On the Mises Institute boards, somebody asked the question, “Who is the founding father of libertarianism?” Board members responded with an nice mix of usual suspects and surprising ones. My first thought was John Locke. But then I reconsidered, and wrote (basically) the following:
John Locke’s property theory was absolutely essential for libertarianism as an intellectual stance. But, it doesn’t take philosophy to recognize natural property rights on a gut level. Therefore, I nominate the very first human. Such an individual, who, long before the false legitimacy of state theft and murder, knew all he needed to know about libertarianism.
Property-based libertarianism is written in our nature. It’s a moral axiom that is present in the heart of any man who isn’t mixed up by the sophistries of the state. A man doesn’t need to understand the politics of war to know that murder is wrong; neither need he understand how markets work to know that stealing is wrong. If it weren’t for state propaganda, there would be no need for libertarian intellectualism. Unfortunately the state, through its false economics and false political philosophy, has convinced mankind that the world is in a constant state of extremity, such that, without some men being given the power to murder, steal, and enslave with impunity, civilization will descend into chaos. False theory can only be fought effectively with true theory. The role of a libertarian intellectual therefore is not to weave intricate theories to justify justice itself (there is no need for that); rather it is to UNWEAVE the tangled fabric of state lies. That is why we need economics and political philosophy: to show exactly how the state’s purported necessary evils are simply evils, and thereby reveal to people their inner libertarian.