Misconceptions about being a Libertarian

Yes, I am an official member of the Libertarian party.  Today, I got two yard signs, 200 door flyers, and a bumper sticker dropped off to my house.  My wife took one look at the yardsign and said, “You are going to put that in our yard?”  I said, “Yes.”  She said, “I don’t think so.”

I changed the subject to the door flyers.  There is a short political quiz on it.  It has the following questions:

Personal Issues

  • Government should not censor speech, press, media or Internet.
  • Military service should be voluntary.  There should be no draft.
  • There should be no laws regarding sex between consenting adults.
  • Repeal lasws prohibiting adult possssion and use of drugs.
  • There should be no National ID card.

Economic Issues

  • End “corporate welfare.”  No government handouts to business.
  • End government barriers to international free trade.
  • Let people control their own retirement: privatize Social Security.
  • Replace governmetn welfare with private charity.
  • Cut taxes and government spedning by 50% or more.

For each question, you marke “Agree” (20 points), “Maybe” (10 points), or “Disagree” (0 points).  You add up the points and plot yourslef on a grid.  My wife came up as a centrist and I came up as a libertarian.

I think it is important to distinguish between how we think society should be and what role government should play in it.  I believe that one think that sets the United States of America apart from previous governments is the idea of “Limited Government”.  I believe that it is not just that we can choose who our leaders will be, but we have purposely limited what they can do.  Over the years, this notion of limited government has been eroded.  In the 1920, it required a constitutional ammendment to outlaw alochol.  But it only took a law from congress to outlaw other substances.  What changed in this time?

There are two clauses in the Constitution that have been expanded to give the Federal Government almost unlimited authority.  The first one is “provide for the common welfare.”  This clause has enabled social security, welfare, disaster relief, government participation in education, and even foreign aid.  I believe in all of these causes.  I believe in all of these causes.  I just don’t believe that the federal government should be doing any of them.  These causes should be addressed by concerned individuals getting together and addressin them.  The other clause is the “commerce clause”.  This has really strengthened the central government over that of the states. 

I believe that everyone should have an education.  I believe that everyone should have access to health care.  I believe that people should only do good things with their lives/bodies.  However, more importantly than that, I believe that each person should have the right to decide what that is for themselves.  I believe that people should be free giving, but that they also have the right to be selfish. 

I do not believe that because I am unable to do the good in the world that I think should be done, that I have the right to seize your property to use that to do the good.

But back to the polictical quiz: 

My wife and I both agreed that there should be no censoring of speech, press, meida or Internet.  We agreed about the voluntary military service as well.

We had some disagreemetns about “There should be no laws regarding sex between consenting adults.”  My wife feels that 18 years really have no clue when it comes to sex, and that there should be laws to protect them.  While I agree with this, I still feel that this is no reason to disagree with the question.  Instead, maybe 18 year olds are not adults?  Exactly when does one become an adult?  I believe there are 40 somethings out there that aren’t quite adults.  Anyway, assuming that we can sidestep the whole “when does one become an adult” question, I completely agree with this statement.  We should not police people bedrooms.  I would rather having our scarce police resources finding and prosecuting violent offenders.

“Repeal laws prohibiting adult possession and use of drugs”  This is a tough one for me.  Is there any good that can come from drugs?  Everything that I have heard is “no”.  That drugs are bad for you, and can do irreverisible damage.  Knowing this, can you really allow for others to use drugs?  Can allow for it to be sold?  But on the other hand, once you start “protecting” other citizens, when does it end?  Would it go as far as requiring people to brush their teeth multiple times a day, take their vitamins, and exercise three days a week.  Surely not doing these things are very harmful over the long run?  At what point can we step in and tell another adult, “Hey, you can do this because it might hurt you?”  When I was answering the questionnaire, I said “Disagree” to this.  But in retrospect, to be consistent with this reasoning, I would have to say I agree.  Let me say this clearly, “Drugs are bad for you!  Don’t use them!”  However, I believe we should live in a society were we convince each other of the right thing, instead of trying to choose for each other.

“There should be no National ID card.”  This my wife and I both disagreed with.  Isn’t the social security card a national id card?  Wouldn’t a national ID card be better than having 50 “sub-national” cards, each issued with different rules and regulation.  I understand that people should be able to move around and conduct business without any authentication.  However, when authentication is required, shouldn’t it be of a high standard?

Now moving on to the Economic issues.

“End ‘corporate welfare’. No government handouts to business.”  I am in absolute agreement with this.  My wife was “maybe”.  Some would argue that a lot of people losing jobs at the same time would cause civil unrest and that sometimes the government needs to step in.  But I believe that is not the government’s role.  The government should not guarantee that everyone has jobs.  It is up to each of us to make sure we are producing something that others are willing to buy.  I even think that we should take away income tax deductions to non-profit institutions, property tax exemptions to religous institutions, and the like.  Every group should be treated the same.

“End government barriers to international free trade.”  My wife and I both agreed with this.

“Let people control their own retirement; privatize Social Security.” We both agreed with this as well.  But I believe we should not have social security.

“Repalce government welfare with private charity.” – We both agreed with this.

“Cut taxes and government spedning by 50% or more” – My wife voted “maybe” and I voted “agree.”

Some of these ideas may seem radical to you.  But if you don’t agree with them, I hope you agree with this.  You are responsible for your own happiness, for your own welfare.  We each should help each other.  I hope to help you.  And I hope I can depend on your help when I need it.  But I want it by your choice, and don’t think it should be forced from you.  We should live deliberately, and not just take what is handed to us.

I asked the gentleman that dropped it off if there were any meetings around this party.  There was one for all of North Houston but only two people showed up.   So it seems that a politicians that are advocate having a government that does less, takes less, and intefers less has trouble gaining support.

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