The Second Rule of Libertarianism


There’s more to libertarianism than not killing people or taking their stuff.

I know, that seems like a total no-brainer. Surely, a peaceful and prosperous society can’t be just that simplistic. But apparently, some people already struggle to remember to refrain from doing just those two things. So, in light of recent events, I feel the need to outline a couple extra points on how to liberty right.

I’m here to tell you that there’s more to being a good libertarian than the non-aggression principle. The second rule of libertarianism is cooperation.

No, anarchists, these aren’t “rules” in the sense that there’s some governing body that enforces how you live your life. It’s a simple law of nature of how you can expect people to react. The non-aggression principle isn’t law because Rothbard Christ came down from the heavens to bestow his wisdom upon us. It’s law because if you hurt people or break their things, you can expect to be shot in the face, and no one will have sympathy for your sad little corpse. But remember, this doesn’t guarantee even your basic survival. It guarantees your right to try to survive. The rest is up to your ability for cooperation.

Alone in the wild, few humans have historically survived to old age, and an even smaller percentage of modern people could make it on their own. That’s how humanity discovered cooperation, or as it’s known in modern economic terms, the free market. From individually specializing and collectively sharing food to community defense to trading with inventors and manufacturers, homo sapiens flourished through cooperation into the death-cheating powerhouse of a species we’ve grown to know and love. I know it seems insulting to break down the basics of free trade into childlike terms for a bunch of libertarians, but it’s important context for what I’m about to say.

Attacking people physically or taking their belongings will get you killed in short order, but that’s not the only way to die in a libertarian paradise. If you make fraudulent or sketchy business deals, no one will want to work with you. If you return people’s hospitality and generosity with disrespect and greed, they won’t repeat their mistake of welcoming you. If you are generally mean, hurtful, or selfish enough, no one will come to your aid if you are attacked. If you’re so much of a jerk and a bad person that no one wants to cooperate with you on any level, you will die alone, either from starvation, illness, an accident, or willing violation of the non-aggression principle by some barbarian, and no one but your mother will cry for you. Maybe not even her if you screwed her over too.

Peaceful, voluntary cooperation is what can truly make a society free, safe, and prosperous. Just remember that the “voluntary” part means your wellbeing isn’t guaranteed. You have to convince people to help you. If you upset enough of your community members, don’t be surprised if you find yourself short of friends, funds, and even basic physical protection.

Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx. He is also the founder of the Rights Brigade, a mover for the Free State Project, and a martial art instructor.
  • Or, as I say, the Zero Aggression Principle is essential, but not sufficient.