The United States of America is facing some major issues in the twenty-first century. The national debt is $18.5 trillion. The budget deficit is $500 billion. Homelessness is widespread in most major cities. Student-loan debt is more than a trillion dollars. Social Security and Medicare are insolvent. Government spending continues to skyrocket. There are more than 45 million Americans receiving food stamps. Millions of Americans have stopped looking for work even as the number of government employees continues to grow. Real wages are stagnant. The United States is engaged in unending and expensive overseas military interventions. The nation’s infrastructure is in need of massive repairs even as the American military destroys infrastructure in other countries. Racial tension is on the rise. More than 20 percent of the American population receives some kind of means-tested public assistance every month. Even families with two incomes are struggling to make ends meet. The United States has the world’s largest prison population per capita. Tens of thousands of Americans are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes. Students are graduating from high school who are functionally illiterate. Americans are polarized politically as never before. The government increasingly regulates almost every area of commerce and life.
Liberals, Democrats, conservatives, and Republicans all agree with each other and with libertarians that the country has issues that need solutions. The trouble is that that is the only thing they agree on. Those on the Left have their solutions and those on the Right have their solutions. Sometimes their solutions are somewhat similar; some-times their solutions are completely different, but they are all united in their opposition to the solutions put forth by libertarians.
Libertarianism is a political philosophy that says that people should be free from government interference to live their lives any way they desire and engage in any economic activity they choose as long as their actions are peaceful, their associations are voluntary, their interactions are consensual, and they don’t violate the personal or property rights of others.
Libertarianism celebrates individual liberty, free speech, property rights, free expression, peaceful activity, free markets, voluntary interaction, free thought, personal freedom, free assembly, individual responsibility, and a free society.
The essence of libertarianism is its nonaggression principle. Aggression is theft, fraud, the initiation of nonconsensual violence, or the threat of nonconsensual violence. The initiation or threat of aggression against the person or property of others is always wrong. Aggression is justified only in defense of person or property or retaliation against the same, but is not required. Unlike liberalism and conservatism, libertarianism strictly and consistently applies the non-aggression principle to actions of government. After all, governments are the greatest violators of liberty, property, and the nonaggression principle.
Libertarians maintain that as long as people don’t infringe upon the liberty of others by committing, or threatening to commit, acts of fraud, theft, aggression, or violence against their person or property, the government should leave them alone and not interfere with their pursuit of happiness, commerce, personal decisions, economic enterprises, or what they do on or with their property.
Libertarians hold that in a free society, the functions of government — in whatever form it exists — should be limited to prosecuting and exacting restitution from those who initiate violence against, commit fraud against, or violate the property rights of others. All government actions beyond judicial and policing functions are illegitimate. That is true at every level of government. And on the national level, it means that war and violence can only be strictly defensive in nature.
But in spite of the simplicity, consistency, and morality of libertarianism, liberals and conservatives have a problem with libertarians. When they are not smearing them as irreligious, uncompassionate, ignorant of human nature, moral relativists, and materialistic, or accusing them of being naive, utopian, impractical, individualistic, and idealistic, liberals and conservatives castigate libertarians for offering nothing but complaints, criticisms, and condemnations of government, while never offering any real solutions. That, of course, is simply not true. Libertarians have put forth as many solutions as there are issues. The problem is that liberals and conservatives just don’t like the no-nonsense solutions offered by libertarians.
Liberals and Democrats believe that they have the solutions to all of the issues facing the country. The minimum wage should be increased. Taxes should be raised on “the rich” to make them pay their “fair share.” Fighting climate change should be one of the top priorities of government. The use of coal and other fossil fuels should be phased out. The government should take steps to reduce income inequality. Companies should have to increase the family and medical leave they offer their employees. All companies should be required to offer sick leave. Federal job-training programs should be expanded. College education should be free so that no student has to take out student loans. Welfare should be expanded to protect the most vulnerable of America’s children. Refundable tax credits should be expanded. Every American should have health insurance. “The poor” should have better access to free medical care, including contraception and abortions. Unemployment benefits should be extended. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision should be overturned. There should be more government intervention in the economy and more regulation of business. And of course, more Democrats should be elected to office.
Conservatives and Republicans likewise believe that they have the solutions to all of the issues facing the country. Americans need to elect Republican presidents so that they can appoint conservative Supreme Court justices. There should be a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. Stipulations should be put on a country receiving U.S. foreign aid. The states need to call a constitutional convention to institute necessary reforms to the federal government. The president should be given line-item veto power. The tax code should be simplified. The income tax should be changed to a flat income tax or a national sales tax such as the Fair Tax. Tax loopholes should be closed. Social Security and certain other government programs should be privatized with government oversight. Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with something else. Defense spending should be increased. The size of the military should be larger. The Navy needs more ships. The Air Force needs more planes. Congressmen should be subject to term limits. Welfare programs should have more work requirements. Vouchers should be given to parents so they can get their children out of failing public schools and send them to the school of their choice. Businesses employing illegals should be heavily fined. Congress should implement the suggestions in policy papers written by conservative think tanks. And of course, more Republicans should be elected to office.
Both Left and Right, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative believe that the solutions to all the issues facing the country are to be found in new legislation, reform measures, a fairer tax system, more government accountability, increasing government efficiency, eliminating waste, and rooting out fraud. Oh, and, Social Security and Medicare should be “saved” for future generations.
It is libertarians who indeed have the solutions to all the issues facing the country. And not only that, their solutions are clear, simple, consistent, logical, and reasonable. Their solutions aren’t found in some think tank’s policy paper. Their solutions aren’t found in some 500-page bill that members of Congress won’t even read before voting on. Their solutions don’t concern reform, gradualism, privatization, or making the government more efficient. Their solutions can be adopted immediately — no ridiculous ten-year plans to balance the budget. Their solutions won’t cost anything to implement. Their solutions are permanent — they don’t have to be renewed, revisited, or reevaluated every year. Their solutions are based on principle, not politics.
So, what are the libertarian solutions that both liberals and conservatives are so opposed to? In what follows, I will list fifteen wide-ranging issues of varying degrees of importance, along with typical questions asked about the issue by liberals and conservatives, followed by the no-nonsense libertarian solution.
- Issue: unemployment benefits. Should unemployment benefits be extended? For how long should they be extended? Should payments be increased? By how much should payments be increased? Should any extension or increase be temporary or permanent? Solution: Since the government has no authority to take money from those who work and give it to those who don’t, unemployment benefits should be ended as well as the taxes on employers that partially fund the program. Unemployment insurance should be purchased on the free market just like fire, car, homeowners’, and life insurance.
- Issue: the drug war. Should marijuana be legal for medical purposes? Should marijuana be legalized and taxed and regulated like tobacco? Should the possession of small amounts of drugs be criminalized? Should the sentences of those imprisoned for nonviolent drug crimes be reduced? Should the government focus more on prevention and treatment than probation and prison? Should sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine be reduced? Solution: Since the government has no authority to prohibit the manufacture, sale, possession, or use of any drug, the drug war should be ended immediately, the DEA should be shut down and all of its employees laid off, and all Americans imprisoned for non-violent drug crimes should be pardoned and released. Drugs should be a commodity on the free market just like cigarettes, beer, wine, whiskey, and bananas.
- Issue: food stamps. Should food stamps be made available to more low-income families? Should benefits be reduced? Should there be a work requirement to receive benefits? Should only wholesome foodstuffs be legal for purchase with food stamps? Solution: Since the government has no authority to take money from some Americans and give it to other Americans in the form of food assistance, the food-stamp program should be abolished. All food assistance to the poor should be provided by families, neighborhoods, civic clubs, restaurants, farms, charitable organizations, food drives, religious institutions, and concerned individuals, but all without funding of any kind from the government.
- Issue: foreign aid. Should countries receiving U.S. foreign aid be expected to vote with the United States at the United Nations? Should aid be tied to a country’s human rights record? Should allies of the United States receive more aid? Should aid be limited to disaster relief? Should the military be used to provide disaster relief? Solution: Since the government has no authority to take money from Americans and give it to foreigners or their governments, all foreign aid in any form it is given should be eliminated immediately. Any American who wants to help the underprivileged or disaster-stricken in another country can do so at any time on his own or through any number of private organizations.
- Issue: AMTRAK. Should AMTRAK increase its fares in an attempt to be profitable? Should more routes be added? Should speeds be lowered in some areas? Should more attention be devoted to safety? Solution: Since the government has authority to neither own nor operate a rail service, all of AMTRAK’s assets should be sold to the highest bidder and all of its employees laid off. All passenger rail traffic in the United States — like freight traffic — should be privately owned and operated.
- Issue: job training. Should job-training programs be expanded? Should existing programs be reformed? Should some be eliminated? Should some be consolidated? Solution: Since the government has authority to neither institute nor operate job-training programs, they should all be eliminated. All job-training programs should be private programs run by companies seeking skilled workers, charities wanting to help the unskilled and economically disadvantaged, or for-profit companies willing to offer a service that meets a need, but all without funding of any kind from the government.
- Issue: Obamacare. Should Obamacare be replaced with some other program? Should insurance companies have to cover those with pre-existing conditions? Should insurance companies be required to eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps? Should the government subsidize the health-insurance premiums of low-income Americans? Solution: Since the government has no authority to dictate anything to insurance companies, subsidize anyone’s health-insurance premiums, or mandate that employers provide a service to their employees or that individuals purchase a service, Obamacare should be abolished in its entirety and not be replaced with anything.
- Issue: minimum wage. Should the government raise the minimum wage? How much should it be raised? Should future increases be tied to inflation? Should a lower minimum wage be instituted for students and teenagers? Solution: Since the government has no authority to institute a price floor for labor, there should be no federal minimum wage. All wages should be freely negotiated between employers and employees.
- Issue: Medicare and Medicaid. Should doctors be paid more for seeing Medicare and Medicaid patients? Should the federal government provide more money to the states for Medicaid? Should the Medicare payroll tax be increased? Should the age to begin receiving Medicare be increased? Should more low-income Americans be made eligible for Medicaid? Should more attempts be made to reduce the rampant fraud in these programs? Solution: Since the government has no authority to subsidize any American’s health insurance or health care, pay for anyone’s prescription drugs, or operate health-care programs, Medicare and Medicaid should be abolished. All health care and health insurance should be handled by the free market with no government regulation, mandates, or interference.
- Issue: farm programs. Should farm subsidies be increased? Should farmers be guaranteed a price for their commodities at least equal to the cost of growing or raising that commodity? Solution: Since the government has no authority to take money from some Americans and give it to other Americans who work as farmers, all farm subsidies should be ended immediately. Farming should be treated just like any other business. If a farmer can’t make a profit without government assistance, then he should sell his farm and find another line of work.
- Issue: space exploration. Should NASA’s budget be increased? By how much? Should astronauts go back to the moon? Should NASA undertake a mission to Mars? How much of the cost of the international space station should NASA pay for? Solution: Since the government has no authority to explore space or study space, NASA should be abolished and all of its assets sold to the highest bidder. All space exploration, study, and travel should be handled by the free market with no government direction, oversight, or funding.
- Issue: the TSA. Should TSA agents be held more accountable for their thefts from travelers? Should pat-downs be less intrusive? Should all travelers have to remove their shoes? Should the size limit of allowable containers with liquids be increased? Solution: Since the government has no authority to provide security for private businesses, the TSA should be abolished. Airports and airlines should handle their own security just like banks, hospitals, and stores.
- Issue: welfare. Should cash payments under the TANF program be reduced? Should the WIC program be expanded to more low-income women? Should the amount of housing vouchers be increased in high-rent cities? Should welfare benefits have a time limit for one to receive them? Should welfare recipients be required to take a drug test? Should welfare be reformed? Solution: Since the government has no authority to take money from some Americans and give it in any form to other Americans, all welfare programs should be eliminated. All charity and assistance should be provided voluntarily.
- Issue: Social Security. What should be done to save Social Security? Should taxes be increased? Should COLAs be eliminated? Should benefits be reduced? Should it be means-tested like the government’s regular welfare programs? Should it be privatized? Solution: Since the government has no authority to manage a retirement or disability program, the Social Security program should be ended along with the taxes on employers and employees that partially fund the program. All retirement planning should be done by means of the free market.
- Issue: grants. Should government grants for scientific or medical research be limited to important things that could benefit a large number of Americans? Should government cultural grants be withheld if some Americans deem what is funded to be blasphemous or pornographic? Solution: Since the government has no authority to take money from some Americans to subsidize the research or cultural activities of individuals or organizations, all grants should be canceled and all grant-making agencies abolished. It is on the free market that all grants should be sought.
These libertarian solutions have been available in books and articles, and on the Internet for years. They are exactly what is to be expected from libertarians because of their principled consistency. But these solutions have also been right under the noses of liberals and conservatives. Not only is the government instituting, operating, funding, mandating, and carrying out all of these illegitimate purposes of government, none of these government actions is authorized by the Constitution. That is why I continually pointed out that the government has no authority to do any of them. The fact that liberals and conservatives accept those government actions as legitimate — merely disagreeing on some details of the actions — when the Constitution they profess to follow doesn’t authorize any of them, shows just how utterly devoid of any principles they are.
The libertarian solution is not just simple, consistent, and moral, it is also constitutional, and should therefore be embraced, wholeheartedly and immediately, by Americans of all political persuasions.
This article was originally published in the January 2016 issue of Future of Freedom.