Essay:Common responses to suicidal ideation expressed by libertarians

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Common responses, by other libertarians, to libertarians who express suicidal ideation

  • "You should kill the tyrants, not yourself" (note, however, that if a libertarian actually does attempt to do this, libertarians will immediately distance themselves from him, regarding him as a possible agent provocateur or at best a rash individual)
  • "You have a duty to yourself to preserve your own life" (see also John Stuart Mills' arguments at
  • "It takes more courage to live for a noble cause than to die for it, and it will do more good for the world" (thus replacing "Give me liberty or give me death" with "Give me liberty, please, sir. I am prepared to wait the rest of my life for you to grant my request, whilst patiently going about my business within the restrictions imposed by legislation, and paying taxes to financially support the continued oppression of not only myself but others as well.")

Common responses, by politically apathetic persons, to libertarians who express suicidal ideation

  • "What about your family?"
  • "Don't get so upset about living in a non-free society; focus on what's more important."

Both of these responses assume that the suicidal person is being nihilistic (i.e. finding life meaningless and therefore not caring what happens to others or to the world); and yet politically apathetic people are arguably the most nihilistic people of all. As wikisource:Cato's Letter No. 62 points out, "Indeed liberty is the divine source of all human happiness." To not care about liberty, then, is to not care about human happiness. Only a person who believes life (and therefore the happiness that is the purpose of all human endeavor) is meaningless would be apathetic toward those things.

On the other hand, it could be that, under the circumstances in which we find ourselves, a certain amount of nihilism is needed in order to continue living. If you live just for the heck of it, without regard for purpose, then there is no need to harm oneself for the sake of a principle. Some middle ground between nihilism and anti-nihilism may be optimal for survival and reproduction.

Common responses, by statists, to libertarians who express suicidal ideation

  • "The law says that if you're a danger to yourself, you must go to a mental hospital or prison where you can be protected from yourself; therefore, if you feel like you cannot or will not refrain from harming yourself, you should get the help that you need, including checking yourself into the hospital if that's the only way to put yourself in a place where you cannot harm yourself, because both the letter and spirit of the law require it."
  • "If you say you're going to harm yourself, I have a legal duty to forcibly stop you. I will fulfil that requirement because it's my job (as a conscientious citizen or as an officer of the law).

One could reply, "I disagree with your system of ethics. Given the disagreement, you see no reason not to act on your own opinion, without regard to the possibility mine might have validity. Therefore, why would should I not act on my own opinion, without regard to what you believe?" One could also reply, "So, if I say that I'm not going to harm myself, then you don't have a duty or a right to forcibly restrict my liberty in such a way as to restrain me from harming myself. Therefore, I officially declare that I'm not going to harm myself. This means that I am legally free to go out of your presence, to some other place, which happens to be one in which you cannot observe my activities."