Sacred cows are popular among people from all walks of life, and of all political persuasions, but young libertarians seem particularly prone to them.
These same iconoclasts that revel in tearing down teetering liberal constructs like ‘economic justice,’ and punching holes in conservative sensibilities about ‘decency’ and ‘duty,’ only go on to replace these sacred cows with their own golden calf of choice. We libertarians are well-known for our gold fetish.
These libertarian sacred cows vary. First it was Ron Paul, the incorruptible politician with a heart of gold (get it??). If you wanted to know your stance on Somali pirates, the Civil War, or Fall colors during Spring, just find out what Ron had to say on the matter. He probably explained his stance on YouTube already.
Then it was the Constitution, a document so uniquely incredible and infallible that it was the source of all earthly authority. It had to be taken as literally as possible. Christian libertarians, who would shout down their parents for taking the Bible too literally or too seriously, would then shame anyone who didn’t first consult the Constitution before having an opinion on anything from 9/11 to toll bridges. Christian fundamentalism was out, but Constitutional fundamentalism was in. Should murder be illegal nationwide? No, states have to decide that on their own, because the Constitution doesn’t allow such a federal law.
Then it was the Non-Aggression Principle (the NAP). Long story short, any time you’re made to do anything you don’t want to do (pay taxes, follow a regulation, be murdered, be sexually assaulted, be drafted for a war, or be forced to wear a seatbelt), that was ‘aggression’ of the NAP. As long as something is voluntary it’s totally okay, whether it’s suicide, prostitution, snuff films, or even anime. Taxation was tantamount to theft and/or slavery, and it was better to allow your entire family to die of starvation rather than steal a loaf of bread from the Microsoft Company Picnic. If you’ve decided feeding your child isn’t what you’re into, and they then trespass into the pantry and try to steal your hard-earned property, you have every right to shoot them in the face. Finally, a moral system that makes sense.
Are your principles just false idols?
If someone asks you why we shouldn’t drone-strike children in Pakistan, and your answer relies on any single one, or combination, of the sacred cows I mentioned above, I have to ask you why you give such authority to these idols of yours. Why should anyone else care what violates the NAP, what Ron Paul thinks, or what is Constitutional? This is a real question to you.
Did scientists somewhere discover the Law of Non-Aggression just like they discovered the laws of thermodynamics? Is the Constitution a well-established theory based on mountains of evidence just like the theory of evolution, or was it divinely inspired? Is Ron Paul a holy prophet or an angel sent here to teach us the way?
Or is the NAP just a self-consistent ideology that justifies your strong individualist sentiment, the Constitution just a powerful political tool to rein in an oppressive government, and Ron Paul just a shockingly honest, humble, and refreshing politician?
In the absence of guidance, people create these false idols to worship: the proverbial sacred cow. You’re not supposed to worship cows though; they’re just cows. If you find them useful, use them. Treat them with respect, then go ahead and eat them already. Trust me, they’re delicious.
All is not lost.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not some moral relativist or nihilist here. I’m not even the sort of consequentialist or lukewarm politician that would sacrifice principle for the sake of pragmatism.
It’s just that my principles might be different from many other libertarians’ principles, and they’re a little more complex than “Well is it voluntary/Constitutional/supported by Ron Paul???”
The scripture and messiah I consult for my principles aren’t the Constitution or Ron Paul, they’re the Bible and Jesus. Rather than relying on the direction of America’s poll numbers, I rely on the direction of the Holy Spirit, and, rather than obeying the tenants of Austrian economics, I obey the catechism of the Catholic Church. So I’m still getting my principles from something sacred, just like you may be, but I actually feel these really are divinely driven and inspired. Why? Well that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. Or two. We’ll see, so please bear with me.
As for how I actually try to apply these principles in policy? That’s where academic studies, peer-reviewed science, life experience, and a dash of common sense come in. If those don’t help me (like, say, what stance should I take on Israel and Palestine?), I try shutting up. Like this.