OPINION – One of the timeliest debates of our day will be taking place next month at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas. Remarkably, it won’t include any political candidates.
This debate will address the topic, “Should Mormons be Conservative, Libertarian or Social Democrats?” It’s a fair question in a year where the likely Republican nominee for president will be a Mormon. But the real fireworks will be when “Latter Day Liberty” author Connor Boyack and Sutherland Institute president Paul Mero square off on the topic of freedom.
A recent tweet from Mero to Boyack stated, “A serious discussion about freedom is no place for a libertarian opinion.”
This taunt reveals a growing schism within conservative ranks. The rift has been observed nationally with the GOP’s efforts to purge Ron Paul libertarians from the party’s ranks. Locally, it has been apparent in Evan Vicker’s desperate attempts to label his opponent Casey Anderson as a “radical libertarian” in their District 28 state senate race.
So what is it about libertarian principles that some conservatives find so offensive?
The principal tenet of libertarian philosophy is the rejection of initiating force or resorting to fraud in order to achieve political or social goals. In other words, libertarians view individual liberty, free markets and voluntary charity as the basis for proper government. While this squares perfectly with the Founders intent of limited government that serves to guarantee natural rights, it does present a problem for Republicans and Democrats alike.
The libertarian stance illustrates decisively that the battle for political power isn’t really between the left and the right or liberals and conservatives. It is and always has been a struggle between the state and the people.
Time and again, the two major parties have shown themselves to be perfectly willing to embrace the socialist paradigm of initiating force to advance their own agendas at the expense of personal liberties.
For instance, statists claim a collective right to exercise control over the private, peaceable behavior of individuals who have harmed no one but themselves. This is seen in misguided anti-spice or anti-bath salt laws that seek to outlaw any conceivable substance a person might ingest recreationally.
Constitutional attorney Jacob Hornberger explains that conservatives and liberals both tend to support a statist “economic system in which the federal government taxes people in order to transfer the money to other people, after deducting hefty administrative costs associated with making those transfers.”
Libertarians, however, reject the statist approach since every one of those programs involves the government forcibly taking people’s money in order to give it to others.
Real freedom requires respect for the private property of others. John Locke in his “Second Treatise Concerning Civil Government” states: “Every Man has a ‘property’ in his own ‘person.’ This nobody has any right to but himself. The ‘Labour’ of his body, and the ‘work’ of his hands, we may say, are properly his.” Locke goes on to say: “The great and ‘chief end’ therefore, of mens uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, ‘is the preservation of their property‘.”
Locke’s view profoundly influenced many members of the founding generation as they crafted our system of limited government for the purpose of securing our rights of life, liberty and property.
Libertarians don’t presume that they own you or your property. The same can’t be said for many Republicans and Democrats. Perhaps this explains the almost pathological aversion that both major parties show toward a philosophy that is actually compatible with freedom and the proper role of government.
When we hear the word “libertarian” being used as an epithet, it’s a perfect opportunity to evaluate whether the person using it regards the state or the individual as sovereign and supreme. More often than not, a close examination will reveal that even so-called “real Republicans” who talk of liberty, are supportive of government policies and actions that are entirely antithetical to actual freedom.
A good rule of thumb is to ask whether you would be willing to force a person, at gunpoint, to obey a certain law or policy. If it were something you’d be unwilling to do as an individual, then it doesn’t become a righteous act when you allow the state to do it for you.
Libertarians understand this. But statists struggle with the fact that not everyone chooses to exercise their freedom in the same way.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.