Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Am I Really a Libertarian?

I have been questioned several times by other libertarians on Twitter as to whether I'm really a libertarian or not. My answer to this is a resounding, "I don't know. I think so." Without a doubt, my default position on a new subject starts with individual rights - freedom and liberty for the individual. After this initial position, issues can become more nuanced to me. This can lead me down a wishy-washy path of exceptions and sometimes hypocrisy.

I discuss politics with a libertarian co-worker of mine with some regularity. He finds that the libertarian fundamentals allows a neat bucketing of issues through a sieve of individual rights. If it passes this test, it's right. Otherwise, it's wrong. Outcome is not particularly relevant; right and wrong is. In discussions, I find it hard to disagree with the logic, even though the "right thing" may feel like it is somewhere else. What that means is that I end up trying to reconcile logic and feelings because they can be mutually exclusive. What feels right isn't necessarily what is correct. What's good in the short term may not be good in the long term. Conversely, what seems to make sense with respecting individual rights might end up infringing on the individual rights of millions of others.

For example, the 1964 Civil Rights Act seems like a slam dunk to most Americans. It was with the exception of one area: forcing desegregation on private businesses. Doing this did not respect the individual's right to run their business as they see fit. That's the theoretical answer though. The reality is that what was going on in the South was despicable. It was an affront to the individual rights of millions to have access to common things like restaurants, hotels, hospitals, etc. So, even though most of these were privately owned, and the government overstepped its legal bounds under our Constitution, I don't care. If someone says that makes me not a libertarian, maybe I'm not.

Gun restrictions are another example. I support the 2nd Amendment, but I don't think that it's untouchable. We've accepted limitations to other freedoms contained in the Constitution, but there should be absolutely no limitations on what kind of weaponry can be owned and who can own it? I have no problem with some common sense limitations - criminal background checks, waiting periods, no howitzers. Should the average citizen be able to have a weapon comparable to an individual soldier? I don't see why this should be limited, but I'm not going to make a mountain out of a mole hill for a reasonable argument.

At the end of the day, we don't live in theoretical world. Outcomes matter to me. Doing the right thing matters to me. Individual rights matter to me. Society matters to me. The conflict of these is where I end up off track to the purists, but I'm not sure I care. Like anything, placing a label on yourself gives the appearance that you've accepted all of that label's dogma. I don't accept the dogma if it doesn't work for me. The world is complicated. Government is complicated. Individual rights crossed with 300 million US citizens and 7 billion world citizens is complicated. Respect for individual rights is a key component on which to build a republic. It isn't the only factor. If that makes me unfit to wear the libertarian moniker, I can live with that.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Gay Marriage and the Chick-Fil-A Boycott

It's been about six months since the big Chick-Fil-A brouhaha regarding Dan Cathy's comments about gay marriage. I have boycotted businesses before, but only because they gave me bad service in some way. I'm a libertarian and a capitalist. I vote with my dollars.

After reading this article, however, I started my first boycott for something that doesn't directly affect me. The article's author is an acquaintance of mine from years ago, so I suppose that holds some sway. I have had a slew of friends over the years that are LGBT. That also has had an influence. I have four minor children. Who knows what life has in store for them? Clearly that would hit home directly.

At the end of the day though, none of the matters. I support gay marriage because it's right. If two consenting adults want to have their union recognized by the state and given equal protection under the law, who are we to say no? This is plain and simply a civil rights issue. History will not look back kindly on the bigotry being displayed in this country.

I am a straight, happily married, 40+, white male that lives in the South. I support gay marriage. I denounce groups like the FRC (Family Research Council) and people that support them. While I also denounce that politicians that tried to deny Dan Cathy his 1st Amendment rights, I, as a citizen, denounce Cathy and the company he represents, Chick-Fil-A for his stance on limiting the rights of fellow citizens. I will not spend my money there until they stop supporting such groups.