By Aakash Jain ’14
Americans often stigmatize the Libertarian Party as an eccentric group on the fringes of politics, and most contend that it doesn’t merit media coverage or inclusion in the elitist two-party system of our nation.
The “winner takes all” mentality of American elections further discourages the advent of a third party, unlike many other countries where candidates who garner smaller percentages of the vote still often acquire representation.
Leftists accuse Libertarians of racism and greed, while conservatives are appalled by their supposed “un-American,” even sacrilegious, views.
In fact, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, the Libertarian-gone-Republican presidential candidate from Texas, has already been written off by most political pundits.
Since his strategic changing of parties, Paul’s campaign has gained subtle interest, but as long as his platform remains dedicated to the Libertarian cause, he remains a humorous, slightly irritating curiosity, the sideshow of politics that doesn’t deserve respect in the eyes of the public.
Such contempt is expected, since most Libertarian ideas starkly contrast on numerous issues with mainstream politics.
To most, it is alarming that Libertarians wish to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964, legalize drugs, abolish wealth redistribution and eliminate the minimum wage.
However, the reasoning behind these seemingly radical stances is actually quite simple.
The non-aggression axiom is the cornerstone of Libertarian philosophy, which states that people can legally do whatever they wish, as long as they do not violate the property rights of another individual by initiating violence against his body or possessions. Note the usage of can, not should.
By holding the non-aggression principle to be true, a Libertarian state condemns murderers, rapists, thieves and all other criminals, while removing matters of morality from the power of the government, which may only address matters of can, never should.
For example, many believe racist activities and recreational drug use to be immoral. Libertarians allow citizens to make those decisions for themselves and therefore criticize the Civil Rights Act of 1964, mainly because it forced private businesses to desegregate.
If a store owner wishes to deny service to individuals based on ethnicity, race, sex or any other criteria, he possesses every right to do so, as long as he does not initiate violence against people or their property.
For the same reason, citizens can take drugs in a Libertarian nation, regardless of the potential for harming their own bodies; a state cannot seek to protect individuals from themselves.
However, it must be emphasized that Libertarians do not necessarily condone such racist or self-destructive activities but simply refuse to give government the power to regulate them.
On this matter, John Stuart Mill wrote in “On Liberty,” “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”
The Libertarian party is also heavily influenced by Austrian economics, a school of thought that essentially restates the non-aggression principle in the context of economics.
Thus, in a Libertarian economy, all voluntary transactions among parties are legal, unless those transactions somehow breach another party’s rights.
For example, welfare and Medicare garner revenue through taxes, which is then redistributed as food stamps, health insurance, and other services. Government violates the non-aggression principle by forcing taxpayers to fund these programs.
Once again, it must be stressed that Libertarians are not against voluntary charity but rather government activities that breach fundamental property rights of citizens.
The minimum wage is yet another government-imposed infringement of human rights—this time not by aggressive coercion, but by restrictions on the economy. These regulations disallow parties from freely partaking in voluntary transactions and are thus unacceptable.
Pragmatically speaking, minimum wages are actually responsible for the destruction of jobs, rather than their creation. When a minimum wage is imposed by the government, the demand for employees decreases because it is more expensive for businesses to hire them.
Furthermore, advocates of the minimum wage claim that it directly benefits the lower class, yet it is this demographic that suffers most when these restrictions exist. When businesses are mandated to increase wages beyond their means, the low-skilled labor is the first to go.
Perhaps Thomas Jefferson best summarized the Libertarian ideal, “A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”
These simple ideas can be put into the context of any issue, such as foreign policy, immigration or the environment. For further information, visit www.lp.org.