Free Markets, Free People

Michael Shermer

Libertarian Values: Can They Bridge The Red/Blue Gap?

Michael Shermer has a very interesting post over at the HuffPo, surprisingly. It’s entitled “The Case For Libertarianism”. His thesis is that there actually are agreements in moral principle between conservatives and liberals and those agreements should be exploited to put a system together that would be mostly satisfying to both sides. Read his explanation as to how he arrives at that conclusion – it’s interesting.

But the list below is what he concludes would do the job. Surprisingly, or actually unsurprisingly since I gave you the title of his piece, it’s libertarian at base. Here’s his ideas of the limited governmental functions that would, or should, if they actually believe in their avowed moral principles, satisfy both sides (and libertarians as well):

1. The rule of law.
2. Property rights.
3. Economic stability through a secure and trustworthy banking and monetary system.
4. A reliable infrastructure and the freedom to move about the country.
5. Freedom of speech and the press.
6. Freedom of association.
7. Mass education.
8. Protection of civil liberties.
9. A robust military for protection of our liberties from attacks by other states.
10. A potent police force for protection of our freedoms from attacks by other people within the state.
11. A viable legislative system for establishing fair and just laws.
12. An effective judicial system for the equitable enforcement of those fair and just laws.

For the most part, his list is ok, but, being a libertarian, I disagree with one of them outright and disagree with the wording of a couple of others.

The one I outright disagree with is “mass education”. No. Not under the auspices of government. We’ve seen how that works – it doesn’t. Let’s not continue something that is obviously beyond the government’s capability.


10 – A military robust enough for protection of our liberties ….

11 – A police force potent enough ….

As for the banking system – yes, the point is valid and yes, I know that we’re pretty much stuck with what we have right now because it is a global system, but, given the last few months, I’m not at all sure it is the system I want in the future because I’m not at all sure it is either stable or secure. But that’s a topic for another time.

Last, but not least, yes, I understand that many infrastructure projects become reality because the people see their benefit and empower the government to use the power of taxation to fund them. My problem, of course, is how easily that power gets abused. Yes, I’d like a “reliable infrastructure”. But I’d also want strict controls over the government entities in charge of that. Again a topic for another time.

Notice, given the list, that he’s not talking about a large government. In fact, he’s talking about a “night watchman” type. One that would be pretty much limited to preventing the use of force or fraud by bad actors.

As much as I’d love to believe his conclusion that this would satisfy both conservatives and liberals, the last 40 years have a tendency to disabuse me of that notion.