Saturday, September 24, 2011

Problems with Libertarian thinking

I  have considered myself a libertarian for many years now. Studying the founding of our country, and the principles the founders held sacred has influenced my thinking greatly. I have learned that democracy is not that great, and that protection of individual rights is essential in a moral society.

But I have come up against a few ideas that make me question pure libertarianism a bit.

1.) Here is one I hadn't heard before:

So, if taxes paid by all were responsible for protecting your rights and providing roads and educated workers, while you were producing goods and making a profit, then you owe some of your profit to......who? the government? other taxpayers?

I don't know what to make of this argument. Because weren't everyone's rights protected by police during this time? Didn't everyone benefit from good roads and free education? So this argument says that the people who make a big profit, and produce things that people want OWE part of the profit back to the community. More of a chunk than everyone else? Why?  It seems to penalize the people who make profits.

2.) OK. What else. What about the question asked of Ron Paul at the last debate - about whether we should just let uninsured sick people die. Paul mentions charity and social networks to help care for folks who can't take care of themselves. I see the logic in it, but it doesn't seem like it really happens. I don't see charities or families or churches ever doing enough to care for all the folks who need it.

But then again, it's not like government is doing the job well either. Folks suffer, fall through the government cracks and die all the time. But maybe not as much? I don't know....

3.) Then I think of clean air and water and I wonder how that can ever be accomplished without a national government. Air and water just flow around too much to be taken care of by property owners.

I hate when the principles I hold dear leave me in the lurch. And I'd like to figure these things out.

And just as a side note: I can't stand when people say that Christianity or Jesus says we should support liberal/progressive/welfare policies. Jesus NEVER forced anyone to do anything. He is (to my understanding) all about people freely choosing to love God and others. I can see that one who follows Jesus would/should help others. But being forced to pay taxes for many programs (only some of which are for welfare) is completely different.


Anonymous said...

* posted for Beth *

Great questions.
Here's some of my thoughts.
We currently have a system which allows government to take from some and give to others and to fund "public goods" like infrastructure.
The extent to which government supplies charities and "public goods" crowds out individual action. You can't then say "See--I built this for you now I get to take your money to pay for it." Kind of like giving someone a present and then sending them the bill for it. Yes we live in a country where the government has supplied many goods which properly belong in the private sphere. That fact does not enslave me forever to support their improper agenda.

People who support government involvement in economic transactions are willing to initiate force to accomplish important goals----but I would argue that the ends do not justify the means. Yes, helping the those in trouble is important, but it does not justify all classes of actions. First we have to define what are the proper (i.e. moral) principles for human interactions, and then the solutions to our problems must come from within that set of limitations.

Based on the premise that each individual has a right to their own life and only to their own, there is no moral justification for the initiation for force. You have to convince someone to go along with you, or you have to leave them alone. That goes for helping the sick and poor, as well as for building roads and funding police.

Live and let live does not mean isolationism or cold-hearted dog-eat-dog, ignoring the suffering of other human beings. It is simply the starting point for engagement.


Beth Haynes, MD
Senior Health Policy Analyst, Docs 4 Patient Care
President and Founder, The Black Ribbon Project

Sue said...

Thanks Beth.

So it comes down to the means don't justify the ends, huh? I agree with you, but sometimes feel that answer leaves me unsatisfied. I am not able to articulate solutions to complicaated problems with it.

I should just have the mantra:
"it is never right to initiate force" repeating in my head all the time. Maybe that would help.

HaynesBE said...

That's a great mantra.