If you put together any group of people who are chiefly independent thinkers and do their own homework carefully and do not arrive at their opinions lightly, you will always have contentious debate and lots of disagreement. It’s the nature of who libertarians are and how they come to their beliefs. That is not to say that people of other political viewpoints don’t thoroughly vet their own thoughts, but simply that libertarians have a much more independent spirit about it. Nobody likes to argue quite like libertarians. It isn’t always harsh contentiousness and vile disgust; sometimes, it’s just how they arrive at stronger conclusions and put their own ideas to the test.
That said, there are some fairly deep divisions amongst libertarians, and it can actually turn some people who might otherwise consider the philosophy off from doing so. Maybe it’s a little bit intimidating at first. But, it really all comes down to a few simple principles that are easily stated and on which libertarians almost entirely agree. The disagreement usually comes from how those principles are applied, but if someone wants a basic starting point, then it’s the perfect place to examine the philosophy. It’s also good in those times when libertarians are so strongly focused on their deep divisions that they look back to those principles and understand that it is where commonalities lie. There are a lot more commonalities than differences. Getting independent thinkers to band together for a common purpose is highly difficult, but if it is to be done, the principles are where it will happen.
1. First, do no harm.
A free people can do whatever they like, so long as they are not trampling upon the natural rights of others. My rights end where yours begin. Libertarians are against the use of force for social or political gain.
2. Every person has a right to self defense.
Libertarianism is opposed to violence, but there is an innate right to defend oneself against violence. To take away that right is the use of force and violence itself.
3. Do not use force to accomplish political and social goals.
4. Don’t steal.
Do not take the property and hard earned income of others – whether it be by yourself or through government.
5. Every person owns his or her own body.
No person, government, or group can rightly have authority over another person’s body (or labor). By our very nature, we are in dominion over our own bodies, regardless of what we decide to do with them.
6. Our property is ours to do with as we please.
So long as we are not damaging others or their property, no government, person, or group can rightly have dominion over the property of another person.
7. The rights of the individual are always greater than the rights of a group or collective.
People are individuals and must be viewed as such above any sort of collective group. In a free society, it is the rights of individuals that are protected – not society or any other collective group.
There are other things many other libertarians would add, but I believe those to be the most basic that cover most issues. It’s really simple and straight forward. Libertarians may argue and come to metaphorical fists on the implications and applications of these principles, but would likely agree upon all the principles themselves. There is an innate desire in every person to be master of his own life, and to be free. If liberty is the most desired political goal, then libertarian principles are the most important. In order for the liberty movement to band together under single banner and for a common cause, this is where all members of the libertarian movement should come together.
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