Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Life, Liberty, and Property

I am now a card-carrying Libertarian. Over the past few months, as I have given real and open thought to issues regarding the proper role of government, I have grown increasingly frustrated with the positions of the Republican Party, not the least of which is its "pro-life" stance. It is only natural that I seek alternatives. But why would someone who is as against legalized abortion as I am turn to the Libertarian Party?

The one and only reason for government to exist is to protect the right to life, liberty, and property of each individual. (To see what I mean by property, read the highly, highly recommended The Law by Frederic Bastiat.) This principle of government limited to the protection of basic individual rights can be found in our country's founding document, the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." The only political philosophy that tries to uphold this ideal without saying that government should take care of all our basic needs (or even worse, our every need) is libertarianism.

Of course, the Libertarian Party is not perfect. The party website (www.lp.org) proclaims that it is the Party of Principle. And yet, section 1.4 of the 2010 party platform says:

1.4 Abortion

Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.


What kind of principle is that? Government should be kept out of the matter? The protection of the right to life of all persons is the number one function of government. One cannot hold property if one does not have liberty, and one cannot have liberty without life. The protection of the right to life is the highest priority of any government. And government must do this for all persons. We cannot allow government to exclude any class of human beings from this protection. The government of our forefathers did this to black slaves; the government of Nazi Germany did this to the Jews and other groups. If the Libertarian Party had existed in the United States in 1840, would it have stated that slavery is a sensitive issue and that government should stay out of it? I'm fairly sure that most Libertarian Party members today would say no, and yet slavery was just as divisive an issue then as abortion is now.

Speaking very generally, people come to the Libertarian Party after thinking logically about issues involving what makes a good and proper government (it sure isn't because they want to be on the winning side of elections). So thinking logically, every human being has an origin. Every person has a birthdate, but each person existed before his or her birth, living and growing within the womb. The only logical point of origin for an individual human being is the moment when a sperm cell fertilizes an egg. Before that moment, a sperm cell is just a sperm cell. An egg is just an egg. But when the two join, an individual human being is created with all the requisite chromosomes and DNA. Therefore, if each individual human being has the inalienable right to life (inalienable meaning inherent or from God), then he or she obtains that right at this moment of origin. It is government's primary responsibility to protect that right from that moment forward in the same way it protects that right for all of us (by creating laws against murder, etc.).

Government must extend that responsibility to all human beings, regardless of the circumstances of a person's origin. Conventional pro-lifers and/or Republicans who claim to be against abortion except in cases of rape or incest (i.e. our current governor Rick Perry) display a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue and give the pro-abortion lobby more ammunition against the "pro-life" movement than it otherwise would have. When someone says that he is against abortion except in cases of rape, incest, maternal health, etc., one really says that he doesn't want people who engage in sexual activity outside of marriage to escape the "punishment" of having a baby, etc. Those who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest didn't choose to engage in sex outside of marriage; therefore, they can go ahead and get rid of their baby. It is this attitude that led to Obama, the most pro-abortion president this country has ever had, saying that he didn't want his daughter punished with a baby. This faulty "pro-life" thinking serves to keep dehumanizing the unborn child, which is the ultimate goal of the pro-abortion lobby and the abortion industry.

Now, government has no place in the de facto regulation of the sexual behavior of consenting adults. People should have the liberty to engage in personal relationships and to choose their own sexual practices without government intervention. If people are not free to make bad choices, then people are not really free. This liberty also means that people must take responsibility for their actions, especially if those actions result in the creation of another human being (and by responsibility, I mean that they don't murder their baby). But the child who is conceived as a result of a rape is still a human being with the same inalienable right to life as any other person.

To be truly pro-life is to respect the personhood of every human being, from the point of fertilization to natural death. Two factors sparked my journey to libertarianism: 1) our current government has greatly overstepped its bounds by not only not protecting the right to liberty and property but by trampling on it itself via excessive taxation and redistribution; and 2) my dissatisfaction with the Republican Party's non-personhood approach to the abortion issue. It is my hope that more Libertarians will see the logic behind personhood and work toward a government that protects the right to life, liberty, and property for all human beings and limits itself to that.