Acts that would be unjust or morally impermissible when performed by an individual or a nongovernmental organisation should not be morally permissible when performed by a state.
Why should the state have a special moral status?
Ideas and circumstances are intertwined in making the modern world. Mercantilism and the industrial policy of a "wise" and "benevolent" state picking winners failed to sharply enrich ordinary people in imperial or protectionist states. The wrongness of slavery, the slaughtering of foreigners, the burning of “witches”, religious conformity, torture, despotism, are blindingly obvious moral issues today but over centuries they were acceptable. These were wrong ideas. There is a general tendency for correct ideas to win out in the long run and the forces of rationality tend to outweigh the forces of prejudice. Thinking otherwise is a symptom of historical myopia. If mistaken moral assumptions are still prevalent in some cases, we should not underestimate the enduring and intact power of a basic truth. Most likely future generations will look back and ask how was it possible not to see the wrongness of some of the unjust and prevailing current ideas.
The WLI offers a distinctive libertarian perspective of our world by applying a unique approach to a comprehensive list of 166 factors, documented for the first time in a systematic manner. The WLI collects and analyses data for 159 countries using a novel concept and methodology, which permits the visualisation of the pervasive violation of prima facie rights by the state.
The WLI uses a methodology that measures the distances between each country scores and the ideal point: “Libertopia”. The greater the violation of prima facie rights in a particular country, the greater the distance to the optimum.
Closeness implies a metric and the WLI uses the Euclidean distance. The WLI uses a scale of 0 to 10, where “Libertopia” represents a 10 and the worst violations a 0.
The WLI adopts the Euclidean distance as a metric for the following reasons:
• It is intuitive;
• It penalises more the countries where individual rights violations are more serious;
• It differentiates between extremely serious violations and less serious violations;
• It does not make any assumptions about the importance of each factor as all factors have the some weight;
• It presents robust results.
Libertarianism is a minimal government philosophy, or, in extreme cases, no government, according to which the government should do no more than protect the rights of individuals, while avoiding violating rights itself.
Rather than endorse governmental behaviour that would otherwise appear to violate individual rights, the WLI is built on the assumption that the moral constraints that apply to other agents also apply to the state. Simultaneously, the WLI defends a modest libertarian approach as it rejects the controversial nature of some libertarian theories. For example, the WLI refuses the ethical egoism of Ayn Rand; Nozick’s individual rights absolutism; or the contractarianism adopted by Narveson.
The WLI rests on three broad ideas, as proposed by the philosopher Michael Huemer:
• A nonaggression principle in interpersonal ethics. Individuals should not coerce one another - for example, attack, kill, steal from, defraud, apart from a few special circumstances;
• A recognition of the coercive nature of government. When the state promulgates a law, the law is generally backed up by a threat of punishment, which is supported by credible threats of physical force directed against those who would disobey the state; and
• A skepticism of political authority. The state may not do what it would be wrong for any nongovernmental person or organization to do.
These three ideas call for a libertarian political philosophy and all of them would be condemned if they were performed by any nongovernmental individuals or organisations. Therefore, unless we accord the state some special exemption from ordinary moral constraints, we must condemn all government actions that violate these principles apart from the actions performed in special circumstances.