Libertarian Party Chairman Nicholas Sarwark recently received some criticism for a statement he made on the Lions of Liberty podcast. When asked about Ron Paul, Sarwark responded, “He had policy prescriptions that were straight-up wrong and anti-libertarian… None of us should be given a pass on having to have actual libertarian positions… State’s rights is not a libertarian position, and it’s something Ron Paul had pushed for a long time.”
Some people are claiming that Libertarians should embrace States’ Rights because it helps ensure a localized check on federal tyranny, and anyone opposed to this is a “libertarian centralizer” – whatever that means. However the people making this claim often forget that States’ Rights can also be used as a form of localized tyranny, and they will oppose federal efforts to protect individual rights as a violation of States’ Rights. Frankly, they are making a constitutional argument instead of a philosophical libertarian argument.
To understand whether or not States’ Rights is supported by the Libertarian Party, one needs only look at the Party Platform. The LP’s Platform begins with a Statement of Principles that reads:
“We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.
We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”
The SoP also states, “We… hold that where governments exist, they must not violate the rights of any individual.”
Additionally, going back to the first LP Platform in 1972, whenever rights are mentioned, it is always in the context of individual rights, not rights of any government. Further advocates of States’ Rights often forget what rights actually mean.
Those who truly support liberty believe:
Everyone has the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not cause unjust harm to another.
Everyone has the same rights as everyone else.
People don’t have more rights, or fewer rights, because of their place of birth.
No person can delegate a right they don’t possess to another person.
No person or group has more rights than any other person or group.
No group can claim a right not possessed by any member of the group.
Since no group of people can have more rights than any individual member of the group, no group can revoke the rights of any other person or group.
No law, regulation, statute, or other dictate can rightly infringe on the rights of any person.
This is the essence of individual rights, and any attempt to grant rights to a State or any other other level of government not also granted to the individual is invalid.