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I am a libertarian, not an anarchist.

By Scott Tibbs, February 21, 2008

On my "about the author" page, I state that my political philosophy is basically libertarian. I believe that, generally speaking, the government that governs least governs best. I am often criticized (usually by Leftists) for not being a "true" libertarian because of my positions on certain issues. I will address some of these issues here.

I do not oppose every single intervention of government into people's lives. That is closer to anarchism than libertarianism. I am not an anarchist. Anarchy is as destructive to liberty as totalitarianism, because there are no controls on the worst human impulses and because anarchism inevitably leads to totalitarianism. I believe government is necessary in order to provide certain services and a framework for justice. I believe that regulation of our lives by government should be kept to a minimum, with the general principle being that unless you're harming someone else, you should be left to do as you please.

Government needs to exist to provide for the common good in a way the free market cannot. Three of the primary functions of government are infrastructure, a court system and the military. We need roads, highways and other means to facilitate freedom of movement and economic prosperity. One can consider the Internet to be a kind of infrastructure, but it is moving data instead of physical objects. We need a civil court system to mediate disputes using the rule of law as well as a criminal justice system. The most important function of the federal government is to provide for national defense.

As I said above, a general principle of libertarianism is that you should be left to do as you please unless you are harming someone else. This is why we have laws against murder, theft, and rape, among other things, An abortion results in the death of an unborn child. Therefore, it harms someone else and should be criminalized. It is true that not everyone agrees where life begins, and not everyone agrees that the unborn are persons deserving of rights. You could have said the same thing 200 years ago regarding slavery.

My name has appeared on the ballot seven times now, and every time I have ran as a Republican. So given that I'm a philosophical libertarian, why don't I identify with the Libertarian Party? I identify with the Republican Party because I see the GOP as the most effective way to implement a libertarian agenda. There are many philosophical libertarians in the GOP, such as Paul Hager, John Hostettler and Ron Paul. The Republican Party's Contract with America in the 1994 mid-term elections echoed many libertarian principles, and one of the objectives of the first Republican Congress in 40 years was to devolve federal power to the states. I would argue that there are more philosophical libertarians in the Republican Party than there are in the Libertarian Party.

This is why I will vote for a conservative Republican in a three-way race for a legislative office even if the Libertarian candidate is a bit closer to my views. Which party controls the House is about principle: if Republicans are in control, then conservative legislation has a much better chance of passing. If Democrats are in control, then conservative legislation does not get a hearing while liberal legislation gets a fast track. Who controls the speakership and committee chairmanships matters a great deal. We have seen this in Indiana as House Democrat speaker Pat Bauer broke his promise to allow an up-or-down vote on a constitutional amendment to prevent government from recognizing homosexual marriages.

Holding a position that government should do something does not disqualify someone from being a philosophical libertarian, and neither does support for the Republican Party. Instead of blindly attacking someone's libertarian credentials for either of the above, one should rationally examine whether it fits within the framework of libertarianism. Furthermore, no one is perfectly consistent in their ideological views. Holding one or two positions that are inconsistent with libertarianism, conservatism or liberalism does not remove someone from the camp. The key, as in anything, is to consider the big picture and rely on logic rather than emotion.