have the power to interpret them or abrogate them. Not true! It’s a lie!
What’s it take to be a libertarian? You may be registered as a Democrat or Republican, but at heart you may already be one. Wanna find out? You can either take The World’s Smallest Political Quiz included in this article or you can take it on line at: www.theadvocates.org/quizp/index.html
Score it when you’re done. The results may surprise you.
Incidentally, there’s a difference between Libertarian with a capital “L” and libertarian with a small “l.” The former are part of the Libertarian Party, the latter simply believe in libertarianism. You don’t have to be a Libertarian to be a libertarian.
Now, let me tell you what Libertarians are not. Critics who fear us have said Libertarianism is a you-can-do-anything philosophy. Some have said we’d even get rid of stop signs and traffic lights since they impede our travel. I’ve never heard any Libertarian say anything so foolish, though I know of one who said, “We’ll install a stop sign every 50 feet, if that’s what they want, just so long as they give us back the Constitution of the United States of America.”
And that’s what it comes back to. Libertarians value the U.S. Constitution and want to see it adhered to. Most of the Democrat and Republican politicians, who when elected take an oath to uphold and defend that document, probably don’t even know what the Constitution says.
How do we compare to conservatives and liberals? One astute commentator said:
“Libertarians are frequently characterized as ‘conservative on economic issues and liberal on personal issues’ … I prefer to say, ‘Conservatives are frequently libertarian on economic issues, and liberals are frequently libertarian on personal issues.'”
He’s got it right. It’s the liberals and conservatives who have strayed from the ideas on which this country was founded. They’re the ones who have abandoned the Constitution.
Being a Libertarian doesn’t mean you endorse or approve of other people’s behavior, but it does mean if the guy next door wants to be an atheist, two women living together down the street want to be lesbians, the guy across the street wants to smoke grass, and I want to sit down and play poker with my friends, it’s no one else’s business. It also means if the person next to you is a man or a woman, is black, white, yellow, brown, red, purple, or plaid, you don’t have to like them, but they have just as many rights as you have. If you can’t deal with these things, you’re not a Libertarian. In fact, you’re probably a danger to a free society.
So, in answer to the second question in the title, “Can Libertarians save the Constitution (and probably save America)?” Yes, but only if enough of us, you included, start thinking, acting, and voting like one, regardless of what political party you belong to.