Root for individual liberty and America will succeed.

I fully expect to vote for myself in November, if I bother to vote at all. But just for fun, I’m researching some of the Libertarian Party candidates. On my first look – in this case, Wayne Allen Root – I’m not so thrilled. Consider some of his positions:

I support the Line Item Veto. I will push relentlessly and tirelessly to make this a crucial part of the President’s arsenal to fight the deficit, cut waste, and balance the budget.

Saying how he intends to achieve this is important, since it explains his understanding of the government process. However, he does not say how he intends to do this, so I will not assume his preferred path for achieving this. But I will suggest Article 1, Section 7 of the United States Constitution as a starting point:

Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it.

This requires the President to address each bill in its entirety. He may not isolate the pieces he likes from the pieces he detests. The only valid approach to the line item veto is a Constitutional amendment.

My preference on this is simple. The Congress should narrow the focus of bills it presents to the President for approval. A defense bill shouldn’t have education issues attached, for example. The President should reject every bill that doesn’t meet this test until Congress begins legislating in this manner. This isn’t perfect because Congress gets leeway in how narrow it defines a topic, but it is an immediate solution.

Next, Mr. Root offers this:

I support gay rights and civil unions. Gay marriage however is not a federal issue. It is a States’ Rights issue only.

This raises two problems. First, the 16th Amendment forbids the states from denying “to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Marriage, as a civil contract, is an individual right to enter into a voluntary agreement. It is not a group right belonging to two people. Such an idea is absurd, given our understanding of individual liberty, but it also assumes that two people share a right before they meet. Whoever you will marry shares this right with you. That’s ridiculous. Defining the individual right to contract down from the right to enter into a contract with another competent, willing individual to a right to enter into a contract with another competent, willing, opposite-sex individual is anti-individual liberty. That incorrectly achieves equal at the expense of liberty.

Second, states rights appears multiple times in Mr. Root’s positions. No government has rights. Governments have powers. These powers are granted from the people, not because the government has a legitimate claim to them, but because the people trade some amount of liberty in exchange for specific outcomes. I trade my “right” to harm to protect my right to remain free from harm. Government does not grant rights. It protects inherent rights.

In other words, it is little consolation to be oppressed by my neighbors through my state/local government instead of my countrymen in another state through our federal government. This sort of nonsense appears multiple times in Mr. Root’s positions. It’s the same fallacy made by Ron Paul in too many of his positions. (Remember, Ron Paul is not a libertarian.)

Here’s one last position from Mr. Root:

I support the separation of church and state. However I also believe in tolerance for rights of religious Americans too. I believe in school prayer, God in our pledge of allegiance and on our currency. To remove these religious symbols would be to deny the rights and freedoms of religious Americans. I would also protect the rights of those who do not believe in God or religion to not participate in any public prayer or religious activities.

This is troubling. Removing these religious symbols from the private sphere would be to deny the rights and freedoms of religious Americans. To remove them from the public sphere denies nothing.

School prayer is fine, in a private school. That is not what is up for debate. Arguing otherwise suggests dubious integrity. Mention of God in our pledge of allegiance, as legislated by Congress, is problematic. We do not have a private currency, and the government actively seeks to stamp out such efforts, so “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency is a violation of the First Amendment. While the latter two are minor in scope, if not principle, none of the three are valid in government as public requirements. They have nothing to do with tolerance for individual rights.

I do not wish to suggest that there is a libertarian purity test based on policy recommendations. I don’t; I think that fallacy is counter-productive. However, I think there is a valid libertarian purity test on thought process. If Mr. Root argues for legislation to grant the line item veto, he ignores the Constitution’s text. Where Mr. Root argues for states’ rights, he misses the point of individual liberty and government of, for, and by the people. Where Mr. Root argues to overlook Congressional indifference to the First Amendment in favor of “tolerance”, he abandons the reasoning for a Constitution. None of these positions rely on libertarian principles, which is a valid criteria for judging a candidates credentials.

To clarify, the big libertarian test right now seems to be Iraq. Most libertarians agree that our experiment in Iraq is a mistake. It is a preemptive war without justification based in national security. Unlike Afghanistan, a legitimate war of self-defense, Iraq carried no such immediate threats to U.S. security.

I agree with that analysis. I also think there are libertarians who disagree. I don’t mean “people who (mistakenly) call themselves libertarians” disagree. For example, Timothy Sandefur supports the war in Iraq on national security grounds. I disagree with his conclusion from the facts, but he is basing his support on his intellectually-considered conclusion within the framework of libertarian principles of self-defense. It’s okay to disagree with him. Such debate pushes us to a better conclusion, in general. But it would be idiotic to suggest that he is not a libertarian because of this policy recommendation.

As another example, I’m clearly against any circumcision of a child that isn’t based in an immediate medical need. That is a libertarian position focused on the individual’s right to keep his foreskin (i.e. his property) and his right to remain free from harm. Freedom of/from religion is also an individual right, with the child having a claim equal to his parents. It is an invalid excuse. There can be no libertarian disagreement on this.

When there is a medical issue, there can be a disagreement on whether that medical issue requires circumcision rather than some less invasive treatment. The answer requires judgment. I would seek out those less invasive treatments for a child before resorting to circumcision. I think ethics demand all parents and medical personnel do the same. But proxy consent in the face of legitimate medical issues for a legally incompetent individual is valid in libertarian principle, even when it leads to child circumcision.

The likelihood of having the perfect candidate without running for office myself is almost non-existent. Ultimately, the best we can hope for is a candidate who process information
through the correct filters. It’s too much to expect the same conclusion on every issue. It’s reasonable to expect the same respect for individual rights.