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It's a Gray Area: What is a functional Libertarian?

February 09, 2013|By Jim Gray

It's nice to be home again with the Daily Pilot. After my recent venture into national politics, I am looking forward to regaling you once again with weekly columns for at least the next year. During this time, the predominant theme will be to cite an issue that is troubling our country and show how a functional Libertarian would address and resolve it.

So what is a Libertarian? In a word, Libertarians believe in liberty — hence our name. But far from the idea that "anything goes," Libertarians know that inherent in liberty and freedom is the requirement that people and entities at all levels of society must be responsible for their actions. So in its essence, a Libertarian believes that with only a few specifically defined exceptions, adults should be able to live their lives as they choose, as long as in so doing, they do not harm other people.

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Although certainly no one speaks for all Libertarians, it is safe to say that most Libertarians genuinely believe there is a need for government to provide things like a military and police force to protect us from aggression from other countries and from each other, a judiciary to enforce our rights and contracts, and some regulations in the marketplace and the environment when market efficiencies are significantly lost due to the presence of factors such as free-rider problems, poor information and insufficiently defined property rights. So yes, Libertarians believe in government, but we believe in smaller, less intrusive and less costly government.

In deciding into what areas government should intercede, we should be mindful of the following two quotes. The first is from Henry Ford, who said, "Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the government take care of him better take a closer look at the American Indian." The second is from Thomas Sowell, who said, "Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it."

I acknowledge that taken to extremes, the Libertarian philosophy could mean that if some people were bleeding on the street, we actually would have no legal obligation to help them unless we were the cause of their injury. None. But I was a Peace Corps volunteer; I care about people — and so do most Libertarians and other Americans. So we will help people because we want to, but not because we legally have to.

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