I am not a Libertarian, but I lean that way. I choose to call myself a Libertarian Republican. My mother was a Libertarian. Tonie Nathan ran as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party on its first ticket in 1972, together with John Hospers, Dean of Philosophy at USC. They were the first to tour and espouse the principles of Libertarianism. My Mother was a life-long Democrat until introduced to the works of Ayn Rand. Like millions of others, she changed her mind about a lot of things including political philosophy after being exposed to Rand’s profound ideas.

 Click here: The New Libertarian Republicanism - PaulNathan.biz and  Click here: Ayn Rand's Philosophy -- In a Nutshell - PaulNathan.biz .  

The Founding Fathers’ concept of government as laid out in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is the closest thing to defining a political structure allowing freedom as Mankind has ever achieved. Libertarians embrace the Constitution but would like to see it go to the logical end of its intent, which is to explicitly protect property rights. If Individuals possess the inalienable rights of life and liberty, surely the right to keep the fruits of one’s labor is indispensable to those exercising those rights.

And I agree with the libertarian principle that individuals in a free society should be able to do anything they want as long as they do it without initiating force or fraud against others; and that the function of government is to defend individual freedom, not to infringe upon it.

It's hard to understand why such reasonable ideas are always deemed "radical" or "extremist".  I think it is because they mean to enforce a principle which gives the right of property to the individual and not the State. The mere idea that the State should be legally prohibited from confiscating individual property is considered radical by most.

I happen to agree with the Founding Fathers that taxation is “legal plunder”. We never had an income tax in this country until 1913, and even then it was token. I feel the same about Eminent Domain. If the State can reach out and confiscate the property of people just because they say they need it, then the individual does not have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  If the State has the power to dole out how much of these “natural rights” a person should be allowed to keep, then citizens live by permission and not by “right”.

However, from the inception of the Libertarian Party I have always disagreed with their stand on foreign policy, which tends to be isolationist in principle. I, like most Americans, tend to lean toward isolationism, but I think it should be isolationist discriminately, not absolutely. Click here: On Foreign Policy - PaulNathan.biz  I prefer the flexibility of choice in such matters.

Under our system of government we elect our leaders to be the judges of such foreign policy matters. We delegate them to represent us, and can always vote them out if we disagree with them. But lately foreign policy decisions have spilled over from international concerns to domestic concerns with the continued terrorist war on America and the West. It is becoming more complicated.

Today, Libertarians are fighting against conservatives over our surveillance policies. For example, they want to gut the NSA and prevent the government from taking those actions that violate the right to individual privacy. I have news for the Libertarians -- there is no constitutional right to privacy. Moreover, in the world we live in today there can be no reasonable or practical expectation of privacy. We as citizens do have a constitutional right that the 4th amendment provides, which is the right against "unreasonable searches and seizures".  But the government accumulating mass data does not constitute "unreasonable searches and seizures". The government is not looking at content of phone calls or e-mails, they are looking for patterns.  Only when they find a suspicious pattern can they ask for permission from a judge to obtain a warrant to look at content and even then they need to provide proof of reasonable cause to do so.  President Obama has suggested that we re-visit the Patriot Act in order to ensure that there are sufficient checks and balances that protect individuals and limits the power of government to invade personal privacy. I think that’s a reasonable course of action.

Libertarians argue that if the government is allowed to accumulate personal information about individuals they might at some point turn that information against citizens and use it illegally against them. But by this line of reasoning one could also argue that individual citizens who own guns might turn their guns on other citizens at any time and use them. Both information and guns are only a potential danger, but as long as an actual crime is not committed with an actual victim there is no harm done. 

Just as a gun is neutral and depends on the intent and actions of its owner, so is information neutral and is not a threat to anyone unless used against individuals in an unlawful way. It isn't the right of privacy the Constitution guarantees; it's the right to be free from force, fraud, or coercion. Cross that line and a crime has indeed been committed.

And that is the line in the sand today.  Show me where information is being used -- by government or private companies for that matter -- to inflict injury on an individual, and I will join with all others that want to prosecute those who break the law.  To date, the only evidence presented in this data debate is on the government’s side where they have claimed that data collected is being used to protect Americans, not harm them. Offer evidence to the contrary and I will join the Libertarian crusade -- but not until then.

I suggest that Libertarians move away from this issue until they have actual proof that the government is not merely violating some fictional right to privacy, but committing unreasonable searches and seizures and using such information against its citizens. Concentrating on the very real violations that the IRS has committed would be much more productive.

Then there is the case of Edward Snowden. Is he a whistle-blower or is he a traitor? At this time I chose to think of him as neither.  I see him as a conscientious objector of sorts. I think that he is doing what he believes is right.

Until such time as it can be verified that he released documents that led to someone's victimization, he has not committed a crime. Secrets are the most fleeting of all things in society. To punish someone for releasing secrets may be a violation of trust or contract, and that breach of contract could be punishable under law...but treason? I think not. Snowden did what he believed was morally right. I suggest we just forget about him.  He has his own problems having to figure out how to live in a country like Russia which is ten times as intrusive, corrupt, and conniving as the United States.

 

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 Just as Libertarians are at war with the foreign policy of most Republicans, they are also at war with the religious right conservatives and their social agenda. On this I fully agree with the Libertarian view.  Conservatives violate the very principles they espouse -  of limited government and  non-intervention -  in the name of "conservative values". Why are those that believe in Islamic law and claim the right to impose their values on the rest of us wrong, but conservatives who want to impose their values on American citizens right?  Both involve imposing their will on others through the use of government force. In civilized countries people learn to accept different values and different beliefs. It is the essence of a free society to do so. Conservatives demand obedience to their values just as Islamic extremists and the Taliban do.

Today in Egypt, we see this fight of the individual against the State in practice. Even though the Muslim Brotherhood candidate was democratically elected, the people threw him out of office as soon as he began imposing Islamic views on all people by force. What makes Republicans think they could impose “conservative values” on the people of America without the same kind of outrage?

The Libertarian principle that individuals should be free to make choices and take actions so long as they don't use force to accomplish their goals, is the fundamental principle of a free society; it is not "majority rule". We live in a Constitutional Republic where checks and balances protect minorities, and individual rights are held as supreme -- not group "rights". We in America are against the democratic rule of mobs -- at least in theory. Libertarians would like to turn that theory into practice. They are not Anarchists who believe there should be no government; they are intellectual freedom fighters for a limited government that is charged with protecting its citizens from foreign attack by foreign forces, and to establish courts that preside over disputes. In the Libertarian view, there is no room for pursuing and prosecuting victimless “crimes”.

Libertarians are not for Democracy just as our founding Fathers were not. Democracy is a good way of choosing political leaders, but a lousy way of making laws.  If the majority ruled, the 80% could confiscate the wealth of the 20% of the richest people in America.  If Democracy ruled the majority could persecute the minority legally as in slavery. America fought a terrible war to prevent such domination of individuals and their property and established the Thirteenth Amendment. Benjamin Franklin said it best when he was asked by a citizen, “what kind of government have you given us?” Franklin replied, “a Constitutional Republic – if you can keep it”.

Today the nation is divided. But it isn't divided between Right and Left, Republicans or Democrats. It's divided between those who approve of government power being used to help them and their friends achieve their goals at the expense of others, and those that believe that government power should be used to simply defend its citizens and their property against the initiation of force by others. It’s the battle between the wants and needs of citizens and the rule of law. The battle is being waged by the intellectuals which make up only a very small portion of the populace .

 Only about 20% of the population considers themselves Democrats today. And the same percentage considers themselves Republicans. And within the Republican Party only slightly over half consider themselves conservatives.  About 65% of Americans consider themselves independents whose views on various issues flow from left to right. I am typical of that group, having voted for Ronald Reagan, Harry Browne (a Libertarian), and Bill Clinton.

The progressives, the conservatives, and now the libertarians are in a major battle for the minds and souls of the nation. Unfortunately they are growing louder and angrier. What's worse is the press is more and more a part of that rising volume and less and less an objective mirror of the real world. Individuals are taking sides and should, but when the press begins to do the same, it's a matter of real concern. The vast majority of Americans understand this, and as every poll shows, they are getting more and more fed up. Their respect for both political parties and the press is at all-time lows. In the end I am glad that Libertarianism is now a part of the national debate, because Libertarians have a lot to say.  I just wish they along with all the others would lower their voices when they make their points.

Libertarianism is an intellectual and principled movement.  In order to be successful it needs to allow diversity of opinion within the movement as long as it is "Libertarian" in nature. For example: the Libertarian Party is for pulling away from defending the world for free. They are opposed to us funding other nation’s national defense needs, especially those that are perfectly able to fund their own. They are also against funding international institutions like the UN that are not serving our national interest but opposing it and at our expense.  Fine. This is an argument well worth having.  But would they also pull away from defending and supporting Israel which is surrounded by enemies who vow to wipe it off the face of the earth? And would they promote a non-interventionist policy against terrorists no matter what they did to America and where they were in the world?

My point is that in some cases, discrimination is called for. It is not a violation of principle to help a nation that only wants to live in peace, or protect America by aggressive world-wide attacks if that is where the enemy resides.  Libertarians need to separate their isolationist views from the obvious right to help friends and fight evil. In many cases there are exceptions to an over-all principled position depending on context; and in the world we live in today the context tends to change. 

The same is true with the Federal Reserve and its independence over monetary policy. Discretion in monetary policy is also needed.  

Click here: Is A Central Bank Necessary? - PaulNathan.biz 

I think calls for "ending the Fed" by Libertarians is irrational and dangerous in these times. History will record that the Fed’s intervention into the economy during the recent financial crisis helped stabilize the system without any major price being paid by society. I agree with the Libertarian view of non-intervention, in theory – but not in the world we live in today. Many times the only rational choice we have is between the lesser of bad choices. Such is the nature of having to live and operate in a mixed economy.

I’ve always considered Libertarianism a legitimate intellectual force but a dubious political one. The best thing about Libertarians is that they are a “live and let live” kind of movement. Libertarianism is indeed a new force to be reckoned with – but it must promote a rational perspective along with a consistency of goals that can be practically attained. That’s the key to Libertarianism being an enduring force in America.

Paul Nathan
Paulnathan.biz