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The Libertarian Party and Civil Rights

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But there are times when government intervention is necessary. Take the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example, which banned racial segregation and discrimination in public accommodations, and allows civil suits in cases of employment discrimination. My support for this bill--shared by all but two of the 19 major-party presidential candidates--generated heated emails from many, many Ron Paul supporters who felt that the legislation was an encroachment on the First Amendment's right to freedom of assembly. Opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is also common among members of the Libertarian Party, and on the same grounds.

And if I believed that everybody already had equal opportunity to succeed, I might oppose it, too. But I don't. The Civil Rights Act protects the civil liberties of minorities from the actions of private entities, and I would be turning a blind eye to the civil liberties of women and all people of color if I suggested that there was no need for a bill of this kind.

But even bills supporting equal opportunity have to be proposed very carefully. The difference between a clumsy bill banning hate speech and a narrowly-constructed bill like the Civil Rights Act is very much like the difference between having getting stabbed in the shoulder and having shoulder surgery. Both involve cutting into the shoulder, but the similarities should end there; government interventions in the name of civil liberties, if they are to actually protect civl liberties, must be conducted with caution and with surgical precision. But failing to operate when there is good cause to do so isn't helpful to the patient, either. Sometimes civil liberties need the scalpel of policy intervention in order to be protected.

But enough philosophy. What does the Libertarian Party advocate, and where does it get things wrong? To answer that question, let's look at the most recent version of the party platform point by point. As you'll quickly see when you begin reading it, each policy point includes what's called a "Transitional Step"--this is the policy that the Libertarian Party recommends on a short-term basis until the country is ready to enact more radical changes. For our purposes here, the transitional steps are all we're concerned about; there are no Libertarians in either house of Congress, and we would need a two-thirds majority of Libertarians in both houses to enact many, if not most, of the long-term solutions that have been suggested.

The Party identifies transitional steps for 11 policy categories directly relevant to civil liberties: freedom of communication, freedom of religion, property rights, the right to privacy, the right to keep and bear arms, conscription, reproductive rights, sexuality and gender, crime and victimless crime, the war on drugs, and immigration. Some of what the Party says, highlighted on the next page, would act counter to an equal protection based understanding of civil liberties.
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