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January 06, 2009

Libertarian beliefs

L. Neil Smith is working with his daughter Rylla to produce a new book on how libertarian philosophy applies to policy. Of course, before you can get to the application, you have to clear up misconceptions about the philosophy itself:

Scott Adams, for example, creator of the famous Dilbert cartoons, proclaims himself "a libertarian minus the crazy stuff" which makes us wonder just what "crazy stuff" he means. Not destroying people's lives because they smoke the wrong vegetable? Not persecuting them for doing ordinary things — like draining a pond on their own land — that were perfectly legal 50 years ago? Not stealing half of everything people work hard for, in order to spend it violating their rights, spying on them, interfering with their lives, or starving millions of children overseas?

Many in government today appear to regard the right of Habeus corpus as "the crazy stuff". And our confidence in Adams' claim that he's a libertarian isn't exactly strengthened by his bizarre support — as reported in Wikipedia — of New York's fascistic mayor, Michael Bloomberg, for President in 2008. Clearly, there is a need for some objective criterion — a definition — regarding what it means to be a libertarian.

Happily, such a definition already exists.

If there is a central tenet, or key belief that all libertarians share, it is that each and every individual is the owner — the "sole proprietor" — of his or her own life and of "all the products of that life".

Historically, people have come to the libertarians movement from many different directions. In any given group of them, you are likely to encounter atheists (many of them readers and students of Ayn Rand), Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, pagans, and Wiccans. The all important concept of self-ownership that they share can be logically derived from more basic principles, or accepted as an axiom — a self-evident truth.

Most libertarians agree that all rights are, in effect, property rights, beginning with this fundamental right to self-ownership and control of one's own life. As owners of their own lives, individuals are completely free to do absolutely anything they wish with them — provided, of course, that it doesn't violate the identical right of others — whether the people around them approve of what they do or not.

Posted by Nicholas at January 6, 2009 11:09 AM

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