That the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression. — Alabama Declaration of Rights. Article I, Section 35
This is going to be long, so let me put the important stuff up front. Many of the later sections address what government shouldn't do and why, so I'd like to outline what I think is the proper role of government so you can keep it in mind as you read the rest. Much of this will be ideas from Frederic Bastiat's The Law rewritten in my own words. Be sure to peep the original.
Freedom and responsibility are inescapably linked. Almost every man-made catastrophe in recorded history can be traced back to one thing: an attempt to divorce freedom from responsibility. If there is any aspect of an individual's existence, great or small, that he is not held responsible for, the responsibility is not destroyed. It can't be. Instead, this responsibility must be transferred to other individuals. Freedom cannot be said to exist where one individual can force others to labor on his behalf. A more appropriate label would be slavery (although today we call it social justice because that sounds so much nicer). Where responsibility is absent, freedom begins as nothing more than an illusion, but even the illusion can't be preserved for long. If you give people the freedom to make their own decisions, but then protect them from the consequences of those decisions, you will eliminate the need for people to consider their actions very carefully. It doesn't take public officials very long to realize this, nor does it take them very long to respond by concentrating the decision making power in their own hands so that they may make more careful, measured decisions on how our day-to-day lives should be conducted. In other words, any reduction in individual responsibility, as a matter of public policy, inevitably leads to a reduction in individual liberty for the society in general. If this continues unchecked for long enough, individuals come to be regarded as resources at the state's disposal, rather than the reason that the state exists. Slaughter by the thousands in an effort to preserve the social order is never far behind.
In the United States, our government was basically designed to do one thing: protect the life, liberty and property of the governed. This is all a government should do.
The government shouldn't make any laws that act upon society, for better or worse. In fact, the government should completely turn its back on society. Sound ridiculous? Let me explain. Think of injustice as something that confronts society. The laws that the legislators create should be directed only at injustice. Our laws should be a shield that faces outward toward the attacking injustice with no concern for what the society is doing behind that shield. Of course this will affect society by keeping it safe, but that should be the extent of government's actions upon it. Stated another way, the government should never make laws that act upon life, liberty or property. It should only make laws that prevent the taking of life, liberty and property. Income and Capital Gains taxes are examples of laws that take away property and should be abolished. Laws against certain drugs or weapons take away liberty and sometimes life and should be abolished. We establish governments to prevent that sort of thing, not to carry it out. Equally offensive are laws that place government in the role of a giver of property, but more on that in a minute.
A proper government should also institute the rule of law. This means that people can only be controlled by laws and not by other people (whether it be a dictator, a legislature, or a majority of voters). Specifically, the following should be true:
- The law should be stable. It is difficult to know whether or not you are in violation of a law when there are thousands of them that are frequently changing.
- The laws must apply to all people, including those that write and enforce them. Laws should not discriminate for or against certain people. For example, laws that apply based on a person's race, income, sex, height, etc. are bad laws (even if they are intended to "help" the group in question).
- The law should not punish people who have not infringed on anyone else's rights. There is no reason to punish a person for smoking weed in their living room. What are we punishing them for, exactly?
- The law must be known in advance. You can't be punished for doing something that was perfectly legal when you did it, even if it is now prohibited.
One other thing I'd like for you to keep in mind whenever you think about laws is the force behind them. What happens if you don't go along with the government's laws? Well, it's admittedly not the first reaction in most cases, but eventually, men with guns will come to your house/business to either take you away, confiscate your property, or shoot you… unless you comply with regulation X. This can be a good thing in the case of a rapist, for example. But do you think a person deserves to be held at gunpoint in their home for something like planning their own retirement (by refusing to pay "Social Security Taxes" and investing the money in something else)?
Finally, whenever the government proposes that they should do something (like new programs, new agencies, spending in a particular commercial sector, etc.), always ask these basic questions:
- Is this authorized by the Constitution?
- Do we really need this so badly? If so, why has no one been willing to pay for it thus far?
- Will this provide an equal service to all citizens or will it simply take what belongs to one citizen and give it to another?
- Is the government doing a good job with other existing programs?
- Does it make sense for a person who disagrees with this action be surrounded by men with guns?
These government functions that we supposedly can't live without are proposed daily. In 98% of the cases, any one of the above questions will be a deal breaker.
"Indeed, the moment a Leftist begins to imply that humans can be their own redeemers, and that the perfectibility of human institutions and of the human race is possible, it must be recognized that another re-enactment of Pol Pot's killing fields is in its starting stages." — Jamie Glazov
I am ideologically opposed to several groups. The list includes liberals, communists, socialists, greens, democrats (and most republicans), left-wingers, progressives and anyone else who holds the two assumptions that will be enumerated shortly. For simplicity, from this point on I will refer to them simply as "liberals" with the understanding that the term does not apply exactly to all of those mentioned. Actually, my friends and I refer to them as "poo stuffers" because they are constantly trying to poke us in the ass (figuratively) with taxes and regulations, so I hope the use of the term "liberals" will be seen as a nice compromise. The reason I lump these groups together is that, although they may differ, their world view and the resulting actions all seem to spring from two basic assumptions:
- People and/or society can be perfected.
- The power of Government is the best tool to achieve that perfection.
I happen to think that both of these assumptions are false and that the liberal world view, being rooted in such stupidity, is completely twisted. If you're prone to starry-eyed optimism and practiced in the art of denial (as many liberals are), I can see how you would accept the first assumption. But, however desperately you wish to cling to the first, you must realize that the second assumption is nothing short of frickin' retarded.
It is also very important to discuss what liberals think of as "perfect". In the pot o' gold at the end of the liberals' rainbow, everyone enjoys the freedom to live, learn, experience, and die as they wish, while at the same time, no one is responsible for the basic necessities of survival. If you are unable to provide these things for yourself, they will be provided just the same. It's a classic case of humanity's undying desire to have freedom without responsibility. Trust me, it's been tried — over and over again — with disastrous consequences.
According to TurnLeft.com, being liberal "signifies an openness to change and respect for individual liberties within a societal framework in which all have equal opportunity". The first time I read that, I thought, "Well, according to that definition, I'm a liberal". They phrase it in such a way that only a real ass would disagree, but I'm going to translate it for you. Let me state here that I have not spoken with the author of that particular definition, so my interpretation of it will be based on the words and actions of liberals in general. First, we have a great example of how people can use the same term to mean very different things - "equal opportunity" in this case. The proper meaning of equal opportunity is that there are no legal barriers to opportunity, no matter who you are. In other words, no one faces the threat of violence or imprisonment for providing or following a legitimate opportunity. In the mind of a liberal, though, "equal opportunity" means "equal quality of life, no matter what you've done to earn it". That bothers me.
The other problem I have with liberalism as defined by TurnLeft.com is a bit more subtle. They mention "individual liberties" but "within a societal framework". To a liberal, the societal framework is placed before the freedom of the individual, and freedom can be set aside if it interferes with the goals of the all-knowing law makers. Specifically, they are referring to a societal framework in which all have equal quality of life. As long as people have unequal goals and unequal abilities, such a framework necessitates the use of force to equal out the end results and cannot coexist with liberty. Their use of the word "respect" supports my interpretation. Individual liberties should not be respected. They should be forcefully defended and inalienable. "Respect" implies that "we like your freedom and we will keep it in mind when we create laws, but we're not making any promises". Lucky for us, our founders did make promises in the Bill of Rights and our freedom technically can't be taken. Though in reality, liberals have gotten around this by simply pretending the 9th and 10th amendments don't exist and the first 8 amendments only apply when they need them for something.
All of this ranting is further supported by the fact that TurnLeft.com's definition refers you to Rawls' Theory of Justice, which states: "All social primary goods — liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect — are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any or all of these goods is to the advantage of the least favored." Equal distribution of liberty and opportunity and wealth all at the same time? That could work… in a universe where 3 + 2 = 18. And just who should control this distribution of "social primary goods"? The government, of course. According to the left, all of these things should rightly go to the state to be "distributed" as they see fit because they know everything. After all, it has been proven time and time again that people with government power never act in their own self-interest and care only for the people. (For the sarcasm impaired, that was a joke.) They seem to think that all wealth just falls out of the sky, and if you end up with more than your neighbor, it can only be because you have done something wrong. (This serves as a convenient rationalization when it comes time to take a person's property by force.) In a free society, wealth is not "distributed" or "spread around", as they often say. It is earned. This "Theory of Justice" does not respect the inherent rights of individuals. It does not respect the ability of individuals to secure their own wealth. It does not require individuals to take responsibility for themselves (which is the only legitimate "base of self-respect" I know of). I can only conclude that it was formulated in the absence of knowledge from the corporeal world.
I feel the need to address one more common theme found in liberal arguments that never fails to get me riled. Liberals, for whatever reason, are incapable of making a distinction between not helping a person and harming a person. If you expect a person to take responsibility for his or her actions and well being, you are "oppressing" that person. For example, if you say you want to eliminate Welfare, a liberal will argue against it on the grounds that this would push people into poverty. If you want to eliminate food stamps, a liberal will say that such an action will force people to go hungry. If you want to eliminate farm subsidies, a liberal will say that this will put farmers out of business. "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Don't give him a fish and you're a greedy jerk for ‘taking' his food." I don't know if I even need to bother explaining why this is so illogical, because it's obvious, but here's an analogy. Let's say you are walking through the woods and you come upon a field. At the other end of this field is a rock. If you do not walk across the field, pick up the rock, walk back to where you started and hold the rock in your hand, a liberal will accuse you of throwing the poor rock to the other end of the field. This reasoning is asinine. The rock is on the other side of the field because you didn't go get it, not because you threw it there. People are poor because they can't or won't earn money, not because we haven't given them any. Farms go out of business because they are not providing anything of value, not because we didn't give them subsidies. In fact, I would define business as "producing something of value in exchange for compensation". A farm that produces close to nothing and relies on subsidies is not "in business" to begin with.
Honestly, most liberals probably have their hearts in the right place. They sincerely want to make the world a better place, but unfortunately, they always choose to advocate a policy based on its intentions, and seem ignorant or unconcerned with the results. They're playing a concert they can't hear to an audience that can't leave. They don't seem to understand that improvements can't be made by using force to manage people's lives. If a person isn't willing to take the necessary action to improve his own life, why should his life be improved through the efforts of others? If you put a gun to someone's head and force them to do the "right thing", have you really made them into a better person?
"Among the many other questions raised by the nebulous concept of ‘greed' is why it is a term applied almost exclusively to those who want to earn more money or keep what they have already earned – never to those wanting to take other people's money in taxes or to those wishing to live on the largess dispensed from such taxation." — Thomas Sowell
One of the liberals' favorite criticisms of their opponents is that they are greedy. Corporations are greedy. The wealthy are greedy. People who want their taxes lowered are greedy.
Liberals who want to save the world from greedy capitalists seem to be missing two key pieces of information:
- Greed is here to stay. No amount of government tinkering in our lives will get rid of it.
- Capitalism is the only economic system that takes the worst of human nature — greed — and puts it to work for the greater good.
Greed is irrelevant in a capitalist society. How so? Let's say that a woman in business truly is greedy. How does she satisfy her greed (using only legitimate means) in a capitalist society? She comes up with a product or a service that other people will want to pay for. If this product or service becomes popular, the woman will very likely become wealthy. Keep in mind though, no matter how much money she or her company ends up with, every single penny will be one that a customer willingly handed over in exchange for something of value*. Her greedy appetites are being fed and she is providing something of value to tens, thousands, or even millions of people and no one is being forced to do anything. You say she's greedy? I say "So, what?"
* I recognize that many companies successfully lobby our legislators for unfair advantages to increase their wealth. This practice is unacceptable and I will address it in another section.
Now, let's talk about tax cuts. When tax cuts are proposed, the liberals go nuts over the fact that the wealthy will get a bigger cut. They label a wealthy person's desire for a huge tax cut as "greed". Some taxation is necessary, but realize that all taxation is the taking of property that someone has already acquired. Got it? OK, let's continue… Greed is what motivates people to go out and get property in the first place. A tax cut will mean that less of the property you have earned is taken from you. The desire to keep property that has already been acquired cannot be called greed. In fact, it requires no action, or desire for that matter, on the part of the owner to continue owning something. It is the natural state of things in a free society that recognizes inalienable property rights. What makes the left even more absurd is that while they demonize the wealthy for wanting to keep their own money to spend as they see fit, liberals simultaneously regard themselves as the most noble creatures in the land for wanting to forcibly confiscate the exact same money and spend it as they see fit. Unbelievable.
The fact is that private citizens who are motivated by nothing but their own self-interest have done more to benefit society than any of the government actions perpetrated by liberals with "good intentions". Greed is only one of seven deadly sins. Liberals are quite good at making baseless accusations of greed while overlooking their own painfully apparent deadly sin: Envy.
"Private groups can effectively speak to the whole person, addressing spiritual needs and behavioral problems, for instance, and insisting on personal reform. Government, through initiatives such as workfare, can offer only a pale imitation of such private efforts." — Paul Bandow
One of my favorite quotes from myself is, "The Constitution does not have a heart". What I mean is that the Federal Government has absolutely no obligation to provide it's people with food, shelter, employment, education, entertainment, etc. In fact, the Constitution forbids the Government from providing those things, and it damn well should. Why? Because, the Government does not exist to provide life, liberty or property. It only exists to protect that which we already have.
Realize that the Government has no resources of its own. Everything it has, it must get from the people. Never forget that. So, the only way it can provide resources to one person is to take those resources from another person. The only way it can artificially create an advantage for one person is to create a disadvantage for another person. Taking something that belongs to a person, even "for a good cause", is in direct opposition to the Government's mandate to protect property. Putting a person at a disadvantage, even if it will help someone else, is in direct opposition to the Government's mandate to protect liberty.
Isn't it our duty to help each other? Isn't it wrong to knowingly let a man starve? Those are questions that you, as a free individual, must decide for yourself, and your decision must not be forced upon other free individuals. Having your wealthy neighbor feed a starving family by putting a gun to his head is a rather perverted notion of charity, is it not? Having the Government wield the gun on your behalf does not make it any better. Compulsory compassion is an oxymoron.
The Government should not help people in need, nor should it care if they get help elsewhere. It should only protect an environment in which we are free to help each other willingly. That may sound cold, but when the alternatives are stated more plainly, I think you'll agree with me. Assuming that people with the means don't voluntarily do enough to help the helpless, we have two options: we can either take money by force from those with means, or we can leave the helpless as they are. Either way, someone will suffer. Is it better for pain to be caused by circumstances, or by the intentional actions of others (via the government)? Now, right on cue, you're thinking: "You can't compare the suffering that someone feels from being homeless to the suffering that someone feels from having 40% of their paycheck stolen." To which I respond: "Bingo." There is absolutely no way to objectively measure suffering and so there is absolutely no way to compare the suffering of different people in different situations. When harm is inevitable due to conflicting desires (either A remains poor, or B becomes the victim of a theft), a free society uses property rights to determine where the harm will fall. In this case, the person that earned the money has a right to decide what to do with it, so they may decide to help homeless people or they may decide to keep it.
We also need to consider human nature here. If you don't really need help, but you're lazy and don't feel like earning a living, are you more likely to freeload off of people you know and see all the time, or off of a faceless, distant bureaucracy that doesn't appear to be hurt by your actions? You'll probably opt to freeload off of the Government, if they're offering. In fact, far more people are willing to take advantage of the Government than they are their friends and neighbors, so once Congress starts handing out goodies, "people in need" start appearing out of nowhere. Now, consider it from the other side - the side of the person providing help or charity. If someone in your community convinces you that they are in a tough spot, you may decide to help them out. However, they will be accountable to you. You will be a witness to their lifestyle and their behavior and if you believe that they don't need your help after all and were just taking advantage of you, you can choose to stop helping them. On the other hand, if you live in New York and the Government takes your money before you even see it and gives it to a family in Chicago, you have no way of knowing whether they really need it or not, and no way of cutting them off if they don't.
Whenever people discuss welfare or other forms of income redistribution, those that favor such programs usually recognize that there are people who take advantage of the system and don't really need help. The proponents usually have a sincere desire to distinguish between those who need help and those who freeload, and to make sure help only goes to those who need it. There seems to be a willingness to help people if their bad situation is not their fault. It is almost impossible to recognize them when a large bureaucracy is in charge, but the the distinction is actually irrelevant when discussing Government benevolence, and I'll tell you why.
Let's say a woman claims that she needs financial help. Did she just get robbed and beaten and can no longer work? Or did she just spend $50 on lottery tickets and $10 on beer while her kid goes without shoes? How can we be sure that her situation is "not her fault"? We could have investigators check her out and put her under surveillance for a couple of months, but that's entirely unrealistic and very expensive if you do it for every person who asks for help. What about a Government agent spending the day with her? Still not realistic and probably not a reliable test of her need. What about a 20 minute interview? Maybe that will be enough time for us to tell if she's scamming the taxpayers, but probably not. Should we just give money to anyone who asks and not worry about why? Obviously not. So, maybe it's her fault, maybe its not, but guess what. Without spending a single second of our time or a single penny of our money, we can be 100% certain that it's not your fault, so there is absolutely no way for me to justify forcibly taking money from you and giving it to her. That's why government should stay out of the charity business.
Don't fall for the liberals' favorite false dichotomy: either we create a government program to address a problem or we "do nothing". The Constitution doesn't have a heart, but that doesn't mean we, as individuals, can't have one. I think we should help those in need, but if we do, it should be done privately, locally and — above all — willingly.
People on Welfare aren't the only ones getting a free ride. There are many businesses and industries that receive assistance from the Government. Examples are farming, steel, Amtrak and airlines. Assistance can come in the form of tariffs to restrict foreign competition, price supports, simple handouts and many others. The justification for doing this is always some form of the statement "This business/industry is vital to our Nation/economy". In each case, you can argue whether the business or industry is truly essential, but this is yet another irrelevant argument that people tend to get stuck on.
If a business is vital to people, then it is in absolutely no danger of going away. If people really want a product or service, they are going to pay for it. As long as people are willing to pay for it, someone will be there to provide it.
In actuality, the only way to determine if a business is truly vital is to see if it can survive without any form of coercion, including help from the Government. Once its necessity has been determined in this manner, it would be pretty stupid to coerce people into helping such a business. Something else to note: If the companies the Government helps are really the important ones (which is debatable), then they are helping the only ones that don't need it. Three cheers for government's superior wisdom!
A problem related to assisting "vital" businesses is that of campaign contributions. Many people get upset over the amount and the source of money given to politicians. The liberal solution is to add more and more regulations to the contribution process. Arguments arise over who can give and how much they can give and in what ways. This is more irrelevant arguing that misses the point. Ask yourself this: Why do people want to contribute such large sums to politicians in the first place? Because they want those politicians to create laws that will benefit them at someone else's expense. If our law makers honored their pledge to uphold the Constitution, such laws would never be made and money intended to influence policy would stop coming. The remaining contributions would be made for far more legitimate reasons. The problem is not the contributions. The problem is our lawmakers' disdain for the Constitution. They are not entirely to blame, though. It is our collective ignorance that allows them to get away with it.
Liberals are constantly whining about the wages paid to people in low-skill jobs. They have somehow gotten the idea that employers give people money not because the person is doing something for the employer, but because employees have value as human beings. To pay them a low wage is, therefore, an insult. For example, in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, Karl Marx complains that capitalists have "resolved personal worth into exchange value". What a load of crap. If you equate your self-worth with your salary, then you're an idiot. Incidentally, idiots are supposed to have low self-worth.
Employers are paying to have a certain task performed for their benefit. They don't care if this task is performed by a person, an animal, a machine, or a pile of poo with sparklers in it, just as long as it gets done. If a person needs a door held open, they may be able to pay three dollars per day for a fresh pile of poo and new sparklers, or they may be able to hire a human being for three dollars per day to do the same thing. That doesn't mean that the person has the same value as the pile of poo, it just means that the value of having the task performed is independent of how it gets done.
For a more mundane example, let's say I own a McDonald's restaurant. I am willing to pay two dollars per hour* to have french fries prepared. If Michael Jordan wants to take the job, he will get two dollars for every hour he spends making fries. If Joe Doublewide wants to take the job, he will get two dollars for every hour he spends making fries. In the real world, where Michael Jordan plays basketball, he gets a lot more money than Joe Doublewide, but not because he is worth more as a person. He gets more money because people are willing to pay more for the task he performs.
One last example that I can't pass up. When I took a basic Sociology class in college, the professor told us a story. He encountered a garbage collector in front of his house and remarked that he thinks garbage collectors are more important than brain surgeons. "Why is that?", said the garbage man. The professor responded, "Well, imagine New York City for six weeks without brain surgeons. Now, imagine New York City for six weeks without garbage men." My professor probably made the garbage collector's day, and that's nice, but he is wrong. What he is failing to realize is that if New York City went without garbage men for six weeks, the people would just get rid of the garbage themselves. Almost anyone can do it. I know of no one who can perform their own brain surgery, and very few people could pick up the skill over the weekend in order to help out their hemorrhaging buddies.
So, don't get your panties in a twist because you think you're the glue that holds the company together, yet they only give you six dollars per hour. Yes, you really are as important as Bill Gates in a cosmic sense. You just aren't doing anything for your fellow man that would justify giving you that much money. Who's fault is that?
"You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe." — John Adams
Note: This section depends entirely on the assumption that individual rights exist in the first place, which is discussed elsewhere if you're interested.
Liberals have some funny ideas about what people's rights are. Some of the more notable examples are rights to decent housing, education, food, a job, health care, or often a more general right to "the basic necessities of life". All of these and more can be found in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These are not rights at all. They would be more accurately described as things we want everyone to have (and by "we", I mean myself and all compassionate people. Not just liberals).
What are our legitimate fundamental rights? Far too numerous to list. This is why the 9th Amendment in the Bill of Rights says "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." So, how are we to know whether or not we have the right to do something? There are a few characteristics that true rights exhibit.
- Rights belong to all people simultaneously, whether there is one person or there are one billion people.
- The criteria for determining our rights do not change from time to time (based on technological progress), from place to place (based on type of government), or from individual to individual (based on need, ability, or group membership).
- The rights of one individual will not place an obligation on another, other than the obligation to respect those rights.
- Rights cannot be granted or taken away by another, whether it be a single individual or a powerful government. Governments have but two choices where rights are concerned: protect them or violate them.
- Rights cannot be violated by conditions, only by the actions of others.
- Rights exist independent of needs.
- Rights exist independent of abilities.
- The exercise of an individual's rights is constrained only by the abilities of the individual and the rights of other individuals.
Here's a question for your liberal friends: How can you have a fundamental human right to something if it didn't even exist until it was invented by humans? If we have a right to decent health care, then where was it 10,000 years ago? Are you saying that every person on the planet at that time was being denied that right? Of course not. Rights cannot be violated by the existence of some condition (such as "lack of health care"), only by the actions of others (such as "causing injury to health"). As a simple example, consider a man living on an island alone (where the actions of others are not a consideration). The man has the right to walk from place to place on the island, but if he were to break his leg, would anyone consider this a violation of his right to walk? No. In fact, there is no condition that could arise in this situation - not even the man's death - that could be construed as a violation of some right. And what if we apply one of the liberals' silly imaginary "rights" to this situation, like the right to health care? He broke his leg and needs to have it treated by a professional so uh… where is the professional? If he has a right to treatment, then it should be there whether he can provide it for himself or not, shouldn't it? Well, in the reality-impaired mind of a liberal, yes. In the real world, no, because there is no right to health care.
An individual's own abilities necessarily place constraints on his rights. This is not to say that individuals with fewer abilities have fewer rights, but there are fewer of those rights they are able to exercise. This is often unfortunate, but it is also a permanent reality. One trick that liberals employ is to present these constraints on certain rights as violations of those rights (or violations of a very similar, but fictional right). Let's take myself as an example. I have the right to go outside and fly around the moon a few times while I wait for my Eggos in the toaster, but since I'm not Superman, it's not going to happen. My right to fly around still exists, but I am not able to exercise it. For a more realistic example, consider a girl who is born without the ability to speak. Has her right to speech been denied? No. All of this may seem too obvious, so let me choose a more complicated example from the wacky world of the left. If you do not have the ability to pay for an education, your right to an education has not been taken away. First, you never had a right to receive an education, only the right to seek one. Second, this right is not being denied. Its exercise is merely being constrained by your own abilities.
All of the above examples of "rights" invented by liberals can be more generally described as "rights to stuff" (goods like housing and food, or services like education and health care). The rights that actually exist can usually be described as "rights to do" (perform some action like live, choose, defend, own). Since rights must belong to all people simultaneously and since no good or service can possibly belong to all people simultaneously, there is no way to claim "stuff" as a right. Here you might raise an eyebrow and say "Wouldn't property rights be considered ‘rights to stuff'?" There is an important distinction. The term "property rights" refers to keeping, controlling and disposing of property that one already possesses. Liberals are asserting that there is a right to receive goods and services that others possess. Housing, for example, must be paid for. If a person cannot pay for their own housing, but they are able to get some government to recognize a "right" to it, then other people are obligated to pay. Where such "rights" are enforced, the person in need of housing is seen to have a more legitimate claim on a person's paycheck than the one that earned it.
What liberals really want are guarantees to certain things. In an attempt to either convince themselves, fool the rest of us, or both, they refer to these sought-after guarantees as "rights". Since the government (suddenly, when it serves the liberal agenda) exists to protect our rights, these goods and services will be secured for everyone. This idea is gobbled up by the less productive among us because it means they will have less to worry about in life. While that isn't an excuse, it isn't all that surprising. What really bothers me are the "limousine liberals" who are able to meet all their own needs with ease, but advocate these public guarantees because they don't think us poor common people, without the benefit of their superior wisdom, will have the ability or desire to take care of ourselves properly. ("Properly" will, of course, be defined by the government.) The reason these guarantees cannot be considered rights is that every guarantee must have a guarantor. When you enforce made up rights, you necessarily violate the legitimate rights of someone else by forcing them to be the guarantor. If I can ever get a liberal to talk to me, I want to ask: "Does A have a right to eat, or does B have a right to keep what he earns? It can't be both, so which is it?"
When liberals seek to violate our rights, they usually say things like "no one needs that much money" or "no one needs a gun like that". They want us to believe this is relevant (and maybe they think it really is) because of the underlying assumption that if a majority of people believe you don't need something, it's OK to take it from you. But rights don't flow from any need, nor do they go away when a need passes. They sure as shit aren't based on society arbitrarily deciding for you what your needs are.
The Red Coats aren't marching over the hill any more? So, what? The right to arm and defend yourself didn't magically appear because "the Americans, like, totally fought the British this one time", nor has it gone away since.
Sally has 200 million dollars? OK. That's pretty much the end of the conversation as far as anyone other than Sally is concerned.
Our rights are immutable.
"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." — John Adams
Democracy is three wolves and a sheep deciding what's for dinner.
No one ever used the word "democracy" to describe the United States until sometime in the early twentieth century. Why do you think that is? The United States is not a democracy, but a Republic. We are ruled by laws, not people. According to the Constitution, the people of the United States have willingly allowed the Federal Government to have certain powers, but nowhere does it say that the people get to decide what those powers are. The Government's powers are specified in Article 1 Section 8 and they cannot be expanded without an amendment, no matter how popular an idea may be. The Government's only intended purpose was to protect the people's lives, liberty and property. The founders wished to not only protect us from foreign threats, but from liberty's most dangerous foe: our own government. They made it very clear that they wanted to bind the hands of politicians with "the chains of the Constitution" and protect us from the tyranny of the majority - a.k.a. Democracy.
It doesn't matter if you're being forced to serve the interests of an individual dictator, or the interests of the majority of people who went out and voted. Coercion is coercion. Oppression is oppression. Unlimited rule is unlimited rule. Most people would agree that we don't want those things, but in their mind, they attribute those characteristics to something like fascism, when they can be attributed just as easily to the exalted concept of democracy. Democracy is even more dangerous in a way because it fools people into thinking that the government has the moral authority to do whatever it wants.
Voting has it's value, to be sure, but don't think for one second that voting alone is a guarantee of liberty. A free society is not one where the people can vote. It's one where most of what they do can never be subject to a vote in the first place.
"The only equality consistent with freedom is equality before the law." — Walter E. Williams
"Equality before the law does not require that people be equal in fact. Being a human being is the only requirement." — Walter E. Williams
I talk about the liberal conception of "equal opportunity" elsewhere, but let me give you a good example of true equal opportunity. Michael Jordan and I have an equal opportunity to become basketball players in the NBA. Of course, we don't have equal skills and abilities and neither of us has a right to be in the NBA, so chances are very good that he will play and I will not. By the same token, an unintelligent, uneducated man and I have an equal opportunity to earn the money we need in order to buy our groceries. Of course, my chances of actually earning that money are far greater than his and neither of us has a right to someone else's food, so I will eat and he will not. The case of someone going hungry is far more serious than someone not being able to play basketball, and I am definitely opposed to apathy toward hungry people, but the point is, Michael Jordan, the uneducated man, and myself are all equal in the eyes of the law. None of us have the right to kill, steal, run red lights, be in the NBA or be happy. None of us have the right to three square meals a day, a place to live, a job, etc. But all of us are free to pursue these things. The outcome of those pursuits will be different for each person, but declaring those inequities in outcome to be a problem and then using the law to "fix" them is just stupid.
It is simply not possible to make everyone literally equal. Moreover, if you try to make people literally equal using the law, not only will you fail, but you will eliminate freedom.
The Constitution of the United States is pretty good, but not perfect. There are a few amendments that I think we need in order to make progress for the liberal agenda damn near impossible. Some of these have actually been proposed and some of them are original (as far as I know). For the most part, they wouldn't change the functionality of the Constitution at all, they would just solidify some things that are already fact and make them more difficult to weasel out of or overlook.
Every bill must be supported by two thirds of both Houses in order to become law.
Won't that make it difficult for Congress to get anything done? Yes. That's the point. Maybe we should take away their air conditioners too so they can only be in session for a couple months out of the year. The more stable the law is, the better off we will all be. Unconstitutional laws or laws that favor special interests will be more difficult to pass.
I don't know exactly how this would play out, but such an amendment should have quite an effect on our two party system. Passage of any law would most likely require the support of multiple parties, rather than reflect the agenda of the party with a temporary majority. It is conceivable that socialists could one day control two thirds of congress, but it would take much, much longer than getting control of 51%.
All legislation must cite the specific language in the Constitution that authorizes congress to take that action.
This may seem redundant, since they are supposed to obey the Constitution anyway, but Congress has made it very clear that either they do not believe the Constitution places any limits on their actions, or they don't care. The idea here is to force legislators to pause, and to prove the constitutionality of every law to themselves and to the people. This would certainly not allow the citing of vague phrases from introductory paragraphs which don't grant any specific power, such as "general welfare" or "interstate commerce". Maybe that should be an amendment, too.
If a piece of legislation is found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, everyone who voted for it will be barred from voting on anything else for 1 year.
…or something like that. Obviously, with the amount of time it takes to get a challenge through the courts and the turnover in the legislature, this would not apply to individual politicians, but rather to the seats that they occupy in the House and Senate. Even if a small "rider" is unconstitutional, and you voted for the bill as a whole, you will be held responsible. You could probably kiss riders goodbye. Imagine how scared congress would be to ignore the Constitution in this situation. Imagine how pissed off their constituents would be if they had their voice silenced for an entire year by a greedy congressman. If the President that signed such a bill is still in office, something nasty should happen to him as well, but I'm not sure what. Impeachment is probably not out of the question, considering the oath every President takes to uphold the Constitution when he is sworn in. If that's too severe, maybe some kind of 3 month suspension of legislative duties where the Vice President would be responsible for signing bills into law.
The United States may not ask private organizations or individuals for the personal information of their customers or business associates without a warrant and probable cause.
Companies these days create large customer databases and track spending habits for various purposes. This may lead to some annoying marketing tactics, but no company can bust down your door and send in armed men to arrest you. The government can do this, so it should not be allowed to require that retailers, for example, turn over information on all their customers so the law can pass judgment on them. This amendment would also prevent the government from gathering information on private financial transactions from banks, etc.
One real example of something this amendment would prevent is Bill Clinton's "Know Your Customer" program. A program that requires banks to notify the government of certain transactions (anything above $10,000 I think), even when there is no suspicion of criminal activity. An example of something that hasn't happened, but very well could, is that the government could require grocery stores to disclose the items that people buy. For those that the government deems are not eating healthy enough, it could impose some sort of new diet on them. It sounds ridiculous, but our government increasingly becomes a babysitter with things like banning drugs, requiring seat-belts and helmets or forcing us to "save" for retirement.
A citizen that does not pay taxes or gets back more than he pays may not vote.
I'm sure you remember the slogan "No taxation without representation" from the American Revolutionary period. It seems that we have the opposite problem these days. People that don't contribute at all still have decision making power over those that do. Our new slogan should be "No representation without taxation".
If the rest of the Constitution is obeyed, this should never even be an issue. First of all, there would never be a situation where you get back more than you pay. Second, since we should only have consumption taxes, the government shouldn't know how much money anyone makes or how much anyone pays in taxes, so they wouldn't be able to figure out who this applied to. The purpose of this amendment is to prevent people who are living off of others from voting for a candidate that promises even more free goodies. I'd almost rather not have this amendment because I wouldn't want to admit that such a thing is even possible. Besides, if congress is willing to ignore the Constitution enough to get us into this situation, why wouldn't they ignore this amendment as well.
If it isn't obvious to you by this point, I'm a Libertarian. One of the common criticisms of the Libertarians' desired form of government is that it has never been implemented in any pure form. The closest thing being the United States of America, which has long since moved away from what it was supposed to be. By the way… communism, socialism and democracy have all been tried and they have all sucked, but liberals seem to overlook that. They say (and they are correct) that it's easy to compare a non-existent utopia to the real world and make it sound good. The thing is, we never said the world would be perfect. In fact, some Libertarian literature explicitly states that utopia will not result if they take power. War, disease, poverty and general suffering will always be with us. We as human beings, through the law or privately, should not even try to eliminate suffering. My only goal is to confine suffering to those people who choose it for themselves.
Do I think that poverty, homelessness and hunger would be reduced under a Libertarian style government? I do. Do I think people would be generally happier with their lives? I do. Do I think people would be wealthier across the board? I do. Am I wrong? Maybe. The problem is that critics of Libertarianism get caught up in trying to refute these purely ancillary statements. The goal of Libertarians is not happiness. Our goal is liberty (as you might have guessed from the name). This includes the freedom to fail, starve, ruin your life, etc. and that's exactly what some people are going to do. I suppose we make these "everyone will be happier" arguments because, contrary to accusations, we are caring people who truly want that to be the case. Perhaps it's also because we understand that liberals only respond to emotional arguments, not facts.
I love to argue with people about this stuff, but most of the people I run across can be separated into two categories: those that agree with me and those that are afraid to argue with me. Neither group is very much fun. Please send mail to if you have any comments… especially if you disagree with me on anything. Dumb ass.
If you're done with me, head over to the LP site and take the World's Smallest Political Quiz.
Special thanks to my wife and favorite economist, Christine, who inspires me to write things like this and provided a pant load of valuable input. Thanks also to Walter Williams who led me to Bastiat and provides numerous clever observations on liberty and the modern world.
This page was written in Markdown (which will probably make Gruber want to barf if he ever runs across it).