Tag Archives: Libertarianism

Providing generously for defense is FULLY CONSISTENT w/limited government

One of the most dear principles of the conservative ideology is that of “limited government” – namely, a federal government limited to its Constitutional powers. This is what “limited government” means, and this is what all conservatives want (or at least should aspire to).

Unfortunately, a number of libertarians are falsely claiming (and misleading many conservatives into thinking) that providing adequately and generously for a strong military is somehow inconsistent with the Limited Government principle and thus hypocritical and “doublethink.” They furthermore falsely claim that this “hypocrisy” and “inconsistence” damages the GOP’s credibility in the eyes of the public, especially independents and moderates, and that only agreeing to deep defense cuts will restore that supposedly lost credibility and win the GOP new votes.

At annual CPACs, the straw poll is rigged against defense conservatives and against a strong defense by adding negative (and utterly false) “Big Government” connotations to the pro-defense option while not adding any negative connotations to socially- and fiscally-conservative options.

But this is all rubbish. Read on, and I’ll prove why. We will first deal with the question of whether generous defense investments are inconsistent with the Limited Government Principle, and then we’ll deal with the political aspect – whether Republicans’ traditional pro-defense policy somehow damages the GOP’s credibility.

Defense and the Constitution

The “Limited Government Principle” means, very simply, a government limited to the powers and functions assigned to it by the US Constitution (otherwise, a huge unclarity would result: government limited to what? a fixed percent of GDP? SCOTUS rulings?).

The most authoritative source of information on the Constitution’s genuine meaning is the collection of 85 essays known as “The Federalist Papers” and written by the men who wrote the Constitution – most notably Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, although John Jay also contributed 5 essays.

What does the Constitution say about defense issues? Only by that measure can we determine whether providing generously for a strong defense is inconsistent with the Limited Government Principle or not.

The Constitution lists (“enumerates”) all of the federal government’s powers. Powers not listed to the Constitution are off-limits to the federal government. The vast majority of the enumerated powers are listed in the first three articles of the Constitution, which listed the original powers of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches, respectively. Later Amendments gave Congress additional powers to enforce civil and voting rights and (alas) a federal income tax.

The vast majority of the Congress’ powers, however, are listed in Art. I, Sec. 8 of the Constitution. A full 50% (9 out of 18) of the powers enumerated therein deal with military matters. Specifically, as the Constitution itself says, they are the powers to:

“provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States (…);

[…]

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;”

That half of all enumerated powers of Congress listed in Art. I of the Constitution deal with just one area of governance – that of providing for national defense – proves how important it was to the Founding Fathers (as we will also see from their statements below).

But the evidence doesn’t stop there. Art. IV, Sec. 4 of the Constitution makes providing generously for America’s defense OBLIGATORY, not optional. It says:

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”

And the Preamble to the Constitution makes it clear that one of the chief reasons why the Constitution was adopted, and the federal government created, in the first place, was to “provide for the common defense”. It says:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

“To form a more perfect union”, “establish justice”, “promote general welfare”, and “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” were generalisms – general wishes that the country would generally be better off if the Constitution were ratified.

Providing for the common defense, however, had and has a specific meaning: it meant, and still means, providing for a strong military capable of protecting America against any and all threats.

And – as the Founders would surely agree if they were alive today – protecting each state against “invasion” means more than just protecting them against physical ground invasion by foreigners (e.g. illegal immigrants). It means protecting against any physical threat to the homeland and its inhabitants. Today, these threats include EMP, nuclear, chemical, biological, ballistic and cruise missile, and bomber attacks.

Russia has 251 strategic bombers (Tu-95s, Tu-160s, and Tu-22Ms) capable of flying to the CONUS and delivering their nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and nuclear freefall bombs to US soil. This is not a bygone threat: Russia has, in recent years, repeatedly flown its bombers near and into US airspace, as well as around Guam, probing US air defenses and “practicing attacking the enemy”, as the Russians themselves have explained. Their submarines have, meanwhile, been prowling the Mexican Gulf and the Atlantic Coast, spying on Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.

Russia, China, and North Korea also have ICBMs and (except North Korea) SLBMs capable of carrying thousands of warheads to the US. Russia’s ICBM fleet alone can carry 1,684 warheads to the CONUS. Those are just a few examples of direct military threats to the homeland. And if the Founding Fathers were alive today, they would DEMAND that Congress provide for an adequate defense against these.

Nor is protecting America’s treaty allies unconstitutional or a violation of the Limited Government Principle: it is done by treaty agreement, and treaties (on subjects on which Congress may legislate, such as foreign and defense policy) ratified by Presidents with Senate consent are the Law of the Land, second only to the Constitution. Thus, defending allies with whom the US has a treaty – such as America’s stalwart allies Japan and South Korea – is also FULLY CONSISTENT with the Constitution and thus with the Limited Government Principle. (It is also sound foreign policy, as I prove here.)

What the Founding Fathers said

Today, libertarians falsely paint the Founding Fathers as universally isolationist and opposed to standing armies. The truth, however, is that they were far from being unanimous on these issues. But if there was an issue on which they were close to unanimity, it was that the US MUST provide generously for its own defense, even if it were to adopt a position of armed neutrality.

George Washington said to the Congress in his very first State of the Union address: “Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. (…) To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of keeping the peace.” In his last SOTU address, he urged the Congress to remember about the need to provide for the common defense and to establish a military academy.

The second President, John Adams, said, “National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman.”

The fourth President, and father of the US Constitution, James Madison, asked in 1788 in one of the Federalist Papers:

“How could a readiness for war in times of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?”

And Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist #24 why a standing army was needed to protect America even in the 1780s, in seemingly peaceful times:

“Though a wide ocean separates the United States from Europe, yet there are various considerations that warn us against an excess of confidence or security. On one side of us, and stretching far into our rear, are growing settlements subject to the dominion of Britain. On the other side, and extending to meet the British settlements, are colonies and establishments subject to the dominion of Spain. This situation and the vicinity of the West India Islands, belonging to these two powers create between them, in respect to their American possessions and in relation to us, a common interest. The savage tribes on our Western frontier ought to be regarded as our natural enemies, their natural allies, because they have most to fear from us, and most to hope from them. The improvements in the art of navigation have, as to the facility of communication, rendered distant nations, in a great measure, neighbors. Britain and Spain are among the principal maritime powers of Europe. A future concert of views between these nations ought not to be regarded as improbable. The increasing remoteness of consanguinity is every day diminishing the force of the family compact between France and Spain. And politicians have ever with great reason considered the ties of blood as feeble and precarious links of political connection. These circumstances combined, admonish us not to be too sanguine in considering ourselves as entirely out of the reach of danger.”

Indeed, the Federalists, including Hamilton, supported the creation of a large, well-armed standing army.

And the Navy?

While some Founders, like Elbridge Gerry, were uneasy about a standing ground army, no Founder objected to building a strong navy – they all supported that goal. A few quotes will suffice:

It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.
We ought to begin a naval power, if we mean to carry on our commerce.
See? The Founders believed that without a “decisive naval force” we can do “nothing definitive” nor anything “honorable and glorious” – like protecting American merchant ships, for example. The dependence of America’s economy on overseas trade, and thus the importance of having a strong Navy to protect the US merchant fleet, was also recognized by Thomas Jefferson, who was the first US president to intervene abroad (in Tripoli, i.e. in today’s Libya), and he did so without even consulting the Congress, let alone asking it for authorization.
These were America’s first overseas victories. That’s why the Marines’ Hymn begins with the words “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli…” (emphasis mine).
The United States Navy was originally created because Barbary pirates were continually attacking American merchant ships, and the US no longer wanted to pay ransom.
The political aspect
We’re being told by libertarians that the GOP’s support for generous funding for defense (which support, in reality, has recently been lagging) somehow alienates many voters, especially indies and moderates, who, we are being told, would vote Republican if the GOP would endorse deep defense cuts and thus end its supposed “hypocrisy and doublethinking”.
But it’s a blatant lie. Firstly, according to many polls, a majority – and according to some polls, the vast majority – of Americans oppose deep or (according to some polls) ANY defense spending cuts. The only polls (and there are few of them) which purport to show the opposite results are those commissioned by organizations (such as the NPR) which advocate deep defense cuts (and thus, their polls are likely to be rigged).
mostamericansopposedefensecuts
Attached is a graph showing the results of the latest Pew Poll on the subject. It shows that 73% of Americans oppose any further defense spending cuts, including sequestration. How will adopting a policy that 73% of Americans oppose and only 24% of Americans support help the GOP win future elections?
It won’t – because those who support deep defense cuts are all liberals who will never vote Republican in any event. Endorsing deep defense cuts will not win Republicans a single new vote – but it will alienate millions of defense conservatives who will (rightly) feel betrayed.
Nobody in the US who currently doesn’t vote Republican will somehow start voting Republican if the GOP endorses deep defense cuts. But millions of conservative GOP voters will cease voting Republican.
Just as endorsing amnesty would cost the GOP millions of conservative votes without winning a single new Hispanic vote, so, too, endorsing deep defense cuts would cost the GOP millions of conservative votes without winning a single new vote from anyone.
Better, then, for the GOP to reaffirm its (currently wavering, shaky, and flagging) commitment to a strong defense – which is also a key and inextricable part of conservative philosophy – than to agree to the gutting of America’s defense in pursuit of a mirage called “liberals’ and libertarians’ votes”.
The people who support deep defense cuts will never vote Republican anyway.
America already has one pro-weak-defense party. It does not need a second one.

Why The GOP Shouldn’t Ignore Libertarians

libertarian logo

“If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism” – Ronald Reagan to Reason Magazine, July 1975

Both Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham made salient points this week by telling Republicans they needed to “shut down” if President Barack Obama is re-elected. The comments show a problem Republicans have had in convincing the Tea Party to support Mitt Romney.

It also shows the Republican Party has failed to listen to what has long been considered their conscience: libertarians.

What people have forgotten is the rise of the Tea Party wasn’t just a rebellion against the increased spending in late 2008, early 2009. The origins of the Tea Party can be traced all the way back to several of President George W. Bush’s decisions, including the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security and the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

This series of responses started shaking people, waking them up from their long slumber. They realized the U.S. was running into major problems, the government was expanding too quickly and things needed to be cut. The Tea Party rallies, and the candidates which followed, were proof people were starting to pay attention and getting active. Libertarians were starting to be heard.

But what’s happened since then?

Certainly, the libertarian caucus in US Senate has grown from South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint. It now includes Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson. Hopefully, reinforcements are coming with the possible election of Ted Cruz, Connie Mack IV, Richard Mourdock and Jeff Flake. But that’s only nine out of 100 senators.

The House looks no better, with Michigan Congressman Justin Amash replacing Ron Paul as probably the most libertarian member. South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy should also get praise for fighting for reigned in spending and cutting the government. Arizona Congressman Trent Franks has been considered libertarian at times, but that’s only three out of 435. Plenty of Republicans pay lip service to libertarian ideals (see: House Speaker John Boehner and, to a lesser extent, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan) but don’t follow through.

The fact is Republicans need to listen to libertarians, especially in terms of government growth and the budget. The party which claims to be for “limited government,” allowed massive expanses during the Bush Administration. The original stimulus package may have been avoided if Congress had waited.

To be fair, libertarians have to take blame as well. The rise of social conservatism may have been held back a bit if libertarians did a better job at pointing out why some social policies are best left to states. There’s a reason why the Libertarian Party is known more for wanting to end the War on Drugs, instead of reduced spending, smaller government and more freedom. Organization and activism have also been major problems the Libertarian Party has failed to solve. This could be the reason why there are libertarians considering a vote for Mitt Romney, instead of Gary Johnson.

Ultimately, it may not be in the best interests of libertarians to leave the GOP. It’s possible libertarians will have to suck it up and keep trying to convince party leaders, elected officials and local activists why they’re right. Certainly the Koch brothers believe this and Rand Paul as well. For this to work, conservatives will have to be willing to listen and both sides will have to reach a consensus. It does nothing for Republicans to simply brush off libertarian concerns as a fringe element, or “hobbits,” but to ultimately sit down, look at what’s being said and move forward. There really are libertarians out there who want Republicans to succeed.

The solutions may be slightly different, but it should be a lot easier for conservatives and libertarians to come to an agreement. Certainly a lot easier than conservatives and liberals.

But if Republicans lose in November, what then? Will the party start listening to libertarians or blame them for their own failure? If it’s the former, things may turn out okay. If it’s the latter…the Republican Party may be doomed.

 

Building A Bomb Shelter For The Race War

I touched on the subject of Ron Paul’s viciously bigoted newsletters in my last post. The revelation of these newsletters doesn’t just present problems for his presidential campaign, though; it presents a problem for many of us as well.

The danger for self-described libertarians- particularly those of us who are also registered Republicans- is that our message of individual liberty and limited government will be drowned out by Ron Paul’s bigotry. It was bad enough when Democrats cast us as “the lunatic fringe” in the 1990s; one couldn’t comment on the overreach of the federal government without a littany of “militia whacko” digs. Now Ron Paul may have given them- and many of our fellow Republicans- ammuntion to do it to us again.

The best thing we can do to preserve the message of individual liberty is to cut Ron Paul loose. Yes, he was one of the formative figures in modern libertarianism. But he’s a liability to our movement we simply can’t afford.

Instead, we have to relentlessly push our powerful message: That you, the individual, are a remarkable entity, capable of self-determination and self-reliance; that left to your own devices, you are capable of achieving whatever you want to achieve; that you have a broad array of rights which are as natural to you as the fingers on your hands; that you don’t need or want government to make decisions for you or care for you or provide you a false sense of safety; that government deprives you of opportunities by taxing and regulating you and your endeavors; that government interferes with your pursuit of happiness by devaluing your money, seizing your property, and diluting your rights; and that we have a sacred text called the United States Constitution, which- in its glorious correctness- recognizes these truths.

This positivity of this message is the reason for the current “libertarian moment”. If freedom is the natural condition of man, then how can anyone argue against this message? Nobody can, which is why we see counterarguments couched in “protection” and “fairness” rhetoric, or in ad hominem attacks accusing us of being drug addicts or conspiracy theorists. Ron Paul’s racism hasn’t helped our case.

And since Dr. Paul is currently running for President (and doing fairly well in the polls), one has to ask: If we don’t support Paul, who do we support? I asked this question in a previous post: Which candidate will make government as inconsequential in your life as possible? My answer hasn’t changed.

Libertarianism Today

Voltaire Portrait

Voltaire at 24

With the formation of the Tea Party, the emergence of Rep. Ron Paul in 3rd place in a number of presidential polls, and the prominence of such think tanks as Reason and Cato, libertarianism has been in the public eye recently. However, the philosophy was neglected for years; and its concepts still are unclear to many. Libertarianism isn’t a new thing, in fact it is quite old in origin. Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson were two of libertarianism’s influential fore-bearers, or as it they were called at the time, liberals (obviously the meaning of liberalism has changed since then). Another 18th Century classical liberal writer/philosopher Voltaire famously wrote, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” This is a thought provoking quote that could possibly offend some religious people, but libertarians have never been afraid of being called offensive. Voltaire became widely renown for his brilliance, wit, and snark; many traits that describe his modern intellectual counterparts.

Libertarian Definition JPG

Yes, libertarians often say things that are thought provoking and offensive to the core beliefs of many. Possibly more annoying, they usually speak with great confidence, even arrogance at times, about their convictions and are able to soundly defend their arguments from emotionally driven attacks. Some have complained that libertarians talk down to people in debates/discussions, and I’ve even had to stop myself while doing it. I do agree that many libertarian intellectuals act like the right’s counter to the limousine liberal elites; and with that in mind, it could be pointed out that such an attitude could easily be a turn off to some voters.

While I agree that the concern should be noted, there are reasons for this. Libertarians don’t try to win a popularity contest, nor would they ever consider voting for a “less of the evils” candidate based on electability If it was an option, libertarians would happily nominate a constitutional robot who was incapable of delivering presidential addresses or emotionally appealing to the population of the nation; who instead would spend his time repealing a hundred years worth of unconstitutional legislation. They understand that they spend their time “fighting the good fight”, stated differently, that a 3rd party doesn’t stand a chance in America so they fight a futile battle trying their best to impact the national debate and standing for what they believe in.

Libertarians have to explain the same things over and over again and this becomes tiresome. They don’t always know what their audience knows and doesn’t know, which can cause problems when explaining issues. They won’t waste time trying to appeal to people with platitudes and generalities, but instead, they will discuss in depth policy proposals and historical evidence. Libertarians in this regard are among the most well informed of people from any ideology. Libertarians can easily become disgruntled, having for years been taken advantage of by the republican party. Libertarians are often grouped in with the “conservative coalition”, yet they are perhaps the only group that never gets a bone thrown to them.

Libertarians are the Rodney Dangerfields of the republican party, they never get any respect. When Michele Bachmann was in Charleston for Congressman Tim Scott’s “First in the South” presidential candidates forum last month she described how a united republican/conservative coalition would put a filibuster proof majority in the senate. The coalition she described was: social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, national security conservatives, and libertarians. Maybe she has a point, maybe if we found candidates that fit those four descriptions, the republican party and the country would be in better shape. The problem? Social conservatives and so-called national security conservatives can easily clash with libertarians. The typical republican solution? Keep playing to the social conservative and “national security” conservatives and the libertarians will have to vote for us because they’ll have nowhere else to go.

As Jonah Goldberg wrote, “As you know, I consider Libertarians to be like Celtic barbarians deployed by British kings in the Middle Ages against the Scots or the French. They are extremely useful for fighting your enemies, but you would never want one to actually sit on the throne.” I like Jonah Goldberg, I think he is smart and witty, but I find his analogy to be both humorous as well as sad because I know there are a number of others who feel the same way. Obviously the problem with his comparison is that, unlike barbarians, the libertarian goal isn’t to rape and pillage, but instead to encourage the people to keep all of their stuff and live as they please (so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else). As Neal Boortz joked, “Have you heard about the vast libertarian conspiracy? They want to take over the government and then leave you the hell alone.”

Not since the early 1960s was there a time when it was possible for the government to spend less than the year before. Not that I think we had too little government in the 60s, but at least since then, libertarians have been an enslaved bunch. President after president, regardless of party, has stuck it to them. The past 11 years has been particularly hard on libertarians, as republican President Bush doubled the size of government, only to have democrat President Obama to double it again. The results have yielded less freedom and less economic prosperity.

Leaving SignWith the formation and growth of the tea party movement, libertarians see a glimpse of hope for the first time in likely their entire lives. The tea party runs candidates in the republican party who regularly fight the rest of the republican party. My hope, and the hope of other libertarians, is that the republican party with at the very least throw us a few bones every once in a while. Otherwise part of the politically active base that is relied upon for electoral support, despite not having anything to show for it, may one day return the neglect.