A blog by Patrick Crozier

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May 21, 2004

What I mean by “libertarian”

Others may have different definitions but this is mine:

Over his body and justly acquired property man is sovereign

Update 08/06/04

It occurs to me that that is actually a definition of freedom or the free market (I don't really distinguish). A libertarian is someone who happens to believe that people should have as much freedom as possible.

Update 19/06/04

I really ought to point out some of the implications in living in a libertarian world:

  • no taxes, so no spending, so no state healthcare, education or welfare
  • the privatisation of everything currently owned by the government including roads and railways.
  • no bans
  • no regulations (including no safety regulations)

Does this mean no army, no police, no law courts? OK, you've got me there. In principle: yes. In practice: probably not. I just don't see how they can be got rid of without jeopardising peace (which I am all in favour of).

Does this mean the legalisation of murder and theft? No, because these are violations of the individual's rights (see above)



You now have an obligation to define "justly acquired property".

Posted by Andy Wood on May 24, 2004

Fair point. Should European Americans be required to give up all their property to the Indians? Should the Indians then be forced to hand over that to the ancestors (should they ever be found) of Kennewick man?

Perhaps we have to "draw the line" somewhere. But that makes me uncomfortable. As Brian says if you have to talk about drawing lines the line probably shouldn't exist at all.

For the time being one kind of sort of has to accept the outcome of the courts no matter how imperfect that might be.

Unless, you know better, of course.

Posted by Patrick Crozier on May 24, 2004

So how do you feel about wearing a label that will mean many will associate you with principles and positions to which you don't ascribe? This has always been my problem with political labels, and I had an interesting conversation with some mutual friends of ours on Saturday night about all this. One of them was insisting that he/she is not a libertarian, that he/she detests what libertarianism has come to represent in the eyes of many, and what many libertarians are all about these days (especially in the US).

I would say that I am a libertarian sympathiser, and perhaps I could be labelled a libertarian, but I share my friend's discomfort at being tarred with the same brush as many of the lunatics who also self-identify as libertarians.

Posted by Jackie D on May 25, 2004

I think you have to call yourself something. I also think that no matter what I end up calling myself there will be a few nutters who will adopt the same label.

Continually changing the label confuses outsiders and can only ever be a temporary measure as the nutters are sure to follow. I suppose it is the same way that the insult has followed idiot, lunatic, mentally ill, special needs.

Far better to stand and fight. Sure, some people will throw brickbats. But they will always throw brickbats and anyway, they can only do that so long. A bit like the way Britain's army of 1914 adopted the Kaiser's insult and called themselves the Old Contemptibles. Or what, more recently, Niggers with Attitude were trying to do.

Posted by Patrick Crozier on May 25, 2004
Does this mean no army, no police, no law courts?

Privatising defence is a tricky one, at least with current technology. But the theory behind private police and courts was described by David Friedman in The Machinery of Freedom.

There are also historical examples:

There was no state police force in the UK until the 1830s. Before then, catching and prosecuting criminals was mostly a private matter. Read this, for example, also by David Friedman.

The courts of Iceland were privately run for a couple of centuries in the Middle Ages. Read this, again by David Friedman.

I believe The Enterprise of Law, by Bruce Benson, also describes historical examples of non-state legal systems, such as the lex mercatoria, but I haven't managed to get my hands on a copy of that.

I am assuming, of course, that you mean no state army, no state police, no state law courts.

Posted by Andy Wood on June 23, 2004