What Is It to Be Libertarian?

March 25th, 2012   Submitted by Bruce Jay

In a corrupt and decaying world, conventional wisdom demands that the answer to our problems is to choose which bitter flavor of government we should endure. Many look to libertarianism as the sweet flavor of change.

There seems to be a plethora of supporters and critics who wish to wax eloquent on this subject.  Yet, the discussion always revolves around the utility of libertarianism. How would it work? Who would provide services like roads, schools, and protection? Who would help the needy? These discussions and critiques go on and on ad infinitum.

You see, there is a problem. Libertarianism is not a utilitarian theory. It’s not a political philosophy. Libertarianism is not a flavor or type of government. On the contrary, it is something distinctly and inherently different. It is not proactive. It’s not a way of organizing society. It’s not hierarchical. It’s not a plan. It’s not a direction.

The heart and soul of libertarianism is grounded in ethics and is the foundation of a personal code of conduct.  Libertarianism is defined very simply as:

Free will within the parameters of property rights and non-aggression. 

However, within those parameters, libertarian ethics does not define our actions as ethical or moral.

For those new to libertarianism and those who have forgotten, this means I cannot violate (use violence against) someone’s property or person. At the same time, I have to be tolerant to the personal choices, beliefs, etc., of others — even if I find them personally disagreeable.

For example, if my neighbor is a bisexual woman who practices pagan worship and pursues a sexually amorphous (more than one partner) lifestyle, along with a penchant for drinking moonshine while listening to heavy metal and country music, then I am ethically obligated to respect her and her property.

This doesn’t mean that I have to like her or engage her in conversation. I definitely don’t have to follow her beliefs, choice of beverage, or embrace her musical tastes. However, as a libertarian, I am ethically obligated to respect her right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; thus, what she chooses to do on her property and her personal choices are no business of mine.

For some reason non-libertarians, as well as some libertarians, find the observation of moral ambiguity distressing. It is this revelation that makes non-libertarians close their eyes and cover their ears in cognitive dissonance. It’s why many Objectivists (Randians gone wild) berate us and is the origin of the ill-conceived and ill-fated Paleo-libertarian (no fun at parties) movement.

Though critics and weak-kneed libertarians may disdain our moral ambiguity, this ambiguity makes us the most ethical, moral, open-minded, and accepting philosophy surpassing even Christian inclusiveness.  What I am suggesting is libertarianism and its ethical foundation has more in common with religion than politics.

We are the ultimate ethical standard. We accept everybody and exclude no one. You don’t have to ask for forgiveness to join us (as with Christianity) because within our ethical standard you haven’t done anything wrong.

What we worship is freedom. We grant free will to everyone, and our personal code of ethics is the principle of non-aggression (non-violence) towards others and their property. There is nothing more beautiful, pure, and virtuous then those ideals. In the simplest of terms, we believe in live and let live.  A world based on these ideals would be the closest thing to heaven on earth.

Anarcho-brethren and libertarians of all stripes, when you get up each morning and look out at a world that is less free by the minute; in that moment of disillusion and despair remember, as a libertarian, you stand for something greater than a mere political idea. You stand for a way of life — a personal code of ethics.

You stand for the respect of people and their right to exist as they choose. You stand for peace. You stand for tolerance. You stand for so much more. You are a disciple of the most virtuous of ideals.

Stand-up and shout! Let the world know…what it is to be libertarian.

9 Responses to “What Is It to Be Libertarian?”

  1. JTNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve got a neighbour who plays dance music during the day. I like dance music, but it is intensely annoying when I want to sit in the peace and quiet of my garden. Especially when it is the same track again and again.

    It’s not that loud, my neighbours find it acceptable, and think I’m being a bit of a kill joy… But, the music seems to be louder in my garden than anyone else’s, and it’s really upsetting me.

    What’s my remedy in a libertarian society?

    • JamesNo Gravatar says:

      Same remedy as someone polluting your garden in any other way.


      This pamphlet explains many of my views, and in particular page 5, 2nd full paragraph in regards to this.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      The heart of the question comes down to zoning. Right now there is a monopoly of zoning regulators… the government. How loud is too loud? What is too unsightly? The list goes on. The government creates rules that are one size fits all. But that only causes more distress than solved. That is why voluntary zoning is so important. In some communities too loud would be much louder than what is tolerated in other communities, and so on.

      So, unfortunately much of the world has been built under the statist paradigm, and you are suffering with the result. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and understanding to get to a point where property owners fully engage in voluntary zoning and eschew government zoning.

      Great question, though!

      • Tom JNo Gravatar says:

        Indeed. They’re called deed restrictions or restrictive covenants, and in use some places (where permitted), Houston, Texas being one such a place.

    • Bob RobertsonNo Gravatar says:

      I know this sounds silly, but have you talked to them about it?

      From your description, they don’t play the music during generally accepted sleep times, so it’s not a matter of overtly violating the “community standard”. So I’m left to wonder if they simply don’t know.

      I agree that the repetition is very annoying. A neighbor of mine left their record player running, “with the arm up”, playing “Oh Micky He’s So Fine” over, and over, and then left to go shopping leaving it running.

  2. Kathy KingNo Gravatar says:

    Maybe talk to your neighbor? He may be clueless that the music is bothering you. Perhaps, if nothing else, you two can agree on certain times of day he won’t play his music. That way he has the right to play his tunes and you have the right to certain times of solitude.

  3. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    Have you considered moving?


  4. Tor MunkovNo Gravatar says:

    Enjoy your garden at dawn or dusk, at some other time when neighbor is not emitting noise pollution.
    Wear ear plugs.
    Listen to something you enjoy on an Ipod.
    Build a relationship with this neighbor and get them to want to stop being noisy because they like you.
    Play polka music at an equal volume and duration and make evident there are quid pro quo consequences. Begin using terrible smelling fertilizer and offer to stop the horrible smells if they stop the horrible sounds.
    Use escalating political methods to persuade this neighbor to move somewhere else.