I've always thought that the existence of slavery was instrumental in bollixing up our libertarian constitutional start-up. It confused the issue on the very idea of citizenship and rights, and when it was abolished, that led to even more Federal intrusion. Lincoln may have been a great man, but we needed a greater one to figure out how to get rid of slavery without massive violence.
And while I see no problem with a standing army and other armed forces, any country that dispenses with them is just asking to be invaded, like we were in the War of 1812.
The important thing about any political philosophy is that it must adapt itself to reality instead of pretending that it already does. Below, Jeff takes a stab at keeping libertarianism realistic.
Guest post by Jeff Colonnesi:
The US, from 1774 through 1789 was probably the closest to what current libertarians would consider ideal on a federal level. The Westward expansion of the US, from 1807 through the late 1800s (before the formation of many of the western states) was close to it on the state level. The US under our current constitution was close in its early years as well, except with the ability to tax it increasingly began to intrude on the individual.
Both had their problems. Chief among them was that local governments (towns, villages and cities) often passed laws that were draconian over the area they controlled. During the westward expansion they also had to deal with the US military which was a law unto itself in the territories.
The problems were made larger than they would have been because of the slow speed and high expense of travel, let alone pulling up stakes and relocating. Communication, limited across much of that time to the speed of travel, didn’t help things.
Libertarianism can and does work. The problems with it have nothing to do with the philosophy and everything to do with the lact of acceptance by many of its adherants that it cannot be achieved instantly. You cannot go from where we are now to where we would like to be without steps in between.
The classic “muh roads” argument is a spotlight on this. Of course a libertarian society can and would build and operate roads. Would they look like ours now: the miles of straight, flat multilane freeway originally put in place as a in depth defense grid (providing ready to use airfields for in depth defense)? Probably not. But they would exist. But to go from here to there, where private companies owned and operated them, requires a leap of understanding that doesn’t lend itself to a campaign spot. Talk to voters about a road system where they have to pay tolls every mile or two and they envision gridlock. Talk to them about a system where their car has a transponder and is billed for the roads it travels, and they envision big brother watching. But talk to them about removing registration fees and cutting fuel prices by 40% and (after loving the idea) they want to know how the roads would be maintained.
Libertarianism is not easy in our situation. We, even libertarians, have become so used to paying a huge burden in taxes and having government take care of a huge portion of the infrastructure of modern society, it’s hard to wrap our own minds around a different way, let alone explain it.
That’s why the old standby central planning solutions – fascism, socialism, communism – are gaining so much ground. They are easy to explain. It’s easy to convince people – like talking to a teenager – that someone else can take care of all the little details of life while they just enjoy it. Just trust the expert, the politician, the parent – they know what needs to be done and will take care of it. Of course they also “know” what’s “good for you” and what isn’t, and they will decide that as well. Then, like a teenager, people run smack up against the limits that were imposed by that system, yet they don’t understand what they need to take on in order to shed those limits.
Quibcag: I found the illustration at Zerochan [link].