American libertarianism

Libertarianism is an ethical theory which has value. Most of us want and enjoy our personal liberty; it sounds appealing to declare that the good is maximized liberty. And, in fact, the constitution has a strong libertarian basis, as was common with the founding fathers, especially Jefferson. The only point where libertarians draw the line is when harm is done to others. Sometimes this gets tricky – defining “harm” is very value-laden thing, one that tries to make the world a bit black and white. But it’s easy to at least identify the extreme situations which constitute harm – murder, theft, rape, etc.

And this is where libertarianism can take on a distinctively American flavor.

When applied to not getting physically injured, sure, that’s harm and a violation of maximized liberty. Or when applied to economic well-being, theft is another violation. But many libertarians are unwilling to go beyond this point. Take what happened to Rand Paul last month.

INTERVIEWER: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

PAUL: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that.


PAUL: You had to ask me the “but.” I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners—I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant—but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I absolutely think there should be no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that’s most of what I think the Civil Rights Act was about in my mind.

This is entirely consistent with libertarianism. Again, it is an ethical theory – it is not a moral one. It is possible to favor something out of principle because it maximizes liberty while at the same time finding it immoral. Paul does precisely that. It’s immature – there’s no need to force one’s self to be so ideological (both consequences and intentions matter, contrary to the one-or-the-other principles of most ethical theories) – but it’s still in line with libertarianism. Soon after this, the Libertarian party in Kentucky distanced itself from Paul. More recently, Paul has returned the favor.

The original reason for the distancing was specifically Paul’s philosophical stance on private ownership.

Party Vice Chairman Joshua Koch said Wednesday that Paul has been a black eye for Libertarians because of stands he’s taken on issues, including his criticism of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

This was an unofficial position, but it’s the basic reason for the distancing.

Paul’s other positions fall from necessarily being libertarian-derived, but they should still be labeled libertarian – with the qualifier American. It isn’t that the good is maximized liberty, it’s that the good is my maximized liberty.

The Teabagging Party is the epitome of American Libertarianism. The physical liberty of people remains universal – no one should be harmed – but it becomes a my liberty mentality when it comes to economic and social circumstances. Businesses not allowing blacks? Sure, because it’s forcing someone to help someone else. That isn’t complete liberty for the person being forced to do the helping – and just screw the liberty of those darkies. Same-sex marriage? Philosophical consistent libertarian parties favor it, but American Libertarianism is against it. How does that help my liberty, after all?

Give it some thought. Stop a business from having no restrictions, that might help me get something cheaper, help me get paid slightly more, or help me pay my workers (or taxes) less if I open my own place. But allow two consenting adults to have insurance and easy joint custody of their children? How does that help me?

The funny thing about it all is that rights are rights are rights. Currently, marriage is not a right. It’s an arbitrary privilege which can be taken away from any group at any time, should we apply socially conservative ‘principles’ to it all the way to the end. The reason so many are blind to this has a number of reasons: majorities are almost always privileged and that isn’t always easy to see, people are ignorant and thus plainly homophobic, religion is a virus of the mind.

And this applies beyond same-sex marriage. Thirty states allow for faith healing, something which minimizes the liberty of children. American Libertarianism favors this; philosophical libertarianism does not. Or the war on drugs. Again, American Libertarianism, for. Philosophical libertarianism, against. Or restricting abortion. Or the death penalty. Or the immigration law in Arizona.

The list goes on and on.

6 Responses

  1. Very good reasoning, except calling the teabaggers libertarian just makes me feel icky.
    There is a rift right now in the LP, the ‘pure’ libertarians, and the GOPers who really don’t know any better, who are anti-same sex marriage, anti-abortion, pro-war, pro-drug war, anti liberty jackasses.
    Add to that, idiots believing Glenn Beck when he claimed to be Libertarian, and jumping on his band wagon of dumb, and libertarians end up looking bad.
    Libertarianism, to me anyway, boils down to this: if it doesn’t interfere with anybody’s individual rights, it should be legal for consenting adults to do it. This could be drug use, gambling, prostitution, anything. Of course this would mean faith healing would be allowed between consenting adults, creationism could be taught between consenting adults, and a slew of undesirable things would be allowed between consenting adults; after all, there is no right to not be offended.
    Ron and Rand Paul are paleoconservatives, not libertarians, (though still better than the gopers), so do not represent libertarians, though most respect the elder Dr. Paul.
    The teabaggers do not represent libertarian values. Gross.

  2. There is a lot of this “consenting adults” business in there. That’s great you have to remember that children are the wards of their parents and have very few individual rights.

    Until the child is 18 the parents can take their kids to a faith healer or raise them catholic or almost any other thing they like. As long as there isn’t abuse and they are getting basic education (home schooling).

    Children don’t have many rights until 18 because their parents are responsible for their behavior, mostly.

    Yes on 1 passed by the way. Very happy, break out the bubbly.

  3. The founding fathers would hate the current American Libertarianism. It is close to opposite of their objectives.

    I do like like the description:

    if it doesn’t interfere with anybody’s individual rights, it should be legal for consenting adults to do it.

    It is a blanket statement that is immature. This would approve of one person selling his kidney to the highest bidder.

  4. I think this is a bit of a straw man. If a person is against or for same sex marriage / faith healing it is not a reflection of their POLITICAL views i.e. libertarianism. This would be more closely associated with their own personal moral and ethical views Libertarianism only concerns itself with freedom and liberty between people and the government. Having said that, If one were to make the statement : ” I don’t think government should have any say in who can and cannot get married” that would be in line with libertarianism. This statement however says nothing of whether he/she agrees with the general idea of same sex marriage.

  5. I’m of that mind, I don’t agree with a lot of things but more importantly I think the government should have nothing to do with most of them.

    Also I think the government should be prohibited from taking race, socioeconomic background and/or gender into account when doing nearly anything.

    Combat arms jobs in the army come to mind. The military uses gender “norming” for physical fitness standards. There isn’t any room for doing that for combat arms jobs. That’s legitimate use of “discrimination”.

    Submarines are an area where it would be easy to put women aboard. The last I heard the first woman to become a submariner reports. I just hope she was selected for a reason other than just being female and willing to work on a sub.

  6. Check this blog out on the problem on Libertarianism.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: