I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.
Recently my esteemed colleague, Will Anderson, wrote a piece for Athens Now in regards to the clashes libertarians and conservatives have over issues of a social nature. In order to be fair, both sides of the story must be represented in order to give those outside these circles an ability to properly see where many of us “kooky” libertarians come from.
As the root word inside libertarian is “liberty”; and libertarians, as a whole, exist outside the world of “right vs. left” mentality as we see both sides of the coin and strive to ensure liberty is preserved for everyone, regardless of our opinion or “moral” leanings. We often see that true liberty requires us to think outside of our ingrained religious and societal influences to challenge the thoughts and ideas of the status quo in order to preserve and instill liberty for future generations. We find it impossible for someone to say they are pro-liberty and in the same breath approve of actions that degrade, demean, and destroy the right to liberty for others for no other reason other than the mentality of “we are right, they are wrong”.
The topic discussed in the article he wrote made mention of a conversation he and I had after a our nightly show in regards to relative morality versus liberty. While we both agree that social issues have no place on the floor of Congress per the Tenth Amendment, but rather belong to the people of the state to decide what is allowed versus what is not allowed via their own state legislatures, we part ways when we reach the root of our stances. Conservatism, at its core, greatly conflicts with the root of libertarianism from a philosophical stand-point. Carrying on the topic of gay marriage, I will explain the thought process behind it from the libertarian side of things.
The litmus test that we who truly fight for liberty must always ask is simple. In the case of gay marriage (or any other social issue), we have to ask “How does gay marriage harm my person, life, and property?”. I’ve yet to find a solid argument where anyone has been able to show how an individual’s liberty is violated in some way because Frank and Steve want to celebrate their love and devotion to each other by partaking in the joys (or miseries, depending on your viewpoint) of marriage. A libertarian stance is generally pretty standard here, why should they be treated as second rate citizens based upon sexual orientation?
Now, I call into account a not so glimmering past of Alabama (and the rest of the South, in all fairness) of a time about 50 years ago, when the conservatives of the time preached from the pulpit that interracial marriage was immoral and detrimental to moral fiber of our country. People were often beaten and killed, or at the very least they were outcasts in society, for pursuing the ultimate liberty of all, the love of another. Since then, many think we’ve changed and realized the error of our ways; when, in the simplest terms, we exchanged the hatred of blacks for hatred of gays. Or in the least, we conditioned ourselves to accept that, like interracial marriage of the 60’s, homosexual marriage of today is as equally repugnant.
The conservative argument from a philosophical perspective on the issue at hand is one of relative morality and personal opinion, both typically consisting of an emotional response rather than a logical thought process supported any empirical data. By utilizing personal religious beliefs, many lead the charge against “harmful” social issues by urging state legislatures to take away liberties of the minority under the guise of conserving society. In doing this, the liberty of others are happily sacrificed on the altar of “the greater good” and accepted as a needed government intervention, as they have no impact on the life and liberty of the conservative. Libertarians tend to take one step back and look at the big picture, putting personal opinion and beliefs aside while asking “How does this harm my life, person, or property?” before jumping to conclusions. Often times, libertarians may seem wishy-washy in that they may have an opinion that contradicts their stance, like abortion. They are able to remove emotion or religious stigma from the equation and form a stance that is protecting the liberties of both the majority and the minority.
Much of the conservative opinions contain a level of “intellectual inconsistencies”, in that what many of those in the conservative camp say they stand for don’t match up to their positions. Conservatives will often lead the charge to provide military intervention against those who oppose “liberty” and “democracy”; however domestically we are slowly losing the former and never had the latter. Conservatives will often be the first to jump to proclaim religious freedom, but then when a religious competitor comes to town, they are usually the first to oppose it. Conservatives champion a “free-market” and the consumer’s right to choose, but oppose prostitution and abortion clinics. Many Conservatives wave the banner that every human life is precious, but condone violent actions against innocent civilians in far off lands as collateral damage in the name of “national security”. Conservatives rally around the Tea Party and push for smaller governmental involvement, yet are the first in line to lawmakers’ offices to legislate against social actions they feel are immoral in nature. Even on this topic, Conservatives say that gay marriage ruins the sanctity of marriage, but do you not think that heterosexuals have ruined marital sanctity far worse than homosexuals ever could? For this example, I use Newt Gingrich.
Libertarians happily accept that others have opinions and often they are different than our own. In a case such as this, one is perfectly allowed to have an opinion that is anti-homosexual in nature. However, to challenge one’s opinion, regardless of the position or stance, is not an act of closed-mindedness. Rather, it is the cornerstone of how ideas and revolutions take place. Closed-mindedness, however, is founded on a simple idea or opinion with no data or educated assessment of the topic at hand. What’s worse, defending one’s stance on an issue or topic with “It is wrong because some else told me it is wrong…” shows an immature level of intellectual “slothery” that many, from all sides of the spectrum, gladly attack. For the majority of libertarians, they attack to get the other person to think for themselves and formulate new ideas that they themselves create, not because it has been spoon fed to that person from childhood.
Libertarians tend to be just as opinionated as the other sides of the debate. Perhaps more militant than others, because we often believe that wars are fought and won in the mind, rather than with guns and physical violence. Libertarians aren’t pacifists, many of them just realize that ideas are the true ammunition of change and revolution. We challenge people, not only on a political front, but on a philosophical front; often times exploiting “intellectual inconsistency” in others to make them challenge their own opinions and reasons.
Regardless of your stance on homosexual marriage, or any other issue; in order to say you love liberty and want the virtues of liberty to be passed down to the next generation, all issues have to be looked at through the microscope of “How does this action cause physical harm to me, my life, and my property?”. One’s personal prejudices have to be put aside to ensure that everyone, not a select few, has the opportunity live a life full of liberty and that we have something worth passing down to future generations.