by Steve Lancaster 4/30/14
A follow up to the continuing dialog • Conservatives and Libertarians are two sides of the same 24 karat coin. That coin, fired to purity over thousands of years, is called freedom. For the first 150 years in North America freedoms philosophy concentrated on experimenting with liberty and the colonies were the laboratory. In the Northeast colonies, Massachusetts specifically but also the other Puritan influenced colonies sought to bring an ordered liberty as the framework for government. In Virginia and the upper South another group settled with different ideas on freedom and liberty and the strong influence of ruling families with the structure of the Anglican Church as a bulwark. A third group centered in the Delaware Valley and Pennsylvania developed the concept of spiritual equality and a pluralist system of reciprocal liberty. In the unsettled frontier a forth group, mainly Scot and Irish Presbyterians developed a natural liberty.
Some of these groups conservative and libertarians will recognize as antecedents of their own. Many modern conservatives will see their intellectual roots in the ordered liberty of the Puritans or even the hierarchal liberty of Virginia. Libertarians will see their intellectual roots in the free-wheeling Scots/Irish liberty of the backcountry and the emphasis on equality in Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley. In spite of their differences all agreed that freedom was the preferable human condition for living.
In religion and its practice the Anglicans were the most right wing conservative of the four basic groups. Anglicans favored a national church with state support for the clergy and a union of church and government. The southern colonies, specifically Virginia was the center of Anglicanism in the colonies. Somewhat to the right of the Anglicans were the Presbyterians who also favored a national church, but in theology were staunch Calvinists, some would say rigid. If you have ever been to a tent meeting you have participated in a Presbyterian tradition of the backwoods, Kentucky and Tennessee and the mountains became a center for them.
More centered but to the left of the Anglicans and Presbyterians were the Congregational Churches who self-defined as the “middle way”. Church government was a muddle of independent congregations, weak synods with some ministers paid and some living on offerings and handouts from the congregations. They were Calvinists in the strictest sense following a creed of austerity and settling in Massachusetts and Connecticut. To their left were the separatists, called such because of their desire to be separate from the corruption of the established church. In general terms they were Calvinist and each congregation governed its own with little ties to any kind of national organization. To the left of the Separatist are many Anabaptist churches who subscribed to the five points of Calvinism and added restrictions on baptism. Most Baptists strongly believed in separation of church and state. Strong Baptist influence can be found in Rhode Island and its surrounding areas.
Further left were the Quakers, who rejected the legitimacy of established churches, ordained clergy and even a formal liturgy. Meetings were free flow with anyone called on by the spirit to talk. Many libertarians find the concepts of Quakerism attractive particularly the concept of non-violence. Libertarians, of course only argue on the side of initiation of violence, strike a libertarian without cause and the response will be surprising; like the Marines: no better friend, no fiercer foe.
I believe it is necessary to understand that in spite of differences, sometimes violent, these groups had much in common. English was the primary language, they lived by English Common Law and for the most part they lived in nuclear households, and communities. The prevailing religion was Christian and Protestant, however Maryland was strongly Catholic and there was a strong Sephardic Jewish community in the Carolinas.
If we do not understand the origins of American concepts of freedom, it is unlikely that we can understand each other today. Modern conservatives and libertarians all have intellectual heritages in similar cultures that not only go back to immigrants in the 17th century, but trace back at least to Magna Carta. It could be argued that Cato and Brutus were the first conservatives. Jesus has some strong libertarian ideas that really set off the Pharisees of Judaism.
So, what do libertarians propose? It is a long list of government reforms that decreases the ability of government to impact our lives. We do not advocate the elimination of all government or a complete secession of all taxation. There are some public goods that government can only provide in an equal manner. So here is a short list to change the federal government and return power to local government or the people, remember the pesky 9th and 10th amendments?
1. Laws at federal and state levels regarding alcohol, drugs, prostitution, gambling and pornography should be repealed except for provisions about minors.
Ok, a short pause for all the social conservatives to catch their breath, regain their normal heat rates. Ok, here we go. Of course this is an emotional debate and involves two separate issues.
A. Should people be allowed to engage in behavior that is demonstratively harmful to themselves?
B. How can families and communities protect themselves from social practice they find offensive?
The answer to A. is simple, of course. You may believe that a friend who consumes Kobe beef and beer on a daily basis is causing himself harm, gaining weight and sleeping badly. You can bring that opinion to him but you have no right to force a cognizant adult to make any change. He has made a decision based on his goals for life; a shorter life is a cost he is willing to pay for the enjoyment of a marvelous steak on a daily basis washed down with his favorite brew.
The act of eating or drinking is not a punishable crime, the crimes committed by using drink or drugs is punishable. For libertarians it seems self-evident that government has no right, nor should exercise police power, to keep a competent adult from doing something others consider harmful.
In the privacy of your home you can go naked, not bathe, smoke pot, eat nothing but chips and dips, howl at the moon and associate with others who feel the same way. To do those things on someone else’s property you need permission; not likely in most communities. However, under current conditions the government will not allow you to discriminate in housing, or employment. It could be your friendly neighborhood drug dealer is a member of a “protected group” and you have little recourse to make him move, even if you own the property.
If we cannot outlaw these practices how then do communities protect themselves and their children from practice that they find invasive?
If the objective is to control vice and the harms done by it, than you are going to be able to accomplish that goal in one of two societies: either a totalitarian state or a free culture. We currently live between the two, although the trend over the last 50 years is towards totalitarianism. Vice can only thrive where it is protected, where there are restrictions on the freedom of association and subsidized by our welfare state.
The war on drugs, ongoing for at least 60 years is more significant to bureaucrats than the average person. Do you really care that heroin use is reduced by 50%? No, what you want is a policy that keeps our children from getting hooked. The proper question is what is success regarding drugs and are you able to live in a community as safe from drugs as you want to be? Think about how irrational it is for your child to attend a school where there is a drug problem? It is not hard for teachers and administrators to control schools if they have a free hand regarding discipline, suspend and expel students in 1920’s methods. Don’t ask your government to outlaw drugs, a losing proposition, send your children to a school that outlaws drugs.
If you as a parent want your children to not be exposed to drugs in any regard then you will send them to a school with regular locker inspections, perhaps drug testing and expulsion for any drug use. If you are moderately concerned than you would choose a school with less restrictive policy and if you have no concerns at all you might choose a school with strong personal rights program that includes due process and warrants. The point being that you would choose the policy and to make this happen you need parental control of school funding with unrestricted vouchers. It is not likely that we could ever again have schools solely supported by the parents and as a social good evenly distributing the burden of funding vouchers giving parent’s choice make sense.
The same applies to neighborhoods and workplaces, only without vouchers. Landlords and employers need the ability to manage their property and business in a manner that fits their perception of a drug free house or workplace. An employer could state up front his drug policy as lax or stringent as they deem necessary, an aggressive policy might force employees to consider that doing drugs, even on their own time is a threat to their employment. Most employers will take a practical view and follow a policy that forbids drugs in the workplace and encourages staff to show up for work sober and stay that way while at work. Since few employers will knowingly hire drug users than drug use follows with an action taken to terminate the person involved, no questions asked, proven insobriety in the workplace no job. However, the heavy hand of federal regulation and unions must be brought down to necessary limits.
This type of argument can be taken to other activities commonly called vice and are subject social control. Social control needs to be the mechanism rather than the heavy hand of government police power. From the first settlers in the 17th century until the mid-1960’s this was a method that worked. Dare I say it? A conservative approach.
Every action has an economic ramification the more control landlords exercise perhaps the fewer tenants will seek to live in his housing, aggressive drug testing in the workplace may limit the qualified applicants he can hire. A lax policy may encourage applicants but could encourage drug use. A community can balance what they will tolerate and what they will not. Regulation by fiat from DC only gives a faceless bureaucrat the power to decide. • (3023 views)