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Libertarian FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions


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Archive-name: libertarian/faq
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              FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT LIBERTARIANISM 
                                       
     _________________________________________________________________
   
   Many USENET readers encounter libertarianism for the first time on
   USENET. The following is a list of answers to many of the frequently
   asked questions about libertarianism.
   
   These answers have been compiled from several sources. Most of the
   answers are derived or quoted from writings by David Bergland
   including "Libertarianism in One Lesson" and "America's Libertarian
   Heritage." Quotes were used with permission from David Bergland and
   the Advocates for Self-Government as long as proper credit was
   retained. All quoted answers will be marked and the source referenced
   in the bibliography.
   
   If you want more information about libertarian ideas and the Advocates
   for Self-Government, sign up for the "Liberator On-Line" which is sent
   out every two weeks.  Send an E-Mail message to:

   liberator-request@lists.best.com

   with only the word 'subscribe' in the body of the message.
   
   Advocates for Self-Government
   1202 N. Tennessee St., Suite 202
   Cartersville, GA 30120
   (770)386-8372, (800)932-1776
   Fax: (770)386-8373 
   <URL:http://www.self-gov.org/>


Contents:

    1. What is libertarianism?
    2. Are libertarians liberal or conservative?
    3. How do libertarians approach the issues?
    4. What is the libertarian position on the military draft?
    5. Should the government regulate radio, TV, or the press?
    6. Why do libertarians want to repeal regulations on sex by
       consenting adults?
       6a.  Does this apply to prostitution also?
    7. Does libertarian support of personal liberty extend to drug use?
       7a.  But if drugs were legalized, wouldn't there be millions more
            drug addicts?
    8. Do libertarians support gun ownership as a personal liberty?
    9. How do libertarians want to handle immigration?
   10. What position do libertarians have on subsidies for farm and
       business?
   11. Are people better off with free trade than with tariffs?
   12. What position do libertarians take on minimum wage laws?
   13. What about the poor?
   14. Don't we need affirmative action to keep bigoted employers from
       refusing to hire minorities and women?
   15. How do libertarians feel about taxes?
       15a. I'm for cutting taxes, but as a practical matter, how do we
            do it?
   16. Aren't you going too far?
   17. Won't these ideas work only if everybody is good?
   18. In a libertarian society, wouldn't polluters get away with 
       destroying the environment? 
   19. Where would a libertarian fall with respect to laws outlawing 
       smoking in bars?
   20. Isn't any destruction of the earth a direct threat to the 
       existence, -- and thus, the rights -- of future human beings?

   Bibliography
       
   
   
1. What is libertarianism? 

   Libertarians want a win-win world of peace and plenty. And we believe
   that the only way to get it is through self-government... NOT others-
   government.
   
   Self-government is the combination of personal responsibility and
   tolerance. Responsibility means you govern yourself. Tolerance means
   you don't force your values on peaceful, honest people.
   
   Today, however, others-government is giving us insecurity, conflict
   and poverty. Let's revitalize our heritage of self-government to
   create a win-win world where everyone comes out ahead. [4] -- Carole
   Ann Rand
   
   
   
2. Are libertarians liberal or conservative? 

   You have a better choice than just left or right. The libertarian way
   gives you more choices, in politics, in business, your personal life,
   in every way. Libertarians advocate a high degree of both personal and
   economic liberty. Today's liberals like personal liberty but want
   government to control your economic affairs. Conservatives reverse
   that, advocating more economic freedom but wanting to clamp down on
   your private life.
   
   Libertarian positions on the issues are not "left" or "right" or a
   combination of the two. Libertarians believe that, on every issue, you
   have the right to decide for yourself what's best for you and to act
   on that belief so long as you respect the right of other people to do
   the same and deal with them peacefully and honestly.
   
   Today's liberals and conservatives have rejected America's heritage of
   liberty and personal responsibility. They want to put us all in their
   straitjacket. Americans built a great country without shackles. It's
   time to take them off again. Break free of the useless left right
   spectrum. Think freedom on all issues. Think libertarian. [2]
   
   
   
3. How do libertarians approach the issues? 

   Libertarians use a caring, people centered approach to politics.
   Politicians too frequently forget that their laws and regulations
   affect real, live human beings. Libertarians never lose sight of that
   fact. We see each individual as unique, with great potential. We want
   a system which encourages all of us to discover the best within
   ourselves and make the most of it. A system which encourages the
   development of the most harmonious relationships among all people.
   
   In dealing with political issues, libertarians focus on the people
   involved. Who is having a problem? What is it? What is the government
   doing already, if anything, and might that be the cause of the
   problem?
   
   Most importantly, Libertarians ask: is anyone violating another's
   rights? Is someone committing murder, rape, robbery, theft, fraud,
   embezzlement, arson, trespass, etc.? If so, then it's proper to call
   on government to help the victim against the wrongdoer. But, if not,
   the government should not get involved.
   
   In most instances, people are better off if allowed to work out their
   own problems through voluntary cooperation without introducing the
   coercive tool of government. [3]
   
   
   
4. What is the libertarian position on the military draft? 

   History shows that free people can be counted on to defend their homes
   and their country. But the draft is slavery, and slaves make lousy
   defenders of freedom.
   
   I like knowing I'm being protected by people who are in the military
   because they want to be there, not because they were forced against
   their will to be there.
   
   A military focused on defending America instead of policing the globe
   would reduce manpower needs and further eliminate any reason to have a
   draft or draft registration.
   
   Let's let free people defend freedom. [3]
   
   
   
5. Should the government regulate radio, TV, or the press? 

   America's free press is envied by freedom-starved people everywhere.
   Dictators use a controlled press to silence opposition and to feed
   lies to their citizens.
   
   Americans would not like it if the government here owned or controlled
   the newspapers. Why should we like government control of TV and radio
   any better? As with printed words, broadcast words can and should be
   regulated by the free market.
   
   Americans should be able to freely choose what they will watch or
   listen to, without Big Brother making those decisions for them. [3]
   
   
   
6. Why do libertarians want to repeal regulations on sex by consenting adults? 

   Nothing is more personal than the way people chose to shape their
   sexual relationships. Government has no business intruding into
   people's bedrooms.
   
   This doesn't mean we must personally approve of the sexual behaviors
   of others. It simply means that as long as the participants are
   consenting adults, no one has the right to use the force of government
   laws to try to stop or punish them.
   
   There is no justification for throwing peaceful Americans in jail
   because of their sexual choices. Let's respect people's right to
   control their own bodies. [3]
   
   
   
6a. Does this apply to prostitution also? 

   Every day millions of adult Americans agree to make love. There is no
   justification for throwing them in jail. These are peaceful voluntary
   agreements between consenting adults. A tiny fraction of these involve
   money.
   
   Criminal penalties do not stop prostitution. They just create real
   problems. One study showed it costs taxpayers two thousand dollars
   every time a prostitute is arrested. Let's respect people's right to
   control their own bodies.
   
   Decriminalize sex, and let it be a private affair. [3]
   
   
   
7. Does libertarian support of personal liberty extend to drug use? 

   Alcohol prohibition tore America apart once. Now it is the war on
   drugs. Harsh laws and the threat of jail and fines will not stop drug
   use. All they do is make it harder to help people. And just as
   Prohibition created organized crime, today's drug laws keep organized
   crime alive -- with all the violence and corruption that goes along
   with it.
   
   Before drugs were illegal, Americans handled them with few problems.
   Let's respect the right of people to control their own bodies.
   
   Decriminalize drugs, help those who need it, and let the police spend
   their time protecting us from real crime. [3]
   
   
   
7a. But if drugs were legalized, wouldn't there be millions more drug addicts? 

   I, too, want to live in a society where people are healthy and
   productive, not destroying their lives with addictive drugs.
   
   All of the hard drugs were legal before 1914, and there were few
   addicts. Studies show that even addicts can be productive, and also
   that they do not engage in crime when they can get their drugs
   inexpensively.
   
   We have addicts today despite drug criminalization. We also have the
   violence that is caused by drugs being illegal. Let's decriminalize
   drugs so we stop the violence and get help to those who need it. [3]
   
   
   
8. Do libertarians support gun ownership as a personal liberty? 

   Libertarians,, like other Americans, want to be able to walk city
   streets safely and be secure in their homes. We also want our
   Constitutional rights protected, to guard against the erosion of civil
   liberties. In particular, Libertarians want to see all people treated
   equally under the law, as our Constitution requires. America's
   millions of gun owners are people too.
   
   Law-abiding, responsible citizens do not and should not need to ask
   anyone's permission or approval to engage in a peaceful activity. Gun
   ownership, by itself, harms no other person and cannot morally justify
   criminal penalties.
   
   A responsible, well-armed and trained citizenry is the best protection
   against domestic crime and the threat of foreign invasion. America's
   founders knew that. It is still true today.
   
   
   
9. How do libertarians want to handle immigration? 

   People have the right to travel anywhere, and to take any job offered
   them, so long as they do it at their own expense and without violating
   the rights of others.
   
   A way to help the poor is to let them go where the work is, regardless
   of borders. Studies show that immigrants don't take jobs from others,
   they add to the economy and help create more jobs.
   
   America was built by immigrants who came here seeking nothing but
   opportunity and freedom -- and created the greatest, most productive
   society ever.
   
   Respect for human rights and compassion for the world's poor require
   that we relax immigration restrictions. [3]
   
   
   
10. What position do libertarians have on subsidies for farm and business? 

   All business people, including farmers, should be able to offer their
   products in a free market without being subsidized by others. The way
   to help both producers and consumers is to remove government programs
   and restrictions which have damaged America's free enterprise system.
   
   Subsidies are harmful and unfair. Why should some businesses be taxed
   to give handouts to others? Why should you pay higher prices to
   support government favored businesses?
   
   Let's stop this nonsense. Then business could operate in a free market
   and all of us could be better fed, clothed and housed at lower cost.
   [3]
   
   
   
11. Are people better off with free trade than with tariffs? 

   Free trade provides consumers with better goods at lower prices. Trade
   restrictions produce the opposite: shoddy goods and higher prices.
   
   With free trade, consumers pay lower prices for products and thereby
   have more money left to spend on other goods, domestic as well as
   foreign.
   
   Free trade also helps the cause of world peace. In the 1920's and
   30's, trade barriers went up everywhere, directly contributing to the
   outbreak of World War II. If goods don't cross borders, armies will.
   
   Let's end all trade restrictions and free the world's resources to be
   allocated in the most efficient and productive manner. [3]
   
   
   
12. What position do libertarians take on minimum wage laws? 

   Skilled, experienced workers make high wages because employers compete
   to hire them. Poorly educated, inexperienced young people can't get
   work because minimum wage laws make them too expensive to hire as
   trainees. Repeal of the minimum wage would allow many young, minority
   and poor people to work.
   
   It must be asked, if the minimum wage is such a good idea, why not
   raise it to $200 an hour? Even the most die-hard minimum wage advocate
   can see there's something wrong with that proposal.
   
   The only "fair" or "correct" wage is what an employer and employee
   voluntarily agree upon. We should repeal minimum wage now. [3]
   
   
   
13. What about the poor? 

   I want to break the chains of poverty and help the disabled. First
   remove laws that prevent work. Second, privatize welfare.
   
   Permits, licensing, zoning, labor laws. They all stop people who want
   to work, especially minorities. Repeal those laws. Private charity is
   more compassionate and delivers the goods better than the government
   welfare plantation.
   
   We can't make a perfect world. We can do more for the poor by
   replacing inefficient government programs with effective voluntary
   assistance. [1] -- David Bergland
   
   
   
14. Don't we need affirmative action to keep bigoted employers from refusing to
hire minorities and women? 

   Libertarians want to see people of all types working in the most
   harmonious relationships. "Affirmative action" refers to laws which
   force people into relationships whether they want them or not. Not too
   many years ago, there were laws in many states which prevented people
   of different races from doing a variety of things together, working,
   eating, marriage, etc. Libertarians oppose all such laws because the
   people involved have the right to decide for themselves whether or not
   to enter a relationship or association.
   
   An old saying states: "it takes two to tango." Relationships or
   associations require at least two people. We cannot justify using
   force to keep people out of voluntary relationships and we cannot
   justify forcing private citizens into relationships against their
   will.
   
   Government employment is a different case. The only criteria for
   employment or advancement in government work should be merit. The
   Constitution requires that we all be given equal treatment under the
   law. Since governments are created by law, they are Constitutionally
   required to be absolutely even handed. Private citizens or companies
   on the other hand have the right to be stupid and suffer the
   consequences.
   
   Attempts to correct bigotry with affirmative action haven't worked
   very well. Such laws are easy for bigots to circumvent and people tend
   to think minority employees did not earn their positions on merit even
   if they did. They also make it possible for bigots to harass
   minorities by demanding employment at minority owned businesses. [2]
   
   
   
15. How do libertarians feel about taxes? 

   Americans already obtain a host of services from private providers.
   There is every reason to think that other services, from postal
   delivery to education to road building and maintenance, could be
   provided more efficiently and at lower cost by the private sector.
   
   We should support all moves to reduce and repeal taxes because taxes
   are obtained immorally, by force. The income tax is particularly evil,
   since it penalizes productivity and forces all of us to expose our
   private affairs to government snoopers.
   
   We had no income tax before 1914 and America prospered. Replacing the
   income tax with voluntary methods for financing services should be our
   goal, and we should begin right now. [3]
   
   
   
15a. I'm for cutting taxes, but as a practical matter, how do we do it? 

   Think of government as a conglomerate of service businesses. The
   providers of those services do not have to be government employees,
   and the services do not have to be paid for with tax dollars. Whether
   it is education, security, transportation, charity, energy, or
   whatever, the private sector is already doing it for less. To cut
   taxes, we must allow private service providers to replace inefficient
   bureaucracy. Market competition will give us better service at lower
   cost, and put the consumers in control. [3]
   
   
   
16. Aren't you going too far? 

   I want you to be able to govern yourself. The libertarian way lets you
   decide how much independence is good for you and lets others decide
   for themselves.
   
   Replacing political controls with self-government will only go as far
   as you let it. So let's experiment. Cut foreign aid. Deregulate
   transportation. Repeal one drug law. Cut farm subsidies. Cut taxes.
   
   As you gain self government, you will probably want more. That's for
   you to decide. No one can force you to be free. [1] -- David Bergland
   
   
   
17. Won't these ideas work only if everybody is good? 

   You don't have to believe people are always good for freedom to work.
   Most people, most of the time, deal with each other on the libertarian
   premise of respect for the rights of others. You don't want to be
   pushed around or to push your neighbors around. You don't steal, cheat
   or mug people. Very few among us commit all the crime. Society would
   collapse if most people were evil most of the time.
   
   If people are basically evil, the last thing you'd want is a big
   government staffed by those evil folks exercising control over you.
   [1] -- David Bergland



18. In a libertarian society, wouldn't polluters get away with destroying 
    the environment? 
   
   "Today, the biggest polluter of all -- the U.S. military -- gets away 
   with murder -- literally. When courts found the military liable for 
   illness and death after careless nuclear testing in Utah, the 
   government claimed sovereign immunity and refused to pay damages. In a 
   libertarian society, no one would be immune from the consequences of 
   their actions -- especially not a government charged with protecting us." 

   "Libertarians believe that people and governments should right their 
   wrongs by restoring, as much as possible, what they've damaged. Today, 
   instead of making polluters pay, our government makes the taxpayers 
   shoulder the burden. Sometimes it requires whoever buys a polluted 
   property to bear the cost of the clean-up. If polluters don't pay for 
   the damage they do, why should they stop polluting?" 

   "Since government is the biggest polluter of all, putting government in 
   charge of stopping pollution is like putting the fox in charge of the 
   hen house." [5] -- Mary Ruwart



19. Where would a libertarian fall with respect to laws outlawing 
    smoking in bars?

   "In a libertarian society, the smoking policy would be set by the bar 
   or restaurant owner. Customers would patronize the establishments 
   that had the policy they preferred, much as they do today. For 
   example, I avoid places that are smoke-filled, and opt for restaurants 
   that are smoke-free or have separate accommodations for smokers and 
   non-smokers. As a customer, I have no right to dictate smoking policy 
   any more than I have a right to dictate the color schemes for clothing 
   manufacturers. However, I let both know my preferences by voting with 
   my dollars to do business with them or their competitors." [5] -- Mary
   Ruwart



20. Isn't any destruction of the earth a direct threat to the existence,
    -- and thus, the rights -- of future human beings?

   "The best way to protect the earth is to honor property rights of 
   individuals. People care for things they own and can sell later, but 
   are not so careful about things they rent. If you go out West and 
   compare grazing land owned by individuals with that administered by 
   government, the benefit of individual ownership becomes apparent. 

   "When I was a member of the Kalamazoo Rain Forest Action Committee, 
   environmentalists recognized that helping the native people defend 
   their property rights was the best protection the rain forests could 
   have. The government is the biggest polluter and despoiler of our 
   lands, yet we've been fooled into letting this fox guard our hen 
   house." [5] -- Mary Ruwart


   
   
Bibliography:

   [1] "Liberty Communicator Course," Advocates for Self-Government,
   1988.
   
   [2] Bergland, David, "America's Libertarian Heritage: The Politics of
   Freedom," Orpheus Publications, 1773 Bahama Place, Costa Mesa, CA
   92626, (714)751-8980, 1991.
   
   [3] "The Liberator," Spring 1992, pp. 18-19, Advocates for Self-
   Government, 3955 Pleasantdale Road, No. 106-A, Atlanta, GA 30340,
   (800)932-1776.
   
   [4] "The Liberator," Summer 1993, p. 13, Advocates for
   Self-Government.

   [5] "The Liberator OnLine," http://www.self-gov.org/liberator.

User Contributions:

DinaStrange
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 7, 2012 @ 2:14 pm
I, too would like to believe that world is black and white but it's not. It would be great to live in a simple and logical world portrayed by Libertarian policies but the reality is the world is complex system and humans are complex organisms (we are talking billions of neuron impulses here). Libertarian politics is for the simple minded not for the complex world we face.

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