For the last year or two, I’ve placed Auburn University at the top of my subjective personal list of libertarian universities. In addition to an awesome campus libertarian organization, they are also the home of libertarian philosopher Roderick Long as well as home turf for Lew Rockwell and the von Mises Institute. It’s a lot easier to win on home turf — just ask any serious SEC football team.
An article from The Harvard Crimson provides cause for me to anticipate having to modify my opinion in the not-too-distant-future. In addition to being provided detail about the new campus organizaton, the Harvard College Libertarian Forum (HLF), the writer also did something no one has been able to accomplish in a month or so: Reading the article by Alexander Harris caused me to look up the definition of deontologist. We’ll get to that in a moment.
To begin, Harris is a good writer. His introduction provides:
The recent controversy surrounding top-level Bush administration officials, the apparent unwillingness of Democrats to fight the President’s Supreme Court nominations, and the political posturing surrounding the two-and-a-half-year-old Iraq question are the latest in a string of events that have left many in the country, and at Harvard, disenchanted with traditional party politics. But it’s not just periodic crises and scandals that have left many disappointed with the two major political parties: the parties’ ideologies leave no room for people to form separate opinions on each policy issue.
Harvard students vary in their political opinions as much as Harvard and Yale vary in their skills at playing football. Social security, the Patriot Act, tax cuts, affirmative action, gay marriage, drug prohibition deregulation, eminent domain, free trade: each student has an independent answer to each of these questions. Nonetheless, the two-party system forces people to pick one of two package deals of nonsensical and often contradictory opinions. If you favor gay marriage, you must oppose cuts in government spending; if you oppose racial profiling, you must believe in affirmative action; if you believe in free trade, you must oppose drug legalization.
There is no political home at Harvard for a person who wants gay marriage and spending cuts, who opposes affirmative action and racial profiling, and who believes in free trade and drug legalization. She must choose between two (to her) equally objectionable options, the Harvard Republican Club and the Harvard College Democrats. That is, until now.
If I was charged to grade this article, he’d have already earned an A. In addition to superior writing skills, he also provides that he has the real world knowledge to understand how real world tasks are actually accomplished:
But what is libertarianism? Over 250 Harvard students list “libertarian” as their political affiliation on their facebook.com profiles.
To the best of my knowledge, facebook.com is a tool which has only been used in the libertarian world by Dick Clark, formerly of Auburn and now at von Mises. Facebook.com has a lot to do with the recent success of the Auburn University libertarian group and speaks very well of the libertarians at Harvard.
Harris then explains:
Libertarians more or less fall into two camps: consequentialists and deontologists. Consequentialist libertarians want a more limited government because they believe it will lead to better social conditions, such as a higher gross domestic product, more personal choice, and increased self-reliance.
Deontological libertarians, often referred to somewhat ambiguously as “philosophical libertarians,” desire limited government because they think it is the only government that can be morally justified. The fundamental claim of deontological libertarianism is that an innocent person — that is, someone who has not violated another’s rights to life or property — never deserves to be punished by having her rights violated.
Yep, I had to look up the word. I’m glad I did, despite the blow to my ego. Being a typical male, I’ve often been accused of having an ego larger than my penis size, so I was starting to look for reasons to trash the article. He mentioned Robert Nozick and I have some problems with Anarchy, State, and Utopia, so I was ready to start tearing him a new asshole. He must have anticipated my reaction, as he continued with:
HLF welcomes all shades of libertarians and, more generally, all students who are interested in — either because they’re in favor of, or because they’re opposed to — any kind of libertarianism. Plans for future activities include both lectures on economics as well as discussions about philosophy. We will, of course, also discuss specific policy issues, libertarian views on law and constitutions, libertarian organizations, and opportunities for libertarian-related summer work and career paths.
All bases covered, his grade gets bumped up to A+. While I’m sure that Auburn would score a basketball-sized point spread against Harvard in a football game, they will really have to step to the plate to ensure they don’t get beaten in the battle of campus freedom organizations.