John Stossel, in his “Who Am I?” column for townhall.com, writes he was once a Kennedy-style liberal but is now a libertarian because being a liberal does not stand for the classical liberalism it once did.
He says when he asks people on the street the question what libertarian means, “half had no clue.”
He then briefly describes conservatism as the want of government to retain traditional values, liberals as those who want big government, and libertarians as those who want government to leave people alone.
In explaining his libertarianism to his wife, Ellen, she exclaimed, "That's cruel! What about the poor and the weak? Let them starve?"
For the rest of his column he counters his wife’s argument with quotes from Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economics teacher; David Boaz, Cato Institute executive vice president; and Wendy McElroy of ifeminists.com.
These folks essentially all say that which is expressed by Boaz:” The most important way that people get out of poverty is economic growth that free markets allow. The second-most important way -- maybe it's the first -- is family. There are lots of income transfers within families. Third would be self-help and mutual-aid organizations. This was very big before the rise of the welfare state."
First, foremost, and beyond whatever political views I might have, I am a humanist. It’ s unfortunate that Stossel apparently sees himself only as a libertarian.
Second, Kennedy-style liberalism (what ever that means) is not classical liberalism. The world has never experienced libertarianism. This philosophical paradigm has never been tested. So, no one factually knows if it would work or not.
Third, John Stossel should consider that laws, regulations, and government assistance, were originally established by the state because non-government organizations, communities, or individuals, were not satisfactorily solving the needs of some things on their own. When Boaz states “self-help and mutual-aid organizations … was very big before the rise of the welfare state," he fails to recognize that the free market, families, self-help and mutual-aid organizations were not meeting the needs of the indigent and infirmed, so there was a need for the state to step-in while continuing to support the efforts of individuals, families, and non government organizations.
Mr. Stossel -- as do our politicians and most Americans -- says that government intervention violates our freedom. Of course it does. However, freedom is a fallacy, it’s a symbol constitutionally invoked that never has authentically existed in the civilized world, and therefore has never been known. To be free is best defined by Andrew J. Galambos in his essay, “Conservatism is not Capitalism”: “[classical capitalism] is the societal structure that produces freedom by ensuring that each individual is fully (100%) in control of his own property (property being individual man's life and all non-procreative derivatives of his life). Either each individual controls his own life and all of its derivatives or he does not.”
I support the libertarian view. I agree with Galambos’s definition of freedom. Who would not favor that kind of freedom, a society of no government, taxes, law, or regulation? However, the only way that ideology would come even close to being viable would be in a money-less society, and even then, authentic freedom would never come to full fruition.
It is certainly clear to me that when a nation is in passionate pursuit of the creation of wealth, which today’s libertarians, conservatives, and many liberals embrace, those who are the wealthiest have the greatest freedom while those at the bottom have none.
The fact is that John Stossel is one among those many who have “no clue.”