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.