Opinion

Libertarians have a stake in traditional values, too

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Photo - Ultrasonic baby
Ultrasonic baby
Opinion,Op-Eds

Remember the old saw about speeding: anyone zipping along faster is nuts, but slower drivers are idiots. Ideologues believing in limited government are an obstinate breed, myself included. We find anyone who wants more government as fools, but those desiring even less are crazy. In theory, if everyone went 65 we'd never have a traffic jam. Sadly, state authority is necessary because of man's fallen nature.

Many libertarians approve same-sex marriage. Likewise, some perceive abortion as fundamental to freedom, even questioning Ron Paul for championing life.

Meanwhile, Americans have grown so inured to government intervention that letting people purchase contraceptives privately construes now into waging "War on Women." "Keep politics out of people's bedrooms," the Left insists, except, of course, taxpayers should get involved with their wallets.

If men were just or could all protect themselves, government would be redundant. Political authority became necessary because, to paraphrase James Madison, we aren't angels. Governments' legitimate purpose preserves culture and protects life, liberty and property. To which our Founders rightly incorporated propriety over conscience and the "pursuit of happiness."

No group needs more protection than babies regardless of which side of the womb they presently reside. By the time a mother can even confirm pregnancy, her baby has started sprouting a unique personality, brain waves have begun and her heartbeat resonates. Everyone matures through this essential phase. Unborn babies are undeniably human beings.

Libertarianism rests on the nonaggression principle, "live and let live" they say. But then why allow life to be snatched from helpless children? Lawful abortion mocks government's very legitimacy.

Same-sex marriage also betrays libertarian principles. Unless government intervenes, matrimony remains what it has been for millennia. Why have government alter an institution antecedent to America's very existence? Not that plurality conveys license, but invading private spheres to override the electorate thrashes liberty.

The ubiquitous "what consenting adults do is nobody else's business" argument underscores an epic non sequitur. This appears logically sound in the debate over decriminalizing sodomy, but it misfires badly regarding marriage. Some same-sex partners deem themselves married, and there's nothing to stop them. But to have government force society to move such ancient boundary stones strains too far. Government lacks grounds to unilaterally re-define marriage in defiance of legal precedent, custom, prevailing opinion and nature. The Constitution shouts for stasis.

Even if the whole populace eventually agrees, the law still mandates due process. The Bill of Rights exists to stymie the passions of the mob and thwart ambitious politicians. Our Revolution and the Republic which followed meant to preserve heritage, not sever culture from its moorings. The Founders weren't Jacobins.

We need not all accept Judeo-Christian principles, but they do infuse America's beginnings. The Founders, even the deists, recognized moral imperatives. Without responsible, industrious, honest citizens, liberty quickly slips into licentiousness incompatible with self-government. To undermine the family and devalue life is to work against curbing government. Where cultural chaos exists, government tends to expand to restore order.

The family unit, transmitting values generationally, remains crucial for freedom. Libertarians should be happy to see government protect life as one of its few truly legitimate roles. And rather than invite state intercession to overhaul marriage, libertarians ought to defend such private institutions, which stand between the state and individual.

Bill Flax (billflax2@yahoo.com) is the author of "The Courage to do Nothing: A Moral Defense of Markets and Freedom" and a weekly contributor for Forbes.com Opinions.

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