Tag: personal responsibility

Libertarianism is not Self-Destructive or Unsustainable

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

A recent article by an unknown guest contributor on the Bilan Report suggested that a libertarian society is unsustainable for various reasons. Among these are the ideas that all personal freedom leads to libertinism, individualism is incompatible with the NAP (non-aggression principle), and the supposed libertarian assumption that all governance is bad. The author makes many misconceptions about libertarianism in their article. In response, this piece attempts to set the record straight on libertarian philosophy.

Christianity

The author of this piece starts off the article with an explanation that “there is some level of inherent worth within the individual” from a Biblical perspective. The author then attempts to immediately downplay this importance. They say that a philosophy based entirely on individualism would not work very well.

There is no exact definition of individualism made. From later parts of the article, we can assume the author means that individualism is independence from any organization. The Biblical definition of individualism clearly does not coincide with the latter definition, though. This is because the Bible clearly outlines the importance of being a member of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) and part of the Church community.

Because the Bible also emphasizes the importance of community along with individualism, Biblically deduced individualism as a core of a philosophy would not lead to the disastrous consequences that the author suggests.

Individualism is not the full extent of the Biblical relationship to libertarianism either. In the first part of Bastiat’s The Law, natural rights stemming from life as a gift from God are clearly deduced. I have written on this subject before:

These gifts from God preclude any human legislation and any political leader that has ever existed. This is the core of what exists. These are human rights. Legislation does not define these – nature and nature’s God has. In the garden in Genesis, there was no government. It was anarchy in the truest sense there has ever been, no coercive governing entity. There was only a loving and gift giving God. Clearly there was no legislator dictating how Adam and Eve live their lives through the coercive stroke of a pen. Human legislation cannot ever get underneath this core, but it can restrict it. Restricting it has no benefit though, for any restriction of freedom will stifle economic growth. God set it up this way, to make it the most beneficial for everyone to be free to use their faculties as they wish.

It is foolish to downplay the relationship between the Bible and libertarianism as a few verses alluding to individualism. It goes much deeper and is much stronger. Regardless the author dismisses all discussion on Christian libertarianism by says that “it remains somewhat outside the scope of this discussion of libertarianism as a whole.” This is untrue. Ron Paul is probably the second most convert-gaining libertarian in human history (directly behind Ayn Rand). Bastiat, John Locke, and many of the founding fathers had a faith-based perspective on liberty. But such a statement by the author allows them to get rid of an opposition to their argument. They construct a libertarian strawman that is much easier to attack.

Human Action

The author of this piece also seems to get praxeological insight confused with a moral code as to how man ought to or should act. They mention the action based framework for economics loosely twice in the article:

Taken to its logical conclusion, libertarianism holds that there are no wrong choices, but simply the right to make that choice.

Drawing on heavy Kantian influences they view human action as fundamentally rational, or purposeful.

In Human Action Ludwig von Mises describes that man acts. From this action axiom, along with other synthetic apriori truths (irrefutable statements we learn and know simply from being human), we can deduce the entire science of economics as a subset of praxeology. These other apriori ideas are things such as the law of returns, the law of diminishing marginal utility, time preference, the existence of opportunity costs, etc. These come from the epistemology put forth by Kant which the author alludes to.

The culmination of all of this truth gives us a value-free economics that allows us to understand how the world is and how it works. Praxeological reasoning does not tell us how the world ought to be. It is value-free. It does not aim to. Because of this, the propositions that man faces various choices does not mean that any choice a human chooses is good or moral. The author clearly does not understand that praxeological value free truths do not intersect with libertarian ethical standards from a Misesian perspective.

From a Rothbardian/Hoppean perspective, they eventually do, especially when it comes to the Hoppean argumentation ethics. The author does not address these at all, though, and simply takes the proposition that “man makes choices” to mean that “all choices a man makes are good.” Once again, this is a strawman of libertarian philosophy brought about most likely by lack of understanding of the philosophy.

The NAP

The author then attempts to argue that the non-aggression principle, or NAP, is incompatible with libertarianism:

The principle of limiting coercion is a fundamental aspect of libertarianism but taken in context with the other principles of maximal autonomy and the ability for the individual to reason towards moral and ethical principles, it becomes contradictory. If moral principles are something that can be determined through an individual’s own use of reason how can there be an objective universal principle against coercion?

This reasoning is once again based on a false conception of what libertarianism is. Not a single serious libertarian theorist has ever argued that “an individual’s own use of reason” allows them to come up with their own moral principles. I have no idea where the author got this idea. Libertarianism does not make the slightest attempt to justify any moral standard any individual just dreams up.

If libertarianism did justify such a proposition, it would be extremely flawed. A psychopath could reason their way to a moral standard of murder being ok because it makes them feel good. The reason this is not ok is that the non-aggression principle supersedes individual standards of morality. Libertarian theorist Robert Nozick described the non-aggression principle as a “side constraint” on action. This means that we cannot do things that violate this side constraint.

Think of the rules of soccer: there is the side constraint that you cannot pick up the ball. If you could pick up the ball, it would be helpful for you, because you could through the ball into the goal. This is not allowed in soccer though because it breaks the game. The side constraint of the non-aggression principle breaks the game of reality.

Governance

The author of this piece eventually gets to the point of arguing that libertarian individualism means a complete lack of any sort of social structure. They seem to think that lack of government (a territorial monopoly based on the threat of force) means a lack of governance (an authority based on societal norms or culture). They say the following:

Libertarianism taken to its logical conclusions promotes complete autonomy. This moves beyond simply being unconstrained by positive law and a strict use of only negative law, but liberation from associations and relationships. This includes fundamental institutions such as, “the family, church, and schools to the village and neighborhood and the community broadly defined—that exert strong control over behavior largely through informal and habituated expectations and norms.”14  Ironically, the rejection of institutions and concepts that have traditionally reigned in human behavior creates a further need and additional calls for the state to intervene to regulate bad behavior. This contradiction can play out as legislation mandating acceptance of, or at least association with, behaviors that would be rejected by natural law.

While the radical individualism of Objectivists does reject the idea of any sort of cultural governance, most libertarians (often right-libertarians) see it as an important staple as a free society. Families, churches, and cultural communities are important modes of organization that can exist outside of the state. Jeff Deist expertly explains the importance of such social institutions in this video:

A libertarian society does not reject these complex social institutions. Rather, it upholds these institutions, while a society with a growing state tears these down in favor of itself. The author seems to think that liberty leads to lack of organization, causing a need for the state. The situation is constructed in an entirely backward manner, though. The state seeks to grow in power. It would rather the people become reliant on it rather than their families or churches.

The wearing away of a traditional reliance on such institutions and customs, Deneen argues, will lead to a breakdown of functioning society. Instead of creating a society based on non-aggression and free transaction, best fulfilling the desires of its people, libertarianism tends to isolate the individual and break down the institutions that maintain a proper society.

The author of this piece does not understand what being a freely acting individual means. They seem to think it means being a freely acting individual outside of the influence of anyone else. But society does exist. And it is made up of individual people. The only alternative to this radical independent individualism in the eyes of the author is the state. But as we have explained the state is the true cause of the denigration of these important social institutions.

Liberty and Responsibility

Now we will move onto the final question of libertarian libertinism. The author makes the proposition that the non-Christian libertarianism spirals into responsibility free left-libertarian hedonism. Yet at the same time, the author quotes Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard as major representatives of the libertarian philosophy. Neither of these individuals was for hedonism. Both of them were against libertinism.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is based completely around being responsible for yourself. Murray Rothbard and libertarians in the Rothbardian tradition recognize the importance of responsibility on a society. I have written recently on this matter of responsibility and how it is very important to combat libertine libertarianism.

Freedom means we do not have the right to encroach on the actions of someone else. But freedom also means you need to be responsible for your own actions. It means you need to better yourself without the force of the government. Christian libertarianism is not the only political framework that promotes responsibility. And the answer to libertinism sure as hell is not more state power. It is the promotion of a culture of responsibility.

Libertarian theory is not self-destructive. A libertarian social order is not as unsustainable as this author believes. They think that their strawman version of libertarianism would be horrendous. But it is a strawman and not an accurate representation of libertarian belief.

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Agency is Libertarian. Marijuana and Alcohol Aren’t.

By Ryan Lau | @agorists

The time is ten past three, and John Doe is enjoying himself. A college student, some older friends invited him to a massive party for the first time. However, John is not likely to remember many of the events of the night, for at that party, he consumed a rather unsafe amount of alcohol. He also ingested some edibles and, without realizing a thing, fought his best friend.

A fictional character, of course, John represents the loss of agency that a mind-altering substance commonly brings. Too many in the real world fall victim to John’s same situations, whether at parties, at a formal social gathering, or crying alone at night. The many Johns of the world are victims of lost agency.

Naturally, agency in this sense of the word is considerably different than its common use. Essentially, agency is the capacity of an actor to act consciously in a certain situation. In other words, agency is a form of personal responsibility, a trait essential to libertarianism. Drugs and other mind-altering substances, on the other hand, are antithetical to the same doctrine. As they rob people of their sense of agency, they are detriments to a free society.

Commonly, supporters of libertarianism state that the movement is about doing what so ever makes you happy. They often attack the state, saying that it robs that people of their right to live freely. In a broad sense, they are not wrong. However, they miss what is perhaps the most essential part of this message, the thing that makes freedom a sustainable goal: agency.

A world without agency will quickly dissolve into pure chaos, and there is no denying this. In modern society, the vast majority of people know that it is wrong to kill and steal from others. Also, they recognize the various social norms that we as a world adopt. These range from things as simple as wearing proper clothing, to situations as complex as how to behave in a romantic relationship. All such cases require a clear head and a sense of responsibility.

When people abandon this sense, they are often no longer aware of their own actions. In a sense, they are acting on the terms of something else besides themselves. Without a doubt, society condemns forced action between individuals. When one person holds a lethal weapon to the head of another and says to act, we know that is wrong, as it robs someone of their agency, and ability to freely act on their own terms.

Yet, we seldom are able to apply this logic beyond the confines of humans. Simply put, a human is not the only thing capable of robbing someone of their agency. An alcoholic or drug addict has little more say over their actions than does the person with a gun to his or her head. In fact, the situations are, in many ways, nearly identical.

When someone is addicted to a drug, it of course is quite hard to quit. The hardships range from physical to mental, and both can be viciously strong. Many people hooked on hard drugs need them to live their normal, day to day lives. By giving in to this power, they lose their sense of agency. Mental struggles can be nearly as difficult. Though no physical addiction exists for some drugs, such as marijuana, this does not mean a mental dependency cannot form. When it does, it can be incredibly difficult to break.

As a result, people using these substances often act much differently than they otherwise would. It is no secret that alcohol, for example, can cause severe anger. All addictions cause a compulsion to continue feeding them. In many cases, this leads to lying, sneaking, or even stealing to continue the path. Stealing does not occur in a truly free world.

Now, some may argue that these actions are extreme measures, and that moderation is the key in order to avoid them. While one can safely use in moderation, the fact of the matter is that most people simply will not do so. Yes, one can wisely stick to a drink or two and preserve agency.

However, it is better to say that none at all is the best approach, rather than condoning small amounts. With the latter, it is inevitable that people with different levels of will and tolerance will become addicted. Obviously, substance abuse has caused the destruction of countless families and lives. But, it is still important to note that a lack of agency, rather than the drugs themselves, are the real issues. Just as some can safely use in moderation, others can dangerously become addicted to other things besides drugs or alcohol.

Society should not draw the line at alcohol or marijuana or hard drugs. Instead, it should focus on eradicating addiction through recovery programs. All such programs should make clear that a clean life involves living with proper agency.

Thus, it is imperative that we recognize agency as a central tenet of freedom. Without it, freedom has little meaning, and will not last. Without legal pressure, another force must exist to maintain order in society. That force is agency. With it, we can truly set up a model of lasting freedom.


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Two Practical Tips For Every Libertarian

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

Read, Read, Read

One of the first things I learned along the way of political science and philosophy has been to read as much as possible. I began with many of the classics such as Bastiat’s The Law and Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. I also read works by Plato, Aristotle, John Locke, Thomas Sowell, Mises, Hayek, both Milton and David Friedman, Tocqueville, C.S. Lewis, Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, Bertrand Russell, George H. Smith, Ron Paul, Lawrence Reed, Anscombe, David Boaz, Kant, Grotius, Pufendorf, Francis Hutcheson, Hume, Robert Nozick, Jefferson, Douglass, John Searle, and more. Not only did I find it necessary to read people that would help to shape my ideas and point me in various directions to where I would end up today, but I have also read and continue to read people that I disagree with, for the most part, such as Marx, Engels, Hobbes, Rousseau, Nietzsche, Piketty, Rawls, Baldwin, Keynes, Machiavelli, Hegel, Heidegger, Peter Singer, Putnam, Quine, etc. I am sure I will think of other authors on both sides that I wish I put, but to save space I shall leave it at that.

Interestingly, even with those that I adore and those that I dislike, I still find things I agree and disagree with each of them. The only way to fairly judge their ideas is by reading them and finding what best works for you and reality. It strengthens your ideas and mind to think critically about everything you read, and to know the opposing views. The best way to understand your own views is to question them and to hear out those of opposing views.

Another reason to read is to lessen your frustration when in discussions or debates with people. I found that if I was getting heated in the discussion over the topic, I should instead of arguing go and read more on the topic. The more we know of a subject, the less frustrated we should be when discussing that particular subject. In the end, however, some people will still disagree with you even if you show all the evidence and carry out a sophisticated discussion. That is okay. Learn to be okay with that. Continue to read current ideas and philosophical ideas for future experiences and thoughts in order to see if your ideas will change any further. Be sure to annotate and keep a journal of what you learn along with other ideas. Don’t stop learning. Be open to discussion and exchanging ideas, have an active ideologue, and take nothing for granted.

  • Read to learn from those similar.
  • Read to learn from those opposing.
  • Read in order to be a more critical thinker.
  • Read in order to help maintain your calm and your relationships.
  • Keep copious notes.

Maintain Relationships

When we are politically and philosophically minded, we can tend to become argumentative at times and then sever relationships with people, whether acquaintances, friends, potential friends, lovers, family, etc. The first step in this article was to continue reading and learning more about your subjects of interest. I also recommend reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People because it gives an introductory approach to dealing with people, lessening conflict, and handling difficult situations of communication. It is not the only book out there for this, but it is one of the best.

Learn to adjust your anger and calm your tongue. I have struggled with this at various times of my life, I have destroyed friendships and argued with strangers, I have had social media debates, I have gone through it all. The best thing I have learned in the end is that people can and will disagree, they may carry themselves rather poorly even if you are being extremely diplomatic. Realize that they have their own weaknesses just like we do, and they are just as human as we. The more often we respond in anger, we are creating a neurological habit for ourselves that is difficult to overcome. This causes us to learn to be justified in our anger and make every excuse as to why it is okay, even when it is not.

Instead, we should do everything we can to be both realistic and understanding. We do not need to give excuses for others’ poor behavior, but we surely can control our own. We will win by having more friends than enemies, not by bending on our position, but by learning to agree to disagree. If we make enemies with people based on our ideas, philosophy, economics, history, or whatever, those that become our foes will also resent our messages even more sternly.

Lastly, just as important as it is to not have heated arguments with those outside of our beliefs, it is also most beneficial not to have internal quarrels with others that do share our beliefs in front of those that do not. The outsider will not feel welcome to be involved if they, for instance, see Minarchists and AnCaps fighting. Not everything needs to be argued, a point to be made, thoughts resisted, or a system being bucked at every given point. Like neurosurgeons, it may take time, patience, and skill to be able to change the minds of those around us. Your first test subjects should be those closest to you. If you are unable to change any of the minds around you, it may be something you can work on. This is not to say that all minds need to be changed, rather it is most practical to be able to change the minds of those that already know you and like you.

  • Personal responsibility and self-control are both essential and primary.
  • Pursue ways to establish and maintain healthy relationships.
  • Learn to agree to disagree and to be fine with that.
  • You will not win every mental battle, but with more people on your side, it is easier to win the war of minds.
  • You cannot change everyone’s mind, and that is okay.
  • Heated arguments tend to hurt more than help, and those that are watching can be put off by it.
  • Learn to realize when it is an appropriate time to debate, challenge, or question. Not every moment is appropriate.
  • Practice with friends and family.

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Victimless Crime Laws Have No Place in a Free Society

By Indri Schaelicke | United States

When our great founding fathers fought to create this great nation, they envisioned a land where every man, woman, and child would be free to pursue whatever path in life they wished. They had just rid themselves of a tyrant in King George III, and many settlers who emigrated out of Europe saw the beautiful young nation of America as a bastion of personal liberty.

People of all backgrounds traveled thousands of miles across open ocean to flee persecution of all sorts because they knew that the newly established country was a safe haven for the oppressed. The first settlers of the New World would be very disappointed to find out that less than 250 years after it was founded, America has become the same type of nation that they left those many years ago. We, much like the 18th Century Brits, are clear victims of victimless crime laws.

Countless people are convicted of victimless crimes each day, at the local, state, and federal level. Taxpayers spend millions of dollars each year to imprison those who have done something that the state has deemed wrong, yet has not directly violated anyone’s rights or harmed them in any way.

Beyond being simply not pragmatic, victimless crime laws are immoral. They suggest that the State has supreme knowledge and jurisdiction over our bodies. This is most clearly seen in laws regarding the personal, small scale possession and use of drugs. When the state controls what substances we are permitted to consume, it assumes the role of “nanny” and pretends to know what is best for us. The use of a harmful substance is a personal decision, and one that, unless it becomes an extreme addiction, is unlikely to affect others in the user’s life.

In fact, incarcerating someone for a non violent drug offence introduces them to a world of crime. Once incarcerated, new prisoners are encouraged to join gangs by other inmates and are often pushed to commit worse crimes upon their release. They are eventually caught and sentenced to even longer in prison, continuing the cycle on indefinitely. Between 2005-2010, about two-thirds (67.8%) of released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within 3 years, and three-quarters (76.6%) were arrested within 5 years. Cutting down on the many victimless crime laws will ensure that those convicted on minor charges are not thrust into a cycle of incarceration.

Government only has three legitimate roles- to protect life, liberty, and property. Rather than restrict the actions of citizens via legislation, the State should prosecute people once they have infringed on any of the aforementioned three characteristics of our lives. Instead of posting a speed limit and preventing me from driving at whatever speed I feel that I possess the skill to drive at and be safe, government should prosecute those whose unsafe speed caused damage to someone’s property or resulted in the loss of life or liberty. This approach allows for the maximum amount of liberty to be ensured to each individual, while punishing those who cause harm to others and their livelihoods.

Although much more free than other countries, America and her citizens have not had a taste of true personal freedom in over 100 years. Victimless crime laws are a severe infringement upon liberty and in order for the US to be considered truly free once again, must be eliminated. Government must return to protecting only Life, Liberty, and Property, and letting its citizens live life as they please.


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Personal Responsibility and The Quest for Blame

By Fritz | United States

As the year 2018 continues ahead into the Summer Season, we have yet again in America come across what has become a rather typical news story: multiple teenagers dead in a shooting carried out by a lone gunman in a high school. Not even an hour after such news breaks, before there are even details that have been disclosed, the politicization of the event is underway.

That is true on both sides of the spectrum: Immediately there are those offering condolences, thoughts, and prayers. They are almost always quickly scrutinized and belittled by a segment of individuals who are angry (rightfully so, it is quite sickening to read or watch a breaking news story in which children are dying), but they are more than angry, a quick search of whatever hashtag is being branded on the incident will show you some pretty vile responses to someone expressing their sorrow.

Then there is the wave of gun control now statuses, where you typically will read lines such as “all assault weapons need to be banned,” “we need common sense gun control,” and now even more so, the bolder “ban all guns.” The latter is becoming more and more prevalent, as the most recent shooting which claimed the lives of 10 people, most of whom were young teenage students, was not carried out with the usual AR-15 Rifle, rather this time it was a .38 revolver and a shotgun, two guns that a few weeks ago any gun control advocate would have probably argued are completely fine because they aren’t “assault weapons.”

After a few days, what then happens is what I call the “quest for blame.” It is a natural occurrence because we all typically agree that no decent, sane human being carries out such acts of unspeakable violence. In the latest case, a number of issues have been brought up for discussion, including alleged bullying of the culprit, ease of access to guns for the culprit (they .38 and shotgun in question were legally purchased and owned by his father) and even Ollie North, the next NRA President, suggesting a combination of overexposure to violence and prescribed medication as a factor.

This is exactly what it becomes: Who or what caused this to happen? And the answer, unfortunately, is not a simple one. Some people try to pin it on a culture of violence: Television is more violent, movies are more violent, video games are not only violent but nearly at the peak of realism. Yet despite these facts, almost every major study conducted on video game violence shows no data to suggest that consumers become more violent due to the content of the games themselves.

Glenn Beck and numerous voices at The Blaze are arguing that still, culturally there is an overall lack of respecting the sanctity of human life. Beck argues that it boils down to the very issues such as abortion, where everything has been stripped down to the simple mechanics of a woman having the absolute right to control anything to do with her body, including whether or not she completes a pregnancy or terminates it. (Note: I am not arguing for or against the issue here, merely presenting someone’s opinion.)

My argument is that it well may be a blending of multiple things. Take myself as an example: At the time of High School, I had already experienced losing a parent, my father, when I was merely 4 years old; when I was 9 my 12-year-old sister was diagnosed with cancer and months later passed away; I was shy, introverted, not outgoing, quiet, kept to myself, played video games and struggled with my religious beliefs. Technically, you could profile me with that information.

At that time, I probably suffered from depression, but I dealt with the issues that life threw at me in my own way. My outlet was discovering music, and I fell in love with bands that people have never heard of and discovered Power Metal, which is my musical getaway from the world and helps me tackle my spiritual struggles.

During that time, I never sought to blame something or someone for life. It simply was. I never had a violent thought in my head, yet I played the first installments of Call of Duty and God of War. I went to the gun range with Scouts. Because of my religious beliefs and personality at the time, I was kind of an outcast and a weirdo. I dealt with my fair share of bullies, but never did I want to wish harm on people because that was the complete opposite of key things I was taught growing up.

As we all continue on, the struggle remains the same: Nobody wants to wake up and see a story of kids getting killed, but not everyone believes stricter gun laws will actually accomplish the goal of reducing violence. We then remained stalled, where we currently are, and that is not a good thing either.

You can never find a true solution, but we seemingly do not examine the entire picture in trying to find several solutions that could work for the better.


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