George Will, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” issued a warning to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Will’s alert to Christie was in response to Christie’s attacks on Rand Paul and other politicians that hold libertarian leanings. Christie said “This strain of libertarianism that’s going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought.”
The Washington Times reported on George Will’s comments from Sunday.
What libertarianism says — it comes in many flavors and many degrees of severity, and it basically says before the government, it bridges the freedom of an individual or the freedom of several individuals contracting together, that government ought to have, A) a compelling reason and B) a constitutional warrant for doing so. Now, if Mr. Christie thinks that’s a dangerous thought, a number of people are going to say that Mr. Christie himself may be dangerous.
Mr. Will is painting libertarians with a broad brush and he’s getting entirely too much credit by doing so. Part A of his statement has nothing to do with libertarianism. Personally, I don’t know any libertarians that look for “compelling reasons” – or any reason for that matter – to involve the State in some matter. More likely, libertarians are looking for as many reasons as possible to disinvolve the State in everyday matters.
Mr. Will admits that there are many degrees of libertarianism, but it sounds more like he is describing Constitutionalists rather than libertarians in part B of his statement. While many libertarians may see a small, Constitutional government as a vast improvement over the current state of affairs, the Constitution has its issues as well, and should not be seen as some sort of libertarian creed. There probably aren’t too many libertarians that are excited about the sixteenth and seventeenth amendments, even though they have been ratified to the U.S. Constitution.
Libertarians do not believe that the government has the authority to “bridge the freedom of an individual or the freedom of several individuals.” Libertarianism makes an intellectual and moral case for dismantling the State. Murray Rothbard calls attention to this moral case against statism in the video below.
Rothbard states that while it is important to refute intellectual content and show that statism does not work economically, it is equally if not more important to point out that the government is ripping us off. It is essential that we expose the statists for what they are – a gang of thieves!
Politicians and the special interests that own them are not dumb. Most of them understand the harm they are causing the individual consumer, but they continue to practice cronyism for their own benefit. This is what is dangerous. This is the enterprise that Governor Christie is interested in protecting.
Imagine if Rothbard were still alive today to see how far the State has stretched their tentacles! They have expanded to the insane position that now every digital interaction is sucked up into a State database. Mr. Libertarian would probably favor exposing those that profit from the surveillance State as well as debating the reasons why a free market in security would better serve consumers. He wouldn’t be interested in discussing Constitutional implications or hearing the State’s “compelling reasons” for spying on citizens.
While Mr. Will’s words in favor of libertarianism is a positive sign for which way the political winds are blowing, it’s important for libertarians to maintain a moral high ground and properly define the ideas of liberty. Libertarians need to use both intellectual and moral arguments to expose and eventually dismantle the State, not look for “compelling reasons” and a “Constitutional warrant” as a test for government involvement.
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