Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Why Libertarians Can't Have Nice Things

I am not a Libertarian. I believe they try to cram too much moral reality into too little moral philosophy. They take something that is good (the NAP) as a principle (a principle is something generally true but to which there are exceptions), and attempt to make it into a law (a law is something that is always true and to which there are no exceptions). 

That being said, I am glad they are around. I have voted for Libertarian candidates in the past, and the only candidate I am personally helping to elect this cycle is a Libertarian. I also donated $500 to his campaign, just as I donated $500 to a Libertarian in the 2014 cycle. That doesn't even count my work for Ron Paul. If there are any Libertarian readers out there inclined to be hostile to me for what I have written in this space, I ask that you moderate your hostility in consideration of my deeds.

But despite this, I can't take the Libertarian philosophy seriously. Not because one of the candidates for Party Chairman recently stripped down to his underwear at the podium at their national convention, exposing his large, red, unfit body to the crowd and cameras. That was a consequence of why I can't take it seriously, not a cause of it. The underlying problem is that, unless one wants to play games with the definition of "aggression" under the non-aggression principle, this fellow was perfectly within his libertarian view of rights to strip in front of the crowd and cameras. He did not force anyone to look. He did not sign any agreement saying that he would not strip on stage. There was no force and no fraud involved. By the Libertarian's own creed, he had every right to do what he did.

I was amused at the way a good number of those Libertarians who objected to this conduct dealt with it. It was the way they consistently deal with such matters. That is by torturing the definition of "aggression" so that whatever conduct offends them is re-defined as "aggression". It was "aggression" for him to "inflict" his body on them. As if him standing in front of them with his cloths off was in the same category as a punch in the nose.

Look, either one accepts a limited and narrow definition of "aggression" and "fraud" or one does not. If one does, then acts like this are permitted under libertarian ideas. Who are you to impose your morality on his actions? If one does not accept such definitions, then Libertarianism becomes more oppressive, and at the same time more chaotic, than almost any other philosophy of government. In an age of touchy people where "micro-aggression" is a thing, almost any words or behavior those in charge don't like can be relabeled "aggression". The non-aggression principle can then become a tool for tyranny. But if those key terms are interpreted strictly and narrowly, then behavior like that displayed at the convention, and even very much more offensive, must be permitted.

The funny thing is that in my first book on Localism as a philosophy of government I put in a chapter at the end about why libertarian ideas were not as good as localist ideas, though there was broad overlap. I developed a scenario about a man I called "Mr. Mayonnaise" who had a thing for going around dressed in nothing but dressing. This chapter got me some harsh feedback, but now I see that art became close to life at the Libertarian's national convention. Those discussions actually helped me because it led to the second book, where most of the book is dedicated to explaining why the more extreme forms of libertarian thought are uncompelling in theory and unworkable in practice.

In the end friends, mankind is either going to be Localist, or Globalist. This is true if for no other reason than because no other philosophy of government has a workable defense against the stratagems used to advance Globalism.


  1. I want to begin my response with a disclaimer, I'm a pro-life libertarian.  

    While the NAP (Non-Aggression Principle) can be stretched and narrowed depending on one's view, the underlying principle of libertarian belief is respect for contract and property.

    The incident you reference occurred on private property and under a contract that excluded such behavior. The NAP would indeed consider that aggression.

    The main things missing in the post involve the concepts of property and contract.

    You also miss the major divide within the Party between minarchism and anarchism. The individual who was involved is in the anarchism side. Honestly, I'm in between, but believe we can fund limited government through voluntary means.

    1. I'm pretty sure that the complaints were jokes. Unless he violated an agreement then people were annoyed but nobody seriously thinks he violated any ones rights.

  2. the LP did not plan a strip-show. He decided that on his own and as far as I know he was not a party to that contract. Thus, even if the contract between the LP and the property owner contained such a clause, no contract violation occurred. I did mention that in the post, because I said if he had agreed not to do something like that and then did it anyway it falls under the "fraud" portion of the NAP- he would have broken a contract. I see no evidence that happened.

  3. The very fact that the NAP can be stretched and narrowed, by the same person actually, as it suits them at a particular time, is just what I was alluding to in the article as to why Libertarian pillars have missed the mark. I also hate it that we have drifted apart, but I consider that only one of us has drifted.

  4. Nor do I miss the divide between minarchism and anarchism. Much of that second book discusses how close Localism and minarchism can wind up being, while anarchism must ultimately diverge from both even though we can go a long way down the same path.

  5. @Paradox- I am pretty sure some of them were jokes, and others were not. I have seen the wheels of plenty of libertarian leaning folks spin trying to rationalize why their pet peeve is "aggression" or "fraud" while what they want to do that others object to is their right.