by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
May 5, 2002 | I am going to defend the Libertarian Party; its many stupidities and ethical lapses are too well known for me to attempt that daunting task.
But "Master Francis" Fukuyama's outrageous assumptions and assertions, recently published as "The Fall of the Libertarians" in The Wall Street Journal must be answered.
We can only assume that Master Francis is too young or ignorant to know that the lineal descent of Libertarian thought in America today did not begin with Reagan but with Goldwater. One hates to be judgmental, but it would be nice to occasionally get the kinks out of your screed before it embarrasses you and the institution for which you are, presumably, paid to write.
Ironically enough, it was Nixon who is most immediately responsible for the founding of the Libertarian Party. Wage and price controls drove small legions of Republicans out of that party in the dying months of 1971.
Master Francis is incorrect in making another assertion. Government does not run into buildings to save lives. Individuals do that, individuals who have freely chosen to take up a vocation they well know puts them in daily hazard for their lives. If I have to depend on anyone or anything in times of emergency it is the good will of the American people. Time and time again, they have answered what appeared to be unanswerable calls with both courage and unimaginable kindness and generosity.
The suggestion that it could be otherwise is simply absurd.
The policy proposed by the CATO Institute is founded on an interpreted understanding of individual rights. It's funny -- the founders of this same institution once characterized privatization as "Garbage-can libertarianism," but they did eventually figure out how to apply the principles to larger issues, and they deserve credit for those insights.
The credit for privatization belongs to Robert Poole of Reason Foundation, CATO's historical rival in the policy pond that is now an ocean swimming with ideas from the same sources.
The issues where Master Francis asserts that "[t]he libertarian wing of the revolution overreached itself, and is now fighting rearguard actions on two fronts [are] foreign policy and biotechnology."
It should be no surprise that the premises of individualism are inconvenient to this apologist for ever more government and foreign interventionism.
September 11th did not happen because America was inactive overseas but because the means we adopt to change minds kill people. Busybody hyperactivity at our nation's airports does nothing to ensure our internal security. Letting pilots and citizens carry guns would render the question moot. The rising assertions of pundits who glory in power and ignore the reality condemn us to the circularity of one dumb idea after another. Our present course will not change the ugly realities faced by individuals living in poverty and fear in other countries. But that reality is changing, largely thorough the benevolence of individual Americans and the organizations they choose to support voluntarily.
Individual and consensual action has always been the only viable answer to all previous questions. We are a people facing a future that challenges us to think and act responsibly as individuals and through organizations. Americans are well prepared for that challenge.
The question of "biotechnology" has become a boogie man to frighten people when it should be merely a tool to enable better outcomes for those in need.
Children do not ask to be born. The overwhelming majority of parents love them no matter what problems they bring with them. But the inane assertions of Master Francis that parents are not the best judge illuminates a world view that was born in the stupidities of Marx and bears no relationship to the founding principles of our country.
Individuals will be choosing to become parents by whatever means, be it the usual way or through the costly and sometimes painful means made available to us through various technologies.
Children do not ask to be born but their parents are responsible for them when they are. We would view the liability of parents who chose to manipulate their children's genes very differently than we would damage done through the normal course of events. Social and legal forces moderate the choices we make without government.
Perhaps in considering this issue we should reexamine our present no-fault approach in dealing with parents in many specific situations. Women who subject their children to drugs by prenatal ingestion should be liable for the damage they do. Liability exacted and enforced by the victims of intentional harm creates a powerful statement to all who watch.
If we used the cultural means at our disposal to mandate responsibility in our personal lives I suspect we would live in a far better world today. Maybe then law would really equal justice. Maybe if in India today women enjoyed the same rights and cultural freedoms enjoyed by men their parents would not view girl babies as a liability. We should ask ourselves what we can do to change that view through peaceful and non-interventionist means.
Will some parents make choices for their children that those children later resent? Of course. That is happening now. The practice of circumcision is under attack for just this reason. It is medically unnecessary and many men spend time and energy attempting to reverse the process. What is frivolous and what is appropriate cannot be decided by government decree but by human custom and human usage.
If Michael Jackson decides he wants to be white as an adult why can't he decide he wants his child to match him?
And we can all agree that many men would be better citizens if they were less violent - but the way to change their behavior is most probably not going to be changed through genetic engineering but through cultural conditioning. In parent language we call that creating better values.
Master Francis should try doing that himself.