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Self control best way to govern


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Libertarianism is often described as the advocacy of maximum liberty and minimum government. The "maximum liberty" part is pretty easy to understand, once you really understand what liberty is. As long as your actions don't harm another person physically, and don't take or damage his personal property, you are within your rights to do anything. You are "at liberty" to proceed.

Thomas Jefferson put it this way: "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others." Unobstructed action within the equal rights of others. Smart man.

Just keep in mind that the other guy operates under the same "unobstructed action" whether either of you know it or not. His rights are equal and absolutely identical to yours. So, you'd probably be wise to include being nice in your decision to act.

The "minimum government" part is where the complications arise. This aspect even confuses a lot of libertarians. Just how much government is minimal? Half of what we have now? A strictly constitutional government?

No externally-imposed government, "State," at all? Ask a dozen libertarians and you're likely to get a dozen different answers. The only constant is that it would be a lot less than we are burdened with now. Even most "Repubmo-craticans" agree on that point.

Contention does arise, though. For one thing, some people operate under the belief that you can't have liberty without a government holding back other people to prevent them from violating your liberty. Others point out that no one other than government is a real threat to your liberty.

The only kind of government that has ever worked, or ever will, is self control.

You can't govern bad people, and you don't need to govern good people — they govern themselves. So it seems a waste of time and energy to keep pursuing something that is so pointless and unnecessary, and doomed to fail in its stated goal. Not to mention all the time, money, and lives this pointless pursuit has destroyed.

Of course, this means that if you fail to govern yourself you give someone else a justification for defending himself and his property against you. He would be well within his rights, even if the "law" doesn't agree. This principle operates the same whether you accept libertarianism or not. Reality is funny that way.

Kent McManigal is a freelance writer who sometimes offers commentary on our websites. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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