The Political Litmus Test

I’d like to share a political litmus test I’ve been thinking about. Try asking yourself or someone else the following question:

Do you think all people are capable of making their lives a little bit better tomorrow?

In my experiences, people on the Right tend to say yes, and people on the Left tend to say no. This could be why Conservatives and the like are supporters of liberty and freedom, while people on the Left favor enforced equality and government oversight of business. Conservatives promote personal responsibility, and tend to blame themselves when things aren’t going as well as they’d like. Liberals promote collectivism, and blame society for their problems.

An example of this would be GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson’s wish to cut or reduce welfare programs because he sees them as harmful to the potential of the individual. He believes that creating dependency is morally bankrupt. He would most likely agree that God helps those who help themselves.

On the Left, the Transgender acceptance movement illustrates their answer to my question. In the Transgendered community, it is considered offensive to ask which bathroom a Trans individual uses, and there is a push for Transgendered males to be allowed to use the women’s restroom and vice versa. Instead of taking responsibility for who they are by finding ways to solve this problem in a dignified manner, they point their fingers outwards and selfishly demand society to bend to meet their needs.

Some major facets of my evolution from Liberal to Libertarian involved discovering the beauty of the self and the fact that I am the only person in control of my life. Philosophies like Jim Rohn’s “the greatest gift you can give to somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you.’ Now I say, ‘I will take care of me for you if you will take care of you for me'” completely changed my world view, and made me a lot happier and more successful.

When I ask this question, I sometimes preface it by saying there are a few exceptions to the rule such as people with serious illnesses or disabilities (I usually cite paraplegics specifically). However, I saw a paraplegic woman working at a market the other day, and although I’m sure she is not completely independent, she certainly wasn’t looking for handouts. She looked happy. Seeing her made me feel pretty bad about doubting people like her in my political litmus test.

The Political Litmus Test

The Toughest Issues for Libertarians

Libertarians are often individuals who have decided not to pledge allegiance to a political party, to overcome their emotions, to listen to the perspectives they had previously been instructed to avoid, and to question authority in all its forms. We are often former Conservatives and Liberals who have defected from the false political dichotomy to instead partake in objective reasoning and argumentation.

The essential concept that turned me and turns many others into Libertarians is morality. What are morals? Where do morals come from? Do we need morals to survive? How can I be moral? The way you answer these questions is likely to determine where you fall on the spectrum of politics.

Conservatives will likely say: Morals are unquestionable truths that come from God, we need morals to avoid hell and to live for God’s glory, and we can be moral by following God’s word.

Liberals will likely say: Morals depend on your perspective and come from each of our own personal experiences, we do not need morals because they are subjective, and only I can decide if I am moral or not.

Libertarians will likely say: Morals are truths that can be realized by observing the world objectively, they are as old as life itself, we need morals to survive as autonomous beings, and I can be moral by respecting the absolute truths I have discovered as I seek out more.

These are gross generalizations (and there will be more where that comes from), but I think they’re fair.

The reason Libertarians and Conservatives often gang up on Liberals is because both groups have a moral foundation. Liberals are unpredictable when it comes to morality because they follow their feelings. Libertarian morals, such as the immeasurable value of human life and property rights, often coincide with Conservative morals. Despite being derived from different places (objective reality vs. the word of God), this also brings the two groups together. When Liberals and Libertarians agree, it rarely has anything to do with morals.

While Libertarians pride themselves on their ability to come to moral conclusions when asked about the issues, some questions remain unanswered for many of us. The following are some of those issues, the reasons why they perplex Libertarians, and some possible solutions.

Abortion

While Liberals gleefully attempt to make anti-abortion Libertarians seem hypocritical by claiming they are unsupportive of women’s ownership of their bodies, this is not the aspect of the abortion debate Libertarians are puzzled about.

One important factor that separates typical Libertarians from typical Conservatives is that Libertarians want to protect the rights of adults to do what they choose to do with their bodies. This is why Libertarians support the legalization of drugs, prostitution, and gay marriage, but Conservatives generally do not. Considering the principle of body ownership, Libertarians should obviously side with a woman’s right to do what she wants with her body.

But whose body are we talking about here?

For a Libertarian to take a principled stance on abortion legality, the question of when a fertilized egg is undoubtedly a person must be answered. Since we certainly do not allow mothers to terminate their pregnancies after the child is born (though I have heard some Liberals claim otherwise), it is not really a women’s issue for Libertarians; it’s a personhood issue. And unfortunately, there are no easy solutions to speak of.

I would propose two potential approaches to the abortion problem. The first would be to declare personhood at the federal level after the fifth or sixth week of a baby’s development. This is when a fetus’s brain begins to take shape. I’m not an expert on this topic, so I won’t go much further explaining. But it seems to be scientific and a reasonable compromise, and at least it’s a starting point. Following the 10th Amendment, the states would get to set policy after that point.

The second solution would be to ban abortions unless a pregnancy is the result of a rape. This horrific situation does occur somewhat frequently, so it’s not an exaggerated happening like pregnancies that threaten the mother’s life which rarely happen (although I wouldn’t protest those cases being made exceptions either). Once again, the states would handle the details.

It’s a difficult topic. Why should a mother be allowed to terminate a pregnancy that’s six weeks in but not seven? Why is it okay to abort a life that was brought into the world through brutality, but not one that was conceived consensually? Morals are hard…

Vaccines

Again, not a scientist, but it’s tough to find a way to spin herd-immunity into a bad thing. Vaccines seem to eradicate disease and make everyone safer through very little coercion. I have no reason to believe vaccines actually cause mental illness, as many wholeheartedly do, so how could I oppose mandatory vaccinations?

It goes back to that body-ownership principle. From a Libertarian, Objectivist point of view, we are the inherent owners of our bodies. No one should be allowed to force us to alter our physical selves in any way, particularly for the crime of being born into society! Free men should be allowed to smoke, drink, and eat high-fructose corn syrup, and must not be obligated to submit to the demands of the masses.

But polio, right? Polio is so bad, and it’s so cured, and it’s all thanks to vaccines. Forget society, you’d have to be really stupid not to get a vaccination simply for the sake of your own wellbeing, right?

But… I am the boss of my body. And what if I don’t feel comfortable with vaccines?

Here’s my solution: digital vaccination certificates. If you get vaccinated, you get a passcode or something of the sort. By entering your passcode into an online database, you can prove that you’ve had all your shots. If you don’t get vaccinated, you don’t get one. Then, you give businesses, property owners, federal, state, and local governments the right to discriminate against the unvaccinated without interference. If you don’t want to allow someone without mumps immunity to walk into your shop or attend your school, put up a sign that says so (or some other kind of notification). If an unvaccinated individual fails to heed your warning, we charge him with manslaughter.

Problem solved?

Military Spending

Libertarians believe that taxes are violent and evil. And they are! Stealing is wrong, and taking property without permission is stealing, so how are taxes not evil? And think about what happens when you don’t pay your taxes. Some IRS agent calls you and demands you pay up. You refuse, so they charge you with some form of contempt and demand you appear in court. You refuse, so they come to your house and ask you to go for a ride. You refuse, so they throw you to the ground. You resist, so they shoot you, all because you didn’t pay your taxes.

While the fact that taxes are a form of physical violence is irrefutably true, even the most fervent anti-taxation warriors would likely compromise and voluntarily fork over a little bit of dough in exchange for the preservation of freedom. I side with Milton Friedman in saying that the only two responsibilities of the government should be to protect us from foreign threats and from our fellow citizens. As opposed to taxation as we are, it is difficult for Libertarians to imagine our freedoms being preserved without a military.

An inherent problem of Libertarianism is that it cannot be pure without universality. In essence, it might be unreasonably dangerous to be completely tax free while there are Communist and Theocratic nations in the world that might want to hurt us. Removing the military would be naïve or even suicidal considering the nuclear capabilities of North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and Iran (pending).

The question for a rational Libertarian (and being rational is what we pride ourselves on) is how much should we be forced to pay for our security. While Libertarians may feel uneasy about Obama’s reduction in military spending, we also despise the excessive budget Republicans tend to demand.

A reasonable solution would be to keep the military at home unless it’s absolutely necessary for our troops to be deployed. No more occupations in the Middle East, no more military presence in Germany and South Korea, and no more bases in nations all across the globe unless they pay us for our services. We could still provide a large budget for the military in case of war, but the surplus would be returned to taxpayers annually in times of peace.

Civil Rights

Though it’s inconceivable to race-baiting Liberals, Libertarians strive to be colorblind. Libertarians believe that man is not defined by his race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, but instead by the choices he makes in life. We believe that the best man for the job should get the job regardless of his appearance or creed, and that no group deserves special treatment. This is because it is the individual that must be judged, not the crowd we perceive him to belong to.

But what about racism? You remember, that thing that was evaporating until Obama’s presidency, but is now rearing its ugly head again?

Two Libertarian principles contradict when racism surfaces, the first being the aforementioned colorblind judgement of individuals. The second is the belief that business owners should be allowed to deny service to any person for any reason. Businesses are run by individuals, and individuals have the freedom to associate with whomever they please, or to choose not to. If we force businesses to serve people whom they do not want to serve, we are acting as a totalitarian dictatorship, a Libertarian nightmare.

Although it’s not as bad as your sociology professor says it is, racism does exist. So do homophobia, Islamophobia, and other forms of prejudice. But are these ugly realities so bad that we need the government to step in?

Hopefully not. Since freedom of association goes hand-in-hand with freedom of speech and freedom of the press, it’s nice to think that society would pipe up effectively enough to prevent an irrationally discriminatory business from succeeding. If we got wind of a shop-owner denying service to Portuguese people exclusively, we would report the news, and try to convince people to spend their dollars elsewhere. While we might not be able to completely demolish every racist business, they would have a difficult time expanding which is what every business desires to do.

Sadly, racism does have the potential to prevail. And while much of the history of racism in America is overblown and distorted thanks to the left, Hollywood, and the mainstream media, racial discrimination does pose a threat to our liberties.

My solution would be to give it a shot. Take the training wheels off, and let us prove that we can be sensible, reasonable people. It’s time to break free from the restraints of race.

Immigration

Economics and Libertarianism are excellent bedfellows. The freest markets have always proven to be the most successful, so Libertarians are happy to discuss economics until the cash cows come home. If Libertarian morals don’t get you, our understanding of dollars will.

If you think about economics long and hard enough, you will come to the conclusion that a large population is financially beneficial to everyone. The more people there are, the more producers there are. If five mechanics can make five widgets in five minutes, how many can 100 produce? And with each widget produced, their affordability becomes friendlier to everyone. Economics is a positive sum game, so the more the merrier!

There are also more brains, more experiences, and more knowledge available when the population grows. Two brains are better than one (unless they are Liberal brains, but those are easily cured when people are held accountable for their actions), so innovation runs rampant when more people have the opportunity to engage in manufacturing and commerce.

The problem with all of this is that it requires freedom in order to come to fruition. When Socialist policies are implemented, all of those wonderful benefits of immigration and population growth are washed away. As government obtains power over our resources and currency, it becomes responsible for rationing them out equally. And since the government does not produce resources, economics becomes a negative sum game. Instead of wondering how much more we can produce, we have to ask how many people have their hands in the pot, and when it will all run dry.

While this argument is a strong one, it does not address the fundamental issue that troubles Libertarians. This main problem is the lack of affinity for blind Patriotism among Libertarians. Since Libertarians are colorblind, we do not care where you are from. We only care about your value to us. If you’re a good friend, it doesn’t matter where you were born. We’ll be your friend. If you’re a bad worker, it doesn’t matter what your nationality is. We won’t hire you.

So why should some people be allowed to live in and prosper in a free society automatically, while others must go through strenuous processes to be naturalized?

If Libertarians had the liberty we advocate for, we could answer this question easily: of course your place of birth means nothing. You didn’t choose to be born, so you’re not responsible for where your mother happened to be when you came into the world.

Unfortunately, we are not even close to free. Most of the world is infected with Socialism, so we have to micromanage for the sake of our safety and prosperity.

Sorry, migrants. In a Socialist aircraft, you are not free to move about the cabin.

The Death Penalty

Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness are the highest moral values in America, and Libertarians agree. Neither the government nor our peers should be allowed to prevent us from attempting to manifest our dreams, to control our bodies or decisions, or to take away our lives. The potential to lose these rights is what drives Libertarians to fight to secure them. But what should be done with people who show no respect for our inherent rights?

When considering the death penalty, a grave moral concern arises for Libertarians: does a man who disregards the life of another retain his right to his own?

If so, the death penalty is out of the question. If a man’s life inherently belongs to him, and no other conditions apply, the death penalty is completely unreasonable.

Some on both the left and on the right may claim that the death penalty is appropriate for certain crimes because it will prevent future crimes (some leftists would probably favor capital punishment for rapists, while some Conservatives would invoke its usage for all sorts of misconduct). The problem for Libertarians is that we are not compelled by expediency. Ayn Rand would often remark that her philosophy has no intention of doing what is right for all of mankind, it just so happens to work out that way! If free markets and free individuals were not as beneficial to all of humanity as they are, she would still support Objectivism for its superior morality. Libertarians want the truth, not the easy way out.

As for a solution, this one is tough. To enact the death penalty, the crime must be heinous, done with intent, committed without a smidge of reason, and proven to be true WAY beyond a reasonable doubt (like videotaped, testified to by multiple reliable eye-witnesses, or confessed to).

Along with many other Libertarians, I believe that the aforementioned issues would exist much less often in a free society. If the importance of Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness were properly glorified throughout society, abortions would be shunned, anti-vaxxers would be ostracized, war would be less necessary, immigration would be welcomed, and crimes worthy of the death penalty would be rarer than they are today. Ayn Rand once told Johnny Carson that her Objectivist philosophy, which is seen as the predecessor of Libertarianism, could not be popular at the time, but would gain traction in the future. She was right. Libertarianism is growing as more people come to understand it. As long as its principles are recognized, the promotion of Libertarianism and other similar worldviews should be easy. But like Any Rand, we might not see it go mainstream in our time either.

The Toughest Issues for Libertarians