I am a Libertarian for one very simple reason. I believe it is wrong to hurt people. Non-aggression lies at the very core of Libertarian philosophy.
Liberals and Conservatives will never say this. They can’t. They both believe that under the right circumstances pertaining to their particular agendas, it’s acceptable to hurt people. Unfortunately, this almost always has unintended consequences.
So many people who find libertarianism unpalatable begin their arguments with something like:
“Well, I don’t know much about Libertarian philosophy, but…”
“I got into an argument with a Libertarian the other day, and …”
“I once knew this Libertarian and he was a jerk.”
I’m 56. I’ve considered myself a Libertarian my entire adult life. I have subscribed to Reason Magazine. I have read almost every book by Ayn Rand. I have read and re-read the Libertarian party philosophical stances, and dozens and dozens of essays and articles. I (apparently) know the philosophy better than almost everyone I know.
I have also read progressive and conservative writings over all that time, and all the arguments pro and con. I subscribe to the New York Times, and I listen to NPR. I read Michael Harrington’s The Other America, and my first vote for president went to Jimmy Carter.
But like I said, at the end of the day, I believe it is wrong to hurt people. People left to their own devices will usually do good things, but like everyone, we basically want to be left alone and free to make our own choices.
This doesn’t mean I am anti-social. Quite the opposite. No one enjoys meeting friends and doing things in the world more than I do. I help my neighbors and friends when I can, and I’m involved in my local community. I don’t live in the woods, but in a densely populated traditional suburb outside of Philadelphia. My neighbor’s house is 20 feet away. We talk to them all the time. I couldn’t survive without associations with others.
No, I don’t always agree with other Libertarians, and yes, I often find some of them too strident in their tone. If I’m in the room full of people I agree with, I tend to take the contrary position just to make things interesting. I consider myself more pragmatic than some. Meanwhile most of my friends lean to the liberal side, but many lean right as well.
But to address some just a few of the points from those less studied:
No, Libertarianism isn’t corporate freedom or pro-corporate welfare. We hate corporate welfare. In fact, we probably hate it more than social welfare, because we dislike concentrated power of any kind. It is the biggest threat to individual liberty there is.
No, Libertarianism won’t leave starving people homeless in the streets. We genuinely want the truly destitute to get help and Libertarians will help them. Libertarianism will further encourage the spread of better managed and more effective private efforts to help people. Will there be failures? Well, after trillions of dollars of taxpayer money spent on social programs since the New Deal, aren’t there failures now?
If you want to solve a problem, a Libertarian will first ask you, “How can we do that without hurting someone?” If your solution in any way involves the use of force against a law-abiding citizen, you will not get a Libertarian’s approval. That’s why it’s called LIBERTY.
When it comes to hurting people, there are no “yes, buts…” You are either in favor of violence to advance your agenda, or you are not.
And by the way, to address those who wonder where our water will come from or who will provide fire protection: Our water, like our other utilities, already comes from a private company. Our fire companies are private non-profit entitles contracted by the Borough. And I live in a very blue part of Pennsylvania.
And yes, government built the roads, but they built them through many of our major cities, destroying neighborhoods wholesale, displacing hundreds of thousands, and caused enough economic damage to those places to make Hitler cringe.
Before government built the roads, private companies did. We called them RAILroads, and they did great until government decided to get into the transportation business, taxing and regulating the railroads to near extinction.
But hey, we went to the moon.