(My Clovis News Journal column for September 26, 2014.)
Very often, in the national media, I see items which show just how confused most people are over what is "libertarian" and what isn't. Liberals confuse libertarians for conservatives; especially of the "Tea Party" variety. Conservatives confuse libertarians for liberals. No one seems to understand why those are both wrong.
It even happens locally. Recently, during some admittedly heated discussion over a local event which attracted negative international attention, someone took issue with what I consider a case of "calling a spade a spade". He thought my behavior was not very libertarian, which he mischaracterized as "do no harm".
Now libertarians are confused for doctors, too? Although only libertarianism can really heal any sick society, "do no harm" isn't a part of libertarianism.
Perhaps he was confused by our adherence to the Zero Aggression Principle, which shows our recognition of having no right to initiate force, in person or by proxy, against any other human being.
Anything less only provides refuge for the bad guys.
Libertarians fully support doing harm, through the use of physical force, to those who are caught in the act of violating any person or property. It's called "self defense" and can cause real damage to the aggressor. Personally, I am against using physical force against someone who is only caught after the fact, seeing this as vengeance rather than self defense. Vengeance is the opposite of justice, which is why government "justice systems" are so fond of it- when wielded through "official channels", at least.
Libertarians also support exposing people caught committing aggression or theft to social pressure to change their ways through shunning and ostracism. This means advertising their wrongdoing publicly, so others know and can decide whether or not to associate and do business with them. This can be seen as "calling names" by supporters of the aggressor or thief, who would rather the incident be swept under the rug and ignored.
If publicity can be considered "doing harm", so be it. Thieves and aggressors choose their path, and their complaints about what happens as a consequence don't break my heart.
On the other hand, self defense and public exposure of anti-social behavior isn't really the causing of "harm"; but the repairing of harm. Sure, from the perspective of the bad guy and his supporters, this might be harmful, but from the perspective of the rest of the individuals in society, it is what is needed to make up for harm done, and to prevent future harm by alerting everyone around to the probable danger of dealing with someone who has shown a willingness to violate person and property in the past. It's justice.