Libertarian Party Chair Geoffrey J. Neale represented the Libertarian Party at the Sept. 28, 2013, Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in St. Louis in a panel discussion titled, “Can Conservatives and Libertarians Ever Get Along?”
Moderator: Tom Minnery, CEO, CitizenLink
Geoffrey J. Neale, Chair of the Libertarian Party
Matt Spalding, Vice President of the Heritage Foundation
Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute
From the transcript:
NEALE: The Libertarian Party was built on a very simple principle: liberty. Freedom to do what you want as long as you respect the rights of others.
One of our [party’s] founding fathers, David F. Nolan, who sadly passed away three years ago, created this little chart, a test, known as the Nolan Chart or the World’s Smallest Political Quiz. It differentiates people based on whether you should have the right to decide your life on economic issues or social issues. [It shows where] you fit in a [two-dimensional] political spectrum.
People in the middle, we call centrists. People who are strong on social freedoms, but not on economic freedoms, we call Democrats. People who are strong on economic freedoms, but not so much on social issues, we call Republicans. People who are strong on both we call Libertarians, and people who are strong on neither we call authoritarians.
David Nolan wanted to make a differentiation. He said, “It’s really not about left or right, it’s about authoritarian vs. libertarian.”
A government that can tell you how you conduct your business can tell you how you can pray and what church you can go to. The authority vested in the government to control one portion of your life too often gives them the authority — or the mandate, as they seem to think — to act in other avenues of life. So the only way to have a government that respects the rights of individuals is to have one that oppresses the least. Or, as [is often attributed to] Jefferson, “That government is best which governs least.”
He was a religious man. He led by example, not by governmental mandate.
Even Matt Drudge said it’s not about Republican or Democrat anymore. It’s about Libertarian vs. authoritarian.
It’s getting very difficult to distinguish between the Republicans and the Democrats. Why would we have a Tea Party, or a Libertarian Party, if that wasn’t true?
So, for Libertarians, it’s not about left or right, it really is about right or wrong.
Libertarianism is taken by many people as a philosophical approach to living life and governing. If you want to be part of the Libertarian Party, you have to sign a pledge that says, “I hereby certify that I do not advocate the initiation of force for political or social gain.” You can’t be a member if you don’t agree to that.
What we’re really saying is that Libertarians are opposed to the initiation of force or fraud. Let me translate that into Christian: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is a moral statement; it is the essence of coexistence in any civilized culture.
You will find that same basic concept in many different religions; maybe not as eloquent as it is in our King James translation. Down south, [they say], “What goes around comes around.” Same concept.
If you look at [the Libertarian Party] platform, you [may think], “You guys have no moral foundation”. Yes we do, a very strong one: Respect of other people. We will not force other people to do what they do not want to do through action or fraud, and we don’t believe the government has the authority to do that either. That really is what we are about.
As chair of the Libertarian Party, I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to live a virtuous life. And the reason I do is because I believe good people do good things and live good lives. I became an American at the age of 17, [when] my parents moved here from England. I am an American by choice. But I have some small amount of influence from my upbringing.
I come from Bristol, England, which is the site of the First Methodist Church. Methodism is very much about the concept that Christians live good lives. They don’t just say good things. And I’m very much a believer in that concept. Libertarianism is the same thing. Virtue is a very important thing.
To me, family is extremely important. I have been married for 38 years to the same woman. I have a daughter. She is also married. She said, “I don’t want to be married more than once. This is the man that I want to stay married with for the rest of my life.” We care for my wife’s elderly mother in our home. She’s not in a care facility.
Isn’t that what family values are supposed to be? Doesn’t that kind of encapsulate a lot of them? I think most of you in this room would be the same way, you’d do those things.
Is it because the government tells you so? Do you do it out of fear of God? If religion is your motivation, do you do it because God said this is the right way to live, and I want my children to live the right way? I think that’s a libertarian concept.
What we have in Washington [D.C.] is a bunch of self-interested [politicians] who vote their own interests, who think they’re exempt from the law. They’ve created a new aristocracy, and I’m from a country with an aristocracy. Let me tell you: We don’t need it. We overthrew it once. They need to be gone. They need to hold themselves to a higher standard than we do!
SPALDING: America is [in] a debate about what America means. Barack Obama understands that, which is why he wants to wrap himself in the precepts of the constitution and the Declaration. He’s trying to steal our arguments in the same way that Franklin Roosevelt did. We have to claim that moral ground. The Declaration, the Constitution — that’s the language of America. And if you don’t have that, if that isn’t the grounding of your political principles — whether you’re Libertarian, Republican, whatever party you want to be — you are not participating in American conversation.
NEALE: It’s obvious to Libertarians that these are our founding documents. There’s no question about it. Libertarians are strict constitutionalists. Do we think it’s a perfect document? No, we don’t. But what’s amazing is just how good it was.
There are times when I look at government and [think], this is not a group of people who are working together to achieve [what] they say they’re trying to achieve. It appears that the objective is soaking the American people, keeping them as confused as possible about what’s going on, hiding what they’re really up to, delivering nothing of real value. It’s a cancer; and they’re slowly — well, not so slowly anymore — consuming the host that is keeping it alive.
There are no group rights. There are no gay rights. There are no women’s rights. There are no African American rights. There are human rights. We all have the same rights.
MINNERY: The sense of individualism, every man for himself, that I get when I read your party platform, it just leaves me a little bit questioning where it’s all coming from.
NEALE: What we believe is in voluntary association and disassociation. When you take government influence, oppression, and action out, and you allow good people to interact, they do wonderful things. I have faith in the human spirit, in human nature. When not perverted by outside sources, [they] act very well together.
Government requirements — that you must behave in a certain way or you must get a certain permit from the city of Los Angeles to give a sandwich to a hungry person — [are] stripping us of the bare essence of what we are as human beings. What we need is the freedom to act as good people, and we all have it within us. But the government is getting in the way of our human nature.[What we need is to] dismantle [government] from the top down, get rid of as much as we can, keep what we need. We need a judicial system. We need a national defense. We can argue how big it should be and what its role should be in public policy, but we do need one.
I have a problem with our foreign policy. The only way I can encapsulate America’s foreign policy is, “it depends.” I can’t predict how the government’s going to react in another country with the same circumstance. [With respect to] Syria, my mother recently said, “Does it really matter how people die? Would it be okay if 1,500 people were beaten to death by two-by-fours — because it wasn’t (by) chemicals?”
MINNERY: If Rand Paul becomes the 2016 Republican Party candidate, will the Libertarian Party endorse him?
NEALE: Well, we have to change our bylaws to do that. In other words, our delegates have to make that choice. I can’t say they would.
We will have members that will support Rand Paul and members who will not if he is the nominee. That’s just the way it’s going to be.
We love Ron Paul because of what he’s done to bring the word liberty and libertarian to the forefront. And, at the same time, because he [ran] as a Republican, we think that gives too much validation to the Republican Party that it does not deserve. It is Ron Paul that deserves it, not the Republican Party.
I think most libertarians are willing to ally with anyone who is interested in giving the American people more freedom, as long as [they] don’t try to take away some we already have.