There are so many important questions to get from libertarianism that it’d be tough to ask them all and condense them into three parts, but I’ve done this as not to dwell on issues I feel have already been solved by other more intelligent speakers and spokesman for liberty than I am as of right now. Rothbard for instance has wrote on common criticisms of libertarianism and other thinkers have also come to the defense of libertarianism in many forms. Roderick Long has called libertarianism in it’s simplest form (or perhaps just overall for that matter) a theory of justice that dictates that all of man must be treated equally in authority and titles and positions should be irrelevant to the dictots of what justice is in a free society. That is of course, my own wording of what I think libertarianism stresses. But what specific form of libertarianism should be embraced and why is it logical to do so? First off libertarianism offers a comprehensive but simple look on life, that people’s bodies are their own and no one’s but, this eliminates the idea of slavery and the idea of any war on drugs, after all just like Bill Hicks said, “It’s not a war on drugs, it’s a war on personal freedom…” And so any libertarian who really supports individual freedom and liberty must oppose the drug law even on the most extreme sides, “conservative-libertarians” who consider themselves a little more “liberal” than others are nothing but paleo-cons, just dressed up. They generally support closed borders, a limited war on drugs, interventions minimized and so forth, the consistent libertarian as far as I can see is actually an anarchist, one who uses libertarian ethics to their advantage to explain how justice should be treated in society. But when is the time to use libertarianism?
When is the time to use libertarianism?
Libertarianism should not be used as an excuse for violence based on libertarianism or a justification for every single judgment you make though chances are it’ll be involved in some way and that’s fine but don’t make it the central point at every step. This is of course considering Dr. Long’s theory about what libertarianism is correct, it’s a theory on justice to be sure but it’s also the statement that individuals own their own body, property and labor and no one has a right to it but themselves, though this could be easily applied to matters of justice as far as I can see it. Libertarianism should be used when the question of what to do about justice and individual freedom comes up, or rights if you prefer. Libertarianism offers answers both to the question of justice and also to the questions of individual freedom and they are often a lot more lucid and easy to understand (though difficult to grasp at times) than the ideas of statism. But why is this? Because the state’s ideas of justice is forcing people to abide by it’s rule and not letting them have any alternate choices in the matter and then force justice down their throat, whether they want the accused to be punished means nothing to the state in many cases and when it does the state usually won’t play by the individuals respect for the liberty of others. The idea of justice for the state is monopolistic, coercive, a moral evil and unnecessary even in utilitarian reasoning, just see David Friedman’s reasoning in his essays and works and talks. Regardless of those kinds of considerations there’s many ways to use libertarianism and many ways to get there but the goal must be the same and the enemy as well: individual liberty and government.
The main tenets of libertarianism
I do not contend of course that all of these are correct or that I necessarily agree with them, just that they are the central ideas behind libertarianism or at the very least some of the most spoken of ideas by libertarians.
1) A good starting example is something I’ve already discussed here and there which is the principle of self-ownership, this is the idea that we own ourselves and no one else can claim such ownership to our bodies. This ties in with libertarians support for people being able to kill if they really want to and no one having a supposed right to stop them through the use of force because they’re not hurting anyone besides themselves and it’s their own bodies so it’s perfectly fine. But does this mean libertarians want such a thing to happen? Well, one would think it’d be easy to say no to such a ludicrous idea but the selfishness of libertarians or supposed selfishness of them I should say is often a common criticism of libertarianism, but as Dr. Long has asked Who’s the Scrooge? Dr. Long makes a great case that the people who oppose libertarianism as selfish are actually mistaken and the state is actually the most self-involved entity in the world, though he doesn’t say as much this is a conclusion I can draw myself. Not only are libertarians interested in other people’s affairs they must be or else what’s the point on having a theory on justice? The self-ownership idea helps libertarians some of the fundamental of such a theory on justice and although I have some of my own problems with it which were actually remarked by libertarians for example how we can actually own ourselves but still deny that ownership of others. But I like to phrase it that we have responsibility over our own body inherently and therefore we also own our body and no one else has the right because we’ve constantly labored with our own body in our own self-interest and volition in mind and therefore no one has such a right to our body unless we grant it.
The NAP or ZAP
Another idea of libertarianism is the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) or alternatively the Zero-Aggression Principle (ZAP) is the idea that no one has the right to use force on you, not a group and not an individual either. Force can only be used in defense and it is here that force is justified and no where else. Now I like this principle but I’d like it as that just a principle, certain libertarians like to escalate this idea to some sort of axiom or automatic truth, I doubt the existence of such things to begin with but to say that a principle can be sudden raised to an axiom is a big leap. As far as the principle goes I only agree with half of it anyways, I am not a strict pacifist but I am a philosophical one and do not agree that any moral value from violence can be attained or that it should be sought for, I respect the idea of self-defense as a practical and efficient necessity for maintaining life but I do not and cannot at this time avidly support violence in any way. Overall however I do agree with this principle, or at least half of it, I am not strictly a libertarian in all senses, I do use a lot of the ethical principles it has but I do not consider them all completely valid and as I’ve pointed out already in my opinion at least they have some flaws.
The last major principle I shall talk about is the idea of negative rights, of course there being negative rights there are also positive rights and I shall discuss the difference between the two now for those unaware. Positive rights are generally advocated by people who support government with an exception or two thrown in, positive rights are generally obligations people owe to others for some mysterious reasons, like, the right to work or to go to school. Generally these rights have unintended consequences that stem from that which is seen and that which is not. In today’s society people are forced through government to give other people these “rights” that they have. Libertarians reject this notion straight out if they are consistent, they will rise and say, “This is nothing but slavery dressed up!” Ask them if the state is enforcing slavery what does this say about the state and then you’ll see the consistent libertarians still standing and the inconsistent ones sitting down. Now, I’m not saying being inconsistent means you’re impure or you’re some sort of demon or something inconsistency will always be with you but the most you strip away the better at the philosophy you want to live your life by will be. Just don’t strive to be perfect.
Libertarianism as a historical revisionism
Many libertarians are not satisfied with the ol’ “History is told by the victors” and often times will revise history to their own liking as most people try to, Kevin Carson for example didn’t like the history of the theories on capital and so he wrote some of his own thoughts on the matter. Joseph Stromberg and others like him have also such as Gabriel Kolko have also done some revisionism in their works and tried to make the seemingly good natured and benevolent US government a lot less so and of course others have also done this. But how far does libertarianism fair? Well clearly not too well as long as the public education system is kept in place and the shit from there keeps going into young impressionable mind luckily people like John Taylor Gatto also have done work on such an area, I recommend looking him up for some of his work. Other writers such as Rothbard, Mises and so forth have also had a hand in shaping the history of libertarianism and telling the history of other things such as the stagflation in Germany or the fall of the Soviet Union and so forth and of course libertarians later on had different historical perspectives on such individuals themselves and their own opportunities in life to make a difference from a libertarians view. Clearly the avenue of historical revisionism is one libertarians have taken in stride at least among a lot of it’s prominent speakers and has gotten help from others as well in such endeavors. This is a road that should be traveled at least once or twice by any libertarian or at least the works of other libertarians should be used as referenced as points to make to others and help them better understand where we as libertarians come from.
From here where do we go? Both libertarianism and market anarchism have been discussed and dissected and looked into, multiples of it’s thinkers have been brought into the open for hopefully people to see, rediscover, or even just refresh their memory on what they had to say and learn from them and apply it to their lives. libertarianism and market anarchism both have applications in real life and that’s what I’ll seek to discuss next, the intricacies of how both theories on justice intertwine and compliment each other through different thinkers and thoughts on life.
Overview of series: The who, what, where, when, why and how of libertarianism.
1.) Libertarianism is the simple idea that individual liberty should be maximized and oppression should be minimized to the fullest extent possible, this can range from a limited government to none at all and in my own opinion the more consistent libertarian will consider anarchism the better choice. Libertarianism is a “thick” concept in that it opposes much more than just governmental oppression but it also as libertarianism should also oppose social oppressions such as racism, sexism, homophobia, militarism and support things like radial individual feminism, sexual liberation, and so forth.
2.) These focuses necessarily put Libertarian on more of a “left” playing field and history backs this up as traditionally those who favored less power for the state were on the left side of the French Assembly. Besides that the current spectrum does nothing to really tell much about libertarianism only bare boned generalities that only have relevancy at points here and there. Left and right should only be considered in the French Assembly sense and if this is the sense that is used, clearly anarchists and libertarians are left. The classic essay Prospects for Liberty: Left and Right by Murray Rothbard and the 40 years later edition of it by Roderick Long both back this claim in a more substantial manner and deeper historical look.
3. Libertarianism is a philosophy that has a theory on justice and also proposes that individual liberty should be the most sought after goal in any society seeking justice of any substantial kind. Things such as the NAP, self-ownership and negative rights back the libertarians assertion of favoring a free society in many ways and the historical revisionism of fellow libertarians can also give them a good idea of how to present their ideas to a literally captive audience.