Libertarianism: A Social Philosophy of Persuasion

Manuel Martin | United States

If you think Libertarianism is about politics, you’re wrong. However, I do nonetheless want to address the Gary Johnson version of libertarianism; libertarianism is not fiscally conservative and socially liberal. That would imply we want liberals to change their values and be 50% conservative and vice versa. Libertarians, though, don’t want to change the values of Democrats or Republicans. Instead, we want them to extend their daily values of persuasion and voluntary trade into their political decisions. In short, we want them to be consistent in the application of their daily values.

Secondly, I’d like to point out that libertarianism is not a political philosophy: it’s a social philosophy that has political ramifications. As a social philosophy, libertarianism seeks to identify consistent human relational social principles that individuals should use to maximize peace and prosperity for themselves and everyone else.

Libertarianism: 2 Social Principles

Some examples of principles are fire always needing oxygen and water boiling at 212 degrees. These are nature’s principles, which nobody can break or change. Libertarianism examines human interactions to identify social principles that consistently drive peace and prosperity and have destabilizing consequences if broken. Libertarianism identifies two social principles that are consistent and apply to everyone.

  1. Most people, most of the time, strive to be happy.
  2. Anytime someone uses coercion (violence and force) to hurt another person or steal their property, happiness decreases.

These principles are universal and consistent to everyone. Individuals strive to be happy, and when someone physically or coercively harms another, human happiness and prosperity diminish. Libertarian principles teach that in order to maximize peace, prosperity, and harmony for all, individuals should avoid using all forms of coercion. If a person or group does so, they destabilize the foundation for peace and prosperity and social acrimony ensues.

Libertarian social principles not only teach that we should refrain from using coercion in our daily life, but that we should actively try to eliminate coercive structures in our culture, as they are inherent threats to peace and prosperity.

A Culture of Violence

A culture that has abandoned libertarian principles and established organizations of systematic coercion will have low trust, division, revenge, and ultimately, mass war. In short, this describes a culture where the few benefit from the systematized plunder of the many.

I make these claims with certainty because we live in that very culture. As it stands, the battle to control the government’s coercive abilities divides people. Politicians use coercion to exact revenge on political enemies, plunder resources from peaceful individuals, and use them to fund mass wars. Ironically, the coercive social principles that state agents use to plunder directly contradict the voluntary social principles that create resources for government agents to plunder in the first place.

What if you decided you were going to adopt the coercive principles of government functionaries? The individual and universal application of coercion would destroy your life. If widely adopted, it would end modern civilization.

Coercion in Private Life

If you or I used coercion to moderate our social interactions, we would quickly find ourselves without a job, friends, or family. Simply put, almost nobody wants to associate with a person that resorts to violence. Free markets and free people govern themselves in voluntary manners. Of course, they must, if they are to trade and be successful.

If coercion became the common social principle regulating private interaction, our economy would halt and quickly regress. Without a doubt, our modern economy requires voluntary interactions.

Free people engaged in commerce are united by the individual and common benefits that stem from adhering to principles of voluntary social interactions. The government, however, cannot say the same. It must instead maintain the façade that free and prosperous people require plunder for protection. Commerce can live without the government, but the government cannot live without commerce.  Free people engaging in commerce creates progress (otherwise, why would they trade?), while agents with guns interrupting free people engaged in commerce are regressive.

The Path to Freedom: Persuasion

We need to move past the idea that we need self-serving politicians and their gun violence to organize and regulate our human interactions. Most individuals and cultures have evolved past kings and queens, feudalism, colonialism, mercantilism, communism, fascism, and more authoritarian governments. However, there is one human trait which all cultures have yet to overcome. We still obey men and women in artificially manufactured authoritative positions. This simple fact is holding us back greatly.

Political elections and representative governments are outdated 18th-century technologies. In the age of airplanes and self-driving cars, men and women holding coercion (and guns) to our heads enforce 300-year-old ideas.

Obedience to politicians and their frequent sick desire for war has resulted in tragedy. In fact, since 1900, governments have killed 200 million of their own citizens. Isn’t that proof enough that coercive principles are ruining our ability to live in peace? Is theft (yes, taxation is theft) funding war a form of progress? How many wars and corresponding deaths have the cultures and voluntary values of Target, WalMart, Amazon, Ford, or Apple started in the last 100 years? The answer, of course, is zero.

Cultural Evolution

Our culture is ready to evolve past regressive politicians and their archaic way of organizing human interaction, into a culture that voluntarism organizes. In this culture, free choice guides all social and economic interactions. Freedom will not only lead to more peace and prosperity, but a culture that evolves past politicians and embraces libertarian values will also be safer.

For the most part, what prevents another person from being violent stems from the values he or she holds. The best defense you have against another violent human being is his or her ethics. If that person rejects violence wholly, then they are guaranteed not to aggress against you.

The Myth of Rights

The hard truth that many don’t want to accept is that you don’t have rights. All the “rights” in the world won’t stop a random person from punching you in the face. Your “rights”, thus, are subject to the values of others around you.

Rights are a political construct, an idea created by politicians to make you think you need their coercive institutions to maintain your life, liberty, and property. In reality, the values of the people around you maintain cultural civility. Police, for the most part, do not prevent the actions of violent individuals. This is simply because the police are reactionary: they come after the crimes occur. It is up to culture to raise young adults who realize their family, friends, associates, and selves will all be better off when they resolve disputes with persuasion instead of coercion. Culture, not a group of bureaucrats with guns, maintains peace.

Libertarianism in the Modern Era

Libertarianism strives to embed in all people a social values system centered on respecting the humanity of others and resolving to never use coercion against others. It’s time we end our obedience to politicians and continue our cultural evolution. The best, long-term, sustainable way to maximize human happiness, peace, and prosperity is to raise the cultural ethics of society until everyone recognizes the individual and common benefits of using persuasion instead of coercion and trade instead of theft.

Understanding that people seek to be happy and that coercion decreases happiness, we all would be better off moving towards eliminating government and embracing libertarian cultural values.

So…What is Libertarianism?

Libertarianism as a social philosophy seeks to promote a culture where individuals reject all forms of coercion and hold voluntary interactions as the primary ethic which guides their relations with others. And libertarians, as people, want to progress our culture to that ethical standard.

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