By Ken Prazak
I see an increasing and disturbing trend, in my opinion, for those who align themselves with the libertarian name to choose an expedient path always involving more government. They seek what is “popular” and “practical”. Why push for legalization of drugs when to legalize crystal meth is not a popular position? Why then, should we even advocate our position against the initiation of force? After all, force is everywhere, it appears popular among politicians. If libertarians don’t advocate force, too, we will not be taken seriously.
I would remind those of you who grew up in the Fifties as I did, and suggest to those who are younger, that there were many things that Americans would have been absolutely, 100% against, and would have called it tyranny and un-American that is routine today. Public policy does change over time and what was thought unthinkable 60 years ago in some cases is considered mainstream today.
For example, routine roadblocks would have been thought of as only happening in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. Never happen in America.
Confiscation without due process of law–forfeiture laws would have been regarded the same. It is now routine in America.
Killing citizens without due process of law, under the color of law would also have been unthinkable. Did it happen? For sure, but it was done “under the rug”, surreptitiously, not out in the open. Even the lynchings of black people in the early twentieth century were done by hooded men, not out in the open as was done to Anwar Al Alwaki and his sixteen year old son two weeks later.
Of course SWAT teams were unheard of.
On the other side of the ledger, LGBT rights, what I would call universal rights of man were not universal in the Fifties. Black people were oppressed by law. The environment for these groups has improved tremendously since then. The unthinkable became thinkable over time.
In the early seventies, the Libertarian Party was the only political party advocating the legalization of drugs, which included marijuana. Now it is only a matter of time before the whole country (maybe save a few backward states in the South) legalizes pot. Unheard of back in the early Seventies.
So change does happen. But it takes time. I am reminded of a great line from the movie, “The Power of One” where an instructor in South Africa tells the protagonist student who is anxious to change the apartheid laws that “History isn’t kind to those who wish to rush it.” I would say that it isn’t kind to those libertarians who would choose expediency over principle granting temporary power to the state, which, as is the case of temporary taxes, is never temporary.
Now, lest someone builds up a straw man, let me be clear that I favor incremental steps towards complete liberty as long as it is, indeed, a step forward, and not a step back.
But to allow stop, frisk and confiscate in the inner cities by the feds is very much a step back, counterproductive, a veritable Pandora’s box, an invitation to even greater authoritarian rule than we have now. Not that is seems to matter to some, but it would also be unconstitutional.
The RICO laws, which unconstitutionally legalized theft through forfeiture, were passed under the understanding that they would only be used against the evil mafia, never against your average citizen. Today the RICO laws are used against Major League Baseball, the Catholic Church, insider traders, money laundering (protecting ones assets from the thieves in government) and gambling (the state doesn’t like the competition) among many other activities. The force of Pandora is great indeed.
Turning around the ship of tyranny will take a long time. It probably won’t happen in my lifetime. But expediency will not turn the ship faster. I take solace in the fact that in some areas, our philosophy has come a long way in public policy. And in economics we have made vast gains. In the Fifties, profit was almost universally considered a dirty word. It no longer is in a growing plurality of the population. The growth of entrepreneurship, the very existence of the very popular television show, “Shark Tank” is evidence of how far we have come.
Someday, the notion that the initiation of force is wrong in political and social contexts will be a commonplace belief. But we will never get there by sanctioning force, however incremental, however expeditious. We will get there by sticking to our fundamental principles, by living our fundamental principles, by proudly extolling our fundamental principles without fear, without apology, and with vigor.