My political views seem natural and obvious — to me. Others find them peculiar. Their peculiarity consists largely of carrying certain statements, familiar enough in political oratory, to their natural conclusions.
I believe, as many say they believe, that everyone has the right to run his own life — to go to hell in his own fashion. I conclude, as do many on the left, that all censorship should be done away with. Also that all laws against drugs — marijuana, heroin, or Dr. Quack’s cancer cure — should be repealed. Also laws requiring cars to have seat belts.
The right to control my life does not mean the right to have anything I want free; I can do that only by making someone else pay for what I get. Like any good right winger, I oppose welfare programs that support the poor with money taken by force from the taxpayers.
I also oppose tariffs, subsidies, loan guarantees, urban renewal, agricultural price supports — in short, all of the much more numerous programs that support the not-poor — often the rich — with money taken by force from the taxpayers — often the poor.
I am an Adam Smith liberal or, in contemporary American terminology, a Goldwater conservative. Only I carry my devotion to laissez faire further than Goldwater does — how far will become clear in the following chapters. Sometimes I call myself a Goldwater anarchist.
These peculiar views of mine are not peculiar to me. If they were, I would be paying Harper and Row to publish this book instead of Harper and Row paying me. My views are typical of the ideas of a small but growing group of people, a ‘movement’ that has begun to attract the attention of the national media. We call ourselves libertarians.
This book is concerned with libertarian ideas, not with a history of the libertarian movement or a description of its present condition. It is fashionable to measure the importance of ideas by the number and violence of their adherents. That is a fashion I shall not follow. If, when you finish this book, you have come to share many of my views, you will know the most important thing about the number of libertarians — that it is larger by one than when you started reading.