Why libertarian Republicans are evil (and how they can stop)

I have to confess that I’m a bit uncomfortable with the detente that some of my libertarian-leaning friends embrace with the religious right.

Oh, it’s not like they vacation with each other.

Rather, it is the position of these libertarian-esq Republicans, if I understand them correctly, that they prefer the political company of those who believe in some god-given liberties over the jack-booted thugs of utilitarianism (Hitch phrase, couldn’t resist.)

Hold the phone. This is grossly hypocritical.

I submit that a libertarian sells her/his soul in this little romance. Most libertarians I know believe in certain moral imperatives, such as natural rights. If you ask a libertarian, “Can we violate someone’s natural rights in order to serve a higher good,” the libertarian would respond, “there is no higher good than to respect someone’s natural rights.”

In other words, we cannot commit an immoral act, even to prevent an immoral outcome. To do so would be an evil act.

If we apply this same argument to whom we support at the polls, why is it any different? If we support a candidate who is “almost good enough”, solely as a means to win elections, isn’t it the same thing?

Why not the third way?

If we’re going to be moral libertarians, we must vote with our moral imperatives and let the chips fall where they may. The latest Reason-Rupe poll said that Ron Paul would pull something like 17% in the general election as a third-party candidate. But if not Paul, why not Gary Johnson?

Because he might lose?

Wrong moral answer. And, besides, who knows…maybe after enough losses due to the “fringe” third party, the Republican party might exorcise the religious right from the GOP – and into their own dwindling fringe in which they belong. How’s that for cause and effect?

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About SWIRLosopher

The SWIRLosopher is Sean Trapani, a professor emeritus of advertising who - despite a degree in philosophy - has abandoned all reason and is trying to make a living in the wine business.

15 thoughts on “Why libertarian Republicans are evil (and how they can stop)

  1. Your argument presumes that the “religious” cannot be moral stewards of the public trust. While I agree that religion does not give a person any special claim to that position, nor do I think it a disability either. I think that element of your syllogism must be satisfied for your argument to have weight. Otherwise there is no inherent immorality in voting for a religious person. If you have reasons (beyond your own prejudices) for believing a religious person is incapable of being a moral representative of limited government, you might offer them.

    • Our disconnect is our meaning of the act of voting. I see the act as, at least, as much an assertion of belief than it is a strategic means to an end. If I were to see a vote only as that, than I could not object to democrats switching parties to affect the republican primaries. They broke no laws. And since we have removed assertion of belief from the necessary qualities of voting, they are merely using their votes as strategic devices. But I don’t see votes that way, which is why I don’t see switching votes to affect an election as an honorable act.

      • Oh, and to your original thought, Paul (I apologize for not directly adressing). My intent was not to indict the religious, per se. Rather, I see someone’s religion as irrelevant. My vote is my statement of beliefs, living vicariously in a candidate. When I vote for someone who embraces positions that don’t reflect my beliefs (such as those supported by the “moral” right), I am lying about my beliefs to achieve an end.

      • Yes, I agree the the source of our disagreement is the different way in which we view the act of voting. As I mentioned in the reply below to Phillip, my vote has within it an assessment of outcome. That is true, but that is not consequentialism. All of our decisions must consider outcomes as part of the evaluation of an act’s morality. Shooting a person is an immoral act; shooting a person to prevent that person from detonating a nuclear weapon is not. As I mentioned to Phillip, if my choice is between the attainable good and the unattainable perfect, I chose the good. Let us discuss our respective judgments in the matter. But to suggest that I am immoral for considering the outcome of my actions is not accurate (or very nice).

      • Additionally, I have a hard time with the use of the word “lie”. If you are saying that you, on a personal level, would have to lie to yourself in order to justify a strategic decision which is imperfect, ok. I cannot argue with that. But if you are projecting that onto others suggesting deception is at the root, for example, of my decision to vote for an imperfect candidate, I cannot accept that, for it is not correct. I am not voting for a person, I am voting for an outcome. If, for example, Obama began talking like a libertarian, would you vote for him? No, I suspect not. Because you would consider the likely outcomes of his presidency. But voting for the best outcome is neither lying nor immoral.

      • I’ll put it like this. Your syllogism goes something like this:
        Premise 1-we cannot commit an immoral act, even to produce a moral outcome
        Premise 2-voting for an “almost good enough candidate” is immoral
        Conclusion-one cannot vote for anything but a perfect candidate and be acting morally.
        I submit you have not offered evidence for condition 2.

  2. I feel as though not supporting a candidate because they can’t win betrays a misunderstanding of the fact that support is the only thing which makes a candidate able to win.

    Since my first introduction to civics at some point in secondary school, I’ve always been peeved by this mindset. It values being on the winning team more than promoting your own ideals, which I always thought was the point.

    • I certainly respect that position. But I do not agree with it. Embedded in my vote is my judgment as to the likelihood of an outcome. I can stand on principle and write in Thomas Jefferson, but to what end? I hate to sound cynical, for if you knew me you would know I am not a cynic, but all our decisions in life consider outcomes. That does not make our decision making process consequentialism. If the question before me is, would I rather vote for a limited government conservative who can win, or a libertarian who cannot (and thus result in a big government collectivist retaining power), I pick the conservative. You may question my judgement, certainly, and argue that the libertarian can win, but that’s a discussion about relative judgment, not morality. For myself, I will support financially and otherwise the candidate that most reflects my philosophy. But come election day, if he cannot win, my choice is between the doable good and the impossible perfect.

  3. Two things: the veracity of the candidate’s position is straw man to this argument. It’s not what I’m asserting.

    What I am asserting is the meaning of the act of voting. Your assertion is that you see voting within the framework of a collective process to achieve a desireable end. If that works for you, so be it. My position is that voting is a form of saying “me too.” If I vote for a guy, like Santorum, who wants to arrest people for watching pornagraphy and selectively apply liberties only to the people who wear sweater vests, my position is that saying “me too” through my vote is a lie, regardless of its strategic value.

    Now, naturally, if the person who best exhibits my beliefs is also a serial killer (or not running), that’s a non-start. (In the first case, that person obviously doesn’t reflect the sum total of my beliefs because I’m not into serial killers; in the second, that person is not a choice.)

    • The veracity of the candidate’s position is indeed a straw man, which is why that is not relavent to what I proposed. What I proposed of relevance was your judgment as to that veracity. My point was to suggest to you that you do indeed use judgment to evaluate outcomes in order to determine the morality of your decisions, just as I do–just as we all must. So to suggest that doing so is immoral is to suggest that you are immoral as well. I do not have that problem since I do not accept premise 2 of your syllogism (for which you still have not offered any evidence, by the way). Indeed, using your own evaluation mechanism, I can (but will not) accuse you of immorality should Obama win the election because you did not support a candidate who could have defeated him, whose political philosophy is less harmful to the fundamental principles of this nation.

      Each person must use their voting power to do what they think is right. How each of us arrives at that is, to a large extent, a personal choice. But should one prefer to project one’s personal evaluations onto others, I suggest that in doing so one bears are very large burden. Some evidence is in order. Calling a fellow citizen “immoral” for a personal judgement is not unlike the thought process that leads one to arresting people for viewing pornography.

      • How morally relativistic that sounds. Go ahead and be moral, but don’t suggest that the act that contradicts the moral act is not immoral. I can’t imagine that’s what you mean so I’ll ascribe that to a pre-caffeinated slip. (ha). But, no. You’re right in that I have not presented evidence, beyond my own assertion, as to what the act of voting is. To which, I would say, it is one of two things: a categorical or a consequential act. I say that it can’t be both. If one says it’s categorically moral to consider a consequence, then there are no pure categorical acts. Reason can lead us to either option. But once we view the act in and of itself, I assert that the act as a reflection of belief in that moment is more categorically pure than the act as a means of an outcome yet to occur.

      • Ok, but you still have not satisfied your claim that voting is a categorically moral act. That is very clever of you to attempt to place the burden on me to disprove your claim whose validity was never satisfied.  You commit a logical fallacy of creating a false dichotomy, which it is not my burden to disprove.  And it is not morally relativistic to recognize the existence of consequentially moral dilemmas. (Are you saying it is immoral to shoot the guy to prevent the nuclear detonation?)  Again, if we are to discuss which category voting should fall to, that is a discussion of reason and judgment, not morality. In other words, if you wish to say (as you do) I AM immoral because I disagree with your opinion about role of voting, you are incorrect.  If, however, you wish to claim I am ACTING immorality because my view of voting is mistaken, your attempt to persuade would be greatly aided by satisfying your clam that voting is a categorical imperative. 

      • No false dichotomy. Every action suggests a moral framework. Moral acts can either be categorically or consequentially supported (or a blend of the two, but for the purposes of this discussion, taking liberties and such, we’re discounting the fuzzy middle). Voting is no different. Voting is an act, therefore it falls into the realm of a moral framework. Thus, it follows that the support for that act must be one of categorical imperatives or consequential outcomes.

        Now, are you saying that not all acts are moral acts?

      • Well, yes I would say that not all acts are moral, but that is beside my point. My point is that you still bear the unmet burden of proving that voting is a moral imperative such that voting for a “less than perfect” candidate constitutes an immorality.

      • To satisfy your argument that one acts immorally by voting for the “less than perfect” candidate, you could, I suppose, argue that support for any candidate that takes away our liberties is unjust. But that takes liberties with the notion that…oh, wait. I get it.

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