h/t to James.
Connor Boyack wrote a profoundly insightful essay on the proper role of government, and how both liberals and conservatives think freedom means being able to use badges and guns to keep people from doing things you don’t agree with.
Libertarians recognize that laws must be based on nothing more than “punishing injustice,” as Bastiat wrote. Jefferson put it more succinctly: “But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”
Jefferson went on to explain that he referenced the limits of others’ equal rights for a specific reason. “I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’” wrote Jefferson, “because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.” In other words, not all laws are legitimate, and many directly violate “rightful liberty.”
Herein lies the distinction between the individual liberty championed by libertarians, and the statism supported by all other political ideologies, including conservatism. Driving the wedge between these differing views even further, one of the radio hosts claimed that society would altogether cease to exist “if you got rid of law and law enforcement.” Addressing such a general statement as this first requires analyzing the moral justification of what law is being discussed. As Bastiat further stated, “We must remember that law is force, and that, consequently, the proper functions of the law cannot lawfully extend beyond the proper functions of force.”
If the law entails punishment for murder, fraud, rape, robbery, vandalism, or other clear violations of one’s life, liberty, or property, then libertarians absolutely support actions to “punish injustice” and seek retribution for that aggressive act. Defensive acts in response to another’s aggression are a proper function of force, and are therefore a proper function of the law.
But if the law is a mandate which prevents a business owner from selling a beverage to a consenting adult who wishes to purchase and consume it, then libertarians rightly recognize that that law has no legitimate justification, and is thus not worthy of support. Imposing a fine upon or incarcerating a person who engaged in this consensual, peaceful act is not a proper function of force, and therefore is not a proper function of the law.
One problem with getting government to ban things you don’t agree with is that eventually the people you don’t agree with get in charge and start banning the things you agreed with.
It’s similar to this story, where liberals love environmental laws, until those laws get in the way of the things they want to build.
That “badges and guns” phrase I used earlier? I got it from this essay by Gary North on how conservatives think “free trade” means having people with badges and guns decide with whom you can or cannot commerce:
I have never had any illusions about persuading people who trust in the creativity of badges and guns. The universal trust in state power in every area of life is an extension of what I call the power religion. It is the religion of every empire.
The defenders of mercantilism have a religion: the religion of state worship. They do not believe that individuals acting in their own self-interest by trading with each other in order to benefit themselves are reliable sources of innovation, exploration, and creativity. They believe that the free market is an incomplete organization. They believe that there must be a sovereign judicial entity which provides guidance, by which they really mean coercion, in directing the flow of scarce economic resources. They believe that bureaucrats are trustworthy, that politicians act in the interest of the people. They believe that the state is a reliable source of economic wisdom, correct understanding of the future, correct understanding of the present, and is therefore the proper agency to equate supply with demand.
Just wondering – if those bureaucrats and regulators are so good at understanding supply and demand and market forces, why aren’t they making a fortune in the market instead of making a meager salary preventing other people from doing so?
And it could be quite handy to have a recording of your interaction with the police.
In the past year, two different appeals courts have ruled that recording the actions of police officers in public places is protected by the First Amendment. A new legal analysis argues that the right to record the actions of law enforcement is also protected by the Constitution’s due process clause. This right can apply even in non-public settings.
This one really made me chuckle a hearty chuckle.