Hillsdale College Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Charles Steele addressed com­munity members at the Hillsdale County Repub­lican Women’s first lun­cheon of 2020. Madeleine Miller | Col­legian

The Hillsdale County Repub­lican Women learned about the prin­ciples of lib­er­tar­i­anism in its first lun­cheon meeting of 2020. Hillsdale College Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Charles Steele dis­cussed the eco­nomic and political impli­ca­tions of lib­er­tar­i­anism.

Each month, the Hillsdale County Repub­lican Women host a lun­cheon with an accom­pa­nying political lecture. Pres­ident Lucille VanAken said learning about this month’s topic, lib­er­tar­i­anism, was valuable.

“It’s important to under­stand lib­er­tar­i­anism to under­stand repub­li­canism,” she said.

Steele explained that lib­er­tar­i­anism is not a party, but a set of prin­ciples. 

He said it is not an all-encom­passing ethical system and deals only with inter­per­sonal rela­tions and the use of force.

“Who owns you?” he asked guests. 

One responded that God does and another — Hillsdale County Com­mis­sioner Ruth Brown — said “my con­stituents.” 

Steele explained that the lib­er­tarian answer is “no one,” “I do,” or “God does,” and defined lib­er­tar­i­anism as a political phi­losophy that holds indi­vidual liberty as the highest political value.

“Liberty,” he said, “is the freedom from coercion.”

Steele said lib­er­tarians uphold the indi­vidual rights of self-own­ership, freedom of thought and action, and own­ership of the fruits of one’s labor. 

These values are par­al­leled by the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of hap­piness upheld by the Dec­la­ration of Inde­pen­dence, he said.  

He described force as restricting freedom of action, and said that it is only jus­tified when a person’s actions go beyond what is proper, vio­lating someone else’s rights. Therefore, the government’s proper role is to protect cit­izens’ rights and property.

“Lib­er­tarians see the state as the means and indi­viduals as ends,” he said.

After explaining the foun­da­tions of lib­er­tar­i­anism, Steele explained lib­er­tarian views on current issues, including the economy and drugs. 

He said lib­er­tarians believe all trans­ac­tions should be con­ducted on the free market, absent of gov­ernment inter­ference. 

“People should be free to choose and innovate,” he said.

Steele said the gov­ernment should not supply infra­structure or schools, as they can be better pro­vided by private firms. To those who could not afford an edu­cation, the gov­ernment could give vouchers to cover private-school tuition.

To con­clude, Steele said he believes lib­er­tar­i­anism can best sustain civ­i­lization as it advances. He explained that if, for the next 100 years the world GDP grows at 2% annually — a modest estimate — people will be, on average, six times wealthier in the next century than they are today.

“People and gov­ern­ments will have power, and if we can’t learn to respect each other’s rights, we will tear each other apart,” he said.

With the pres­i­dential elec­tions approaching, Hillsdale County Repub­lican Women Vice Pres­ident Connie Gale said upcoming lun­cheon speakers will focus on the can­di­dates. 

“The lun­cheons are edu­ca­tional,” Gale said. “They help make us better decision-makers.”

VanAken agreed that the lun­cheons are par­tic­u­larly important during an election year.

“They help us to be informed and know what we’re voting for,” she said.