Libertarians not anti-government

By Kent McManigal: FNM columnist

Recently in this column, which as of this week I have now been writing for a year (party hats and balloons all around!), I have been addressing the misconceptions I have heard repeated about libertarians.

I think it’s important to understand your libertarian neighbors, rare though we may seem at first glance to be, so you’ll know who you are dealing with and what to expect. I’m happy to provide this service.

A misconception regarding libertarians I run into a lot is that we are “anti-government.” That isn’t necessarily true. The root of the matter is that libertarians are pro-liberty, and since government is generally anti-liberty it makes us appear, to some observers, to be anti-government. The burden of opposition actually lies with the other side.

You can be anti-government without having the slightest libertarian leanings, and there are plenty of libertarians who still think it is possible to increase liberty through guiding government in “the right direction.” I happen to disagree, based upon observation and experience, but I’d enjoy being proved wrong.

But as far as “anti-government” — I have known a lot people over the course of my life who could be described as anti-government. The funny thing about the vast majority of them is that they usually have no problem with the concept of government as long as it is doing what they want done. They are frequently enthusiastic cheerleaders for government coercion and theft, until it is directed at them. At that point they suddenly discover they are “anti-government,” until the situation changes once again. That isn’t libertarian at all. It is aimlessly “anti-government without any guiding principles.” And I think it is dangerous.

If there could exist a hypothetical government which never claimed or enforced a monopoly on force, never sought to finance itself through the twin thefts known as “taxation” and inflating away the value of the currency, never used coercion as a tool against individuals who were not stealing or attacking anyone, and never violated any individual’s rights, most libertarians would probably not mind that government. Personally, I would still have no use for it, but I wouldn’t spend much effort opposing it.

Because, you see, it’s not the government libertarians oppose; it is the unethical behavior they all depend upon in order to exist that we oppose. The same behavior we oppose no matter where it occurs, and no matter who is engaging in it.