What Non-Libertarians Really Want

For a New Liberty, Murray Rothbard, p. 128-129:

Sometimes it seems that the beau ideal of many conservatives, as well as of many liberals, is to put everyone into a cage and coerce him into doing what the conservatives or liberals believe to be the moral thing. They would of course be differently styled cages, but they would be cages just the same. The conservative would ban illicit sex, drugs, gambling, and impiety, and coerce everyone to act according to his version of moral and religious behavior. The liberal would ban films of violence, unaesthetic advertising, football, and racial discrimination, and, at the extreme, place everyone in a “Skinner box” to be run by a supposedly benevolent liberal dictator. But the effect would be the same: to reduce everyone to a subhuman level and to deprive everyone of the most precious part of his or her humanity—the freedom to choose.

The irony, of course, is that by forcing men to be “moral”— i.e., to act morally—the conservative or liberal jailkeepers would in reality deprive men of the very possibility of being moral. The concept of “morality” makes no sense unless the moral act is freely chosen. Suppose, for example, that someone is a devout Muslim who is anxious to have as many people as possible bow to Mecca [five] times a day; to him let us suppose this is the highest moral act. But if he wields coercion to force everyone to bow to Mecca, he is thereby depriving everyone of the opportunity to be moral—to choose freely to bow to Mecca. Coercion deprives a man of the freedom to choose and, therefore, of the possibility of choosing morally.

The libertarian, in contrast to so many conservatives and liberals, does not want to place man in any cage. What he wants for everyone is freedom, the freedom to act morally or immorally, as each man shall decide.

It’s not that simple…

Did I imply it was? (You’ll note I didn’t mention Rothbard’s specific examples.)

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