The following are comments delivered by Joe Siano at the MLK Day Restoring Freedom's rally in Trenton on 1-21-13.
I have been asked to provide a libertarian perspective on this great man, Dr. King. I say “a” and not “the” because if you ask ten libertarians you will get ten different answers. Thus I am not empowered to speak on anyone’s behalf but my own.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King stands alongside of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln as one of the few of American icons that the left, right and center lay claim to. As such, I am unashamed to also claim his legacy on behalf of those who hold liberty, personal responsibility and self governance to be the crown jewels of our American experiment.
Dr. King was first and foremost an advocate of nonviolence. Throughout h is struggles for civil rights and racial equality, he never believed that the end justified the means. He always insisted on a nonviolent path to the ends that he sought.
This approach harmonizes perfectly with the oath that we libertarians affirm upon joining the LP. That is:
"I certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving personal, social, political, or economic goals."
We seek change as Dr. King did. And we do so, as he did, though the power of education, persuasion, reason and personal example.
Dr. King was a man of God, a disciple of Jesus Christ, as I try to be. The Apostle Paul reminds that in Christ’s kingdom, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one”. That is to say, that all men and women stand as equals before the law.
The charter of our great American experiment reminds that it was founded based upon the “Laws of Nature and of Nature's God” and that as such:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
On this Dr. King and the lovers of liberty will agree.
However in his monumental work Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville points out that there are two competing impulses in the democratic spirit – liberty and equality.
Equality before our maker and before the law are indispensable components of a free and prosperous society. However, equality of outcome, particularly when enforced by the heavy hand of the State destroys both liberty and prosperity.
Ayn Rand, the grandmother of the libertarian movement, maintains that, “Man’s essential characteristic is his rational faculty. Man’s mind is his basic means of survival”. Furthermore human prosperity is the outcome of production; that is, producing those material goods that make life enjoyable. Thus she observes: “Production is the application of reason to the problem of survival.”
And if that be true then, “man’s survival requires that those who think be free of the interference of those who don’t.”
And finally she defines succinctly defines just what freedom is and is not:
“Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion. It does not mean freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide men with automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state—and nothing else.”
And though she was a professed atheist, I believe that both she and Dr. King would agree with the Apostle when he proclaims “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”*
As an advocate of liberty and an enemy of collectivism, Rand found racism and racial discrimination abhorrent. I quote
“Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.”
How reminiscent is this of Dr. King’s words that, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
That is dream that all lovers of liberty share. The dream that each and everyone one of will be free to live to achieve his or her highest potential.
Adam Smith showed us, over 200 years ago that free people, each lawfully pursuing his own dream, makes life better not only for himself but his neighbors as well. He writes:
"Every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it ... He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for society that it was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.”
For good measure he adds, “I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good." That is, the meddling hand of government – which of course does so via violence, whether overt or implied – the one thing that Dr. King most opposed.
God bless America, God bless liberty and God bless those who fight for it.