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What is a Libertarian?

I was asked to prepare a short speech for the Jeff Daiell for Governor Reception and Fund Raiser held on December 5th, 2009. Here are my notes:

What is a Libertarian?

Bob Smither

I am not sure why Jeff asked me to talk on this topic to this group. Don't you guys already know what a Libertarian is? Many of you know better than I do.

So, rather than talk about What is a Libertarian, lets talk briefly about what is a 'conservative' and what is a 'liberal.' When I say 'conservative' and 'liberal', I want you to envision quotation marks around the words, since both these political terms simply don't mean anything anymore.

I used to think that 'conservatives' believed in free markets, a constitutionally constrained central government, and the rule of law. That was before 'conservative' president Nixon, in 1971, unilaterally canceled our obligations to foreign holders of dollars - and severed the tie that had existed between the dollar and gold. This was all only 'temporary' of course, and was done to defend the dollar from 'foreign speculators.' I'm still waiting for this temporary arrangement to be reversed. On the same day, Nixon imposed price and wage controls on the American economy. So much for 'conservatives' upholding responsibility, free markets, and the rule of law.

Of course, many of us remember the 'Contract with America' proposed by the 'conservative' Republicans in 1994 and enthusiastically endorsed by the voters that year - giving the 'conservatives' control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. What did the 'conservatives' do with this new-found political capital? Within a few weeks, 'conservative' Bob Dole was complicit in robbing the American taxpayer of $50B (a fairly large amount, back then) to give to Mexican politicians. There was not even a whimper from the 'conservatives' in Congress. And it went downhill from there.

In case anyone should think that 'conservatives' have redeemed themselves over the last 35 years, think again. 'Conservative' president Bush the Younger pushed for and passed the recent expansion of our socialist Medicare program by tacking on Medicare Part D. Of course, this same 'conservative' president presided over the largest ever expansion in the size and scope of the central government.

'Liberalism' is the belief in the importance of individual freedom. John Locke wrote “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” This form of liberalism freed the world of kings, state established religions, and economic protectionism.

But what happened to liberalism? Now we have 'liberals' that talk loud and long about compassion and helping the less fortunate, then pass welfare laws that destroy families and communities. We have 'liberals' that talk about non-aggression, but support our military interventionism abroad. We have liberals that want to destroy what is left of one of liberalism's crowning achievements - a truly free market economy.

And we all know about 'liberals' and the harm they do to our possessions!

Today's liberals believe in all the tenets of classical liberalism, unless you happen to be talking about doing harm to another's “life, health, liberty, or possessions.”

The country faces a crisis - the current 'liberal' Obama administration is spending even more than the 'conservative' Bush, continuing to support military adventures abroad, and now wants to destroy what is left of a free market in health care.

How are we going to stop this insanity? The Republicans are spouting 'conservative' rhetoric as they always have, but who will believe them anymore? Their reputation is simply too damaged.

So that leaves us with the Libertarians. The distinguishing thing about Libertarians, in my opinion, is our agreement with the following statement:

“I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.”

No country has ever lived by this ideal. I wonder what a society that observed this principle would look like?

Any program funded by taxes would have no place in such a county - in fact taxes would have no place in such a country since they are ultimately collected at the point of a gun.

So, I guess we would have no government welfare, and many Americans would die homeless and hungry in the streets.

I guess we would not have government schools in a Libertarian society, so clearly many children would grow up uneducated.

So, if Libertarians don't believe in using force to achieve social goals, what do we believe in? If an action is not forced, it must be voluntary!

Show of hands - how many of you contributed time or money voluntarily to a charity or church last year? I thought so.

In 2007 almost 90% of Americans contributed voluntarily to charities, giving over $300B. In 2001 over 80 million Americans volunteered their time in an amount equivalent to 9 million full time jobs and worth over $230B.

And what are these charities doing with these voluntary donations? Well, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, educating those that want an education, and many more worthwhile things.

Note that all this is being done while government at all levels is forcibly taking about 50% of our income.

Can anyone doubt that in a Libertarian society the less fortunate would be taken care of?

Can anyone doubt that in a Libertarian society educational opportunities would abound?

America has a Libertarian heart, we just don't call it that.

I pray that America finds its true heart while we still have it.

Thank you.