Who's a Libertarian?

A post I circulated during the mini-tempest concerning the speaker at the 2004 Libertarian convention. This was the beginning of my dissatisfaction with sharing air with Anarchists.



The tempest in a teapot concerning Boortz speaking at the National Conference isn't about Boortz; It isn't even about war vs. antiwar. If you go back and read all of T.L. Knapp's "Life of the Party" series, it becomes plainly clear that the issue goes much deeper than that. It's why the "Boot Boortz" camp have the audacity to suggest that those in agreement with Boortz should "...be shown the door".

The issue ladies and gentlemen is this: is gov't necessary or not? Does the structure we call gov't serve a legitimate function in a truly libertarian society; or is each individual capable of governing themselves sufficiently to render gov't as we know it useless? Let me explain why IMO, this is what is being argued about.

Libertarians don't agree on whether or not gov't should exist. On the one hand you have those who believe that gov't is not necessary, and they offer suggestions for it's eventual replacement by voluntary structures. Generally those that offer these types of arguments are known as 'anarchists'. On the other hand you have Objectivists, and others who believe that gov't serves a vital albiet limited function, and it should be maintained in some minimal fashion so as to preserve liberty. The label that has been generally applied to these types is 'minarchist'. Not everyone accepts the above labels, and the current LP membership includes views, like those of Constitutionalists, that don't fit in either camp.

The anarchist/minarchist schism has existed within the party nearly since it's inception. There have been various attempts to settle disputes between the factions, none of them very successful. The most successful was the "Dallas Accord" in which the libertarians of the time agreed that they would not discuss whether or not gov't was necessary, and focus on the more important issue of personal liberty. The agreement has worked until recently.

So, what's changed? 9/11, that is what has changed. The foriegn policy blunders that the federal gov't has committed for the last hundred years have come home to roost with a vengence. The 'terrorists' have declared war on us, and we are under threat. We are now faced with a situation that must be dealt with, and all of the effective options involve the use of gov't power. The problem is this: If you acknowledge that gov't has a reason to exist, then that reason will most likely include defensive measures designed to secure us from the agressive actions of others. No matter how you slice it, 9/11 comes under "attacks against the territory of the United States", and we have the obligation to make sure that any more threats of that type are dealt with, and the guilty parties that conspired to conduct the attacks are hunted down and exterminated.

To further extend the logic chain, one can extrapolate several strategic reasons for a large ground force in the area that the attackers called home (the Middle East) and the benefit of soundly defeating the 'biggest bully on the block'. Whether you agree with the strategy or not, it makes sense from a military standpoint... If you acknowledge that gov't has a reason to exist.

However, if you don't believe that gov't should exist, then any action of the gov't is damnable from the outset; and any action which benefits the gov't directly (such as a war) is the worst kind of evil imaginable, and therefore must be denounced in the strongest possible terms.

...and that ladies and gentlemen is why the disagreement over Boortz speaking has taken on a life of it's own. He has had the audacity to apply logic to the situation and determine from his own perspective that the threat posed by the 'terrorists' is sufficient to require actions against other countries. ...and to further determine that the largest most vocal segment of the antiwar movement are also anti-american. To add insult to injury he speaks his mind about his beliefs to an audience of thousands, and categorizes himself a libertarian. As others have pointed out, on every other issue other than the war, Boortz is solidly libertarian. But because of this one issue, his belief that gov't has a reason to exist, he can't be a libertarian.

Now the anarchists are regretting ever 'letting' non-anarchists into their club; and some of them would like to institute a purity test so that the membership can be limited to those who profess correct beliefs. To hell with them. This is the reason why everyone who has an interest in furthering the LP NEEDS to go to the convention and actively participate in the sessions. The core of the party has been controlled by too few for too long. If we are going to succeed in changing the policies of the current gov't, we are going to have to include more people, and gain influence. You don't do that by kicking out those you disagree with.

For my part, I wouldn't mind if they asked Rush Limbaugh to speak at the convention; it might make for some interesting conversation. It doesn't even offend me when Bill Maher calls himself a 'libertarian'. He just makes himself look like a fool to those who know better. To take exception to Neal Boortz speaking at the convention is more than a waste of time; it is the equivalent of picking the scab off of a festering sore. It will only delay the time it takes for the underlying disagreements to recede into the background where they belong...

-RAnthony

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most
intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."
- Charles Darwin

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