Mr. Sparks is a businessman in Canton, Ohio.
Some of us, interested in the study of limited government and maximum liberty, have met nearly every month for more than ten years. Newcomers to our meetings are troubled by the increase of government interference in their lives. Many, for the first time, seek a boundary line between the functions proper for government and those that are improper. Usually the newcomer already believes that government should not engage in certain things—such as federal aid to education, excessive taxation, or subsidies to farmers—and evidences a desire to stop government encroachment in his private life. He is attracted to our discussion group where he hopes to find others opposing the same government intervention he opposes.
Occasionally, the guest has little fundamental philosophy as to why or where government should be limited, but he knows he dislikes big government.
A logical, step-by-step explanation and review of the thrilling history of our country serves to remind him that government properly holds only those rights first possessed by each person before they were delegated to the defensive agency. Briefly, government should be as a soldier to defend against external attack, and as a policeman to protect the lives and property of its citizens from internal attack—nothing more.
This leaves many of the present-day government activities outside the definition. The new inquirer quickly confirms his own chief peeve against the government; but, as he mentally checks off a list of other activities also outside the definition, he runs into trouble.
Federal aid to education is understandably wrong, and so is public housing, he thinks, but what about the postal system? Surely, it is all right. Is there an exception to the definition?
No, of course not. Yet the definition appears more inflexible by the minute as item after item of commonly-accepted government action moves across his mind’s eye. Pure food laws, city garbage collection, municipal water plants, land reclamation, federal travel agencies, municipal golf courses, state education, state employment service, milk marketing orders—are all of these improper functions of government?
Perhaps the definition is too extreme; maybe a more temperate position is better, decides the visitor, and anyway, extremes must be avoided.
Thus, a potential conservative is in jeopardy of being lost. Our experience has been mixed; some continue on, a few do not return.
Since the purpose of our study is to develop a better understanding of individual liberty in order to influence the direction of future government, it is serious when someone showing an interest in the subject is repelled. Paradoxically, on a national scale, the more able the explanations of the importance of minimum government, the greater is the intensity of the opposition from those who clamor for big government. On the other hand, the less able the arguments by half-hearted, apologetic advocates of minimum government, the less anyone is convinced of the rightness of the limited government stand. Either reason can produce a negative attraction for the freedom philosophy.
The purpose of this piece is to confirm the case for full adherence to uncompromising, maximum individual liberty. Such a stand circumvents the second reason and squarely meets the first reason head-on. The more positive the conservative position, the greater will be the alarm and reaction among the "liberals."
Denunciation of "Extremists"
It is currently the deliberate tactic of the "liberal" element to denounce "extremists," although the category is not clearly defined. Others, unaware of the basic issue, take up the cry, resulting in further onslaughts in news articles, editorials, public speeches, and friendly conversations. As a result, anyone who believes in the principle of limited government potentially is put on the defensive as an "extremist."
One should know the flaws in the "liberal" attack in order to combat the accusations successfully.
Purposely thrown into one classification of "rightist" by the "liberals" are anti-Semitist and fascist groups. Nothing could be farther from the truth than to include these undesirable groups in a "rightist" classification. The Stalin-Hitler War led many to believe that since Stalin was extreme left, Hitler must have been the opposite. The common foundation of all leftist thought is power-laden government, whether known as socialism, communism, welfare state, or as nazism and fascism. The latter two are kindred totalitarian systems of socialism, not opposites, as "liberals" would have one believe. The strategy of the "liberals" is obvious. Denounce fascism; then falsely classify fascism as a rightist movement. Result? The public is led to believe that rightism is evil, because almost everyone knows fascism is evil. Similar tactics are used with any target that conveniently serves the purpose of embarrassing the right.
Dissension in the Ranks
The distinction between the false right and the true right is not widely enough known to prevent the "liberals," as well as their shallow "carbon copies," from picking up the "extremist" term and hurling the false clichés and impressions at the conservative, hoping to shame him before the uninformed public, or at least dampen his enthusiasm for the conservative or libertarian cause.
There are many examples that must warm the hearts and souls of the "liberal" leaders. The "non-extremist" editorial writer, for one, opposes big government spending programs and supports free enterprise in name, but contradicts himself by advocating a federal urban renewal program for his city. Then, looking upon himself as a moderate and practical conservative, he criticizes the true conservatives, who oppose all government intervention even when given the opportunity to claim a portion of the loot for their own personal or community advantage. This is quite a picture—the true conservative admonished by the lukewarm conservative, while the "liberal" looks on in glee.
The presence of this background of irresponsible extremist publicity may seriously influence the potential new conservative to be apprehensive about any belief, concerning the scope of government, that lies to the right of his present belief. Consequently, more than one person delving into the limited government concept in our discussion group has indicated that the libertarian is too intemperate and should move to a more temperate position.
Adherence to Principle
Let’s examine this recommendation. According to Webster, a temperate person is self-controlled. Self-control implies adherence to certain fixed principles; otherwise, it has no meaning. A libertarian has fixed principles of the highest quality. He is convinced he has no right to initiate force against another person. Honesty demands his recognition that support of federal aid to the home-town project initiates force against others—requiring others to "contribute" their property and money. The libertarian is willing to face facts and reflect them as accurately as he knows how. This is truthfulness. The limitation of government is truth, based on the rights of each man to defend his life and his property. To recognize this fundamental principle, and then fail to embrace it, reveals that one subscribes to untruth.
The libertarian, then, does not believe in initiating force against another—lawfully or unlawfully. He faces this principle honestly, even when it means personal inconvenience. He truthfully reflects his own understanding of the basic principle without rationalizing acceptance of special privilege at the expense of others. This is the temperate position of self-control.
Those who seek the "safety" of a so-called temperate position are not searching for firm principles. Lacking conviction of belief, either left or right, they hope to enjoy a comfortable middle-of-the-road position, free of controversy and undemanding of courage. The "moderate" conservative, self-designated due to his leanings ever so slightly to the right, fails to understand that the no extreme he seeks implies a mid-point between right and wrong.
If a libertarian is to be "temperate" in this latter, twisted meaning, he must reside philosophically somewhere between honest and dishonest, truth and untruth, and to a great degree, he must be willing to initiate force against another. If this is libertarian philosophy, then the term no longer has meaning, for it relates to nothing. There is no midpoint between truth and untruth, or between honest and dishonest. Neither is there a mid-point up to which one can properly initiate force against another, and beyond which it is improper.
When one departs from the basic, definable principle and looks for a mid-point beyond, he discovers there are as many midpoints as people who attempt to define them. It compares to a football field without boundaries, yard lines, or goal posts. Whether a "play" results in a gain or loss under such circumstances cannot be determined. This is bad if the objective is clarity of direction. This is good if the objective is confusion so that few can know how the game is going.
Nowhere To Stand
This confusion gains ground for totalitarian goals. An irresolute conservative who fears being called ultraconservative or extremist more than he fears the evil results of embracing fallacy, should re-examine his position. A mid-point is not a tenable position, for it cannot withstand the repetitive "liberal" argument to move one notch nearer to complete socialism.
If one believes that government housing for families earning less than $6,000 is proper, then why not $10,000? or $20,000? If one believes that compulsory government education through twelve grades is proper, then why not through four years of college? If one believes it proper to subsidize sugar factories, why not ceramic tile factories, grocery stores, and rubber-toy plants? If one believes it proper to socialize the medical profession, then why not include lawyers, accountants, and architects? If it is proper for government to carry our mail, inspect our food, collect our garbage, build parks and golf courses for our recreation, educate our children, subsidize school lunches, pay farmers for not farming, fix prices for milk and fruits, operate fire departments, compel us to save for old age by assessing a social security tax—then where can a "mid-point" line be drawn?
There is only one place to draw a clear line—government, a soldier to protect us from outside attack, and government, a policeman to protect our lives and property from inside attack. This is the only position that seems to be consistent with the freedom philosophy and worthy of full support.
Strategy in Persuasion
Undoubtedly, something can be said for strategy in persuasion. Shocking the new inquirer is not usually the ideal method to win someone to the basic limited government concept, for it is not a simple matter to erase years of fallacious thought in one hour’s discussion. Learning takes time. On the other hand, an inquirer bold enough to search for truth should be courageous enough to face truth when he finds it. Surely a libertarian who is asked where government should be confined cannot answer the question dishonestly, not even when asked about one of the less important government intrusions of the rights of individuals. He must answer not only honestly, but he must also explain clearly and logically.
One should not fear the truth; there is no danger in understanding where the line should be drawn. "Liberals" denounce the ultraconservative as dangerous, but do not say why or how he is dangerous. Is it dangerous to believe that each person should make his own choices, his own decisions, live his own life, and use his own property? If so, to whom is this dangerous? It should not be too surprising to learn who finds it so
—those with government power or government-endowed special privilege or who covet such power and privilege, and those who enjoy being masters of human puppetry and live off the production of others.
The idea of freedom is dangerous to these liberals who stand on the left, yearning for ever-increasing government power to make decisions rightfully belonging to individuals. The libertarians or conservatives stand on the right, fighting hard to regain for each person the right to make his own decision.
In between, among the sheep, stand the faltering, would-be occasional conservatives who seek mid-points. They are conspicuously ineffective, especially against socialism.
Almost everyone is "for freedom" providing "proper" exceptions are allowed.
Our task is to present the freedom philosophy all the way, logically and consistently—as we see it.
This sometimes involves a fresh look at "proper" exceptions; if everybody’s exceptions are taken together, no room is left for any freedom at all.