Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Liberty and Philanthropy Are Not Mutually Exclusive

Michael Gerson has written a column criticizing some of the "political waves" that he sees rising with the tea party movement and, as a consequence, within the Republican Party. He condemns Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle for quoting Thomas Jefferson -- or, as Gerson refers to him, "the one Founding Father with a disturbing tolerance for the political violence of the French Revolution."

In a swipe at Rand Paul and his supporters, Gerson writes:

"In America, the ideology of libertarianism is itself a scandal. It involves not only a retreat from Obamaism but a retreat from the most basic social commitments to the weak, elderly and disadvantaged, along with a withdrawal from American global commitments. Libertarianism has a rigorous ideological coldness at its core."

Gerson is making a mistake that is worth correcting. Libertarianism does not involve a retreat from humanitarianism nor is it a call for selfishness or Social Darwinism. Libertarianism recognizes that the State is a massive bureaucracy, a heartless thing that has no human compassion because it is not human.

Bob Dylan wrote that "to live outside the law, you must be honest." I would add that you must also be caring.

When there is no Big Brother to keep us all in line and to help us when we're hurt, we must follow our own consciences and help our fellow men and women when they need and want our help.

Libertarianism does not diminish our social responsibilities. It requires that we face them instead of pretending that a forced tithe to a faceless government makes everything okay. As liberty increases, so does each man and woman's personal responsibility.

I presume that the "global commitments" that Gerson was talking about are military deployments and foreign aid. I would counter with my favorite president's quote about "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none," but I suspect that Gerson would simply dismiss that advice as the ramblings of a treasonous revolutionary.

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