Why am I libertarian?

With the upcoming election, I want to once again state that I am a libertarian. I also want to state that I am NOT a republican and I am NOT a democrat.

The reason I am a libertarian is simple. I accept with complete conviction the statement made in the Declaration of Independence that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men”. The rights referred to include (but are not limited to) the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The primary purpose of the government is NOT to provide social security to the elderly, medical care to the sick, or welfare to the poor. It is not to provide education, jobs, or even to protect the environment. All of these are useful and admirable goals, but they are not the primary purpose of the government.

The primary purpose of the government is to protect my rights and your rights. Here’s the preamble from the Libertarian Party 2010 platform:

As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.

We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

Consequently, we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.

In the following pages we have set forth our basic principles and enumerated various policy stands derived from those principles. These specific policies are not our goal, however. Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands.

I agree with this statement 100%. There is not a single statement in it that I disagree with, or feel is in some way out-of-line with what I believe.

Contrast this with the first few paragraphs of the preamble for the 2008 Democtratic Platform:

We come together at a defining moment in the history of our nation – the nation that led the 20th century, built a thriving middle class, defeated fascism and communism, and provided bountiful opportunity to many. We Democrats have a special commitment to this promise of America. We believe that every American, whatever their background or station in life, should have the chance to get a good education, to work at a good job with good wages, to raise and provide for a family,
to live in safe surroundings, and to retire with dignity and security. We believe that quality and affordable health care is a basic right. We believe that each succeeding generation should have the opportunity, through hard work, service and sacrifice, to enjoy a brighter future than the last.

But today, we are at a crossroads. As we meet, we are in the sixth year of a two-front war. Our economy is struggling. Our planet is in peril.

A great nation now demands that its leaders abandon the politics of partisan division and find creative solutions to promote the common good. A people that prizes candor, accountability, and fairness insists that a government of the people must level with them and champion the interests of all American families. A land of historic resourcefulness has lost its patience with elected officials who have
failed to lead.

It is time for a change. We can do better.

Much of the remainder of the preamble talks about the failures of the Republican party. It talks about the problems of health care, the war, oil, education, the economy, and any number of other things. Not once does it talk about the basic rights and freedoms that we should enjoy. Based on the preamble, the Democratic party is not concerned with that, or at best, it is a secondary concern. It’s easy to see why I am not a Democrat.

It is harder to explain why I am not a republican. The start of the preamble to the 2008 Republican platform is:

This is a platform of enduring principle, not passing convenience the product of the most open and transparent process in American political history. We offer it to our fellow Americans in the assurance that our Republican ideals are those that unify our country: Courage in the face of foreign foes. An optimistic patriotism, driven by a passion for freedom. Devotion to the inherent dignity and rights of every person. Faith in the virtues of self-reliance, civic commitment, and
concern for one another. Distrust of government’s interference in people’s lives. Dedication to a rule of law that both protects and preserves liberty.

We present this platform at an uncertain point in time. Our country remains at war and committed to victory, but reckless political forces would imperil that goal and endanger our nation. In the economy and in society at large, it is a time of transformation. But the American people will meet these challenges. Even with its uncertainties, they embrace the future, but they are also too wise to rush headlong into it. We are an adventurous, risk-taking people, but we are not gamblers. A sound democracy trusts new leadership but insists that it demonstrate the old virtues: the character and the command that, in times of conflict and crisis, have led the Republic through its trials.

This platform likewise rests on proven truths and tested wisdom as it looks ahead, both to deal with present challenges and to explore possibilities that may sometimes seem beyond our grasp. It shows what the American people can accomplish when government respects their rights, conserves their resources, and calls upon their love of country. It is not a tribute to bigger government.

The main problem that I have with these paragraphs is that they are not focused on the primary purpose. They are filled with rhetoric designed to incite emotions, but do little to emphasize the primary purpose of the party. Still, I do agree with much of what these paragraphs contain, so if the actions of the party actually reflected this, I could be comfortable voting republican in many instances.

Unfortunately, the actions of the party counter the rhetoric sufficiently well that I can not in good conscience support the Republican party. Although there have been many actions taken by the Republican party which I disagree with, two stick out in my mind as damning illustrations of the party’s true feelings concerning basic human rights.

One of the fundamental rights we have is the right to a fair trial and legal counsel. This right (guaranteed in the constitution) applies to everyone, citizen or foreigner, held by the United States for a crime. The Bush administration detained prisoners in Guantanamo Bay as suspected terrorists without officially charging them, allowing them access to legal counsel, or granting them a trial. Now, President Obama has signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act which allows the military to indefinitely detain without trial terrorism suspects. For more information, see: The New American, The Guardian, and The Atlantic Wire.

I cannot support any party that would deny such a fundamental right to any human being. Our country’s judicial system is based on the principle that we are innocent until proven guilty. If someone is found guilty of terrorism, I have absolutely no problem with executing them, or throwing them in jail for the remainder of their life. But you have to prove them guilty first. You can’t skip that part and go right to the incarceration step.

Another fundamental right is the freedom from unlawful search and seizure. This too is guaranteed by our constitution.

And yet, the NSA is authorized by executive order to monitor, without search warrants, phone calls, Internet activity (Web, e-mail, etc.), text messaging, and other communication involving any party believed by the NSA to be outside the U.S., even if the other end of the communication lies within the U.S.

President Bush first approved these (and other activities) in the President’s Surveillance Program as part of the war on terrorism, and President Obama’s administration has continued to employ these practices. For more information, see: Wikipedia Warrentless Wiretapping and Wikipedia President’s Surveillance Program.

When we are talking about the government infringing on rights, especially those so basic as to be covered by the Bill of Rights, I have to agree with the statement of James Madison:

We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties.

I disagree with both parties treatment of the wars in Afganistan and Iraq, with their handling of social security, medical care, and many other things… but these do not automatically disqualify a party from receiving my support. But when a party takes away basic human rights instead of engaging in their proper task of securing those rights, I can in no way support that party.

I cannot and will not vote for a Republican or a Democrat until such a time as those parties recognize their true purpose… to secure my rights. Only then will I recognize them as a legitimate political party worthy of my support.