With the likelihood of Romney’s ascension to presidential nominee becoming more likely by the day it’s not surprising that friction is developing between self-proclaimed conservatives and libertarians. We’re being bombarded with self-proclaimed conservatives demanding libertarians get behind Romney because the alternative is so much worse. When libertarians say they will only support Ron Paul they’re seen a whiners who are upset because they didn’t get their way. Truth be told libertarians refusal to support Romney has nothing to do with Ron Paul losing the nomination, it has everything to do with the very foundation libertarianism is based upon. There is such a vast difference between so-called conservatives and libertarians that they will likely never come together politically:
A simple way to demonstrate the chasm that separates libertarians from “conservatives” of the 21st century is to use news incidents and media images as Rorschach inkblots and consider how differently each would respond.
When a libertarian witnesses an emaciated destitute, confronted, seized, and roughly rifled by the constabulary under dubious pretenses on “reality” TV, he is not immediately elated. Most of us question the necessity of such an action even if a joint, crack pipe, or penknife is found. We are offended by the image of a man abject — on the ground and in the clutches of enormous, armored, and heavily armed men — without substantive evidence that he has harmed someone else. That these same public servants can bust into people’s homes, terrorize their children, kill their pets, shackle their persons, and destroy personal property on the flimsiest of pretexts is repellent to anyone placing even a modest value on the word liberty.
This debate is no more prevalent than in the gun community. Many gun owners are now backing Romney because they perceive Romney as “less” evil than Obama when it comes to gun rights. Other gun owners, such as myself, won’t back Romney because he opposes the vary foundation of libertarianism, the non-aggression principle.
First and foremost I’m not a libertarian because I support gun rights, I support gun rights because I’m a libertarian. Above all I strive to bring forth a world as free of coercion as possible. I don’t see gun rights as an isolated issue but as a right derived from self-ownership. As a self-owner I have the right to choose what I want to expend my labor to achieve and I also have a right to defend my person and property. If I want to purchase a firearm it is my right to labor to achieve that goal. Nobody has a right to prevent me from purchasing a firearm just as nobody has a right to prevent me from purchasing a car or television. The non-aggression principle opposes the initiation of force but not the return of force in self-defense, so ownership of firearms in no way violates the foundation of libertarianism. As a libertarian I also cannot justify coercing others into providing me security so I must provide my own and a firearm is a tool that allows me to do so.
When you boil it down all people are single-issue voters. If you’ve studied Austrian economics you’ve learned value is subjective and ranked. Each individual has a ranked list of things they value with more valued things appearing higher on the list than less valued things. At the very top of our list we have our most valued thing and, ultimately, that thing is our single issue that we will forsake all other issues for.
Here is where the main philosophical difference comes in between libertarians and those claiming we must support Romney if we have any hope of preserving gun rights. Libertarians’ single issue is the non-aggression principle whereas those demanding gun owners support Romney have gun ownership as their single issue. In order to support Romney I would have to forsake my single issue because Romney favors the use of force and coercion to control the actions of others. He supports war outside of self-defense, which is nothing more than forcing other countries to bow to the will of the United States. Romney also supports drug prohibition, which is a use of force to prevent individuals from deciding what manufacture, sell, and use. Let’s also not forget his support for the “assault” weapons ban, which is the use of force to prevent people from buying certain firearms. Asking a libertarian to support Romney is like asking a proponent of gun rights to support Sarah Brady.
Libertarians aren’t refusing to support Romney because we’re butt hurt over Paul not getting the nomination, we’re refusing to support Romney because Romney opposes the non-aggression principle. If you’re a proponent of gun rights who is angry at Paul supporters for not getting behind Romney you need to put yourself into our shoes and imagine yourself being asked to chose between Michael Bloomberg or Sarah Brady for president. Let’s further expand the situation and say you were supporting John Lott during the presidential nomination process but he lost to Bloomberg. Would you back Bloomberg because he is the “lesser” or two evils? I would certainly hope not. If you would then gun rights are not your most valued issue.