The Use of Force in a Libertarian Society?

Unfortunately we have people in public life who claim to be “libertarian”, but are quite willing to use force (state police power) against those who don’t happy to agree with their ideas. This really does violate the basic libertarian idea that “force” is to be only used in self defense. Not because you happen to think that what someone is doing is so “objectionable” that the use of force against the person is justified. For example, was the Civil War morally justifiable under the libertarian standard of using force only in self defense? The Civil War really started over the Confederacy firing upon Fort Sumter, which was “US property”. The Confederates were actually the aggressor as they had fired the first shot at the fort. Had the Confederates not done this, it is possible that our history could have been much different since President Lincoln would have been forced to initiate violence against the “South”. Most likely there would have been much less support for using violence to keep the “South” as part of the Union. American history from that point on would have been quite a lot different… On the other hand slavery was an “abomination” that increasing numbers of American citizens believed had to be put to an end regardless of whatever the consequences would be. A number of private individuals were willing to use “force” to end slavery despite the fact that people would be killed on both sides should force be used.  It does appear here that there may well be cases where the use of force is morally correct.

It will be held by some that the use of force against tyrants is justified in the name of justice for those who live beneath the tyrant’s rule. Unfortunately such a policy means that military action would then be necessary against anyone who is considered to be a tyrant. Unfortunately there are so many who might “qualify” for the title of “tyrant” that virtually endless war would be necessary. We do not have the resources, the manpower to be the “world’s policeman”. And even if we did, we’d doubtlessly end up with yet more enemies. We might however supply those who live under tyranny with the means to overthrow it. Individuals might be willing to expose themselves to possible death by assisting those now living under tyranny with the means to overthrow it. There are historical examples of this. Those who came to America during our own revolution with the intention of helping us overthrow the power of Great Britain over the American colonies. There have always been those who were willing to put their own lives at risk in behalf of those fighting for freedom.

What about issues such as abortion? Are we justified in using force to prevent women from having abortions? (this is a different issue than paying for them) It should be noted that those women with sufficient funds can travel to another country and have their abortion there. To stop this we would need to make it as difficult as possible for a pregnant woman to leave the US. In other words we would have to violate her rights in order to keep her here. There is also the issue that abortion is legal in some states. So we’d also have to keep her locked up like in the book, “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Even if we don’t go that far, it is now likely that “back alley abortionists” will arise to meet the “demand”. Just as organized crime arose to meet the “demand” for alcoholic drinks during Prohibition. This sort of thing always happens when there is no consensus on an issue. It would make far more sense to make provisions for finding homes for unwanted children. There are people who would like to adopt, but due to the way our laws are written, have difficulty qualifying for an adoption. There are people who would be glad to adopt, but who don’t meet some requirements due to race, marital status, or sex. For example, it would be virtually impossible for a single man or woman to adopt a baby under today’s laws. This is why sometimes these people have to seek an adoption outside the US. Simply because the laws are written in such a way that a legal adoption cannot take place despite their fitness to actually raise a child.

There is also the issue that people who happen to oppose a certain action will now support legislation to have the government use force against those who do things others don’t like. A lot of our “victimless crimes” fall into this category. In effect they are willing to use force against other people as long as it is the “government” doing it instead of going and doing it themselves. Our drug laws fall into that category as did Prohibition. The same thing is true of prostitution and pornography. People who disapprove of these things in effect “hire” the government to use “force” in their name to prevent others from doing things they dislike.

Similar to this is the use of government force for economic gain. An organized group gets the government to make it so that goods and services are only available from the group in question. The licensed professions and occupations do this. They use their political power to get the government to grant them privileges that the rest of us are not allowed to enjoy. This is usually done for economic reasons since a government enforced monopoly over certain goods and services allows those who are “privileged” to obtain a higher price for their goods and services. “Protectionism” isn’t always related to international trade. It is often used for the economic gain of the privileged vis a vis everyone else. At one time here in the US we had “Fair Trade” laws that prohibited selling new goods below a certain price. This allowed the smaller retailers to create a “closed economy” where discounters were in effect “outlawed”. While profitable for the businesses in question, it did of course rise the price that the consumer had to pay. Much the same way as tariffs allow national businesses to sell their goods (and sometimes services) at a higher price. The idea is really the same in all these cases. The “force of government” is used to create a less competitive business environment where the consumer is denied the ability to seek the best price possible.

What can we conclude from this? First, the use of force is a “last resort” only to be used after all other means of resolving the issue have been attempted. Second, the use of force is only “allowable” under circumstances where human life and welfare is at stake. Third, the use of force for one’s own economic gain is always prohibited, regardless of the nature of the agency used. What is wrong for you to use force is also wrong if the government uses force in your behalf against others for the purpose of your own personal economic gain.

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About muskegonlibertarian

77 year old retired owner of a security guard agency. Member of the Libertarian Party.
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