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Bringing back liberty
Posted By Harry Browne On 06/12/2001 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
Your article on Saturday, announcing your decision to join the Constitution Party wasn’t a big surprise. But the reasons you gave in your Monday article did cause me to raise an eyebrow. I admire your quest to restore American liberty, but I believe you may have overlooked a few things.
Let me begin by saying that I’ve known Howard Phillips, the head of the Constitution Party, since 1994. I am quite fond of him and have a great deal of admiration for him. I believe he is an intelligent, good-hearted, well-meaning person who has done a great deal of good for the cause of liberty.
But I believe you’ve misinterpreted the differences between the Constitution Party and the Libertarian Party.
The drug war
First, the drug war: You say you’re against it. But you agree with the Constitution Party’s approach – even though the party does not take a stand against it.
The drug war has locked up hundreds of thousands of innocent people in violation of the federal Constitution – the same Constitution after which the Constitution Party is named. The drug war has promoted untold violence, killing, police and judicial corruption, and overcrowded prisons that allow thugs to be released early. But the Constitution Party is unwilling to say flat-out that it opposes this terrible war.
You say the Constitution Party applies “correct thinking from a constitutional point of view” when it says “they will protect our national borders from incoming drug traffic. … The federal government does have a legitimate role in protecting our national borders from drugs. For states that don’t want drugs, this serves to protect them from outside interference. For states that do want drugs, this is not a problem regardless of what the federal government does because they can produce their own drugs at a far lower cost than black-market prices.”
In other words, it’s OK for the federal government to keep foreign cars out of the U.S., because any state can produce its own cars if it wants to. It’s OK for the federal government to decide which drugs can come into the country and which can’t, even though there is nothing in the Constitution granting the federal government such authority. It’s OK for the federal government to “protect” our borders by defining “protection” as prohibiting the importation of anything politicians take it in their heads to prohibit.
This is not constitutional thinking. It is weaseling, in order to appeal to any conservatives who aren’t ready yet to abandon their desires to use government to enforce their own moral thinking on others. You may not agree with everything the Libertarian Party stands for, but when you disagree with a Libertarian position, it’s most likely because the Libertarians have applied the principles of liberty and the Constitution consistently – even if this goes beyond current popular opinion. The party is not generally known as “The party of principle” for nothing.
Then we come to abortion. You say:
“Murder is universally recognized as wrong. Just because a baby in a womb cannot defend his or her self in court does not mean that we should have a license to murder the child because they are unwanted by his or her mother. Government does have a legitimate role to play in our nation, and the protection of lives and property is one of those roles. And babies are alive in the mother’s womb.
“Additionally, if you go to the Libertarian website and check out what they believe, you will have a tough time finding mention of the abortion issue. Not so with the Constitution Party.”
I, too, am opposed to abortion. But you have omitted a great deal in your brief discussion of it.
First, although “murder is universally recognized as wrong,” abortion is not universally recognized as wrong or as murder. Because murder is universally recognized as wrong, laws against it can be enforced fairly easily – without enormous expense or terrible invasions of freedom. But laws against practices that aren’t universally recognized as wrong create havoc – leading to enormous expense and terrible invasions of civil liberties. Witness the corruption and injustices flowing from the laws against drugs, prostitution, gambling and similar offenses against the state.
Until abortion is recognized as murder, having a law against it is counter-productive. A government war on abortion would be just as futile as its war on poverty or its war on drugs. I’ve said often that after five years of a war on abortion, we would probably see men having abortions. That may be tongue-in-cheek, but it’s funny only because it’s based on the truth of government “wars.”
Every day you spend trying to get government to do something about abortion is a day wasted, a day that could have been spent doing something effective – such as working for less-restrictive adoption laws, encouraging private educational efforts to show young women the alternatives to abortion, repealing the income tax so that parents will have the time to teach their children values that will minimize teen-age pregnancies, and repealing laws that shield people from the consequences of their acts.
Every day you spend trying to get government to do something about abortion is a day playing at fighting abortion – showing off for the anti-abortion fans, but achieving nothing. Government will never change people’s hearts and minds, but you can change people’s minds if you’re willing to work at it.
What happened to the Constitution?
There are additional problems with your remarks on abortion.
Regarding drugs, you say, “The 10th Amendment clearly leaves all legal decisions not specified in the Constitution to the states to decide. For the federal government to say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to drug possession and use is wrong – it is simply none of its damned business. If people of a particular state want – or don’t want – drugs in their state, then let them make that decision.”
Where in the Constitution is the federal government given the authority to legislate on abortion – or even murder? There are only three crimes mentioned in the Constitution – treason, piracy and counterfeiting. There is no constitutional authority for the federal government to involve itself in abortion. You say “if people of a particular state want – or don’t want” something, “then let them make that decision”? How does that gibe with your wanting the federal government to decide what is murder and how laws against it will be enforced?
In a debate on October 20, 2000, Constitution Party presidential candidate Howard Phillips said on his first day as president he would order U.S. attorneys to close down every abortion clinic in America. By what constitutional authority? How does this fit with the 10th Amendment?
If we ask the federal government to overrule state laws in order to produce results we like, as it did for some people with Roe vs. Wade, we are giving the federal government permission to overrule the states in order to produce results we don’t like. In fact, it has been the disregard of the Ninth and 10th Amendments by the federal government that has led to a nearly $2 trillion budget and a $5 trillion debt.
Turning federal officials loose on the abortion problem is symbolic of the muddled thinking of most conservatives and liberals today: “Yes, the federal government is too big and too intrusive and too tyrannical. But I want it to impose my way on the people I don’t like in order to do good things instead of bad things.”
My approach to the presidency was quite different. I am anti-abortion and anti-government. As president, my anti-abortion feelings would be irrelevant, because the federal government has no authority to deal with common crimes in any way. But my anti-government feelings are all-important; they mean I won’t make the mistake of allowing the federal government to enter this area – or any other area not authorized by the Constitution – and mess it up even more.
Libertarians consistently believe in the Constitution, the rule of law, individual liberty and personal responsibility. We don’t run to the state whenever we see something we don’t like and we can’t seem to persuade others to change their ways voluntarily.
You may not be ready to be fully consistent on the side of liberty and the Constitution. If so, as Libertarians we respect you and want you to do what you think best. But we’ll be waiting for you.
Lastly, you “plead with leaders from the Libertarian Party to consider what I’ve said here and see if you cannot join with the Constitution Party. Together, we could become a powerful third party and probably take 40 percent of the Republicans, 20 percent of the Democrats, and 80 percent of various independent memberships as our own virtually overnight” (your emphasis).
I understand your intentions, but I believe you have things backward. The Libertarian Party is a much larger party, much more successful in influencing public opinion, runs far more candidates, and pulls far more votes. Neither party is anywhere near as successful as you and I would like. But it is the Libertarian Party that has made a name for itself with the public and is leading the fight to bring back liberty to America.
I invite (not plead) with anyone in any party to consider joining with the Libertarians. But understand that there is more to restoring freedom in America than just merging two parties. For example, we have to undo the oppressive ballot-access and campaign-finance laws that serve to impose a two-party system on America by force. The Libertarians are leading the fight against these laws, and I am a plaintiff in a proposed lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission, aimed at overturning all the unconstitutional federal campaign laws.
We have to build more name recognition for the word “libertarian” as the symbol of letting you live your life as you want to live it — free from the income tax, free to get out of Social Security, free to raise your children by your own values, free to defend yourself from armed thugs, free to live as a free, responsible citizen in a free country.
But we don’t move in that direction when we compromise in the hope of following public opinion, rather than leading.
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