I just came across this article on Libertarianism.org. I’m mostly posting this to help myself refer to it when somebody accuses libertarianism of being primarily an expression of anti-social selfishness. It’s really not. I wasn’t aware of the Oscar Wilde quote, but I like it:
Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people’s lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognizes infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it.
Of course, that only captures part of the story.
It isn’t selfish to respect everybody’s right to be free of coercion. It’s selfish to deny it, and forcibly impose your own schemes upon others who disagree with the policies. (It’s not only selfish, it’s also arrogant and foolish…)
I also agree with the point that just as it’s a mistake to assume libertarians are acting in bad faith, it’s also a mistake to assume that non-libertarians are acting out of a desire to “domineer and control” rather than out of the mistaken idea that state is the best way to achieve attractive social goals. We can and should argue about the means, but not automatically assume bad intentions.