Free Is Beautiful
- Simply put, England explains, libertarianism is about the non-aggression principle, which “prohibits the initiation of physical force (or the threat of force) against people or property. The use of force is only legitimate in defense of life or property.” This idea applies to both individuals and governments. That means that if something is wrong for an individual to do – robbery or murder as an example – then that is also wrong if a government does it. England points out that every “government relies on the kind of aggression that would be criminal if used by an individual – that is, the initiation of violence.” Sadly, in present times, we have become accustomed to government using aggressive force or the threat of force to achieve its goals. Libertarians, England states, reject “violence as a solution” and “embrace the goal of eliminating all authority that relies upon the initiation of force to accomplish its ends.”
The supporters of state action on the Left and the Right would be quick to label such rhetoric as the ranting of an anarchist, which, in practice, would produce a lawless society. England addresses such criticism by arguing that order can be accomplished through voluntary, nonviolent means. England reminds readers that authority does not need to come only from an “aggressive government. There are other ways to secure agreement so that orders may be given and obedience expected. Authority based on reciprocity and trust is more powerful than that based on physical coercion.” One idea proposed later in the book is cooperative contractual agreements, which are based on private property rights. These cooperatives, many of which exist today, can take the place of the role presently handled by coercive governments.
As England explains, a society that is based on voluntary association will not make a “perfect world, but real virtue makes a better world than compelled virtue…. Liberty frees us to live – if we choose – a virtuous life in this world, and a life capable of sharing in the divine life in the next.” England echoes that last point throughout the book. “Only free men can become good men. True virtue requires liberty.” This might be met with grumbling from the conservative wing of Christians who view moral evils as an area for state action, but the author reminds the reader that we should have learned from similar approaches in the past, such as the failure of alcohol prohibition, which have shown us that criminalizing vices do not rid us of social problems and, in the majority of cases, end up making the problems far worse.