Sunday, October 02, 2011

Most founders were libertarians

Most founders were libertarians
(At least, the fairly decent ones.)

(My Clovis News Journal column for September, 2, 2011. As written, not as published.)

Some of America's founders were scientists- and were very good ones to the best of their ability, considering the prevailing culture they lived in, and to the extent their understanding, available resources, and equipment would allow. They had some ideas that are very quaint, and wrong, as we can now see clearly because of advances made since then, looking back as we do from the early 21st century. Electromagnetism, DNA, and quantum physics were beyond them. However, no one could reasonably claim they didn't try.

Most of the founders of America were also libertarians, although the term hadn't yet been coined. They were libertarians to the best of their ability and to the extent that the world they were immersed in allowed them to understand liberty. Sure, they had some inconsistencies that are pretty obvious to us now. No one is immune to the culture they find themselves a part of. That doesn't mean we discount the huge philosophical leap they undertook, over and beyond their contemporaries, but it also doesn't mean we should be content to remain where they were and not put our better understanding into practice.

For the time in which they lived, those who founded America were probably even more radical about liberty, compared to their neighbors, than I am compared to the average person today. That is pretty incredible.

What bothers me is that too many people today claim to value liberty, but can't seem to move beyond a late-18th century conception of its principles. They still believe some people are exempt, or unqualified for self-ownership. "Liberty is OK for me, but I'm not so sure you can handle it" seems to be a prevailing notion. That may have been fine for most people back when America was founded, but it is antiquated today, plus it invariably leads to egregious violations of basic human rights.

The founders even understood that rights did not depend on where you lived. Nowhere in the Bill of Rights will you see any claim that the listed rights- actually "non-negotiable prohibitions on government actions" would be a more accurate description- depended upon the citizenship of the person. Rights were rights, and things that were prohibited to government were always prohibited no matter who the government might have been targeting.

That is one thing the founders got dead-on right. Even if those who have governed since then have managed to obscure the truth.


Some people just don't get liberty

Like this guy.

So, I tried to educate him (or, at least, anyone who might read the article). This is my response:

If you don't understand why anyone other than a cop needs a gun in a city council meeting (or anywhere else), then you really don't understand why anyone, including a cop, ever needs a gun anywhere. It isn't even about "need". Those "ill-mannered and volatile" golfers you golf with (why associate with that type of people?) would be better behaved if everyone around them were armed. I've seen it in real life, more than once. Bad people straighten up when their boorish behavior could have consequences. Mayors included. Bad people will also NOT obey prohibitions on guns, so a gun ban only gives them free rein. Good people outnumber bad people, so any attempt to create a "gun-free zone" just levels the playing field to the benefit of the bad guys. It gives the predators among us an advantage. Why do this?

I think you have a complete misunderstanding of the First Amendment issues surrounding speaking to the city council while wearing a hat- it has nothing to do with "the assumption you can’t talk with a bare head". Words are only a part of the right of freedom of speech. The hat is also part of the expression of opinion. The mayor feels he and the other government employees deserve "respect" that is demonstrated by the removal of the hat. Leaving the hat on is making a political statement (the exact kind the 1st Amendment was written to protect) that government employees are the lowly servants, not the exalted masters. That right existed before the 1st Amendment was written, and will continue to exist no matter what "laws" are passed or enforced. Rulers and tyrants (even petty ones) might not like it, but truth remains truth.