It’s 2012 and that means it’s political season. As usual Americans are being bombarded with political ads and commentary everywhere we turn. First there was the brutal republican primary, and now that Mitt Romney has all but sewn up the republican nomination, the political attack ads have begun from the democratic party. This year the big topic on everyone’s mind is the economy, which was also the big topic four years ago. Although in 2008, Barack Obama was running on the platform that President Bush was leading America into a new depression and that only an Obama administration can avert certain economic disaster. It’s now 2012 and Obama has increased the national debt by 50%. So much for averting economic disaster.
What gets left unsaid in all of the political debate is the issue of individual liberty. Except for Congressman Ron Paul, no other presidential candidate has consistently articulated a pro-liberty message. Oh, you get occasional lip service to the concept of liberty, but it’s usually in connection to building up our already bloated and over-extended military and preaching the message of ‘American Exceptionalism.’ The typical political rhetoric from the left is about making the rich pay their ‘fair share’ in order to restore economic viability; whereas the rhetoric from the right is about cutting taxes and unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit to spur economic growth. This is all, as Dr. Paul has said, “tinkering on the edges” economically.
Individual liberty is the concept of self-ownership. People have the natural right to their life, their property and the fruit of their labor. Each of these natural rights are under attack by both political parties in America. The threat to life comes from both the left and the right. From the left, the threat to life comes in the form of abortion and other issues surrounding the ‘culture of death.’ Abortion is a thorny issue in libertarian circles, but if one holds to the natural right to life, then I really don’t see how one can be supportive of abortion. I know the arguments for abortion on libertarian grounds refer to the freedom of the woman to choose what to do with her own body. However, the non-aggression principle (which is central to libertarian ethics) asserts that it is morally wrong to harm the life of another except in the case of self-defense. Unborn children are the most helpless form of human life and it is incumbent upon a moral society to protect their right to life. Other attacks to life from the left come from those who argue ‘quality of life’ issues as it pertains to the health care debate. A huge controversy erupted from the so-called ‘death panels’ found in Obamacare. In an effort to keep medical costs down, bureaucrats will make decisions on providing care to those who are terminally ill or have certain quality of life issues. On both ends of the age spectrum, the political left pursues policies that attack our natural right to life.
When it comes to the political right, our right to life is threatened by their near lockstep adherence to the warfare state. Our never-ending war on terror provides the basis for continual military adventurism in the Middle East and beyond. All of this militarism threatens the lives of young men and women who have volunteered for military service. These men and women pledged to defend our country and its borders from foreign threats. However, they are being used by ambitious politicians to expand American power and influence throughout the world; hardly the mission most of them have signed up for.
What about attacks on our natural right to property? This is accomplished through the vast, labyrinth of federal regulations that purportedly protect our environment, but in the long run only serve to trample on American property rights; in some cases preventing property owners from using their own property as they see fit, in other extreme cases leading to actual arrests and forfeiture of property. There are also the abuses to the “public use” clause of the 5th amendment and eminent domain where the government can take private property for the public use as long as “just compensation” is made. Finally there are all of the cases of forfeitures and seizures of private property thanks to the war on drugs. Needless to say, the government abuses our right to property as well as our right to life.
Finally there is the right we have to the fruit of our labors, which is constantly under attack thanks to the tax code. The worst of all taxes is the income tax, which has created a mindset in the United States that the government has a right to a percentage of everything we earn. Not only that, but they get to determine what that percentage is. There is a word that comes to mind when someone else claims a right to what you have — theft. Of course, the ‘taxation is theft’ mantra may seem like a worn out cliché, but it is also 100% accurate. The only way the federal government can pay for all the goodies they promise to people is to steal money from productive people and give it to unproductive people.
Liberty is under attack as we have clearly seen. Neither political party seem terribly interested in doing anything about it. I’m sure they may talk a good game, but when it comes time to govern, we’ll be back to business as usual. How have we gotten to this point? How have we let our individual liberty be slowly eroded by the tide of increasing statism? There are many ways one could look to answer this question. As a Christian, my first impulse is to go to our radical depravity due to sin. In other words, thanks to our fallen nature, there is the potential within all of us to abuse power and authority. This is an indisputable fact in human history. However, another way to attack this question is to note that freedom and liberty are things that need to be vigorously defended at all times. Given our sinful state, we must be ever diligent to protect and preserve our freedom and liberty against all attackers. Complacency is the arch-enemy of individual liberty because there will always be people who wish to use the machinery of the State to usurp our freedom for their benefit. Additionally, there will always be people who wish to live at the expense of others.
Ideally the goal would be to eliminate the State altogether. The State is parasitic in that it must live off the productivity of others. It is also inherently deceptive as it must descend to demagoguery to capture a majority of votes to remain in power. As long as there are people who are willing to live off of government largesse, there will be politicians who are willing to provide for them at the expense of others. Is it any wonder why the candidacy of Ron Paul was pilloried from both the left and the right? Ron Paul didn’t promise to bestow any government goodies to anyone. All he promised to do was reduce the size and scope of the federal government back to its constitutional limits. This, of course, would entail drastic cuts to the federal budget — reductions to both the welfare state and the warfare state. On the flip side, he did promise to defend individual liberty! I feel most people like the concept of liberty, but fear the concomitant responsibility that comes with it.
The goal of a stateless society will not be achieved in one step. It will take many, many steps. We’ve had over 100 years of a growing State and the dependency that the State has engendered in most of us will not be cured overnight. The two presidential runs of Ron Paul (in 2008 and 2012) have done a great deal to educate people in the concept of freedom and liberty. A lot of younger people get this, but there is a lot of ideological inertia to overcome. If you’re interested in fighting for the cause of liberty, you must resign yourself to the long haul. Here are some practical steps anyone can take to help further the cause of liberty:
- Read some popular books on liberty and libertarianism by Ron Paul or Andrew Napolitano
- Go a little deeper by reading some of the classics from Murray Rothbard, Frederic Bastiat, Albert Jay Nock, John Locke, and Adam Smith
- This is very important: Stop voting for establishment candidates! People scoff at third party candidates because they feel they don’t stand a chance. Of course the electoral system is stacked against third parties, but some of them are able to get ballot access across the nation. People tend to think that in order to avoid candidate A, they must vote for candidate B. Have you ever wondered why there is a two party monopoly in American politics? It’s because the two parties are really just two wings of the same big government party! The Libertarian Party is a logical home for voters who are interested in promoting smaller government and individual liberty
- Start living like free men and women and begin reducing your dependence upon the State? Ultimately, because of government monopolies in certain areas, it is currently impossible to be 100% free of the State, but get as free from the State as humanly possible.
These are just a few suggestions that immediately come to mind. Many more can be added. The main thing is to understand that ideals such as freedom and liberty are precious and must be guarded jealously!