It's A Gray Area: Toward a 'functional libertarian' world

I am happy to say that the "functional libertarian" approach is beginning to attract more people here and around the world. But what does that mean? What would a functional libertarian world really look like?

Generally speaking, functional libertarians strive for a government under which people would happily pay their taxes because they see that the money is being responsibly and effectively spent for their general safety, welfare and quality of life. Obviously, we will never attain that result, but we can strive for it.

We would have strong police and military forces to protect us from foreigners and from each other. But, with few exceptions, we would use our military forces only to counteract threats to our safety, security and national interests. We cannot — and should not — be the world's policeman.

We would have a strong judiciary to hold people accountable for their actions, safeguard our liberties and freedoms, and enforce our contracts, warranties and other laws.

Because the largest security threat to our country is a weak economy, we would reduce government spending. Government does not produce wealth. But one thing that big government is really good at is increasing its size, power and cost.

There is simply no reason for governments to own bulldozers, earth movers or dump trucks. Instead it should contract with private companies.

We would also get the federal government more out of the business of owning real property. Now don't get excited. The national park system would continue, as would, for the most part, the national forests.

But about 87% of the real property in Nevada is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. That type of property would be sold at auction. This would, in turn, directly result in the land being better protected and used than is happening today.

If you are not convinced by that statement, simply ask yourself who takes better care of a house, an owner or a renter? And, of course, this would also produce many property taxes that today are being lost.

Today's rampant crony capitalism would be curtailed. That means the government would no longer pay companies to drill for oil or farmers to raise or not raise crops.

Adults would also be able to live their chosen lifestyle without interference or discrimination from the government, as long as their choices didn't wrongly hinder other adults from doing the same thing. That means we would be living in a more socially accepting world.

We would have a strong educational system. Parents would dictate where government dollars for their children's education would be spent. They could demand — and receive — excellence in their children's schooling.

The tax system would be enormously simplified so that everyone could not only understand what they were paying but also see that other people were actually paying their required amounts.

People could then make business and personal decisions for business and personal reasons, instead of for tax reasons. Nothing would spur the economy as much as this change.

Regarding the right to free speech, people could make unlimited contributions to political campaigns so long as these donations were disclosed immediately on the Internet. Big contributors always figure out a way to get their money to the candidates anyway, so this would just formalize the process. But nonhumans, such as corporations and labor unions, would not be able to make any political contributions.

Undocumented workers would be able to apply for and receive work visas after being screened to determine if they had a criminal or mental health background that might cause problems here. Then, if they could support themselves, they could live and work here legally.

And if they could demonstrate an ability to support their families, they could bring them here as well. None of them would be eligible for welfare, but because they would be here legally, they could cross our borders with ease and also get driver's licenses. This would directly result in millions of good people being able to live normal lives instead of being harmed by our immigration system.

The so-called war on drugs would be hastily ended. Thus, the criminal justice system would be used in its intended manner: holding adults accountable for their actions. Along the way, we would take hundreds of billions of dollars each year away from Mexican drug cartels, juvenile street gangs and other thugs, and use the tax money from the sales of drugs to pay our teachers and firefighters and fix our roads.

What about healthcare? Actually, most people in our country are financially able to take care of their own medical needs. So get the government and all of its dictates out of the way, and let people take care of themselves. Just like during the 1950s and early 1960s, this would result in the quality of healthcare going up and its costs going down.

For those who are not financially able to take care of themselves, create a medical safety net. One way would be to have a system of government-sponsored health clinics and hospitals, like we have for our military personnel.

It would be expensive but hugely less so than what is being contemplated today. We would be paying for doctors, nurses, medicines and hospitals instead of bureaucracy, administration and fraud.

All of these approaches make functional libertarians archetypal conservatives because we strongly promote responsibility at all levels of society. But they also make us archetypal liberals because we really do want the government to get out of our lives as much as possible.

The functional libertarian philosophy combines honest principles with practical effectiveness. Thus anyone who believes in financial responsibility and social acceptance is probably a libertarian at heart. In other words, libertarian principles work — for everybody.

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired Orange County Superior Court judge. He lives in Newport Beach. He can be contacted at

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