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Is Libertarianism Extreme?

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Statists oftentimes accuse libertarians of holding extreme views. One reason for that is that since we have all been born and raised in a society based on welfare and warfare, the libertarian philosophy, which stands in opposition to socialism, interventionism, and imperialism, seems extreme to statists.

Consider, for example, the right to keep one’s own money and decide what to do with it. To a libertarian, that’s just as normal as, say, the right to decide what which books to read or the right to attend church or not. When a person earns his money by offering goods and services to others, the money belongs to him. Why shouldn’t he be free to keep it?

But to the statist, the notion that a person has a right to the fruits of his earnings is extreme. In his eyes, it’s perfectly normal that people’s income is subject to the superior authority of government to seize whatever percentage of the income it wants.

Consider charity. Libertarians believe that people should be free to decide whether or not to give their money away to charity. Statists, on the other hand, go ballistic over such a suggestion, saying that that’s extreme. Since modern-day Americans have been born and raised in a society based on the welfare state, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, they see any deviation from that notion as extreme.

Consider the warfare state, including the vast military-industrial complex, the CIA, the NSA, the empire of foreign military bases, the war on terrorism, the national-security state apparatus, torture, assassination, kangaroo military tribunals, or indefinite incarceration in military prisons or concentration camps.

Statists see nothing abnormal about any of that. That is their world, the world in which they were born and raised.

But to libertarians, it’s the exact opposite. Libertarians view all that militarism and imperialism as an aberrant way of life. To us, a normal society would be one based on a limited-government, constitutional republic, one without a vast permanent military and intelligence apparatus.

Consider paper money and the Federal Reserve System. For libertarians, it’s a no-brainer. Let the free market determine the best media of exchange, whether it be gold and silver coins or anything else. Moreover, ditch the Federal Reserve, which is nothing more than central planning, a form of monetary socialism.

Statists immediately recoil against such ideas, arguing that they’re just too extreme. Again, since they’ve been born and raised under a regime of paper money and a central bank, the notion that society would be better off without them is considered too extreme.

Consider public schooling, or more appropriately called government schooling, which includes government-licensed private schools. Libertarians say: Let’s totally separate school and state in the way our ancestors separated church and state. Let’s end all state involvement in education.

Statists go bonkers over that one, especially given that they are products of the public-school system, where, not so coincidentally, they were inculcated with the notion that statism is normal and that it actually constitutes “freedom.”

Consider drug laws. Libertarians ask: Why shouldn’t a person be free to ingest anything he wants, no matter how unhealthy or dangerous the substance might be?

That question shocks the statists. Having been brought up during the era of the drug war, the notion that society shouldn’t have any drug laws is, well, just so extreme. Of course, the government should have the authority to punish people for ingesting non-approved items, the statists say, for otherwise everyone would go on drugs.

Given that we’ve all been born and raised under a welfare-warfare state and, further, the fact that the public schools and government-approved schools indoctrinate children into believe that statism is normal and constitutes “freedom,” it’s not surprising that statists would look upon libertarianism as extreme.

But what if today’s American statists and today’s American libertarians were transported back in time to, say, 1885 America. That’s the era in which Americans lived without income taxation and the IRS, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, foreign aid, drug laws, torture, a welfare state, a warfare state, public schooling, a military-industrial complex, an empire of foreign military bases, drug laws, and public schooling.

Obviously, in that case the statist would be considered extreme by most everyone else, given the near universal rejection of statism by our American ancestors.

Or to make the point another way: If today’s American statists and today’s American libertarians were to be transported to, say, North Korea today, the North Koreans would join up with the American statists in labeling libertarians as extreme, given that that North Koreans have also been born and raised under statism and believe in in it as fervently as today’s American statists do.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.