Category Archives: Political Philosophy

Conservatives Make a Weak Case for Christianity

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The American Red Guards are after Christianity now, like their comrades in previous communist revolutions.

Conservatives will lament this, but they make a weak case for Christianity because they only seem to hear half of Jesus’ message.

Yes, Jesus told us we are wicked, sinners, and hypocrites. And he was right.

But he also said we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. And he was right about that, too.

The whole conservative philosophy is based on the first half of Jesus’ message alone. It assumes human beings are so wicked that all their natural inclinations must be crushed by authoritarian rule. Hobbes said it and Burke agreed with him.

Libertarians – even the atheists – implicitly agree with all of Jesus’ view of humanity. Every one of us has the capacity to be both a murderer, thief, or liar and a hero, philanthropist, or good neighbor.

The non-aggression principle proceeds directly from this view of humanity, allowing force only in defense of legitimate property rights (property being our lives, liberties, and “stuff”) and otherwise leaving each other free to allow the light of the world to shine.

In addition to overreaching government, the conservative view also results in conservatives tending to separate the world into good and bad people, rather than good and bad actions. This makes Christianity a tough sell, especially since it contradicts another key plank of Jesus’ message: that sincere repentance will be rewarded with the forgiveness of sins.

If conservatives truly want to preserve Western Civilization, previously known as “Christendom,” they ought to consider viewing humanity the way Jesus did and libertarians do and let that guide their policies.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Resisting the Nitwits: Strategies

Simpsons-Mob homer runningSo, I’ve been giving some thought to approaches we could take to free ourselves of the Nitwits. Again, I didn’t start this group because I thought I had any answers, but rather to ask the question of any who see the problem the same way I do.

I thought it might be worthwhile to break down approaches into general categories and people could add to them in the comments (I’ll amend the OP). Below are the first I’ve thought of off the top of my head, along with the results of any already tried and/or foreseeable challenges. Please add and comment.

For those employing any of these means, I ask in advance to control the urge to be defensive about any challenges I suggest. We’re all here because we recognize one thing: nothing so far has worked or we wouldn’t be here in the first place. However, there may be ways to innovate/improve within the general categories listed below:

  1. Political action. This seems like the most obvious failure. Could anyone have done better taking the message to the Nitwits than Ron Paul or Harry Browne? And no, Ron’s campaign didn’t fail because the media blacked it out. Ron got way MORE exposure than his votes warranted. The Nitwits just didn’t want to hear about less government. I don’t see how this avenue could be exploited significantly better than it has been. The Nitwits will make zero effort to understand the message, no matter how well it’s presented. They’re still answering polls about whether the U.S. should have a third party as if third, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. parties didn’t already exist. This seems hopeless to me.
  1. Free State Project. This was an admirable effort and certainly creative. But the most optimistic thing one could say about it is it has yielded no fruit so far in terms of affecting New Hampshire politics. As proof, I’d point to the last U.S. senator elected in 2016 – a Biden/Clinton-style Democrat, just like the other elected in 2008. I am open to why this isn’t true, but let’s please refrain from holding up that one position any Republican or Democrat holds that might be slightly libertarian as if it’s helping. You can find those all over the establishment. Yet, we have the system we have.

I think the problem with the Free State Project model is it requires such an uprooting of one’s life and uncertainty about making a living, etc. Not everyone is built to live in NH. I wasn’t built to live in FL. I moved back to NY after 10 years, knowing how much more statist it was here (they’ve upped the ante since I moved back – sheesh).

  1. Free Country Project. This is a variation based on what Doug Casey has been saying to individuals for a long time: find a backwards, poor country that presents opportunities and become a big fish in that little pond. It’s conceivable that a bunch of libertarians could try to do this in a small country somewhere and become the so-called “elite” there. But it has the same challenge as the Free State Project times ten.
  1. Free City Project. The same strategy, but in a smaller geographical area/population. This is probably the most realistic, although to some extent we can observe the results now. No, there aren’t pockets of libertarian communities anywhere, but my little rural community in New York, for example, is decidedly pro-Trump. But the residents here do not live any more a Trumpist life than anyone else in deep blue New York State. The county, state and federal governments control so much of daily life that whatever differences a contrary political view make (and I can point to zero here in my town) are minor at best.

Now, if a community my size were taken over by libertarians, instead of Trumpists, what differences could they really make? Maybe get rid of some zoning laws, maybe not. Every county has an urban center and I’d bet it would be hard to change much here without the “permission” of those in the City of Niagara Falls where all the population lives. That’s not even to mention something truly libertarian like privatizing the water utility, police force, or garbage pickup (and I mean really make it private, with free entry into the market, not the way some of these are “privatized” right now).

  1. Civil Disobedience including Agorism. I know people do this now and have some measure of success. But let’s be realistic: the success avoiding taxes and regulations is based solely on flying under the radar. In other words, not doing enough business or acquiring enough wealth for it to be worth the state taking an interest in confiscating it. Were there a way to get a significant number of people to do this en masse, I believe the Nitwits would immediately call in their keepers out of sheer envy, but certainly it might be worth a try.

The problem again is geography. The people doing this would have to be in the same geographical area to make the movement rise above what it is: a few, relatively poor rebels eking out a subsistence or barely above subsistence living too small for the state to care about. It’s analogous to convicts trading contraband inside a prison.

  1. Promoting Homeschooling. The homeschooling population has grown tremendously out of necessity during the Coronasteria. Even before it, the population had approximately doubled in the past twenty years to 2 million. Apart from still being barely more than a rounding error compared to the whole population, I can say from firsthand experience libertarians make up no more a percentage of this subset than they do the general population. My experience has been the most prevalent category are mothers who don’t think their child(ren) would do well in school because of some medical challenge (extreme allergies, autism, etc.). There is also a large contingent of people who object to school merely because they do not teach the Bible as a history and science text. Some of these are conservatives, which means they aren’t libertarians. My wife and I are the only people I personally have met who homeschool for the purposes of providing a libertarian-friendly education.

It is an open question whether there is an opportunity to promote home schooling very hard right now to at least get a larger chunk of the child population out of the public school system. No matter what their parents believe, not having them literally marching back and forth to bells and buzzers can’t but help. But we need to approach this with open eyes.

  1. Armed rebellion. I mention this only because I’m sure someone will bring it up. I don’t think this is a realistic option, not for the reasons the Nitwits give that the state has superior armaments (“because you can’t fight a government army with only rifles and small arms against planes, missiles, etc.”). Obviously, the Afghans have disproven that. But armed rebellion is a bad idea for three reasons:

A) We’re completely outnumbered. Unlike the Afghans, there is no significant portion of the population who would support this. We’d all end up dead and held up as nutcase militia types and leave no freer a world behind us.

B) The history of armed rebellions has not shown them to yield more freedom. I know someone will bring up the American Revolution, but I submit that was much more an example of a population expelling a foreign invader than it was an armed rebellion against the existing political structure. The colonists’ objection was that Parliament was changing the political structure by acquiring new powers. And like the Taliban, the domestic population included a significant percentage (1/3 at least) that supported the revolution. This is not the case here.

Besides the American Revolution, what was the other armed rebellion(s) that resulted in a freer society? I’ll hang up and listen.

C) War is destructive and miserable. If the rebellion had any success, which it won’t, it would destroy all sorts of infrastructure and private property, not to mention innocent lives. War is the means of the state. It is humanity at its nadir. Surely, we non-Nitwits can think of a better idea than resorting to this, can’t we?

This blog will be updated with new approaches as they are suggested.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

No, government isn’t the problem. It’s the Nitwit Mob.

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Thirty-nine years ago, Ronald Reagan said during his first inaugural address, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” It had Conservative, Inc. atwitter for decades, even long after everyone knew the federal government doubled in size under The Gipper.

Both proponents and opponents still talk about Reagan as if he shrank the government when he did precisely the opposite. That’s understandable coming from political operatives or media (but I repeat myself) who have some stake in people believing it. What is intolerable is the tens of millions of nitwits – there really is no other word for them – who believe it themselves, contrary to easily verifiable data.

Thus, this libertarian is led to what some might consider an extraordinary conclusion. Government is not, in fact, the problem.

Contrary to what we in the so-called “liberty movement” would like to think, there is not a large percentage of the population yearning to break free from an oppressive government.

In reality, all those polls showing single digit approval ratings for Congress result from people being angry the government isn’t doing more. I wish I could tell you what you want to hear. But I can’t.

Hundreds of years ago there was a moment when the American population was somewhat suspicious of government, respectful of property rights (the only real rights) and devoted to personal liberty. That sentiment began eroding almost immediately upon the thirteen colonies gaining their independence. It died completely generations ago, but for a few contrarians.

We now live in as close to a pure democracy as any society this size could possibly achieve. By “pure democracy,” I do not mean the overrated distinction between democracy and republic. I mean a system in which the will of the majority is unchecked by any institutional restraint.

When you consider half the population has, by definition, IQs under 100, then you can see why it isn’t difficult for a small, interested minority to combine with that population segment to impose whatever they want upon the rest of us. All they need do is promise safety from some terrifying threat, real or imagined, and the cowardly, obsequious, statist-to-the-core majority will not only accept the plan but demand it.

We are ruled by the Nitwit Mob. Democracy is their means, comfortable slavery their end. Participation is mandatory.

How does one know the members of this mob, you ask? Identifying non-members would make for a shorter answer, but here is an incomplete list of some tell-tale characteristics:

  • Mindlessly repeating talking points they hear on state propaganda broadcasts like The Today Show as if the talking points are their own, well considered opinions.
  • Changing their profile pics to some symbol in politically correct vogue at the moment. Can one say any more emphatically, “I have no identify of my own?”
  • “Thanking the troops” for their freedom – or for anything else for that matter. Thanking is only appropriate when a benefit is conferred. And no American taxpayer has benefited from the troops invading Afghanistan, Iraq, Viet Nam, Somalia, Korea…
  • Starting any sentence with the words, “You need to….” Yes, this is a personal pet peeve, but think about the thought process behind this ubiquitous expression. It’s a passive-aggressive way of ordering someone to do something, often to fall in line with some politically correct or otherwise state-directed behavior.

The appropriate response is something like, “No, I need to do no such thing. If you would like me to do thus and so, I suggest you ask politely, employing the word, ‘please.’ I make no guarantees.”

Or, if time is short, simply, “Fuck you.”

  • Using the word “we” when advancing a political agenda. “We need, we must, we can,” etc. are all words employed by two groups of people: those who wish to control or plunder you and the Nitwits who enable them.

What is the solution to rule by the Nitwit Mob? I don’t know.  But I can tell you what the solution isn’t: trying to reason with them.

We can write all the essays we want, teach all the economics we want, cite all the great thinkers in the libertarian tradition we want. It’s not going to work because the Nitwit Mob doesn’t want to be reasoned with. They don’t want to consider your point of view. No, they don’t find that information you “shared” interesting.

The Nitwits are impervious to these efforts because they are emotionally invested in statism. They want an all-powerful state to care for them like they are livestock and they demand you take your place in the stable next to them (not to mention pay for the stable). Any suggestion this might be immoral, impractical or even detrimental to their own interests might as well be made to a donkey.

In substance abuse programs, it is often said the first step in solving your problem is admitting you have one.  We must admit we have a Nitwit problem compared to which the state pales in comparison. Let’s stop operating under the assumption that if we could just bring them the information evil forces have kept from them, they’d join our cause. They won’t.

As my kung fu Sifu once said, “Well, what you’re doing obviously isn’t working. So, whatever you decide to do, don’t keep doing that.” Consider this a request for proposals. How do we free ourselves from the Nitwits who are too stupid to persuade and too numerous to fight?

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The government can’t make realities like scarcity go away

magicWhenever I point out the predictable (and often predicted) negative consequences of a particular government intervention, someone will invariably come back with, “Oh yeah, what’s YOUR solution, smartypants!”

Like that’s some sort of zinger.

In almost every case, the inquisitor is looking for me to propose an alternative government solution, when the obvious recommendation implicit in my post was, “Stop letting the government…”

No matter how high the past failures mount up (drug war, education, health care, war on “terror”), they’re always ready to call in the government again.

It’s almost as if they can’t confront the reality that, as the great John Bender put it, “The world is an imperfect place; screws fall out all the time.” They are constantly looking for someone, usually a politician, to wave a magic wand and make realities like scarcity go away.

How many examples will it take? How many thousands of repetitions do they require before every day isn’t their first day?

What would it take for people like this to acknowledge:

1. Some problems can’t be solved. We just have to learn to live with them.

2. In a world of scarce resources, the voluntary cooperation of the market always produces the best outcomes.

3. In that same world, the government always produces the worst outcomes.

Freedom is impossible without confronting reality.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Conservatism is More Harmful to Liberty Than Progressive Liberalism

Publication1Following the horrors of the Wilson and FDR presidencies, conservatives made nice with classical liberals and later libertarians as the only way to maintain any relevancy. This was a rather odd fellowship, conservatism being a fundamentally authoritarian philosophy. And because people seem unable to think in terms of anything outside the conservative-liberal spectrum, this has caused many people genuinely interested in a freer society to conflate authoritarian, conservative positions with classical liberal or libertarian ones. Examples:

  • Conflating conservative “pro-business” mercantilism/crony capitalism with free markets
  • Worshiping the enormous standing army rather than being suspicious of and reluctant to pay for it, as any liberty-minded person should be
  • Ditto for the ubiquitous domestic standing army, the police
  • Blaming corporations acting in their best interests in a corrupted business environment, rather than the government that created that environment and made it a business necessity to exploit it, lest their competitors do so first (Amazon, Walmart, etc.). This is how Tucker Carlson finds himself agreeing with Bernie Sanders

The foundation of conservatism, the reason it seeks to “conserve” what is already established by any forceful means necessary, individual rights be damned, is its belief that man’s nature is so fallen, dark, or inherently violent that it must be kept at bay. Thomas Hobbes, Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk all agreed that the primary purpose of government was to override men’s natural inclinations by force. For all of them, any freedom man has in society is a privilege granted by the government, not an inalienable right carried into society which the government is charged to defend.

In American history, Hamilton was a true conservative, seeking to conserve mercantilism and empire, the status quo of his day, albeit under American control. Lincoln was a true conservative, seeking to preserve the status quo of the union despite the expressed wishes of the states attempting to leave it peacefully. Today, Trump and the majority of the Republican Party are the true conservatives, pursuing an explicitly Hamiltonian platform, even borrowing Hamilton’s “national greatness” slogan.

Ironically, what attracts well-meaning people to the conservative brand is the libertarian-sounding rhetoric it often employs, despite libertarian ideas being fundamentally antithetical to conservatism. Once they’ve adopted that brand, and seeing that virtually no conservative politicians ever propose anything resembling a move towards laissez faire markets, a less powerful police state or a more peaceful foreign policy, they resort to suggesting the people who run for office under the conservative or Republican banners are not “true conservatives,” or in the case of the Republican Party, are “RINOs” (Republicans In Name Only).

When pressed to name some “true conservatives” or “true Republicans,” the only answer one will ever get is Hamiltonian Calvin Coolidge, a conservative who genuinely seemed to hold some classical liberal positions, along with some conservative ones. We’re supposed to believe that in all American history, Coolidge and a few Republicans today like Rand Paul, Justin Amash and Thomas Massie are the true conservatives and/or true Republicans, and virtually everyone else were the “RINOs.”

That should sound ludicrous to any dispassionate observer. Why wouldn’t Coolidge, Paul, Massie and Amash be the RINOs, i.e., the ones who don’t think or act like 99% of the Republican Party throughout its history?

For these reasons, I believe there is a good argument that conservatism is more harmful to the cause of liberty than progressive liberalism. At least proponents of the latter come right out and tell us they’re going to trample our personal and economic liberty “for our own good.” Anyone seeking freedom knows not to vote for them. Not so the conservatives, who occasionally talk like Jefferson but always govern like FDR and Catherine the Great had a love child who won a U.S. election.

The conservative movement’s success in absorbing people with libertarian impulses keeps American politics from breaking out of a narrow range of positions, all statist to the core. This ultimately makes us poorer and less free than we would be if those interested in free markets, peaceful trade and a non-interventionist foreign policy would let go of their emotional attachment to the conservative label and let the Republican Party take its place on the junk heap with its predecessors, the Whig and Federalist parties.

A new movement and party, devoid of authoritarian conservative baggage, may attract a lot of people who currently hold their nose and vote Democrat, but don’t necessarily like the awful far left any more than libertarians do. In other words, what is needed is a radical change in the political landscape, meaning conservatism has to go.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The Pledge of Allegiance is Un-American

pledgeofallegianceAn Atlanta, Georgia, charter school announced last week its intention to discontinue the practice of having students stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance during its schoolwide morning meetings at the beginning of each school day, opting to allow students to recite the pledge in their classrooms instead. Predictably, conservatives were immediately triggered by this “anti-American” decision, prompting the school to reverseits decision shortly after.

The uproar over periodic resistance to reciting the pledge typically originates with Constitution-waving, Tea Party conservatives. Ironically, the pledge itself is not only un-American but antithetical to the most important principle underpinning the Constitution as originally ratified.

Admittedly, the superficial criticism that no independent, free-thinking individual would pledge allegiance to a flag isn’t the strongest argument, although the precise words of the pledge are “and to the republic for which it stands.” So, taking the pledge at its word, one is pledging allegiance both to the flag and the republic. And let’s face it, standing and pledging allegiance to anything is a little creepy. But, then again, it was written by a socialist.

But why nitpick?

It’s really what comes next that contradicts both of the republic’s founding documents. “One nation, indivisible” is the precise opposite of the spirit of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (“under God” wasn’t added until the 1950s).

The government in Washington, D.C., is called “the federal government.” A federal government governs a federation, not a nation. And the one persistent point of contention throughout the constitutional convention of 1787 and the ratifying conventions which followed it was fear the government created by the Constitution would become a national government rather than a federal one. Both the Federalist Papers and the Bill of Rights were written primarily to address this concern of the people of New York and the states in general, respectively.

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Society is in every state a blessing, but government…

DENVER, CO - JUNE 16: The TSA security lines in the main terminal are crowded with vacation travelers on June 16, 2013, in Denver, Colorado. Located 25 miles from downtown, Denver International Airport is the largest airport in the United States. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

DENVER, CO – JUNE 16: The TSA security lines in the main terminal are crowded with vacation travelers on June 16, 2013, in Denver, Colorado. Located 25 miles from downtown, Denver International Airport is the largest airport in the United States. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

This thing we call “society,” which Thomas Paine correctly observed is separate and distinct from government, is basically an economic arrangement. The basis of and primary reason for society is people exchanging their various goods and services with each other.

I wonder how many hundreds or thousands of years more it will take for people to realize what should be blatantly obvious: that every set of exchanges in which government is heavily involved, by either subsidizing, regulating (aka “protecting established firms from new competition”), or downright monopolizing it, is painful. All these sectors (education, health care, air travel, etc) share the same characteristics: poor service, no accountability, high prices, incredibly outdated, bureaucratic procedures (paper forms, long lines, etc), and lack of choices or options, just to name a few.

Conversely, every industry in which government has low or zero involvement has precisely the opposite characteristics: constantly lower prices, better and always improving service, absolute accountability (you go to a competitor if you’re not happy), cutting edge technology (phone apps, automated texts, etc) and constantly improving ease of use and convenience.

Anyone not completely blinded by their emotions (mostly envy) can see glaringly obvious cause/effect relationships that lead inevitably to one conclusion:

All advancement in human happiness results from markets and other voluntary cooperation and virtually all human misery is rooted in government.

One would think a light bulb would go on sooner or later for most people and government would be banished from most or all human interaction.

Instead, it’s “Thank you sir, may I have another!” ad infinitum.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

Why They’ll Really Hate You

EEB80D72-3353-41D7-BB50-FDB05777BC38They will hate you if you refuse to let them rule you. They will hate you if you don’t let them plan your life, spend your money and run your business. They will hate you if you don’t let them “educate” your children. They will hate you if you pursue your own happiness, encouraging your fellow men and women to do the same.

They will hate you if you have opinions they don’t approve of. They will hate you if you have real courage, which means saying what the government doesn’t want you to say, rather than ignorantly and self-destructively parroting its talking points. In short, they will hate you if you do not do the thing all their marches, propaganda, and televised hysterics are designed to force you to do: bend the knee.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Newsflash: Teachers Are Already Armed

armedwomanIn the wake of yet another mass shooting in a public school, a host of familiar recommendations have resurfaced about how to “prevent this from ever happening again.” Predictably, both conservatives and liberals are looking to the government for a solution. Americans have somehow arrived at a point where they cannot conceive of human action that is not either prohibited, mandated, or, at the very least, centrally planned.

Just Like Drugs

The first problem is the goal. It is absurdly unrealistic to believe any set of rules is going to prevent anything from “ever happening again.” If you doubt that, I invite you to examine the war on drugs. Many decades ago, politicians decided American citizens taking heroin was never going to happen again. They banned that drug completely. You aren’t allowed to possess or sell it under any circumstances. Not after a background check. Not with a doctor’s prescription. Not at all.

Ban them completely for the civilian population, they say, and mass shooters won’t be able to obtain them.

Today, that drug is at the center of what the same government calls an opioid “epidemic.” Epidemic. So much for heroin overdoses “never happening again.”

Yet, despite this evidence, liberals still suggest what they’ve always suggested: further restrictions on gun ownership. A good portion of them believes that only government employees charged with national defense or public safety should be allowed to carry guns. Ban them completely for the civilian population, they say, and mass shooters won’t be able to obtain them.

You know, just like drugs.

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Response to Elie Mystal’s ‘Libertarian Hero Meets The Justice Of The Streets (Err.. Suburbs)’

Rand_Paul,_official_portrait,_112th_Congress_alternateI read Elie Mystal’s article on Rand Paul’s assault, which suggests such violent encounters are the inevitable result of libertarianism in practice. He makes two errors. First, he contends Rand Paul ignores the rules of his HOA based on his libertarian philosophy. Second, he contends basing a legal framework on the libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP) is unworkable.

Regarding the first error, libertarianism is based on the sanctity of voluntary contracts. An HOA is a perfect example of what libertarians would replace zoning regulations with – an enforceable contract voluntarily entered into by every individual, instead of a set of rules imposed on the whole by a supposed majority. Mystal conflates voluntary contracts with regulations near the end of his piece, writing, “Rand Paul’s broken ribs are a goddamn case study in why we need regulations.” This begs the question, “Why do we need regulations, rather than just enforcement of the HOA?”

Neither Mystal nor I know the terms of Rand Paul’s HOA contract, but if they prohibit either pumpkin patches or compost heaps, then Rand Paul appears to be in violation of that contract. Libertarians would side with the HOA, not Rand Paul. However, the HOA contract also provides penalties for violation of the terms, which I’m fairly certain don’t include bum-rushing him and breaking his ribs.

This all assumes there is any truth to reports Senator Paul used his property in ways his neighbors found offensive, whether compliant with the letter of his HOA agreement or not. Several of his neighbors have come forward since Mystal’s piece was written to refute those reports.

Even in the absence of a written agreement, libertarians recognize longstanding local conditions as binding on new property owners. Thus, I cannot come into a quiet community and build an airport on my land, subjecting my neighbors to the noise and other inconveniences of having an airport border their land. By the same token, I cannot buy the land next to an existing airport and then demand the airport stop making noise or doing the other things an airport must do to conduct its business. This principle extends to all sorts of questions, including air pollution, zoning, etc. Murray Rothbard wrote about this concept many times. Here is an example.

Second, Mystal’s article includes this passage:

“You can do what you want and I can do what I want and, so long as we’re not hurting anybody, the government can do nothing.” It’s… cute, as theories of social interactions go. It’s not a workable basis for law and governance.”

I would refer the writer to this passage from Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural address:

“With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens — a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities. [emphasis added]

In fact, Jefferson reiterated the NAP as the basis for law and governance many times over the course of his life. Examples include this, this and this.

Rather than a “cute theory of social interaction,” the NAP was the guiding principle of American liberty for well over a century, until Woodrow Wilson specifically called it out as no longer adequate for what he considered too complex a society for the NAP to govern. Libertarians disagree with Wilson. Mystal may not. But it would be a much more valuable discussion if libertarianism would at least be represented correctly when criticized, rather than presented in the cartoonish fashion our sound bite media so often resorts to.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.