Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 489, October 19, 2008

"When one endorses the lesser of two
evils, they still have endorsed evil."

Previous Previous Table of Contents Contents Next Next

A Reply to Jim Davidson's, "Why I am Not a Conservative"
by Gary F. York
gfyork -+at+-

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

In response to Jim Davidson's article in TLE 448, October 12, 2008, "Why I am Not a Conservative."

It would be delightful if I could count on every libertarian being a saint or even a 'good person'. That is not the case; nor is it likely to soon become so. Libertarians are not obliged to think good thoughts, say good things, or even do good deeds. We are not Boy Scouts. Libertarians aren't required to be particularly good people, make good neighbors, or have good goals. It's not what we're about, as libertarians.

The whole point of a society coming together as libertarians is that we require agreement on only one political point. That point is variously called the ZAP, NAP, or the "Libertarian Pledge". It means that I won't hit you first. It means that I don't have to agree with your social philosophy or you with mine; I don't have to like you nor are you obliged to like me. If you and I can mutually agree on that one simple principle, I don't need to know anything else about you to feel safe in working or living with you.

If you agree that "non-initiation of force" is a good idea 'theoretically'; but you think chaos might ensue if we tried to live by that rule, then you may be a proto-libertarian; but you're not yet the real deal. You may require a bit more time and a lot more discussion and/or reading before you can embrace our defining principle.

But if you agree with this one political principle then you are a libertarian—even if you didn't know it.

You don't have to 'think' like a libertarian to be a libertarian.

You don't have to talk like a libertarian to be a libertarian.

The defining point is solely whether you act (and refrain from acts) as would a libertarian.

As libertarians, we don't favor, have, or tolerate thought police; think what you will.

As libertarians, we don't favor censorship; so long as you don't advocate aggression, speak as you like.

As libertarians, we don't want to run your life; as long as you refrain from aggression, feel free to pursue your own goals or none at all—do what you will.

As a libertarian, you may be as discriminating or as non-discriminating as you like, whenever you like, for a long as you like. Not my business; it's your life.

As a libertarian, you may be a racist, sexist, homophobe who abhors transsexuals and believes they're unnatural freaks. Not my business; it's your life.

As a libertarian, you may bathe as often or as infrequently as you like; your personal hygiene is not my business.

As a libertarian, you may love, lust after, or hate whomever you please and as many as you can manage. It's not my business.

As a libertarian, you may hug all the trees you want, advocate recycling or promote a "low carbon footprint". Not my business.

As a libertarian, you may eat your veggies and urge others to abstain from meat. Once again, "Not my business."

I have but one question: are you willing to pursue your goals and your lifestyle without initiating force yourself or urging third-parties to do so? If you answer yes, you're a libertarian; answer no, you're not.

Jim writes in his first paragraph:

I think libertarians must come out directly, staunchly, entirely, and frequently against racism, sexism, gay bashing, immigrant bashing, and all the other tawdry aspects of the so-called conservative movement. I think we have to stand up and say that if you are a racist, you are not a libertarian, if you are a sexist, you are not a libertarian, if you are against equal freedom for gays, the transgendered, the polyamorous, you are not a libertarian, if you discriminate against people because of their choice of religion, you are not a libertarian, if you think people from other countries should be rejected because of their choices in clothing, culture, religion, or behavior, you are not a libertarian.

Except for this first paragraph, Jim makes good points. However willing we may be to work with others to generate a little more freedom in our lives, we should not compromise on our defining principle. Anyone may call themselves libertarian; anyone may also demonstrate that they are not libertarians by their actions. We needn't "lower the bar" by abandoning our principle.

But, contrary to what Jim seems to advocate above, we needn't "raise the bar" either.

It may possibly be that when Jim mentions "...racism, sexism, gay bashing, immigrant bashing", and so forth that he's considering only those who would use or advocate force in implementing their various agendas. Or when he says, "...if you discriminate against people because of their choice of religion, you are not a libertarian,...." it's just possible that he really means "advocate using force against them." If so, I have profoundly mistaken his meaning.

Regardless, let's not raise the bar; let's not make things more difficult than they already are. Let's not have personality tests to determine whether we're fit to be libertarians; let's not have intelligence tests to determine whether we're smart enough to be libertarians. We are already few enough.

The existing standard is sufficient; we will have abundant trouble nailing down what we mean, exactly, by 'initiation of force' or by 'aggression'. We will have trouble agreeing what constitutes a valid contract and yet more trouble working out how we ought to respond to specific transgressions.

Our job, should we choose to accept it, is to help some people discover that they are already libertarians and to persuade, educate, and entice those others who might one day become willing to forgo aggressive violence in their lives.

One day, I would like to live in a society where all members are libertarian. As I age, the prospect becomes less likely. If we require all libertarians to first be saints, that prospect recedes into a foggy and very distant future.


Help Support TLE by patronizing our advertisers and affiliates.
We cheerfully accept donations!

to advance to the next article
to return to the previous article
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 489, October 19, 2008

Big Head Press