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Libertarians Legislate their Morality



Libertarians often criticize conservatives for legislating morality. These libertarians claim they merely protect individual rights through a neutral government, whereas conservatives base their policies on their moral views. Libertarians think the government should be neutral on moral issues. This neutrality is fraudulent. Libertarianism is grounded in moral principles, and libertarians seek to order society around those principles.


Conservatives legislate their morality by supporting policies that promote their view of the common good. Belief in a transcendent moral order is fundamental to conservatism. Conservatives believe the family, church, and government are good institutions that should be defended. Their policies come from their political worldview, which is rooted in a moral worldview.


Libertarians argue that conservative policies infringe on individual rights, and thus conservatives violate basic principles of liberty. According to libertarians, an individual should be free to do whatever he wants as long as he does not infringe on someone's rights. They say the problem is not that conservatives seek to preserve the good things in society. The problem is that conservatives use their common good policies to constrain individuals instead of letting them live freely. Therefore, libertarians assert that conservatives are wrong to enforce laws built from their moral and political worldview.


While libertarians claim to support a neutral government, their policies and principles suggest otherwise. Libertarians believe people are endowed with universal and unalienable rights which preexist government. Ron Paul said that "The purpose of government in a free society is to protect your freedom and your liberty." The government only exists to secure these rights and liberties, not legislate morality. However, libertarianism is not morally neutral. The libertarian view of liberty is rooted in the non-aggression principle. The non-aggression principle states that aggression against others is morally wrong, except in cases of self-defense. Murray Rothbard argued that "The only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal." Libertarians who criticize conservatives for legislating morality assume that rights and liberty are independent of morality.


Although conservatives legislate their morality, libertarians are mistaken if they believe they are not also legislating their morality. Rothbard, the father of modern libertarianism, said that violating the non-aggression principle is wrong because it is unjust, immoral. Therefore, The non-aggression principle, the core of libertarianism, is itself a moral principle. Likewise, individual rights only make sense within a moral framework. By protecting rights and ordering society around their understanding of liberty, libertarians legislate their morality.


A morally neutral government cannot exist, and legislating morality is unavoidable in politics. All laws are rooted in a moral worldview. The question is not “should the government legislate morality?” The question is “which morality should the government legislate?”