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Limit Government, Not Liberty


We used to recognize them by their entrenched contradictions; Republicans were the party of free enterprise and regulated morality while Democrats were the party of civil liberties and economic confiscation.

Libertarians were also easy to identify – we took the best from each to form the party of free enterprise AND civil liberties.  Think of us as Option Three.

Everyone loves freedom for themselves; it is the freedom we deny to others that defines our governing philosophy. Conservatives want to be free to live their own lives while having the power to make you live them, too. Liberals want to live their own lives while having the power to make you pay for it.

Libertarians don’t want the power to force you to live someone else’s life, or to pay for their choices; we want everyone to live their own lives and own the consequences. The fact that this is seen as a radical and impractical idea tells us how far we gone off the rails in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Somewhere along the line, classic liberalism turned to authoritarian collectivism, its grand idealism becoming small and mean. Securing the right to vote morphed into threatening citizens for not voting; eliminating segregated drinking fountains led to banning big cups of pop; solidarity with anti-war priests gave way to persecuting Catholic charities; equal access to the seats on a bus grew into an entitlement to free high-speed rail.

And over time, traditional conservatism has been over-run by neo-conservatism and crony corporatism. Moralists and militarists and government-loving power mongers gave us monstrosities like No Child Left Behind, TSA, the Patriot Act, NDAA, ethanol subsidies, TARP, and the fantasy that we could fight wars without paying for them.

The most significant difference between the two establishment parties these days is that there is an internal effort to reform the Republicans. The term RINO – Republican In Name Only – is used pejoratively by GOP reformers when they are calling out those who have abandoned traditional conservative/constitutional principles.

Alas, there is no such thing as a DINO and there is no classical liberal movement to purge the Democrat Party of unprincipled leaders. Who is the liberal Ron Paul? What is the Tea Party of the left? What state is their Wisconsin? The answers, unfortunately, are: a) nobody, b) OWS, and c) Greece.

Libertarians have always had a different idea than conservatives and liberals about how we should live together in a free society. Our philosophy is quite simple: you live your life and I’ll live mine and we will leave government out of it. There is a little more to freedom than that, but not much more.

As long as the exercise of your freedom does not limit mine, it is not my place to tell you how to live your life. And equally important, it is not your obligation to pay for the choices that I make as I go about living my own life. When we live free of government control, there is no need to choose between a conservative or liberal vision of happiness at the polls; we each get to live our own lives, to be happy.

An individual is a single indivisible being; there is no “majority” to rule in a self-sovereign. There is no “public good” in a nation of self-sovereigns, only public safety; a free people need just enough government to keep us safe and protect our rights, not a pinch more.

Freedom is a transactional state. In every choice and every act, you are either free to choose or you are not. America was founded on the idea that citizens, not government, should make choices and own consequences. The role of government in our lives was strictly limited to those few enumerated powers that make it as irrelevant and impotent as possible.

Libertarians are not geniuses; we didn’t come up with all this liberty stuff on our own in 1970 at a meeting. We read it in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; we copped the best ideas from Rand, Friedman, Hayek, von Mises, Bastiat, and others. We comprehend economic history and we observe the world as it is.

We watched the Utopians fail, the Fascists fail, the Marxists fail, the Keynesian’s fail, the Progressives fail, the New Deal turn into the New World Order, and the Great Society turn into Detroit. We watched the powerful erase the separation of powers, and we watched their appetite for government bankrupt the nation, both economically and morally. We did not root for the failure of government, but we have learned from it.

When our founders declared that the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is a self-evident truth, an endowment from our Creator, they summed up the libertarian’s core belief quite nicely. There is no moral authority for one of us, or even most of us acting in concert, to bind an equal; we are not God.

All of us can identify tyranny when we are the ones forced to act against our own beliefs; few of us recognize tyranny when we impose our beliefs on others. Fewer still comprehend the tyranny of silence – apathy in the face of each minor affront that goes unchallenged because it is someone else whose liberty is diminished.

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson describes us as economically conservative and socially tolerant. I prefer the term “socially neutral,” as I think it more accurately depicts the difference between conservatives, liberals, and libertarians on social issues. Everyone claims to be tolerant, and most everyone is.

It is neutrality in the law that defines justice for the libertarian. Silence on matters of personal morality, uniformity in the rules of commerce, strict recognition of individual self-sovereignty, and indifference to the contrived and trivial political divisions of race, gender, religion, and association. Laws merely indemnify government employees when they commit official acts of tyranny for which ordinary citizens would be imprisoned – less of them (laws and employees) is better than more of them.

Humans are not farm animals; we were not created to be herded and kept and milked. And we are not lab rats to be studied and manipulated in some global social engineering project. Each individual person is a unique being that will never be duplicated and can never be subjugated, except by force. Government is that force; that is why it must be strictly limited for a free people to live free.

That is the American idea, the grand idea that libertarians cling to with unwavering conviction; a land where government is limited and liberty is not.  This is a country worth saving because that is an idea worth preserving.

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