Dangerous Talk Blog

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Slouching Toward

Libertarianism

I had a talk with a friend and colleague of mine a couple of days ago, and he confidently told me that I was a libertarian. That's not new for me, and it's been a long time since it constituted any sort of an insult to me. I've long ago learned that libertarianism is far more than the phony "5P" stereotype of libertarianism (Pro-abortion, a Pimp, a Prostitute, a Pornographer or a Pothead).

I've never viewed myself as a libertarian, but I can easily forgive my friend for the mistake. Heck, I was invited to speak before a libertarian group a couple of weeks ago. If the professional organizers of the conference were confused, why wouldn't this amateur?

But what my friend said next really struck me. He said that in an ideal world libertarianism would be a good idea, but it's not a practical philosophy in our world today.

As someone who doesn't even lean philosophically libertarian, I have to disagree. I think he's got it backwards. Libertarian theory has at it's bottom a sort of indifferentism to right and wrong beyond force and fraud. Many libertarians have a sort of "Your view of right and wrong is just as valid as my view of right and wrong." And that's complete nonsense. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. Those who support legalized abortion and those who oppose it as killing of innocents cannot both be right. It's one or the other.

There are probably a few libertarians out there shouting "NO!! You're wrong!", and God bless you for it. But that's been my experience of reading libertartian writers (Lew Rockwell, Ludwig von Mises, and a few others notwithstanding).

On the other hand, libertarianism is far more practical than any other ideology, and that's why the Founding Fathers of this country resorted to it so often. The practicality of libertarianism is rooted in the belief that government is dumb. Government is incompetent to solve most of our cultural ailments. And that's why -- even though I don't lean libertarian -- I slouch toward libertarianism.

I'm sure it's wrong to take PCP or most other illegal drugs, but I also realize giving the federal government power to control them (which, unlike Prohibition in the 1920s, didn't bother to amend the Constitution to take that power) is a big mistake. The federal war on drugs is about as likely to succeed as a war on the Periodic Table of the Elements.

But acknowleging that, I remain unconvinced drugs ought not to be regulated on the state level. Libertarians would argue that we'd have a ridiculous patchwork of 50 state laws, and evasion of them by crossing state borders.

Yep, we would. And I would look forward to making those states who completely legalized them -- as well as those who kept draconian penalties on the books -- look ridiculous. I don't see anything wrong with that.

So I'm not a libertarian in theory, but I'm pretty close to one in practice. I'm not sure what exactly that means. Maybe it means I'm like most of the Ron Paul supporters I met up in New Hampshire on the weekend before the primary.

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