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It is with a bit of trepidation that I am posting this now, just following the terrible news about JohnGaltII's death. Following his masterful post on "Economics and Health Care" ( http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=20918101 ), he and I began corresponding by email, and he extended an invitation to me to join this community.

I hesitated to do so, as I typically avoid the Fool's political boards, because I often find the people who post to be more interested in flame wars and personal attacks than in discussing and debating actual ideas and ideals. I've been lurking here for a few days, and this board seems at least a bit more sane than the other political boards.

Personally, politically I consider myself somewhere between Republican and Libertarian. In a perfect world, I think I would be a full-fledged Libertarian, but I have enough disagreement with the Libertarian party platform (see http://www.lp.org/issues/platform/platform_all.html ) to not self-identify as one. I am a Cato Institute sponsor, and Cato now gets the money that I had formerly been donating to Republican candidates and party branches.

The only time I've ever actually voted Libertarian was in 2000, for a county commissioner's office. I live in Hamilton County, Ohio, which is to Republicans pretty much what Chicago is to Democrats. In 2000, there was a huge uproar about the tax-and-spend nature of the county commission, and their half-a-billion-dollar give-away to the Cincinnati Bungals - er, make that Bengals. There was enough disgust among the voters that year that a Democrat actually won a seat on the commission - a rarity in this county. In this year's Republican primary, a sitting Republican commissioner was actually ousted by a primary contender running on a smaller government, lower taxes platform. So even the Hamilton County Republican Base is turning against pure encumbant loyalty when the encumbant espouses larger, more expensive government.

I am disgusted enough by President Bush's destruction of the First Ammendment (McCain/Feingold campaign finance 'reform', aka "Thou shalt not criticize politicians"), his increasing socialization of medicine (Medicare Prescription Drugs), and his federal assult on education, especially gifted education, (via the "No Child Left Behind" act) that I currently expect to vote Libertarian in the 2004 Presidential election. (I am ambivalent about the USA PATRIOT act, mostly because of the expiration dates on some of the more controversial provisions of it. What I've noticed though U.S. history is that there is often a lag between government granting itself power and government abusing that power...)

With Ohio such a critical swing state and Hamilton County no longer a sure, huge Republican lock (ref. the 'near miracle' Democrat win four years ago on the county board along with the recent primary defeat of another 'big government Republican' in the primary), Bush may find it tougher to win in Ohio in 2004 than in 2000. If the non-stop campaign advertising that started in May (or was it April?) is any indication, both 'major' parties realize that Ohio is likely to be tight.

If Ohio goes to Kerry because enough disgusted Republicans vote Libertarian or stay home, and if Ohio's 'defection' is enough to turn the electoral college towards Kerry, I won't mind. I think the Republicans will retain both the House and Senate, and the last time that Republicans held congress with a Democrat president appears to me to have also been the last time that there was any sort of attempt at fiscal restraint from D.C. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and unchecked Republicans have proven themselves to be just as poor stewards of the treasury as unchecked Democrats were. (See page 26 of this document: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2005/pdf/hist.pdf .) I'd rather have divided government and some sort of restraint than unified government and a complete feeding frenzy.

The reason I do not view myself as primarily Libertarian is because of what I call the "rational actor" problem with the Libertarian platform. There are a few key-to-me issues that keep me from fully aligning myself with the Libertarians, and they essentially revolve around that issue.

The "rational actor" problem is that for a Libertarian society to succeed, people must be capable of making rational choices. There are several instances where that breaks down and I must disagree with the Libertarian platform on how those breakdows should be handled, significantly enough to not identify as one.

Since these topics are hot-button ones, I am a bit fearful of bringing them up on this board. I don't want to start a flame-war, but I do want to make my position known. I have no interest in getting into a futile arguement over beliefs, but since I mentioned that I don't consider myself a full-fledged Libertarian, I figured I could at least explain many of the reasons why.

Abortion.
While the pregnant woman may be capable of making a rational choice to abort, the yet-to-be-born child cannot consent to dying. That yet-to-be-born child is most certainly affected by the abortion, yet has no say in the matter. I believe an innocent individual's right to life is second-to-none, and that includes those still in the womb (Granted, if the choice is between a pregnancy termination or the death of the woman, I'd side with keeping the woman alive, but those cases are fortunately rare in modern times). Abortion fails the rational actor test because a significantly affected party cannot make a rational choice to consent to the procedure.

Drugs.
Addict behavior is not rational behavior. While a person nearly certainly may have been using rational logic in making the initial choice to begin taking addictive substances, once 'hooked', that person often loses the ability to make the rational choice to stop. Additionally, there are numerous substances "on the street" that cause people to lose the ability to act rationally. PCP ( http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/pcp.html ) is one such agent. A man on PCP recently died around Cincinnati in police custody. That death was linked to the tactics police had to employ to control him ( http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Midwest/12/03/died.in.custody/ ), likely because of his use of PCP.

If a person can't make the rational choice to stop using a substance, and loses the ability to make rational decisions while using the substance, then that person fails the "rational actor" test. If such behaviors are (nearly) universal with the use of a substance, then I question the logic of condoning the use of the substance.

I will agree with the Libertarians that the current prosecution of the drug war is outrageous. I especially think property seisure provisions of laws are an affront, as are warrentless and without-suspicion searches of person and property (IE random traffic stops).

Mental Illness.
There are people with mental illnesses who present a danger to themselves and (more importantly in a Libertarian society) to others. By definition, many people with legitimate mental illnesses are not "rational actors." For example, I have a family member with bipolar disease. When he 'cycles' uncontrollably, he becomes irrationaly violent - including an altercation that resulted in a felony assult and battery conviction for actions he took against a family member. When medicated, he can control himself.

Unfortunately (and from what we're told from his case worker, very commonly) people medicated for this disease, when given a choice, often cease their medication - often because they believe they're "cured" and no longer need it. By the time the symptoms return, they've lost their ability to act rationally (such as making the choice to resume medication) and slip again into the dangerous behaviors that got them in trouble in the first place. In the case of my afflicted family member, that includes irrational violence.

So the choice is really not pretty... Involuntary medication/treatment or a viscious cycle of irrational violence... I have to say, in contradiction to the Libertarian platform, that I support the involuntary treatment of the mentally ill - who by definition cannot make choices that pass the "rational actors" test.

Suicide.
As much as I support a rational individual's ability to make a rational choice to suicide, I am very much opposed to the government sanctioning suicide. The reason is primarily because the government has shown itself all too willing to influence behavior, and I do not want the government getting into the business of influencing, encouraging, or even 'requiring' people to suicide. If anything, in my opinion, government influence should either stay entirely out of the way or be biased towards survival. There is no 'do over' option on a suicide - the decision is final and permanent.

From a "rational actor" perspective, not all suicidal attempts are rational attempts to end one's life, though many (such as a person with an incurable, painful, fatal disease with near-zero quality of life and a short remaining life span anyway) may very well be. In many cases (especially among the young or abused, suicide attempts are often cries for attention and requests for help rather than legitimately rational choices to end one's life.

If the government must have a bias, I would much rather its bias be in favor of survival. A determined, rational individual legitimately wishing to end his or her life can always find a way to do so, whether or not it is legal. An irrational person or someone really crying out for help or attention through suicidal attempts may not really be making the rational decision to want to die. In an environment where the government enables or encourages suicides, such people may be 'helped' in carrying out their suicidal acts, rather than given the more life-affirming help that they were really seeking. And in fact, such people may be discouraged from receiving the help they were really seeking, by state policy that puts the right of the person to commit suicide over the right of 'interested other parties' to check in and make sure that person is making a rational choice.

Because suicide is permanent and there is no 'do over' or 'undo', it is a case where I believe that societal structures and government biases should be in place to afirm and protect the lives of those whose rational wish is really not suicide, in spite of actions that may appear contrary to that on the surface.

----

These are primary (though not the only) places where I disagree with the Libertarian platform. I generally support the principles of freedom, liberty, and the rights of rational beings to make rational decisions, whether or not those would be the same decisions that I would make. My big differences with the party primarily boil down to "rational actor" tests and what the appropriate government responses should be towards those who are not necessarily making or even capable of making rational decisions for themselves.

I have voted for a Libertarian candidate. I currently expect to do so again this year. I financially support an organization with Libertarian leanings. I do, however, have a significant difference of opinion with the Libertarian party when it comes to the appropriate government response for failures of the "rational actor" test.

I don't know how welcome I will be in this community, and I can certainly remove this board from my favorite list if it appears as though my presence is rejected by this group due to my differing convictions. My previous experiences with politically motivated boards here has been less than stellar. Out of respect for the dead and his request that I participate here, I am introducing myself and laying my cards on the table.

Thank you for your time and attention,
-Chuck
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