Give Me Liberty and Give You Death: The Me-First Philosophy of Libertarianism (Part 2 of 2)

Last week’s post on Libertarianism focused largely on the flawed philosophy of Libertarianism. This week’s piece focuses on the specific stances taken by Libertarians.

(1) First off, there are a number of issues on which Libertarians are conspicuously silent; issues such as gay marriage, gay adoption, abortion, and access to contraception, among others. This silence is attributable to the fact that the party’s presumptive positions on these issues (based on individual liberty) directly conflict with the conservative opinions of its affiliates. The Libertarian Party is pretty good at sticking to the red meat issues like lavish government spending and the 2nd Amendment while avoiding the murkier waters of gay rights and sexual freedom.

(2) Libertarians fail to realize that when society benefits, the individual benefits (i.e. a rising tide lifts all boats). By reducing poverty, providing access to healthcare, and making college education a reality for all Americans, we reduce crime, lower healthcare costs, and grow the middle class. I’m not saying Democrats are selfless altruistic individuals, but rather they understand the principle that when we help those around us, we improve our own world as well. So maybe Democrats are selfish too-they’re just smarter about it.

Libertarians are also quiet on other pressing issues such as education, the environment, campaign finance reform, etc. Where are the Libertarian voices on these issues? Time and time again we get to hear about eliminating the Federal Reserve, wasteful government spending, and individual responsibility; but we’re left guessing where they stand on nearly every other issue.

(3) When Libertarians think of the government, they think of fat Uncle Sam reaching into their pockets and bilking them of their hard-earned dollars. What they fail to see however, is the important role our government plays in helping to protect our individual freedoms. For example, the 2nd Amendment is a government decree that protects our ability to own and use firearms. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ensured non-White Americans the freedom to vote without fear of discrimination.

Similarly, the government enhances freedoms that we enjoy every day. We have the freedom to travel from sea to shining sea because of the U.S. Interstate System, and the tax dollars that go towards its maintenance and repair. We have the freedom to eat in restaurants without the fear of getting sick because we have government-regulated health codes. We have the security of knowing there is a local police department, fire department, and ambulance service, all provided by our local governments. Libertarians are a broken record, always talking about the government and its role in taking away our freedoms. Just once I’d like to hear them acknowledge the freedoms their government protects.

(4) The obsession Libertarians have with the welfare system. Libertarians would have you believe that the biggest problem with America is the huge number of freeloaders. We saw this song and dance pulled out right after the 2012 election when Obama (aka The Food Stamp President) squeaked out a victory thanks to all of the freeloading Americans who crammed into voting booths with the hopes of ensuring the continuation of their steady stream of government goodies. (I can’t blame just Libertarians here. Republicans were beating this drum with equal fervor.)

Libertarians would have you believe that welfare queens and the other dregs of society are destroying America by leeching off hardworking Americans. In reality, welfare makes up about 6% of the federal budget. (I’m obviously not including Social Security or Medicare in this number, the reason being that we pay into those programs throughout our lives). Despite the plethora of evidence that welfare is not the reason we have a national debt and an annual deficit, Libertarians continue with their fantasyland charges of welfare queens playing with their iphones while parking their BMWs and dropping their kids off at daycare.

(5) Libertarians are often so concerned about their individual freedoms that they lose sight of the fact that financial debt can essentially remove every freedom a person has. Talk to anyone who has been hounded by creditors, or who has been behind on car payments or credit card bills. Talk to someone who has rent due in two days and no way to pay for it; or a person with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills or student loan debt and no way to pay them. No money = no liberty. Yet Libertarians oppose raising the minimum wage; they oppose welfare programs designed to help people avoid poverty and homelessness; and they oppose government assistance to help students pay for college. Many Libertarians are single-issue voters who care very little about the actual concept of liberty but rather are vested in their own pet issues (e.g. gun rights, legalization of marijuana).

An important point to consider: The middle class is not a naturally-occurring phenomenon. It only comes about when either a country is stealing from everyone around it (a la Rome); when resources are so abundant there is no shortage of wealth (a la U.S. in the late 18th century); or if regulations are put into place that prevent all wealth from percolating to the top. If you remove these regulations (i.e., progressive income tax, estate tax, minimum wage, social security, etc.) you leave the system to take care of itself. We end up with feudalism or the Gilded age of the late 19th century.

Perhaps what’s most surprising about Libertarians is that despite the obvious limitations of their party’s philosophy, they use their party affiliation to support the belief that they are intelligent, thoughtful, and independent thinkers. But the more we delve into this political philosophy, the more we see it for the empty shell it really is.

– Nathan

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One Response to “Give Me Liberty and Give You Death: The Me-First Philosophy of Libertarianism (Part 2 of 2)”

  1. Enjoyed reading your impression of Libertarians. I’m far from an expert, but feel the need to present some opposing points.

    (1) It is better to be defined by what you support than what you oppose. If there is no unified support within the party then the silence is not surprising.

    (2) Can’t speak for all Libertarians, but certainly many of them realize the value of society. However, Libertarians would disagree with Democrats (and Republicans) on the best approach to improve society. Libertarians want low crime, an educated society, affordable healthcare, etc. Is gun registration, public education and Obamacare the only approach?

    (3) “[Libertarians] fail to see the important role our government plays in helping to protect our individual freedoms.” Quite the opposite. Without the government to enforce the Constitution, there would be no liberty. To paraphrase Einstein, government should be as small as possible, but no smaller. You provide a good example with the 2nd amendment. Is the government currently protecting our rights or seeking ways to encroach upon them?

    (4) Far more than 6% of my tax dollars are allocated to social programs. You can play games with the definition of “welfare” and “working poor” but that’s simply not an honest evaluation of the situation. It’s also disingenuous to separate state programs from federal programs.

    (5) “[Libertarians] oppose welfare programs designed to help people avoid poverty and homelessness.” The key word in there is “designed”. Those programs might be designed to help but often they have unintended consequences, waste, fraud, abuse and excessive overhead. Again, Libertarians want to help the poor. Libertarians do not want a government that helps the poor. Liberals fail to see the distinction.

    I hope that I have presented more than “an empty shell” of counterpoints without ad hominem attacks.

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