Of all the prohibitions listed above plus others that are implicit in socialism, which do you or others favor? This is the appropriate question for rating oneself or others ideologically.
Persons devoted to liberty would, it is true, impose certain prohibitions on others. They merely note that not all individuals have acquired sufficient moral stature strictly to observe such moral laws as “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not steal.” There are in the population those who will take the lives and the livelihood of others, those who will pilfer and those who will get the government to do their pilfering for them. Most libertarians would supplement the moral laws aimed at prohibiting violence to another’s person (life) or another’s livelihood (extension of life).3 Thus they would prohibit or at least penalize murder, theft, fraud, misrepresentation. In short, they would inhibit or prohibit the destructive or unpeaceful actions of any and all! Says the student of liberty, “Freely choose how you act creatively, productively, peacefully. I have no desire to prohibit you or others in this respect. I have no prohibitory designs on you of any kind except as you would unpeacefully keep me and others from acting creatively, productively, peacefully, as we freely choose.”
Be it noted that the libertarian in his hoped-for prohibition of unpeaceful actions does not have in mind any violence to anyone else’s liberty, none whatsoever. For this reason: The word liberty would never be used by an individual completely isolated from others; it is a social term. We must not, therefore, think of liberty as being restrained when fraud, violence, and the like are prohibited, for such actions violate the liberty of others, and liberty cannot be composed of liberty negations. This is self-evident. Thus, any accomplished student of liberty would never prohibit the liberty or the peaceful actions of another.
There we have it: the socialists with the countless prohibitions of liberty they would impose on others; the students of liberty whose suggested prohibitions are not opposed to but are in support of liberty and are as few and as simple as the two Commandments against the taking of life and livelihood. Interestingly enough, it is the socialists, the all-out prohibitionists, who call nonintervening, peaceful libertarians “extremists.” Their nomenclature leaves as much to be desired as does their theory of political economy!
But the students of liberty and the socialists have one position in common: the human situation is not in apple pie order; imperfection is rampant. The student of liberty, however, observing that human imperfection is universal, balks at halting the evolutionary process, such halting being the ultimate prohibition implicit in all authoritarian schemes. Be the political dandy a Napoleon or Tito or one of the home grown variety of prohibitionists, how can the human situation improve if the rest of us are not permitted to grow beyond the level of the political dandy’s imperfections? Is nothing better in store for humanity than this?
The libertarian’s answer is affirmative: There is something better! But the improvement must take the form of man’s growth, emergence, hatching—the acquisition of higher faculties such as an improved sense of justice, a refined, exacting, self-disciplinary conscience, in brief, an elevated moral nature. Man-concocted prohibitions against this growth stifle or kill it. Human faculties can flower, man can move toward his creative destiny, only if he be free to do so, in a word, where peace and liberty prevail.
What should be prohibited? Actions which impair liberty and peace!