About Libertarianism

 

We’ve seen recently here on Ricochet lots of threads trying to parse libertarianism, or qualify libertarianism, or trying to understand libertarianism. How about, rather do all that, let’s just say that libertarianism means one thing:

People should be free to do as they please so long as they don’t aggress against other people.

For some people, that’s building enormous buildings. For some people it’s writing poetry. For some people it’s taking Ecstasy at a concert. For some people it’s making art. For some people it’s sitting in a basement, sniffing glue and watching vintage pornography. For some people it’s writing obscure monographs. For some people it’s traveling the world. For some people it’s laying in a field while tripping on LSD. For some people it’s cooking meals for friends. For some people it’s opening a small business. For some people it’s drinking beer and watching football. For some people it’s living in a monastery and spending 12 hours every day in silent meditation.

Different people have different values and libertarianism is the acceptance that maybe there isn’t one right answer to every question and that people should be free to peruse their own values peacefully in whatever way they see fit.

It’s also the acceptance that using laws and police and courts to force what you see as the one best thing onto everyone else not only fails every time, but is morally wrong.

Please stop trying to parse libertarianism. Please stop trying to qualify libertarianism. Please stop trying to understand libertarianism. Whenever you see or encounter the word, just replace it with “freedom to peacefully do things.” Because that’s what it means.

And yeah, sometimes it means the freedom to end up in a gutter with your dirty heroin needle stuck in your arm, and sometimes it means Klan rallies, and sometimes it means hosting symposia on Holocaust denial.

But by and large, and history shows this over and over, that when people are free of government restrictions in their deeds and thoughts, the overall effect is a more peaceful and more productive society.

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  1. user_130720 Member
    user_130720
    @

    Help! Police! Fred just agressed against me. Stop him before he agresses again.

    • #1
  2. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    People should be free to do as they please so long as they don’t agress against other people.

    Aggress has two “g”s.

    Fred,

    Good definition. Will you let me define what aggression is? I think not. There is more than the material and monetary for some people. A society can be harmed by “victimless” crimes. Do you understand this? I am all for freedom but when the person faces the consequences of their actions they cry for help. ERs are full of “libertarians” who weren’t causing problems until they were.

    • #2
  3. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    10 cents: Good definition. Will you let me define what aggression is?

    I’ll happily use Murray Rothbard’s definition:

    “Aggression” is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else.

    • #3
  4. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    10 cents: A society can be harmed by “victimless” crimes.

    It can’t.  A victimless crime has no victim.  The supposed victim is a member of society, which is of course merely a group of individuals.  If no individual is hurt, then society is not hurt.

    The ER question is putting the cart before the horse: socialists argue that society will be hurt because they want the State to steal from us to provide for those who won’t or can’t provide for themselves.  At ever-larger values of “won’t or can’t”.  Can’t afford a TV or a cell phone?  No problem, the state is there for you!  So the argument then becomes: you can’t be free because you might make a bad decision that will cost the taxpayers money.

    That logic is how one gets to totalitarianism.  Which is just down the road, at this point.

    • #4
  5. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    Fred,

    So the answer is no, right? Don’t you see that is where the problem lies? PC takes offence at the slightest wrong word. Is this an aggression? People are hurt by words. Don’t you agree? How would you handle this?

    • #5
  6. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    I agree with Fred’s sentiment, if not the exact details of his definition of libertarianism.  Libertarianism is a bit too complicated to be explained on a bumper sticker.  But if I had to try, I might say this:  “I was not put here to build the kind of world that you want to live in.  So leave me alone.”

    • #6
  7. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    Tuck,

    Why do people use quote marks? For example is there a difference between victimless crime and “victimless” crime?

    • #7
  8. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    10 cents:Fred,

    So the answer is no, right? Don’t you see that is where the problem lies? PC takes offence at the slightest wrong word. Is this an aggression? People are hurt by words. Don’t you agree? How would you handle this?

    No.  Aggression is physical.

    I have the right to call you a jerk.  I don’t have the right to write it on your forehead.

    The reason we use physical as a line is bc it’s objective.

    • #8
  9. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Fred Cole:Please stop trying to parse libertarianism. Please stop trying to qualify libertarianism. Please stop trying to understand libertarianism.

    I disagree. I think attempts to parse and understand an idea can be useful – they don’t have to be useful, but they can be. Also, the way I see it, a person advocating libertarianism has good reason to rejoice if others who used to be anti-libertarian come around to a qualified acceptance of libertarianism.

    A great many people seem to enjoy parsing and qualifying things. Tell them they should not parse or qualify an ideology, and you make that ideology less attractive to them.

    • #9
  10. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    10 cents:Tuck,

    Why do people use quote marks? For example is there a difference between victimless crime and “victimless” crime?

    You tell us.  You used the quotation marks.

    • #10
  11. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    If I decide to raise pigs in my suburban neighborhood, I am not threatening any violence against my neighbors, but the stink would decrease the quality of their lives and lower the value of their property. Without any intentional aggression, my actions could hurt them physically and financially. Shouldn’t consequences matter as much, or more, than intent?

    • #11
  12. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Fred Cole:Please stop trying to parse libertarianism. Please stop trying to qualify libertarianism. Please stop trying to understand libertarianism. Whenever you see or encounter the word, just replace it with “freedom to peacefully do things.” Because that’s what it means.

    Freedom to peacefully do things like parse and qualify libertarianism.

    • #12
  13. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    Fred Cole:

    10 cents:Tuck,

    Why do people use quote marks? For example is there a difference between victimless crime and “victimless” crime?

    You tell us. You used the quotation marks.

    Fred,

    If you don’t know what quote marks mean, just say so and I will explain. I will use small words if that is needed. :-)

    • #13
  14. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    10 cents: Why do people use quote marks? For example is there a difference between victimless crime and “victimless” crime?

    I’m aware of why.  You’re arguing that they’re not really victimless, that some amorphous thing is injured.

    I think that’s silly.  Amorphous things aren’t injured, people are.  If no individual is hurt, then no harm is done.

    • #14
  15. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    Fred Cole:

    10 cents:Fred,

    So the answer is no, right? Don’t you see that is where the problem lies? PC takes offence at the slightest wrong word. Is this an aggression? People are hurt by words. Don’t you agree? How would you handle this?

    No. Aggression is physical.

    I have the right to call you a jerk. I don’t have the right to write it on your forehead.

    The reason we use physical as a line is bc it’s objective.

    Have you ever dealt with people who are deeply depressed? There is not a mark on them but there is damage. Are you telling me that doesn’t happen? Yes, you can call me a jerk which is against the CoC. I will be okay. If you tell a certain type of person they are a jerk you might have a suicide on your hands.

    Please explain to us what slander and libel mean. Please do it objectively. ;)

    • #15
  16. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Fred Cole: Please stop trying to parse libertarianism. Please stop trying to qualify libertarianism. Please stop trying to understand libertarianism. Whenever you see or encounter the word, just replace it with “freedom to peacefully do things.”

    Ah, the spectacle of a libertarian issuing orders about how to think. ;)

    Ask your questions, folks.  It brings about interesting discussions.

    • #16
  17. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    10 cents: People are hurt by words.

    Indeed. Words can be much more powerful (good and bad) than physical coercion. Think of the changes effected in the world from nothing more than ideologies!

    • #17
  18. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    Tuck:

    10 cents: Why do people use quote marks? For example is there a difference between victimless crime and “victimless” crime?

    I’m aware of why. You’re arguing that they’re not really victimless, that some amorphous thing is injured.

    I think that’s silly. Amorphous things aren’t injured, people are. If no individual is hurt, then no harm is done.

    Tuck,

    How do you define hurt? I could spin words to destroy your reputation and keep everything true. Do I have the freedom to do that? Does that count as harm?

    • #18
  19. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    iWc:

    10 cents: People are hurt by words.

    Indeed. Words can be much more powerful (good and bad) than physical coercion. Think of the changes effected in the world from nothing more than ideologies!

    iWc,

    I grew up with brothers. We cuffed each other all the time. It was soon forgotten. If we went at each other with words we might still be holding grudges. I totally agree with what you wrote.

    • #19
  20. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    10 cents: I could spin words to destroy your reputation and keep everything true. Do I have the freedom to do that? Does that count as harm?

    Is this supposed to be as clever as putting words in quotes?  Go read up on slander and libel law…

    If you’re a socialist utopian and you’re looking to guarantee everyone a happy end, do just say so.  I’m not.

    • #20
  21. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    Tuck:

    10 cents: I could spin words to destroy your reputation and keep everything true. Do I have the freedom to do that? Does that count as harm?

    Is this supposed to be as clever as putting words in quotes? Go read up on slander and libel law…

    If you’re a socialist utopian and you’re looking to guarantee everyone a happy end, do just say so. I’m not.

    Did you just set up a straw man? I ask about slander and libel therefore I am a social utopian. Please explain the connection for everyone.

    • #21
  22. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    10 cents:

    Fred Cole:

    10 cents:Fred,

    So the answer is no, right? Don’t you see that is where the problem lies? PC takes offence at the slightest wrong word. Is this an aggression? People are hurt by words. Don’t you agree? How would you handle this?

    No. Aggression is physical.

    I have the right to call you a jerk. I don’t have the right to write it on your forehead.

    The reason we use physical as a line is bc it’s objective.

    Have you ever dealt with people who are deeply depressed? There is not a mark on them but there is damage.

    I am familiar with the philosophy that holds that you must live your life so as to avoid causing other people to become depressed.  My mother tried to teach me that philosophy.  It didn’t impress me then.  It doesn’t impress me now.

    • #22
  23. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    Larry3435:

    10 cents:

    Fred Cole:

    10 cents:Fred,

    So the answer is no, right? Don’t you see that is where the problem lies? PC takes offence at the slightest wrong word. Is this an aggression? People are hurt by words. Don’t you agree? How would you handle this?

    No. Aggression is physical.

    I have the right to call you a jerk. I don’t have the right to write it on your forehead.

    The reason we use physical as a line is bc it’s objective.

    Have you ever dealt with people who are deeply depressed? There is not a mark on them but there is damage.

    I am familiar with the philosophy that holds that you must live your life so as to avoid causing other people to become depressed. My mother tried to teach me that philosophy. It didn’t impress me then. It doesn’t impress me now.

    Larry,

    I am not talking about causing other people to be depressed. I am pointing to the fact that some people are clinically depressed. When you are dealing with these people you choose your words wisely. Do the feelings of others mean anything to you? Should they just deal with anything shoveled their way?

    • #23
  24. user_435274 Thatcher
    user_435274
    @JohnHanson

    Fred Cole:

    “People should be free to do as they please so long as they don’t aggress against other people.”

    I like your definition.  I agree with your definition.  BUT, there is one flaw with the definition, and as others have already said, it lies with the definition of “aggress”.  I don’t trust you to define it for me, I certainly don’t trust Lenin, Marx, Obama, Bush, Boehner, or any other professed leader to define it for me either.

    I want a “civil” society, which again is hard to define, but essentially maximizes personal freedoms, while recognizing limits to those freedoms, that are encoded in a government, with laws.  Where Libertarians, Conservatives, and Liberals disagree is on the subject and limits to those laws, and how they are enforced.

    It cannot be any single man or small number of men doing that definition, or we only have freedoms at their whim.  Neither can it be the rule of the majority, as that is also temporary and subject to the whim of the mob.  The best that we have been able to do is likely the US for the last 200 years or so, and I hope we can continue.

    We need better education, better culture, and more responsible individuals.  How we achieve this, is the reason sites like Ricochet exist and why I am a member.  The form of conversation possible here is too rare in the society.

    The reason, in my inadequate opinion that the US was more successful that other societies, was its recognition that there are some absolutes, or axioms of behavior we need to conform to in order to gain a “civil” society.  These do not depend upon men and their beliefs, but are instead fundamental to an understanding that no structure only of men can achieve.  For the US, this came from Christianity, which managed to evolve a separation between life as conforming to a religious code, and government as a system of laws which organize the behavior of individuals, while preserving their freedom to believe as they wish.

    Finding the right balance to this essential tension has been and remains the fundamental issue in our civilization.

    • #24
  25. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    Tuck,

    I asked questions in #18. You decided not to answer them. Are only your questions worthy of response?

    Is this supposed to be as clever as putting words in quotes? 

    I will respond to your question in #20. No, this is not a clever way but a frank way to have a discussion. Putting words in quotes is a standard way to communicate. Would you prefer “so called” instead?

    • #25
  26. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Fred Cole:

    10 cents:Fred,

    So the answer is no, right? Don’t you see that is where the problem lies? PC takes offence at the slightest wrong word. Is this an aggression? People are hurt by words. Don’t you agree? How would you handle this?

    No. Aggression is physical.

    I have the right to call you a jerk. I don’t have the right to write it on your forehead.

    The reason we use physical as a line is bc it’s objective.

    You do have the right to call me a jerk.  But do you have the right to follow me around all day in public places yelling that I’m a jerk to everyone I speak to?  Can you drown out my conversations with other people by standing right next to me and talking over me in a systematic and harassing manner?

    Physical aggression is the easy stuff, but I haven’t heard of many libertarians who argue that nothing but the physical can be punished.

    • #26
  27. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    John Hanson,

    Re #24 well said.

    • #27
  28. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Frank shows exactly why libertarianism doesn’t work. Upon examination, the harm principle falls apart. It’s obvious that harm is not just physical, and yet since it is far more than that, who is wise enough to define it? No one. At that point, the effort becomes meaningless.

    • #28
  29. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    The harm principle is not the correct libertarian axiom. It only gets you the right answer about 80% of the time.

    • #29
  30. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Vance Richards: If I decide to raise pigs in my suburban neighborhood, I am not threatening any violence against my neighbors, but the stink would decrease the quality of their lives and lower the value of their property. Without any intentional aggression, my actions could hurt them physically and financially. Shouldn’t consequences matter as much, or more, than intent?

    They would have the freedom to buy your land and/or pigs to get you to stop. They do not have the freedom to use government to force behavior upon you.

    • #30
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