As a Latter-day Saint, liberty is a means to an end. In order to achieve the goals I have for myself and my family, I must be able to choose. Liberty is a prerequisite.
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
– Benjamin Franklin
However, as a libertarian, liberty is not a means to an end, but the end itself. I believe that the only legitimate function of what we know as “government” is to maintain and protect individual liberty. This is what defines my political philosophy. In fact, I have found that every political philosophy can be defined by what it values more than liberty.
Take conservatism, for example. Living in Utah necessarily means interacting with a lot of conservatives, and I’ve noticed lately (with the rise in popularity of the liberty movement) that conservatives initially react very positively when I tell them I am a libertarian.
“Oh, really?” they respond enthusiastically. “I actually kinda consider myself a libertarian. I’ve read Atlas Shrugged and am a big believer in free markets. I think the government should just leave us all alone and let us run our own lives.”
“That’s great,” I reply. I then ask the only question you’ll ever need to know to flush out a fake libertarian. “So you are all for legalizing drugs, gambling and prostitution then?”
Their immediate, sometimes scornful reaction is evidence that there is something the conservative values more than freedom. In this case, it is “traditional values”. There are those who believe that forcing individuals to live morally clean lives is a proper function of government and more important than individual freedom.
You could alternatively ask this question: “Libertarian, eh? So you believe in free migration, giving fair trials to suspected terrorists and pulling our military out of all foreign wars of aggression?”
After they go off about how you must have “libertarian” confused with “liberal”, you will know that they value perceived safety more than they value liberty.
Free people are not equal economically, and economically equal people are not free. Freedom will generate differences in income, because we’re different one person to another.
– Lawrence Reed
What about liberals? What do they value more than liberty? I think this one’s a gimme: equality. Making everyone in “society” perfectly equal is the lofty goal of the liberal. What about progressives? That’s easy: the health and well being of everyone in “society”. How about Constitutionalists? Yes, there are those who assign more value to the Constitution itself than to the principle upon which it was founded, even when it undermines that principle.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with these things. Traditional values, safety, equality, health, well being and the Constitution are all good things. People have every right to value these things above everything else. So why do I, as a libertarian, believe that my stance is the right one? Why do I value liberty above all of these other good things?
The answer is simple: the libertarian way of doing things is the only one that allows others the freedom to value other things more.
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Utah Liberty Alliance seeks to bring about a free society through journalism and activism, starting right here at home.
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