The Functional Libertarian
September 19. 2013
I am happy to say that the Functional Libertarian approach is beginning to attract more and more people both in our country and around the world. But what does that mean? What would a Functional Libertarian world really look like?
Generally speaking, Functional Libertarians strive for a government in which people would happily pay their taxes because they see that the money is being responsibly and effectively spent for their general safety, welfare and quality of life. Obviously we will never attain that result, but we can strive for it.
So, to an appreciable degree, this is what that world would look like:
We would have strong police and military forces to protect us from foreigners and from each other. But, with only a few exceptions, we would just use our military forces to counteract threats to our safety, security and national interests. We cannot be – and should not be – the world’s policeman.
We would have a strong judiciary to hold people accountable for their actions, safeguard our liberties and freedoms, and enforce our contracts, warranties and other laws.
Since the largest security threat to our country is a weak economy, we would reduce government spending. Government does not produce wealth. But one thing that big government is really good at is increasing the size, power and cost of big government. And in many regards, this has been harmful for virtually everyone. For example, anyone who believes that relying upon the government for their support promotes a better life should simply ask the Native Americans.
As another example, there is simply no reason for governments to own bulldozers, earth movers or dump trucks. Instead the government should contract with private companies to do the necessary work, and its role should be restricted to monitoring the timeliness and quality of the results, and paying for them.
Government regulations and intrusions into our lives would be greatly reduced and simplified. As the old saying goes, “fish swim, birds fly and regulators regulate.” Thus today, under our present system, regulators continually justify their existence by finding ever more things that they can oversee. Yes, we certainly need regulations in those areas in which private property rights would be hard to administer, such as the pollution of oceans and the atmosphere and the regulation of banks, but others would be vastly reduced.
We would also get the federal government more out of the business of owning real property. Now don’t get excited, the National Park system would continue, as would, for the most part, the national forests. But approximately 87 percent of the real property in Nevada is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. That type of property would be sold at auction to the private sector. This would, in turn, directly result in the land being better protected and used than is happening today. If you are not persuaded by that statement, simply ask yourself this easy question: who takes better care of a house, an owner or a renter? And, of course, this would also produce many property taxes for the local governments that today are being lost.
Today’s system of “crony capitalism” that is so rampant would be curtailed as promptly as possible. That means that the government would no longer pay companies to drill for oil, raise or not raise crops, etc.
Adults would also be able to live in their chosen lifestyle without interference or discrimination from the government, as long as their choices didn’t wrongly hinder other adults from doing the same thing. That means that we would be living in a more socially accepting world.
We would have a strong educational system. This would be assured by allowing the students’ parents to dictate where the governmental education dollars for their children’s education would be spent. Only then would the parents at all levels of society be able to demand – and receive – excellence in their children’s schooling!
The tax system would be enormously simplified, so that everyone would not only understand what they were paying, but they would also see that other people were actually paying their required amounts as well. People could then make business and personal decisions for business and personal reasons, instead of for tax reasons. Nothing would spur the economy as much as this change.
As a matter of First Amendment Freedom of Speech, individual people could make unlimited contributions to political campaigns, as long as they were disclosed immediately on the Internet. Big contributors always figure out a way to get their contributions to the candidates anyway, so this would just formalize the process. But non-human beings, such as corporations and labor unions, would not be able to make any political contributions whatsoever.
Undocumented workers would be able to apply for and receive work visas routinely, after being screened to determine if they had a criminal or mental health background that might cause problems here. Then if they could support themselves, they could live and work here legally. And if they could show they could support their families, they could bring them here as well. None of them would be eligible for welfare, but, since they would be here legally, they could cross our borders with ease, and also get drivers’ licenses. This would directly result in millions of good people who are today being harmed by our immigration system being able to live normal lives.
The so-called War on Drugs would be hastily ended. That would result in the Criminal Justice System being used in its intended manner, which would be to hold adults accountable for their actions, instead of what they put into their bodies. And, along the way, we would take away hundreds of billions of dollars each year away from Mexican drug cartels, juvenile street gangs and lots of other thugs, and instead use the tax money from the sales of drugs to pay our teachers and fire fighters, and fix our roads (by private contract with the government). It would also revitalize the industrial hemp market.
But what about healthcare? Actually, most people in our country are financially able to take care of their own medical needs. So get the government and all of its dictates out of the way, and let them take care of themselves. Just like during the 1950s and early 1960s, this would result in the quality of healthcare going up, and its costs going back down.
For those people who are not financially able to take care of themselves, Functional Libertarians would create a medical safety net. I was in the Peace Corps – I care about people – and so do most Functional Libertarians. One way would be to have a system of government-sponsored health clinics and hospitals, just like we now have for our military personnel. It would be expensive, but hugely less so than what is being contemplated today. Why? Because we would be paying money for doctors, nurses, medicines and hospitals, instead of for bureaucracy, administration and fraud.
All of these approaches make Functional Libertarians archetypal conservatives, because we strongly promote responsibility at all levels of society, including personal, corporate and governmental. But they also make us archetypal liberals, because we really do want the government to get out of our lives as much as possible. That means that, for example, unless the government had a judicial warrant, it would not be surveilling us with drones, snooping on our telephone calls, or gaining access to our bank records or our bedrooms.
So the Functional Libertarian philosophy combines honest principles with practical effectiveness. Thus anyone who believes in both financial responsibility and social acceptance is probably a Libertarian at heart. In other words, Libertarian principles work – for everybody.
There are many good books discussing the Libertarian philosophy and approaches. Two of the best are “Libertarianism in One Lesson” by David Bergland (Orpheus Publications, 8th edition, 2000), and “Libertarianism: A Primer” by David Boaz (The Free Press, 1997). Give our approach some thought, and then join us. Because together we Functional Libertarians can bring back the United States of America that we love!
James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of “A Voter’s Handbook: Effective Solutions to America’s Problems” (The Forum Press, 2010), and the 2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President. Judge Gray can be contacted at JimPGray@sbcglobal.net.