The Libertarian party uses the word libertarian in a slightly different sense from that of the CLC. We want a movement upholding political liberty to match that regarding equality, which has had such great effect. We mean liberty in the Jeffersonian sense of the Bill of Rights and the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence. We support free markets secondarily, and do not even use the Marxist word “capitalism” to describe this natural economic activity which indeed must be protected by government, to keep a level playing field. Otherwise, profit can be made not by making an honest living, but by shysterism, and the economic libertarians might even applaud. Profit is not to be made by milking the common wealth, nor by harming one’s nation. Monsanto taking over the ecosystem is different from making money off the value of ones product, and if government does not protect the commonwealth, competition will require the businesses that will succeed in the Darwinian competition to harm the common good or fail, and soon the honest businesses will disappear. This is what has happened to the internet, where once extortion and the prostitution of our privacy are allowed, the only googles and facebooks that can succeed are those that practice extortion and the prostitution of our privacy, while the internet businesses with integrity all are bought out by the villainous businesses, again by a kind of natural selection. Borrowing money from investors to start businesses that require expense at the beginning but will make money in the long run, some of which will fail and some succeed, seems to us a fine idea. So we support “capitalism.” But we want businesses to make money from the value of their products, though, and to be prevented by government from making money off the power their money gives them to control the markets- which is not liberty or free market, but a kind of tyranny, and has resulted from the economic libertarianism of the republican party. Nor are we libertarian in the sense of the social libertarians or libertines. Jefferson explained, again, that the legislators do not understand the rightful limits of their powers, which are to uphold and secure rights while taking none from us. When no one else’s rights are being violated, government has no place. Heinous ideas will soon lead to prosecutable criminal offenses in any case. But where rights are violated government certainly does have a place. And so for example it is not at all obvious to CLC libertarianism that the government cannot protect the rights of a fetus at all, especially if we forbid cruelty to animals. Perhaps these must be understood to have partial rights. Similarly, laws regulating commerce, such as the sale of snake oil, are within the constitutional purpose of government, while laws extending the commerce clause to control things that are not commerce are unconstitutional. One cannot just call anything commerce, nor call anything the promotion of the general welfare, which congress indeed has the power to do, but must obey the limits of the Bill of rights. One cannot deprive a citizen of property, nor liberty, and call it the promotion of the general welfare, or the Bill of rights would have no meaning. At the same time, we can care for the homeless because it serves the common good to not have starving desperate people in the streets, and we can facilitate the attempts of the churches to help these people. Similarly, it is a promotion of the general welfare to have public education, since as is becoming apparent, an uneducated people cannot possibly govern themselves. Hence, our libertarianism cares more about the cultivation of the liberal arts than even jobs and technology in education.
Finally, to lighten up a bit, I will drag out an old thesis from undergrad philosophy school on Free will, which is the first and primary meaning of the term libertarian, one who believes in free will against determinism. The problem always seemed to us like an optical illusion, or not a real philosophical question at all. Where this is apparent is when one considers that the free will arguments seem to require that there be uncaused effects in order that all not be “determined” and we compelled in every choice. In religion too, we get the Predestination guys, arguing that there is nothing we can do to gain salvation because the names are written in the book of life from the beginning. But uncaused effects certainly cannot be free actions either. Laplace is a joke, an illusion due to considering only material and efficient causes, or presupposing materialism. The fact is that we cause, and this is all that is required for “free will.” Animals too cause and choose, though in a different sense. Aristotle is able to consider formal and final causes in addition to material and efficient causes, so that even while all the molecules are surely behaving as billiard balls, unbeknownst to the spectator, the organism as a whole causes and chooses, and for certain reasons, like the reasons Socrates stayed in prison. Humans cause because of what they are and what their aims are, and we too can cultivate virtue so that in the crunch, we have the better habits, better than we would have if we had not cultivated virtue. So, to have “free will” and be responsible for our actions, it is not required that there be causal looseness in the material world, and uncaused effects, but rather only that we too cause things to happen, and make things other than they would have been without our actions. The religious question is way more difficult, though, and involves mysteries we cannot address, for there are things that can be seen in the past, things that can be foreseen, things seen by a prophet or seer, and things that Jesus himself says only the father knows. The fatalism of the apocalypse is like that. It is truly possible that humanity avoid these terrible things by doing the right thing in each circumstance, though it is perhaps assured that, given human nature, we will not. The developments set in motion by what has occurred, or what unfolds from human nature, where tyranny is more common than kingship, probably are such that these will not be overcome. But for our time, we can secure much happiness and prevent much sorrow all the same, and even in the terrible time, many right things can be done. To avoid doing any right action because of some abstract fatalism due to an intellectual optical illusion is just plain stupid.
Animals are self-moving, and this is what animate means, though plants are alive without moving, and hence probably without choosing. (I was relieved to reason, at about age 40, that plants probably cannot feel, because they cannot move either toward or away by choice). But human choice has what is like another dimension in geometry. Animals cause. But humans, in addition, not only know all this stuff about causing, which animals probably do not think much about, and realize that they cause, but we have foresight, envision, and have priotities and purposes that we know are more or less accurate, because we know we can be mistaken! Hence there are various senses of volition. Socrates is famous for the teaching that no one does harm knowingly, from the Apology. In this sense, people are not responsible even for crime, because if they knew what they were doing they would not do it. So evil is involuntary, and this is a basis for forgiveness that dissolves anger. A second and different sense of volition distinguishes criminal responsibility. People choose wrong knowingly in this sense, due to a perversion of the accurate natural priorities: They set their desire for money above their respect for another’s property rights, for example. This moral weakness is yet different from malice, when due to an intellectual perversion people seek to hurt or harm others, as from revenge. Malice is very difficult to understand, but these are to say the least criminally responsible, and the entire effort of civilization is in one sense to suppress the malicious and tyrannical powerful who have set a delusion of their true self interest above absolutely everything. This may even be a kind of possession, and the perpetrator still be criminally responsible. Finally there is of course the kind of madness that serves as a genuine criminal defense, as when someone steals, but thought some great purpose were involved in their having the object, or some such delusion. Henious crimes are committed by persons in a dream world in which the act is not criminal at all. The trouble is that sociologist type lawyers like to argue that because of genes, environment, neurons, molecules or other materialistic billiard ball type causes, the person is not criminally responsible, confusing the defense that an act is involuntary with an extenuating circumstance defense.
So human self motion has this added dimension. Paul, writing of something like conscience, explains that the truth about right is evident to all men from the beginning (Romans 1-2). But we are especially self moving if, and to the extent to which, we attain knowledge. Seth Benardete has a discussion of the self-motion of the soul in Plato’s Phaedrus, in which the projection of the ideal in love is a self motion of the soul upward, in the ascent of education. This sort of self-motion reminds me for some reason of the Zoa in the vision of Ezekiel and John, of the Cherubim who move with the wheels. So too, it is said that we can become one with the divine, and then our free choice would be the same as the choice of the Big Cheese. But when we, as whole organisms, cause, the matter moves not like a billiard ball, where the effect is later than the cause in time, but the effect and cause occur simultaneously, because the appendage is a part of a whole, effected by a super-ordinate cause, ourselves, as in we move our hand. The pen moves across the page at the same time as I move it, a tool works as one works it. This simultaneity of cause and effect proves that Aristotle and Socrates are right, that there are indeed causes that are not material and efficient causes, and proves this scientifically. It may be this sort of cause that is truly free and yet can in principle be foreknown, if only by the Father.
That is surely less a paradox than the requirement of uncaused effects for our “wills” to be “free.”
But political liberty is, as Montesquieu formulates, not being compelled by government to do anything wrong, nor forbidden to do anything right. But for simplicity, we can say with Jefferson, being allowed to choose and do anything that does not violate the equal rights of another, and liberty is one of these rights.
Socratic ignorance and Jeffersonian libertarianism fit together. It is because government is ignorant of what is right that political liberty consists in not forbidding the free citizens to do anything that is right, nor compelling them to do anything that is wrong. Government is to secure the conditions where free citizens just might hit upon the right things to do, and so government both stays out of the way, by not attempting to do the right for us by legislation, since it cannot. Socrates and Jefferson fit together, and that is CLC libertarianism.