Americans of all political persuasions want something from the government, including libertarians. But what libertarians want from the government is quite different from what liberals and conservatives want.
Liberals want much from government. To get an idea of just how much they want, just look at the new 2016 Democratic Party platform. Liberals, progressives, and socialists—all of whom always vote Democratic—want the government to:
- Raise workers’ wages
- Support working families
- Help more workers share in near-record corporate profits
- Expand access to affordable housing and homeownership
- Protect and expand Social Security
- Ensure a secure and dignified retirement
- Revitalize our nation’s Postal Service
- Build a 21st-century infrastructure
- Foster a manufacturing renaissance
- Create good-paying clean energy jobs
- Create jobs for America’s young people
- Make the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes
- Promote trade that is fair and benefits American workers
- End systemic racism
- Close the racial wealth gap
- Institute non-discrimination protections for all LGBT Americans
- Invest in rural America
- End poverty and invest in communities left behind
- Promote arts and culture
- Combat climate change
- Build a clean energy economy
- Secure environmental and climate justice
- Be a strong advocate for the rights and opportunities of women and girls around the world
- Support sexual and reproductive health and rights around the globe
- Prevent drilling in the Arctic
- Continue to have the strongest military in the world
- Defeat ISIS, al Qaeda, and their affiliates
- Provide development assistance to foreign countries
- Make debt-free college a reality
- Support historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions
- Guarantee universal preschool and good schools for every child
- Secure universal health care
- Support community health centers
- Reduce prescription drug costs
- Combat drug and alcohol addiction
Oh, and how could I forget, the government should protect a woman’s right to “safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured.”
There are a number of things that conservatives want from the government as well. It is a common misconception that conservatives favor limited government. The truth is, the only limited government that conservatives want is a government limited to one controlled by conservatives.
As usual, many things in the new Republican Party platform sound good and echo the conservative mantra of the Constitution, limited government, federalism, free enterprise, free trade, free markets, and individual freedom. Too bad that even the “conservative” Republicans neither believe nor follow the “good” parts of their party platform.
Not all is well with the Republican Party platform, however.
- Instead of cutting taxes, Republicans want the government to “simplify” the tax code and “eliminate loopholes.”
- Instead of real free trade, Republicans want the government to negotiate “better trade agreements.”
- Instead of ending federal involvement in the housing market, Republicans want the government to “scale back the federal role in the housing market,” institute “reforms,” and “review” federal regulations.
- Instead of abolishing the TSA, Republicans want the government to just abolish its union.
- Instead of ending government space travel and exploration, Republicans want the government to create more “public-private partnerships between NASA, the Department of Defense, and commercial companies.”
- Instead of eliminating occupational licensing, Republicans want the government to “reduce the occupational licensing laws.”
- Instead of eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood, Republicans want the government to just withhold funds so long as organizations like Planned Parenthood “provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare.”
- Instead of eliminating the SNAP (food stamp program), Republicans want the government to “separate the administration of SNAP from the Department of Agriculture.”
- Instead of cutting the federal budget, Republicans want the government to balance the budget.
- Instead of allowing businesses to hire whomever they choose, Republicans want the government to require them to use its E-verify program.
- Instead of eliminating federal regulations, Republicans want the government to enact “sensible” regulations and “cap the costs federal agencies could impose on the economy in any given year.”
- Instead of abolishing Social Security, Republicans want the government to “preserve and modernize” the Social Security program.
- Instead of abolishing Medicaid, Republicans want the government to “preserve the promise of Medicaid” by making the program “a vehicle for good health in an entirely new era.”
- Instead of abolishing Medicare, Republicans want the government to “save Medicare by modernizing it, empowering its participants, and putting it on a secure financial footing.”
- Instead of cutting the bloated budget of the strongest military on earth, Republicans want the government to “restore our nation’s military might” and rebuild the military “into the strongest on earth.”
- Instead of ending all foreign aid, Republicans want the government to provide “a new model of foreign assistance that helps ensure taxpayer dollars are spent on projects that are effective, results-driven, transparent, and accountable.”
What is remarkable about the Republican Party platform is what it doesn’t say about things that conservatives generally support—like the federal government’s war on drugs. And of course, one of the hallmarks of conservatives is that they want the government to incessantly meddle in the affairs of other countries, build military bases on every continent, police the world, and station troops all over the globe.
In contrast to the 55 pages of the Democratic Party platform and the 66 pages of the Republican Party platform, the platform of the Libertarian Party consists of just 7 pages. Here is what it says about the proper role of government:
The prescribed role of government is to protect the rights of every individual including the right to life, liberty, and property.
The protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of government.
The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected.
The military should be “sufficient” to “defend the United States against aggression,” but “the United States should both avoid entangling alliances and abandon its attempts to act as policeman for the world.” U.S. foreign policy “should emphasize defense against attack from abroad and enhance the likelihood of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements.” The “current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid” should be ended.
Criminal laws should be limited to those that actually violate “the rights of others through force or fraud, or to deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm.” The government should not interfere “in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals.”
The difference between the Libertarian Party and all other political parties is a simple one: “All political parties other than our own grant to government the right to regulate the lives of individuals and seize the fruits of their labor without their consent.” Indeed, this is the root of the difference between libertarians and everyone else. Most non-libertarians deem it completely appropriate for government:
- to punish people for engaging in entirely peaceful, voluntary, and consensual actions that do not aggress against the person or property of others; or
- to take people’s resources against their will, by force if necessary, and transfer or redistribute them to other citizens or foreigners as the government sees fit.
Libertarians maintain that people should be free from government interference to live their lives any way they desire and engage in any economic activity they choose as long as their actions are peaceful and consensual and they don’t violate the personal or property rights of others.
It is too bad that the Libertarian Party candidates for president and vice president deviate significantly from both their party platform and libertarian theory.
What do libertarians want from government? If they haven’t violated the personal or property rights of someone else, libertarians just want to be left alone.
Originally published at LewRockwell.com.