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A Libertarian Speaks Out

  1. Apr 20, 2005 #1
    As I understand it, or at least personally think of it, Libertarianism is based on the premise that we are all agents of freewill. As such we are all ultimately responsible for our own actions and choices. We solely suffer the consequences of our bad or incorrect, unwise actions and choices and reap the benefits and rewards of our right, correct or wise choices and actions.

    We may be genetically predisposed toward certain behavior characteristics. We may be predisposed to certain behavior characteristics by our history, up bringing, our life experiences and our response to these experiences. These things are predispositions not compulsions. We still have a choice and are responsible for the choices that we make. We know what is right and what is wrong. We know what may be wise or unwise, correct or not correct. We usually do not have all the information we may need to make a proper decision but never the less we often choose to choose and must live with that decision.
    We cannot blame others or circumstances for the choices that we make. Flip Wilson’s excuse; “The Devil made me do it.” Is just that, an excuse not a reason, and a cop out.

    As agents of freewill we are free to choose what we will so long as our choices do not effect another person or his property, freedom or rights. My personal freedom is ultimate, sovereign, sacrosanct and unlimited right up to the point where it starts it infringe upon the freedom, rights and property of another. My freedom and rights extend to and abut with your freedom and rights and everybody else’s. This is why, in Libertarianism, there is one prime law, One can do nothing to infringe upon, harm or limit in any way another person, his rights, freedom or property. Also, if it is not expressly forbidden it is then allowable and acceptable. This is true.

    We human beings are, however, social beings and live within societies of other individuals. Every society must have rules, customs and codes of behavior of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior within that society. We consciously and knowingly choose to limit our freedom and modify our behavior to that which is acceptable to that society. This is the cost of living within a society. For this sacrifice we get in return companionship, increased safety and share the benefits of each other’s labor.
    This is the social contract that we all enter into and agree with whenever we choose to live within any society. If we should choose not to live within those rules, customs and codes then we are choosing not to live in that society. If we break those rules, we break the contract and become criminals in that society. It is as simple as that.

    If we think that our society, state, nation, has bad, wrong or unjust rules or laws, we can attempt to change those laws from within that society using the lawful methods and customs of that society. All living societies are dynamic and constantly changing and adjusting as its members, citizens, within and the world without changes. However, if one chooses to break or disobey the laws and customs of their society, right or wrong, then that person becomes a criminal and is responsible and liable for his actions and will suffer the consequences of his actions and choices including incarceration or expulsion.

    Again it is all about freewill, our choices knowingly and freely made. We freely choose to give up some of our personal freedom and choices to live in a society of our choice once we are adults. Once we choose we are free to attempt to lawfully change the laws and customs of that society from within but only with the knowledge and consent of every other member of that society.

    To knowingly purposefully break, defy or disobey the laws of our society is breaking our word, our contract, with that society and all of its other members. This is criminal and knowingly and purposefully doing so makes one a criminal. There are exceptions in every society. There are those who choose to live outside of any society. There are those who mentally, emotionally or psychologically are incapable of making informed choices, are incapable of discerning right from wrong, wise from unwise, safe from unsafe. These people are just that exceptions and it is the society that chooses how to handle or care for those people.

    In any society there are individuals who believe that they are the most intelligent, wise, morally correct of their society, the elitist. They believe that the rest of society cannot and is incapable of making the correct decisions or choices for themselves. They know better than the people what is right and what is best for them. It therefore becomes their moral right and duty to impose their beliefs and morals upon the lesser “unwashed masses” members of their society. These people, to a libertarian are criminals.

    There are also people who attempt to impose their will by the application of force or the threat of force. These dictators, mobsters, extortionist and thugs are also criminals.

    There are also those who believe or profess to believe that the society, state, and its needs are greater than the needs of its citizens, that what is good for the state is good for the people and the needs of the state are the needs of the people and a greater need that the people must meet, that it is the responsibility of the state to meet the needs of all its members despite their means or ability. These people are socialist and to a libertarian are also criminals as it perverts the rightful order of the individual being supreme over the state.

    To quote Abraham Lincoln; “ a nation (society) of the people, by the people and for the people…” not the other way around. Nor, as in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” are some pigs more equal than other pigs. To the Libertarian, nothing is greater or more important than the individual and his freedom. Ultimately what is good for the individual is good for his society and as the individual thrives and prospers in his freedom so does his society.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2005 #2
    Please define what you mean by "freewill" in this context.

  4. Apr 20, 2005 #3
    Merriam Webster Colliate Dictionary 10th edition:

    freewill or free will
    1. voluntary choice or decision
    2. freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by devine intervention.

    The common usage and understanding of the word or words.
  5. Apr 20, 2005 #4
    So then most Libertarians support gay marriage, right?

    Do you know what "rhetorical" means?
  6. Apr 20, 2005 #5
    if an agent chooses to do something according to its will, then surely what it chooses to do is determined by its will?

    If on the other hand its choice is not determined by its will, would you still call this "free will"?


  7. Apr 20, 2005 #6
    Your playing word games. I have determined that you are determined
    to dispute that free will exists and that the universe is determinate. Isn't that your choice, your determined choice?
  8. Apr 20, 2005 #7


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    I don't think it is essential to libertarianism that one believe in non-deterministic free will. There just has to be justification for holding individuals responsible for their actions and thus saying that they deserve what they get when it is a consequence of their personal choices. I recall W.T. Stace making the argument that moral culpability makes just as much sense in a fully determined world, as the deterrence factor functions as one of the determinants of human action.
  9. Apr 20, 2005 #8
    I may not be understanding what you mean by a fully determined world.
    To me it means that our behavior is just as determined as the rest of the world. We would would be compelled by determinism to behave as we would. This precludes freedom to act or to choose. If we have no choices or freedom to act or not how could we be responsible for our choices or acts. We were compelled to do it. In this case "The Devil made me do it." or whatever it was that made you do it would be responsible and absolve you from responsiblity.

    It is a basic truth that the greater the freedom the greater the responsibility.
    Thus if there is no freedom there can be no responsiblity or culpability. To me determinism and freedom, choice and/or free will are mutually exclusive.
  10. Apr 20, 2005 #9


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    According to Stace, whether or not we are in any way actually morally responsible is unimportant. Misbehavior, and in the case of political libertarianism, poor life performance, should be punished in that the punishment for bad deeds, and in capitalistic societies, the reward for good ones, serves as one of the determining factors of human behavior. Even if we are only mindlessly pursuing the good life and avoiding the bad life compulsively rather than anti-deterministically, capitalism and libertarianism are thus still coherent systems that produce desirable human actions.

    For you, that's fine. It just isn't necessary for a politically libertarian viewpoint. The aim of libertarianism, as I would imagine is the aim of most political theories, is to maximize human utility, to make the good life as widely prevalent as is possible. Libertarianism can do this even if no person is ever morally responsible for their actions in any metaphysical sense. We can continue to behave as if that is the case and that will serve our purposes perfectly well.
  11. Apr 20, 2005 #10


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    By the way, I'm just posting this to point out to Moving Finger that an attack on free will does not constitute an attack on political libertarianism.
  12. Apr 21, 2005 #11


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    As far as I know, most people already follow this, no matter of what creed. No one wants to waste their energy trying to infringe upon other people's rights, unless it involves their own interests. Since your freedom is limited only by things that can resist your will - so in this case, human involvement will inevitably bring human conflict. Thus, the purpose of any political or moral system would be to decide (one way or the other) between sides of a conflict of interest. If it cannot handle such conflicts, it fails at its present form and must be adapted or changed.

    Apart from the major problems of the nature of property, and the existence of rights (as opposed to rights being an invention), the biggest problem still persists - what can libertarianism do to alleviate the inevitable conflict of interests between the people? Stating what is impossible to uphold by everyday people, means that you will be forced to have a government with the power to enforce their will. Unfortunately, this still shows us that any libertarian truths are based on the power they are aligned with - not their degree of "rightness" or a function of "duty".

    Completely disagree on this one. The interests of the individual are not always guaranteed to coincide with the interests of the community or 'herd group'.

    I have mixed feelings on libertarianism (as well as every other political system). As a rigid, idealistic system, it can never deal with how situations occur in their specific context. In real life, the system is in fact adapted to people's circumstances so that it is effective. However, the system harshly limits people's freedoms nevertheless, and change comes slow or is stifled for most cases. Thus, any political or government system is forced to take on this agenda: secure the interests of the community as a whole (not individuals), because it is the only way to secure its own power. If it focuses strictly on individuals, it will lose power to other parties that support the greater number.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2005
  13. Apr 21, 2005 #12
    with respect, I am not. I am trying to make you understand that unless you very clearly define what you mean by "free will" you will end up going round in circles. Libertarianism (IMHO) is based on a very loose and inconsistent concept of free will which does not stand up to close scrutiny.
    I do not dispute that free will exists. My point is that whether free will exists or not depends on one's definition of free will.

    You did not answer my question :
    If an agent’s choice is not determined by the agent’s will, would you still call this "free will"?

  14. Apr 21, 2005 #13
    BTW - I'm just posting this to point out to loseyourname that (A) a question for clarification about the definition of free will is not an "attack" on anything and (B) that "political libertarianism" is a completely different animal to Libertarianism in the context of free will :biggrin:
  15. Apr 21, 2005 #14
    moving finger,
    I think that the libertarian definition of free will is purposely vague and imprecise to allow for maximum freedom to choose our own personal definition. The more precise we define anything the more limited it becomes.

    First I have argued free will here before and agree that there is no such thing as absolute free will as we are all predisposed and have personal biases. Nor do we ever have complete knowledge of any situation or the consequences and implications of any decision that we might make.

    Free will means to me that within the limits above we have choices and are free to choose as we wish for whatever reason. Our choice is not predetermined nor are we compelled to choose one over the other. We are able to actually make a real choice and as such we are ultimately responsible for those choices.

    It is not the bartender's fault that I had too much to drink and had an accident on the way home; nor, is it the gun manufacturer's responsiblity that I choose to shoot someone with a gun that he made. It is all about personal freedom and personal responsiblity.

    To answer your question, if an agent's choice is not determined by his will then no it can not be free will.
  16. Apr 21, 2005 #15
    That's the point, we cannot legally or morally as individuals or as a society place our freedom or rights above those of another individual regardless of our interests or needs. There are whole organization running around trying to do just this, religious and political, and there is the criminal element that tries to make their living doing just this.

    I agree, this is why we are willing give up some of our freedom to live in a society and give limited power and taxes to a government. This is the main difference between anarchist and libertarians.

    I agree as do most libertarians but the main difference as I see it is that the individual and his personal freedom and property comes first and not the government nor the letter of the law.

    Again that's the point of libertarianism. If the interests of the individual and those of the society, state or herd conflict it is the interests of the individual that take precedence

    Libertarianism is just the opposite of a rigid system albeit it is idealistic. Libertarianism is not a viable political power anywhere in the world as people in power invariably want to keep and increase their power. They see this as imposing their or their government's will over that of its citizens. This is why while I am a self professed libertarian I am not a registered libertarian nor do I vote libertarian as it would be a waste of my vote. It would seem that my vote is usually wasted anyway as it turns out.
  17. Apr 21, 2005 #16
    This sounds like double talk to to me. Good and bad behavior are moral issues.
    Punishment and reward are moral responses. I again ask how responsiblity can be assigned if one has no freedom of action or choice. It sound to me once again that he, Stance, is giving the state the power to punish or reward; "should be punished..." In libertarianism there is no punishment for good or bad choices or behavior unless on breaks "The Law" but the natural inevitable consequences of any decision or action determine if the action or choice was good or bad for that individual at that time in that circumstance.

    As a pure philosophical libertarian I cannot agree with the wording of this statement as only humans produce actions. Capitalism and political libertarianism may influence and effect humans but do not produce anything.

    The aim of political or philosophical libertarianism is to maximize human liberty, freedom, as well as properly assign responsibility and minimize cop outs. One of the points of libertarianism is while acknowledging and validating the supremacy of the individual and his rights and freedom is to be absolutely moral within his system of beliefs. Libertarians have been accused of being puritanically moral. Morality, responsibility, is just as important as freedom and liberty. One cannot have one without the other. If one is to be ultimately free one then must assume ultimate responsibility, morality, to be true and consistent to themselves and their beliefs. To assign responsiblity or morality to others or circumstances is to assign those others ones freedom and power.

    If I am free and have liberty to choose and act as I choose then I am solely and ultimately resposibile for my choices and actions and must live with the consequences of those decisions and actions good or bad, moral or immoral.
  18. Apr 21, 2005 #17
    With respect - I think it is purposely vague because the Libertarian concept of “free will” does not work – and the only way to hide the fact that it does not work is to keep the definition vague.
    The more precisely we define something, the better we can understand it.

    Agreed (but what do you mean by “absolute free will” – is this a vague definition too?)

    Mostly agree – except that I believe (a) if the world operates deterministically then our choices (in fact everything we do) are necessarily predetermined and (b) if the world operates with some degree of indeterminism then our choices are not necessarily predetermined (but our choices are still deterministic choices). Note however that “choosing indeterminism” does not endow Libertarian free will.



    I really do wonder exactly how you define free will? Or perhaps it is best to keep it ambiguous, that way you can think that you have any kind of free will that you like. Not very satisfying though.

  19. Apr 21, 2005 #18
    I see that you are from the UK and as someone once said we are divided (or is it separated) by a common language.

    First: I am a firm believer in that this is not a deterministic world or universe
    and I think that Quantum Mechanics with its probability wave functions
    support this view or belief.

    Second: I am a human being and have a will (purpose, intent) of my own
    that is not always determined by outside forces or causes.

    Third: I am a free agent and free to exercise my will. When faced with
    alternatives, choices, I am free to choose whichever alternative I
    decide to choose for whatever reason without it being predetermined
    by forces outside of myself and/or my will.

    I do not know how to put it any better than that.

    "free" means not controlled or determined by anything beyond its own nature or being.
    "will" volition - mental powers manifested as wishing, choosing, desiring, or intending to this I add purpose. These are again from the dictionary I sited above.

    To me free "will means" that I am not constrained or compelled to act or choose in a deterministic or predetermined manner. I can and do choose and act of my own volition as I see fit at the moment.
  20. Apr 21, 2005 #19
    What do you think quantum mechanics has to do with your feeling of free will?

    Yes, and so do I. And my will is fully deterministic.
    What exactly do you mean by “outside forces or causes”?

    With respect, it makes no sense to define “free will” in terms of “free agent” or “free to exercise”. This becomes a tautology, and leads nowhere.

    Again, defining “free will” in terms of “free to choose” is a tautology. What do you really mean by “free to choose”?

    I humbly suggest that defining free will in terms of “free to choose” or “free agent” or “free to exercise” is meaningless. This simply leads to a circular definition and means…….. nothing.

    What is “beyond its own nature or being”? If I am a computer, do I necessarily have free will because I am not controlled by anything beyond myself?

    A deterministic computer can have “wishes” and can “choose” and can “desire”… does this mean that a deterministic computer has free will?

    Really? Does that mean you act indeterministically (at random)?

    This is a deterministic scenario – a deterministic computer “chooses and acts of its own volition as it sees fit at the moment” – thus according to you a deterministic computer has free will – thus why are you so afraid of determinism?

  21. Apr 21, 2005 #20
    The uncertainty principle and probability wave functions and sum of histories show that the universe is not deterministic. Since the universe is not deterministic the possibility of free will exists. Since that possibility does exist my experience of exercising my free will is not necessarily an illusion but an actual fact based of my experience of a life time of exercising my free will thousands of times a day, every day of my life. It begins every morning when I decide to get up and go to work instead of staying in bed and ends when I decide to go to bed and go to sleep.

    What exactly do you mean when you say your will is fully deterministic? Are you a computer running a chatbot program? Do you actually read and understand anything that is written here in this thread or any other at this site? Do you actual understand the English language?

    Outside means external, not inside, forces means energy applied like a gun to my head or threats to my or my families safety. Causes are events or reasons that effect current or future events.

    I didn't. Please read, actually read my replies.

    If you are a computer, (something that I am beginning to suspect more and more by the stupidity of your repetitive questions of the meaning of simple words and phrases) you have no free will and are under control of your program.

    All computers to date are deterministic and does not and cannot have wishes or desires as those are characteristics of consciousness and all choices are predetermined by existing logic states and programing.

    The word indeterministically does not mean at random.

    A computer does not choose nor act except as instructed by its program and current logic state. A computer has no volition of its own. A deterministic computer, and they all are, has no will, volition of its own free or otherwise.
    The random coupling of related words into nonsensical statements is a perfect example of the limits of todays computers. Why are you afraid of indeterminism? Are you afraid someone will pull your plug on a whim?

    God! Where is Spock when I need him?
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