…and why you should consider it too.
Let’s start with the preamble of the Okaloosa County Libertarian Party’s Constitution and Bylaws:
We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.
We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, as long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.
Governments throughout history have regularly operated on the opposite principle, that the State has the right to dispose of the lives of the individuals and the fruits of their labors. Even within the United States, all political parties other than our own grant to government the right to regulate the lives of individuals and seize the fruit of their labor without their consent.
We, on the contrary, deny the right of any government to do these things, and hold that where governments exist they must not violate the rights of any individual: namely 1) the right to life – accordingly we support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others; 2) the right to liberty of speech and action – accordingly we oppose all attempts by government to abridge the freedom of speech and the press, as well as government censorship in any form; and 3) the right to property – accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud and misrepresentation.
Since governments, when instituted, must not violate individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals. People should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. They should be left free to deal with one another as free traders; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of the individual rights, is the free market.
This reads in a rather familiar way, doesn’t it? Indeed it does, and indeed it should:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
You know where that came from, right? (If not please check your citizenship at the door on the way out!)
But let’s back up and look at the Libertarian principles again — specifically, one of them:
We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives
There’s your first principle.
You either believe and intend to live to this, or you do not. It is a binary choice with no shade of gray.
Either you, and only you, have the right of dominion (ownership) over your person and nobody else does, or you do not.
This does not mean you cannot cede that authority for a period of time and on a voluntary basis to some other entity (e.g. your idea of what God is, to military service, etc) but it does mean that nobody else can compel you to do so.
The difficulty with first principles is that they’re inviolate. One either believes in them or one does not. Once you adopt one you are then forced to square all your other political principles against this first one, and if you cannot fit what you wish to adopt into that first principle then you must modify or abandon whatever it was that you intended to do.
The problem with the Republican and Democrat parties is that they have no first principle that comports with The Declaration and Constitution.
A recent little blowup of controversy related to the Catholic Church will provide a sufficient example for both sides of the aisle.
The new video message is the latest step in an escalating and historically unprecedented confrontation between the Roman Catholic Church and an American president.
It centers around what the American Catholic bishops see as the Obama administration’s efforts to restrict the right of Catholic citizens and institutions to freely exercise their religion as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.
This time, Dolan said, the administration is moving to violate the 1st Amendment by forcing Catholics to purchase health insurance plans that cover sterilizations and artificial contraceptives, including abortifacients. The church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion violate the natural law and that Catholics cannot be involved in them. Dolan called on Americans to contact elected officials and call for the administration’s health-insurance regulation to be rescinded.
No they’re not. Let me explain.
There is nothing prohibiting Catholics from forming into a group to obtain health insurance under a group policy. Such a group would presumably all be comprised of people who believe as Dolan does. They would therefore all not use such services and drugs, even though available. As a result they would not be paying for them either, as the rate base on which they were assessed would not include any use of same.
That’s a half-Libertarian solution to this dilemma, but it’s only half a solution because it still recognizes the right of the government to force you to buy insurance in the first place.
The Libertarian position is that forced purchases of anything are immoral and violate your first-principle right of dominion over yourself.
But see, Dolan has no problem with that. He’s perfectly fine with the government sticking its stiletto-heeled-boot into and through your neck provided that it does so in a way that is theologically compatible with what he believes.
Dolan takes neither of the liberty-based positions available to him in his editorial. He is not so much interested in trying to protect his own liberty and those who believe as he does, but rather he is interested in restricting your liberty by attempting to declare various forms of family planning “immoral” and restricting their availability. Worse, he can’t even get to where he ends up by using a “pro-life” position (hypocritical as it often is among those who make that claim) as he includes both barrier methods of birth control and voluntary sterilization in his complaint, both of which prevent fertilization in the first instance.
This is rank hypocrisy; Establishment prohibits all preference for one religious set of beliefs over another (or over none) and Dolan deserves a pointy red hat for his utterances in this regard, not the reverence normally afforded a Cardinal’s cap.
Dolan’s position is consistent with the state owning your person. Do you agree that The State owns you? If so, you can then proceed to his argument and ultimately you might agree with Dolan.
If not, you’re a Libertarian.
Now let’s look at another difficult case — the recent spate of crude meth labs blowing up and landing people in burn units.
A crude new method of making methamphetamine poses a risk even to Americans who never get anywhere near the drug: It is filling hospitals with thousands of uninsured burn patients requiring millions of dollars in advanced treatment – a burden so costly that it’s contributing to the closure of some burn units.
So-called shake-and-bake meth is produced by combining raw, unstable ingredients in a 2-liter soda bottle. But if the person mixing the noxious brew makes the slightest error, such as removing the cap too soon or accidentally perforating the plastic, the concoction can explode, searing flesh and causing permanent disfigurement, blindness or even death.
I looked up the so-called “shake and bake” method (online at that) and found several crude “recipes.” I know enough about chemistry to immediately recognize that these forms of creating this drug are extremely dangerous, and if you attempt them you’ve got a good shot at ending up severely injured or dead from exactly the sort of explosion being discussed in the article, and what’s worse is that the chemicals involved are strong acids and bases, which means chemical burns will be added to your injuries.
Given the prevalence of these incidents anyone thinking about doing this has to know about the risks. Yet they choose to undertake them anyway.
Compounding the problem is the fact that due to EMTALA (a Reagan-era law) hospitals must treat emergency patients irrespective of ability to pay. And these are emergency patients.
So we have several problems here. First, we made these drugs illegal. Then, we cracked down on the means that people used to produce them anyway, driving abusers of these drugs to more-dangerous means of producing what they were trying to obtain and radically increasing the street price. And finally, we wind up paying for it again several times over when the drug addict’s lab literally blows up in his face, severely injuring him or her.
At the same time I can get shitfaced drunk all day long and that’s perfectly legal, despite the fact that doing so is known to cause liver cancer. I can then force society to pay for the treatment. I can also smoke like a chimney, despite knowing that it is likely to cause heart disease, emphysema and lung cancer, and bill society to pay for the treatment. Or I can choose to have unprotected anal sex and again, if I contract HIV doing so force society to pay for my treatment once again.
If you don’t see the problem here you’re not paying attention.
Dominion over one’s person is a two-edged sword. The meth addict isn’t going to stop using meth. We know this because if the law was a deterrent or even the risk of outright massive disfigurement or painful death was, there wouldn’t be people blowing themselves up in these makeshift labs.
But there is.
HIV is a nasty way to die. Were this a sufficient deterrent nobody would engage in unprotected anal sex. But people do.
Emphysema and lung cancer is a nasty way to die as well, as is liver cancer. Yet people still smoke and drink to excess, despite knowing these facts.
In the 1920s we attempted an experiment in America. We made liquor illegal in 1919 with the 18th Amendment and repealed it in 1933 with the 21st Amendment.
Why did the 18th Amendment fail?
That’s rather simple: Despite being illegal, people did not stop drinking.
What they did do is make alcohol through much more dangerous devices, such as makeshift stills using old automobile radiators that had utilized lead solder. The lead leached into the alcohol and caused lead poisoning in the people who drank the booze. Stills occasionally blew up, causing burns and blast damage, and then there were the gangs.
Much like today’s drug gangs prohibition made the transport and production of alcohol a thing that could not be protected in the courts. As a result disputes were settled the “uncivilized” way — with guns. Shoot-outs and similar unsavory behavior became common and the government of course responded with ramping up police-state tactics, escalating what amounted to a domestic civil war.
But those who wanted to drink did not stop drinking, just as those who want to take drugs will not stop doing so today. Eventually the people wised up and repealed the 18th Amendment, demanding that the government stop causing violence by interfering in consensual adult behavior (in this case, transacting in the use of booze.)
Libertarian thought won one round.
So what solutions do we have to today’s view? The jackbooted government solution is more laws. But will they work? History says no, they will not.
Libertarians are often (derogatorily) called “Republicans who wish to smoke pot.” Were it only so simple, we could all give up with the quest for liberty today.
Rather, the Libertarian view requires that one examine each step of what is broken here against the first principle of personal dominion and see if you can square it.
So let’s start.
First, the crime of using meth itself. Does prohibiting the mere use of a substance comport with personal dominion? No. Therefore, there is no law that can be supported that prohibits the use of a substance — including meth. This also means that if you believe in personal dominion you cannot support laws that prohibit the use of tobacco, alcohol, or for that matter consensual gay sex.
It simply does not matter if the substance or act is personally dangerous. If you believe in personal dominion then you believe in the right to do things that are personally dangerous! This is a binary choice — if you have the right to eat until you get fat and fail to exercise, if you have the right to smoke, or if you have the right to drink then you also have the right to use recreational drugs that could harm your health within the confines of your own residence and/or to engage in any sort of consensual personal conduct between two or more adults that you may desire.
You cannot support the right to be fat, to smoke, to screw, or to drink and support drug prohibition and be consistent in your beliefs — if you make that argument you’re a damned hypocrite as you don’t support personal liberty at all.
Now what do we do about the burn problem? That’s a different matter — you see, personal dominion means that you do not have the right as a meth abuser (or for that matter as anyone else) to force other people to pay for your treatment either. That is, your acts and their effects on your person are uniquely your responsibility. This same principle applies to smokers, drinkers, and those who like to engage in gay sex. You have the right to purchase a private insurance contract to cover those risks, but not the obligation to do so and if you choose not to you also have no right to force others to cover your expenses after the fact.
This does not prevent others from covering your expense on an entirely-voluntary (e.g. through charity care) basis. But it does prevent you from forcing others to do so.
Adopting such a position means you cannot support Medicare or Medicaid, say much less Obamacare, as all are forced transfers of money from taxpayers to those who enjoy the benefits, in one case at a rate of more than four times what was “paid in” and in the other case without any “pay in” at all!
First principles are funny things. When you actually have them and believe in them you find all sorts of problems we have today in our government and its budget aren’t really problems. They all stem from one place — the desire to control others. To direct their lives, to tell them how to live, and to violate their fundamental liberty interests — fundamental rights that most people believe were endowed by the very creator they claim to worship!
Think about that for a minute.
On the one hand most people in this country claim to believe in a God that endowed us all with certain unalienable rights — life, liberty, and the pursuit (ed. but not the guarantee!) of happiness.
But then, under the label of “Democrat” or “Republican” we vote for, support, and enable the enactment of laws that blaspheme what we claim to believe, in that we then intentionally violate those very same liberty interests we claim come from that God.
When I was 20 I didn’t process this cleanly, and I suspect neither do most other people.
But now, as I come toward pushing 50, I can no longer wave away and dismiss the logical inconsistency of the positions adopted and put forward by either Democrats or Republicans.
I believe in personal dominion as first principle.
I believe I was endowed with unalienable rights, and that the founders were correct to declare same, and that all of these flow from the first principle of personal dominion.
I believe that this endowment came from God (although if you believe they came from Darwin, that’s fine too. None of us will know until we die, at which point it’s too late to change your mind.)
As a consequence I cannot support, or vote for, those who have, do and will in the future disrespect and abrogate that first principle.
As such I am left with only one political party’s pole today where I can doff my cap and hang my coat.
It’s marked Libertarian.