The Falsity and Fallacy of the Libertarian Spectrum Concept
When I ran for the 2020 Libertarian Party presidential nomination, I announced my candidacy at the South Carolina L.P. state convention, where they were hosting a presidential debate. Since I had not announced my candidacy in advance of the debate, I did not qualify for participating in it. Nonetheless, I attended the debate as part of the audience.
The moderator for the debate was Reason magazine’s Matt Welch, who has moderated many L.P. presidential debates and conducted many interviews of L.P. members.
There were around seven or eight presidential candidates on the stage. Among the first questions Welch asked the candidates was: “What would you do about Medicare?”
Every one of the candidates gave an answer that was based on some sort of reform, including health-savings accounts.
When I returned home, I posted an article on my campaign website informing people how I would have answered that particular question. I felt that it was important that L.P. members know precisely where I stood on this extremely important burning issue of our time.
I stated that I would have answered Welch’s question as follows: Repeal Medicare, immediately.
Soon afterward, Welch and Reason went on the attack against me. They informed their readers that I was just trying to show that I was more libertarian than the other L.P. presidential candidates. That has been the standard response from reform-oriented Libertarians for at least 25 years. It is based on what can be called the “libertarian spectrum concept.”
The notion is that libertarian positions are on a long spectrum. At one end of the spectrum are the principled positions of libertarianism, such as the separation of healthcare and the state, the separation of education and the state, the separation of economy and the state, and so forth.
Along the rest of the spectrum are the various reform-oriented positions — such as heath-savings accounts, school vouchers, regulatory reform, welfare reform, tax reform, immigration reform, getting libertarian-leaning conservatives appointed to regulatory commissions, and the like.
The idea is that all of these positions are located somewhere along the libertarian spectrum. They are all considered to be “libertarian.”
Thus, when a Libertarian points out that he favors the repeal, not the reform, of Medicare, he is considered to be arrogantly and pretentiously just trying to show that he is at the upper end of the libertarian spectrum while other Libertarians are still at the lower end of the spectrum.
But the libertarian spectrum concept has always been false and fallacious. In fact, there is no libertarian spectrum. Either a particular position is libertarian or it isn’t.
How do we decide whether a particular position is libertarian or not? We determine whether it complies with the core principle of the libertarian philosophy: the non-aggression principle. If a particular position violates the libertarian non-aggression principle, it is not libertarian. In fact, since it violates the libertarian non-aggression principle, it is actually anti-libertarian.
The importance of the libertarian non-aggression principle is reflected in the written Pledge that all Libertarian Party members sign when they join the party. In that Pledge, every L.P. member takes a written vow that he will not endorse the initiation of force against others.
I will address the subject of healthcare in a later article. Suffice it to say for now that Medicare violates the libertarian non-aggression principle and the Pledge that L.P. members take. By taxing people to provide healthcare services to seniors, the federal government initiates force. As every L.P. member knows, there is nothing voluntary and peaceful about taxes. They are based on the initiation of force. Don’t pay your taxes, and they will come after you with liens, assessments, attachments, garnishments, foreclosures, audits, prosecutions, fines, and imprisonment.
Thus, since healthcare-reform measures leave Medicare intact, they are necessarily based on a violation of our core principle and the written Pledge that all of us sign as L.P. members. They are not on a libertarian spectrum. They are actually anti-libertarian.
The same holds true, of course, for school vouchers. They use taxation to take money from one group of people in order to give the money to people who are considered to need it more. They are not on a libertarian spectrum. They are anti-libertarian given that they are based on a violation of our core principle and the written vow we all take as L.P. members. (See my Substack article “The L.P. Pledge and School Vouchers.”)
What we are talking about here is the concept of liberty, the achievement of which is the ultimate goal of the Libertarian Party. Liberty entails the absence of infringements on liberty. When we remove all the infringements on liberty, we are free.
But remove means remove, repeal, abolition, and dismantling. If all we do is reform infringements on liberty, we end up with the continuation of the infringements, albeit in a reformed manner. Leaving infringements intact, albeit reformed, is not freedom, any more than a reform of slavery would have been freedom. To achieve freedom, it is necessary to identify and remove all the infringements on freedom.
I say: Let’s leave reform to the Republican Party. Let it be the “Party of Reform.” Republicans are the masters of reform, including school vouchers, health-savings accounts, regulatory reform, Social Security reform, welfare reform, tax reform, getting libertarian-leaning conservatives appointed to regulatory commissions, Pentagon reform, CIA reform, FISA Court reform — reform, reform, reform.
I say: Let’s have the Libertarian Party stand squarely and unequivocally for freedom. Let’s reject all of the Republican-Lite reform measures that violate our guiding principle and our Pledge. Let’s restore the Libertarian Party as the “Party of Principle.”
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