Find more of John Hospers’ interview about Ayn Rand and Objectivism on “The Birth of Objectivism,” Volume 2 DVD, available at Amazon
Geoffrey Sampson is professor emeritus in the School of Informatics at the University of Sussex and is currently a research fellow at the University of South Africa. His research includes work on linguistics, computer science, and philosophy.
Nigel Ashford is senior program officer at the Institute for Humane Studies. He joined IHS from Staffordshire University where he was a professor of politics.
In this panel Hospers, Sampson, and Ashford respond to a lecture on the philosophical foundations of libertarian thought delivered by author and professor Norman Barry.
By Brandon Simpson
I believe that Matt Stone and Trey Parker have influenced, whether it was their intention or not, a generation of young people to be more libertarian with their show South Park. They sum up their political beliefs with the following statement:
“I hate conservatives, but I really f***ing hate liberals.”
If this book works the way I intend, liberals and conservatives who read it will be libertarians when they finish it. I will use certain episodes as a point of departure to discuss certain issues. In some cases, I will use my experience in France to drive the point further. I will cite some prominent libertarians, but in many cases I don’t cite anything. As you read, you will notice that I spend more time trying to convince liberals to be fiscally responsible than I do trying to convince conservatives of being socially intolerant. That is because I believe that fiscal responsibility can be taught more easily than social tolerance. Social intolerance is often motivated by deep religious beliefs, and it is virtually impossible to change one’s religious beliefs.
For example, Rick Santorum is very conservative, and I don’t think anyone can convince him to be socially tolerant. In fact, Santorum recently said that the Republicans are losing elections because they’re not anti-gay enough. I’m more optimistic of influencing those who don’t feel very strongly about the liberal-conservative dichotomy.
My job in France gave me so much time off that I was able to contemplate the role of government in our lives. And I was able to come to many conclusions, which I discuss in this book, without having read anything about libertarianism beforehand. I used to be liberal, but then I realized that I was a libertarian all along. I just didn’t know it.
Each chapter from Chapter Two to Chapter Sixteen is named after an episode from South Park. The chapters begin with a description of the episode, in case you haven’t seen it. If you’re an avid South Park fan, you won’t need to read these of course. Some descriptions are longer or shorter than others. The subsequent subsections contain a libertarian lesson from that episode. The episode is used as a point of departure, and there are a few subsections that don’t pertain directly to the episode, but rather to the lesson in it. You will notice that a few chapters have more lessons than others. For example, Chapter Two contains many lessons discussed that could easily be discussed in other episodes. While many of the libertarian lessons of South Park are often repeated in multiple episodes, each lesson will be discussed only once, but they may be mentioned a few more times.
Libertarianism 2013 Edition: A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow
John Hospers on What Libertarianism Is:
1) No one is anyone else’s master, and no one is anyone else’s slave.
2) Other people’s lives are not yours to dispose of.
3) No human being should be a non-voluntary mortgage on the life of another.
Dr. Hospers sees these as three versions of the same absolute right of personal liberty. In other words, assuming we are talking about mentally-able individuals, no person can make their life better by reducing the liberty of another person.
For the same reason that slavery is wrong, it is equally wrong to involuntarily deprive others of their time or money. The basic human rights of life and liberty cannot exist without a right to property. The benefits I create for myself are MINE, and to take them away (or to make me work for another’s benefit without my consent) is wrong.
RIGHTS are ONLY to be understood as involving duties of forbearance or restraint. In other words, so-and-so’s right to property is nothing more than the duty that others have to refrain from taking that property for themselves.
Rights belong naturally to us. Rights are not something given to us by governments. Rights are claims that we make AGAINST governments! If I have a right to benefit from my own labor, then the government is wrong to take any of those benefits from me without my consent.
“The only proper role of government … is that of the protector of the citizen against aggression by other individuals.”
•Because governments has the role of “protector,” government must possess enough force/power to protect its citizens (e.g., by having a police force and/or military and a related system for punishing or neutralizing those who practice aggression against others).
•Aggression against others includes unintended harms to others. Government also has a role in deciding and settling claims of harm by others.
•Other than providing for these legitimate functions, government has no right to tax its citizens for any purpose whatsoever.
•Government should intervene only in a RETALIATORY situation. The government must never INITIATE an action to create a better world — it is not the business of government to make an advance decision about what counts as benefit. Through laws, government can prohibit various aggressive actions, but it cannot require the bringing about of supposedly beneficial ones.
Government charity, social programs, public works, etc., require one person to pay for the benefits that another person will receive. However, doing this through involuntary taxation is theft of property.
LIBERTARIANISM by John Hospers
The POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY WHOSE TIME HAS COME
“For many decades, news reports on the intellectual activities of the younger generation have been confined almost exclusively to advocates of statism and collectivism. Only recently have there appeared the first acknowledgements, in the newspapers, of a rising interest among the younger generation in political philosophy that stands in radical contrast to this authoritarian trend: Libertarianism.
“Now, Professor John Hospers, Director of the School of Philosophy of the University of Southern California, has given us, in his latest book, a clear statement of the central political-economic positions of this young intellectual movement. The book is offered, not as an original work of philosophy, but rather as an attempt to delineate the major positions on which most Libertarians would agree — and to answer many of the objections and questions with which Libertarians have to contend.
“Libertarianism is very simply and clearly written and requires no technical knowledge on the part of the reader. Enjoyable, informative reading.”
– Nathaniel Branden, Author of THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SELF-ESTEEM
About John Hospers:
As co-founder of the national Libertarian Party and as the author of the exceptionally readable book Libertarianism and numerous articles on liberty and politics, Dr. Hospers became the Libertarian Party’s first candidate for President of the United States in 1972, garnering an electoral vote in that election.
JOHN HOSPERS was an author, philosopher, educator and politician who in 1972 was the first to run for President of the United States on the Libertarian Party ticket. His book, Libertarianism: A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow (1971), quickly became the cornerstone of the Libertarian Party; written with concise clarity of language and statement of principles so as to appeal to a wide demographic, the classic work arguably reads more relevantly today than ever. Libertarianism: A Political Philosophy Whose Time Has Come, the original alternate title, again, rings the bell of liberty and freedom. Along with volumes more essays about politics and other topics – Hospers wrote books on esthetics, ethics, and was an intimate intellectual colleague of the revolutionary thinker, Ayn Rand.
When asked what he considered to be his philosophic legacy –- and what he most wanted to be remembered for, Prof Hospers, Emeritus in Philosophy at the University of Southern California and head of the USC School of Philosophy (1968-1988), replied:
“I am most known as a writer of philosophy, in such books as Introduction to Philosophical Analysis  and Human Conduct . But I always wanted to be remembered as a great teacher. Universities, however, consider only a teacher’s scholarly works and not his/her teaching ability.
“I want to be remembered as a philosophical instructor who could clarify questions and present good ideas clearly, avoiding vagueness and confusion in the presentation of ideas. That is probably my main legacy as a teacher. And many of my students have come to remember me in just this way.”