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Should the Government Legislate Morality January 30, 2015

Posted by F. McCollum in Welcome!.
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Clint Eastwood described libertarians succinctly on the Ellen show, stating, “Libertarian means you’re socially liberal – leave everybody alone – but you believe in fiscal responsibility, and you believe in government staying out of your life.” This common ground is attractive to many Americans.

With many polls and elections reflecting historic low levels of disapproval of politicians ranging from local mayors all the way up to the President, many find themselves asking why they keep voting for one of the two largest political parties, especially as the two parties seem to overlap in critical areas many Americans disagree. Further, more and more Libertarian candidates are showing up on the polls each year in South Carolina. It’s time to give the Libertarian platform a closer look to see if it lines up with your political beliefs – you might be surprised.

If you were to travel back in time to the American Revolution, the leaders fighting for our country had libertarian ideals, contemporaneously labeled as the Classical Liberal movement. The preamble to the Libertarian Party Platform states in the first sentence, “we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others”. The last statement of the platform is quoted directly from the Declaration of Independence, stating, “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of individual liberty, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to agree to such new governance as to them shall seem most likely to protect their liberty.” Those are what some might call “fighting words”, and indeed they were in the late 18th century.

This brings us to a key difference between today’s Republican Party and the Libertarian Party. Libertarians believe that there should be no government regulated morality. On the other side of the spectrum, the Democratic Party supports keeping the government out of our bedrooms, so to speak, but wants more government regulated economy. The Libertarian Party believes the government should not interfere with the economy either. Put simply, libertarians believe the government should stay out of our wallets, bedrooms, and business. It is common to see this view turned against Libertarians with arguments highlighting unregulated industries abusing child labor or unfair treatment based on race or religion, but these are false analogies. The key tenet in libertarianism is the right of individuals to be secure in their life, liberty, and property. The individual has a right to dignity, to make choices, but it comes with obligation to take responsibility for one’s actions. Libertarians strongly believe in the rule of law where individuals are free to pursue their own lives so long as they respect the equal rights of others. The law should protect the freedom of individuals to pursue their own happiness, rather than restrict them from doing so.

If you look at our prison population today, it is chilling to see the vast number of young men and women who have lost their freedom and are supported in the prison system through tax payer dollars. In fact, while US citizens account for just 5% of the Globe’s total human population, our prison population represents 25% of the total prisoners across the entire planet. That is an astounding number, but it is even worse when you take into account the number of citizens who are on parole and probation. Clearly there is some problem for a statistic like that to exist. However, these are, by and large, not criminals who have hurt or killed other humans, or stolen and damaged another citizen’s property. Most are imprisoned using laws meant to govern the citizens’ morality. In fact, 86% of our federal prison population are imprisoned for crimes with no discernable victim, according to a 2012 FBI study; there was no one injured, nor any property damaged. According to the study, 51% of these are drug-related; in other words, they have no other charge other than a drug-related charge. It is undisputed that the Drug War of the last 4 decades is not working, yet we burn through more than $50 Billion tax dollars per year on it. To put that number in perspective, the FBI budget for FY 2014 was just $8.4 billion. The second largest cohort of the federal prison population are incarcerated for “Public-Order”, which is defined as a crime which involves acts that interfere with the operations of society and the ability of people to function efficiently. Public Order would include crimes such as the recently passed ordinance in Columbia making it illegal to feed the homeless, or operating a lemonade stand (or selling Girl Scout cookies) without a business license in Tega Cay, or a minor busted for playing a pinball machine in South Carolina (it is illegal to play pinball in our state if you are under 18 years old, I kid you not); each of these offenses can land you in prison in our area.

Clearly these laws sound preposterous, but they exist and are being used against citizens. The author personally was threatened with jail, a $500 a day fine, and a cease and desist order by the city of Tega Cay over a for sale sign that did not meet the size standards of a local ordinance. Needless to say, I removed the offending sign immediately upon being notified, but why does a law exist that would imprison a person over a sign? Each year, a bevy of new laws are signed in giving governmental bodies more and more control at the expense of individual liberty and freedom.

Government has a role – Libertarians are not anarchists– but similar to the founders of this country, the role should be limited in scope.

Our next meeting is on Monday February 16th at 7pm at Empire Pizza near Baxter Village. We’ll discuss the State Convention (coming to our area later this year), the Strawberry Festival where we will have a booth, and new officers and other opportunities to be involved with the local Libertarian Party members. We always enjoy seeing new faces, and would love to have you join us.

Frank McCollum, Chairman of the York County Libertarian

More info: www.yclp.org, or: www.sclp.org, or: www.lp.org,

Facebook: York County Libertarian Party (SC) – MeetUp: York County LP

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