A “Libertarian Republic” is a concept that attempts to describe an ideal form of governance for a nation devoted to classical liberal ideas. It reflects a desire for the power of governance to be situated as near to the citizens being governed as possible. It is to invoke the ideas of Federalism and to imply that a government of limited powers, bound by constitutional restraints, with institutions of balanced power and citizen participation is best for a peaceful, humble republic. Any collection of individuals may form a nation state to defend themselves against common threats and those bonds enacted should install a system where local governance may trump federal governance in order to create a laboratory of democracy. Free individuals must be given the right to choose where to live in their nation state so they may exhibit all of the lifestyle preferences they wish to engage in. In other words, to vote with their feet.
A libertarian republic’s ideal foreign policy would be one of neutrality in foreign affairs. A just nation does not seek to interfere in the governance of foreign nations when that nation does not threaten the health, stability or security of the libertarian republic. However, the principle of self defense and the authority invested in individuals to protect themselves personally does extend to a group of individuals as well. Thus, in wartime, it is perfectly legitimate to forge alliances and treaties with foreign nations as a measure of self defense. Just as individuals may call for help when attacked, so may a nation state. However, after a formal declaration and summation of a defensive war, it is in the libertarian republic’s best interests to return to a position of neutrality once again. Examples of this foreign policy viewpoint have historically been practiced by nations such as The United States, Switzerland, New Zealand and Sweden. It has also been espoused by political leaders such as former Senator Robert Taft, Fmr. CIA Chief Michael Scheuer, Fmr. Congressman Ron Paul and economist John Stuart Mill in his famous essay “A Few Words on Non-Intervention.” Thomas Jefferson in his first inaugural address echoed this point of view when he stated, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none…”
A libertarian republic is also one of laissez-faire domestic policies and limited to no taxation. Citizens under a constitutional system should be free to do as they please, provided they do no harm to others. “Victimless Crimes” are in truth not crimes at all, and all human beings in a republic are entrusted with personal responsibility. That responsibility does come with a price. The price is that each and every unique citizen must bear the responsibility of his or her actions. Thus, a citizen may exercise free speech, but must be prepared to deal with the negative societal consequences of that speech. A citizen may engage in risky behavior such as smoking, rock climbing or illicit drug use, but must be prepared to accept the costs of health care for treatment of injuries or diseases.
Taxation in a libertarian republic would ideally be limited to only those forms of taxation that are strictly voluntary. Examples of a voluntary taxes are sales taxes and lotteries. Involuntary taxes are income taxes, tariffs, user fees, fines and duties. If a libertarian republic were to enact a system of involuntary taxation, that republic ceases to exist the moment those taxes are collected by force. If there is to be no debtors prison, there can also be no coercion on the part of the state to force an individual to fund government plans. Involuntary taxation which requires force to collect must be regarded as a form of theft and resisted by an alert and responsible citizenry by any means necessary in order to preserve individual liberty from collectivist persecution.
Lysander Spooner states, “It is true that the theory of our Constitution is, that all taxes are paid voluntarily; that our government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily entered into by the people with each other; that each man makes a free and purely voluntary contract with all others who are parties to the Constitution, to pay so much money for so much protection, the same as he does with any other insurance company; and that he is just as free not to be protected, and not to pay tax, as he is to pay a tax, and be protected. But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: “Your money, or your life.” And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat. The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful. “
A libertarian republic thrives on the free transfer of goods and services across the borders of nation states. Individuals wishing to trade must be allowed to do so at the absolute minimum of cost. Only those costs associated with the actual transportation of goods and services, paid directly by the consumer, may be considered to be legitimate costs of doing business. Government tariffs, blockades, sanctions, embargoes and taxes are inhibitors to free trade and a cause of friction in relations between nations not at war. French enlightenment philosopher Frederic Bastiat famously quipped, “Where goods and services don’t cross borders, armies will.” And although free trade is not a guarantee of peaceful foreign relations, it is one of the best tools of diplomacy in achieving harmony between nations. Although not an ideal withdrawal was made by the United States after a decade of war in Vietnam, the nation has now become one if its foremost trading partners. Peace and free trade can achieve more than destructive wars of intervention. Although the United States has historically been a nation of protectionism, there have been many attempts to lower the barriers to free trade in recent years that have given more opportunities for more people. So far the systems of international trade are efficient but ridden with many large failures and gaps imposed by belligerent national governments.
Artificial barriers to peaceful immigration are harmful to peaceful relations and damaging to economic growth overall. A libertarian republic embraces the concept of simple migration processes, that are conscious of security interests, but do not needlessly overburden the process of legal migration. A non welfare state has nothing to fear from immigration because there are no benefits to living in the host nation, other than the economic opportunities provided by a growing economy. Those benefits, when taken advantage of, do no harm to others as the immigrant will be a productive, contributing member of society. Anyone who does actual harm in the technical legal sense however may be subject to deportation.
In conclusion, the traits of a libertarian republic are not immutable. There are no commandments that can be uttered it would create a perfect utopian society. Indeed the very definition of the word “utopia” means literally “no place”. So there are no ways to perfectly describe a system of laws that would create a truly perfect classical liberal society. Indeed, a classical liberal society would be sometimes chaotic, prone to growth spurts or recessions unseen in centrally planned (Socialist) economies. However, one thing is for certain, there would absolutely be less recessions and instability than those which Socialism creates. That is a guaranteed failure in the end. One must recall the term “planned obsolescence” and wonder if that isn’t a more appropriate term to describe the end result of every central planners “5 Year Plans” that were such dramatic failures under Soviet and Indian social democratic regimes.
What are the characteristics of a libertarian republic in your opinion? Leave your answers in the comments below.