The mere mention of basic libertarian principles in most circles is enough to elicit red-cheeked, saliva-flying rage. One would think that a simple principle like the Zero Aggression Principle would be seen positively by rational minds.
The key principle in traditional democratic politics is: “I know better than you how you ought to live your life, and my beliefs deserve to be codified into law and enforced upon you through armed police and military personnel.” It doesn’t particularly matter which ideology is supported; the bottom-line difference between libertarians and non-libertarians revolved around the Zero Aggression Principle, which non-libertarians reject. (If you agree with the ZAP, you are by definition libertarian.)
The Left wishes to enforce increased taxation, reduced private ownership, and citizen disarmament. The Right tends to want to enforce certain moral values, and sometimes military strength. Both want their preferences made law and backed up by the power to extort (tax), imprison and/or kill those that disagree with their ideology.
Because I tend to look somwheat more affectionately at the Right and more skeptically at the Left, I see the rage and violence Leftist supporters display much more often than the Right. I see Leftists writing or screaming or waving placards in absolute rage that The Government is allowing a private citizen or corporation to do private things without “adequate” taxation, regulation, or control. I see Leftist Union members advocating violent protest within their bargaining units (fortunately, saner heads tend to prevail). All of these are asking for The Government to take greater control over some industry or another, to spend more freely on government programs, and to pay for the spending through deficits, debt, and increased taxation of one form or another. Or the government is “threatening” to allow a hitherto government-run corporation to become open to private enterprise, which is seen by the Left as tantamount to selling everyone’s soul to the devil.
That’s not to let the Right off the hook. But at worst, the Right is usually satisfied if one gives verbal assent to their moral propositions, with the notable exception of military action or service, with its enormous cost and greatest weapon against citizens, conscription.
To either side, the Libertarian pleads, “Hey, just leave me alone, already!” But Right and Left continually wage war against each other, with the citizenry as both weapon and prize. Faced with this relentless assault, the Libertarian (who merely wishes to be left alone) sees himself as continually robbed (taxed), censured, and forced through threat of violence to comply with one side after another as the political pendulum swings. And so some Libertarians declare that the appropriate response to violent assault is violent defensive force.
A Libertarian ideal would clip the claws of Government, disallowing all but the base essential functions of Government. No moral decisions would be codified into law save the Zero Aggression Principle. No government theft of property would be permitted, no enforced military service. Citizens would be, as Thomas Jefferson said of good government, allowed to “free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement” so long as force or fraud were left out of the equation.
There would be no violent protests over the Government’s actions, on either side of the political spectrum. There would be no arguments about which value system would earn the right to be backed up by violence. The most heated disagreements in society would be either in the philisophical/religious realm (and limited by law to words only, not violent actions) or the practical everyday your-horse-stepped-on-my-toe variety, appropriately adjudicated by the local judiciary.
The free society, rather than the deeply polarised American or fragmented Canadian societies, would have far fewer things to disagree on. Not things that matter, because what mattered to me would have little or no bearing on what matters to you. I would be free to follow my inclinations, and you would be free to follow yours, and good health to each of us.
But instead, we continue to vote for philosophies that claim that Joe Average is too stupid or immoral to be permitted to live his own life, and that the solution is to act as babysitter or Sunday-School teacher, to ensure that he doesn’t stub his toe or take the Lord’s name in vain.
Do you, dear reader, really want to live like that?
For God’s sake, why?
[Edit: November 5, 2004 @ 10.39h]
As usual, there is nothing new under the sun. I hadn’t read the concept (that libertarianism brings peace) before, but the principle is far better explained in Bastiat’s The Law:
If the government undertakes to control and to raise wages, and cannot do it; if the government undertakes to care for all who may be in want, and cannot do it; if the government undertakes to support all unemployed workers, and cannot do it; if the government undertakes to lend interest-free money to all borrowers, and cannot do it; if, in these words that we regret to say escaped from the pen of Mr. de Lamartine, “The state considers that its purpose is to enlighten, to develop, to enlarge, to strengthen, to spiritualize, and to sanctify the soul of the people” – and if the government cannot do all of these things, what then? Is it not certain that after every government failure – which, alas! is more than probable – there will be an equally inevitable revolution?Bastiat, Frederic. The Law. Reprinted from LawfulPath.com