(My Clovis News Journal column for September 4, 2015)
What’s one of the fastest ways to get in serious trouble? By acting in ways libertarians warn against.
Can this be right?
Aren’t libertarians supposed to be troublemakers who oppose cooperation and generosity? Aren’t they known as rugged individualists who advocate “every man for himself?”
The heart of libertarianism is the principle that no one has the right to use violence- even gently or "for your own good"- against anyone who is neither already using violence, nor violating private property. The principle which goes hand-in-hand with this one reminds you to not violate the property of another. That's really all there is to it. Everything else is just working out details and getting rid of exceptions.
I frequently see people getting in trouble precisely because they aren't living up to libertarian principles. They initiate force- this means they use physical force first. They violate property through theft, trespassing, or by preventing the owner from using the full value of his property. They try to cheat and defraud people. Then, when the consequences come home to roost they often seem to be shocked by the turn of events.
What exactly are these behaviors which are most likely to get people into trouble? Fighting, attacking, raping, robbing, defrauding, trespassing, and murdering. All acts your libertarians friends are constantly reminding others to not commit.
Some people also get in trouble because they neglect to defend themselves from those who commit these anti-libertarian acts. Defensive violence is never wrong- even if it isn't always smart, such as when you are outnumbered or outgunned. You aren't obligated to defend yourself or others, but you'll have more respect for yourself if you do. It's usually the right thing to do.
Of course, today the other fast way to get in trouble might seem contradictory: being libertarian. Living your Rightful Liberty by doing things no one has a right to forbid or control. Things which lawmakers who lack libertarian principles have decided to declare illegal, or subject to rationing, even though those things don't violate person or property. You can't always avoid these bullies and the exceptions they pretend to carve for themselves. Beware of them.
Non-libertarians make excuses for those exceptions as long as they are committed by government employees under the excuse of "law", but it doesn't make the acts of violation right.
Do the right thing. Stay out of trouble for doing the wrong thing. Act libertarian even if you don't believe in the principles.
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