Libertarianismnot for liberals

I hate to give Presidential candidates more attention than they already get, but something interesting has happened early in the race for our hearts, minds, and (most importantly) votes. With wonderfully vague promises such as bringing “Hope for America” and being “the leading advocate for freedom in our nation’s capital,” Texas Representative Ron Paul has energized an understandably languid Republican voter base. Paul is so distinctive not just because of his outspokenness regarding the Iraq War, but because he was nominated as the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 1988. His loose affiliation with the party has given Libertarians a lot of attention as of late. However, a lot of this attention comes from liberals who don’t see their values faithfully represented by Democratic candidates. Unfortunately, these progressives are misguided. The most concise definition of libertarianism could be that since people are the absolute owners of their lives, they should be free to do as they please—so long as this doesn’t hurt anyone else. While this is a principle that all left-leaning people hold sacred, one cannot be mislead by rhetoric. In practice, true Libertarianism is flawed in that it holds abstract values as more important than the people they are designed to protect. This can make the philosophy weak on protecting minority groups. The theoretical rationale behind this is that if you give special protection to certain groups, it infringes on the freedom of others (who are often in the majority). Unfortunately, this dogmatic approach to decision-making fails to recognize the importance of legislation that acknowledges the inherent disadvantages of minority groups. History has shown that special, specific protection is often necessary, perhaps most notably in Brown v. Board of Education. Take, for example, Paul’s voting record on Civil Rights issues. He voted “yes” to ban gay adoptions in D.C, voted “no” on $84 million in grants for black and Hispanic colleges, and has consistently been an advocate of abolishing the Federal Welfare program. On immigration, his record is appalling: he has voted “yes” on building a fence along the Mexican border, reporting illegal aliens who receive hospital treatment, and was rated 100% by FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), indicating a record very hostile to immigrants. The environment also suffers, as, according to Paul, “property rights are the foundation of all rights.” Consequently, with decisions such as opposing s 33mpg fuel standard, Paul earned himself a 5% rating from the League of Conservation voters. These voting tendencies underscore Paul and other Libertarians’ reluctance to protect people over principles. While loyalty to the constitution is an essential merit to have in a politician, one must also remember that in 1789, slavery was legal, women couldn’t vote, and homosexuality was seldom publicly acknowledged. As wonderful a document as our constitution is, it must be adjusted as public needs and attitudes change. We’ve come a long way, but we need to go farther. To help make this happen, we must embrace candidates with true progressive ideals—ones who strive to create a society in which people can feel like equals, both with each other and under the law.