Trevor Watkins 30/6/20
I am often asked “ What is a libertarian individualist?”. The very short answer is “One who believes in individual liberty”. But that answers almost nothing, means almost nothing, to most people.
I am an individualist and a libertarian. Here is my shortest, quickest, clearest, most concise definition of what it means to me to be an individualist, a libertarian. This is what I believe individualists should approve, and what they should oppose. This is the “social contract” by which individualists agree to live with their fellows.
An individualist accepts the proposition that
No one should act against an innocent person or their property without their consent.
Although these are all short words of 3 syllables or less, some explanation will be required.
no individual, or group, or community, or government, or corporation.
Ought to, in order to be consistent with this proposition
To “act” is to cause a real-world, observable, physical event, as opposed to a non-physical event such as the use of words or gestures. “Preventing an action” is synonymous with “taking an action” .
For example, striking someone, taking their property, confining them, are examples of real-world events. Being rude, shouting, threatening, are not actions with real, physical consequences.
an innocent person has not acted against anyone without their consent. Acting without consent is called a consent violation. A person guilty of a consent violation is not protected by this proposition.
any individual (without qualification, of race, gender, creed,etc) capable of giving informed consent. This excludes those who cannot give informed consent, such as young children, the unconscious, the mentally disabled. In this case, consent devolves to their guardian.
goods belonging to a person, lawfully acquired through effort, exchange, inheritance, restitution or gift.
giving permission, allowing. The decision to give or deny consent will be based on the best information available to the person involved. However, the future is unpredictable, so it must be accepted that the consequences of consent may be unexpected.
Nevertheless, consent should be explicit, freely given, preferably before witnesses, without fraud or falsehood.
To live freely and in peace, individuals who gather together by mutual consent should accept certain propositions which all agree to respect.
This is a proposition, a way of thinking, a recommendation for a better way of life. It does not specify an enforcement mechanism, it does not guarantee compliance. It simply tells you how people who describe themselves as individualists might be expected to behave.
I believe that the consent proposition listed above covers the vast majority of cases of human interaction. It extends the non-aggression principle to include cases where a person consents to acts of aggression, such as in contact sports like boxing or satisfying unusual preferences.
The amateur lawyers can have a field day identifying grey areas and exceptions to this principle. Of course such grey areas do exist, and are normally resolved through arbitration between affected parties within a community. The question remains, do these objectors have a better, briefer and more inclusive model?
What gives me the right to speak on behalf of libertarians, or individualists, or any one else? As an individualist, I speak only on my own behalf. However, I do believe that what I have to say may be of interest and value to others. Otherwise, what is the point of communication?
The initiation of all physical acts of assault are forbidden except where explicitly consented to, or when acting in self-defence. This includes assault by individuals, groups and governments.
Individuals may defend themselves vigorously against assault by others, matching violence with violence, like for like.
3. Personal choices
This proposition has nothing to say about an individual's personal choices, such as religion, sexuality, or lifestyle.
Conflicts always arise. This proposition implies that any conflict resolution mechanism must also be consented to by all the individuals involved. Conflicts are normally resolved through arbitration between affected parties within a community. When conflict is resolved through external agencies such as police and courts, individual control and choices tend to be ignored.
5. Harm to others
Many people believe that some individual behaviours must be restricted for the overall good of the community, forcibly if necessary. This belief is used to justify a vast range of coercive measures against individuals, from taxation to immunization. The consent proposition requires that conclusive proof of physical harm to another innocent person must be conclusively proven, and may then become the subject of a conflict resolution procedure.
Individuals and organisations can take competitive actions which negatively affect others. For example, an organisation may injure its competitors by lowering its price for goods, or by refusing to supply a competitor, by poaching staff, or through aggressive advertising. None of these actions require the consent of the injured party. My view is that these actions do not use force or fraud and do not conflict with the Individualist Proposition. They must be seen as a normal part of the risks of doing business.
7. Informed consent
Denial of consent is normally straight forward and uncontested. No means no.
However, giving consent is much more complicated. The terms of the consent may need to be spelled out, limits made clear, exceptions described. Issues such as age of consent arise. How clear are the consequences, have these been fully understood by all parties, can consent be revoked? When consent is given, an explicit (preferably) or implicit contract is in force. Disputes arising from a consent contract will be arbitrated by the parties to the contract within the community of their peers. Thus, local community standards will apply to an issue such as the age of consent, or abortion.
In the absence of an enforcement mechanism, what penalties can be imposed on individuals committing consent violations? An individual may retaliate against the violator in his personal capacity, or with the assistance of family and friends. He may retain the services of a defence agency. He may demand restitution. He may refuse further association with the consent violator. He may lobby for them to be shunned, or evicted from the community.
Morality is an individual issue. One person cannot impose their morality upon another, in terms of this consent proposition.
All forms of speech, writing and expression are allowed, where no physical action occurs.
A comedian may make outrageous statements for humorous effect, without violating the consent proposition. Persons offended by this speech should avoid hearing it.
Likewise, a demagogue may exercise freedom of speech to call for violence, but only those actually committing violence are guilty of a crime.
All forms of personal behaviour, and behaviour between consenting adults, is allowed.
An individual can do anything with his or her own body that they choose.
No one is entitled to the property or services of another, without their consent.
No one may take the life of another without their consent.
You do not have the right to forcibly prevent what you merely see or hear.
If you do not consent, you have no obligation to assist anyone else.
Property may be exchanged through the consent of all parties.