About five years ago, I was a recovering liberal. My discovery and dedication to my religion was gradually leading me to a more conservative view of social issues, and a college economics course (combined with an open mind) was gradually leading me to a fascination with the power of voluntary exchange.
I was having a friendly discussion with a conservative friend of mine at work one day on the topic of health care. This had been a hot topic during the 2004 presidential election, and it’s only been hotter since. I mentioned to my friend that health care was one of those few industries and services that were too important to be left to the free market. I still supported a government-run program of some sort.
I credit my friend with sublime self-control as he fought the urge to mock me. Read more >>
Dear Conservative Friend,
I’m writing to apologize for laughing the other day when you called yourself a “libertarian-leaning conservative”. It’s just that I know you well enough to know that your political views are decidedly conservative. That’s why I asked you what you meant. You answered, “I’m libertarian in that I believe in free markets, in freedom of exchange.” Again, I must apologize for replying, “Yeah, and I’m outdoorsy in that I like getting drunk on patios.”
I decided to write this letter to you to clarify my amusement with your comment. At the time, my thoughts weren’t organized as you caught me quite off guard. But now, I’m fully prepared to explain to you why you actually do not believe in free markets.
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?”
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