The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) is the only criterion for libertarianism. One might expect libertarians to be contemplating deeply and writing the most scholarly articles on the topic. One might expect libertarians to be forming the most precise definition of aggression and non-aggression. Alas, a search of the most prominent libertarians yields only passing references on the topic. Libertarians believe that the NAP must be self-evident, despite the lack of agreement on the precise definition of what constitutes aggression and what does not.
This matters not only as an academic endeavor. More importantly, it is the libertarian position of non-intervention in foreign policy that depends on a clear understanding of what the principled libertarian view is on foreign aggression. Presidential candidate Ron Paul was perceived by many conservatives, who otherwise supported his libertarian positions, to be off putting for his foreign policy, not because they believed so much in US military intervention, but because the libertarian position of non-intervention is effectively silent on when it is appropriate to deploy military assets in the face of foreign aggression to defend American interests. A libertarian candidate for Commander-in-Chief cannot evade this essential topic, because it is the foremost qualification for the job. It is not enough to hand wave a general remark about supporting a strong national defense. Because of the libertarian position on non-intervention it is incumbent upon a libertarian candidate for POTUS to assure the citizens that with restraint also comes an impassioned intolerance for foreign aggression and no hesitation to deploy overwhelming military force and unspeakable violence in retaliation to any foreign power that initiates force against America. Non-intervention does not mean pacifism or appeasement or isolationism or weakness.
Now what exactly constitutes aggression? And what is the proper response to various acts of aggression? Silence on these questions is what is losing libertarians nominations, because a void in leadership on matters of defense is catastrophic to the preservation of liberty at home.
You’re not a champion of the free market if you oppose low priced goods from China and off-shoring to low cost labor. You’re just another protectionist, who favors the interests of a few domestic corporations over the interests of millions of consumers. It is a failure to understand the economics of comparative advantage.
You’re not a champion of smaller government if you want higher military spending on foreign interventions and ‘humanitarian’ missions. You’re just another big government crony in the pocket of the defense industry to promote the military industrial complex. National security in reality puts our focus on the defense of our actual national interests.
You’re not a champion of liberty if you support drug prohibition and the war on drugs. You’re just another nanny statist, who does not believe in individual rights. It is also a failure to understand the economics that create black markets, promote lawlessness, escalate violence, and increases drug potency that endanger users.
You’re not a champion of the US Constitution if you believe the Supremacy Clause gives federal powers over States beyond those powers expressly enumerated. You’re just another supporter of a living Constitution that comports with whatever powers politicians want and in whatever directions populist opinions lobby for. You talk about federal programs in education, energy, housing, and “job creation”, conceding the most important limiting principle—that the Constitution does not authorize the federal government to interfere in these ways, no matter what the present day politicians, constitutional “experts”, and the US Supreme Court (itself a branch of the federal government) has to say about it.
You’re not a champion of transparency if you support unchecked government discretion to classify information for secrecy and “national security”. You’re just another political class elitist who does not believe in accountability.
You’re not a champion against Ponzi schemes if you want to save the Social Security program as we know it. You’re just another delusional politician who thinks that kicking the can down the road to win votes today does not matter, because the inevitable crisis will not occur until someone else’s watch.
You lost, because you were not a champion.