Sunday, September 11, 2005

Why aren't all pacifists libertarian?

The two ideologies are actually remarkably compatible. When you think about it, if libertarians hate any one thing it's violence. The only justification a libertarian would accept for curtailing a person's right to do what he pleases, is if that action would harm another person. Even some non-libertarian leftists have this viewpoint, except that they have a broader definition of "harm". If Wal-Mart elbows out a mom-and-pop grocery store, that's harm to them. To a libertarian, harm only means direct physical injury, or coercion under the threat of physical injury. "The right to swing my fist, ends at your nose," the maxim goes. This philosophy also underpins the libertarian's opposition to government action in general, even if it's not prima facie curtailing someone's rights. If you think about it every government action involves a gun. Say a person wants to open a store without the "proper" permit. What's stopping him? There's a law against it. What if he ignores it? They'll take him to court. What if he ignores that? He'll lose the case, and the government will tell him to shut the store down. What if he ignores that? The government will try to take control of the property and arrest him. What if he locks the door? They'll break it down. What if he tries to push them out? They'll beat him. What if he uses a weapon to force them out? They'll shoot him. And it's not just laws against behaviors either. It's all government programs too, because they all depend on tax money, that if a citizen tried to not pay, he would be thrown in jail or shot. Every law is enforced at the barrel of a gun: under threat of physical injury. And the only justification a libertarian will accept for such violence is if it is to directly prevent citizens having violence done upon them by other citizens. So at the core of the two tenets of libertarian thought: individual liberty and minimalisation of government, is a strong opposition to violence.

So again, why aren't all pacifists libertarian? It strikes me as odd that so many of the same people who are so dead-set against any war, no matter what, are so willing and eager to use the threat of deadly violence against their own fellow citizens to ensure proper behavior.


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