Friday, March 10, 2006

What is a Libertarian?

Considering that some folks seem to question whether I am truly a libertarian or a conservative, I decided that I would actually list some similarities and differences between the two ideologies. While it is true that both have more in common than not, the fact is that there are a few differences.

Also, it is important to acknowledge that not everyone fits perfectly into a pigeonhole when it comes to ideology or party. For example, while the national Republican Party platform is pro-life, you have many pro-choice Republicans. Similarly, while the national Democrat Party is in favor of gun control, you will find a number of Democrats (especially Southern or rural Dems) who are against gun control laws. Some Republicans were for the UAE port deal, and others were not. In other words, parties and ideologies do give an overall indication of a person's views, but individual positions may actually deviate from time to time.

Full information about the Libertarian Party can be found here. To keep this shorter than it otherwise might be, let's begin by pointing out where the Libertarian Party differs from conservatives, and whether I agree with the party or not:

1. Immigration. The LP believes as recent liberal visitor honestpartisan does, that we should have open borders where anyone from any country can come and go as he/she sees fit. I disagree with the LP on this!

Such open immigration poses a clear national security threat, and the Constitution says that one of the expressly stated limited roles of the federal government is national defense. It is naive to exclude border control from this category, since security trumps any perceived or real economic benefits. If we're all incinerated, those cheap mushrooms at the supermarket were hardly worth it, right?

2. Legalization of drugs. The LP believes we should decriminalize drugs in this country. I agree with the LP on this! If someone wants to get stoned and bug Domino's at 2:00 a.m., it's no concern to me. If someone gets coked up and kills someone in a coke fit, or if a crack addict steals money to support his/her crack habit, then punish the murder/theft...not the addiction or possession.

We tried outlawing alcohol in this country. Violence escalated, law-abiding citizens were morphed into law-breaking ones, law enforcement was overwhelmed and endangered, etc. It just didn't work. We are better able to protect people from others than to protect people from themselves.

The war on drugs is a hugely expensive and not very productive waste of money. We could use a fraction of that money (currently wasted in the war on drugs) to give to states so they could set up treatment centers. Treatment costs less than the drug war. Plus, as much as I hate to reference other countries, I would be remiss if I didn't point them out. The Netherlands legalized dope, usage temporarily spiked (since people were able to be in the open), then usage subsided once everyone got over the initial excitement (plus, the taboo factor was removed).

I've never so much as taken a drag off of a joint, and I never will. However, if someone else wants to, I don't give a rip.

3. Privacy laws. The LP seems to believe there is a constitutional right to privacy. I believe there is a natural right to privacy, but nothing in the Constitution affirms this belief (beyond creative interpretations of the Fourth Amendment).

Conservatives got bent out of shape when the SCOTUS ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that Texas' state law banning consensual sodomy between adults was unconstitutional. Scalia said that the SCOTUS created a "constitutional right to sodomy", which it hadn't. The SCOTUS said that if prior courts held (correctly or not) that there existed a constitutional right to privacy, the Texas law was clearly in violation of that. SCOTUS was correct.

I had a problem with Bush's wiretapping of suspected terrorists, but I pointed out that prior administrations had argued (and courts had held) that this was allowable under the conditions that Bush did it. Having said that, I believe that Bush's argument that the FISA law was inadequate for today's world was probably correct...but the proper remedy was to fix the law. I'm pretty retentive when it comes to the law (as it exists, not as liberals would creatively interpret it).

My experience is that conservatives generally value privacy...unless someone is doing something immoral (see Lawrence v. Texas above). Liberals generally value privacy...unless they think it's a threat to their big-government worldview (see "prior administrations argued for wiretaps" above, as well as Hillary's (and others') desire to have national ID and federal database of our medical records).

4. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The LP is against both. I disagree with the LP on this! As stated above, national security is a legitimate function of the federal government. The LP seems to think globalization is the way to go with respect to commerce and open borders, but isolation is the way to go with respect to defense. Wrong.

There's much more to this debate, but I don't want to put you to sleep any further! The point is that we all have one or more differences in beliefs with our identified parties or ideologies. I identify myself as libertarian (lower-case "l", thus not the LP), however I clearly have a handful of positions contrary to the LP's. If you want to interpret that to mean that I am not a "true" libertarian, that's your choice (hey, is choice great or what? So long as it's not school choice, right, libs? But I digress.) I assure you I won't lose sleep over your views of me! :)