The Score on The Trouble with Libertarians
[Last Modified on 2007.11.09]
Many of our stances on various issues might lead some to believe that we would be Libertarians — and in fact, we do agree with some of their principles. The Libertarian platform starts off by stating the following in their Statement of Principles: "We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose." We couldn't agree more. In fact, the basic position statement of the Two Percent Company is very similar: "In short, we believe that people have the right to do whatever they want to do, as long as it doesn't interfere with the rights of others." Up to this point, we are in complete agreement with the Libertarian Platform; but then we get past section one, and we fall off of the Libertarian train.
There are numerous key differences between the Two Percent Company's positions and those of the Libertarian Party. The main difference is that the Libertarian platform advocates an almost total lack of government and a level of freedom that, while laudable in the abstract, leans too close to anarchy. The Libertarian state is one which, if it were able to be applied, would be a virtual utopia; but as applied to the real world, the Libertarian platform just isn't feasible.
- The basic premise of the Libertarian Party is the separation of everything and state. For a Libertarian, almost anything can be inserted in that statement — religion, banks, business, education, medicine, water, and so on. Since the function of government is so diminished in the Libertarian view, there is no need for taxation, which the Libertarians also oppose in all forms. In short, the Libertarians endorse the abolishment of just about every facet of the government, in exchange for privatization. This includes private law enforcement, private ownership of National Parks, and private maintenance of all transportation infrastructure, just to name a few of the Libertarian proposals. Outside of a basic central judicial system, the Libertarian platform would count on state and community bodies to make all decisions, and private industry to fill the gaps left by the withdrawal of the government. While we are firm believers in the Free Market Economy, and of not allowing Big Government to overstep its bounds, the Libertarian proposal goes too far for our tastes. We do believe that there is a need for the federal government — we need to clean it up, not scrap it. Our positions are represented all over the Score, especially in the Government & Politics category.
- Gun Control: The Libertarians oppose all gun control laws, including registration of firearms. To us, this is indicative of the Libertarian position — that people should be exceedingly free of government control until they commit a crime against someone else. But we believe that registration of firearms is a good thing — it doesn't penalize a gun owner who does not commit any crime, and it allows law enforcement to more easily locate a gun owner who does commit a crime.
- Native American's Rights: Per the Libertarian platform, "Indians should have their property rights restored, including rights of easement, access, hunting, and fishing." At one point, most or all of what is now the United States was inhabited by various American Indian tribes. While the Indians themselves would argue that they never owned the land, it seems that the Libertarians want to "return" it to them anyway. We're not sure how overlapping claims between the Indian tribes and current landowners would be handled — the Libertarians don't mention what to do about such issues. We agree that the American Indians were treated very poorly in America's past, as were the original inhabitants of many countries, but we also believe that the past is behind us — we are now a nation. Letting the Native Americans essentially return to the nineteenth century — particularly without making any arrangements for their continued existence alongside citizens of the United States — isn't helpful to anyone in today's world.
- Health & Medical Issues: One facet of the Libertarian platform is the abolishment of occupational licensure, which would allow any person to work in any field. This would presumably include the medical profession, thereby allowing anyone to be a doctor. In and of itself, this is a mistake, but when combined with the rest of the Libertarian platform, the problems only intensify. While we agree that recreational drugs should not be illegal, the Libertarians go beyond this by getting rid of the need for prescriptions for all medication. We can't see much reason to even go to a doctor under these circumstances, since there is no guarantee that they are qualified (because no licensure board has vouched for them), and since you can self medicate anyway.
Add to this the Libertarians' proposed removal of health warnings from products like cigarettes and alcohol, and we have an empowered but uninformed population. This would give us ample freedoms, but would provide no method for getting the right information into the hands of the consumers. Such roadblocks to consumer education coupled with the removal of all government checks on health care create an exceedingly poor medical system, which can only harm the people whose rights and welfare the Libertarians are trying to support.
- Parents & Children: One of the biggest shocks to us was the way that Libertarians approach children. They seem to view them as nothing more than little adults, and they confer all the rights and responsibilities of adults to children of all ages. For example, they state that, presumably at any age, children may declare independence from their parents and assume responsibility for themselves. While that may be a valid argument for a seventeen year old, it certainly is not rational for a six year old. The Libertarian platform seems to draw no such distinction. Based on their platform to abolish all laws concerning the sale and use of alcohol, and to abolish all laws regulating consensual sex, we wonder if they have extended their treatment of children to allow a six year old to drink and have sex. While we agree with such proposals as they apply to adults, we can't say the same with regard to children.
It's true that the Libertarian platform does not state the applicability of these policies to children outright, but we feel that this is exactly the problem with most of their proposals concerning children — the rights of children must be specifically called out, or they will be wrongly lumped in with adults. To our way of thinking, we need to set an age of majority, before which children are not treated the same as adults. Before this time, children's rights must be, of necessity, restricted; and at the same time, the law must provide for extra protection to ensure their health and safety. The reason for this is that children are not physically, emotionally or mentally the equals of adults, and until they develop, they need to be treated differently. This does not mean that they should be repressed; only that their parents should have ultimate control over them (unless their parents abuse, neglect or endanger them).
There's more: the Libertarians would abolish the guarantee of public education, and the compulsory education laws. This combination would certainly contribute to an increase in the number of uneducated people. In our opinion, education of our citizens is one of the primary functions of government, and it should remain so. The Libertarians also propose the outright laughable suggestion that whenever parents "are unable or unwilling to raise their children, they have the obligation to find other person(s) willing to assume guardianship." Are the Libertarians truly presuming that unfit parents will always have the capacity to judge their own parenting skills? Of course, another very shaky policy concerns the removal of children from abusive parents; according to the Libertarians, only "local courts" should be able to make such decisions, with the "consent of the community." We're not entirely sure what that means, but the immediate connotations don't seem positive.
- International Relations: The Libertarians also advocate a bizarre combination of isolationism and open borders. They are quite clear in their isolationist policies, so we won't go into that; suffice it to say that, to us, isolationism just isn't feasible in the global community of today's world. Shutting out the rest of the world is myopic and idealistic. The Libertarian opinions about open borders are a little more complex. First, they advocate the abolishment of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol. This would mean that anyone could walk into our country and be, for all intents and purposes, a citizen. While this level of freedom would be wonderful in theory, we just don't think that it is realistically viable.
Second, the abolishment of passports would likely cause issues for any citizens who wished to travel to other countries who have not yet bought into the Libertarian utopia. For us, the fact that this is a goal of the Libertarians showcases the overly idealistic nature of their policies. In addition, the Libertarian plan to abolish the national currency and instead privatize monetary systems would also hamper our ability to interact on the world stage. In addition to the possibility of numerous incompatible forms of currency, barter would be pulled back to the forefront of economics. To us, the International Relations aspects of the Libertarian platform are perhaps the most idealistic and the most unrealistic. Whether we like it or not, the rest of the world does exist, and we have to live on the same planet. Ignoring them, and living on what amounts to a communal political island that isn't even remotely on the same page as the global community, is not the best course of action.
- Apparent Contradictions: In addition to what we see as serious policy flaws, the Libertarian platform also seems to contain some contradictions that we cannot rationalize. One surrounds the relationship between parents and children. On one hand, the platform states that "Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs, without interference by government -- unless they are abusing the children." Just below that, we see the statement: "We condemn the attempts by parents ... to force children to conform to any religious views." This seems to be a clear contradiction. To our way of thinking, even if we despise certain religious teachings, as long as they are not abusive, parents should be able to pass any religious beliefs on to their children. Of course, once children reach the age of majority, it is their choice whether or not to continue practicing the religion of their parents.
Taken in what we believe is its intended entirety, the Libertarian platform attempts to create something like a utopian commune existing on a political island separate from the rest of the world. There would be no central monetary system — barter and regional currencies would be the norm — and in place of a federal government, we would have something like a feudal system of community rule. Isolationism would keep us off of the world stage, and our open borders coupled with the removal of all investigative abilities of law enforcement would make the application of justice exceedingly difficult. Perhaps most disturbing, children of all ages would be treated as full adult members of society, and would be allowed to declare independence from their parents if they simply didn't want to eat their vegetables.
Of course, it is always possible to take the good ideas from the Libertarians, and discard the rest. The same can be said of any political party, and this is exactly the method that we recommend. If you research the ideas already in existence, weigh them rationally, choose what works, and fill in the rest with your own ideas, then when it comes time to cast your vote, you will be able to decide who best matches your own platform, and not just who belongs to a political party that really doesn't represent your opinions.
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[Please note that this Score entry was written based on the Libertarian Party Platform as it existed in February of 2005. The links to the platform have been changed using the Wayback Machine to link to the platform as it existed back then. We have not rechecked the platform to see if any of our issues have been addressed, and it is not our desire to do so. Whether some of the individual issues have been changed, it is still our position that the overall approach of the Libertarian Party is flawed as we have described above.]
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[ Filed under: % Civil Liberties % Government & Politics ]