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The Argument for Freedom

Why I am Not a Libertarian

by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.


Modified 10/17/2012

Modified 10/28/2012


After considerable conversations with Libertarians, both online and in person, I have to come to the conclusion that Libertarians are completely amoral, and offer no rational grounds for freedom whatsoever. The closest thing they have to a moral precept is that one ought not to initiate force against others. However, this gives absolutely no moral guidance for living one’s own life. All it says is not to harm others with force, but it does not say what actions are good for oneself or what actions are harmful to oneself; and this basis, man’s life as the standard, is the root of the Objectivist code of values or the Objectivist Ethic; which, in turn, becomes the basis for a rational politics (ethics applied in a social context).

The justification for freedom comes from the fact that man has a rational mind (potentially and by free will) and that his rational mind is his means of survival. Because rationality is his means of survival, he needs to be free to use his own mind to live his own life. Because the only way to prevent a man from thinking is to use force against him, this requirement of man's nature requires that others do not use force against him -- i.e. that he must be free from the initiation of force when in a human society. In other words, it is right for a man to do those things which are beneficial to him (to be ethical or moral), and any man forcing him to do otherwise cuts this beneficiary thinking from action, divorcing his rational mind from reality, which is a death sentence. The initiation of force is among the most immoral things one man can do to another, but it is not the job of the government to impose a morality onto its people – to force one to be rational. Instead, the role of government is to set up a social context or circumstance such that each man is free to live by the guidance of his own mind and to take those actions he thinks are beneficial to him, which means that the initiation of force must be banned by law if a man is to live his own life in freedom in a human society – the freedom to act according to his own mind in the most rational manner possible. *

By using his rational mind, a man can properly decide what is good for him and what is bad for him, and pursue those things which are good for him while avoiding those things which are bad for him. As an example, by man’s life as the standard of morality, it is good that a man can manufacture an automobile or a computer or an airplane, and sell these to others, so that he may prosper in a human society. On the other hand, it is better to avoid such things as physical or mental illnesses or to find cures for them so that one may lead a better life by the proper standard. In a non-free society, an individual man is not free to create goods and services for his own existence and to sustain his own life and he is also not free to avoid those things which are bad for him, which is why such societies are deemed not to be moral or not to be proper societies. It is only in a human society based upon the freedom to act according to the best judgment of one’s own mind that an individual man can create the goods and products that are beneficial to man qua individual. Of course, this includes such things as text books and movies and other means of presenting rationality and rational entertainment. One does not find these things in a slave society whereby no man is free to pursue his own life and happiness; and it was only with the concept of individual rights that such products and services came about.

Without that intellectual basis presented above, there are no grounds for freedom – not if one is going to use reason and reality as a standard. And the Libertarians do not offer an alternative. All they say is that man ought to be free from the initiation of force with no grounding and taken completely out of context of the above argument. This is a primary reason why political candidates for Libertarianism do not given *any* intellectual basis for their argument for freedom. All they do is appeal to emotions that everyone wants or desires to be free.

But a wish, a feeling, or a desire, in and of itself, is no grounds for anything. Emotions are not tools of cognition and they will not guide you as to what is good for you and what is bad for you (the basis of the Objectivist ethics). By throwing out the moral foundation for individual rights, that man's life is the standard of morality, the Libertarians throw out any means of convincing anyone that they ought to support freedom. And this is the primary reason why Libertarianism, as a political movement, has very little support in this country.

If you chose to fight for freedom, then come to understand the full argument for freedom -- and don't try to take the short-cut of offering the conclusion without any supporting evidence or arguments or foundations, because it ain't going to work.


For the full argument, see Man’s Rights by Ayn Rand.


* [Added 11/18/2012]

The distinction I am making here with the non-initiation of force argument is that between the immoral versus the illegal. Under capitalism and freedom, one would be free to live one's own life by the standards chosen by oneself -- to follow a morality of your own choosing and to pursue those things which you think or believe to be the right things to pursue. However, to have consistency in the principle of freedom, one would not be free to impose one's morality onto others. That is, as Thomas Jefferson put it, one would be free to live one's own life within the limits of the equal rights of others.

So, under a full capitalism system (which is much more than mere economics), one would be free to be Christian or Muslim, for example, but one would not be free to impose such doctrines onto others with force. It's just that the argument for freedom must be based upon a rational understanding of man and his factual nature and the societal requirements of man's survival qua individual. So, you might believe that those not agreeing with or not following Christianity or Islam ought to be put to death -- as it states in both The Bible and the Koran -- but you would have no legal authority to act on such premises because if you want to be free to live your life as you believe it ought to be lived, then to be consistent you must leave others to exercise their freedom of consciousness as well.

Some might argue that these moralities permit the killing of infidels or non-believers, and that therefore killing them is justified; but this argument fails on two accounts: 1) if the initiation of force argument is accepted, then anyone disagreeing with the tenets can likewise use force to impose their moral standards, and the Christians can kill the Muslims and vice versa, which will not lead to a rational or peaceful society, as history has demonstrated time and time again; 2) if the initiation of force argument is rejected, then those rejecting that premise can use counter-force in retaliation and in self-defense. So, either way, the initiation of force parameters are shot down, whether one agrees with it or disagrees with it.

The bottom line is that the initiation of force would be illegal throughout society; though it would not be illegal to follow a non-rational philosophy (within those limits), if one chose to do so.



Also see:

Governments and Individual Rights

On Civil Society

Articulating Freedom


Added 10/23/2012:

Dr. Leonard Peikoff, heir to Ayn Rand, and Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute, give a great summation of why libertarians are not only amoral, as I indicate above, but how the libertarians are aphilosophical -- they have no philosophy. Without a philosophy, there is no politics and no guidance for man on any meaningful level.

A Discussion on Libertarianism.