Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Libertarian- the Definition

Most simply: Libertarians are those who believe no one has the right to archate (commit aggression or to violate property rights).

When I say "libertarian" I am NOT referring to the Libertarian Party (LP) or any system of "politics". Groups or individuals who wrap themselves in the name "libertarian", such as the Libertarian Party, are only "libertarian" to the extent that they uphold the libertarian principles, and other people who may not like the word are still "libertarian" as long as they also live up to the principles. So, if the LP lives up to this definition, then they would be "libertarian", but if they do not I will judge them by their actions and principles without regard to what label they choose for themselves. I do this in every case with everyone who claims the title.

A libertarian is someone who abides by the Zero Aggression Principle, which includes not defrauding others (keeps his word), and not otherwise seeking solutions in coercion. Ever. Not even by using hired thugs wearing the silly hat of government. Self defensive actions are not "aggression" or "initiation" of anything other than self defense, but are a result of the aggression or deception of others. A libertarian does not wish to control others, not even "nicely" or for their own good. Instead he should mind his own business as long as no one is being attacked or harmed. Voluntary interactions between responsible people are no one else's business no matter how much their actions may offend you.

I recognize libertarian to be the same as anarchist to be the same as sovereign individual to be the same as "live and let live", abolitionist, Voluntaryist, and to be "the only true standard of consistently ethical behavior"; the only right way to live. If you hyphenate "libertarian" with something else that compromises the foundational principles in any way, however "minor", then you have negated the "libertarian" part of your name in its entirety. It is really much simpler than many people would have you believe. When a person fails to live up to this description in some areas, in those areas he falls short of all the above terms.

So there you have it. You may not agree, but at least you will know where I am coming from.

18 comments:

  1. I disagree with anarchist without adjectives. Propertarian anarchist, okay. Many anarchists of various types are anti-propertarian, and I don't believe that can be consistent with ZAP.

    Besides, I'm not an anarchist. I believe in a system of government. I call that system "self government" which means the rule of me, by me, for my purposes. I do not consent to be governed by anyone else. I do not consent to govern anyone else. I tend my own garden, and ask that you do likewise.

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  2. I also believe in self government, but as you will see if you check my definition of "government" you'll see what I am talking about when I use the word without the qualifier- I am using it in the common way meaning a system of coercion.

    You might also check out my definition of "anarchy".

    In fact, I am defining many of the terms I use a lot just to avoid these types of misunderstandings. You can see all the definitions here.

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  3. I appreciate you defining what you mean by "libertarian", the word is becoming meaningless on the internet. If I understand you correctly, you're saying its a personal creed.

    For the record, I am not a libertarian.

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  4. I suppose you could say it is a "personal creed", but I do think the principles are universal and apply whether you accept them or not. If you attack people you have done the wrong thing even if you try to justify it or say you don't believe it was wrong for one reason or another.

    And I agree, the word has become meaningless on the internet, with every two-bit puppetician claiming "libertarian" credentials no matter what "laws" they are trying to shove down my throat. And all the "libertarian, but" folks out there who wish to hang onto their one favorite use of The State, while pointing out the wrongness of the other uses and abuses.

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  5. I think most libertarians are republicans who hate the GOP. I am.

    My problem with libertarianism is it breaks down in a group where everybody isn't polite.

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  6. I used to be a Republican, long ago, but I started to see that they said the words "freedom" and "liberty" without understanding (or meaning) either one.

    I noticed that no matter what they said, they acted just like the Democrats once in office.

    Then, as I "woke up" I started to see that I was also guilty of supporting anti-liberty "laws" against things that "offended" me, and I realized that liberty is not a buffet where you get to support some rights at the expense of other rights. You only get the liberty you don't violate in others.

    I've never seen libertarianism "break down". I have found that it doesn't matter what anyone else does, or whether or not everyone else is polite, since libertarianism doesn't depend on what anyone else does. It doesn't tell me how you should act; only how I should act toward you and how I can respond to you without violating my principles. It's very liberating.

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  7. I don't actually vote for republicans, I'm not stupid. There's hasn't been anybody worth voting for in my lifetime, at least for federal office.

    "It doesn't tell me how you should act; only how I should act toward you and how I can respond to you without violating my principles."

    What I mean is if my neighbor is rocking out at 3am on a Wed and I politely ask him to turn it down and he says no, what is my recourse?

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  8. "What I mean is if my neighbor is rocking out at 3am on a Wed and I politely ask him to turn it down and he says no, what is my recourse?"

    Let's assume government isn't an option, either for you or for him, to turn to.

    You can seek arbitration (assuming a future, free society).
    You can wear ear plugs.
    You can turn the tables on him next time he is trying to sleep- but this is usually a bad idea.
    You can get your other neighbors together to shun him, or try to buy him out, or put up a big sign in your yards with an arrow pointing at his house calling him all sorts of names.
    You can offer him a fair trade- if he won't do that, you won't do X. (You probably do something that annoys him, after all.)
    You can accept that unless it is loud enough to cause damage, "noise" isn't aggression. Now, does it "damage" your property rights? Probably not really, although if I were asked to arbitrate, I wouldn't go too easy on the rude neighbor.
    (Tangent: Although I did know of a bar in a rural area that started having police problems when people moved to the area and started complaining about "noise" from the bar late at night. This is like people who move near farms and then complain about the smells and seeing animals mating. "We were here first- take your whiny butt somewhere else!")

    As long as you don't attack him- either in person or by proxy, and you don't violate his property rights, the sky's the limit.
    Can you think of other things you might do within those limits?

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  9. Most libertarians just scream "liberty!" and say I should move when I bring up something like this. You have earned my respect for offering actual ideas and for being willing to debate. I didn't actually come here for a fight, though.

    I have read a few posts on your blog, and while I will never be a libertarian, I think we agree that people should be able to set up their own communities as they see fit. You wrote that you wouldn't care if a group decided to set up a communist arrangement as long as it was consensual, and I believe States' rights is the answer. Then we can all set up our States to run how we see fit, you full libertarian and I can have my limited local government, hell, California can go commie as long as they know we won't bail 'em out when they go broke!

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  10. I meant to ask you, how do prevent an individual or group who have accumulated economic power from using that it gain social influence?

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  11. As long as there is no "government infrastructure" to co-opt for their purposes, their "social influence" can't be imposed on you "legally". If they began using coercion against you, you would be justified in defending yourself from them. Try that today.

    Monopolies, for example, don't exist in the free market, but require governmental favor to survive. In a free market, the first time someone is unhappy about a company's "influence" or anything else, they are free to set up a competing business. Only government, through its red tape, permits, licenses, regulations, and so on, make this difficult.

    You have actually put your finger on one of the main problems with the current system.

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  12. Rockefeller's Standard Oil managed monopolies in the major markets. They would lower prices to drive out new competitors then raise prices when the competition went under. they also used "extra legal" means to prevent competing pipelines.

    There's no equality in integrity just as there is no equality in ability. We were a fairly libertarian country to begin with, then came the constitution, then came the amendments, and here we are.

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  13. They also used government to protect that monopoly, and used coercion to enforce it. Neither has any legitimacy in a free society.

    In a free society, and a free market, they wouldn't be able to prevent competing pipelines without subjecting themselves to self defense. No veiled threats. No fraud. If their representative credibly threatens to use force against a competitor or a property owner who prefers to work with the competitor, then he can be shot in self defense. No government to go running to to force compliance through "law".

    A smart competitor, knowing the history of how Standard Oil operated, could make plans for the price undercutting, and maybe "hibernate" for a while. Or perhaps find a way to buy the underpriced fuel to sell later when Standard Oil had to raise their prices back to "normal" levels.

    Remove the assumption that someone else will come rescue you- or punish you for defending yourself- and the options open up.

    The Constitution was a big mistake, but it would still be preferable to what we have now. There is a better way, though.

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  14. Use "he" in your self defense example, it was "they" as in I can hire more thugs than you can. How to stop escalation?

    The reason courts and law enforcement were created was so I don't have to risk a feud by asserting my rights and so less assertive people aren't trampled by the type A personalities.

    I get that your point is if you want it, work for it, but, obviously, a lot of people just want to take. Some people are outright "evil".

    I don't believe that any government can work long term because people want power. I also don't believe that absence of government can work for the same reason. Government is run by people and those same personality types will be present in any group.

    I think subsidiarity is the answer, but like any principle, it has no force of people don't hold to it.

    I'm gonna read the link you provided, now, maybe it will show me something I haven't considered.

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  15. Read the covenant. Its a nice statement of belief, but why would it do any better than the US Constitution or the Article of Confederation in preventing coercion?

    Laws have force through third party enforcement, but are fairly well defined and its along these edges that disagreements occur. The law is either chipped away at, or, more likely, expanded over time. I won't go into the potential problems of the enforcement agent.

    Ideals aren't as concrete and can't be subverted, but they can't compel compliance, either. They're purely personal choice.

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  16. "How to stop escalation?"

    Well, you may not be able to- in which case you end right back where we are now, with "might" making "right". I'd still prefer to make the bad guys start from scratch every few years rather than to just let them win by default.

    "The reason courts and law enforcement were created was so I don't have to risk a feud by asserting my rights and so less assertive people aren't trampled by the type A personalities."

    Didn't work so well, did it? Instead, all that happened was that it gave those "type A" people an illusion of legitimacy to work behind.

    "...a lot of people just want to take"

    So why make it easier for them by removing the barriers? Why set up a system where they are rewarded and given "authority"? Or, if you are talking about welfare, why establish a system where there is incentive to pander to the takers- for "votes" or power?

    "...Some people are outright "evil""

    Right, and the most evil ones are the ones best able to game the current system. Evil people like to wield their power from a position of safety, because most of them are also cowards. It is insane to establish a system that selects for the most power-hungry people and then shields them from the consequences of their actions.

    "I also don't believe that absence of government can work for the same reason. "

    It works for me. I don't need government. It doesn't matter if there are those who would see the absence of government as an opportunity. I am more than willing to take my chances with the freelancers rather than the professional thugs.

    "Government is run by people and those same personality types will be present in any group."

    Right, but once again, government just gives them a veil of legitimacy. They aren't legitimate; why pretend they are? Call a crook a crook and get over it.

    "I think subsidiarity is the answer, but like any principle, it has no force of people don't hold to it."

    You don't need force to hold people to it, because the people who don't hold to it don't matter. Until they aggress or steal they are irrelevant, and once they do you defend yourself.

    "...why would it do any better than the US Constitution or the Article of Confederation in preventing coercion?"

    It wouldn't prevent it, it would delegitimize it.

    "Laws have force through third party enforcement,"

    Why is a third party necessary? They are just a middleman. If the involved parties can't resolve it on their own, that is when you call in arbitration. Most "laws" deal with ways you or I have offended The State, and even when government intervenes on behalf of an injured third party, it is rare that restitution is paid- and even in those cases, The State gets its cut first.

    "Ideals aren't as concrete and can't be subverted, but they can't compel compliance, either."

    I have no desire to compel compliance. Only to be allowed to defend my life, liberty, and property. The State only gets in the way, and has never- not even once in my entire life- done a single thing that was helpful in that regard, but has only protected the bad guys. Maybe my experiences are not typical, but even in that case it means "one size doesn't fit all".

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  17. My point is it isn't the organisations or structures or governments that are the problem, its the people themselves. If the organisations don't exist, they will create them in order to do what they do, which is exploit. There's very little , if any, difference between the person who goes into government service and the person who goes into organised crime. The "Mob" is just an unofficial government. The problem with minding your own business and reacting to aggression is that it keeps you constantly on defense. The types that want to exploit are very adept at influencing people, you will loose in the end, but that's the case with any system on a long enough time line.

    Anyway, I think we mostly agree on the problem, but our solutions diverge ideologically. I do believe that libertarianism, or any -ism, can work in a smaller group with largely homogenous values.

    I have linked here from my site (in the non-NC section) so I can keep up with your posts. I think you're the most consistent and thoughtful libertarian I've read.

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  18. "The problem with minding your own business and reacting to aggression is that it keeps you constantly on defense."

    I hope you are doing that anyway, now! Because if not, you should be!

    Anyway, thanks for the input.

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