If you ever wondered why I’m not a Republican, you should check out this article by Robert Locke at the The American Conservative. The Republican Party is made up primarily of pragmatists to whom the following questions are logically consistent:
Libertarians need to be asked some hard questions. What if a free society needed to draft its citizens in order to remain free? What if it needed to limit oil imports to protect the economic freedom of its citizens from unfriendly foreigners? What if it needed to force its citizens to become sufficiently educated to sustain a free society? What if it needed to deprive landowners of the freedom to refuse to sell their property as a precondition for giving everyone freedom of movement on highways? What if it needed to deprive citizens of the freedom to import cheap foreign labor in order to keep out poor foreigners who would vote for socialistic wealth redistribution?
[Via: Marxism of the Right]
The fact is freedom is a very consistent and logical term that means a very specific thing. And coercion is a very consistent and logical term that means a very specific thing that is the logical antithesis of freedom. You cannot coerce people into being free. It is a logical contradiction which should be enough to make Mr. Locke’s (what an ironic surname) questions laughable on face value. However, let me take each one of these questions in order, since apparently they are the hard question to be answered by all Libertarians:
1. “What if a free society needed to draft its citizens in order to remain free?”
The mere existence of a draft precludes the existence of a free society. I’m not saying that we live in an absolutely totalitarian state, far from it because America is the most free society in history. However, the draft is definitely a black mark on our history. Those that make this argument forget that free men will engage in conflicts when they consider it in their best interests, even if they are mistaken in their interests. In other words, if men do not wish to fight for their freedom and would rather live under, for example, Hitler, it is the sign of a free society that let’s them sit out of that fight and to be subjugated. And that man will deserve exactly what he’ll get. However, by forcing people to fight for their own “freedom”, you negate the existence of choice which is the primary necessity of freedom. In other words, without my ability to choose my actions, my freedom is nothing more than a fiction.
2. “What if it needed to limit oil imports to protect the economic freedom of its citizens from unfriendly foreigners?”
So, let me get this straight, by limiting which products I can buy you will increase my economic freedom? Now, if you want to argue that by buying products dumped into the American market I’m hurting my future ability to have choice in the market, that’s one thing and I’m willing to listen to that argument and choose according to its merits. However, if you limit my choice by eliminating that foreign product you have effectively done the same thing as the foreign competitors. At that point, how can I consider my “economic freedom” to be anything but a fiction?
3. “What if it needed to force its citizens to become sufficiently educated to sustain a free society?”
Well, I’ve seen enough of the public education system to see how well this coerced education system has done in protecting this free society. May I consider you a product of this same system? Any system that teaches force as a equivalent to freedom will do nothing to sustain a free society. Sorry, this one is so silly I can’t say anything more about with without turning this into a complete parody. I’ll say that in a forced education model (sounds like re-education camps to me), the most fundamental freedom of man, freedom of thought, becomes nothing more than a fiction.
4. “What if it needed to deprive landowners of the freedom to refuse to sell their property as a precondition for giving everyone freedom of movement on highways?”
I can actually answer this one in a couple of ways. From a simple pragmatic argument (not really my cup of tea), this ridiculously assumes that without eminent domain that people would simply lock the country down so that no transportation routes would exist. What a joke. Hell, take a look at the early history of this country when many of the cross country roads were private and responsible for the term turnpike.
Secondarily, from an actual moral argument, what is the “freedom of movement”? If you believe in private property, which you seem to most of the time, then freedom of movement would seem to contradict this principle unless you consider trespassing to be a perfectly legal action. No the fact is, either property rights exist or they don’t. If they do, then freedom of movement is really nothing more than an agreement between consenting individuals one of which is the owner and the other is, by some means of mutually agreed upon compensation, gaining access to that land to travel across. Without that, property rights are nothing more than another fiction.
5. “What if it needed to deprive citizens of the freedom to import cheap foreign labor in order to keep out poor foreigners who would vote for socialistic wealth redistribution?”
Outside of the silly jingoistic notion that foreigners are less interested in freedom than native born Americans, this final question strikes at the very heart of freedom. Freedom is not a privilege granted by a government but is the natural right of all men until such time as they prove themselves unworthy of it (e.g. committing murder, theft, or any other action violating the natural rights of others such as running for congress). This very argument assumes that Americans are more deserving of freedom than other people. If freedom is a just a privilege granted by government to its citizens and to no other men, then aren’t we just arguing about nothing? Aren’t we just fighting for a government benefit along the lines of a Social Security or Food Stamps? Aren’t we arguing about nothing more than a fiction?
So, what’s the conclusion? We don’t have freedom to choose our own actions. We don’t have the freedom to choose how to spend out money. We don’t have the freedom to choose our own thoughts. We don’t have the freedom to control our property. In fact we don’t even have a right to freedom. And I’m supposed to be the kook in this argument.
If you read the rest of the article (not for those diagnosed with high blood pressure), it goes on to claim that Libertarians are the naive mystics looking for a Utopian future. However, I would like to know how much mysticism must exist to believe that man can be forced to be free? Would you care to answer that hard question Mr. Locke?
Not that I have any strong opinions on the subject.