It is a common mistake that libertarianism entails libertinism or degeneracy or moral decay.

Libertarianism proper is a political doctrine that champions private property, entrepreneurial freedom, international peace, economic progress, and individual responsibility.

Consider the most primal form of private property, self-ownership. If you own yourself, you have a right to do various things with yourself. For example, you have a definite right to build up your body. To become healthy, strong, fit, maybe an athlete or bodybuilder. You have a right to acquire moral virtues, to develop your mind, to wise up, to pick up skills and become powerful, competent, and proficient at what you do. You have a right to accept divine grace and become friends with God and devote your life to service of fellow man.

But just as you have a right to move up, to ascend toward the light, you by necessity must have a concomitant right to move down, to descend into darkness. You have a right to become a fat slob who sits at home devouring Oreos and playing video games. You have a right to get tattoos, a nose ring, and even perhaps to lop off your genitals. You have a right to acquire vices and become a lazy, angry, gluttonous fool. You have a right to become an incompetent loser. You have a right not only to refuse grace but even to profess atheism. You have a right, instead of serving humanity, to live a pointless, ineffectual life of quiet desperation.

There are of course subtleties and complications. One obvious limitation concerns minors who are by nature “under the rod.” Libertarians are in no way committed to letting anyone trans his kids, for example. Another regards madness. Libertarianism is for rational animals, and society has to deal with those who are not. But for example if you want to argue that transgenderism is a form of madness that requires involuntary commitment and treatment, then there has to be a general consensus in society of doctors, legislators, and general public about it because it’s a big deal to label a person insane and lock him up. Another issue is risky entertainments: do people have a right to skydive or climb mountains or do cocaine or drink raw milk? Self-ownership says yes, but I can see how some might object.

Libertarians favor privatization everywhere it is feasible. But not everything can be privatized. Public properties like roads should be managed in the interests of the taxpayers, in a utilitarian manner, i.e., according to the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. Far from tolerating drug-addicted homeless defecating on the streets, libertarians counsel buying these guys a one-way plane ticket to Siberia.

Now of course we don’t want people to ruin their lives, and we want to do all we can to help each other succeed. But the libertarian insight is that the state is a deeply evil, compromised institution, incapable of guiding people up. The government is given keys to the hell-dungeons where the wicked writhe in pain. It is therefore a demonic entity established to punish and torment evildoers, and it is legitimate for that purpose. But it is a completely inappropriate means to discouraging libertinism, degeneracy, or moral decay.

Hence libertarianism not only does not entail libertinism, not only does not promote libertinism, but by (1) granting each person (a) the full rewards of success in life and subjecting him to (b) the full penalties from failure in life and (2) limiting government mostly to punishing violent crimes, actively encourages civilization on the social level and individual maturation and moral development on the individual level. It insists, and rightly so, that the state is a deadly enemy of both.

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