Libertarian perspective: states' rights
Debate Rounds (4)
Libertarians such as Ron Paul talk a lot about states' rights. I think that the libertarian idea of protecting individual rights goes against this. In 1790 the U.S. population was just 3.9 million. Today, about half of the states have a population greater than that. States enacting policies that restrict individual rights should not be able to justify these policies on the basis of states' rights, and I believe that neither should libertarians.
state your case
C2. When thinking of states, one must ask if they are a public institution, or a private institution. In a strange way, they are neither. I think the idea of states should be that of a voluntarily created community, formed within a larger country. However, this idea of private states is not what we have. States have political power in the federal government. They are basically lobbyists that are an official part of the way the system runs. States have the ability to steal (tax) and detain (jail) their residents. No private institution could ever get away with this. On a philosophical level, I do not believe the founding fathers wanted states' rights so that they could merely coerce their citizens in situations where it would be unconstitutional for the federal government.
1. http://www.infoplease.com... (I'm posting it again because I'm using it again)
"state" here will always mean one of the 50 members of the United States.
C1 contends that there is a relationship between the desire for a small government and the size of the governed population. I see no such relationship and find Con has the burden of proof that one exists. Being a libertarian, if I were to find myself a citizen of Liechtenstein, population 36,000, my desire for limited government would be the same as it is now. In addition, economic conditions, as decrepit as they are in California, do not have a strong affect on my desire for liberty.
P1: What Con misses is that in regards to liberty at the state level, one can easily vote with their feet, which in turn votes the dollars attached to those feet. For example, I would choose to move to New Hampshire1 over California (liberal mania) or New York (taxes, Bloomberg, "stop and frisk"). While Canada or Mexico may be considered reasonable alternatives, they present stronger barriers than a move to another state, have their own monopoly of force and present limited options.
Regarding C2, firstly I fail to see the relevance of what Con thinks a state should be. I concede that states may have some influence on the federal government.
p2: However,I would argue that states still have the right to say no to said government. We see that battle going on today:
Arizona fighting the fed for the right to secure it's borders2
Colorado, Washington and Oregon fighting for legalization of marijuana and stopping federal raids3
New Hampshire accepting jury nullification in a recent court case4
In addition, Tom Woods, an author and historian I respect and admire, agrees with me5.
I doubt that I would find many cases where the federal government is fighting for me in a similar way against the tyranny of a state of the republic.
In comparing the federal government, with a monopoly on the whole of the U.S. territory, I find a state within that republic a much better option. And, if I happen to make the wrong choice at some point, I have the option to move.
I find it interesting that my opponent chose New Hampshire as an example of a state he would like to live in, over New York or California. New Hampshire has 1.3 million people, as opposed to New York's 19.4 million or California's 37.7 million. A person's say in the politics of their state is much greater in smaller states. Larger states, however, can oppress their residents.
C2: Basically, I don't think states should have the right to tax or jail their residents.
With the exception of Arizona securing its borders, all the things my opponent mentioned are pro-freedom. What these states are doing is a good thing, but this isn't really the issue we are discussing. The Libertarian position seems to be, primarily, that the federal government, should have limited power. This I agree with, but then they say things along the lines of 'we should let the states decide'. Giving somebody else the ability to oppress their residents does not protect individual freedom, which I believe is fundamental to liberty.
C1: my opponent's main proposition is:
The point is that if limited government is necessary for a relatively small number of people, such as the early United States, why is it unnecessary for a larger number of people, such as modern day California.
But I've never claimed that limited government was unnecessary at the state level. My claim is that government will be necessarily more limited at the state level the the federal. You can refer to P1 and P2 in round #2. In addition, to expand on P2, a state is not a monopoly like the federal government. States must compete for business, citizenship, tourism, etc. To win this point, I feel my opponent must refute the generally accepted idea that monopolies result in a poorer service at a higher price.
My opponent also continues his desire to connect our debate to population of states. As a said in round 2, I don't see a connection and find this is a distraction to avoid addressing the points of my rebuttal.
C2: I believe this argument is summarized with:
Giving somebody else the ability to oppress their residents does not protect individual freedom, which I believe is fundamental to liberty.
I agree with this statement, but fail to see it's relevance. I hold to my belief that states will never suppress their citizens as the federal government does simply based on the lack of a monopoly. Libertarians may ultimately desire anarchy, minarchy, or some other ultimate outcome. However, in the meantime we desire the freest arrangement we can find: ie states over federal.
The federal government is not a monopoly. There are other countries. If the federal government is a monopoly, it is only a monopoly of its own land. But then, by that logic, states are monopolies either.
2. The relevance of my claim is that if the federal government is to relinquish power to the states, and the states proceed to oppress instead, nothing is accomplished.
Thank you to ax123man for this debate.
In round 4, my opponent states:
I would say that state governments would have to be even less limited than the federal government, because they, with the exception of certain cases, can only expand on government oppression
First, this isn't true. Thomas Woods 2010 book on nullification explains that states have the right to nullify federal laws they find unconstitutional. This is not some wishful theory. A number of nullification efforts are currently underway:
There are also significant historical examples of nullification:
Second, the whole idea of states' rights is to take powers away from the federal government and let states handle it. Given these facts, it doesn't make sense to argue that states only increase oppression. You can try to argue that some states will choose to be as oppressive as the federal government. But as I've stated already, it's relatively easy to move to another state, which will thwart states attempts to do that.
My opponent states: "The federal government is not a monopoly" however I think you'd have a hard time convincing any legitimate libertarian scholar of that. As I stated in round 2, P1, it is much more difficult to move to another country than to another state. To get out from under the thumb of the federal government, you would need to renounce U.S. citizenship and attain citizenship in another country. This is time consuming and expensive. In addition, you would likely see family less, potentially have language barriers, etc. In addition, given a choice, I'd prefer to do battle with the state police rather than the NSA, FBI, DHS, CIA, ATF and the military.
In round 1, my opponent mentions Ron Paul, who has been criticized for his states' rights stance. However, if Paul had started his political career as an anarcho-capitalist, I doubt he'd ever been elected. I believe Paul's true desires are probably closer to anarcho-capitalism than most think. In fact, he stated as much in the above youtube video:
Q: "I know you stand for the Constitution, but what do you say to people who advocate self-government, rather than a return to the Constitution?"
Ron Paul: "Great. Fine. I think that's really what my goal is."
All libertarians must answer the question of where they fit on the scale between minimal government and anarchy. Some, like Hans Herman Hoppe, strive for the ultimate freedom of anarcho-capitalism, which I think is the ideal expression of libertarian principals. However, these libertarians face the problem of being labeled fringe and will find it difficult to build a broad audience. This isn't a practical tactic to take if you believe in the political system. Libertarians in Paul's camp are simply being pragmatists in this sense.
My opponents last statement is:
The relevance of my claim is that if the federal government is to relinquish power to the states, and the states proceed to oppress instead, nothing is accomplished
In summary, I believe I've shown this is not what would happen. This statement completely discounts the affect competition vs monopoly. The beauty of a system with strong states rights is that states develop to fill the needs of citizens who hold vastly different views. If you are big government liberal, California fit's the bill. If you are libertarian, New Hampshire. Each state provides a test bed of ideas. In the end, the result is a smaller federal government and states who must compete for taxpayers dollars.
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