Without going too deep into the philosophies of liberty here, one has to differentiate between two major lines of “libertarian” thought. The one is the argument from the consequence, that increased liberty raises prosperity and that prosperity is the goal to target so that hunger and other perils disappear. While we agree on the preferability of the end, our argument is another: That liberty is preferable of itself, that liberty alone is reason enough.
The foundation for liberty is a small but powerful word: Autonomy. It comes from the Greek words “autos,” meaning “self,” and “nomos,” meaning “Law.” It refers to the ability, right or wish of something to be governed by its own law. Anarchism is therefore not what the media tells us – the presence of chaos or lawlessness – but instead the presence of law chosen by those that are covered by the law, contrary to a law given by rulers to handle subjects (Anarchy: No Ruler). We will be referring to Autonomy in that sense.
The basic ethical axiom of Liberty is Individual Autonomy – that each and every person has the right (that is: “is morally justified”) to be the final authority over the law it chooses for himself, and that anything that violates this right is a crime.. It is important to realize that this axiom of individual autonomy implies several things.
First, autonomy only extends to the person asserting this right for himself, it does not imply the right to also govern others. By making a decisions about the rules that govern me, I cannot also make a decision on what rules others are bound to. It is only the “Autos”, my self, that falls under that law – no one else.
Second, in asserting this right I also have to grant this right to everyone else. This means that under no circumstance may my actions undermine the autonomy of anyone else.
Third, autonomy deals with rules we chose as governing principles for ourselves, but these rules do not have to be realizable nor can we force anyone else to help us enforce them against ourselves and the universe. The realization of the rules is limited by laws we fall under if we want or not. These laws are not man-given but part of nature. While we can decide that gravity does not apply to ourselves, it does not change the applicability of gravity. Also, we cannot force others to make our rules work for us, since that would violate their autonomy. At most we can ask for help – not demand it. Just deciding to be always able to eat what we want cannot bind anyone else to provide us with food, or the universe to become a giant vending machine.
Since the application of individual autonomy has these implied limits, and because multiple autonomous individuals can create conflicting laws, it is necessary to define the boundaries in which autonomy can exist. This sphere of autonomy is known as “property”. It is the physical boundaries in which a person is the sole source of law. It is physical because only physical interaction can limit the autonomy of another physical being. And it is necessary so that individuals have room to decide for themselves and know if their decisions are justified. Any attempt to deny the concept of physical, individual property is an attack on the concept of individual autonomy. Both are interlinked inseparable in the universe we live in.
This brings us to the second fundamental statement about liberty. Liberty is not pure independence or self-sufficiency. Since most of us are unable to satisfy all wants solely by ourselves, and because our spheres of autonomy neighbor those of others, we are required to interact with each other – mate, trade, socialize, etc. The only possible way to do this while preserving individual autonomy is to interact on a voluntary basis, meaning that everyone interacting must do so by his own will and that the only acceptable interaction is one in which both parties agree fully. Any other interaction amounts to a violation of individual autonomy and must be considered a crime.
From this, it follows that even a temporary delegation of decisions to others and any kind of contract or law we chose for social groups must be unanimously consensual by all parties delegating or receiving delegation, and all parties joining a group or forming a group that another joins. Anything not meeting this standard violates individual autonomy. Where no such consent can be achieved, the conflicting parties may only end their interaction and separate. Individual Autonomy is also reciprocal, as mentioned above. Asserting this right also means that we have to grant this right to others, when we deny it to others we deny it for ourselves. This leads to three major consequences in social interaction.
First, any violation of autonomy (a crime) can only be met and punished by an equal reduction of autonomy of the offending party and the reasserting of the autonomy of the offended party. Crimes are therefore answered by first making the victim whole, and secondly by applying the same harm to the culprit. This constitutes the basic maxim of justice under individual autonomy and the highest justified punishment in any case. However, it leaves room for the victim to pardon the offender whenever the victim chooses, or to voluntarily agree with him on a different form of restitution. Second, the only party entitled to restitution is the victim, the only party liable to restitution is the offender – an action that has no victim cannot lead to punishment. Any other kind of justice would be criminal in itself, because it violates the individual autonomy of parties that did not act.
Third, asserting oneʼs autonomy also implies the right to defend against violations thereof under the same principles of justice mentioned above. For that, a crime must be underway, and any defense must be relational to the violation. Shooting someone because he might come to your house and steal someday is clearly not permissible, and killing a person for trespass is not either. Fourth, even if someone has violated our autonomy or has not asserted his own autonomy, does not imply that this person has no autonomy that must be respected by us. A tax collector does not lose his right to autonomy, and it is not justified to hang him from the nearest tree. Nor does the tax-subsidy stolen from your pocket entitle you to use a service over and above the justified amount which would have been found as restitution. We shall end our excursion into the philosophy of liberty here. Much more and much elaborate thoughts have been written by others. Instead, one should stop for a minute and think about the above. Does it make sense? Does it not also ask us to live that way? Is it not so right that it demands our support?
What is it that liberty really gives us? Surely it is not prosperity that makes liberty so important in the first place, though it is a nice side-benefit. On the one hand, liberty is the fundament to our humanity. It is that what leads us to self-motivation, self-determination, but it is also what allows us to interact pleasantly with others - Liberty is Peace. Not a peace based on threats of mutual annihilation or cowardice, but instead founded on what makes us special as humans. Liberty is what gives us the room to become more human, to live in accord with our ethical and moral beliefs, to progress, to be in peace with others. In short, one cannot be fully human without also being in liberty.
LibertarianSamuel Edward Konkin III (the father of agorism) defined a libertarian as "one who opposes state intervention, i.e., a defender of Liberty." Another common definition of a libertarian is an adherent of the non-aggression principle.
Libertarianism is more than a political ideology. It's an ethical philosophy based on the non-aggression principle. However, when it concerns politics, libertarians are divided into two categories: consequentialists and rights-theorists.
Consequentialists believe that limited violations of the non-aggression principle (such as taxation) are acceptable if they optimize liberty. Therefore, they generally support limited government. On the other hand, rights-theorists consistently adhere to the non-aggression principle as a natural law. When it concerns politics, they tend to support Rothbardian market anarchism, or its strategic descendant, agorism.
Heed well, you who would be a paladin of Liberty: never initiate any act of violence regardless how likely a "libertarian" result may appear. To do so is to reduce yourself to a statist. There are no exceptions to this rule. Either you are fundamentally consistent or not. A New Libertarian is fundamentally consistent and one who is not fundamentally consistent is not a New Libertarian.
- The Second Realm
- The Law
- Liberty Villages
- Great flash introduction to Liberty
- Free American - the voice of liberty!
- The New Libertarian Manifesto
- LRN.FM - Liberty Radio Network
- The Freeman - Ideas on Liberty
- Interview with Walter Block about his times with Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard
- Against libertarian brutalism - Jeffrey Tucker
- Common sense advice about revolution