Saturday, 14 February 2009

What is liberty?

I've been calling myself a libertarian since the early 1980s, but you may not know what that means. Of course you can read about it elsewhere, but here's my personal take on it in case you're interested.

It means, of course, that I'm in favour of liberty; but what is liberty? To me, liberty is what you have when no-one else is using force on you. So I'm in favour of a society in which people don't use force on each other. This is a theoretical ideal: I recognize that such a perfect society doesn't exist and isn't going to exist.

From a moral point of view, I believe it's wrong to use force on inoffensive people (people who don't use force themselves). However, I'm not a pacifist: if someone goes around murdering people, he's an offensive person, he's forfeited his right to liberty, and it's OK to use force on him.

From a political point of view, both left-wing and right-wing politicians believe in using force on inoffensive people to achieve their objectives, so I don't support either wing. In fact, using force on inoffensive people is basically what politicians do, so I'm not a supporter of politicians in general.

I see libertarianism as a moral position, with political implications.