What is a libertarian?

Libertarians vary. They differ on…

  • why they’re libertarians.
  • how fast change should be made or how far it should go.
  • what will achieve those changes.

But virtually all libertarians agree that the focus should be on REDUCING (even to zero) the level of initiated violence that is legally and socially permissible.

When presented with a social or societal problem, the libertarian’s FIRST and primary question is

Will the proposed solution involve threats or the initiation of force, or will it rely on persuasion and perhaps even reduce the present level of initiated violence?

This is because libertarians, more than any other political philosophy, are concerned about the means that are used to achieve an end. The libertarian has a Mental Lever in mind, that tells him or her…

  • it’s wrong to initiate force to achieve social goals; persuasion and voluntary cooperation are better.
  • acts of coercion are very likely to cause more harm than good.
  • threats and actual, initiated violence violate the conscience and happiness of individuals.

All of this thinking is packed into the Golden Rule concept known as the Zero Aggression Principle. Libertarians use an empathetic approach. Thus it’s no surprise that…

Libertarians can share your social concerns! Libertarians include pornographers and pastors, Wiccans, Christians, and atheists, feminists or pro-lifers, environmentalists or corporate titans. They can be intensely concerned about health care, education, homelessness, terrorism, and violence on the streets.

In other words, while the libertarian is critical of statist programs — because these schemes initiate force — he or she can and often does agree, that there is indeed a social problem. And problems need solutions!

A libertarian will often be ready to join you in creating those solutions. But the libertarian will be just as concerned about the means you propose to use.

The libertarian will want to take direct, peaceful, voluntary action to solve the problem. They will not want to wait while you lobby Congress. It’s both inefficient and rude to pass a law compelling submission to one master plan. To enlist libertarian support, you’ll need a more empathetic, cooperative plan, that still leaves room for other people to try their preferred solutions.

Perry Willis

About the Author

Perry Willis

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Perry Willis is the co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and Downsize DC. He was the National Director of the Libertarian National Committee on two occasions, and ran two Libertarian Party presidential campaigns. He has an extensive background in marketing and fundraising, and has ghost written direct mail appeals for numerous luminaries, including Karl Hess, Ron Paul, Charlton Heston and Harry Browne.

Jim Babka

About the Author

Jim Babka

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Jim Babka is co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and President of DownsizeDC.org, Inc. He’s an author and former talk show host.
Previously, he was the President of RealCampaignReform.org, Inc., defending free press rights all the way to the Supreme Court. He and Susie are the proud, home-schooling parents of three teenagers. He enjoys theology, UFC, target practice, and Tai Chi.

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Show Comments 12


  1. Under the “zero aggression principle” (is the same as the “non-aggression principle”), to what extent can a person properly resort to state action to protect (or vindicate) the right of a third party?

  2. Excellent! Give me one favor, though. Change the order of the good/bad. In your comparisons, list the pastor then the pornographer, for example. Thanks!

  3. Maybe he used that order on purpose. True libertarians don’t judge people who are not committing crimes, so there is no difference between the pastor and the pornographer.

    1. I agree Bill. But a thing to remember all the time is that a main objective here is helping non libertarians like libertarianism – and at least not give them a bad first impression, because people do get influenced by those first impressions so much.

  4. Post

    Bill, there was no agenda in the order listing. “True libertarians” can also be as judgmental as they wish to be. They simply don’t believe that violence should be used to make social change. Dan, I’m unsure why I should make that change.

  5. Pingback: United Airlines and the Zero Aggression Principle - Zero Aggression Project - Pima County Libertarian Party

  6. The one thing that always bothers me about this zero aggression policy is the lack of understanding for the Constitution. As our founders understood, without the constitution, which was established mostly for our national protection (in order to allow personal freedoms), we have no freedoms. One of the greatest threats to our country in 1775 was the Barbary pirates. Amazingly, that same group of people is still our biggest threat. As we allow open border immigration, we allow the same conquest that destroyed the Byzantine empire, and created that same take over that Egypt experienced in circa: 700 ADD and Constantinople experienced cica:1200 AD. Spain which had been living under dominance managed to break free, after different factions of their captors were fighting against each other and therefore were weakened enough for Ferdinand and Isabelle to become victorious. circa: 1450 Prior to that it was the Iberian peninsula. . We are experiencing this same take over now, and the Zero Aggression project wants to ignore history, the constitution and instead, state that ALL men are created equal and therefore all men want freedom. WRONG! Many men want to dominate!

    Immigrants need to come to the USA and become part of our Constitutional system. This means learning about freedom and our constitution and NOT bring their way of life to be imposed on us. Once we have secure borders and people sworn to uphold our way off life, then we can practice zero aggression. First we have to have protected Freedom! Even Jesus recognized the need for a sword when it comes to protecting our families and friends.

    Why does the Zero Aggression project want to ignore history and claim that we are all good people with the same interests? We are slowly loosing our country. We have cities like ( probably the most famous) Utica NY, Dearborn Mich. and several others, that no longer look like the United states. Open your eyes and support strong borders or all your talk of freedoms will be for nothing. Libertarians are marching toward subjugation. Many previous members of the Libertarian party recognize this ignorance and have left for that reason. Ignoring intent, especially when it is written intent, to instead only judge people by the crimes they are currently committing is stupidity. We know for a fact what the intent of the Barbary pirates was, and we know for a fact that they are amongst us now and have the same intent. Only the names have changed. The groups are still the same Barbary pirates using different names. This is historic fact! None of this is subjective.

    1. Thanks for your comment David.

      Zero Aggression does NOT mean pacifism. It means that violence should be used for defensive purposes only. This means that violence must first be threatened before action can be taken. So…

      If you can identify a person who is threatening to use violence then we would support arresting and trying that person. But that is very different from your approach, which is to trounce the presumption of innocence by denying entry to nearly everyone. This suggests that you may not understand the Constitution as we as you think you do.

      You desire not only to trash the presumption of innocence, but you also want to give the Feds an unenumerated power, thereby violating the 10th Amendment. The Feds have an enumerated power to control naturalization (who becomes a citizen), but no power at all to regulate who enters or exits the country. Again, we may understand the Constitution better than you do.

      Finally, the Barbary Pirates were no threat to the U.S. Rather, they were a threat to wealthy travelers and shippers who could well afford to arm and protect their own ships. That makes Jefferson’s war against the Barbary Pirates one of the first U.S. acts of welfare for the rich.

      Your ability to evaluate risk is also questionable. The number of Islamist Muslims who intend to attack us is very small. They pose even less danger to us than our domestic criminals. Your proposed cure is far worse than the disease.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and please come again.

  7. Interesting, My proposed cure is to simply have everyone immigrating to the USA promise to uphold our laws and constitution and you claim that is somehow far worse than the disease?

    In Germany, when the Germans came for the Jews, the number of Germans that were ” shall we say “extremists”, was rather small. The Germans from the Third Reich killed thousands. The moderate non-threatening, Germans were irrelevant! The moderate Islamists are irrelevant. It only took one to kill how many in Florida at the Pulse?

    As for your idea that they must first threaten us? They have. Article VI section two is the supremacy clause. Sharia law claims supremacy. That in it self is a threat. If one is sponsoring a doctrine that claims to want to over turn our constitution, why do you wish to allow them to enter our communities with out first converting to our way of life? Is it wrong to ask if they support their doctrine?? Why do you think it is right to allow another way of life to supersede the Constitutional way of life? To me, your stock answer is lunacy.

    Thank you for your reply. As I said previously, history shows you are wrong. It is irrefutable. Therefore, I believe that instead of debating me, you should do more research. I am in no way suggesting that every Muslim is a bad person. I just want to be clear that I NEVER said that! What I will repeat is that the good ones are irrelevant when it comes to what history has demonstrated. One of the simplest demonstration of history is here: https://www.politicalislam.com/hijra-islamic-migration/

    1. Hi David. Thanks for your response.

      The naturalization process, which is Constitutional, already requires people to swear allegiance to the Constitution. So, if that’s all you want then you already have it. Requiring the same of mere visitors who are not seeking to vote is fairly pointless, but I have no strong objection if you want to require that. It would be a huge improvement over our current un-Constitutional immigration control statutes.

  8. Mala prohibita opinions are ambiguous, arbitrary, vary from place-to-place and time-to-time, and for the most part – MOST PART! – intended to produce revenue to provide for The State.

    Mala in se are wrong because there is a victim; no written laws forbidding mala in se are necessary. The constitution does not apply to the people – it is for those who are a part of “government” therefore why would i or any non-politician want to swear allegiance to a flawed document:

    Taxation is theft!

    Slavery is immoral!

    Visit the supreme court decisions that have been overturned!

    Preemptive wars have been started.

    Lysander Spooner was, and is, a beacon for all moral people.

    What evidence, what facts, what proof, what truths can anyone provide that the constitution and all the statutes, rules, regulations and opinions [aka: mala prohibita “laws”] apply to me, you, or any other person who has not taken an oath to cause it to bind them?!

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