Libertarianism Leads to Less Freedom?

Eric Andersen Eric Andersen, statism 7 Comments

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EricMy friend and former State Assemblyman, Steve Baldwin, has written an article in Western Journalism titled The REAL Enemy of Freedom is Hiding in the Last Place You’d Expect to Find It. A critique of libertarianism.

I have great respect for Steve and think the two of us agree on far more than we disagree, but this caught me by surprise. As far as Republican legislators go, current and former, I would put him near the top in his understanding of the great ideas of the American Revolution and his ability to apply them to the pathologies we face today. He is also a much better hockey player than I.

Perhaps my greatest surprise is this statement Libertarianism leads to less freedom, not more”. I am grateful for SDRostra and the forum it provides to sharpen each other with our ideas about government.

Steve takes aim at Fox commentator Lisa Kennedy, an individual whose name I am not familiar, and her libertarian stance on four issues — gay rights, drug legalization, trade and immigration.

I believe the tyranny we see in each of these areas to be caused by a lack of liberty not because of such. They are not caused by upholding natural rights. Just the opposite, they are the result of departing from such. The liberty philosophy upholds the idea that our nation was “conceived in liberty” and dedicated to the proposition “that all men are created equal.” It has been our neglect of these principles that has precipitated the tension we see.

Gay Rights
Homosexuality is a character issue that cannot be addressed by government with any more success than Mosaic Law had reforming Israel. Where in the Constitution is the enumerated power to marry given to the state? I believe same-sex marriage is immoral but I also believe giving the state jurisdiction over a God-given right is immoral and inconsistent with Biblical Christianity.

From the Garden of Eden until 150 years ago, marriage was a covenant made before God. The state had nothing to do with it.  Neither George and Martha Washington nor John and Abigail Adams needed a marriage license. Where did licensing originate? When an individual wished to marry someone of a different color. The state disapproved. Those wanting to do so were required to get approval – a license. Christians should be the first to recognize that we don’t need the state’s permission for something God instituted, which pre-existed the state.

In a free society no one would be compelled to recognize such a union as a marriage. No employer would be required to pay benefits to a same-sex significant other. No insurer would be required to write life insurance if the same-sex partner was a beneficiary. No landlord would be required to rent to two people of the same gender if he thought they were living immorally. In a free society, we would not be required to send our child to a school that taught ideas contrary to our values.

Perhaps we should consider incentives and our unjust tax code with its 1,138 benefits for married couples? We reap what we sow.

The issue facing florists and bakers is the departure from the free market principles libertarians passionately uphold. In a free market individuals are free to trade or not to trade their property with whom they wish. Government doesn’t have jurisdiction in this area nor do unjust SCOTUS decisions such as Wickard v. Filburn change the transcendent ethic each of us should be upholding, free trade.

The lesson conservatives (those who ‘conserve’ the status quo) should be learning from libertarians (those who conserve inalienable rights) is that the declining character of our nation can never be addressed by more law and external government. Nor is it consistent with Christianity to attempt to do so. The character of a nation decreases in direct correlation to the increase in external government. Character issues are best addressed by the other God-ordained governments (self, family and church) that have steadily been weakened by our failure to uphold libertarian ideas. The church is only given the Word and the Spirit to address our neighbor’s behavior yet we too often pick up the sword of the state. Christians are specifically forbidden from doing evil so that good may result.

Drugs
I am not advocating for drugs. I think they are destructive. I also feel the Communist Manifesto is destructive but I wouldn’t want the government denying my freedom to read it. Not honoring my mother and father is destructive but I wouldn’t want the state enforcing that either. That being the case, what should the role of the state be? Can the government adequately address this? Has it been effective? Do we feel it is the government’s job to protect an individual from his own decisions?  (See Reagan quote). Is not the freedom to make a good decision accompanied by the freedom to make a poor one?

When it comes to loss of freedom I see 15B taken from American families to finance the war on drugs and the overcrowding of our prisons with folks who haven’t harmed anyone. What is harmful is the empowering of drug cartels and gangs and the spreading thin of our law enforcement from crimes where we do need their protection. Thirteen percent of arrests in 2009 were for drug possession. This is like putting everyone in Hawaii and Alaska in prison.

What is harmful is the destruction our families and our character created by the growth of government. We are destroying the American family with big government and state education. We are destroying our economy with big government solutions to character issues. Is it any wonder so many are self-medicating and full of despair? Is it any wonder immigration from Mexico increases while U.S. empowered drug cartels distort Mexico’s economy?

There are two swift ways to end this drug war. Milton Friedman’s way or Mao’s.

Trade
If NAFTA and TPP upheld free trade and libertarian ideals the wording in these agreements would only be five words long; “all trade shall be free.” The departure from the natural right to freely trade has harmed our economy, making the immigrant a threat rather than the legislator who violated property rights, intervened in the economy and created the welfare system. While there may be a couple libertarian bending legislators voting on these trade deals there are a lot more Republicans doing so. If my memory serves me our Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter just voted to extend Export-Import Bank and violated the 10th Amendment, which would allow states to determine load weights on highways. If we wish to point fingers at congressmen for not upholding free trade let’s at least hold our standard locally, loudly and consistently and start with Duncan Hunter’s voting record.

I do compliment Steve on his reference to Rothbard and will stand by his side all day long if he wishes to uphold any of Murray’s positions.

Immigration
Steve states libertarians believe in “the free movement of people.” Absolutely.  How can a nation have free trade without the free movement of trade’s greatest resource, labor?  What ethic allows Eric to encroach on the right of Steve to trade with Tom? Where is ‘immigration’ enumerated in the U.S. Constitution? I thought immigration was a state’s right issue? Citizenship is a federal issue but immigration isn’t.

Steve correctly states that the key to a prosperous and free society is the constitutional concept of sovereignty, but it is not sovereignty of the government that our Framers posited but sovereignty of the individual and sovereignty of the states. Only a nation that is in decline from imbibing socialistic ideas and warfare/welfarism is threatened by immigrants. The reason libertarians are not quick to build walls is for the same reason we do not put a hose on our neighbor’s door when our own house is on fire. Immigration is not the problem. The problem we face is a departure from the principles of individual liberty, free markets and constitutionally limited government that create prosperity and a demand for more labor. It’s unfortunate that while Reagan challenged Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” that some of us are trying to build them.

Steve finishes with the statement libertarianism needs to be judged by how it is carried out in the real world.” Really? Would he want our faith to be judged by that same standard? Remember the Crusades? The Inquisition? Slavery in the South? Let us judge ideas by how consistently they uphold our ideas, not their aberrations.

I take a position opposite from my esteemed friend.  I stand with Lincoln and argue that we are a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”  I still believe that to be true and remain dedicated to the libertarian ideas of individual liberty, free markets and limited government. Transcendent ideas not subject to time and place and remain our ‘north star’  in our pursuit of freedom.

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Eric Andersen is a member of the Central Committee of the San Diego County Republican Party and current Chair and Co-Founder of the Republican Liberty Caucus of San Diego County. He is a Co-Founder of im2moro.com, former Rock Church Citizen of the Year and former Caucus Chair for the 71st Assembly District.

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Comments 7

  1. His article was oddly timed, right after he endorsed a libertarian (Randy Voepel). Does that mean Baldwin endorsed Voepel because he wants him to restrict freedom?

  2. I, too, find it odd that Steve would publish his article right after endorsing Voepel. Specially since Voepel has been pretty outspoken about leaving the party a few years ago because it was “becoming too liberal” and expanding social programs and increasing the size of gov.

    A quote from Rand from a 2010 article: “Basically the Republican Party has left me, I didn’t leave it,” he said. “I’m fed up with the taxes. Fed up with the earmarks. Fed up with the money-grubbing of both sides.”

    (http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2010/dec/13/santee-mayor-leaves-gop-after-four-decades/)

    Sounds to me like Randy left the Republican party because he believed the Republican party had been increasing the welfare state..which makes us less free.

    One of my favorite quotes: “Libertarians know that a free country has nothing to fear from anyone coming in or going out – while a welfare state is scared to death of poor people coming in and rich people getting out.” Harry Browne

  3. While Christianity acknowledges separate jurisdictions for church and state–God and Caesar–it by no means (See Romans 13) defines them as mutually exclusive realms. Since the time of ancient Greece, the greatest political theorists have taught that governments can, and in one sense or another invariably do (or fail to do), God’s bidding.

    In fact it was not until the Enlightenment and the rise of the modern secular state that their complete separation was, in either theory or practice, even considered–often with grave consequences.

    So why pretend that public and private are or should be hermetically sealed off and separated from one another? Though he was wrong to credit liberalism with the following insight–it’s been known at least since Plato–the late great Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was surely correct in the general sense when he noted that, “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

    Though, strictly speaking, libertarian ideals never have, and probably never will, be realized in a way that would allow us to judge them on their own merits, the shortcomings of classical liberal (libertarian) theory are plain enough to allow us to accurately anticipate the difficulties.

    In the words of Robert Nisbet:

    “The great deficiency of this classical liberalism was its inability to recognize the indispensable importance of the social contexts of individual freedom, laissez-faire, and the non-interventionist state. So consuming was the emphasis on the individual that the social sources of individuality tended to get neglected. Classical liberalism sees only the political state, its functions limited to those described by Smith and the American Constitution, and a vast heap of individuals. There is little if any recognition, as there was in Tocqueville, of the network of social relationships which serve not only as buffers to the state but as nurturing beds of moral and social character, of the disciplines and incentives which manifest themselves in human conduct.”

  4. My inclination has always been toward libertarianism on many of the great fiscal and regulatory issues of the day, but we must also accept the idea that we have to deal with the reality as it confronts us today and not the reality we wish it to be. The philosophy of classical conservatism factors in human nature much more than libertarianism, a philosophy well suited for a utopian society, which, of course, does not exist anywhere on this planet.

    Voepel left the party because of the GOP’s failure to confront the Obama agenda regarding the debt limit, amnesty, his illegal executive orders and so forth and I am in total agreement with him on such issues. I doubt I’ve written anything in my piece that is contrary to what he believes.

    Regarding the comments by my good friend Eric, I too wish that marriage was not a state regulated function. As a God-ordained institution, we Americans should have never allowed the government to intrude, but they have, and I predicted a decade ago that the legalization of homosexual marriage was in reality a legal strategy by the left to attack and destroy religious liberty in America. With dozens of lawsuits ongoing all over the country targeting Christian schools, Christian adoption agencies, Christian florists, bakers, etc., this strategy is now obvious to all. But the total lack of effort by libertarian-leaning legal groups to defend Christians being persecuted in the wake of the Obergfell homosexual marriage decision, has led me to conclude that the libertarians value “freedom” in the hedonistic sense of that word, more than they do religious liberty, dispute that right being an enumerated right in the U.S. constitution.

    As for drugs, I really don’t have an issue with the legalization of relatively non-addictive drugs like marijuana. I’m tired of our government spending millions of dollars to house marijuana users in our prisons and jails. However, the legalization of highly addictive drugs elsewhere in the world has led to hundreds of thousands of people becoming useless wards of the state. Should this happen in the USA, we taxpayers will be forced to pay for these people. When our earnings are forcefully removed from us by the government to take care of drug addicts, then we taxpayers have the right to insist that such drugs remain illegal. The libertarians will argue that everyone should have the right to use drugs and as such will be held responsible for the consequences, but in the real world, the consequences mean that we taxpayers have to pay.

    On Trade, I am in full support of free trade but I take the Murray Rothbard position that most of what passes for trade agreements today is not free trade. NAFTA and other agreements have created massive international bureaucracies with the authority to regulate health, safety, labor and wage laws IN THE USA. It is my belief that these agencies have been used by the Third World to benefit their economies at the expense or our economy. It would be my desire to eliminate all government interference in trade all together. Perhaps that position is more libertarian than supporting massive government trade agreements — which I find odd that any libertarian would support.

    Regarding immigration, it is not an “aberration” that immigration has become a tool to increase the welfare state. It has become the norm. As Ann Coulter documents in her book, the Democrats used the IRCA legislation authored by Ted Kennedy to undermine and remake American culture. They knew that if they could bring in millions of immigrants from the Third World, it would dramatically grow the welfare state, transform American culture and bring in millions of new voters to the Democrat Party. All those predictions are coming true. If IRCA had never passed, Obama would never have been elected, but we were all assured by both RINOs and libertarians that IRCA would be great for America. Right. If one looks at any of the studies analyzing the current wave of immigrants, you will find that they use far more in government services than they pay in taxes. No, it wasn’t always like that, but it is today.

    The libertarian ideal of allowing millions to flood into America in order to boost our economy has crashed into the wall of reality. Immigration — both legal and illegal — has dramatically increased during the Obama years but there is little evidence that this flood has had any kind of a positive impact on our economy. Instead, this mindless immigration has burdened our welfare system, our health care system and our criminal justice system and everyone who works within those systems will confirm this.

    I support a system of immigration in which we attract immigrants who have the skills and talents needed in our economy, not a system designed to help the Democrats destroy what’s left of the USA by creating more welfare slaves indebted to the Democrat Party.

    Yes, I would agree that my title was a little provocative but I’ve never been the timid type! But while I believe that Libertarians really do want more freedom and liberty, the way these four issues are developing in today’s world has, in reality, led to more government and less freedom.

  5. Post
    Author

    Craig & Steve,
    In keeping with the Rostra theme, picturing you two as Roman Senators speaking for the Republic … in togas, I ask a question from what you two have shared and seem to agree but disagree with me.

    Craig shares that classical liberalism will never be realized and it’s shortcomings are plain to see. Steve shares that classical libertarianism is well suited for a utopian society – which doesn’t exist anywhere.

    So where does this leave us in the philosophical debate about the structure of our law system? Who is lawmaker? The Creator or man? Is law a fixed transcendent that all must submit or something determined by “Senators” that is evolving? I am asking the question ‘How then shall we live?” (F. Schaeffer)

    Did we just throw out absolutes? Are my neighbor’s natural rights no longer inalienable? The civil magistrate is no longer God’s servant for good but one who can exercise authority arbitrarily and out his jurisdiction?

    To be practical, property rights are not to be upheld absolutely and consistently? (see immigration and free trade).

    I leave the rostra to sit down with Cicero so I can listen to Senators Maxwell and Baldwin.

  6. In that case,…

    I, Craigus Maximus, do hereby decree that all requisite acknowledgement of and adherence to the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” shall be paid by the citizens, legislators and judges of the Republic; and that in so doing we shall avoid the pitfalls and limitations associated with those shortsighted Republics that have rashly and foolishly bound themselves exclusively conventional understandings of law.

    Signed,

    Craigus Stephenanius Maximus
    Procounsul Americanus & Librarius Superior
    MMXVI

  7. Shedding my robe and laurel leaf crown just for a moment, I might add that, since “absolutes” predate classical liberal theory and governments, perhaps not all hope is lost.

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