No, Libertarian Does Not Mean Leftist

I want to address this diary, which starts off with the title “Why Libertarian is Just Another Word for Leftist.”

The diary has a couple of false assumptions which need to be addressed up front:

-Rand Paul hasn’t positioned himself as a libertarian, but a constitutional conservative with liberty-minded opinions. His words are not libertarian dogma. Yes, the diarist does concede that “It cannot be said that Rand Paul holds the same sentiments that have been observed by grassroots Libertarians”, but the implication that Paul is a libertarian as a whole-just not an anti-Christian/anti-moral one-is incorrect.

-There is a difference between “big L” partisan Libertarians (Libertarian Party members, or LP members) and “small l” ideological libertarians. The Libertarian Party does not represent or speak for all libertarians. In fact, most libertarians are probably not part of the LP.

As for Rand Paul’s echoing of Mitch Daniels on social issues, I’ll post the full context, lest there be any confusion:

Right. But it seems what they’re saying is that the Republican Party should stay out of issues like gay marriage.

I think that the Republican Party, in order to get bigger, will have to agree to disagree on social issues. The Republican Party is not going to give up on having quite a few people who do believe in traditional marriage. But the Republican Party also has to find a place for young people and others who don’t want to be festooned by those issues.

As a libertarian, you believe in the sovereignty of the individual. But when it comes to the right for gays to marry, you said it should be left up to the states. Isn’t that a contradiction?

On issues that are very contentious, that involve social mores—I think that allowing different parts of the country to make their decision based on the local mores and culture is a good idea. But when it comes to taxes and benefits, the [federal] government out to take a neutral position—a way where marriage wouldn’t have an effect, positive or negative, on those things.

Perhaps I am wrong, but this is the jist of what I believe Rand is advocating: The party should not make social issues a litmus test for party inclusion as it pertains to federal politics.

At this point, it seems like the main “social issue” is marriage. Rand Paul, as a constitutional conservative, correctly supports marriage federalism. Here is his comment from earlier this month:

I believe in the historic and religious definition of marriage. I also believe this power belongs to the states and the people, not the federal government. It is illegitimate for the federal courts to intrude here.

I do not consider abortion to be a social issue. It is not simply a matter of cultural whims. Rather, it is a fundamental issue of protecting life from aggression-the first and primary duty of government. It is clear Rand Paul agrees. He is actively working with the National Pro-Life Alliance to support overturning Roe v. Wade using the power of Congress. Something so-called pro-life leaders (where are Huckabee and Santorum on this?) don’t seem to agree with. Check out the video which the NPLA shares nearly every day on Facebook:

With the Rand Paul issue out of the way, I want to go after the strawman positions the diarist applies to all libertarians. It needs to be made clear that there are liberal libertarians and conservative libertarians, just as there are liberal authoritarians and conservative authoritarians. Worldviews and political views can be combined and  narrowed down to those four categories in my opinion.

-Libertarians do not necessarily support abortion. Many oppose it. Thanks to Ron Paul, a generation of libertarians (and young people) who were going to be pro-choice will now be pro-life. The libertarian focus, whether pro-life or pro-choice, is the protection of the individual, not cultural change or continuity.

-The libertarian position on marriage is that the government should not be involved. There are conservative libertarians and liberal libertarians, each with different positions on what marriage means. Any libertarian who supports the government defining marriage as to include same-sex couples is not being philosophically consistent. It does represent an expansion of government involvement.

-The diarist has obviously had some experience with liberal libertarians. They probably are more likely to go after religious-based government action than government persecution of the religious. I am a conservative libertarian. I am the exact opposite.

To conclude, the diary, which I’m sure was written sincerely, is one big strawman based on a misunderstanding of libertarians based on personal experience with liberal libertarians (leftist on the cultural spectrum, rightist on the political spectrum) . The term “libertarian” has traditionally been placed on the right side of the spectrum by political scientists, and I am happy to go along with that.