Libertarianism For (Reformed) Dummies
Libertarianism is sometimes treated as a complicated moral, political, and economic system. While there may be some relatively complicated positive applications of it, libertarianism is a simple system of principles.
The non-aggression principle is the fundamental principle of libertarian theory. This theory (in line with Genesis 9:6) holds that aggression (the initiation of force or violence against persons or their property) is inherently wrong.
Libertarianism boils down to the idea that anything that would be wrong for one man to do to another man by force is wrong for a group of men to do to a man (or group of men) by force. It does not matter if one person robs another, or if a group of men calling themselves government take property by force, doing so is wrong.
For every right, there is an equal and opposite responsibility. For the right to his own life, a man has the responsibility of not infringing upon the right to life of another man. To enjoy the right to his own property, a man must not infringe upon the right of any other man to his own property.
To add to his property morally, he must use the means of voluntary exchange, rather than acquiring goods or services by the use of force. He may also improve his own estate by homesteading, that is, adding value to unused property which he has come upon by enhancing it with his labors.
A libertarian society allows men the opportunity to create prosperity and pursue happiness for themselves peacefully. However, what may be prosperity for one man is not necessarily the same for another. So, each individual man in a libertarian society has the right to dispose of his own person and property in any way(s) which he sees fit. He is allowed to pursue his own happiness. If a man wishes to sell his property, he may do so. If he wishes to give it to another as a gift, he may do so. If he wished to destroy it, he may do so. Neither his neighbors nor the law can claim he has done them any wrong by making any of these choices.
In pursuing his own happiness, a man may behave immorally, but there should be no legislation against his immoral behavior(s) unless they forcefully take away from another man's rights to his own person and property. A man may do something which is morally wrong, but he has not committed a crime unless and until his actions have a victim (other than "society"), a victim whose right to either life, liberty, or disposal of property has been violated. This concept is perfectly consistent with the Christian view of morality inside and outside the church, as laid out by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 and 6. One can and should expect those who claim Christ and who Christ claims through his covenant to behave like they belong to him, but to require or expect the same of unbelievers from a civil law standpoint is neither right nor safe.
With these basic principles in mind, libertarian theory becomes much easier to understand. There are a wide number of sets and subsets of theory that fall within the bounds of these simple ideas, but they all maintain these common themes.