As a Libertarian, I’m often challenged to lay out my plan for the world. Skeptics want to know every scenario of every issue, with concrete examples and facts to prove that my plan will meet their litmus test of change. “What about the poor? Who will protect the environment? Who will keep the terrorists off of our shores? Muh roads! Who will keep restaurants clean and safe? How can we get prayer back in school? How do we get Creationism (or Evolution) in / out of the textbooks that are used to teach our children?”
So let me start w/ putting the same question to those on the Left and Right. What exactly is your ideal, Utopian society? And further, how do we get there?
Being a former political conservative, here’s some points that may get the Right to nod their heads:
- Big military, i.e. limitless spending if it supports the military
- Bigger jails and more of them
- Global interventionism / pre-emptive action against potential threats around the world
- Christian-American values indoctrinated into our common law including what we teach in schools, what we permit on TV / radio, who can be married, the pledge of allegiance, Manger scenes in Town Hall at Christmas
- Pro-Life for the unborn / Pro-death penalty for convicted criminals
- War on drugs, except for tobacco, alcohol, and ‘legal’ pharmaceuticals
- No restrictions or regulation on guns / firearms
- Corporate welfare / Cronyism
- Tariffs / US Only / government subsidized protectionism of American businesses and interests
- Closed borders with jail time for illegals
- English only. Period.
Screw the environment
On the left, you may hear things like:
- Special treatment for protected groups like minorities, women, homosexuals, disabled, elderly, and the poor by way of quotas, lowered standards, redistribution of wealth, Hate crime / speech protection
- Completely equal pay from top to bottom.
- 100% job security, i.e. cannot be terminated against your will
- No religious connotation or affiliation in any aspect of public life
- Education for enrichment / enlightenment only, no grading / testing because failure can be traumatic
- War on drugs if it creates ‘too much profit’ for greedy corporations
- Anti-corporatism / capitalism / profiteering
- Free / subsidized Health Care, Housing, Food, Education, Clothing, Transportation, Postal Service, Internet Service, and Cell Phones for the poor and other protected classes
- Free abortions for everyone regardless of age or term
- All schools are public schools with the same curriculum / teaching / facilities available to anyone / anywhere. Education experts will decide what to teach. Atheist / science-based teaching only
- Make all guns and firearms illegal, except for law enforcement personnel
- The environment and animals have equal rights as humans and must be protected
I’m sure there are more on both sides of the political spectrum, but I’ve tried to hit the hot topics. Interestingly, both sides historically are in favor of increased government spending. They just like to spend our money on different things. The Right wants to keep funding the military / spying war machine and their business cronies. The Left wants to spend it on everything else by taxing the rich. Both sides see no problem with the FED and printing more money to make up any shortfalls.
The other thing that’s curious is that on some issues, it appears the difference in whether the Left or Right support / oppose it depends on who is in the White House. Spying / Pro-War and the use of drones were big Right Wing hot buttons during the W administration and the Left vehemently opposed. Now that Obama is the President, the support roles seem to have been reversed.
So, getting back to my opening comment here – does anyone get a sense that there are well-tested, laid out plans on either side to achieve any of these ideals?
Does the Right have an answer for how much spending / resources and lives to keep pressing into our global police force or is it really limitless? How many wars should we be actively leading? Are we making any progress in keeping ‘Murica / the World safer?
What about the War on Drugs? Do we just keep on staying the course?
How do we plan to enforce an English Only agenda? Are we saying it should be illegal to speak any other language in the country?
For the Leftists, I realize bringing up Economics is a taboo and often frowned upon because ‘not everything is just about money’. But, as I’ve said before, it can’t simply be ignored either. Things / services have costs. Even if your proposal is to completely do away with money and private property, Adam Smith proved many years ago that people will barter with things they have to create their own economies (see my previous post On Health Care).
The other point for Leftists is that they are oftentimes guilty of focusing on only the things that can be seen today. But economists like Henry Hazlitt will point out the obvious truth that every decision that can be SEEN includes countless UNSEEN decisions that are being made. You pull on one thread, there are consequences, both intended and unintended, that will take place as a result. You tell the CEO that he can’t make any more money than the janitor, who’s going to want to take the responsibility of being the CEO anymore? And will the company even survive the next fiscal year when you do so with whoever is left leading the company?
So now, where’s my plan? The answer is I don’t have all the answers. I can’t possibly tell you how to fix every problem in the world today (and those that have yet to come to pass). Libertarians don’t even completely agree on how to ‘solve’ the world’s problems. There’s no magic formula (which involves the use of force) to get people to behave. That’s the point of Liberty.
BECAUSE there is no one-size-fits-all solution and there is no human being or group of human beings that could possibly know what’s best for everyone everywhere, Libertarians generally oppose the use of force to achieve a political goal. Instead, we favor the unobstructed, voluntary, grass-roots, God-given authority for each individual to lead his own life, to reap the benefits and pay the consequences for his decisions, and to enter into his associations without coercion. The only exception would be when your choices prohibit or cause harm to another person’s equal freedom to choose (see my previous post on the Limits of Personal Liberty).
That’s my plan. That’s my solution. I don’t know what the results will look like yet, but I do know that people acting as their own agents will take power away from faceless, centralized planners that are not held accountable for the results of their decisions. Instead, people will be empowered to act in their own best interests.
The graphic below is often passed around on the internet for Libertarian political groups. Like any catch phrase or bumper sticker logo, it’s meant to be simple and generalized. But if I have to choose between the Left, Right or Liberty, I’m definitely still here in the Liberty camp.