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The Heart of Libertarianism—Charity, Voluntaryism, Compassion

Author:

Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career and a passion for all things libertarian to become The Libertarian Opinionizer.

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Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer

Liberty Pledge, a publication of the national Libertarian Party, recently applauded Rachael Doan of the Dallas County Libertarian Party for ”organizing drives to bring both resources and hope to local homeless communities.”

Wait. What’s going on here? Aren’t libertarians supposed to be selfish and uncaring?

All libertarians are familiar with the endless hateful rants against libertarians from non-libertarians who clearly know nothing about libertarians beyond some simplistically superficial groupthink definition. Typically they met one or two boneheads who self-identified as libertarians and true to their groupthink collectivist mentality immediately branded every libertarian in the world as a bonehead.

Libertarians, they rave, are selfish, mean, uncaring, antisocial, hateful, racist and everything else they can heap on the millions of libertarians they’ve never met or even know exist.

They cannot seem to grasp that libertarians are individual human beings just like themselves. Libertarians are everywhere, in their neighborhoods, in their workplaces, in their churches and shopping malls and schools. And there are likely even one or two in their own extended families.

Libertarian Compassion

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The libertarian Non-Aggression Principle against coercion, intimidation and fraud applies equally to everyone in our human society, not just to libertarians. That’s what makes libertarianism universally compassionate.

Dr. Mary J. Ruwart has addressed this simply and powerfully in her book Healing Our World, The Compassion of Libertarianism (subtitle: How to Enrich the Poor, Protect the Environment, Deter Crime, and Defuse Terrorism). With example after example in issue after issue she demonstrates how the ethical application of libertarian principles has historically created harmony and abundance. She herself has worked extensively with the poor through her decade-long efforts to rehabilitate low-income housing in the Kalamazoo, Michigan area.

According to a recent article by Jeff Perry in Voluntaryism in Action it was Dr. Ruwart’s charitable impulses that brought her to libertarianism, not the other way around. “Raised as a Catholic,” she explained, “I could not reconcile the concept of ending tax-supported welfare with Christ’s admonition to love our neighbors.”

It was when she realized that government action means force—violence—that the situation became clear. “In considering this dilemma, I suddenly became aware of the pivotal point: although refusing to help others might not be very loving, pointing guns at our neighbors to force them to help those in need was even less so. Honoring our neighbor’s choice was more loving than the forcible alternative. If people needed helping, I should expend my energy to offer help, rather than forcing others to provide it”

That’s putting your actions where your heart is.

Rachael Doan

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Rachael Doan, who also goes by Rachael Belle, heads the Social Events Committee of the Libertarian Party of Dallas County, Texas. “We’ve been giving food, blankets, socks and shoes, firewood, flashlights,” Rachael told the national Libertarian Party’s paper publication Liberty Pledge. “We simply go out to the tent cities to distribute and talk to the community and ask them what they need most to get for the next time. We started with hot meals around the Thanksgiving holiday, and once we saw the need we just kept going.”

“We talk about how the Libertarian Party can get things done through voluntaryism,” she told Liberty Pledge, “and we can’t convince anyone of that unless we can show them that we can and will do it. If the government could do this on its own, it would have already done it.”

This echoes the thoughts of Brian Bittner who asked and answered his own question in “Liberator Online,” the free newsletter from the Advocates For Self-Government: “Most Effective Outreach? Lead By Example.”

When you live your life in a way that exemplifies your beliefs, your actions display to others what you believe. This means getting involved in your community, volunteering for charity activities, and networking.

Rachael and her volunteers are far from being alone in their passion for helping others. In the Liberty Pledge article she acknowledges “libertarians across the country have given us enough to make this an ongoing thing” and one of those givers was the Vermin Supreme Institute.

A Supreme Libertarian

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Wait. Who? Vermin Supreme? The guy that wears a boot on his head? That Vermin Supreme? The libertarian Vermin Supreme that most people, including most libertarians, see as a fool and an embarrassment?

There’s more to this person than most would ever imagine, and that’s because he is an individual and not just a category.

Vermin Love Supreme (his real name) is an American performance artist, politician and Libertarian Party activist. His “shtick” is running for office as a satirical candidate who makes outlandish and unrealistic campaign promises as a way of mocking mainstream politicians and the political system.

In real life Vermin is married, is a member of the national Libertarian Party Judicial Committee, a former nuclear disarmament activist and his Vermin Supreme Institute encourages community mutual aid networks and promoting compassionate activism. He also donated one of his kidneys to save his mother.

That’s putting your actions where your heart is.

Libertarian Charity Celebrities

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Need some even better known celebrity libertarian charity-givers to be convinced? Here are just a few:

Clint Eastwood is an actor, film-director, composer and producer best known as a TV and movie western star and as a detective in the Dirty Harry movies. His best known movie line might be Dirty Harry’s “Do you feel lucky punk?” but his best non-acting line might have been “I like the libertarian view, which is to leave everyone alone.” Through his charity work, events and causes Eastwood has supported many organizations including the American Heart and Stroke Associations, Make-A-Wish Foundation, City of Hope and the Red Cross.

Penn & Teller are a magic/illusionist/comedy team who have worked together since 1975 in many on-stage, TV shows and movie venues, written books together and separately, and much more. The duo has frequently described their social and political views as libertarian and both are H.L. Mencken research fellows with the libertarian Cato Institute. They have donated to and participated in many charitable events but the biggest may have come about accidently. They created “Desert Bus,” an unreleased video game that became a cult classic. Fanatical players turned it into a marathon charity fundraiser called “Desert Bus for Hope” which has been played for 14 consecutive years and, as of 2020, had raised over 7 million dollars.

Mark Cuban is the billionaire owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, serves as an investor on the “Shark Tank” TV show and was motivated by Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead to become a successful businessman. He has expressed his libertarian views several times and once self-identified as “Independent, leaning to libertarian. I vote for the candidate who I think will do the least.” In 2003, Cuban created the Fallen Patriot Fund, a charity that provides assistance to the families of soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq.

That’s putting your actions where your heart is.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Libertarian Charitarians

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But what about those libertarians all around you, in your neighborhood, your workplace, your church, your shopping mall, your school, your family? They are there even if you don’t see them. Here is just a small grab bag of those everyday non-celebrity libertarian charitarians like Rachael Doan aka Rachael Belle:

When Libertarian Jason Ross Decker planned on running for public office in the future in his Harvey, Illinois hometown he didn’t go out looking for volunteers to help him, he went out as a volunteer looking to help others. He started by filling a pothole in a street when the city wouldn’t and that inspired other volunteers to clean up their own neighborhoods. He put together a security detail for a woman who got mugged while handing out free sack lunches at a bus terminal. He helped create a volunteer community “Liberty Garden” without a single tax dollar. He launched fundraisers to help a blind man turn an abandoned car wash into “the ultimate soup kitchen and shelter and training center.” And that was all just for starters.

The national Libertarian Party and their local affiliates routinely get involved in voluntary charitable work. Remember the great federal government shutdown of 2018-2019? Nonessential workers including maintenance people were sent home and that meant the National Mall in DC got trashed. LPNOVA, the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia, stepped up to the plate. As the national LP article reports, the cleanup “involved more than 30 volunteers from as far away as Pennsylvania and West Virginia and resulted in 16 full bags of trash.”

Members of the Libertarian Party of El Paso County, Colorado, have involved themselves in a PrideFest event, participated in a Black Forest Fire Fundraiser and a gun show, helped a neighbor with a contaminated well and have volunteered in a Christmas Giveaway every year. They have formed alliances with liberty minded groups in the area and voluntarily work with other like-minded organizations.

Libertarians from LPMeck (Libertarian Party of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina) along with other LPers from the Greater Charlotte region volunteered their time and efforts to help sort and organize a massive warehouse of donated goods at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina NC, all items awaiting distribution to needy recipients across the region.

That’s putting your actions where your heart is.

Libertarian Charity is Universal

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All those examples are just a tidbit of the continually ongoing voluntary charitable activities of libertarians inside and outside of the Libertarian Party giving their time, their efforts, their money, their compassion just as all other decent people do.

But the ultimate libertarian charitability is openly and proudly expressed by the Non-Aggression Principle against coercion, intimidation and fraud that constitutes the very foundation of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.

This is Live and Let Live, this is the Golden Rule, this is the good neighbor policy, this is Abraham Lincoln’s "With malice toward none, with charity for all.”

The Non-Aggression Principle, or “NAP,” applies to everyone equally, not just to libertarians who are ignorantly maligned as selfish, mean, uncaring, antisocial, hateful and racist. Libertarians want everyone else to be just as free from coercive aggression, threats of bullying and fraudulent criminality as they want themselves to be. How is that not charitable?

If critics don’t believe in the NAP why don’t they just teach their children to hit, bully and cheat? That should prepare them for the way their parents see the world.

Or maybe those critics should learn how to think of people as individuals rather than broad general categories; that would be putting reality where their groupthink is.

References and Links

Libertarianism: The Compassionate Political PhilosophyLibertarians respect the natural desire of people to act in their own, voluntary ways to alleviate suffering. We believe government should stand aside in favor of the wiser, more effective efforts of individuals and private organizations.”

The Outward Nature of LibertarianismThe true measure of one’s liberalism, or libertarianism, is not how “pure” they are on the issues but how they treat other people—especially those who are NOT libertarians.”

Libertarian vs. Government Charity The statist mindset has difficulty comprehending charity taking place independent of the government’s coercion, assuming that opposition to government assistance is opposition to all assistance.

Libertarian Light is a Facebook page for a non-profit organization founded in 2015 with “the purpose of doing voluntary charity and mutual aid guided by libertarian principles.” The site is full of stories from all around the country.

Understanding Libertarianism: Charity and Donations

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