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In Defense of Libertarianism, from HotWired's Synapse



HotWired - Synapse (http://hotwired.com/synapse/)
12 September 1997

In Defense of Libertarianism
by Declan McCullagh ([email protected]) and Solveig Singleton ([email protected])
   Libertarianism, as a rule, attracts the most strident criticism from
   those who understand it the least. Expending little or no effort on
   research, critics barely familiar with libertarian ideas concoct an
   unappetizing stew of ideas - anarchism, egoism, and plain selfishness
   and greed - and mistakenly dub it libertarianism. Small surprise,
   then, that this ideological bouillabaisse tastes revolting. Such
   critics aren't describing libertarianism, but their own fanciful
   Libertarianism is not about anarchy, utopia, or selfishness. Instead,
   libertarians simply are skeptical of "nanny government," and recognize
   the many ways state power has been abused in the past. They believe
   that government programs like health assistance, Social Security,
   foreign aid, and corporate welfare do more harm than good. They argue
   that everyone must be equal before the law, and everyone has human
   rights to personal security, to property, and to free speech that the
   government must protect, not violate.
   Synapse columnist Brooke Shelby Biggs recently suggested that such
   skepticism about authority is a sign of immaturity, asking us to
   remember how we felt about authority when we were 12. "Despite the
   fact that you knew exactly where everything was in your, uh ...
   alternatively organized bedroom, Mom still insisted you clean it up,"
   she writes. Eventually you grew out of it. Now you're an adult and can
   think for yourself. Or can you? Not according to nanny government.
   Together the left and the right conspire to dictate what you can eat,
   see, read, smoke, and talk about. Leftists contend that the state
   should regulate the economy (and technology), but not morality.
   Conservatives claim that the government should leave the economy
   alone, but should legislate what you're allowed to do online or in
   your bedroom. Only libertarians have a consistent philosophy: The
   state can't be trusted to screw around with the economy, to control
   your private life, or to police the Internet.
   Consider the recent bipartisan onslaughts against the Net. Democrats
   have been particularly unrelenting in their attacks. President Clinton
   endorsed the Communications Decency Act, signed it into law, then
   dragged the fight all the way to the Supreme Court. Ridiculously, he
   insists that Cold War-era restrictions on overseas shipments of
   encryption products are a good idea. Adding insult to injury, Clinton
   has backed copyright laws that would require Internet providers to
   police what their users talk about online. Then there are Clinton's
   demands for more and more wiretapping authority for the FBI - a plan
   that might have made even J. Edgar Hoover blush. (And this president
   once taught constitutional law?)
   Republicans have been just as censorship-happy. They, too, supported
   the CDA, which the Senate approved overwhelmingly. Even after the
   nation's highest court ruled such broad censorship unconstitutional,
   some GOP senators pledged to try again. Others are teaming up with the
   White House to make the Internet easily snoopable by spooks, expand
   government databases, issue national ID cards, and wrest away your
   privacy and freedom, one Social Security number at a time.