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A Libertarian Puzzle
A reader writes:
Here is my answer. Libertarianism does not say “an individual should be left free to make his own choices.” It says, “An individual should not initiate aggression against anyone else.” As long as that dictum is observed, he may make all the choices he likes. But they must not involve the initiation of force against the innocent. The government interventions that your friend thinks are responsible for improving people’s living standards — in fact, of course, the interventions retard living standards (see the “anti-Marxist Insight” section of this old article of mine) — involve the initiation of force against peaceful individuals. They are therefore not defensible from a libertarian point of view.
Second, you ask rhetorically, “Who are the Libertarians to come and say that their choice is wrong?” This question implies that libertarians consider individuals to be infallible, that people’s choices are sacred and holy, and thus beyond question. This is not the libertarian view at all — again, the libertarian view is simply that people cannot initiate violence. Libertarians, just as much as anyone else, are perfectly free to criticize the choices made by others, and they are in no way inconsistent when they do so.