These GOP Presidential debates on television do very little to educate the public on the principles, positions, and policies of the various candidates. A 30 second response to a “gotcha” question allows 10 seconds to throw off a sound bite, 10 seconds to mischaracterize an opponents’ position, and then 10 seconds to change the subject.
So-called moderators seem to be especially bent on hanging Ron Paul with ridiculous questions intended to belittle principled libertarian positions on matters of individual rights or personal responsibility. No one remembers his answers; the indictment is made with the questions.
Breathe easy, America. Libertarians would not require all Americans to relinquish their health insurance, then go into a coma and die. Nor would we take all the money from Social Security and give it to Iran to build more nuclear bombs. And we would not force you to use hookers and heroin.
A younger Congressman Paul would have handed Chris Wallace his lunch when asked that vapid hookers-and-heroin question in the first GOP candidate’s debate. If I may be so bold as to suggest an answer that would have still left 10 seconds to change the subject:
“Yes, adults should be free to choose their own intoxicants and personal services. No, the government should not regulate either of them. Yes, that means you should make the choice of things like hookers and heroin for yourself, Mr. Wallace. And no, you should not expect the rest of us to keep you from making bad choices; you have a mom and a wife for that.”
As a practical matter, we are going to have to tolerate hookers and heroin whether we like it or not; no civilization has yet succeeded in exterminating either one. The only question is whether or not we are willing to pay a great deal of money for ineffective random and arbitrary prosecution of a tiny fraction of those who break laws prohibiting both.
The libertarian response to unwanted hookers and heroin at your doorstep is the same as the libertarian response to unwanted Girl Scouts and Girl Scout cookies: “no thank you, sweetie.” Do Americans lack even that much spine now? That seems to be an incredibly dismal view of the character of our friends and neighbors. And the question itself trivializes the principle of liberty. Why hookers and heroin?
Why not ask us who should choose our schools, charities, means of self-defense, medical care, food, travel destination, occupation, guitars, energy source, transportation, investments, currency, curricula, worship locations, insurance coverage, student loan source, pension option, taxation rate, public debt obligation, property use?
Libertarians do not advocate immorality; we argue that the cost of government regulation of morality – our loss of all those other liberties – is too high.
And who is it that encourages dangerous behavior – the libertarian who declines to imprison you for it, or the Statist who relieves you of responsibility for its consequence? And who prescribes the more effective deterrent - Republicans who would put you in jail at taxpayer expense, Democrats who would put you in treatment at taxpayer expense, or Libertarians who would leave it to your spouse to extract retribution at your own expense? I know which I fear most.
Personal morality is not a suitable subject for legislation, and government is a poor substitute for family, church, and community in regulating personal morality. If all vice laws were struck down tomorrow, the authority of the wife, husband, mother, father, child, sibling, pastor, friend, in-law, and neighbor would not diminish one whit.
The hookers-and-heroin question is only intended to divide libertarians and conservatives. It defends the progressives’ stake in state-regulated choice by reducing self-ownership from a noble ideal to a coarse pursuit. It presumes that freedom will bring out the worst in us, rather than our best. It assumes that only persons employed by the State are capable of making correct moral choices.
That notion of morally superior government would require that only morally superior people are selected for government service, or that somehow government service induces moral superiority in those selected. Not a day goes by that belief in such nonsense is shattered by a news story of corruption, abuse of authority, personal debauchery, criminal activity, or betrayal of public trust committed by those whom the statists insist must regulate choice for the rest of us.
Sin is a bi-partisan activity practiced in Washington, D.C. and in statehouses, county seats, and city halls across the country. Although an argument could be made that their experience and expertise qualifies them to regulate immoral behavior, they should concentrate on defending our rights and upholding the Constitution instead.
“Moment Of Clarity” is a weekly commentary by Libertarian writer and speaker Tim Nerenz, Ph.D. Visit Tim’s website www.timnerenz.com to find your moment.