Posts Tagged ‘Literature and Philosophy of Freedom’

I Wonder If I Am A Libertarian # 3

June 2, 2013

I Wonder If I Am A Libertarian # 3

Key Concepts of Libertarianism


David Boaz

January 1, 1999

The key concepts of libertarianism have developed over many centuries. The first inklings of them can be found in ancient China, Greece, and Israel; they began to be developed into something resembling modern libertarian philosophy in the work of such seventeenth and eighteenth-century thinkers as John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine.

What follows is first a quote by the author and then an analysis of the components of that quote, by me.


Individual Rights. Because individuals are moral agents, they have a right to be secure in their life, liberty, and property. These rights are not granted by government or by society; they are inherent in the nature of human beings. It is intuitively right that individuals enjoy the security of such rights; the burden of explanation should lie with those who would take rights away.

End of quote.


This statement of human rights is steeped in the literature and philosophy of freedom, ethics, morality, and natural law. The debates involved are likely as old as the languages used to convey them.

The central and dominant fact that I take away from these debatable assertions is that among all of the sociocultures competing for hegemony in the world, the ones that adopted these views (with energy rich geographies) have experienced meteoric success. Those world sociocultures that have not, have not.

From an empirical perspective, the cultures that embraced these socio/political philosophies have temporarily won in competition against all comers. To me, this means that there must be features of this philosophy that naturally organize and motivate human behavior to superior levels of effectiveness.

For me, this truth comes as close to self-evident as is possible.

It should logically follow that sociocultures so designed naturally organize and bring-to-bear upon their citizens recently identified (20th Century) scientific psychological principles that can powerfully shape human behavior patterns in desirable directions. This amazing social phenomenon would appear to function in ways similar to Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand that amazingly, naturally and reliably guide free markets to comparatively superior economic outcomes.

Unfortunately, as these astonishingly successful (primarily) Western Cultures have grown in size and complexity, they have evolved away from the conditions produced by the guiding ethos described above. As a result centralized governmental growth, centralized cultural planning, and centralized governmental control of civil and economic life has increased dramatically. With these “progressive”/socialized evolutions has  universally come sociocultural decline.

The lesson that the Libertarians are trying to teach, from a platform of great historical success, is that sociocultural designs that strongly limit governmental central planning and coercion, that embrace private property ownership and the free market, and that guard individual rights of action and uncoerced social affiliation are most effective in strengthening the creative and constructive powers of individuals and spontaneous organizations of citizens.

As always, the outcomes have and will be mixed, nothing is perfect and nothing lasts forever.

However, historically based predictions support that the Libertarian model of socioculture design will produce an achievement trajectory of comparative superiority of quality and quantity of life and population productivity.

If such a socioculture can guard its practices against progressive/socialist transformations, it is in a position to live long and well.

I am, thus far, unable to argue with the historically revealed superior outcomes of sociocultures displaying strong similarities to many design components advocated by modern Libertarianism.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 6/2/13

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