Libertarian Lexicon

I loved “An Act of Self-Defense” but I wonder: are you a libertarian and what is a libertarian?
Can you site some good examples why “self-ownership is a primary necessity?”
– Phil Ly

Yes, Phil, I am a libertarian and I have been since reading Atlas Shrugged in 1963. Now to your question, what exactly is a libertarian? There is the simple answer—a libertarian is one who believes we each have an inalienable (natural) right to make all of the decisions regarding our lives and a responsibility for doing so. And that we must respect the right of others to make all of their decisions. However, that simple answer usually results in more questions that require some definitions. I created a Libertarian Lexicon that may help.

Libertarian Lexicon

Authoritarian society is organized by the thugs in charge (monarchs, pharaohs) using brute force and/or religious claims to the God-given right to rule. Authoritarian society has been the most common form of social organization for the history of mankind. Unfortunately it appears to be human nature. Wherever free people attempt to live without government, authoritarian thugs seize the opportunity to dominate and rule.

Political society is based on the sovereignty of the group over the individual. In political society government is the central organizing element. Force is used by government authority to compel individual behavior for the benefit of society. A political society may be democratic or authoritarian. In political society the efforts and resources of the individual are harnessed to benefit society; individual effort for personal goals may or may not be permitted. The individual does not own himself and for all practical purposes is owned by society. Throughout history, with a few notable exceptions, society has been organized politically.

Civil society under limited government is based on the sovereignty of the individual—the recognition by society, that every individual owns, controls and is responsible for him or her self. Social organization of individuals is voluntary and depends on persuasion and negotiation. An individual cannot be compelled by force—even by a large majority. A strong civil society can exist only where government force is used exclusively in defense of the life, rights and property of individuals. Civil society in the United States blossomed following the American Revolution but has been severely stunted in recent years.

Free Markets… Goods and services have prices. Prices enable each of us to engage in economic calculation, that is, to make rational tradeoffs aimed at obtaining higher values, in the mind of both buyer and seller, in exchange for lower values. Both parties come away from the transaction believing they have obtained a higher value, or the deal is not done.  However, government-produced goods and services are not priced and sold in the free market. Instead, government collects its revenues by threat of force, and politicians and bureaucrats dispose of them, ostensibly in the interest of the people but more likely in the career interest of those same politicians and bureaucrats. (The New Deal is a perfect example.) Without prices and free exchange we cannot know if the money taken in taxes and used by government is worth the alternative goods and services that are never produced by the private sector and therefore cannot be calculated.

Natural Rights are simply those natural freedoms of action that individuals must be free to take to provide for their survival and happiness, and must respect in others. Natural rights are infinite. Some are trivial—the right to wear a hat—and others critical. For example, individuals must be free to bargain with each other. Natural rights are by definition non-contradictory. One persons right cannot reduce the right of another person.

Legitimate government will strive to protect the life and rights of the individual from the use of force by others. We each empower our government to use defensive force in the protection of individual life and rights. The individual does not give up the right of self-defense in granting it to government.

Rights and Freedom…  Individuals have a right to exercise all the freedoms of action they think necessary for happiness so long as they do not interfere forcefully with the equal rights of others.

Property Rights begin with the right to own oneself. Property rights include the freedom to use one’s skill, labor and resources to produce the means of survival and happiness. Individuals cannot exist without the right to own their production and trade it.

Freedom to communicate with others is necessary so the individual can obtain information on subjects important to their survival and future happiness. Freedom of political speech is critical to people who wish to remain free.

Freedom of association refers to the right to choose your friends, business associates, political associates, customers, and employees.

Freedom of contract describes the freedom to negotiate business or social agreements with others for the exchange of values or services, including those you wish to work for or hire.

The right of self-defense is the right of individuals or groups to defend themselves from the use of force. The right of self-defense is the basis for legitimate government. We may empower a government with our power of self-defense without losing the right itself. But individuals may not legitimately empower our government to do anything we cannot do as individuals. We cannot legitimately authorize our government to take the property of others, or their rights. That is not a power we have to give, And if we employ government to use force for any purpose beyond the protection of our lives, our rights and our property, that government is illegitimate. It is also immoral. If, as individuals, we vote to authorize government to use force for anything beyond the defense of our lives, rights and property, it is precisely as if we used force to take our neighbors freedom or wealth. And in voting, we too, are immoral. When government gets into the value-giving business—free medical care, the right to a comfortable retirement, education, fair housing, etc—that government is using force to steal and redistribute values earned by others. That government is illegitimate, a thief used by the majority or the politically powerful to steal from others.

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