What is a Libertarian by Richard D Ramsey

What is a Libertarian
Richard D Ramsey



     What is a libertarian? (Yes, I used a lower case l, we’ll get to that in a minute). I wish that were an easy question to answer. Some people would say that a libertarian is a member of the Libertarian Party. Well, maybe not as much as you’d like to think. A libertarian is as much a member of the Libertarian Party as someone who believes in making abortion illegal is a Republican. A libertarian is someone who believes in individual liberty and a lack of governmental regulation and oversight. One old mantra of such individuals is being socially liberal and fiscally conservative. The problem that we run into with these labels and definitions is that their meanings have changed over time and are still evolving to this day. What is conservative? What is liberal? I think these would actually be much more difficult to define than what is a libertarian. 

     Most of these terms are relative to history. What we call conservative today would be very liberal to Thomas Jefferson. Etymologically speaking, a conservative is one who only wants to maintain the status quo. They want things to be the same with no changes. So, when modern day politicians call themselves conservatives and reformers, the contradiction is clear. This is just one example of the way political labels are manipulated to achieve a desired result. The classical definition of liberalism is being open to new ideas. By this definition, Benjamin Franklin would be one of the biggest liberals in history! But, do you really think Mr. Franklin would be accepted by the modern group we refer to as the liberal party? Not very likely. 

     So, that brings us back to libertarianism. The etymology of the word libertarian is quite easy to see. The first part, liberty, is a no brainer. Liberty means being free from oppression or restrictions. It means being free to act or believe the way you want. Liberty is being a sovereign individual that answers only to himself or those he chooses to give dominion over himself to. For example, I am free to sing a song, write a book or run around in circles like a chicken with its head cut off if I want to. No one can tell me not to do these things. I give dominion over myself to God. I succumb to his will of my own volition. Now, some people might be offended by me saying this, they would argue that God does not need my permission to be my authority figure and they would be absolutely correct. God created me and I don’t have to grant him permission to do anything. But, there are quite a few people in this world who do not live by and respect God’s law. They live a completely hedonistic life style and are therefore not granting God dominion over themselves. 

     The other part of the word is a little more obscure. Arian (not to be confused with Aryan) is a suffix that indicates one who believes or advocates for something.

     Think vegetarian or disciplinarian. 

     So, we come to a loose definition of what a libertarian is. A libertarian is one who believes in or advocates for being free from oppression or restrictions. A libertarian is an individual who exercises sovereignty over one’s self and only ones self. He only extends his right to dominion to others with his express consent.

     Wow, that’s a mouthful.

     Are you a libertarian? 

     If you believe these things, then you probably are. If we apply a capital L to it, then that refers to a member of the Libertarian Party, of which you may or may not be a member. Full disclosure, I am a member of the Libertarian Party, but that’s not what this blog post is about. This blog post is about little l libertarians. Let’s take a look back through history and see if we can apply this label to some of the movers and shakers of the world.

     The first example of someone thinking like a libertarian was God Himself. Just check out First Samuel Chapter Eight. The people of Israel were pretty cool. They hung out and they prayed to God and they didn’t have a king to tell them that they had to buy health insurance or build a wall to keep illegal immigrants out. There were some bad dudes here and there, but that’s not really what we’re here to talk about. The Israelites asked Samuel to anoint a king. He knew it was a bad idea, but he prayed about it anyway. God was pretty upset, he was supposed to be the king, but the folks in Israel just weren’t satisfied with that. So, Samuel told them that God said it was a super bad idea. He said “This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to tear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive yards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the lord will not hear you in that day.”

     Pretty heavy stuff, huh? Think about our president now and if this applies to him? Well, anyway; the people either didn’t believe God or they didn’t care. Either way, they had Samuel anoint Saul as king and he sucked, as has almost every other ruler of man since then.

      The first libertarian himself, I believe, was Archbishop Stephen Langton. He was born around 1150 and became an Archbishop of Canterbury in 1207. This pissed King John off royal (pun definitely intended). You see, he wanted one of his own boys to have the job. The Pope and the Monks of Canterbury had a different idea. They placed Stephen in the position and Pope Innocent III excommunicated the King. King John was so angry; he placed exorbitant taxes and regulations on the church and the people. Well, the local barons and Stephen Langton were not too happy with this. They had a rebellion and forced the king to sign the Magna Carta, which was a throwback to the concept of natural rights that dominated England before the Norman invasion. This is a gross oversimplification of the story which is fascinating if you ever have time to read about it, but this is where the liberty movement was first born. As is all liberty: is was not simply granted, but fought for and won. Remember, liberties are only granted by the divine; they are only protected by man. That wasn’t the end of it, not by a long shot; the English fought over the Magna Carta and all of its derivative incarnations for many, many years. 

     The Magna Carta really established the church as a separate entity from the state. It established the right of due process. But, most importantly, it established the fact that a governing body gets its power from the consent of the governed.

     Consent that is given can be revoked.

     OK, so let’s move along to the Renaissance. The time period that we refer to as the Renaissance was a period where people basically said “okay, stop it. This is my house and if you don’t like it, then get the @&%! out!” There was a lot more to it than that, but we really need to move along. 

     I could write an entire book on the birth of America, but let’s just hit the high points. By 1763, the French and Indian War was pretty much over. King George III decided that the Colonials (i.e. Americans) should pay higher taxes due to these costly wars. The Americans didn’t like this idea. For starters, they had no representation in Parliament to fight these higher taxes. Needles to say, they were ticked off! In 1765, King George enacted the Stamp Tax, which was hugely unpopular. More money, less satisfaction. Naturally, people started to revolt. They began telling Mother England to kiss their butts! 

     Then, Parliament, in 1773, passed the Tea Act. This was a tax increase that they said was really not a tax increase. Kind of like Obamacare! Well, folks didn’t like this too much either, so they went and threw the tea into the ocean!

     Then that takes us to Virginia. A bunch of dudes, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson got together and heard a fabulous speaker named Patrick Henry say his famous quote. "It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" 

      That was awesome! Everybody got worked up! They fought King George with all they had.

     In 1776, five dudes got together. They were Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Robert Livingston. Together, they wrote the Declaration of Independence. The rest, as they say, is history. 

     It went downhill from there.

     A couple of guys do deserve honorable mention, though.

     Grover Cleveland not only opposed government subsidies, it was one of the things he was most well known for! This tightwad wouldn’t give money to farmers or businesses! The poor guy would turn over in his grave at the state of corporate welfare today. Then there was this one time when a bunch of railroad union guys went on strike. He sent the military in to deliver the mail! He bucked the union and made tons of government workers into scabs! And this guy was a Democrat!

     Calvin Coolidge was pretty cool, too. He actually refused to allow a phone to be placed in the White House with concerns that it was a waste of taxpayer money. That’s right, a phone! One quarter of the federal debt was retired during his term. Obama increased the debt more than any president in the history of the United States, combined! And W's TARP program? Sheesh! Roaring twenties ring a bell? Sound economic policies bring good economies. And this guy was a Republican! Do politicians even read history anymore? Please don’t answer that question.

     Barry Goldwater. Poor guy never got elected president, but his ideas ring strong and true today. He wanted to kick the UN out and privatize social security. He also pushed for legalization of marijuana and supported gays in the military. One of his more famous quotes was, "Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar.” Again, a Republican. He was even criticized by other Republicans for being a hard-ass against communism!


So, whether you agree with my assertions or not, I hope you had fun reading this article. Just don't be afraid to stand up to the status quo and question everything, even if it's everything you always thought you knew. Happy Independence Day from Firewalker Books. Read well!

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