Libertarian politics in the United States is highlighted here in Al Jazeera America. For refinement, I asked Cato Institute chairman Bob Levy for direction. Here are Bob’s comments on the piece, and the definition of libertarianism laid out by Immanuel Wallerstein in the article.
Not a bad piece … but like many others in the media, it offers a warped view of libertarianism that tends to marginalize us. For example:
“Libertarianism is most simply defined as a basic hostility to the government and its institutions. A full-fledged libertarian wants few (if any) state-owned enterprises, no constraints on private enterprises by government regulations, extremely low taxes, total individual freedom in the social realm, primacy of privacy rights over governmental intrusion, and the reduction of armed forces and police to a minimum.”
1. Libertarians favor a constitutionally limited government that has strictly enumerated powers. Within that framework, we do not have a “basic hostility to the government.” Indeed, we have great respect for the legitimate functions of government in securing individual liberty.
2. Libertarians do not argue for “no constraints on private enterprises by government regulations.” We recognize that government has an important role to play in preventing and punishing force and fraud — whether perpetrated by individuals or by enterprises. For example, we support properly-structured restrictions on pollution, penalties for securities fraud, and legal remedies for defective products.
3. Libertarians don’t demand “total individual freedom in the social realm.” We acknowledge that responsibility goes hand-in-hand with freedom and we do not condone behavior that infringes on the rights of non-consenting bystanders.
4. Libertarians would not reduce “armed forces and police to a minimum.” The proper size of the armed forces and the police is the size necessary to undertake the activities duly assigned to those agencies by our Constitution and laws arising thereunder. The first task is to identify the appropriate functions of the police and military, and then to authorize those entities to perform those functions only — and no others.
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