Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jacob G. Hornberger: The Glory of libertarianism

  Benjamin Franklin once said, “Where liberty dwells, there is my country,” inspiring Thomas Paine to reply, “Where liberty is not, that is my home.”

  We libertarians happen to have been born in what Paine described as his preferred home — a country in which liberty is not. We strive to convert our country into one that Franklin preferred, one where liberty dwells. That’s one of the things that make our movement such a glorious one.

  That’s also one of the things that distinguish us from both liberals and conservatives. They believe that they already are living in a free country. You hear them expressing it all the time. They continually thank the troops fighting and killing thousands of miles away from American shores for “defending our freedoms” here at home. You hear them singing to themselves, “Thank God I’m an American because at least I know I’m free.”

  Why are statists so convinced they live in a free country? Because they define freedom in a totally different way than we libertarians do. Statists define freedom in two primary ways: one, the extent to which the federal government takes care of people with welfare and, two, the extent to which the U.S. military and the CIA police the world. For the statist, the more welfare and the more “defense” spending, the freer the American people.

  Libertarians scoff at that concept of freedom. After all, the statist concept of freedom is also embraced by North Koreans. We look at it in precisely opposite terms: Freedom for us is defined by the absence of government paternalism and the absence of a vast military empire and national-security state apparatus.

  Freedom for us libertarians entails the right of people to engage in any peaceful behavior whatsoever, no matter how irresponsible, dangerous, or self-destructive. It’s about the right to make choices, for better or for worse, so long as they don’t involve the initiation of force against someone else. That means: no murder, rape, theft, trespass, burglary, robbery, and other such violent crimes. It also means: anything that’s peaceful is legal.

  In the realm of economics, that means the right of people to engage in any occupation without seeking permission of the government. No licenses or permits for anyone, including doctors, lawyers, hairdressers, and shoe-shine personnel.

  It means the right to engage in economic transactions with anyone anywhere in the world without government interference, regulation, or control. No minimum wage laws, maximum-hour laws, economic regulations, embargoes and sanctions, or drug laws in a libertarian world.

  It means the right to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth and the right to decide what to do with it. No government welfare programs under libertarianism. No income tax and IRS. No confiscation and redistribution of wealth at all. No mandatory charity programs. A total separation of charity and the state. 

  Libertarianism also means sound money because it necessarily entails leaving people free to decide which medium of exchange to use in their economic transactions. That might mean gold and silver or even something better.

  Libertarianism necessarily entails free markets, which are nothing more than sellers and consumers peacefully interacting with each other for mutual gain.

  Libertarianism means a limited-government republic, one in which there is no vast standing army, military-industrial complex, overseas military empire, CIA, and national-security state apparatus. No more military invasions, occupations, wars of aggression, kidnappings, torture, secret prisons, military tribunals, assassinations, indefinite detention, infringements on civil liberties, and denial of due process.

  What makes our movement so glorious?

  For one, it is founded on the principle of genuine freedom — a society in which people are free to live their lives the way they want, so long as their conduct is peaceful. What could be more glorious than that?

  Second, libertarianism is founded on solid moral and religious principles, the protection of freedom being the best example. Another one is its recognition of the wrongfulness of stealing, even when it’s done by people acting collectively through the government and even when the thief uses the money to help others in need.

  Third, in the economic realm, libertarianism is the only system that raises people’s standard of living, especially those at the bottom of the economic ladder. That’s because many people who are accumulating wealth inevitably save some of that wealth, which is then available as capital, which enables business owners to purchase better tools and equipment, which in turn make their workers more productive, which then leads to higher real wage rates.

  Fourth, a society in which people have the widest possible ambition for free will and freedom of choice will be one that nurtures, develops, and encourages such important traits as compassion, caring, and responsibility.

  Compare the glory of libertarianism with statism. Statists believe in forcing people to be good, caring, and responsible. That’s what their welfare state is all about. It’s based on coerced charity, which is really not charity at all because it’s forced. It’s also based on coerced responsibility. Statism is also based on legalized stealing—the taking of money from a person to whom it belongs in order to give it to a person to whom it does not belong.

  The irony is that the welfare state, like other variations of socialism, actually makes people less moral, less religious, less charitable, and less responsible. That’s what depriving people of the opportunity to makes choices does.

  Look at what statists’ belief in a vast military empire and a national security state has brought our nation: perpetual conflict and violence, a constant state of fear, and a warping of traditional principles and values. The fact that statists are proud of the fact that their government wages wars of aggression around the globe, sanctions and embargoes countries that have never attacked the United States, kidnaps people and tortures them, provides U.S. taxpayer money to brutal dictatorships, enters into rendition-torture partnerships with brutal dictatorships, and adopts dictatorial practices, including military arrest of civilians and indefinite detention, speaks volumes of what they have done to warp people’s principles and values.

  Can libertarians succeed in making our country one in which genuine liberty dwells? That depends on whether a sufficient number of committed Americans join our cause and help us to overcome the statists. Clearly, our movement is growing. My hunch is that it’s just a matter of time —which might be sooner than we think — that we reach that critical mass that will shift society toward Ben Franklin’s type of preferred home.

  But regardless of whether we succeed or not, we should thank our lucky stars for libertarianism. We should be thankful that even though we have been born and raised in a statist society, life has presented us with the opportunity to participate in one of the grandest, most glorious movements in history — libertarianism.

  About the author: Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

  This article was published by The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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