What libertarian idea should everyone know?

Is there one key libertarian idea you think everyone should know? Tell us!
The libertarian philosophy has many ideas. Is one more important than another?
To be clear, we’re not looking for a list. This is a challenging question. You can only pick one. The key libertarian concept, that everyone should be aware of, is {fill-in-the-blank}.
Please respond in whichever medium is most convenient for you…

You can even leave a comment on the contribution form.
Thank you,
Perry Willis & Jim Babka
Co-creators, the Zero Aggression Project

Show Comments 42


  1. The key Libertarian idea is that EVERYONE should be able to do WHATEVER they want as long as that action does not violate the rights of another.

  2. The key libertarian concept, that everyone should be aware of, all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.

  3. The key libertarian concept, that everyone should be aware of, is a group of people acting together is worse than individuals acting alone because people are sinful (or selfish/imperfect) and in a group the leaders will be no less selfish than the others and therefore use the force of the group to magnify that selfishness while at the same time justifying those actions to believe he is minimizing that selfishness.

  4. You already have it: The Golden Rule and Don’t threaten or initiate force against others, or ask politicians to do it for you.

  5. it is immoral to initiate force or fraud against an individual who is not harming you.
    “WE hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal…” [DoI]

  6. The key libertarian concept, that everyone should be aware of, is individuals’ rights. Without this one, all the rest (limited government, free markets, rule of law, peace, etc) could not exist.

    1. Individual Rights is correct- and the fundamental right, is the right to property, and that you are always your own property.

      1. Absolutely. A “libertarian” is one who RESPECTS the property rights of others, asks permission, and makes only voluntary arrangements with others where their property is concerned. The issue of whether someone is “A GOOD Libertarian” would be a judgment of whether that person adequately respected others’ property rights in society. For libertarians like me, I say this should be identified as A MORAL CLAIM of the Libertarian Movement.

    2. “Limited government” is an oxymoron. It’s not just difficult or an unsolved problem, it is impossible to give a monopoly power to some and then limit their use of it, or put conditions on it. Once granted, the exclusive privilege to rule, i.e., to make mandatory rules, administer rules, judge performance, cannot be controlled by changing the rulers. Governments past, present, and future will corrupt all you accept the “one ring to rule them all”.

  7. If you take away anybody’s freedom, you will never be free from their efforts to break free, so let them be free.

  8. The KEY Libertarian idea is that Each of us OUGHT TO RESPECT every other individual. This is our libertarian “moral claim” and we usually codify it as the Natural Human Rights to life, liberty, property, et al. (not to infringe the rights of others).
    But the bottom line is RESPECT for the individuality and the moral equality (to me) of YOU.

  9. Individual rights are the key, preserved and protected from the whims of others; be they a minority or a majority; regardless of popularity; irrespective of expediency or utility.
    Rights are rights because they are inviolable. They do not exist in a hierarchy. No right supersedes another. A right may be waived or forfeited, but never trumped.

  10. I subscribed to all this many years ago through some combination of “downsize” etc, but I’ve never been a Libertarian (I’m a liberal/progressive democrat/democratic socialist – read: I like Bernie Sanders) and I only subscribed due to your opposition to our crazy foreign policy and our love of destructive external wars.
    I think Libertarianism is Ayn Rand inspired BS, best described by Thom Hartman as “republicans who want to smoke pot and get laid”. That’s what I believe.
    Let the comments begin.

    1. Post

      We’re not big on Ayn Rand around here. She was no inspiration to us. We think she uses the word selfishness in a funny way, and places too much emphasis on self-esteem. We tend to think the world has far too much self-esteem and not nearly enough humility. Some libertarians obviously were inspired by Rand, but libertarian thought has many origins, and its simply wrong to think that libertarianism is equivalent with what Rand thought. In fact, Rand rejected libertarians. We’re glad you’ve seen fit to work with us on those areas where we agree. We hope you will continue to do so.

      1. Rand had some personal flaws, e.g., claiming exclusive property rights to some ideas she got from others. This prompted her irrational refutation of the libertarian movement she inspired. She was angry that people would go off on their own using ideas learned from her and apply them to politics without her blessing. People were supposed to come to her to be approved as Objectivists before they could call themselves that. They had to convince her that they were worthy of the title Objectivist, and even then no one was safe from later excommunication. Given her individualist philosophy, her personal behavior contradicted her writings. That is not unusual in the history of great thinkers, however unfortunate.
        While her detractors used her flaws as proof her philosophy was mistaken, that is argument ad hominem. She was unstable and did drugs, while being an exceptionally original thinker who challenged ancient ideas with devastating critiques. She corrected the contradictory aspects of venerable philosophers with stunning insights. This was groundbreaking progress for ethics and politics.
        Her works certainly opened my eyes (in 1966) and gave me the tools to understand philosophy, which I majored in later at university. One cannot study Rand’s philosophy and show she was not a libertarian, despite her one-time irresponsible remark to a reporter.
        Humility has its place. So does a strong stand when one is being attacked for advocating unpopular ideas such as individualism. Rand was viciously attacked her whole life by well respected authorities. She survived psychologically by developing a tough combative defense mechanism based on an exceptionally acute analytical mind. Her brilliance will shine more brightly as the millennia pass.

    2. “…smoke pot and get laid.”? How does that hurt anyone? Why is that life choice punishable? I have worked with many people over the decades that smoked everyday and did a fine job. I don’t like to smoke, but as long as they do their job well and leave me to do my thing, I am their friend.

      1. That comment wasn’t meant in any way to disparage sex or pot or to imply that either should be punished; it was meant instead as a way to distinguish libertarians from hard- right republicans. Personally I’d add that libertarians I respect also eschew our totally aggressive and self-defeating foreign policy.

  11. “So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.” — Voltaire

  12. Being libertarian is not just verbal. Action must match words, e.g., non-aggression directly (personally) and indirectly (politically). One cannot avoid responsibility for aggression by institutions one supports by claiming one does not approve and had hoped for a different result. Intention does not excuse coercion, action speaks louder than words. Be prepared to be judged for the results of your actions, not your intended results.
    A libertarian in name only is no libertarian. Claiming ignorance or lack of self control does not exempt one from the responsibility to not initiate force.

  13. So apparently my comment was “moderated” away. Not sure why except that I made it obvious that I don’t respect Libertarianism and consider it Ayn Rand inspired shit. It’s quite obvious to me that you don’t publish dissenting opinions. That’s your right of course, as it is my right to be disgusted by your moralistic and hypocritical BS. Have a nice day!

    1. Post

      Nope, you weren’t moderated away. There’s just been a huge rush of comments and it’s taken us a while to moderate them all. We only reject obvious spam or racist insanity.

      1. OK, I apologize for my rash comments. I viewed the thread and thought my comment was missing. Mea Culpa.
        I also want to encourage rational discourse among folks who may actually have much in common.
        Allow me to explain my confusion about your definition of aggression:
        What is aggressive about a free agreement among a majority of citizens (of any community) to establish common sense rules for behavior (and even reasonable sanctions against misbehavior)?
        And how could “free enterprise” even exist without community sponsored rules governing such behavior?
        I have more ideas to further the discussion but too tired for now.

        1. What is aggressive about the scenario you describe is that the majority imposes its will on the minority under threat of violence. Even fines (presuming this is what you mean by “rules” and “sanctions”) are threats of eventual arrest/imprisonment (physical violence) if you don’t pay, and physically defending one’s self against arrest would lead to injury or death (more violence) at the hands of the folks giving out the fines/making the arrest.
          The “losers” (those in the minority) never agreed prior to the vote that they would submit to the will of the majority should the vote not go their way, and they are not permitted to opt out of the resulting rules.
          As the saying goes, Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner.
          Free enterprise can exist outside a government-violence-backed legal system through voluntary contracts, dispute resolution organizations (similar to mediation services used in business today), protection/security services, reputation/credit systems, and the basic guiding principle that it is wrong to threaten, attack or cheat other people (including paying others to do these things for you).
          Incidentally, I think that this principle is the one libertarian idea that everyone should know.

          1. When the majority vote for rulers who rule all, they enslave all, even themselves. Only the ruling elite benefit. The rulers exempt themselves from the rules, set themselves apart, represent themselves. As government grows the rulers grow in number, until the lower echelon are constantly in contact with their slaves, exposing the inequality. Citizens become aware they are not equal to the police. They do not enjoy equal status. They are treated like criminals, and their lives are forfeit if they do not stay in their place. Standing up for your rights can get you killed. This is the reality in the U.S. Police State.
            And still, many people remain willfully blind to this fact, as hundreds are murdered every year.

  14. I think you already have it, the zero aggression principle. Or as Bruce outlined it earlier, “You already have it: The Golden Rule and Don’t threaten or initiate force against others, or ask politicians to do it for you.”

  15. Replying to my own post, but I really think you folks should get in touch with the Thom Hartmann program (well covered on a bunch of radio and TV outlets). He’s smart and loves to dialogue with people with whom he disagrees, which would definitely include you guys.
    Best, Skip

  16. As long as the State is in control of whatever issue is your primary concern, you won’t get what you really want. You ultimately have no choice, or options.

    1. This is actually a great point, take school vouchers, for example. If we simply could have our own money to spend as we please, children could be educated the way the parents chose far more easily.

  17. If I have to choose just one Libertarian principle, I vote for this:
    The only proper role for government at any level is to protect its charges from force, fraud and abuse.

    1. Are you a member of the Libertarian Party? If not, then you are a small “l” libertarian.
      Libertarians can all agree on the proper role of govt. That has not been a problem. The problem is no govt. has ever even come close to fulfilling its proper role. I include the first administration until today. See Washington’s use of federal troops to put down a protest of the infamous Whiskey Tax pushed thru by Hamilton to benefit his banker friends who knew it was coming and bought up all the war bonds for pennies on the dollar so they could redeem them at full value at taxpayer expense. It’s nice to be an insider. But this is govt. doing what governments do, not unusual. To study history and continue to vote/support govt. hoping for a different result after 200+ years is insane. Govt. breeds chaos and destruction by its very nature. The alternative, a voluntary society, is compatible with the free market which breeds peace, order, and prosperity.

    2. I agree, and that is not too far from the motto of the Free State Project:
      “I will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of life, liberty and property.”
      We might disagree on what is practical, (or whether practicality should be an issue in the first place) but all persons want their own lives protected (or at least the ability to protect their lives themselves), want to be given a fair price for their services, property or ideas, and want to be protected or be able to protect themselves from bodily or other harm.

  18. I believe the key libertarian concept is keep your hands off my stuff and I’ll keep my hands off your stuff and this goes quadruple for the government (maybe more the quadruple since they have at least 538 sets of hands to grab people’s stuff with and that’s just the elected ones – the appointed ones probably at least
    double that number!)

  19. The key issue affecting every one in the United States is to learn about Islam, Sharia, and Muslims. Building a fence is not about forcing others to stay out, it is about self defense. Learn history! Did you know that Egypt was a Christian nation? What happened? Learn! it is happening here! Islamophobia is a tactic not a personal trait. There are many sites with good information. This one is the easiest to learn from, if your willing to take the time. Being too nice can destroy a nation. Ignorance is not the answer.

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