Monday, August 19, 2013

Veterans and Libertarianism

Based on many of my previous posts, you may have noticed that I have some very libertarian leanings. There are plenty of reasons for this, but today I simply wanted to address the prevalence of US military veterans with libertarian leanings.

America: Too beautiful not to be free.
Only recently (this morning while I was in the shower, actually) have I considered the high rate of veterans I know who support libertarian policies.

Before I move on, what is libertarianism? At it's core it is based on the value of maximization of liberty for all individuals. In other words, what policies, practices, and laws best facilitate the maximum amount of liberty for all? It is important to place special emphasis on the "for all" part. Some people think libertarianism means anyone can do whatever they want. But if I take your car, or burn down your house, or kidnap your kids that is actually minimizing your liberty. There are certain inherent rights that all humans possess, or at least we hold to in western culture. Life. Property. Movement. If you tie my hands you're restricting my liberty. If you take my money or my possessions you are hurting my liberty. If you kill me or my loved ones you are hurting our liberty. Therefore the law should reflect this.

But beyond laws that make it illegal for one person or group to harm another person or group in a set of ways, libertarianism tends to shy away from much more legislation. And it's not clear-cut. The spectrum of libertarians ranges from those who just think that there should be slightly lower taxes to those who support full-on anarchy (no government). We could talk about the exact definition and various classifications of libertarianism all day though, so let's move on.

Why do so many veterans support libertarian views? Have you noticed it? Ron Paul received quite a bit of support from veterans, myself included. I don't claim to agree with all his positions, but I am attracted to his convicted belief in a smaller government.

Maybe it's because we genuinely care about the state of the nation. After all we signed up and volunteered ourselves to the service of this nation. We put sweat, blood, and tears into the defense of this nation, and some have given far more.

This is the oath we take:
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God. 
There's something about solemnly swearing to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic that makes a person more interested in what the Constitution actually says. And when you read the constitution and the Bill of Rights you come to realize: it is a document written for the purpose of maximizing the liberty of the citizens of the United States. It doesn't support big government. It doesn't support violating the privacy of citizens without warrants. It doesn't support restrictive gun laws. It doesn't support heavy taxation. It doesn't support heavy federal interference in the affairs of states. The Constitution of the United States is by its very nature a libertarian document.

People like to argue that libertarianism is a fringe point of view. They like to argue that it carries policies or ideas that most Americans don't support. But I believe that if most Americans really knew and understood libertarianism they would support it. It's not the easiest path. It puts a high premium on personal responsibility and the freedom to fail along with the freedom to succeed. And it's not a cure-all. As much as we like to say "my system will solve everything," that's not true with any earthly system. As humans we are flawed. There will always be war, famine, crime, hunger, poverty. And many libertarians even disagree with each other on how libertarian is libertarian enough or too libertarian.

But freedom is attractive. No matter how you slice it, the role of the government comes down to more freedom or less freedom. The more control you give to the government and take from the individual, the less freedom we have as individuals. Why would anyone support that? Fear. People like knowing there is a safety net. They like not being responsible for their own safety, security, livelihood, happiness, finances, health, and so on. It's easier to just let someone else take care of it - and that someone else is the government.

So next time you think, hear, or read about libertarians and their crazy positions, remember: the people who support libertarianism are very often the same people who volunteered to go fight and possibly die in another country for the continued freedom of this nation. That's not enough reason to blindly follow any cause, but hopefully it's enough to motivate you to do the research yourself and come to an educated opinion on the matter.

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