Libertarians take as axiomatic that every person has a natural right to be secure in his life, liberty, and property. Necessary to respect and protect these rights is the non-agression principle, which states that all interpersonal exchanges must be voluntary and coercion is immoral. Briefly, to take one’s life is to take one’s future, to take one’s liberty is to take one’s present, and to take one’s property (the product of one’s life and liberty) is to take the part of one’s past that produced or acquired that property. A lengthier explanation can be found in the “Philosophy of Liberty”.
This ethos is good so far as it goes, and I find it far more appealing than the interventionism (imperialistic paternalism abroad and socialist paternalism at home) I see taking over American government, but I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that it’s missing something. Libertarianism seems to me to be vulnerable to accusations of being the philosophy of the selfish. While objectivists might not object to such an accusation, I suspect most other libertarians would. Collectivists of various stripes argue that man, self-centered and self-serving as he is, cannot be trusted to adhere to non-aggression for very long without a least a little – and perhaps a great deal of – governance.