What is the basis of Libertarianism? Is it a belief in capitalism? Or the “free market”? Or “small government”? Or “individualism”? What separates Libertarianism from Democrats or Republicans? Or any other political party that you might name?
Most Libertarians would say “self ownership”. Which is good as far as it goes, but really doesn’t meet the full idea of Libertarianism as such. I suggest that the real meaning of Libertarianism is the willingness to respect the freedom of others and to expect the same in return. That is, the principle of “non-aggression”, of not instituting force or fraud upon others. Or advocating or voting for policies which will allow others to institute force and fraud upon others. This principle applies even if we don’t happen to like what other people are doing. This is where Libertarians now differ from Democrats and Republicans, both of whom believe that they have a right to interfere in people’s lives “for their own good”. It is this “for your own good” concept that leads to all the problems and conflicts that we have. Drug laws for example are a good example of “for your own good” thinking and we all know what the consequences of this end up becoming! The USA, thanks to its drug laws, holds more people in jail and prison than any other nation on Earth, including such countries as the Chinese People’s Republic and modern day Russia under Vladimir Putin. Really folks, we shouldn’t be proud of doing such things! Both from the standpoint of the people that are harmed, and the economic cost of holding so many people in jails and prisons along with the social cost of so many lives ruined. All because some politically powerful people believed that they had the right to interfere in the free choices of everyone else! And because of these laws, we have made “illicit” drugs into a serious social problem, making life more dangerous for everyone!
Much the same issue applies to other activities that some people feel should be outlawed even if these activities do no actual harm to them. Apparently now “minding your own business” is something a lot of people seem to think doesn’t apply to them… They seem to feel that they are “entitled” to make decisions for everyone else regardless of what others might feel about the matter. The best example of this is the “issue of abortion”. Some people feel that it is “wrong”. That it is their duty to see to it that abortion is made “illegal” (which produces some of the same adverse effects we see with the issue of “illicit drugs”), with a few of the anti-abortion people even being willing to kill others in pursuit of their own beliefs! Now a case can be made pro & con on abortion, just as it can on any number of other issues, but the use of force to force others to do as you want is “wrong” regardless of any belief you might hold. The only justification for the use of force is to defend against attack from those who have used force against you. Much as our own response was after the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese military forces with our declaration of war against the Japanese Empire.*
*9-11 was an attack by private individuals in supposed support of a religious ideology financed by a Saudi millionaire, Osama bin Laden. Neither Iraq or its leader, Saddam Hussein had any role in 9-11. Our war against Saddam Hussein was in fact an aggressive act without justification. The concept of “preventive war” is contrary to the teachings of Libertarianism in that there must be an actual threat of force, something that I doubt did occur. The mere possession of weapons is not sufficient, otherwise the police would be justified in collecting up everyone’s firearms on the theory that at some future time they might be used for illegal purposes… Or as the joke goes, “every man is guilty of rape because he has the necessary “equipment” to perform the act of rape”. As for the war in Afghanistan, there might be some bit of justification for the initial conflict as the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden as the author of the criminal act against the US. But it now appears that Osama bin Laden had been hiding in Pakistan for years, with the possible likelihood that the Pakistani government knew fully well where Osama was… The political implications of all this are well beyond the scope of this discussion as such.
In any case, Libertarians need to understand that freedom means freedom for everyone. Not just those people whose activities and opinions happen to agree with your own. Only in the case of the use of force and fraud is it correct to take action against such people. As long as they are not harming you, or forcing you to do something against your own beliefs or interest, the only proper thing for Libertarians to do is to honor everyone’s choices regardless of what your opinion of such activities might be. We certainly do not want to become like the statists of our two major political parties, who both believe that they have the right to decide what freedoms we are “allowed” to have. In any case, any Libertarian should be willing to honor the freedom of others to do as they see fit as long as they are not using force and fraud against others. Only in this way can we avoid the sort of political conflicts that we now see happening all over the world.