People want to know whether libertarians are left or right. Left or right meaning liberal or conservative or even republican or democrat, maybe. Because some people say libertarians are just liberal and conservative mixed, taking the best from each and leaving out whatever is not so appealing. This was how Gary Johnson tried to sell it. “It” being Libertarianism, of course. The only problem is Gary Johnson is kind of a Milk Dud.
Me and Jon just recorded an episode on this, sort of. It should be up in a couple a days. But in the meantime I want to explain how Libertarianism isn’t a political ideology per say but really how Libertarianism is a set of principles. So anyone who is a true libertarian does not bend on these principles and certainly they do not change their opinion very often. Principles tend to be unyielding. Whereas political opinions are often shifting with the times.
The Non Aggression Principle
To be a Libertarian means you accept a simple principle as the foundation of how you treat other people. That principle is non-aggression.
So what Libertarianism means is you shouldn’t hit people and you shouldn’t take people’s stuff. That is all the non-aggression principle is saying, really. Which is why when most people hear this they agree. They say, “Why yes that sounds pretty obvious, actually. You shouldn’t hit people and you shouldn’t take people’s stuff.” And as far as people go when acting among other people, most of us are libertarians.
The only problem is people do not apply this principle to the government, usually. They do not think for whatever reason that if the government breaks the non aggression principle that it is not objectionable in the same way as if an individual does it, it is objectionable. For example if an individual goes into another individual’s home and takes 20% of everything they have, we would say how objectionable that is. But when the government does it people assume it is called for.
So the Libertarian just extends the logic of objectionable behavior through to government. The Libertarian, in other words, does not draw any line where if one person does something it is objectionable but if the government does it is OK. Either something is objectionable or it isn’t, says the Libertarian. And what is objectionable? Why anything that breaks the non-aggression principle, of course. That is what we (as Libertarians) say, anyway.
So Libertarians are neither left nor right in the sense that a lot of people like to think. Libertarians are people with principles (non aggression, private property, etc) and who derive ideas about how the economy should work and what kind of policies should be put into play because of those principles. Sometimes these principles lead to the support of policies that people on the left would agree with, like not putting people in jail for smoking weed or whatever. And sometimes these principles lead to the support of policies that people on the right would agree with, like not taking people’s money.
But if we are to argue for the cause of liberty we cannot sell Libertarianism as something it isn’t.