I have only been studying philosophy, formally and informally, for about a year. In this time I have come across a wealth of theories, and formulated a few of my own. This also happens to be the period in which I have become a libertarian. First I was a mixed economy-ist, and although I certainly had problems accepting the neo-classical and Keynesian economic theory I was taught, due to the lack of an alternative, I generally took the mixed economy as inevitable and desirable. I thought that only certain changes need be made, and that the best way to make these changes was to work within the system - moreover I naturally saw democracy as the best system - rule by the people. I had had my socialist period at the age of 14. Anyway, I moved to minarchy, arguing to myself and others that anarchy would lead to "might is right" and gangsters. My arguments were unsophisticated, but people accepted them, because these are the same unsophisticated, emotive arguments I often hear now when arguing for a free society.
So that's some boring personal history. I'll try not to waste any more time. What I meant to get onto were the issues I find interesting and perplexing now, or at least the issues I find pertinent to a discussion of political philosophy. In a nutshell, these are the unjustifiability of any metaphysical or ethical theories. I can imagine that anyone reading this is long past the stage of actually believing such a thing as an objective morality could exist, let alone that it does exist or can be found - but this epiphany came to me fairly recently. It has profound implications on almost everything, but while it seems to destroy all systems, I think it takes more of a toll on some than others. It'll become clear what I mean.
In fact, it is probably blatantly obvious what I am getting at, at least with regards to ethics. If no one ethical theory can be proved, then why force yours on anyone else? This statement is seductive, but I think wrong. For example, it presupposes the existence of individual persons. In the words of a socialist I was having a debate with: "Of course individuals exist, I am one. You are another. I don't need to have faith in that , Individuals exist." I asked him to prove it, and despite his lack of a reply, I know he can't. Even if induction were a valid form of argument, he wouldn't be able to do it, because he's not really inducting. He has only had experience of one individual (and who is to say that he isn't merely a brain in a vat having experiences and even thoughts plugged in?), and knows nothing of the existence of other people. Do people ("characters") in dreams exist? Many of them seem to "prove" their individuality by acting as one might do in certain situations. But this is a well-trod argument and I add nothing to it by going over it again.
What I want to get to is that we cannot prove that individuals exist, and without this proof, how can we argue that third parties shouldn't interfere with other third parties. We have absolutely no evidence that these parties exist as individuals, feel the pain you feel, have similar experiences in similar situations etc. Even language fails to actually relate any meaning, as all linguistic terms are involved in a process of infinite referral with other objectively meaningless experiences and objects (are these themselves merely experiences?). Despite there being a huge and insurmountable boundary between is and ought, I think that this shows how metaphysics has such an important influence over ethics. If humans cannot be proven to exist as individuals, then how can we argue for individual liberty? If non-aggression is not objectively held as good, then how can we argue for non-aggression, and the complete respect of individual sovereignty? This seems to me to be a near-intractable problem for those who favour the free society, despite the fact that it also invalidates all other political philosophies (and not just libertarianism).
So what can a libertarian do? Well I think there is some sort of answer from epistemology. What can I be said to know? Strictly, nothing. Analytic propositions add nothing to one's knowledge, and empirical propositions have no validity whatsoever with regards to truth. These are the two traditionally accepted forms of "knowledge", but I think there is a third, and I think this third category of "knowledge" (and by the way, knowledge is merely a word I am using to explain the concepts I am trying to get across - as I have said, strictly, neither the previous mentioned "types" or the following "type" counts as knowledge proper) is what we derive from axiomatic assumptions. That assumptions are regularly made is beyond doubt. That they add to our view of the world, and allow us to live our lives is also beyond doubt. So they seem to be useful (although again, their utility cannot be proven, as there is no objective standard of utility to "hold them up against"). What I'm trying to say is: given that we cannot ever know the essence of existence and the universe, the only thing we can actually resort to is our intuition. What does the universe seem like? What seems right? By all means we should use our reason and logic, but no knowledge can come from experience or reason alone, nor from the two "sources" combined.
I did originally write something out as a conclusion, but I didn't like it and it was deleted. I think you can make your own conclusion.
But I do think it's useful to consider this:
I take it as an article of faith that humans exist as individuals (1)
I take it as an article of faith that only I can make claims on my body and personality without my consent, and equally, no individual can make claims on any other person without their consent, i.e. that each individual owns their person (2)
I cannot prove these, but surely, a theory based on two/three individual articles of faith (the possible third being an assumption about the ethical viability of original appropriation of unowned goods) is more persuasive to the metaphorical "man in the street" than the multitude of partially-conflicting and potentially irrational assumptions needed to justify socialism and quasi-socialism.
So there it is, my first blogpost. It can be viewed as self-contradictory, given what I said about the subjectivity of language, and it is certainly somewhat rambling and unattractive. But in the end, I'm somewhat proud of finally putting pen to paper. Having said that, it has thrown me into a mini-existential crisis. Thanks if you read it, please point out any errors I have made.