What is a libertarian?

It’s a label commonly applied to a set of beliefs once called “classical liberalism.” In short, libertarians believe in the nonaggression principle (commonly shortened to NAP), which is opposition to the initiation of force against individuals or property to coerce non-voluntary action. Libertarians believe in freedom of association, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of commerce, freedom of travel, and freedom to make contracts. Note that opposition to the initiation of force does not at all preclude self defense or defense of one’s property –it is not pacifism.

What is the role of government in libertarian thought?

There are many brands of libertarians, ranging from anarcho-capitalist (“there is no role for government”) to minarchist (“the government as Locke’s ‘night watchman,’ running civil and criminal courts and providing mutual defense”).

Aren’t you just Ayn Rand cultists?

Some people get their political philosophies from fiction writers. Some don’t. Some people like to be part of a personality cult, some don’t. “Ayn Rand” is commonly attached to libertarian thought by authoritarians of the left as a pejorative, but it’s a cheap and facile label devoid of any real meaning. People really should try to understand the concept of “fiction.”

I saw the Libertarians during their conventions and interviews on TV- they seemed a bit… odd.

Distinguish between the Libertarian Party and libertarians in the same way as one distinguishes between a democrat and a Democrat. Some of us belong to the Libertarians, some of us don’t. Some Libertarian candidates are serious and care about liberty, freedom of association, and free markets, some are renegade Republicans, and some are indeed wacky; the Blue Guy is one of our favorites in that category. Ditto John McAfee. But if one is concerned with libertarian values and goals, as we are, it’s easy to see that, for example Justin Amash, not a Libertarian, is far more libertarian than William Weld, who was the Libertarian vice presidential nominee in 2016. Capital-L Libertarian does not equal lower-case-l libertarian.

Aren't libertarians just conservatives who want to smoke weed?

People really do have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea of someone who is neither liberal, conservative, nor middle-of-the-road. Think Khan in Star Trek, where he’s defeated by his inability to visualize the third dimension. In any case, Hayek anticipated this argument many, many decades ago and wrote about it in his usual clear and rigorous way.

Why I Am Not A Conservative

What are the Iron Laws?

Without further ado, the Iron Laws have been transported overland, with great loss of orphans*, to the new site. As ever, suggestions for new ones are appreciated, but the bar is high, my friends. Very high.

1.         You get more of what you reward and less of what you punish.
2.         Money and power will always find each other.
3.         If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
4.         The less you know about something, the easier it looks.
5.         You aren’t free unless you are free to be wrong.
6.         Me today, you tomorrow.
7.         Foreseeable consequences are not unintended.
8.         Meaning comes from context.

*Do you have any idea how much these things weigh?  A lot, that’s how much.  They are made of iron, after all.

Resources


Click any title below to go to Amazon.com to learn more.

What It Means To Be A Libertarian. Charles Murray.
A breezy little book that discusses the basic philosophy and practicality of libertarianism in a clear, common-sense way. The best basic what-is-it we’ve ever seen.

Knowledge and Decisions. Thomas Sowell.
This is basically Thomas Sowell’s doctoral dissertation, which analyzes what happens when authority is disconnected from consequence. Engineers will recognize some analogies to control theory.

The Road to Serfdom. F.A. Hayek.
Hayek’s classic warning about the futility of central control and the inevitability of tyranny under command economies.

Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Robert Nozick.
A rigorous philosophical examination of the imperative of individual liberty. Despite the title, Nozick’s arguments are directed toward the desirability of minarchy and why income inequality is actually a desirable result of free markets and unrestricted voluntary transactions between citizens. A counterargument is presented in…

The Ethics of Liberty. Murray Rothbard.
Wherein Murray Rothbard sets forth the argument that liberty can only be achieved by anarcho-capitalism.

Common Sense. Thomas Paine.
These days, people get uncomfortable when they read the powerful and direct words of one of the founders of the American nation. Good. The sentiments Paine expressed are universal and eternal, and are as refreshing to read today as they were in 1776.

Conscience of a Conservative. Barry Goldwater.
When one returns to this Barry Goldwater-branded manifesto of conservatism dating back 60 years, one cannot help but be struck by the strong thread of libertarian thought that pervades this book. One can also weep at what conservatism has become in the intervening years.