Who and what is libertarian? How libertarian are they? (was: 2004 Presidential Campaign/Other Libertarian News)


  If Michael Edelstein says anyone who supports any form of taxes is not
a libertarian, I disagree. I still considered Harry Browne a
libertarian when he supported a sales tax. While believing in coercive
taxation is not very libertarian, a person could hold such a view and
still have a lot of other beliefs that *are* very libertarian, making
him more libertarian on the whole than anything else. When a person
seems closer to libertarianism than to any other significant political
philosophy, it's reasonable to call him a libertarian, imho. But I also
believe it's legitimate to say, for example, that Michael Edelstein is
*more* libertarian than Aaron Russo, just as one could say that FDR was
*more* statist than JFK.

  It sounds like you're suggesting that you never got any donations for
your software. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say you did receive some
donations, just not enough to want to continue offering your product on
such a basis? In your case, I presume that there was no effective
mechanism to exert social pressure on people who used your software
without paying for it. In the case of a voluntarily funded government,
there could and probably would be. Also, I think most people would be
much more concerned with keeping such a government in business and able
to provide services than with doing the same for a computer programmer
in your position. Most people see government as so important that they
support taking money from people by force in order to fund it. Do you
know anyone who feels this way about your software, or any software for
that matter?

  Comparing donations to a limited government with donations in the
software business would seem to be a case of apples and oranges. I
believe that a limited government would be much more successful at
attracting donations than you were -- at least as long as it exercised
its responsibilities halfway competently -- but still not get as many
donations as its officials would prefer. Doesn't that sound like a
pretty good balance? Officials could even be required to make up budget
shortfalls out of their own salaries when donations fall short. That
would tend to keep budgets in check and put some real "service" into
the concept of "public service." That left-wing bumper sticker about
how it will be a great day when the schools have all the money they
want and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to raise money for
buying a bomber is half right, after all...

  I remember Michael once telling me that the most libertarian solution
may not always be the best solution. I think we generally agree there's
a good amount of overlap between the set of libertarian solutions and
the set of best solutions. But what's best is endlessly disputed, while
there's a certain amount of agreement on what's libertarian. So it kind
of makes sense for the Libertarian Party to avoid some of the quagmire
of the debate over what's best by simply advocating libertarian

Yours in liberty,
            <<< Starchild >>>

  You don't have to be an anarchist to believe, as I do, that
non-aggression should be the rule for government and that taxation
should be voluntary.

Ok, but the question is not what an anarchist must believe, but what a
"libertarian" must believe. Mike suggests that anyone who supports any
form of taxes is not a libertarian. The case in point is Russo with a
national sales tax - which, it was mentioned, Harry Brown also
supported. Does this make both of them non-libertarians?

Which necessary government activities do you
believe that people would not fund voluntarily if the state stopped
taking the money from them by force?

As someone who created donation based software and (on the same item)
moved to requiring payment for use, I can tell you that people do not
pay for things unless they, individually, have to in order to use them.

-- Steve

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