Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Keep good rules; chuck the rest

Keep good rules; chuck the rest

(My Clovis News Journal column for September 12, 2014.)

Contrary to what many seem to believe, libertarians are not against rules. In fact, they are defined by adherence to one rule in particular: the Zero Aggression Principle. It simply states: "No human being has the right, under ANY circumstances, to initiate force against another human being, nor to advocate or delegate its initiation." This basically means "Don't start violence by throwing the first punch, or by sending someone else to throw the first punch."

Live by that rule and you are a libertarian whether you know it or not; don't live by it and you aren't libertarian no matter what you say.

Natural Law aligns flawlessly with the Zero Aggression Principle, including the necessity of respecting the property rights of others.

Other rules are helpful for self preservation.

Following the dosage rules for medication is smart. Rules for proper food preparation or keeping your water safe to drink are necessary. Following rules for safe gun handling helps you survive. Some people don't obey good rules and suffer the consequences.

Still other rules have evolved concerning customary behavior. Pausing at intersections and driving on the right side of the road (where this is the custom) are examples of this. These would be smart things to do regardless of laws dictating them, simply because everyone has come to expect this, and refusing to cooperate will needlessly endanger your life and the lives of innocent people. Of course, these rules vary from place to place, so don't fall into the trap of believing they are universal like Natural Law. Even when these rules find their way into laws, some people will refuse to follow these rules and will cause harm.

The legitimate rules, which are sometimes reflected in invented, statutory law, are the ones which would survive and be followed by most people without being enforced, or even written down. If you don't follow them, you'll probably suffer.

Most libertarians are fine with these rules, and are simply against arbitrary, unnecessary, or harmful rules.

Bad rules would soon die out without armed enforcement keeping them propped up. Rules like coming to a complete stop at stop signs, when no one really believes it is essential to driving safely; or having a license plate or a drivers license. Or arbitrary speed limits. Speed limits are silly, since even the law tosses them aside on a whim; thus "driving too fast for conditions", even when well below the "speed limit".

Other arbitrary, unnecessary or harmful rules would include those regulating the owning and carrying of weapons, rather than the aggressive use of those weapons. Or rules imposing taxation. Or compulsory school attendance.

Keep the good rules; scrap the rest.



  1. I can think of a few instances where shoot first or be shot might apply, which would break the ZAP principle.

    1. If the person is making a credible threat, I don't think shooting first is an initiation of force: "credible threat".

  2. I live one of the places where convention says we drive on the left (most of the roads I drive on, if there's a line down the middle, I can safely drive with it between my feet, and bugger the seatbelt).

    anyhow - that brings me to the transition from statist violence to freedom.

    with very few exceptions, a gradual transition would be the same as a gradual transition from driving on one side of the road to driving on the other...