By Ken Matesz
I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a Town Hall Meeting sponsored by several Northwest Ohio patriot organizations today, January 30, 2010. I and many other candidates for seats ranging from the Ninth District congressional seat, to U.S Senate, to Attorney General of Ohio, and, of course, the seat of Governor of Ohio. Each candidate was given a strictly enforced five minutes to speak and an accompanying five minutes to take questions from the audience participants.
Nearly half of the candidate participants represented the Libertarian Party of Ohio. As both a speaker/candidate and a spectator, I found some of the questioning of Libertarian candidates fascinating. Many of the questions revealed the public’s misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Libertarian Party and what it means to be a Libertarian.
For example, one question asked of Joseph Jaffe, running for the Ninth District congressional seat currently held by Marcy Kaptur, implied that a Libertarian is weak on national defense. Later, I was asked if I was a social conservative or some type of libertine. Another questioner asked if I would veto a bill that I knew to be in conflict with the (State) Constitution. In general, additional questions all seemed to reveal a suspicion, by those asking, that Libertarians are weak on principle, the rule of law, and, again, defense.
Personally, I have been a Libertarian most of my adult life, so these suspicions seem out-of-place to me, but I can understand how people just learning about Libertarians may proceed cautiously. Like anyone entering uncharted territory, it makes sense to proceed with care to make sure that one won’t be blindsided.
I often wonder if the fact that the word “libertarian” sounds so much like “libertine” is what leads to misunderstanding. A libertine is someone (usually a male) with no scruples, who indulges in every manner of pleasure and immoral conduct – mainly in regard to sexual behavior. So a libertine would likely be considered unreliable, untrustworthy, and always suspect.
A Libertarian, however, is, in fact, nearly the 180 degree opposite of a libertine. The root word of both words is the word “liberty.” However, while a libertine wants to take liberties with everyone he meets, a real Libertarian meets everyone with respect and deference and does not want to interfere with the liberty of those he meets. More to the point, those of us who are members of the Libertarian Party are pleased that our party has adopted the slogan, “The Party of Principle.” The reader might then ask, “What principles does this party endorse?”
The preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America says that “We the People of the United States, in order to . . . Secure the Blessings of Liberty, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” This is the “Liberty” that is the root word of our Libertarian Party.
Daniel Webster, in his first dictionary of the English language, published in 1828, defines “[natural] liberty” as “the power of acting as one sees fit, without any restraint or control, except from the laws of nature.” He goes on to define civil liberty – the liberty of people within civilization – as natural liberty that is “only abridged and restrained, as is necessary and expedient for the safety and interest of the society, state, or nation. A restraint of natural liberty, not necessary or expedient for the public, is tyranny or oppression. Civil liberty is an exemption from the arbitrary will of others, which exemption is secured by established laws, which restrain man from injuring or controlling another.” [Emphasis added.]
In other words, Webster, who was a contemporary of the founding fathers, carefully defined civil liberty as the power of acting as one sees fit as long as no one injures or controls another human being. More succinctly, liberty is the power to live as one pleases as long as no one is being injured in the process.
Libertarians thus follow in the footsteps of our founding fathers in always supporting the right of all people to live their lives free of intrusion by both government and the will of other men. To the extent that a person agrees with the idea that our fellow men should not be forcefully controlled by other men, he is like a Libertarian. To the extent that a person would like to restrict what other people can do socially, even when they are not injuring anyone, that person is not a Libertarian and that person disagrees with the very men who wrote our Constitution. (In actual fact, a person who believes it is proper to control or restrict others is a tyrant himself.) To our founders, liberty, the power to live as one chooses, was the whole reason for the fight for independence and the establishment of the Constitution.
The rest of the Libertarian principles likewise flow from the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. Again, the preamble to the Constitution names “provid[ing] for the common defence,” as one of the six reasons listed for “ordain[ing] and establish[ing]” the Constitution. As the Party of Principle, we steadfastly hold that not only is national defense and security important, but that it is the primary function of government! Notice that the preamble declares the Constitution is meant to “secure the blessings of Liberty” and “provide for the common defence.” It is also to “insure domestic tranquility” and, as well, to “promote the general welfare.”
As you can see, the Constitution’s preamble actually lists four items of security (out of six total) as the principle purposes of the document. That is the proper role of government – to protect the people in their lives, liberty and property. If liberty is not protected, there exists tyranny. It’s that simple. Libertarians believe so strongly in the right and need for defense that they want government to concentrate only on its proper role. In fact, it is when government attempts to do anything outside the role of protection or the dictates of the Constitution that tyranny begins to grow.
Libertarians, because of these views of the proper role of government and the importance of the founders’ definition of liberty, have created the only political party that holds as its principles both limited government and maximum freedom. Neither Democrats nor Republicans hold this combination as a platform issue. Both Democrats and Republicans continue to grow government beyond the confines of the Constitution and the proper role of government and have done so for decades.
Libertarians want government out of the lives of Americans because we know, from the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the founders, and natural law, that government that does anything else is tyrannical. The only efficient government is a small government with little power. That is what a Libertarian wants. Less government means lower taxes and more freedom. It’s straight from the Constitution.