Libertarianism is the philosophy of freedom.
Its not easy to define freedom. The author Leonard Read said, Freedom is the absence of man-concocted restraints against the release of creative energy. The Nobel laureate F. A. Hayek referred to a state in which each can use his knowledge for his purpose and also to the possibility of a persons acting according to his own decisions and plans, in contrast to the position of one who was irrevocably subject to the will of another, who by arbitrary decision could coerce him to act or not to act in specific ways. Perhaps its best to understand freedom as the absence of physical force or the threat of physical force. John Locke offered this definition of freedom under the rule of law:
[T]he end of Law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge Freedom: For in all the states of created beings capable of Laws, where there is no Law, there is no Freedom. For Liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others which cannot be, where there is no Law: But Freedom is not, as we are told, A Liberty for every Man to do what he lists: (For who could be free, when every other Mans Humour might domineer over him?) But a Liberty to dispose, and order, as he lists, his Persons, Actions, Possessions, and his whole Property, within the Allowance of those Laws under which he is; and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary Will of another, but freely follow his own.
That is, a free person is not subject to the arbitrary will of another and is free to do as he chooses with his own person and property. But you can only have those freedoms when the law protects your freedom and everyone elses.
However we define freedom, we can certainly recognize aspects of it. Freedom means respecting the moral autonomy of each person, seeing each person as the owner of his or her own life, and each free to make the important decisions about his life.
Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others. Libertarians defend each persons right to life, liberty, and propertyrights that people possess naturally, before governments are instituted. In the libertarian view, all human relationships should be voluntary; the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have not themselves used forceactions such as murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and fraud.
Libertarians believe in the presumption of liberty. That is, libertarians believe people ought to be free to live as they choose unless advocates of coercion can make a compelling case. Its the exercise of power, not the exercise of freedom, that requires justification. The burden of proof ought to be on those who want to limit our freedom.
The presumption of liberty should be as strong as the presumption of innocence in a criminal trial, for the same reason. Just as you cant prove your innocence of all possible charges against you, you cannot justify all of the ways in which you should be allowed to act. James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution, said in response to a proposal that a Bill of Rights be added to the Constitution: Enumerate all the rights of man! I am sure, sirs, that no gentleman in the late Convention would have attempted such a thing.
Why do libertarians value freedom? There are many reasons.
Freedom allows each of us to define the meaning of life, to define whats important to us. Each of us should be free to think, to speak, to write, to paint, to create, to marry, to eat and drink and smoke, to start and run a business, to associate with others as we choose. When we are free, we can construct our lives as we see fit. Freedom is part of whats needed to lead a full human life.
Freedom leads to social harmony. We have less conflict when we have fewer specific commands and prohibitions about how we should livein terms of class or caste, religion, dress, lifestyle, or schools.
Economic freedom means that people are free to produce and to exchange with others. Freely negotiated and agreed-upon prices carry information throughout the economy about what people want and what can be done more efficiently. For an economic order to function, prices must be free to tell the truth. A free economy gives people incentives to invent, innovate, and produce more goods and services for the whole society. That means more satisfaction of more wants, more economic growth, and a higher standard of living for everyone.
A political system of liberty gives us the opportunity to use our talents and to cooperate with others to create and produce, with the help of a few simple institutions that protect our rights. And those simple institutionsproperty rights, the rule of law, a prohibition on the initiation of forcemake possible invention, innovation, and progress in commerce, technology, and styles of living.
In barely 250 years of having widespread economic freedom, weve escaped from the back-breaking labor and short life expectancy that were the natural lot of mankind since time immemorial to the abundance we see around us today in more and more parts of the worldthough not yet enough of the world.
What does valuing freedom mean for the libertarian view of government?
For libertarians, the basic political issue is the relationship of the individual to the state. What rights do individuals have (if any)? What form of government (if any) will best protect those rights? What powers should government have? What demands may individuals make on one another through the mechanism of government?
We try to discover the rules that govern the world, and rules that will enable us all to live together and realize those wonderful rights in the Declaration of Independencelife, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The worst governments are tyrannical predators; the best embody attempts at providing the framework of rules we need to live together.
We know who and what government is. It isnt some Platonic ideal. Government is people, specifically people using force against other people. We need some method to constrain and punish the violent, the thieves and fraudsters, and other dangers to our freedom, our rights, and our security. But that shouldnt eliminate our skepticism about empowering some people to use force against others. The power that government holds is wielded by real people, not ideal people, and real people are imperfect. Some are corrupt, some are even evil. Some of the worst are actually attracted to state power. But even the well-intentioned, the honest, and the wise are still just people exercising power over other people.
Thats why Americans have always feared the concentration of power. Its why I often say that Smokey the Bears rules for fire safety apply to government: Keep it small, keep it in a confined area, and keep an eye on it.
Libertarians, as the name implies, believe that the most important political value is liberty, not democracy. Many modern readers may wonder, whats the difference? Arent liberty and democracy the same thing?
Theyre not. Much of the confusion stems from two different senses of the word liberty, a distinction notably explored by the nineteenth-century French libertarian Benjamin Constant in an essay titled The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with That of the Moderns. Constant noted that to the ancient Greek writers the idea of liberty meant the right to participate in public life, in making decisions for the entire community. Thus Athens was a free polity because all the citizensthat is, all the free, adult, Athenian mencould go to the public square and participate in the decision-making process. Socrates, indeed, was free because he could participate in the collective decision to execute him for his heretical opinions. The modern concept of liberty, however, emphasizes the right of individuals to live as they choose, to speak and worship freely, to own property, to engage in commerce, to be free from arbitrary arrest or detentionin Constants words, to come and go without permission, and without having to account for their motives and undertakings. A government based on the participation of the governed is a valuable safeguard for individual rights, but liberty itself is the right to make choices and to pursue projects of ones own choosing.
I have attempted to sketch here what it means to be a libertarian. There are many kinds of libertarians, of course. Some are people who might describe themselves as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, or say they want the government out of my pocketbook and out of my bedroom. Some believe in the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence and want the government to remain within the limits of the Constitution. Some just have an instinctive belief in freedom or an instinctive aversion to being told what to do. Some are admirers of Dr. Ron Paul and his son, Senator Rand Paul, and their campaigns against war, government spending, the surveillance state, and the Federal Reserve. Some like the writings of Thomas Jefferson or John Stuart Mill. Some have studied economics. Some have learned from history that governments always seek to expand their size, scope, and power, and must be constrained to preserve freedom. Some have noticed that war, prohibition, cronyism, racial and religious discrimination, protectionism, central planning, welfare, taxes, and government spending have deleterious effects. Some are so radical they think all goods and services could be provided without a state. In this Guide, I welcome all those people to the libertarian cause. When I talk about libertarian ideas, I mean to include the ideas of thinkers from John Locke and Adam Smith to F. A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Robert Nozick, and Richard Epstein.
The old ideologies have been tried and found wanting. All around usfrom the postcommunist world to the military dictatorships of Africa to the insolvent welfare states of Europe and the Americaswe see the failed legacy of coercion and statism. At the same time we see moves toward libertarian solutions constitutional government in Eastern Europe and South Africa, privatization in Britain and Latin America, democracy and the rule of law in South Korea and Taiwan, the spread of womens rights and gay rights, and economic liberalization in China, India, and even some countries in Africa. Challenges to freedom remain, of course, including the continuing lack of Enlightenment values in much of the world, the unsustainable welfare states in the rich countries and the interests that fight reform, the recurring desire for centralized and top-down political institutions such as the Eurozone, Islamist theocracy, and the spread of populist, antilibertarian responses to social change and economic crisis. Libertarianism offers an alternative to coercive government that should appeal to peaceful, productive people everywhere.
No, a libertarian world wont be a perfect one. There will still be inequality, poverty, crime, corruption, mans inhumanity to man. But unlike the theocratic visionaries, the pie-in-the-sky socialist utopians, or the starry-eyed Mr. Fixits of the New Deal and Great Society, libertarians dont promise you a rose garden. Karl Popper once said that attempts to create heaven on earth invariably produce hell. Libertarianism holds out the goal not of a perfect society but of a better and freer one. It promises a world in which more of the decisions will be made in the right way by the right person: you. The result will be not an end to crime and poverty and inequality but lessoften much lessof most of those things most of the time.
- Introduction to Libertarianism | A Libertarianism.org Guide - December 13th, 2018
- The Libertarian Party of Colorado - December 13th, 2018
- Libertarian - definition of libertarian by The Free Dictionary - December 13th, 2018
- Libertarian | Definition of Libertarian by Merriam-Webster - December 13th, 2018
- Libertarian | Define Libertarian at Dictionary.com - December 13th, 2018
- libertarianism | Definition, Doctrines, History, & Facts ... - December 13th, 2018
- Libertarian Party | political party, United States ... - December 13th, 2018
- Libertarianism - Wikipedia - December 10th, 2018
- Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved ... - December 10th, 2018
- Libertarian | Definition of Libertarian by Merriam-Webster - December 2nd, 2018
- Definitions of Libertarianism - The Advocates for Self ... - December 2nd, 2018
- Libertarian | Define Libertarian at Dictionary.com - December 2nd, 2018
- Libertarian - definition of libertarian by The Free Dictionary - December 2nd, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News: This Week on Bitfinex, Tether, Coinbase, & More - December 1st, 2018
- Ripple Price Forecast: XRP vs SWIFT, SEC Updates, and More - December 1st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency Price Forecast: Trust Is Growing, But Prices Are Falling - December 1st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News: What You Need to Know This Week - December 1st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News: XRP Validators, Malta, and Practical Tokens - December 1st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News: Bitcoin ETFs, Andreessen Horowitz, and Contradictions in Crypto - December 1st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News: Looking Past the Bithumb Crypto Hack - December 1st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News: Vitalik Buterin Doesn’t Care About Bitcoin ETFs - December 1st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News: New Exchanges Could Boost Crypto Liquidity - December 1st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News: Bitcoin ETF Rejection, AMD Microchip Sales, and Hedge Funds - December 1st, 2018
- Libertarianism - Wikipedia - November 30th, 2018
- Libertarian | Define Libertarian at Dictionary.com - November 30th, 2018
- Libertarian - definition of libertarian by The Free Dictionary - November 30th, 2018
- What Is Libertarian - Institute for Humane Studies - November 30th, 2018
- Libertarian | Definition of Libertarian by Merriam-Webster - November 30th, 2018
- Eugenics - Wikipedia - November 27th, 2018
- Free gattaca Essays and Papers - 123helpme.com - November 27th, 2018
- Eugenics in the United States - Wikipedia - November 27th, 2018
- Libertarianism - Wikipedia - November 15th, 2018
- Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved ... - November 15th, 2018
- Lew Rockwell - November 15th, 2018
- Libertarianism - Wikipedia - November 12th, 2018
- 2018 Platform | Libertarian Party - November 12th, 2018
- Libertarian | Definition of Libertarian by Merriam-Webster - November 12th, 2018
- Libertarian Party - Ballotpedia - November 12th, 2018
- Libertarian | Define Libertarian at Dictionary.com - November 12th, 2018
- Libertarianism - Wikipedia - November 11th, 2018
- /r/Libertarian: Free Markets, Free Societies, Free Minds - November 11th, 2018
- Libertarian - definition of libertarian by The Free Dictionary - November 11th, 2018
- Libertarian | Define Libertarian at Dictionary.com - November 11th, 2018
- Libertarian | Definition of Libertarian by Merriam-Webster - November 11th, 2018
- libertarianism | Definition, Doctrines, History, & Facts ... - November 11th, 2018
- The Libertarian | Hoover Institution - November 11th, 2018
- libertarian | Definition of libertarian in English by Oxford ... - November 11th, 2018
- UC San Diego NanoEngineering Department - November 6th, 2018
- Nanoengineering - Wikipedia - November 6th, 2018
- NETS - What are Nanoengineering and Nanotechnology? - November 6th, 2018
- Undergraduate Degree Programs | NanoEngineering - November 6th, 2018
- About the NANO-ENGINEERING FLAGSHIP - November 6th, 2018
- The NANO-ENGINEERING FLAGSHIP initiative - November 6th, 2018
- Libertarianism - Wikipedia - November 5th, 2018
- Libertarian | Define Libertarian at Dictionary.com - November 5th, 2018
- Libertarian | Definition of Libertarian by Merriam-Webster - November 5th, 2018
- Introduction to Libertarianism | A Libertarianism.org Guide - November 5th, 2018
- Robot Security Guards Will Constantly Nag Spectators at the Tokyo Olympics - October 29th, 2018
- People Would Rather a Self-Driving Car Kill a Criminal Than a Dog - October 29th, 2018
- Scientists Say New Material Could Hold up an Actual Space Elevator - October 29th, 2018
- Zero Gravity Causes Worrisome Changes In Astronauts’ Brains - October 29th, 2018
- We Aren’t Growing Enough Healthy Foods to Feed Everyone on Earth - October 29th, 2018
- Report Identifies China as the Source of Ozone-Destroying Emissions - October 29th, 2018
- An AI Conference Refusing a Name Change Highlights a Tech Industry Problem - October 29th, 2018
- Scientists Are Hopeful AI Could Help Predict Earthquakes - October 29th, 2018
- A Stem Cell Transplant Let a Wheelchair-Bound Man Dance Again - October 29th, 2018
- AI Dreamed Up These Nightmare Fuel Halloween Masks - October 29th, 2018
- Clean Coal Startup Turns Human Waste Into Earth-Friendly Fuel - October 29th, 2018
- Ford’s Self-Driving Cars Are About to Chauffeur Your Senator - October 29th, 2018
- This AI Lie Detector Flags Falsified Police Reports - October 29th, 2018
- These Bacteria Digest Food Waste Into Biodegradable Plastic - October 29th, 2018
- You Can Now Preorder a $150,000 Hoverbike - October 29th, 2018
- FBI’s Tesla Criminal Probe Reportedly Centers on Model 3 Production - October 29th, 2018
- WHO Director: Air Pollution Is the “New Tobacco” - October 29th, 2018
- Scientists May Have Put Microbes in a State of Quantum Entanglement - October 29th, 2018
- There’s No Way China’s Artificial Moon Will Work, Says Expert - October 29th, 2018
- Libertarianism - Wikipedia - October 14th, 2018
- Urban Dictionary: libertarian - October 14th, 2018
- Libertarian | Define Libertarian at Dictionary.com - October 14th, 2018
- What Is Libertarian - Institute for Humane Studies - October 14th, 2018