Do libertarians believe people are basically good or basically evil?

I once had two people  both come to me at the same time to ask me whether libertarians believed people are basically good or basically evil.  These two guys were friends and co-editors of a small magazine, but one was a right winger and the other was a socialist and one believed people were basically good and the other believed people were basically evil.

So this is what I told them:

Either way, the libertarian approach is better.  If people are basically good, then they are worthy to run their own lives and in most cases government is not needed to restrain people.  On the other hand, if people are basically evil, then we cannot assume that the people in government are any different.  If we assume that the people running the government are basically evil (along with everybody else) then we want them to have as little power as possible and there no reason to believe they will use any power we give them to do good.  The only set of assumptions which would justify the sort of government control of our lives which we have now would be if people in the government were all basically good and everyone else was basically evil.  There is no reason whatsoever to believe this and some evidence that implies the opposite is true.

After I said this, both the people I was talking to laughed at the last part and seemed convinced that the libertarian approach really was the right way to go.

-- Charles Champion, in a letter to Harry Browne, March 10, 2001,
from   http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lpf/message/8977 

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I once had two people  both come to me at the same time to ask me whether libertarians believed people are basically good or basically evil.  These two guys were friends and co-editors of a small magazine, but one was a right winger and the other was a socialist and one believed people were basically good and the other believed people were basically evil.

So this is what I told them:

Either way, the libertarian approach is better.  If people are basically good, then they are worthy to run their own lives and in most cases government is not needed to restrain people.  On the other hand, if people are basically evil, then we cannot assume that the people in government are any different.  If we assume that the people running the government are basically evil (along with everybody else) then we want them to have as little power as possible and there no reason to believe they will use any power we give them to do good.  The only set of assumptions which would justify the sort of government control of our lives which we have now would be if people in the government were all basically good and everyone else was basically evil.  There is no reason whatsoever to believe this and some evidence that implies the opposite is true.

After I said this, both the people I was talking to laughed at the last part and seemed convinced that the libertarian approach really was the right way to go.

-- Charles Champion, in a letter to Harry Browne, March 10, 2001

<BACK to FAQs & Q&As on Liberty at http://www.FreedomKeys.com/faqs.htm