by Gennady Stolyarov II*
|Fundamental Ideas in a Philosophy of Liberty (Print Version)
Le Québécois Libre, November
15, 2009, No 272.
I was recently asked to attempt a formulation of ten crucial
principles of classical liberalism, the worldview which animated the
American Revolution, the European Enlightenment, the Industrial
Revolution, and the libertarian revival of free-market thought in
the mid-to-late twentieth century. Classical liberalism—even when it
is not explicitly espoused—still has considerable residual influence
on the political and economic institutions of the Western world and
is having an increasing impact outside the West as well. I see the
principles of classical liberalism as primarily forward-looking.
These ideas need not only characterize aspects of humanity's past.
They can also guide and ameliorate our future.
The following ten
principles are not exhaustive, and they have been formulated broadly
to account for differences in opinion on particulars within
classical liberal circles. Although different people may apply and
interpret these principles in somewhat different ways, a general
agreement on even these ideas would go a long way toward advancing
liberty, prosperity, and peace in the world.
The life of each individual is an absolute and universal moral
value. No non-aggressive individual's life, liberty, or property
may be legitimately sacrificed for any goal.
Every individual owns his body, his mind, and the labor thereof,
including the physical objects legitimately obtained through
Every individual has the right to pursue activities for the
betterment of his life—including its material, intellectual, and
emotional aspects—by using his own body and property, as well as
the property of consenting others.
The rights of an individual to life, liberty, and property are
inherent to that individual's nature. They are not granted by
other human beings, and they cannot be taken away by any entity.
The initiation of physical force, the threat of such force, or
fraud against any individual is never permissible—irrespective
of the position and character of the initiator. However,
proportionate force may be used to retaliate and defend against
The sole fundamental purpose of government is to protect the
rights of individuals by engaging in actions specifically
delegated to the government by its constituents. Government is
not the same as society, nor is the government entitled to
sacrifice some non-aggressive individuals to advance the well-being
Every individual has the absolute right to think and express any
ideas. Thought and speech are never equivalent to force or
violence and ought never to be restricted or to be subject to
coercive penalties. Specifically, coercion and censorship on the
basis of religious or political ideas are not acceptable under
Commerce, technology, and science are desirable, liberating
forces that are capable of alleviating historic ills, improving
the quality of human life, and morally elevating human beings.
The complete freedom of trade, innovation, and thought should be
preserved and supported for all human beings in the world.
Accidents of birth, geography, or ancestry do not define an
individual and should not result in manmade restrictions of that
individual's rights or opportunities. Every individual should be
judged purely on his or her personal qualities, including
accomplishments, character, and knowledge.
There are no "natural" or desirable limits to human potential
for good, and there is no substantive problem that is
necessarily unsolvable by present or future human knowledge,
effort, and technology. It is a moral imperative for humans to
expand their mastery of the universe indefinitely and in such a
manner as will reinforce the survival and flourishing of all
Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist and philosophical
essayist, and is Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator.
He lives in Carson City, Nevada.