“I am right, you are wrong, and you will do as I say!” This attitude, essentially a belief in one’s own moral superiority, is the root cause of war.

The authoritarian mindset demands enforcement. However, opinions are subjective and points of view vary. Why should one rule over another? Why should any individual be compelled to follow the convictions of another? And yet, governments and community leaders routinely force their prejudiced opinions on others with little or no recourse. They believe they are right and therefore everyone else is wrong. They have succumbed to the Machiavellian notion that “ends justify the means,” contending that any violent act — murder, robbery, and so forth — is permissible providing that their end-goal is a “greater good.”

 Whether a particular opinion is good or bad is immaterial — nobody should impose their convictions on another. True, some ideals are superior to others, but this gives no legitimate authority to commit aggression.

The best road to peace is to allow citizens to structure their own lives. When citizens are denied this freedom conflict flares. History is littered with examples. The Peasant War in Germany in the 16th Century, often cited as a religious war, erupted due to heavy taxes and inflexible policies. Each German prince demanded that only one religion could exist within his domain. The decrees forced peasants of unrecognized or outlawed religious groups to pay taxes for the upkeep of the state-sanctioned church. The German peasants were outraged at paying for a religion not of their choosing. Bloody war soon erupted.

In their infinite wisdom, governments habitually impose their policies on society. This aggression often leads to conflict and civil discord. Only a small, unobtrusive government (“minimalist” or “night-watchman government”) can reduce inter-societal conflict. Only a free society where citizens freely choose their own personal/economic lifestyles can ensure a peaceful way of life.

War is aggression. If the authority elite achieves supremacy in their own nation, their power-lust often overspills borders in the form of invasion. Until voluntarism is embraced, there will be no let-up of warring on both domestic and foreign battlefields.

“If men want to oppose war, it is statism that they must oppose.  So long as they hold the tribal notion that the individual is sacrificial fodder for the collective, that some men have the right to rule others by force, and that some (any) alleged “good” can justify it — there can be no peace within a nation and no peace among nations.” – Ayn Rand

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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THE NEXT LEVEL: Libertarian Chaology

The next important movement toward liberty will focus on the theories of chaos and complexity. Chaos theory provides scientific confirmation that open-ended, flexible systems work better than closed-ended, deterministic ones. With the help of Quantum Mechanics, Chaos theory proves that the universe is not based on the old Newtonian physics of order and precision, but instead is based on probability and uncertainty. Future events arise by chance, with no more reliability than a pinball machine. The probability that the sun will come up each morning is just that—a high probability, not a certainty.

In stark contrast, determinism had envisioned the world as linear, non-dynamic, and static—in a sense, unable to “think outside the box.” It argued that if certain variables could be quantified, the future would be easily predictable in a clocklike fashion. Experiments in the sub-atomic world have dispelled these notions.

The nature of the physical world favors liberty. Nature is a self-governing system that provides unlimited choice on the smallest possible level – the individual – creating a bottom-up structure. This effect is partially due to micro-events of almost unnoticeable actions that can result in large and unpredictable consequences (better known as the Butterfly Effect). Despite the uncertainty of unintentional consequences, politicians routinely chisel into stone thousands of new laws that must radically distort reality since the factors they were originally based upon have changed.

When a law is enacted – no matter how in tune with reality at the time – it will soon be outdated and possibly dangerous to the community and the economy. Why? Because time and matter are asymmetrical in that no two things are ever identical. In fact, no two water molecules, snowflakes, people, or time events have ever been exactly the same. Perfection is impossible in a flawed, fluctuating world. Yet, social engineering by governmental coercion is based on achieving the perfection of equality – an equality that has no foundation in nature.

Further, the data available to make political decisions are ubiquitous and usually so complex as to be infinite. Nevertheless, centralized authorities rule and regulate information that is very limited, inconsistent, and unreliable. How could a reasonable decision ever be made under such circumstances? Or, more importantly, how could anybody expect anything but disaster from such blind decisions?

Chaos theory encourages the concept of a voluntary society uninhibited by arbitrary controls. It is time for libertarians to stand up and take notice.

L.K. Samuels wrote this article for the Libertarian Party of California newsletter, California Freedom, Nov. 2004 edition.

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The financial meltdown that hit Wall Street and the global financial markets in 2008 was due to the lack of regulations—that is, a lack of regulations on government.

It doesn’t take the most competent forensic expert to put the crime scene squarely at the doorstep of the quasi-government banking institutes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), one of which was founded back during FDR’s New Deal, are at the epicenter of the runaway financial meltdown that has enveloped the globe. Without a doubt, they have wielded too much financial-political muscle with too little Congressional oversight. 

Some political leaders in 2003, mostly Republicans, attempted to rein in Fannie and Freddie, which handle a majority of the $12 trillion mortgage market. The New York Times called these reforms “the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.” But the Democrats, especially Rep. Barney Frank, blocked the bill, fearing that it would inhibit loans to low-income households. Calling Fannie and Freddie financially sound just a few years ago, many of the Congressmen opposed to stronger financial regulation were on the receiving end of political contributions by these two state corporations.

In fact, both of these taxpayer-backed corporations together spent nearly $200 million to lobby Congress and financial-political action organizations. Much of the money went to affordable housing advocates, political groups, lobbyists, politicians, and anyone who opposed Fannie and Freddie’s excesses. Running wild, these institutions were given all sorts of political and financial preferential treatments. For instance, banks are required to retain 10 percent of their capital, but Fannie and Freddie needed to keep only 2.5 percent of their capital, giving them a competitive advantage and the ability to buy even more questionable mortgages. Both corporations are even exempt from SEC filing requirements.

 So when did this all start? It appears that the trail of bread crumbs leads back to when President Jimmy Carter helped pass the Community Reinvestment Act in 1977, requiring banks to provide loans to low-income areas, regardless of borrowers’ credit worthiness or job history. In short order, banks were successfully sued over charges of racism and redlining when they hesitated to lend to people considered incapable of paying back the loans. Ironically, when banks were reluctant to lend to high-risk borrowers, they were often condemned as racists, yet when they were finally cowed into making loans to unqualified borrowers, many mortgage lenders, including Countrywide, were sued for “predatory lending practices.”

Under the lobbying pressure of Fannie and Freddie, Congress was persuaded to mandate these two government-chartered corporations to open up the subprime home loan floodgates by the mid-1990s. Subprime loans were now available to anyone with a pulse, regardless of bad credit history and low income. Next, Fannie and Freddie leveraged their advantages, bundling the loans into mortgage-backed securities and selling them around the world. Soon other banks followed suit, determined to remain competitive with the GSEs. Underwriting standards became almost nonexistent in a rush to sell loans to a huge segment of society that could never before qualify for a home loan.

Moreover, another quasi-public agency, Federal Reserve System, had a heavy hand in taking the economy for a harrowing rollercoaster ride. From the outset, the Fed did what it has done so well in the past, especially prior to the Great Depression; it flooded the market with massive amounts of money. In this case, their reckless money machine generated a housing bubble that eventually burst across financial markets and Main Street. The Fed’s easy-credit policies had again primed the economic pump with fiat money, which encouraged large and small speculators to get involved in questionable loans and over-priced real estate. 

But lowering underwriting standards, disregarding credit history, and promoting “no-doc” loans with no down payment was only part of the problem. Another piece of the puzzle involved “moral hazard”—a situation in which people engage in risky behavior because they feel protected. As government-subsidized corporations, Fannie and Freddie would not be permitted to fail. The federal government would always come to their rescue, by cranking up the money-printing press, borrowing, or by increasing taxes. These two government-chartered corporations would never have to bear the full consequences of their actions since the federal government was always there to bail them out. With such unlimited guarantees, Fannie and Freddie threw open the doors to bad, high-risk loans by privatizing rewards and socializing risk, the essential feature of a mixed economy.

Although some pundits have tried to pin the blame for this mess on laissez-faire markets and libertarian ideology, we got into this situation because quasi-government corporations had little fear of financial failure or greater congressional restraints. Fannie and Freddie got special political treatment and ran recklessly across the political and economic landscape. In essence, the current financial crisis is the result of an unfettered fusion of big business with big government—once known as mercantilism. And when that happens, the out-of-control actions of the corporate state often threaten to sink the ship of state as well as everyone still clinging to the lifeboats. The 2008 financial meltdown could not have occurred without the interjections of politics into the mortgage industry. A truly free market would not need a bailout, nor would it have expected one.

Article by L.K. Samuels ( Nov. 22, 2008)

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Terrorism, Global Warming and Fear

If politicians do anything well, it is to fan the flames of Chicken Little hysteria. They have an innate talent for scaring neurotic people who are prone to believe whatever government tells them about potential threats. Neither side of the political spectrum is above using propaganda to gain the upper hand in the cutthroat battle for public consciousness and votes.

For instance, according to right-wing neoconservatives, the evil menace plaguing mankind is hordes of Islamic militants who target civilians and fly aircraft into buildings. We are told that these terrorist madmen will descend upon our homeland with weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical warheads, and ungodly violence to destroy Western civilization unless we act preemptively.

On the opposite side of the political aisle, the big threat to the world is global warming. The leftists’ predictions are just as horrific as the rightists’. They contend that if mankind continues to pump out carbon dioxide (CO2), the world will suffer catastrophic flooding, severe droughts, rising sea levels, lasting hunger, and economic chaos. Some global warming alarmists actually predict the end of humanity within a couple of decades.

Both scenarios pander to the politics of fear. But how accurate are they?

In the struggle to rid the world of terrorism, the Bush Administration launched a preemptive strike against Iraq in 2003. Two years later, instead of being “neutralized,” Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the most fertile training ground for the next generation of “professionalized” terrorists, according to a 2005 report released by the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. NIC Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said Iraq “is a magnet for international terrorist activity.” In a blowback of epic proportions, the U.S. government seems to be making enemies faster than they can kill them.

But how big of a threat are these terrorists? Do they have a lot of resources other than fear?

When the Japanese Imperial fleet launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, it assembled the most powerful carrier force and the greatest air power in the history of naval warfare. During the Cold War, the world was staring down the barrel of 70,000 nuclear warheads and two sometimes trigger-happy nations. When the Islamic terrorists struck the World Trade Center, they had 19 hijackers armed with plastic knives and box-cutters. This is not to say that terrorists are impotent or pose no threat, but by historical standards, they possess far fewer military resources compared to enemies from past wars.

In the case of global warming, the apocalyptic claims grow louder and shriller, especially in California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has imposed new laws to reduce greenhouse gasses. But the fundamental assertion that CO2 causes temperatures to rise has no scientific basis. A number of prominent scientists, including Prof.  Ian Clark, a leading archaeological climatologist from Canada, have pointed to the analysis of ice core samples that go back more than 600,000 years. All ice core records, including those drilled at the Vostok site in Antarctica, show that CO2 increases lag after warming spells by an average of 800 years. This finding suggests that rising temperatures are responsible for the rise of CO2 levels in the atmosphere, not the reverse.

In the British documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, Prof. Clark asserts, “You can’t say that CO2 can drive climate, it certainly did not in the past.… CO2 clearly cannot be causing temperature changes, it is a product of temperature; it’s following temperature changes.”

To some extent, mankind’s industrialization of the world must have an effect on climate. But CO2 is a minor component of the earth’s atmosphere—approximately 0.054 percent. And of that infinitesimal amount, human-induced CO2 makes up less than 1/20th, depending on the data source. Many climatologists believe that solar activity, combined with the activities of cosmic rays and cloud formation, is a more likely candidate for the cause of the earth’s warming. After all, the sun accounts for 99.8 percent of the solar system’s mass. In fact, NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions recently reveal that the ice caps near Mars’ South Pole have diminished for the last three summers, along with the heating up of other planets.

The ecological-political establishment is using normal climatic cycles as evidence that the world is coming to an end. Interestingly, experts made similar dire predictions of an impending ice age during the cooling trend from 1940 to 1975.

Whatever direction politician leaders take the issues of terrorism and global warming, it is almost assured that they will polarize the public, enrich the well-connected, increase the authority of government, and do little to mitigate any so-called crisis.

Article by L.K. Samuels ( June 14, 2007)

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In the 1780s the anti-federalists, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and others, warned that American freedoms would suffer tremendously if the Articles of Confederation were dumped and a federalist constitution approved. They were right. Almost every amendment under the Bill of Rights has been breached or trashed, every power under the U.S. Constitution expanded a thousand fold.

The lesson to learn from this is that governments cannot be trusted to remain small, unobtrusive, and liberty-minded. For example, the constitution of the former Soviet Union spoke of the guaranteed rights of free speech, assembly, and press. It was a sham.

Whether democratic, autocratic, or totalitarian, governments are coercive entities that control a particular territory like an organized crime family.  These political systems tax, regulate, spy, draft, murder, and control individuals in their territory similar to how Al Capone controlled Chicago. The very nature of government is the antithesis of human rights. Why? Because human rights rely on the consent of the individual (concepts of John Locke and John Stuart Mills). Freedom is the absence of government control over individuals. Only in rare cases has any form of government actually attempted to protect the rights of individuals (limited government). Throughout history, national governments have annihilated human rights, instigated genocide, or invaded other nations on a massive scale. A planet operated by a world government will eventually lead toward a totalitarian regime mired in constant civil wars, political oppression, and corruption. Power inevitably centralizes and grows not unlike cancer.

Only when our planet is in tune with the concepts of non-coercion and anti-authoritarianism could some type of world organization even be considered. And such an entity would be based not on a governmental structure, but one absent of such a configuration. After all, freedom is the lack of coercion. And the mother of all coercion is governmental power and authority. Human rights do not depend on some privilege granted by centralizing authorities, they are something that everyone is born with.

Most nations still live in the stone age when it comes to individual consent, voluntary taxation, voluntarism, and tolerance. Even Western-style democracies are often based on harsh economic and personal controls that Joe Stalin or Adolph Hitler would envy. Earth is not ready for a worldwide political organization. Someday it might be. But only when the people have the right to opt-out of any controlling structure not of their choosing. Only when people are free to choose their own economic and personal lifestyle unhindered by governments of any level will we be ready to consider something larger and nobler.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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Does America Still Have Slavery? — Self-Ownership: The Abolitionist’s Case

Before the Civil War, abolitionists condemned slavery as “man-stealing” because it was the theft of a person’s self-ownership, along with xxx of the slave’s hard-earned labor. William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), one of the most famous Abolitionists, employed the self-ownership concept to end the enslavement of black men and women. Abolitionists needed a way to challenge the popular notion that owning another human was admissible. Slaveholders were using all sorts of abstractions to justify their subjugation of Blacks—everything from religion to socialist utopianism and paternalism—mostly based on the idea that some people were incapable of running their own lives and therefore had to be constrained for their own benefit. This especially included the pro-slavery and pro-socialist intellectual, George Fitzhugh, who declared in 1854, “slavery is a form, and the very best form, of socialism.”

Borrowing from John Locke, the father of liberalism, Garrison argued that each and every individual owned himself/herself, and therefore nobody could be a slave to another. This gave the Abolitionists the moral high ground with which to challenge involuntary servitude. Unfortunately, this self-ownership concept was not employed against taxation at the time, simply because there were no federal taxes from Thomas Jefferson’s presidency until the start of the Civil War. And yet, like slavery, taxation on income is a terrible form of stealing. It steals a person’s life, time, and labor. Surely, if people own themselves, then they own what they legally produce. And if they own what they produce, then nobody (including the government) has a right to forcibly take it away. Whether it is called “protection money,” extortion, or taxation, collecting money at the point of a gun is a form of slavery.

Abolitionism was one of the most important freedom movements in American history. It needs to be resurrected to fight our modern-day slavery.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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As the old saying goes, if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. But if you put a frog into cold water and slowly heat it up, the frog will never decide to jump. Government-creep is similar. Few people notice when government slowly increases its powers and authority. Few people are alarmed because each new control is so small in scope. The various land-use controls in county areas are a prime example. Government authorities discourage development by enacting arbitrary and unclear laws, giving the bureaucracy the final say in whether an owner can or cannot build. Incredibly, these same advocates of strong land-use laws want more affordable housing without increasing the supply of homes. This would appear to be a contradiction, but in actuality, the government is not looking at resolving problems. Its main purpose is to obtain more control with each passing day. Conflicts, confusion, and disorder only help the government in its quest to gain more authority since the public will demand the government to provide solutions.. Unfortunately, most of the conflict and confusion came about from past government policies, controls, and regulations.

The true purpose of a law is to prevent physical aggression against innocent citizens and to prosecute if such a crime is committed. But in order for a crime to exist, there must be a physical victim. In other words, if there is no victim, there is no crime. But the government seems to make crimes out of everything. Until recently, it was a crime to celebrate Christmas in Cuba. In California, it is still a crime to give away dairy products to charitable organizations. And in Carmel Valley, California, it will soon likely be a crime to illuminate trees and landscaping on one’s own property. If the government continues to make everything against the law, soon everyone will be a lawbreaker. And if this occurs, citizens will begin to disregard true laws that try to prevent violent acts. Only government benefits when societies turn chaotic. It will demand ever more draconian measures until our formerly free society resembles that of the old Soviet Union.

When it comes to land use, homeowners and business owners should have the lion’s share of say in what they can do with their property. In cases of violation, where one owner trespasses against another, the courts under common law and torts are perfectly adequate. We do not need the government micro-managing every detail of our lives and property. The basic purpose of government is to enforce contracts to protect citizens from domestic or foreign invaders and to protect the rights of citizens. Instead, the government itself has become a bully and aggressor, protecting its rights and power over those of the citizens. If allowed to continue, individual freedom and homeowner rights with go the way of the dodo bird.

 L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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The trouble with winning the war on government-banned drugs is that many citizens see it as an invasion of their rights. But isn’t taking illegal drugs a crime? The real question becomes this: can the government make anything a crime? When the Nazis put Jews into crematoriums, weren’t they simply following German law? When Blacks were mistreated in the South by police and Democratic Party authorities, weren’t they simply following the Jim Crow laws of the day? So what is a crime? In reality, for a crime to exist, there must be a victim; someone must trespass against another. If there is no victim, there is no crime. How could it be any other way? If a person drinks too much or over-indulges with drugs, fatty foods, sugary candy, or cancerous cigars, has a crime been committed against another. Of course, not. Crimes must involve physical aggression or fraud against others. That is exactly why victimless crime laws are phony laws.

The Oxford dictionary defines crime as “an evil or injurious act” or a “wrong-doing, sin.” The trouble is, who defines evil or wrong-doing? It was a crime for dairy farmers in California to give away milk to charity.* Is private charity ever evil?  Fidel Castro in Cuban once made the celebration of Christmas against the law. Is celebrating a holiday immoral? In the Taliban Afghanistan, it was illegal to fly kits or for men to shave off their beards. In fact, it was illegal to preach any religion except the Muslim faith in Afghanistan. If caught, the penalty could be death. There seems to be no limit to what a government can and will ban.

The laws against particular drugs are immoral because no crime has been committed. The whole concept of freedom is to allow each individual the choice to decide what to do with his or her life. Unfortunately, centralizing authorities want to control people and their actions. They want to subjugate as much as possible and are willing to pass any laws they deem to be righteous. And yet, nobody can make decisions for another. Most citizens know right from wrong and will do what they believe is right and will follow their convictions and lifestyles, no matter what the laws say. Drugs can be dangerous, but not nearly as dangerous as a government willing to outlaw anything and everything.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them

* Many of these price-control laws on Californian dairy products have been overturned by the courts since the 1990s.

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People have a right to their bodies. This simple statement has been echoed by many, including John Locke (1600’s) and most recently Prof. Robert Nozick at Harvard University, author of Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

Self-ownership means that people have the right to live life as they please, providing they do it peacefully. Further, everyone also has the “equal right” to be left alone in their hunger to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. In other words, individuals have the right to act according to one’s own choices, providing that those actions do not infringe on the equal liberty of another.

Individual liberty is not a license to do whatever someone wants. The initiation or the threat of physical violence against another denies a person’s self-ownership rights and is simply another form of slavery. This is why the various drug laws are wrong. They permit a third party—the government—to determine choices for people. How can anyone own himself/herself if they cannot even determine what to ingest or smoke? How can there be liberty if people can be imprisoned for smoking or eating a plant? Other drugs, like alcohol and nicotine/tar in cigarettes, are far more dangerous than marijuana. If someone is found drunk on the street, he might spend a night in the drunk tank, be sent home, or be encouraged to join Alcoholics Anonymous. But an apprehended drug user or seller can be jailed, put on trial, and might receive a life sentence if convicted.

But what are the alternatives if self-ownership is considered unacceptable? If people do not own their bodies, then someone else does. Is it the butcher down the street, the mailman, or a neighbor? Or is it the government? The question becomes; if people do not have the right to own themselves, then where does the government get the right to own its citizens? Without self-ownership, citizens are in essence “slaves of the state.” Such a condition allows the government to do anything to their citizens—murder, rob, kidnap, etc. with impunity.

Some will argue that since citizens have a right to vote in a democratic nation, individual rights are somehow protected. But majorities often ignore the basic right of self-ownership and vote for hard-nosed politicians and laws that persecute and injure minorities (i.e. Jim Crow laws in the South). Whether one lives under dictators, kings, or democracies, individual rights must be supreme; otherwise, nobody has the right to control their own life, even political heavyweights whose power has waned.

In the case of drugs, the issue is not whether illegal drugs are good or bad; it is whether all individual adults can make the final decision for themselves. No matter what people consume—drugs, fatty food, refined sugar, vitamins, or arsenic—the individual is the only one who should determine the final choice. Moreover, whether or not the non-violent activity is legal or illegal, the individual will still make the ultimate decision. Right or wrong, a choice will eventually be made with or without the approval of legislative or dictatorial authorities. Other animals live in the harshness of necessity, but humans are destined to live in a world of choices.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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BIRD FEEDERS: Good Consequences for Bad Behavior–A Libertarian Perspective

The dynamic speaker Michael Cloud once told a story about refilling an outdoor bird feeder. Unaccustomed to this chore, he actually read the instructions and discovered that the manufacturer of birdseed understood the nature of animals better than most intelligent humans. The instructions said that the bird feeder should not be refilled immediately; to do so would make the birds dependent on the free handout, causing them to stop foraging for themselves. In other words, the birds would lose their ability to secure food on their own, thus destroying their independence and self-reliance skills. This is exactly what a protective government has done to humans.

All too often government attempts to break the link between cause and effect by taking away bad consequences from bad behavior. If people could give their throbbing hangover to another, they would drink all night. If people could not be injured from reckless driving, they would drive more dangerously. A protective government tries to cheat cause and effect by promoting “good consequences for bad behavior and bad consequences for good behavior.”  As Elbert Hubbard wrote, “We’re not punished for our sins, but by them.” This is simply common sense. “Wisdom and virtue reward us. Folly and vice punish us.”

When government takes over responsibility from its citizens, it rewards people for the wrong behavior and punishes others for the right behavior. It showers free food, housing, and money on the unproductive while taxing, regulating, and penalizing those who are productive. Government responsibility encourages reckless and thoughtless behavior, laziness, folly, and vice. As Michael Cloud wrote: “Go through life like a demolition derby. Government will pick up the pieces. Government will pick up the tab.”

Giving the government our responsibility makes people weak, passive, and dependent, like the birds waiting for free food. But the worst part is that it also makes us obedient to those who provide us with freebies. When government controls the food, they tell us when and what to eat. When government controls housing, they tell us what and where we can or cannot build. When government controls the money, they tell us what we can or cannot buy. 

Personal responsibility makes us self-reliant, thoughtful, productive, and free. By surrendering our responsibilities to government, we relinquish our individual rights to make choices and to determine for ourselves the life we wish to live.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.


Free-market environmentalism emphasizes the use of private property rights and economic incentives to encourage environmental protection. On the other hand, collectivistic environmentalism only serves to protect political interests. It is therefore not surprising to learn that the biggest polluter in the United States is the US government. In fact, many bureaucrats are immune from criminal prosecution and whole federal agencies are exempt from environmental laws, causing the Boston Globe to remark that the federal government “has a license to pollute.”

Our government has instigated policies that have endangered species, ruined grazing land, and fouled the environment. “Currently, the government has criminally leaked radioactive waste into drinking water, dumped sewage into national parks, poured PCBs into rivers, and contaminated at least 61,155 sites around the USA.”* Why? Because the government controls the natural resources of properties that have no single ownership. In other words, nobody is responsible for public property.

Under such a system, ranchers graze their cattle on public property with no incentive to protect or conserve the land since they do not own it. Logging companies have little reason to be good stewards of the publicly-owned forest. For them, the incentive is to cut down every possible tree, bulldoze more roads over pristine land and get out. It is not their land. In fact, by 1985 the U.S. Forest Service had built over 350,000 miles of logging roads on public land, paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.

As for endangered species, it was the American Bison Association who helped increase the number of bison from only 25 a century ago to over 100,000 today—with 90% of them living on private land. By 1985, when Kenya tried to stop elephant poaching, banning all hunting, the number of these animals dropped from 65,000 to 19,000. Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, where elephants could be legally owned, the numbers increased from 30,000 to 43,000. As economic professors, James E. McClure and T. Norman Van Cott wrote: “The fact is that no one effectively owns resources that ‘everyone owns.’ This explains why whales, for example, face extinction, while KFC serves up millions of chickens each week without people fretting over tomorrow’s Americans facing life without fried chicken.”**

Individuals take better care of their property and resources than a bureaucracy does. Private citizens conserve and protect what they own. Government has no such incentives.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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The Non-Aggression Principle–Treating Government like Mafia’s Grossly Retarded Big Brother

“The Libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the “nonaggression axiom.” “Aggression” is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. Aggression is therefore synonymous with invasion.”

Prof. Murray N. Rothbard, For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto

Besides the self-ownership and free choice axioms, the Non-Aggression Principle is the lynchpin of the philosophy known as libertarianism. As an ethical system for freedom, justice, and prosperity, the Non-Aggression Principle simply states that “no one shall initiate the use of force or the threat of force.” This means that violence should never be employed against peaceful individual(s), however, peaceful individual(s) have the option to use force in self-defense.

The Non-Aggression Principle, sometimes called the Zero Aggression Principle, is applied to all human behavior. As such, it prohibits murder, rape, battery, kidnapping, robbery, enslavement, torture, and fraud. Libertarians see all aggressors, including governments, as bullies. To the libertarian, if it is wrong for an individual to commit violent crimes against another, the same restriction must be applied to the conduct of governments. If the average man in the street is prohibited from murdering or stealing, why should government possess some special legal right to commit these crimes?

If someone takes your property without permission, it is theft, regardless of how the money is used or who committed the violent act. Nor does it matter how many people are involved in the violent act. Theft is theft no matter if it is perpetrated by one robber or one thousand thugs. The injured individual is still victimized no matter if it is inflicted by street gangs – the Bloods, the Crips, the Mafia – or by the Internal Revenue Service.

It is improper for governments in a free society to be the initiators of force and violence. The American founders explicitly set up a very limited government. They wanted to prevent government from imposing coercive dictates and controls over its citizens. They saw government as an impartial referee, to protect individual rights from bullies, criminals, and cheaters, not to be the major player.

The Non-Aggression Principle is perhaps one of the most important ethical ideologies to arrive in the latter half of the 20th Century. Time will tell whether governments will stop acting like dogs marking coveted new territories, and start behaving in a peaceful, civilized manner.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Norther Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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FREE CHOICE ON EVERYTHING: A Libertarian Alternative

Individual choice makes people free. Choices give alternatives and flexibility. We want to be able to pick and choose what we think is best for ourselves and our children. We want to make the final decision. We want every opportunity to live life by our own rules. We hate being told what to do. If we wanted a dull, choiceless life, we would simply live with our parents under their rules for the rest of our lives. But that is not what freedom is about. Freedom is independence and self-responsibility. It is about individuals making their own decisions about their own bodies, lives, and future. We want the ability to choose where to work, where to buy a home, what stores to patronize, and how to retire — all with an equal responsibility to make certain no one is physically harmed by our choices. This is our American heritage — decisions being made by the individual affected instead of by neighbors, pressure groups, lobbyists, or central authorities. To choose is to give everyone the ability to make decisions. Without choice, only a selected few have that ability.

Unfortunately, the concept of freedom has suffered recently. Many have forgotten what it means. All too often, centralizing authorities make choices for citizens and disguise their control by offering “free” services — medical, housing, food, etc. — to be funded by people who may or may not ever use these services. Governments then place more controls on those who receive the freebies, in a futile attempt to stop waste and fraud. Taxpayers are forced to pay more into the mandatory system, and the beneficiaries are saddled with more draconian laws. The individual is no longer independent to make choices but must seek permission from governmental bodies — bureaucratic committees, boards, councils, etc. — which mainly seek more control, money, and power.  Freedom dies, the economy falls, and society becomes corrupt.

Free choice allows people to be autonomous, self-governing, and self-reliant. It permits everyone to enjoy the successes of life or to experience the agony of mistakes. Freedom is the ability to mold our lives into our own creations and to seek out what we believe is best for ourselves and the world. Any other way would make us enslaved to the compulsory control of others, which is the antithesis of independence and individual liberty.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE DRUG WAR? — Asset Forfeiture Laws Undermine Liberty

Everything is wrong with the drug war. If it is impossible to keep illegal drugs out of the prison system, how can the government keep them out of a relatively free society? But there is a darker side to the Drug War–forfeiture laws. In order to seize their property, policing agencies are spending more time targeting wealthy citizens than chasing after violent criminals.

For instance, early in the morning of Oct. 22, 1992, sixty-one-year-old Donald Scott was awakened by an army of thirty-one people from eight law enforcement agencies. They broke into Scott’s home at his 200-acre Trail’s End Ranch in Malibu, California. His wife screamed that intruders were in the house and as Scott came out of the bedroom with a pistol in his hand, he was shot and killed. The agents searched the house and grounds but failed to locate any illegal drugs.

The district attorney from Ventura County, Michael Bradbury investigated the raid and issued a report stating that “a primary purpose of the raid was a land grab by the (Los Angeles County) Sheriff’s Department.” It was discovered that before the raid government officials were informed that the ranch was worth around $1.1 million dollars and that “80 acres sold for $800,000 in 1991 in the same area.” Bradbury declared that “This search warrant became Donald Scott’s death warrant. This guy should not be dead.” It was also discovered that a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy had lied to obtain a search warrant. The informant cited by the Sheriff’s Department denied ever accusing Scott of being involved in illicit drugs. (From James Bovard in Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty).

There are hundreds of forfeiture cases similar to Donald Scott’s tragedy that has occurred in the United States. Government officials are seizing people’s property based on rumors and gossip from anonymous informants. The drug war is losing. It is losing our long-held traditional rights to property, life, and basic freedom. America has entered a dangerous era of secret police forces and government agencies destroying decency, constitutional law and the rule of law. Is the Drug War worth our freedom? Is it worth losing everything for which past generations have fought and died? End the war on our liberties by ending the War on Drugs.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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A Libertarian Position on Gay Marriages

Of late, everyone seems to be excited about the issue of gay marriage. Some politicians want to ban it outright with a Constitutional Amendment. Others are freely issuing marriage licenses from City Hall. The issue is not whether someone supports gay marriage or not. It is more fundamental. The real issue is whether individuals have the right of free choice to create voluntary unions.

I take the libertarian position that people have the right to do anything they want providing they do not physically harm or commit fraud against another. If two people want to make a cohabitation contract in which they profess their undying love and commitment to each other, why should anyone interfere? The right of any two people to marry has nothing to do with whether one approves of the agreement. The content of a personal contract is outside the power of third parties. Why? Because we are simply not a party to it, as is the case with any contractual law.

Lifestyles should be left up to each individual. We cannot legislate limitations on the peaceful behavior of others. Under liberty, there is no requirement for me or my neighbor to approve of someone else’s lifestyles. That is what freedom is all about. You might disagree with what someone says or does, but the person still has every right to advocate it—free speech.

Gays argue that marriage by the government gives special privileges to heterosexual couples. Unfortunately, this is true. The government should not be involved in what is essentially a religious ceremony. But since it is involved, it must still treat all applicants equally.

Gays must be given the right to marriage because of the equal protection clause of the Constitution – which states that nobody can be discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. A free society must be neutral on how people conduct their personal lives. Morality can be preached in churches, but not legislated in Congress.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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There’s an environmental villain loose in America.

This criminal has leaked radioactive waste into drinking water, dumped sewage into national parks, poured PCBs into rivers, and contaminated at least 61,155 sites around the USA.

Who is this environmental villain? Is it Exxon? DuPont? General Motors? No. It’s the federal government. According to the Boston Globe, the federal government has become “the worst polluter in the land.”

Experts say the cost of cleaning up the damage done by federal agencies and the military could exceed $300 billion. That’s five times the cost of environmental harm done by all private businesses combined. Even more chilling, many federal agencies are exempt from environmental laws, individual bureaucrats are immune from criminal prosecution, and Congress even passed a law that protects the military from having to pay environmental fines. As a result, the Boston Globe noted, the federal government “has a license to pollute.”

If you’ve never heard about these violations, you’re not alone. Environmental activists like to criticize private companies while pretending that only government can “save” us from polluters.

Libertarians know better. We want our families to be able to drink clean water and breathe clean air. And we know that trusting the environmental scofflaws in the federal government to make that happen is like trusting a fox to guard the henhouse.

Here’s what Libertarians will do to promote a cleaner, healthier environment:
Make government officials personally liable for the environmental damage they do. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye as the government poisons America’s lakes, lands, and skies. Government officials should pay a price if they endanger our health with radiation, chemicals, and other toxins.

Repeal taxes and regulations that discourage free-market environmentalism. Already, individuals and community groups have made enormous progress in protecting endangered species. For example, the American Bison Association helped increase the number of bison from only 25 a century ago to over 100,000 today—with 90% of them living on private land. By reducing taxes and regulations, America can encourage more entrepreneurial environmentalism.

Make polluters pay for their crimes. When corporations act irresponsibly— by dumping poisons on others’ property or by risking people’s health with toxins—they should face strict civil liability. This is already the case in some other countries, where common-law statutes protect not just private property, but also rivers and streams. In the United Kingdom, the English Anglers Cooperative Association defends fishing rights by suing upstream polluters who damage fish stocks. It’s a more efficient solution than “one size fits all” government regulations.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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Is Taxation Theft? Don’t Rob: It’s a Crime to Compete with Government!

 If a masked man suddenly pressed cold iron to your belly, demanding money, you would likely call the person a thief. If two men perform the same violent ritual, they would also be called thieves. And if a street gang terrorized and robbed citizens at large, they would undoubtedly be called a gang of thieves. But what if such aggressive acts were placed on a larger scale—not hundreds, nor thousands, but millions of thieves? Would it make a difference? Of course not.

Yet, if the word majority were used, many would consider the robbery acceptable. But is it? Should the number of thieves make a crime less a crime? Most Germans enthusiastically supported Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. The vast majority of white Southerners gladly supported “Jim Crow” laws that oppressed American Blacks. All too often the majority tramples on the rights of minorities, forcing them to subservient positions, outright oppression, jail sentences, or death without recourse or consent.

Rule by the majority is only justifiable if individuals within the system have the right to opt-out when disillusioned or disinterested. Most civil and social organizations operate on majority rule, but members may resign at their convenience. We should expect no less from a nation built on freedom, free association, and personal liberty?

And what about the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which prohibits “involuntary servitude?” How can the government forcibly take away a person’s income without making him/her a slave? Just as the income of slaves was stolen by slave-owners, so does the government confiscate income from taxpayers. This process is completely involuntary, illegal, and constitutes enslavement.

Although the Internal Revenue Service claims that compliance is voluntary, everyone knows what will occur if the taxman is not paid. The taxpayer will be threatened and liens will be placed on his property. If the taxpayer still resists, he may go to jail.

Taxation without individual consent is aggression. It is analogous to rape. In sexual relations, there must be consent or it is rape. Human rights are tied to consensual agreements between individuals and the ruling apparatus. Freedom is nothing if individuals have no right to disagree and disengage.

Taxation is theft because it is fundamentally no different from the actions of a common crook robbing a citizen in a dark alley. Nobody should be above the law; not even the government.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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When the Berkeley Food and Housing Project in California had to shut down their “Quarter Meal” program for the poor in 2004, they could hardly believe what had happened. For over 30 years this non-profit food co-op had served dinners to the homeless. They had far-reaching community support, individual donations were up 24 percent from the prior year and they had not lost any government or foundation funding. Still, they had to close their doors. Why?

The city of Berkeley had instituted a new ordinance that required all agencies that received city funding to pay a “living wage.” In an ironic twist, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project was one of the prime backers of the ordinance, advocating that all workers should get higher wages.

In an example of the “boomerang effect,” the mandated wage hike was too much for the food co-op to survive. After raising wages, worker’s compensation premiums, and employee medical benefits, the charitable group discovered over $110,000 unforeseen expenses. What seemed even crazier was that after they had closed down the free meals to the homeless, they still support the ordinance.

This is just another example of when doing good is bad. The city fathers thought that higher wages would help the charity workers. Instead, the workers had to be laid off while the homeless lost another community-based anti-poverty program. The real problem here is the fact that government welfare programs attempt to instill good ends, by employing unsavory means. In other words, government agencies help the unfortunate by hurting the fortunate.

Obviously, it is a good deed to help an orphanage, hospital, or food bank.  What could possibly be considered bad about helping noble institutions? Nothing, if it is voluntary. Good becomes bad when people are physically forced to provide charity at the point of a gun instead of from the warmth of the heart. Many people assume that if the ends are good and noble, the means do not matter; murder or robbery is permissible if the end result is good. But do the “ends” really justify the “means?”

This is exactly what Machiavelli advocated in The Prince. He believed that government can and should force citizens to do anything, providing that the overall result would be a better society. To take this to its logical conclusion, this way of thinking would permit armed men to force people to work in orphanages, hospitals and food banks or anything government deemed good.

Fortunately, most citizens want to reserve the right to give personal consent. They want to determine what they do with their time and their lives. Anything else would seem unjust. But what about the unfortunate and needy? Why cannot society forcibly take money from its citizens or kidnap people or even murder them, in the name of the unfortunate? Why cannot we hurt others for the good of all? The problem here is that someone’s good deed is another’s bad misdeed. Is this possible? Could anyone justify cold-blooded murder as a good deed? Many serial killers believe that they have helped society in some fashion as “missionary” killers who clean up the dregs of society. And what about the National Socialist’s official policy to gas and incinerate seven million Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others? Most would agree that this was a bad act, but Hitler and his administration considered it a good government policy.

Unfortunately, governments contend in an egocentric way that they are right and everyone else is wrong, and therefore everyone must participate. In truth, a particular governmental program may indeed be important, even helpful. But the good end achieved is not the point. Forcing others to do your bidding is bad. Nobody’s pet project is more important than another person’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

The free meals program in Berkeley would still be in operation if the government had not gotten involved. Unfortunately, the city fathers apparently could not tell good from bad, bringing to mind the old adage, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Article by L.K. Samuels (The Libertarian Perspective #28 Nov 29, 2005)

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Anyone can oppose a particular tax as being unneeded, wasteful, or too expensive. But what if government buildings, schools, and roads are in poor shape? What if there appears to be a real need for higher taxes? Consider the following syllogism developed by Professor Robert Nozick* of Harvard University.

PREMISE A: I own myself.

If you don’t own yourself, then who does own you? Is it the mailman, the next-door neighbor, some foreign corporation, doctors, politicians? Who? The abolitionists asked this question before the Civil War when slavery was quite acceptable to the general public.

PREMISE B: What I produce is part of me.

This premise is less generally accepted than the first. But if people own themselves (the right to life), then they must own what they legally produce (providing they do not initiate physical force or fraud). How can it be any other way? If you cannot dispense your income freely, then you are enslaved to another. As Nozick argued: it is wrong to foist benefits on one person and then command someone else to pay. “What if I mowed your lawn and then demanded you to pay me?”** This is exactly what government does through forced taxation.

CONCLUSION C: Therefore I own what I produce.

If someone else had a claim to a person’s income, the person would not truly own himself. Since each individual must give personal consent, a majority vote has no effect on the morality of forced taxation. Rape does not magically become okay when ten men do it. One hundred robbers have no more right to break into your home than one. Can a 51% majority who happen to be Christian force the 49% who are Muslim to pay for a new church? Of course not! So why should they have the authority to make you pay for something you did not personally authorize? Yet most people have accepted the bizarre concept that Peter has a right to make Paul fund government programs mandated by Peter.

TAXES SHOULD BE VOLUNTARY: Those who favor government programs should be the ones to pay for them. In this way, the self-ownership premise is not violated, nor the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which “prohibits involuntary servitude.”

If a product or service is worthwhile, people will support it. After the American Revolutionary War many churchmen and politicians warned that if the U.S. government did not fund churches and clergymen (as some colonies did during the colonial period), there would be few churches. But it did not turn out that way! Those who do not participate, have no responsibility to fund such a system. Would it be fair for everyone to be billed for Disneyland’s upkeep, even those who never attend? To be equitable, only those who use it should pay the cost, through user fees.

TIME-LIFE EQUATION: Since time equals money and since humans are mortal, to confiscate money from an individual is to take a portion of his or her life. In a way, those who steal are physically injuring the victim. They are taking a piece of limited life away from the victim. Taxation is simply a form of coerced redistribution of other people’s lives.

*The concepts of self-ownership and individual consent date back to John Locke (1632-1704) who is considered the main influence behind the American Revolution and the father of liberalism. Thomas Jefferson used Locke’s concept of “life, liberty, and property” for the Declaration of Independence. And it was also President Thomas Jefferson who repealed all direct federal taxes on individuals. This policy lasted until the Civil War.

**Quote from Prof. Moore

Another good quote from Prof. Moore “No one is anyone else’s master, and no one is anyone else’s slave.”

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

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By Martin Masse (QL, October 28, 2000, Canada)

            What do libertarians believe in? In a few words, they believe that individual freedom is the fundamental value that must underlie all social relations, economic exchanges and the political system. They believe that voluntary co-operation between individuals in a free market is always preferable to coercion exerted by the state. They believe that the role of the state is not to pursue goals in the name of the community. The state is not there to redistribute wealth, “promote” culture, “support” the agricultural sector, or “help” small firms, but should limit itself to the protection of individual rights and let citizens pursue their own goals in a peaceful way. 

          Essentially libertarians preach freedom in all fields, including the right to do what one wants with one’s own body insofar as one does not infringe on the property and equal freedom of others. Accordingly, they believe that people who want to take drugs, watch pornography, prostitute themselves or pay for the services of a prostitute, or engage in whatever kind of consensual sexual activity, should be able to do so without being importuned by the law and harassed by the police.  

          However, as libertarians – that is, notwithstanding their own personal preferences – they no more advocate a libertine way of life than any other, and one should not confuse the two words. What they say is that each and every person must be able to choose their own beliefs and the way of life that is appropriate to them, be it asceticism or libertinage, religious moralism or moral relativism. Libertarians will defend the right of the libertine to live in debauchery as well as that of religious fundamentalist parents to educate their children in accordance with their own very strict beliefs.  

          Libertarians support the formal equality of each and all before the law, but they worry little about the inequalities between rich and poor, inequalities which are inevitable and can be reduced only by encroaching on personal freedom and by reducing overall prosperity. For them, the best way to fight poverty is to guarantee a system of free enterprise and free trade and to let private charity initiatives, which are more effective and better justified morally than state programs of wealth transfer, come to the rescue of those in need.  

          Libertarians believe that the only way to ensure the maintenance of personal freedom is to guarantee the inviolability of private property and to limit as much as possible the size of the government and the scope of its interventions. They do not trust the state – whose managers claim to act in the name of abstract collective interests – when it comes to protecting individual liberty. According to collectivist ideologies, a viable social and economic order can only be imposed and maintained by the state. On the contrary, libertarian scholars have shown that it is the decentralized actions of individuals who pursue their own ends in a free market which makes it possible to create and maintain this spontaneous order, to bring prosperity, and to support the complex civilization in which we live.  

          Thus libertarians reject the main political development of the 20th century, that is, the sustained growth in the size of the state and the range of its interventions in the private lives of citizens. To take one striking example, in 1926, public expenditures as a percentage of Canada’s gross national product amounted to only 15%; today, that figure is around 46%.  

Libertarians vs. conservatives  

          Within the North American political framework of the period after Word War II, libertarians have allied themselves with conservatives in their fight against communism and socialism. This is why many people tend to confuse both philosophies and to put them on the right-hand side of the political spectrum, following the confused model of right vs. left which is still widely used to categorize political ideologies. But libertarians are opposed to conservatives on several points, in particular on social issues where conservatives often try to impose their traditional values on all by using the coercive power of the state, for example, when they support making drugs and prostitution illegal or when they advocate official discrimination against homosexuals. On issues related to defense and foreign relations, conservatives are inclined to support militarism and imperialist interventions abroad, while libertarians advocate, when possible, isolationism and non-involvement in foreign conflicts.  

          In fact, conservatives value authority in itself and do not oppose state power in principle, doing so only when its aims are not the same as theirs. On the contrary, libertarians reject any form of government intervention. Many of them think they do not qualify as right-wingers and that the right/left spectrum should be replaced by another one which would place the statists and authoritarians of left and right on one side and the supporters of personal freedom of the other.  

          Libertarians are thus opposed to collectivist ideologies of all types, be they of the left or of the right, which stress the primacy of the group: nation, social class, sexual or ethnic group, religious or language community, etc. They oppose all whose purpose it is to regiment individuals in the pursuit of collective goals. They do not deny the relevance of these collective identities, but claim that it is up to the individuals themselves to determine which groups they wish to belong and contribute to. It is not for the state, or for institutions that derive their power from the state, to impose their own objectives in a bureaucratic and coercive manner. 

          In the ongoing debate over Quebec’s “national question” for example, most libertarians reject the independence project because its primary aim is to impose a Quebec state which will be stronger, more interventionist and more repressive towards those who do not fit in the nationalist definition of Quebecois identity. This being said, libertarians are not enthusiastic federalist patriots either and they reject Canadian nationalism and protectionism in the same way, as well as the interventionism and administrative tyranny of the federal government. They do not see why they should choose between two states that infringe on our freedom more or less equally. Rather, they would want to see both federal and provincial governments reduced in size as much as possible.   

An heir to classical liberalism  

          Although it remains relatively little known and little understood today because of the near total submission of Western intellectual life to collectivist thinking throughout the 20th century, libertarian philosophy is not a weird marginal philosophy, only propagated by a small group of utopians disconnected from reality. On the contrary, it is heir to the most important Western political and economic school of the last centuries, classical liberalism, a philosophy elaborated by thinkers such as John Locke and Adam Smith. Beginning in the 17th century, it is the liberals who fought for a widening of political, economic and social freedoms, against the power of the monarchs and the privileges of the aristocrats. Liberal principles are at the root of the American Constitution, and one can say that the United States as well as Great Britain and Canada were largely governed in a liberal way throughout the 19th century and up to the beginning of the 20th.  

 Libertarian scholars have shown that it is the decentralized actions of individuals who pursue their own ends in a free market which makes it possible to create and maintain this spontaneous order, to bring prosperity, and to support the complex civilization in which we live.

          Then, why not use the word liberal instead of libertarian? Because this term, precisely since the end of the 19th century, took on new meanings which are not at all compatible with the defense of individual freedom. In Great Britain, in Canada and in Quebec, supposedly liberal parties are in fact only a little more moderate than avowed socialists in their inclination to use state power and in their lack of respect for individual rights.  

          Worse still, in the United States, a liberal is a left-winger who advocates wealth redistribution and supports a big government that interferes everywhere in people’s lives. A government that tries to solve all real and imaginary problems by taxing and spending, and creates bureaucratic programs for each good cause. In short, today’s liberalism aims at creating a tyrannical state that does not hesitate to trample on individual freedom in the name of an unattainable collectivist Utopia. This type of liberalism has nothing to do with classical liberalism.  

          Today’s libertarians are inspired by former periods of liberal progress but, after one century during which collectivist and totalitarian ideologies have dominated, they realize that classical liberalism was not strong or principled enough to stem the rising tide of statism. They are more coherent or, some may say, radical, than traditional liberals in their defense of personal freedom and the market economy and in their opposition to state power.  

A pluralistic movement  

          Like all philosophical movements, libertarianism is varied, containing several schools and sub-groups, and one will find no unanimity about its theoretical justifications, its goals or the strategy that it should adopt to reach them. In North America, a majority of those who call themselves libertarians would like to see the state brought back to a few essential functions: in particular defense, foreign relations, justice, the protection of private property and individual rights, and some other minor responsibilities. All remaining functions should be privatized. In the context of a very decentralized federal state, libertarians accept however that local authorities (constituent States, provinces, regions or municipalities) can intervene in other fields and offer various types of social and economic arrangements, insofar as dissatisfied citizens can easily move to other jurisdictions.  

          Some libertarians of the “anarcho-capitalist” school advocate the complete disappearance of the state and the privatization of even the basic functions mentioned above. This goal may appear extreme or ridiculous at first sight, but it is based on a theoretically plausible argument. It is for example easy to imagine that one could replace provincial, State or municipal police forces (with the corruption, abuses of power, the incompetence and favoritism which usually characterize them, all done often with impunity) with private security agencies. These would make profits only insofar as they really protect citizens and fight real criminals. Anarcho-capitalists use the same type of arguments to support the privatization of the army and the courts, which would leave nothing for a state to do. Private firms would then provide all the services that individuals might need in a pure free market.  

           In a context where public spending now accounts for almost half of all that is produced, where governments continue to adopt law after law so as to increase their control over our lives, a more realistic libertarian goal is simply to reverse this trend and fight for any practical advancement of freedom and any concrete reduction in state tyranny. 

          Libertarians are the only ones willing to enter this fight without compromising their beliefs. The fact is that the current ideological debate remains dominated by statists, despite the superficial political controversies that attract media attention.  

          On one side, socialists and leftist supporters of unlimited growth in the size of government make up a strong majority among lobbies feeding at the public trough, in universities and in the media. Most of what passes for journalism or academic research shows a complete lack of understanding of the basic rules of a market economy. In the “center”, those who claim to be “realistic” admit that the state cannot continue to increase the tax burden and grow indefinitely, but they simply preach a slowing down of this growth. The business establishment for its part would be satisfied with some minor cuts here and there and few of its members question the corporatist structure of the state. As for those on the Right who are described as radical “neo-conservatives”, their stated aim is to bring us back to where we were 20 or 30 years ago when the ratio of state expenditures to GDP was 5 or 10 percentage points smaller. A step that would be in the right direction, but one that is hardly sufficient.  

          Also, one has to admit that the so-called “conservative revolutions” of the past 20 years in Britain, Canada and the United States have not really produced major change, although some useful economic reforms and tax cuts were implemented. Few programs and laws were abolished and the state still occupies a dominant place in economic and social life. It is even to be feared that bureaucratic programs will start growing again now that budget deficits have been eliminated and that governments have surplus revenues to spend.  

          Libertarians are the only ones who demand and work for radical change, a drastic reduction of the size and role of the state, they are the only ones who value individual freedom above all else. More and more people realize that libertarianism constitutes the only alternative. The libertarian movement hardly existed in the 1960’s and really took off in the United States in the early 1970’s. The U.S. Libertarian Party, founded in 1971, is now third in importance after the Republicans and the Democrats. Whereas collectivist philosophies and Keynesian economics used to dominate academic life, recently there has been a revival of interest in classical liberalism and free market economics in the universities. Finally, today, libertarian philosophy can be found everywhere on the Internet and its influence is growing in every continent.  

          Thus we can hope realistically that a century after the eclipse of classical liberalism, its libertarian offspring will once again become an influential philosophical doctrine and movement in the 21st century.

(Martin Masse is the director of the libertarian cyberzine Le Quebecois Libre, which is based in Quebec, Canada)