Dude, Weed: A Failed Libertarian Platform of the Incidental

Self-ownership is an essential principle to Libertarianism.

It is the foundation on which the entire philosophy is predicated. It has been rubber-ducked, so to speak, by many renowned Libertarian thinkers (like Hans-Hermann Hoppe) to demonstrate the logical coherence that one can use to arrive at this position. In a quick rundown, self-ownership is the concept that each human is born with the inherent ownership of their body. This ownership not only manifests itself in the right to use your body how you see fit, it also denotes you have the right to exclude anyone else from the use of your body. The logical justification for such rights lies in their ability to be universalized; every human can practice these without infringing on the ability of another to do the same.

The right to private property is another essential principle to Libertarianism. Private property ethics and norms are intended to prevent and resolve conflict disputes by allowing a just appropriation of scarce resources. This appropriation manifests itself in the ability of one party to express a superior, objective link to the resource in question. Since you are in constant use of your body, using it purposefully is an expression of that link. There are multiple ways to establish and express a link to a resource, but this link is usually established through first use or consensual exchange. Extending the logical justification for self-ownership, this appropriation can be universalized.

In practice, it seems that almost every mainstream “Libertarian issue” (Marijuana legalization, marriage equality, immigration, etc) has it’s roots in one of the two aforementioned essential principles. That is because these topics are incidental issues. In short, should the essential principles of self-ownership and private property be prioritized, there would be no need to reify your rights to use and exclusion. Simply, the legalization of marijuana is a non-issue if you already have the rights to: do with your body as you please, own property, and do with that property as you please.

The Libertarian Party courts the Left by appealing to incidental principles.

It’s easy for the LP to invoke your rights to self and property when the topics of discussion are recreational drug use and atypical sexual relations. In a State plagued by public indoctrination, the subsidy of irresponsible behavior, and a co-conspiring corporatist media cartel, appealing to hedonism has little opposition. It’s seems, though, that invoking essential principles are only a means to and end; pandering to the left. This is evident when the rights to property and exclusion are sacrificed to aid one in the pursuit of their pleasure (Example here).

Until the LP starts fighting, tooth and nail, to restore individual sovereignty and private property norms, consider what they say to be lip service. Your property rights matter to them when you want to rip the bong, but not if you don’t want to serve homosexuals. Taxation is theft to them, except when it’s used to subsidize Open Border immigration policy. Everyone has the right to life to them, except if your mother decides it’s not fun to be pregnant. You have a convention of those who will “boo” at the notion of banning the sale of heroin to a 5 year old, but turn around and nominate a person who thinks freedom of association is a “slippery slope,” as they swear allegiance to “Muh 5%” that will qualify the Party for Federal funding.

Libertarianism is not about being hyper-inclusive; and it shouldn’t try to be. Marketed as an ideology of tolerance, it should be accurately advertised as the strict intolerance of trespass, theft and the initiation of violence. This should be heavily stressed and prioritized. Stop trying to word positions in such a way to appeal to hedonism and irresponsible behavior. Be concise in your fight to establish the essential principles, and the incidentals will follow suit.

Rather than court the leftists in an attempt to find a compromise between “theft” and “no theft,” remove the conversation from the table. Be consistent in your intolerance for justification of violating essential principles of Libertarianism.


Jordan Claspell

Jordan Claspell is an Austro-Libertarian and Liberty Hangout contributor.