Libertarianism says that people should not cause conflict. It wants everyone to get along. That’s why the non-aggression principle, which libertarianism is based on, is so simple. It does not tell you how to live your life. It just says not to cause problems in the lives of other people. This rule is great in theory, but not in practice. Not because libertarianism isn’t practical. It is. However, applying the non-aggression principle to everyday situations can be quite difficult.
The reason is that people do many different things each day. They make choices and take chances that can potentially affect the lives of other people. Trying to evaluate whether any particular thing you might do will cause conflict, and thus violate the NAP, could take a long time. Try doing that for everything you might do in a day and you won’t have time to do anything else.
So how do we protect liberty without bringing life to halt? Continue reading
In this video from 1981, David D. Friedman lists some unresolved problems with libertarianism and also tells some funny stories about Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand. In general, he thinks that libertarians are too confident in their ability to answer all real world problems given the current state of libertarian ethical theory. For anyone interested in the fundamentals of libertarianism, this video will be a lot of fun.
TL;DW: First, he is concerned that there is no pre-defined rule for quantifying the kind and quantity of punishment and restitution that is appropriate in response to crimes. Continue reading
Anarcho-capitalism is a social system that aims to maximize freedom. It does this by combining the peaceful coexistence of libertarianism with the optimal productivity of laissez-faire capitalism. Peace is important because any conflict between people reduces at least one person’s freedom. Productivity is important because every bit of capital that people produce increases someone’s freedom. So to have the best life possible, we want to minimize conflict and maximize capital.
Libertarianism minimizes conflict with one simple rule: do not cause conflict. All other libertarian ideas like “stealing is bad” are derived from this non-aggression principle. The non-aggression principle limits the freedom of individuals by forbidding certain behaviors like theft, murder, etc. Though this rule directly reduces everyone’s freedom, it tends to produce a society with more freedom than a society with no rules at all. You don’t get to kidnap other people but, Continue reading
I really like technology, and most other people do too. That’s not surprising because technology empowers us to do the things we want to do. Like fly around over the ocean. Or read a blog.
Quite literally, technology gives you freedom. Without technology you have to walk around naked everywhere. With technology, you can wear a jacket when the weather is cold or ride a train to get places.
Science is cool, too. It helps create new and better technology. Plus, it is fun to know how the universe works. Without science, the rate at which technology can improve is greatly diminished. So if you love freedom you should also be a supporter of science and technology. They free us from the constraints of nature and make life better in oh-so-many ways.
However, science and technology don’t solve problems on their own. Continue reading
Debt is good for government. Taking money directly from people, a.k.a. taxation, a.k.a. stealing, carries with it a lot of baggage. People resent it. Debt is the easiest way for politicians and bureaucrats to get the money they need to ruin lives both at home and abroad. But even if you think government is a necessary evil, consider how the desire to do good things leads government to make everyone worse off.
Joe Politician wakes up one morning and realizes that education is good. So good, in fact, that everyone should have lots and lots of it. To make this happen, he gets the government to make it very easy for people to get loans for education. People take on debt, purchase more education, and the price of education goes up. So people take out more loans and the price goes up. Soon it becomes normal for 22 year olds to have the equivalent of a mortgage with no house.
There are many ways in which this distorts the economy, but one that is not often discussed is entrepreneurship. Continue reading
Murray Rothbard in 1989
Libertarianism is a system for resolving conflict. In other words, it is an ethical system. Libertarianism simply tells you not to commit crimes like theft and murder. So, it only applies to how you interact with other people, and even then only sets some bare minimum of acceptable behavior.
This invariably leads people to ridicule libertarianism because it does not give any guidance on activities that are not crimes. Should you donate to charity? Libertarianism doesn’t say. People who don’t like libertarianism phrase this as, “libertarianism does not support charity, ” which is technically true but very misleading. Many libertarians give to charity, but they do not do it because they are libertarian. They have other codes of behavior that motivate them.
These other codes are called moral systems. They help people decide what is good and what is bad. For example, Jainism says that drinking alcohol is bad. Like libertarianism, a moral code might dictate how to interact with others. On the other hand, moral codes can also deal with how to behave when you are all alone. Continue reading
Dudley Do-Right fails to commit a crime in “The Disloyal Canadians”
How do intentions factor in to ethical analysis? Can one be forgiven for doing something evil if they had intended to do something good? Deontological libertarians only care about whether the NAP is violated, so intentions do not appear to be relevant at first glance: all that matters is who is responsible for conflict.
So if someone attempts to do something evil, but ends up doing something not-evil, then from a libertarian perspective that is okay. If you try to build a death ray, shoot your neighbor with it, and unintentionally cure his cancer then you have probably not done anything unethical, even though you tried to. Similarly, if you try to do something peaceful, like give someone a massage, but you accidentally kill them then you have unintentionally done something unethical.
So intentions are not sufficient to determine ethical outcomes, and cannot be used as an excuse for some crime. Honor killing is still murder. However, intentions can affect who is responsible for a crime and thus indirectly affect an ethical conclusion under certain circumstances. Continue reading