What it is:
  • A moderate or extreme belief in the non-aggression principle.
  • Socially, a person owns their body. Does not receive dictates on how to use it.
  • Economically, a person owns their property. Does not receive dictates on how to use it.

Main flavors:
  • Utilitarian, or classical social liberal:
    • Maximize non-aggression principle as long as results for most people are neutral or good.
    • Supports a tax-funded state with a professional military and efficient public services.
    • Prefers easily navigable regulation, but supports regulation as necessary.
    • Supports redistribution to meet basic needs not met by charity.
    • No longer called "libertarian" in the US. Mostly perfectly sensible.
  • Neo-classical:
    • Maximize non-aggression principle, second only to need for group self-preservation.
    • Supports a minimal state with a professional military. No tax-funded public services.
    • Supports no regulation except minimum to define the state and property.
    • Supports no redistribution, even to meet basic needs not met by charity.
    • Called "libertarian" in the US. Mostly but not 100% insane.
  • Anarcho-capitalist:
    • Maximize non-aggression principle without concern even for group self-preservation.
    • Supports no taxes; no state; no military; no public services.
    • Supports no regulation, even to define property.
    • Supports no redistribution, even to meet basic needs not met by charity.
    • Found in online communities. Insane pants-on-head, and out-of-this-world.

The dream:
  • Freedom and prosperity prevail where all are entitled to their body, property, and labor.
  • The economy shall reward everyone according to their ability and willingness to contribute.
  • The economically successful shall be charitable of their own accord.

The dreamers:
  • Mostly young males who either are, or expect to be, successful.

The nightmare:
  • If we set up rules so that capable people who have opportunity can win unconditionally, then capable people who have opportunity will win unconditionally.
  • Unconditional victory allows appropriation of all resources. It is perfectly possible to leave no resources for newly born people, or that majority who tried but did not win.
  • Technological progress and automation mean a minority of economic winners increasingly don't need to hire a majority of economic losers, providing no way to obtain resources.
  • Information asymmetry means that, absent regulation, abusive business practices can be pursued that do not technically violate non-aggression or the principle of ownership.

    As-is, in the US, some egregious abuses happen in the areas of charity and employment. Some established, popular brands are actually scams.
  • When regulation does not protect from abuses of technicality, all participants in the economy must keep up with abuse awareness. This duplicates investment into identical knowledge, wasting time and resources that could be spent on individual skills.
  • When the community provides no social safety net, everyone must keep personal safety nets. Economic prosperity takes a hit as resources are tied up in saving and storage.
  • The economically successful give only enough to feel they have given, not enough to meet actual need. Only a fraction of needs are met. People die due to lack of basic preventive care, and cannot get resources to lift themselves out of squalor.
  • The extreme, anarcho-capitalist version is not sustainable, since any external threat will conquer a "community" that cannot organize itself, and has no means to effectively recruit resources.

The core mistake:
  • Premise: Everyone is fundamentally independent in an open world with boundless resources. Everyone in this world can be completely free, and chart their own destiny.
  • Reality: Everyone is fundamentally interconnected in a closed system with limited resources. Setting up rules that allow complete freedom in theory allows a small group to unconditionally win, using "fair and neutral" rules to coerce everyone else to their will. Everyone's choices are limited by what's already held by others. No property means no freedom – up to the freedom to live.

Associated mistakes:
  • Denial of natural monopolies: We live in mature economies with ample regulation. To the extent we have monopolies, we have them because regulation permits. The libertarian takes this to mean that without regulation, there cannot be monopolies.
  • Boundless universe: Science tells us the universe may be infinite. The libertarian concludes this means infinite resources per person, so no need for coercion. In reality, population grows exponentially with time, but resources cannot be reached faster than t3 with light speed travel.