Friday, October 21, 2011

A Liberal and a Libertarian

This past summer I became acquainted with a young man who is a libertarian.  I know he is a libertarian because he sometimes wears a T-shirt that defines and spells out, in syllables the word libertarian.  I also know because he has more than once uttered that famous libertarian phrase

Republicans stay out of my bedroom,
Democrats stay out of my wallet!

During the initial phase of our discussions, we often focused on topics in which we disagreed.  Business related items and the recent health care reforms were front and center.  But recently, we decided to broach subjects which produced an agreement, if not in total then at least an agreement that could create a "bipartisan" response.  Here are a few of those topics.

Gay Marriage.  This was a no brainer.  Any person who values and reveres the Constitution of the United States would be hard-pressed to find justification for preventing two consenting adults to marry.  It is such a basic tenet in our belief in the individuals right to "pursuit of happiness" that only a strong discrimination against who and how someone chooses to express their love prevents this from passing the way of intolerance that discouraged ethnic intermarriage, religious intermarriage and interracial marriage. 

Abortion.  Again, consensus.  While neither of us encourage abortion as a means of birth control, and had not (to our knowledge) has a sexual encounter that led to an abortion, we were clearly on the side of a woman's right to choose.  Again, considering that abortion is currently legal in America, and considering the alternative of unsafe, "back alley" procedures, and tens of thousands of unwanted children, it seems completely arbitrary that America would continue to treat abortion as anything other than a woman's right to decide issues related to her body.  As a side note, we postured (rather cynically, I admit) that if men could bear children, abortion would not be as important an issue.

Taxation.  Surprisingly (to me), my libertarian friend was not opposed to taxation.  He understood the need for the government to have money for national defense, and to assist its citizens when they were in need.  He even agreed with our current progressive tax system which has higher tax rates for those earning more incomes.  He could not see the logic of a flat tax which asked someone making $20K per year to pay the same rate as someone earning $200K or $200 million.  We both felt that taxation was a method to raise the necessary capital to run a country, not a way to punish those just starting out or of a limited earning capability.  Of course, we do not see eye to eye on many areas in which the government uses our tax money but at least we could agree to debate where to spend the money as opposed to whether we should tax at all.

Religion.  No surprise here that we saw too much religion in our politics but not enough spirituality.  Who can sleep with who, which religion is Christian and which is not, what does the bible say, etc, are not topics that belong in our political debates.  Strangely, we both noted the strange bed partners that many who expouse the most "religious" beliefs and their overwhelming support for military solutions to the world's problems.

War.  Constitutionally, the duty of our government to protect the citizens of our country is undeniable.  Whether we should be spending upwards of 25% of every dollar we collect in taxes, and approximately 65% of the discretionary money available in our national budget was something we both questioned.  Too many foreign bases, too many military actions, too many lost lives, too many big budget war toys that we will never use, too much wasted resources outside our country while our infrastructure slowly crumbles and our citizens remain unemployed.

Individual responsibility.  Surprisingly (to my friend), I advocate individual responsibility first and foremost.  Are you doing all that you can for yourself, your family, and your country?  Have you exhausted all resources before looking to the state for help?  I know that liberals are accused of expecting the government to help everyone, to provide equal results as opposed to equal opportunity.  I am able to acknowledge that there are times when we go too far to create a more equitable life style when a libertarian acknowledges that there are times when working class people lose their jobs through no fault of their own, when disease and accident prevent people and families from living the American dream and, yes Virginia, when corporations and businesses operate under the maxim "let the buyer beware" thereby justifying all the corner cutting and inferior products they produce in the name of profit.  We agreed that both regular people who sometimes give in to the easy way out and let someone else provide for them and the people with the resources and the ambition who ignore their place in the family of man are at fault when it comes to forgetting the importance of individual responsibility.

If my new libertarian friend and I can find common ground in discussing the topics of the day and together develop solutions towards solving those issues, why can't our elected officials in Washington do the same.  Do they not represent a range of viewpoints just as he and I do?  If they cannot, perhaps we need to elect a new bunch that can.

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