I am a libertarian because everybody feels pain and nobody enjoys being judged. I believe that most people intend to be good based on cultural norms. This comes from a biological need to protect our gene pool. Early humans protected themselves, their families and tribes. In today’s interconnected world, we want to protect others at scale when we perceive their cultural interests as similar to our own. The problem arises when there is conflict and people feel compelled to choose a side. They tend to choose the side of their tribe and its perceived allies, while everyone else becomes “the other.” These alliances are based on a filtered view of the world that powerful people use to present binary choices in their interests. These interests are a blend of social, political, and financial power. This power dynamic is used to control everyday people and it goes against a core value I hold that all relationships should be voluntary.

Governance is Not Voluntary

Let me preface this next part by saying that I accept government as an integral characteristic of human society. Humans are hierarchical creatures. Some people will dominate, and others will seek out a strong leader and community to protect them and their family. I don’t expect this to change in any meaningful way. While I would prefer a fully voluntary and functional society, I accept this power dynamic and recognize that some forms of government are better than others. That said, governance is not voluntary.

We experience government and culture initially by chance. You’re born and raised in a home, within a local community in a state that’s part of a far greater union and these unions have alliances. Most of us experience early life through our parents’ filter of righteousness based on their upbringing, experiences, beliefs, and fears. We’re often born into a religion, a culture, and a set of rules to live by. We naturally rebel when the rules feel “unfair.” This experience shapes our beliefs, and the cycle continues.

In the United States, most people are indoctrinated with modern conservative or liberal beliefs that align with their surrounding community. Indoctrination starts with parents and continues in schools, community organizations, and through other local influences on our beliefs and behaviors. This has changed somewhat because of the media, social media and internet news sources that cross geographic boundaries. But we are influenced most by the people who surround us and until society becomes fragmented to the point of complete decentralization, this will not change.

Libertarian Philosophy

There’s plenty of online content that describes libertarian philosophy. One way to look at it is from the perspective of the Non-Aggression Principle, or NAP. In simple terms, libertarianism is about reducing coercion, so that people are free to make their own personal choices, so long as they do no harm to others. We are free to have differences of opinion, and to influence others to see the world through our cultural filters. But, we cannot force others to comply with our will.

Another way to view libertarianism is through the filter of property rights. Essentially, you own property and this includes your body and your labor. You get to decide how to rent its use to others through voluntary collaborations, and you get to say no to interactions that are not in your interest.

Some people explain libertarianism through a frame that’s easier to understand for people who see life through a political lens. For them, libertarianism gives you the freedom to be as liberal or conservative as you want, so long as you don’t force others to live by your standards.

For me, libertarianism is about harm reduction through voluntary means. In every interaction, there is harm to one party or the other, and often both. There is also harm through punishing people for their circumstances rather than their individual actions. There is harm in punishment without redemption. There is harm in letting harmful behavior go unchallenged. And there is harm in choosing one side over another because its cultural norms happen to align with our own. Powerful people get to decide how to divide and rule over us, and they make the rules on who is harmed and who is protected. Most of us believe that our vote has an influence over outcomes in governance in a democratic society. To a degree this is true, and to a degree people in power have the shared interest in preserving that power, so they tend to act in the interests of other powerful people instead of the interests of the greater society. I see voting as an act of self-defense. The majority of voters or representatives determine outcomes for the minority. So, I vote, and I leverage my influence to the degree that my abilities and available time allow for.

Libertarian Nuances

At this point, I should point out two things. First, there is a difference between libertarian philosophy and the Libertarian Party. You can be a libertarian in your heart while having any, or no political affiliation. The Libertarian Party just codifies many libertarian principles and provides a framework for like-minded people to form alliances over common beliefs.

Second, libertarianism gets murky when it comes to children. Young children do not have the life experience to form rational decisions, and they depend on adults to protect them. Usually parents and guardians provide this protection. Sometimes, parents and guardians are abusive, and then communities and governments must step in. But this introduces a whole other set of problems, when cultural beliefs blur the lines between perceived right and wrong. For this reason, I generally side with parents to use their own judgment in how they raise their children. This gets taken away when they abuse their children, and the definition of abuse should be limited in order to maximize people’s power to raise families and limit government interference in cultural choices. The definition of “adult” is also subjective. Depending on the country or state in which you live, it could have a broad range. With this in mind, I accept that life includes nuances that pure libertarian philosophy may not be able to answer.

You Do You

Most people I meet generally consider themselves liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. I meet many Independents and Moderates, and generally find that they lean towards voting in one direction or the other. I meet people from across the spectrum too, including Leftists, Christian Conservatives, Anarchists, and many others. And, I meet other Libertarians from across the philosophical spectrum. I do my best to be non-judgmental. So, you do you. Vote your conscience. Live by the cultural norms that give you peace and joy. I get the most joy out of knowing that you and I can have differences in opinion while we work towards maximizing our shared interests through voluntary collaborations.

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