The defining characteristic of the libertarian is the opposition to aggression. It does not matter whether the aggressor is a street mugger or an organization that calls itself "the government." The basic premise is that aggression is not justified and that the state necessarily uses it. It really is that simple and the arguments for freedom rationally proceed from that.
Thus, I am puzzled when I hear questions, even by fellow libertarians, that take the following form: "In a libertarian society, how would X work? How would problem Y be solved? What guarantees would there be that Z would/would not happen?" All these questions are valid because they energize the mind. It makes us contemplate what options would be available under market or other peaceful, voluntary solutions.
The problem starts when the "viability" of freedom becomes contingent upon the "answer" to those questions. That is, if the "right" and fully satisfactory answer is not achieved (ignoring that no such answer could ever be 100% correct), then somehow the desire for liberty is lessened and statism creeps back in.
"How would roads work? How can a flu pandemic be prevented? What about organ trafficking? Would we need car insurance? How much? Who would determine that? What if drugs are cheap and widely available? I don’t want people to have AK-47s! What about licensing and standards? If everyone can make their own money, then it’s going to be chaos!"
So let me answer the question as clearly as I can. I am not a socialist!
I cannot provide an answer for every conceivable question regarding the organization of society. At best, one can offer opinions but not guarantees. And that does not mean that an answer would not exist, it’s just that right now, it’s impossible to know what it is. Furthermore, we could have several answers and even overlapping answers. With government, there is only one way to do things. Freedom is unknown, yet no less valid if we’re today unable to answer questions about a reality that does not exist.
Be careful of those who claim to have drafted a detailed plan for social organization, judicial administration, defense agencies, market dynamics or economic resource allocation. Chances are, they’re not really advocating liberty but central planning.
There are, however, scholars and liberty-minded contributors who make educated guesses. While some use historical evidence, others use economics or current standards to try to paint a rough picture of what a libertarian society might look like. All those conjectures are of course debatable, yet so long as property rights are respected, they are nonetheless coherent.
Libertarians need not know the answer to everything. We claim that coercion is not justified. Beyond that, it is the responsibility of the entrepreneur, the social leader, the visionary, the inventor, or the average person to come up with solutions. The only requirement is that they do not use coercive means. Let’s move away from violence: it never solves problems and always hurts someone.
Manuel Lora [send him mail] is a freelance TV producer and multimedia specialist in New Orleans.