Libertarianism = Nonagression
- As libertarianism has acquired a higher profile in American life over the past several years, the attacks on and caricatures of libertarians have grown almost as rapidly. Libertarians, we read, are antisocial, and prefer isolation over interaction with others. They are greedy, and are unmoved if the poor should starve. They are naive about our dangerous enemies, and refuse their patriotic duty to support the government’s wars.
These caricatures and misconceptions can be put to rest by simply defining what libertarianism is. The libertarian idea is based on a fundamental moral principle: nonaggression. No one may initiate physical force against anyone else.
There is nothing antisocial about that. To the contrary, it is the denial of this principle that is antisocial, for it is peaceful interaction that lies at the heart of civilized society.
At first glance, hardly anyone can object to the nonaggression principle. Few people openly support acts of aggression against peaceful parties. But libertarians apply this principle across the board, to all actors, public and private. Our view goes well beyond merely suggesting that the State may not engage in gross violations of the moral law. We contend that the State may not perform any action that would be forbidden to an individual. Moral norms either exist or they do not.