Introduction to Libertarianism – Part One

In General Information on March 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm

The best way to find out what a libertarian is not is to ask a non-libertarian, “What’s a libertarian and what do libertarians believe.” The old political divisions of “conservative” or “liberal” have become meaningless and tell nothing about the core beliefs of people proclaiming to be either. The labels “Democrat” and “Republican” are even less reliable. They tell nothing about the political agendas of either party, since each of those parties slide and intermix their agendas in their efforts to command the most “votes” to remain (or re-gain) political power. So, here we go. What are libertarian beliefs? You may be surprised! – PD

A law is a “shall do” or “shall not do” edict issued by the state. When someone violates such an edict by doing (or not doing) what the edict demands, the state sends armed people equipped with manacles (the police) to either command the lawbreaker to appear at a court, or to drag the offender to the court in chains.

Whenever we say, “There ought to be a law”, we are indicating our willingness to have the state (with our blessing) send its armed agents to apprehend a fellow citizen and haul him up to answer to our complaint.

This is called, getting what we want through force or coercion.

If a law has ‘good’ intentions, why is it necessary to use force or coercion to achieve obedience to the law? Wouldn’t people do, or abstain from, the acts covered by a law as a matter of doing right?

“But that would depend on people wanting to do right. We all know that’s not realistic.”

So, what you’re saying is: “Essentially, people are no good.” People, left to their own devices, are bent toward doing evil…or at least “bad” things.

If this is true, then you are a bad person too. You are equally inclined to evil.

“Yes. That’s true. I can be a bad person and, therefore, I know others are no better than me at being good.”

You’re sure? You somehow, magically, know that others have your character flaws? A psychologist would have a field day with your assertion.

And, if your assertion is true, then what about the nature of any laws enacted by people who are inclined to evil? What does it say about all laws that are enforced through force or coercion?

We are now presented with a paradox.

If people are naturally inclined to do good, we have no need for laws. But if people are naturally inclined to evil, we don’t dare have laws.

“Okay. But it’s not a black or white issue. People are, on the whole, pretty good. But they can do bad things. That’s why we need laws.”

If that is so, then laws only affect good people. People regularly break laws, many of them serious laws, without forethought of whether or not their action is illegal by law.

Murder is a seriously wrong act. Yet, there are hundreds of people murdered each week. That there is a law against murder does not prevent them from committing murder. If people are willing to commit murder despite laws against murder, it seems foolhardy to expect them to obey laws prohibiting acts that are much less obviously wrong.

“So you’re saying we shouldn’t have laws prohibiting murder. That’s sick.”

That’s not at all what I’m saying. Essentially, there is only one crime and murder is a form of that crime.

“What crime?”


“That’s nuts. How is murder a form of theft?”

We own only two things: our lives and any property we attain through our own work. We own our lives as a natural right, bestowed by either a Divine Being or through nature. We own that life. When a person murders another, they are committing theft. The murderer stole the life of the victim (the victim’s most basic element of property) and also stole any property rights (e.g. to love, companionship, productivity, etc.) held by the victim’s family, friends, and community.

From this concept, the victim’s family, the victim’s friends, and the victim’s community have a legitimate claim against the murderer. Ironically, the murder victim no longer has a claim against the murderer, as a corpse has no property rights. Consequently, the act of murder is legitimately illegal and punishable by courts representing the family, friends, and the community of the murder victim.

Absent of property rights, there can be no legitimate claim that any law is valid. Without valid property rights, we cannot assert any right to force compliance with our demands at the barrel of guns held by agents of the state that we sent to enforce our otherwise invalid laws.

If theft is the essential element of all crimes, then any government has only one legitimate function: The protection of property rights.

NEXT: “If government has only the legitimate function of protecting property rights, how did we ever end up with this thing called ‘the state’?”


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