Two levels of freedom

At one level, I’m a libertarian minarchist (also curious about anarcho-capitalism, but not convinced I can go all the way there yet). I think, in an ideal world, government should be limited to a military, a police force and a court system, with every other “public good” being provided by the market. The activities of even these limited government functions would also be highly constrained, with the military only used to repel invasions, and the police only used to arrest criminal suspects, and the courts only used to prosecute those charged with illegitimate use of force or fraud, or to adjudicate between competing claims.

At another level, I’m a strict constitutionalist. This is specific to being an American, whereas libertarianism could apply anywhere. I think the federal government should only pass and enforce laws within its enumerated powers in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. Everything else should be left to the states. That means the states can be as libertarian or as authoritarian as they wish, as liberal or as conservative as they wish, provided they don’t encroach on the highly limited powers given to the federal government by the constitution. I think several constitutional amendments that empower the federal government against the states, particularly the 14th amendment, may have been well-intentioned and may even seem in a certain light to be useful for libertarian goals, but ultimately they have been disastrous for the proper balance of power between the federal government and the states.

I guess you could think of strict constitutionalism as a libertarian approach to local government. A real libertarian, of course, wants to see the state wither at all levels; anarcho-capitalists want to see it disappear completely. But I think the revolution to bring about the end of the State must be waged from the bottom-up, not from the top-down. I dislike abuse of federal authority to promote individual freedom, at the expense of state power, more than I dislike the states’ authoritarianism. And this, of course, is treating the intention of the federal authorities as charitably as possible; just as often, if not more so, they steal powers from the states in order to promote themselves, or to favor some private interest at the expense of other citizens.

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