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I am a new member on this forum. I know you all are mostly left-wing, but I would like to discuss the validity of libertarian politics. I am 29 years old and I've been involved in politics and philosophy for a decade now. I have come to the conclusion that libertarian anti-State political theory is the only morally defensible position on social organization. I want to put forward a few basic concepts for you all to either accept or reject.
In the first place after studying philosophy and ethics for a few years, I have a great deal of difficulty in accepting any theory of ethics that is not universal. To elaborate, if we are studying which types of human interactions are morally justified and which are grossly immoral, then any interaction between human beings must be judged based on a logical and consistent ethical standard. If we decide that murder is an immoral act, then it must be judged to be immoral regardless of which human beings commit the act. Ceteris paribus (Latin for "all things being equal"), it should not matter at all if the murderer is poor or wealthy, white or black, religious or not religious, gay or straight. If we determine that an action is immoral, then it must be viewed as immoral consistently by society.
While philosophers might argue over exactly what actions are moral or immoral, what is being sought is a universal standard by which to judge human behavior. Therefore right off the bat we can see that any proposed moral standard that is inconsistent or not universal is fallacious and fraudulent.
Libertarianism holds that the act of aggression is immoral. What this means is that the initiation of force, a boundary crossing or invasion of the person or property of another without his or her permission is an immoral act and civilized society should prohibit such acts of aggression. The fact that all civilized people already accept and inherently acknowledge the wrongness of using violence against others provides more than enough evidence that aggression is indeed an immoral act. The primary issue therefore is that nearly all people make certain exceptions for this ethical rule such that certain privileged people are permitted to act in ways that "normal" people cannot. In fact, actions that would be universally condemned and seen as grossly offensive to our sensibilities if committed by a private citizen are routinely tolerated and endless excuses are provided to justify the act.
Of course I am referring to actions taken by a central authority, otherwise known as the State. How can it be that an ethical principle for human behavior can be logically defended when it is not universal?
Libertarians hold that human beings own themselves, they own their physical bodies and responsibility for their actions. Physical aggression against the body of another is rightly viewed as immoral by nearly every person on the planet. However, this standard of non-aggression extends to things that come to be owned external to the physical body.
The only way to determine what is aggression and what is not aggression is to have a coherent theory of property rights. It might be plainly clear that acts of violence against the physical body of another are aggression, but acts that involve external objects require a theory of property rights.
Why do property rights even exist? Property rights are how human beings evolved to deal with the reality of scarcity. If all desired things existed in super-abundance then no property rights would be needed. As long as breathable air remains in super-abundance we don't need any property rights assigned since my breathing of the air does not adversely affect your ability to breath air. However since most things exist in scarcity and there are not enough goods to satisfy all human desires, conflict is inevitable. Conflict arises from the fact that more than one person want to use or control the same scarce resource. Since this is the reality of living with scarcity, humans evolved into assigning property rights where each person was clear who had authority over the use of which scarce resource. Private property rights minimizes conflict since everyone is made clearly aware of what is owned by who.
Private property rights are required for a functional market economy and division of labor and the resulting expansion of wealth and human prosperity. Without private property rights, each will be scrambling to use all the desired scarce resources, no savings are accumulated and there is no security and no production.
Libertarians believe that just private property rights can arise in one of two ways. The first and original way is through homesteading or first appropriation. This means that you mix your labor with previously unowned land. If you own your own body and you mix your labor with land, you transform it in some way and the land becomes essentially an extension of your self ownership. The same is true if you manufacture a product, you build a table or sculpt a sculpture. Now once all desired land is homesteaded, then peaceful and voluntary trade can occur. If you trade a homesteaded or legitimately acquired or produced scarce resource with someone else you are transferring the property title and the new user of the scarce resource now has ownership rights to it. He or she will retain those rights until they sell or give it away at a future date or abandon it.
Since libertarians see aggression as illegitimate and immoral, and self ownership and private property as logically irrefutable, we must oppose acts of aggression in all their forms. In essence, voluntarism, trade and cooperation are the means employed by civilized people, while theft, violence and intimidation are used by savages.
I have yet to find a philosophic argument put forward that ethics can or should apply only to some. If we stop making exceptions to the moral principles nearly all of us hold in our daily lives, and apply the same scrutiny and standard to agents of the State (police, politicians, the military, bureaucrats, crony capitalists, Federal Reserve bankers, etc) then the moral foundation for and legitimacy of such a predatory institution crumbles.
This is my first defense of libertarian principles. I don't want to hear objections about how this or that institution or State function might work in a libertarian society or any such utilitarian concerns as of yet. I first want to hear you critique the principle of self ownership. I want to hear a reason why ethical rules can or should be non-universal. I want to hear you explain why you are content to espouse barbarism and violent exploitation, instead of the consistent and principled defense of non-aggression as the libertarians do.