17A006 Living and Letting Live by Jim Davies, 2/7/2017    


Recently a commenter on Strike the Root (which is, sadly, becoming an ever less reliable source of clear libertarian thought) offered the opinion that "I learned 'live-and-let-live' is the only path to freedom. For me." This is very interesting, especially the last two words.

The writer further asserted that there is no such thing as orthodoxy in the libertarian world, and that lies behind his "For me." It's subjective, in his view. To live one's own life and let others live theirs seems good to him (me, too) but it's not any kind of fixed principle, it's not objective. If someone else lives by a different principle, that is fine by him. Each to his own.

Unfortunately, his comment contradicts itself. If to live and let live is the "only" path to freedom, then it cannot be simply "for me", or for any other person; either it's the only such path or else it's one of many, one cannot have it both ways. To put that differently, that principle is the orthodox basis of libertarianism and while I prefer a word like "authentic" ("orthodox" smells of priestly censorship) if that's so then other, rival principles for living are non-authentic. Either there is an authentic (or orthodox) world view here, or else there is not; to have both is impossible. A is never Non-A.

The resolution is to realize that "Live and let live" (let's shorten it to LALL) is not a self-evident premise, or axiom. Like the very comparable Non-Aggression Principle (NAP), it derives from something else. A case could be made for an opposite principle (Live and Control, LAC) based on the idea that society needs ordering in a hierarchical fashion, to suppress chaos and crime. Indeed, that is precisely what government is all about; and if you defy the controllers, they will kill you... in the public interest, of course. So from what does LALL logically derive?

It comes from our old friend the Self Ownership Axiom. Each human being has the right to own and operate his own life, and that premise cannot be rebutted, and so it's an axiom. Once there, it's easy to see that each person is rightly free to live, and therefore to be allowed (let) to live. LALL is squarely founded on that firm foundation, and therefore all ideas that contradict it are wrong. It's not just the LALL is a fine way to live "for me", it's the only rightful way to live for everyone. And that is authentic libertarianism, and it's why opposing principles are not so much quaint and tolerable, they are false. LALL is not a subjective preference, it is an objective necessity.

That still leaves a practical problem for a free society; anarchist libertarians hold fast to LALL, but some of their neighbors passionately believe in LAC, and are all set to impose their belief wherever they can. If tolerance of other people's ideas is a virtue - even central, in a libertarian or zero-government society - then how is one to regard ideas which openly conflict with the ideal of such tolerance? Is our fine principle to be modified, to "Live and let live, but only if the other guy reciprocates"? How can some kind of civil war be avoided?

I see no solution to that dilemma for as long as there is a significant number of LAC adherents (pro-government people) in the society. This on its own suffices to sink the foolish idea of Panarchism without trace.

There is, however, a very simple and powerful solution once that notion is discarded and once one remembers the only way in which a zero government society can come about in the first place: namely, when nobody will work for government. That, in turn, will happen only when everyone has been sufficiently re-educated to understand the morally repugnant nature of government, and that universal re-education is feasible only by the one-on-one replication method used by the Freedom Academy.

When that happy day has come and the last government employee has quit, there will no longer be any LAC adherents - or so few as to cause no problem (a few generals, perhaps, barking orders to a nonexistent army.) Therefore, the above problem will vanish. Everyone will understand why LALL must apply; the principle will be intact, a handful of weird variants will not matter and if any incidents of aggression do take place, a robust free-market justice system will arrange appropriate restitution.

Then, our STR commenter will be able to drop his two-word qualifier. He will be able to live and to let live, and will know why no other life-guide is good enough... not just for him, but for everyone.





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