Response to Digg Post

I was going to comment on the recent fiasco in Boston regarding the Police vs. LiteBrite advertising, however I found something more interesting. Recently, a poster at digg.com posed the following:

I often hear a libertarian ’s opinion on something and end up agreeing. However, I’m still clueless about a lot of libertarian positions, so I’ve posted 13 questions in the first comment. I’m posting this on Digg because it seems a lot of members lean libertarian. The link just takes you to Wikipedia. Thanks for helping me understand.

Then, the poster posed the following questions. I have provided my responses. Mind you, I do not claim to speak for all / any libertarians other than myself. I do, however, believe that my responses are reasonable. Please take the time to comment.

Here are my 13 questions about libertarian philosophy. I know that not all libertarians will agree on every issue, and that some questions might even divide libertarians. Also, I know some might seem pointed or hypothetical, but I’m looking for genuine responses. When replying, it could help to indicate whether or not you consider yourself a libertarian as well. Thanks for helping me understand.

1. Should the federal government protect the environment? Should there be national parks or endangered species laws?

The environment, something that we deem The Commons, is a commodity that must be preserved and protected for future generations. That does not mean that the government should have the authority to condemn the land and take property from the rightful owner. It simply means that government should punish those who damage the commons, as it results in harm to others.

As a simplistic example consider the following. A factory pollutes both a nearby stream and pumps toxins into the air. Both the air and water flow away from the factory and as a result damage the property and health of others. One could consider this a simple case of trespassing, or one could simply state that the factory is indeed littering on the neighbor’s property (physical) or the commons (air and water). Why then would not government intervene and force the factory to cease and desist in such activity? I would contend that if it is government’s duty to protect the rights and property of the citizens, and a citizen has a right NOT to breathe or drink pollution on their property as a result of the actions of a bad neighbor, then government has authority to intervene. Therefore, they (the factory) can either insure that the air and water that comes to my property does not contain any of their litter (toxins), or they should face criminal prosecution for their actions.

I would disagree that it is the federal government’s responsibility to act at such a level. There is no authority delegated to the federal government, by the individual states via the constitution, to do so. That does not imply that I would not consider providing the federal government said authority via amendment. I hold the same view with respect to endangered species. It is strictly a state function and would be better served at that level. Ironically, the federal government is the largest polluter in our nation. Yet, they remain immune from regulation.

While it is true that many libertarians would privatize everything, including parks, I do not fall into that camp. I have traveled extensively in the southern half of our nation (and some northern parts). There is much land that is simply not inhabitable by humans (lack of water). Whether this is federal or state jurisdiction is a question of whether or not the individual state legislature has “sold” the land to the federal government (Article I, Section 8 [17] USC).

2. Should food companies be required to list the ingredients on the package? If not, should there be a punishment for printing false information on food product packages, or would the only determent be how customers would react if they found out they were lied to.

Congress has the authority to regulate interstate and international commerce. As such, requiring ingredients to be labeled as a condition to participate in a market, to export and import between the states and nation, is acceptable from my point of view. Publishing false information on a food package is a form of fraud. As such, any and all incidents of this type should be dealt with on a criminal level. Providing sufficient punishment via incarceration and de-capitalization would be a large deterrent to acting in such a fashion.

3. I’ve gained enough info to understand that libertarians are against federal drug laws, but what about state or city drug laws? Also, are federal drug laws unconstitutional?

On a philosophical level, what business is it of government what I ingest? However, if the ingestion of any particular substance leads to bad behavior, then we have a different situation. Are federal drug laws unconstitutional? To answer that question, simply attempt to find where in the constitution or amendments that the individual states have delegated this authority to the federal government. As it does not exist (as did the XVIII / XXI amendments), any action by the federal government regulating “drugs” is unconstitutional.

As far as an individual state regulating the production / dispensing / use of a substance, that would depend on their individual state constitutions. I would personally be opposed to providing government authority over individual use of a substance, provided it was utilized in a responsible manner. I would vehemently agree that any bad behavior as a result of said use should be dealt with firmly and swiftly. As commercial production and dispensing of substances constitutes trade, the government has the authority to regulate these actions. Personal production for self-use is an inalienable right.

4. Should there be a post office?

The establishment of post offices is granted to Congress in Article I, Section 8 [7] USC. However, the government should not hold a monopoly on delivery of products. We have seen in my lifetime, the emergence of private companies that provide these types of services (UPS, FedEx, etc.). However, the private sector is prevented from competing with USPS in first and third class mail. This is an unfair advantage and should be resolved. For a very in-depth article including references, please see: www.free.org

5. Should interstate highways even exist? Furthermore, should there be state-funded roads, or should all roads be ran by companies? Companies provide us with electricity we have to pay for, so why don’t companies provide us with roads we have to pay for.

The authority to establish post roads is granted to the federal government in the same section mentioned above. As population has grown dramatically, the efficiency of these roads have decreased. The Interstate Highway system, though constitutional, should never be used as a hammer to regulate individual state behavior. This constitutes extortion.

One need only look at the relation of the federal government and the abuse of state sovereignty, with regard to draconian laws regulating personal behavior, to see the result of this practice. Again, government should not have a monopoly in providing transportation services to the public.

Additionally, only government holds the power of eminent domain. This power must NEVER be utilized to take from an individual to provide material profit to another. That is why the Libertarian Party of Texas is fighting against the Trans Texas Corridor (a.k.a. NAFTA Super Highway). This particular project will create a 400-yard swath through our state establishing an International Free Trade zone where the Constitution need not apply. I could write a whole book on eminent domain abuse, and perhaps will with time.

6. Should there be anti-monopoly laws, or should the market take care of itself?

The free market precludes the ability for monopolies to emerge. True competition always reduces cost and fosters innovation. Monopolies are a creation of government. The price fixing associated with monopolies is a form of fraud. History has shown that monopolies have only formed with the assistance of government regulations, which stifle competition. Should there be anti-monopoly laws? I think so.

7. Should any government entity prevent restaurants from serving food or items that are known to be bad for us? A lot of libertarians disagree with the upcoming trans fat ban in NYC, but trans fat is pretty much just bad for us. What if restaurants still served our food on plates with lead paint? It’s bad, but people could chose not to eat there.

Government’s function is to protect the RIGHTS and PROPERTY of the citizens and resolve disputes. It has no authority to govern personal behavior until that behavior violates the life, rights or property of another. The restaurant in which you dine is the private property of the owner. As the restaurant owner is not violating the rights or property of another, why is government involved? As an adult, I am perfectly capable of making a decision on what / how much to eat. I know that pissing on an electric fence could be detrimental to my health. However, even I have the right to be an idiot if I wish.

8. I’ve gathered that libertarians don’t like seatbelt laws, but should there be laws requiring parents to make their children under 18 wear seatbelts? With that said, should it still be illegal for parents to give children alcohol?

Does the government own my children? My job as a parent is very similar to government’s relationship to me. I am the protector of my child’s rights until they reach the age of accountability. A child has a right not to be abused or exploited. So too a parent has a responsibility to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their children. The decision on when / how to allow a child to drink, while the purview of the parent, can also fall into the abused or exploited category.

As an example, we see that Europeans serving wine with water to their children quite early. Would one contend that European children are somehow decedent or degenerates because of this? Of course not. Would one contend that European parents are by nature abusive towards their children? Statistics indicate the opposite. If the child were to become intoxicated, then I would consider that abusive. That said, I had my first beer upon graduating eighth grade at a campout. My parents, however, were unaware.

Back then, there were no criminal penalties for allowing a minor to have a drink at a bar as long as their parent was present and the child and parent remained sober. I must admit that on occasion I did visit such establishments and if lucky (I considered), might be served a beer or glass of wine. This is where I learned the skills of Backgammon and Billiards, which in turn provided me the means of paying for college. It is again a situation where government is regulating personal actions on the premise that it "might" lead to bad behavior. Governmental authority only begins at the point where bad behavior is initiated.

9. Should there be laws that say where guns are allowed, or should it be up to the owner of the place?

The federal government has absolutely no authority to regulate “arms.” Depending on the constitutions of an individual state will dictate whether the people have delegated this authority to their local government. In Texas, the state government only has authority to “regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.” Unless I am violating the rights or property of another, the government should stay out of my business.

I once asked a friend from California if she felt she had a “right” to know how many guns I owned though I lived in Texas. She responded that she did indeed feel she had that right to breach my privacy. I asked her, on the same token, if she felt I should have the right to know whom she slept with, how often, when and where? She claimed that her “personal” life was a matter of privacy. If I am not violating the right of another, is this not hypocrisy? The bottom line is that no one has a right to interfere with the equal rights of another.

10. Should there be public education systems, or should all schools be private? I’m sure some charity would open free schools, but they wouldn’t be ran by any sort of government.

Again, this is a constitutional matter. The federal government has no authority to regulate education. However, and obviously depending on the individual state, some do have authority to provide education. In Texas, this is found under Article 7.

Like post offices and roads, government should not hold a monopoly on these areas of our lives. Private schools have a much better rate of success than government ran facilities. Referring back to my obligations as a parent, providing my child with an education is my responsibility. My oldest child has attended public education for 5 years. It will be her last year until she reaches high school. The middle school in my neighborhood is simply not a safe environment. Nor are the majority of the students even members of my community. Now, do you think it fair for me to be taxed for running this dangerous facility while paying private tuition to educate my child?

The core of this issue is parental rights and responsibilities. Government run facilities provide fundamental or basic education while private entities tend to teach critical thinking abilities. Additionally, government run facilities indoctrinate children to believing that government provides them with their rights and can freely take them away as opposed to rights being inalienable with government being responsible for protecting those rights.

11. Should it be illegal for an employer to discriminate by race when hiring?

Government can not regulate the hearts and minds of men. Attempting to do so will only foster resentment and entrench the positions of those who it proposes to regulate. It can, however, insure discrimination is absent from companies who seek to do business with the government as a condition to receiving a contract.

12. Libertarians seem to hold private property in high value. Should people be allowed to own airspace?

In my opinion, no. These are what I consider the commons.

13. If our society were truly libertarian, what type of legislation would congress work on?

My top ten are the following:

  • Requiring a declaration of war to initiate military force.
  • Ending eminent domain abuse
  • Eliminate unconstitutional spending thus drastically reducing the budget.
  • End corporate personage.
  • Repeal of the XVI’th amendment and replace all current taxes with an excise tax such as the Automated Payment Transaction Tax.
  • Return all criminal matters to the states.
  • End corporate welfare.
  • Investigate and punish governmental abuse.
  • Put an end to NAFTA, CAFTA, FTAA, WTO and other “agreements” that breach our sovereignty.
  • Get rid of the IRS and the Federal Reserve.

I can come up with much more.

Thomas Jefferson perhaps summed it up the best when he said “No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him. ...the idea is quite unfounded that on entering into society we give up any natural rights.”

One must also understand that there are two basic factions of the Libertarian Party. On one hand you have the anarcho-capitalists. On the other hand, you have the pragmatists and constitutionalists. Both factions wish as little governmental intrusion in our personal lives as possible. However, we have very different ideas on how to achieve this goal.

Most of the problems that our society faces today could be resolved or greatly reduced if we simply adhered to the wisdom codified by our founding fathers in the Constitution. Though not perfect, it is perhaps the closest we have yet to come with respect to guarding individual liberty. I do not look to government to solve my problems or provide for my family. I look to government only to protect my rights and property and to resolve disputes that may arise as a result of interaction with others.

As always, your comments will be appreciated.