Because consistent libertarians take often politically incorrect or unpopular stances on controversial issues, they are prone to be presented as heartless wackos who care nothing of the well-being of others. The libertarian philosophy, on the other hand, was never meant to provide a moral framework for private behavior. Instead, its premise is based upon the importance of the Non-Aggression Principle as the basis of any interpersonal interaction. Stated simply, the use of force upon another individual or group of people is only justified in the face of aggression.
At LewRockwell.com Laurence Vance explained the obviously apparent disconnect that exists between progressives and their perception of libertarians. The Daily Kos has undertaken this simple-minded understanding and laid out an article arguing why progressives should “reject libertarianism”. In summary, the article misrepresents the libertarian philosophy at every turn and stated the following:
- Libertarian values are repellent – Libertarianism celebrates greed and selfishness.
- Libertarianism is intellectually myopic – Libertarians cherish freedom above all, but their concept of freedom is constricted and myopic.
- Libertarianism is utopian – An active state is a universal feature of advanced societies.
- Libertarianism is politically hopeless – You might well agree with me on the three preceding points but still feel that libertarianism has to be reckoned with politically.
Vance contrasts this strawman representation of the libertarian philosophy with that presented by the Future of Freedom Foundation’s Jacob Hornberger. Hornberger explains how the libertarian philosophy underlies the basis of any truly free society: one in which people are free to “engage in any peaceful behavior whatsoever, no matter how irresponsible, dangerous, or self-destructive”, so long as it does not infringe up someone else’s rights. There is no inherent necessity for someone subscribing to this principle to be greedy, selfish, or have no concern for others. People who adhere to any other political philosophy may have just as easy a time exhibiting those traits.
To live in a truly moral and just society, interaction between individuals cannot be based on coercion or the threat of its use. There is nothing “repellent” of this value. There is nothing in that statement which forces someone to “cherish freedom above all.” One would hope to live in a world where such a statement is not seen as “utopian”. And above all, this philosophy is not “politically hopeless”, at least not in the long run. The trend toward centralization and collectivization is not on a one way street. From the authoritarian rulers of ancient kingdoms, to the decentralization of the “Dark Ages”; from the absolutism of European Monarchs, to the success of the early American experiment; from the mass murdering totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century, to the recent successes of Ron Paul and the rise of the modern libertarian movement; the political strength of human freedom and constrained government has ebbed and flowed. The education and celebration of this philosophy can change hearts and inspire action.
As Laurence Vance concluded in his article, “libertarianism celebrates liberty, property, peace, laissez faire, anything that’s peaceful, individual responsibility, free markets, free thought, a free society, and the absence of government attempts to do violence to these things in the name of social justice, correcting inequality, or promoting fairness.”
Such a philosophy as this is needed now as much as ever.