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Subject: Libertarian FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

This article was archived around: 12 Apr 2000 19:53:07 GMT

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Archive-name: libertarian/faq Version: 1.54 Last-modified: 11 May 1998 Posting-Frequency: monthly Copyright: (c) 1995-1999 Advocates for Self-Government
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT LIBERTARIANISM _________________________________________________________________ Many USENET readers encounter libertarianism for the first time on USENET. The following is a list of answers to many of the frequently asked questions about libertarianism. These answers have been compiled from several sources. Most of the answers are derived or quoted from writings by David Bergland including "Libertarianism in One Lesson" and "America's Libertarian Heritage." Quotes were used with permission from David Bergland and the Advocates for Self-Government as long as proper credit was retained. All quoted answers will be marked and the source referenced in the bibliography. If you want more information about libertarian ideas and the Advocates for Self-Government, sign up for the "Liberator On-Line" which is sent out every two weeks. Send an E-Mail message to: liberator-request@lists.best.com with only the word 'subscribe' in the body of the message. Advocates for Self-Government 1202 N. Tennessee St., Suite 202 Cartersville, GA 30120 (770)386-8372, (800)932-1776 Fax: (770)386-8373 <URL:http://www.self-gov.org/> Contents: 1. What is libertarianism? 2. Are libertarians liberal or conservative? 3. How do libertarians approach the issues? 4. What is the libertarian position on the military draft? 5. Should the government regulate radio, TV, or the press? 6. Why do libertarians want to repeal regulations on sex by consenting adults? 6a. Does this apply to prostitution also? 7. Does libertarian support of personal liberty extend to drug use? 7a. But if drugs were legalized, wouldn't there be millions more drug addicts? 8. Do libertarians support gun ownership as a personal liberty? 9. How do libertarians want to handle immigration? 10. What position do libertarians have on subsidies for farm and business? 11. Are people better off with free trade than with tariffs? 12. What position do libertarians take on minimum wage laws? 13. What about the poor? 14. Don't we need affirmative action to keep bigoted employers from refusing to hire minorities and women? 15. How do libertarians feel about taxes? 15a. I'm for cutting taxes, but as a practical matter, how do we do it? 16. Aren't you going too far? 17. Won't these ideas work only if everybody is good? 18. In a libertarian society, wouldn't polluters get away with destroying the environment? 19. Where would a libertarian fall with respect to laws outlawing smoking in bars? 20. Isn't any destruction of the earth a direct threat to the existence, -- and thus, the rights -- of future human beings? Bibliography 1. What is libertarianism? Libertarians want a win-win world of peace and plenty. And we believe that the only way to get it is through self-government... NOT others- government. Self-government is the combination of personal responsibility and tolerance. Responsibility means you govern yourself. Tolerance means you don't force your values on peaceful, honest people. Today, however, others-government is giving us insecurity, conflict and poverty. Let's revitalize our heritage of self-government to create a win-win world where everyone comes out ahead. [4] -- Carole Ann Rand 2. Are libertarians liberal or conservative? You have a better choice than just left or right. The libertarian way gives you more choices, in politics, in business, your personal life, in every way. Libertarians advocate a high degree of both personal and economic liberty. Today's liberals like personal liberty but want government to control your economic affairs. Conservatives reverse that, advocating more economic freedom but wanting to clamp down on your private life. Libertarian positions on the issues are not "left" or "right" or a combination of the two. Libertarians believe that, on every issue, you have the right to decide for yourself what's best for you and to act on that belief so long as you respect the right of other people to do the same and deal with them peacefully and honestly. Today's liberals and conservatives have rejected America's heritage of liberty and personal responsibility. They want to put us all in their straitjacket. Americans built a great country without shackles. It's time to take them off again. Break free of the useless left right spectrum. Think freedom on all issues. Think libertarian. [2] 3. How do libertarians approach the issues? Libertarians use a caring, people centered approach to politics. Politicians too frequently forget that their laws and regulations affect real, live human beings. Libertarians never lose sight of that fact. We see each individual as unique, with great potential. We want a system which encourages all of us to discover the best within ourselves and make the most of it. A system which encourages the development of the most harmonious relationships among all people. In dealing with political issues, libertarians focus on the people involved. Who is having a problem? What is it? What is the government doing already, if anything, and might that be the cause of the problem? Most importantly, Libertarians ask: is anyone violating another's rights? Is someone committing murder, rape, robbery, theft, fraud, embezzlement, arson, trespass, etc.? If so, then it's proper to call on government to help the victim against the wrongdoer. But, if not, the government should not get involved. In most instances, people are better off if allowed to work out their own problems through voluntary cooperation without introducing the coercive tool of government. [3] 4. What is the libertarian position on the military draft? History shows that free people can be counted on to defend their homes and their country. But the draft is slavery, and slaves make lousy defenders of freedom. I like knowing I'm being protected by people who are in the military because they want to be there, not because they were forced against their will to be there. A military focused on defending America instead of policing the globe would reduce manpower needs and further eliminate any reason to have a draft or draft registration. Let's let free people defend freedom. [3] 5. Should the government regulate radio, TV, or the press? America's free press is envied by freedom-starved people everywhere. Dictators use a controlled press to silence opposition and to feed lies to their citizens. Americans would not like it if the government here owned or controlled the newspapers. Why should we like government control of TV and radio any better? As with printed words, broadcast words can and should be regulated by the free market. Americans should be able to freely choose what they will watch or listen to, without Big Brother making those decisions for them. [3] 6. Why do libertarians want to repeal regulations on sex by consenting adults? Nothing is more personal than the way people chose to shape their sexual relationships. Government has no business intruding into people's bedrooms. This doesn't mean we must personally approve of the sexual behaviors of others. It simply means that as long as the participants are consenting adults, no one has the right to use the force of government laws to try to stop or punish them. There is no justification for throwing peaceful Americans in jail because of their sexual choices. Let's respect people's right to control their own bodies. [3] 6a. Does this apply to prostitution also? Every day millions of adult Americans agree to make love. There is no justification for throwing them in jail. These are peaceful voluntary agreements between consenting adults. A tiny fraction of these involve money. Criminal penalties do not stop prostitution. They just create real problems. One study showed it costs taxpayers two thousand dollars every time a prostitute is arrested. Let's respect people's right to control their own bodies. Decriminalize sex, and let it be a private affair. [3] 7. Does libertarian support of personal liberty extend to drug use? Alcohol prohibition tore America apart once. Now it is the war on drugs. Harsh laws and the threat of jail and fines will not stop drug use. All they do is make it harder to help people. And just as Prohibition created organized crime, today's drug laws keep organized crime alive -- with all the violence and corruption that goes along with it. Before drugs were illegal, Americans handled them with few problems. Let's respect the right of people to control their own bodies. Decriminalize drugs, help those who need it, and let the police spend their time protecting us from real crime. [3] 7a. But if drugs were legalized, wouldn't there be millions more drug addicts? I, too, want to live in a society where people are healthy and productive, not destroying their lives with addictive drugs. All of the hard drugs were legal before 1914, and there were few addicts. Studies show that even addicts can be productive, and also that they do not engage in crime when they can get their drugs inexpensively. We have addicts today despite drug criminalization. We also have the violence that is caused by drugs being illegal. Let's decriminalize drugs so we stop the violence and get help to those who need it. [3] 8. Do libertarians support gun ownership as a personal liberty? Libertarians,, like other Americans, want to be able to walk city streets safely and be secure in their homes. We also want our Constitutional rights protected, to guard against the erosion of civil liberties. In particular, Libertarians want to see all people treated equally under the law, as our Constitution requires. America's millions of gun owners are people too. Law-abiding, responsible citizens do not and should not need to ask anyone's permission or approval to engage in a peaceful activity. Gun ownership, by itself, harms no other person and cannot morally justify criminal penalties. A responsible, well-armed and trained citizenry is the best protection against domestic crime and the threat of foreign invasion. America's founders knew that. It is still true today. 9. How do libertarians want to handle immigration? People have the right to travel anywhere, and to take any job offered them, so long as they do it at their own expense and without violating the rights of others. A way to help the poor is to let them go where the work is, regardless of borders. Studies show that immigrants don't take jobs from others, they add to the economy and help create more jobs. America was built by immigrants who came here seeking nothing but opportunity and freedom -- and created the greatest, most productive society ever. Respect for human rights and compassion for the world's poor require that we relax immigration restrictions. [3] 10. What position do libertarians have on subsidies for farm and business? All business people, including farmers, should be able to offer their products in a free market without being subsidized by others. The way to help both producers and consumers is to remove government programs and restrictions which have damaged America's free enterprise system. Subsidies are harmful and unfair. Why should some businesses be taxed to give handouts to others? Why should you pay higher prices to support government favored businesses? Let's stop this nonsense. Then business could operate in a free market and all of us could be better fed, clothed and housed at lower cost. [3] 11. Are people better off with free trade than with tariffs? Free trade provides consumers with better goods at lower prices. Trade restrictions produce the opposite: shoddy goods and higher prices. With free trade, consumers pay lower prices for products and thereby have more money left to spend on other goods, domestic as well as foreign. Free trade also helps the cause of world peace. In the 1920's and 30's, trade barriers went up everywhere, directly contributing to the outbreak of World War II. If goods don't cross borders, armies will. Let's end all trade restrictions and free the world's resources to be allocated in the most efficient and productive manner. [3] 12. What position do libertarians take on minimum wage laws? Skilled, experienced workers make high wages because employers compete to hire them. Poorly educated, inexperienced young people can't get work because minimum wage laws make them too expensive to hire as trainees. Repeal of the minimum wage would allow many young, minority and poor people to work. It must be asked, if the minimum wage is such a good idea, why not raise it to $200 an hour? Even the most die-hard minimum wage advocate can see there's something wrong with that proposal. The only "fair" or "correct" wage is what an employer and employee voluntarily agree upon. We should repeal minimum wage now. [3] 13. What about the poor? I want to break the chains of poverty and help the disabled. First remove laws that prevent work. Second, privatize welfare. Permits, licensing, zoning, labor laws. They all stop people who want to work, especially minorities. Repeal those laws. Private charity is more compassionate and delivers the goods better than the government welfare plantation. We can't make a perfect world. We can do more for the poor by replacing inefficient government programs with effective voluntary assistance. [1] -- David Bergland 14. Don't we need affirmative action to keep bigoted employers from refusing to hire minorities and women? Libertarians want to see people of all types working in the most harmonious relationships. "Affirmative action" refers to laws which force people into relationships whether they want them or not. Not too many years ago, there were laws in many states which prevented people of different races from doing a variety of things together, working, eating, marriage, etc. Libertarians oppose all such laws because the people involved have the right to decide for themselves whether or not to enter a relationship or association. An old saying states: "it takes two to tango." Relationships or associations require at least two people. We cannot justify using force to keep people out of voluntary relationships and we cannot justify forcing private citizens into relationships against their will. Government employment is a different case. The only criteria for employment or advancement in government work should be merit. The Constitution requires that we all be given equal treatment under the law. Since governments are created by law, they are Constitutionally required to be absolutely even handed. Private citizens or companies on the other hand have the right to be stupid and suffer the consequences. Attempts to correct bigotry with affirmative action haven't worked very well. Such laws are easy for bigots to circumvent and people tend to think minority employees did not earn their positions on merit even if they did. They also make it possible for bigots to harass minorities by demanding employment at minority owned businesses. [2] 15. How do libertarians feel about taxes? Americans already obtain a host of services from private providers. There is every reason to think that other services, from postal delivery to education to road building and maintenance, could be provided more efficiently and at lower cost by the private sector. We should support all moves to reduce and repeal taxes because taxes are obtained immorally, by force. The income tax is particularly evil, since it penalizes productivity and forces all of us to expose our private affairs to government snoopers. We had no income tax before 1914 and America prospered. Replacing the income tax with voluntary methods for financing services should be our goal, and we should begin right now. [3] 15a. I'm for cutting taxes, but as a practical matter, how do we do it? Think of government as a conglomerate of service businesses. The providers of those services do not have to be government employees, and the services do not have to be paid for with tax dollars. Whether it is education, security, transportation, charity, energy, or whatever, the private sector is already doing it for less. To cut taxes, we must allow private service providers to replace inefficient bureaucracy. Market competition will give us better service at lower cost, and put the consumers in control. [3] 16. Aren't you going too far? I want you to be able to govern yourself. The libertarian way lets you decide how much independence is good for you and lets others decide for themselves. Replacing political controls with self-government will only go as far as you let it. So let's experiment. Cut foreign aid. Deregulate transportation. Repeal one drug law. Cut farm subsidies. Cut taxes. As you gain self government, you will probably want more. That's for you to decide. No one can force you to be free. [1] -- David Bergland 17. Won't these ideas work only if everybody is good? You don't have to believe people are always good for freedom to work. Most people, most of the time, deal with each other on the libertarian premise of respect for the rights of others. You don't want to be pushed around or to push your neighbors around. You don't steal, cheat or mug people. Very few among us commit all the crime. Society would collapse if most people were evil most of the time. If people are basically evil, the last thing you'd want is a big government staffed by those evil folks exercising control over you. [1] -- David Bergland 18. In a libertarian society, wouldn't polluters get away with destroying the environment? "Today, the biggest polluter of all -- the U.S. military -- gets away with murder -- literally. When courts found the military liable for illness and death after careless nuclear testing in Utah, the government claimed sovereign immunity and refused to pay damages. In a libertarian society, no one would be immune from the consequences of their actions -- especially not a government charged with protecting us." "Libertarians believe that people and governments should right their wrongs by restoring, as much as possible, what they've damaged. Today, instead of making polluters pay, our government makes the taxpayers shoulder the burden. Sometimes it requires whoever buys a polluted property to bear the cost of the clean-up. If polluters don't pay for the damage they do, why should they stop polluting?" "Since government is the biggest polluter of all, putting government in charge of stopping pollution is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house." [5] -- Mary Ruwart 19. Where would a libertarian fall with respect to laws outlawing smoking in bars? "In a libertarian society, the smoking policy would be set by the bar or restaurant owner. Customers would patronize the establishments that had the policy they preferred, much as they do today. For example, I avoid places that are smoke-filled, and opt for restaurants that are smoke-free or have separate accommodations for smokers and non-smokers. As a customer, I have no right to dictate smoking policy any more than I have a right to dictate the color schemes for clothing manufacturers. However, I let both know my preferences by voting with my dollars to do business with them or their competitors." [5] -- Mary Ruwart 20. Isn't any destruction of the earth a direct threat to the existence, -- and thus, the rights -- of future human beings? "The best way to protect the earth is to honor property rights of individuals. People care for things they own and can sell later, but are not so careful about things they rent. If you go out West and compare grazing land owned by individuals with that administered by government, the benefit of individual ownership becomes apparent. "When I was a member of the Kalamazoo Rain Forest Action Committee, environmentalists recognized that helping the native people defend their property rights was the best protection the rain forests could have. The government is the biggest polluter and despoiler of our lands, yet we've been fooled into letting this fox guard our hen house." [5] -- Mary Ruwart Bibliography: [1] "Liberty Communicator Course," Advocates for Self-Government, 1988. [2] Bergland, David, "America's Libertarian Heritage: The Politics of Freedom," Orpheus Publications, 1773 Bahama Place, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, (714)751-8980, 1991. [3] "The Liberator," Spring 1992, pp. 18-19, Advocates for Self- Government, 3955 Pleasantdale Road, No. 106-A, Atlanta, GA 30340, (800)932-1776. [4] "The Liberator," Summer 1993, p. 13, Advocates for Self-Government. [5] "The Liberator OnLine," http://www.self-gov.org/liberator.