The fact is, America is a country fundamentally shaped by libertarian values and attitudes. Our libertarian values helped to create the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and those documents in turn shape our thinking about freedom and the limited powers of government. David Boaz, Who Killed Gun Control?
What is a libertarian? According to Wikipedia, libertarians wish to maximize autonomy and political freedom, emphasizing free association, freedom of choice, individualism and voluntary association. In essence, the libertarian is anyone who upholds liberty as their core guiding principle and wants to preserve their own rights as well as the rights of others.
Libertarians also want to limit state power, albeit to varying degrees. Anarcho-capitalists want only a night-watchman state, the purpose of which is limited to protecting people from aggression, enforcing private property, and a few other aspects of private life which the free market typically doesnt concern itself with. (This is not to be confused with anarchism, an ideology that usually rejects private property.) Consequentialist libertarians who believe free trade must benefit society as a whole may tolerate greater government power if it does genuine good rather than merely hinder individual autonomy.
People hearing about libertarianism for the first time might assume its some fringe ideology. You could argue that it is, but you would have to acknowledge a large reason why: Libertarians seek to take power away from the government and not give it to anyone else. Any powerful person or organization which owes their lofty position to the status quo has every incentive to marginalize libertarianism.
Summarizing a complete political and economic philosophy in a few paragraphs is a hefty task. It took Murray Rothbard (aka Mr. Libertarian) over 300 pages to do about as much when he penned For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto.
But lets set the books aside for a moment and briefly explain what libertarians believe, with the understanding that libertarians disagree on many things as well.
Libertarians believe everyone should enjoy total autonomy. Do as you please with your life. Spend it with whomever, doing whatever, wherever. Just dont forcibly interfere with anyone elses liberty and were all square.
Libertarians believe in entrepreneurialism and the free market. Innovation is wrought from passion and hard work, not duty. A government that taxes the industry is only stealing products to give to those who havent earned it. With less government control comes greater access to the free market, and more opportunity to create wealth for all.
Libertarians do not recognize official authority in most cases. The man in Washington, the man in Moscow, the man in the Vatican none of them can nullify your right to live free and independently. The libertarian rejects authoritys need to violate their rights for the greater good. To the libertarian, there is no greater good beyond the preservation of those very rights.
Why is the Libertarian Partys symbolic animal a porcupine? Because it bothers nobody and expects the same favor in return. But if you do decide to bother it, you may reasonably expect a snoot full of barbs.
No true libertarian country exists. One might argue the political ideology has a built-in kill switch, as the very people who value individualism and economic freedom seldom want to helm an organization which controls people and taxes them.
While conservatism and liberalism are espoused by Americas two dominant political parties, either of which proffers a very noisy presidential candidate every four years, libertarianism remains something of a question mark in most peoples minds.
What are the libertarian positions on the big issues? They are seldom publicly advised or officially implemented, so you have to examine them for yourself if you want greater insight into libertarian beliefs.
Democrats and Republicans both believe that a war is an awful, awful thing whenever the rival party has started one. In contrast, the libertarian is unequivocally opposed to war. At its very core libertarianism is a rejection of militarism, which by definition entails the implementation of violence to force others to do as the state wishes.
War breeds nationalism, an ideology diametrically at odds with individualism. It incentivizes corruption, as Smedley Butler elaborates in War Is a Racket, and ultimately poses a net loss to society as Ludwig von Mises explains in Nation, State, and Economy. The state at war demands its citizens to forfeit their rights and their own lives for the good of the collective. Although war invariably increases state power, its cessation almost never decreases it. And while this may go without saying, the natural rights of individuals do include not getting killed.
Libertarianism condemns war as a facet of foreign policy, yet it does not prescribe absolutist pacifism. You have every right to strike a man who is attacking you. The non-aggression principle forbids the initiation of force, not forceful defense. Likewise, many libertarians accept that war is a necessary evil in some cases. Few libertarians argue that the United States ought to have remained a British colony, and fewer still would prefer to ignore Kim Jong-un if he decided to glass San Francisco. Yet the staunchest libertarians may also advocate unwavering pacifism to the extent where war could never be an option. Whether their ideology is practicable in so hostile a world is a matter of speculation.
Most libertarians advocate for limited government not zero government as they agree some degree of official intervention is required to protect citizens from aggression, theft, and other transgressions against their private property and civil liberties.
Unfortunately, the current state of the American criminal justice system could hardly be described as limited. The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws, as Tacitus wrote, and indeed America currently has so many laws in place that most citizens would become felons if they were only formally arrested and convicted. As Hunter S. Thompson (who is not to be confused with Tacitus) once put it, In a closed society where everybodys guilty, the only crime is getting caught.
Libertarians would advocate several measures to fix the broken criminal justice system. Qualified immunity, which effectively permits government officials to violate individuals liberty, would have to go. (The Cato Institute better explains why.) So too would police unions, which make it nigh impossible to terminate terrible police officers. Libertarians also call for an immediate end to the war on drugs, as conservative libertarian Milton Friedman supported when he endorsed legalizing marijuana. (Hence why the Libertarian Party is occasionally referred to as the Dude Weed Party.)
A libertarian understands that their civil rights are not special permissions granted (or revokable) by their government. Rather, civil rights are intrinsic to humanity itself. To be born is to have the right to free speech, press, religion and so on. Certain civil rights only apply to those in special circumstances, such as the prisoners right to a speedy trial as protected by the Sixth Amendment (which is arguably violated when a criminal trial can last longer than five years).
A libertarian is soundly in favor of preserving existing civil rights as well as creating additional ones. For example, the Libertarian Party views government officials reading your emails as a very bad thing. A libertarian would also support the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would guarantee equal legal rights for all Americans regardless of their sex.
Equal rights are not to be mistaken for equal results, however. Friedrich Hayek explains how so in The Constitution of Liberty: From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time. The equality before the law which freedom requires leads to material inequality.
Gun ownership is the civil liberty which modern liberalism likes to conveniently forget. The Republican Party is friendlier to gun rights, but not nearly enough. Many GOP supporters were unhappy when President Trump instructed the ATF to treat bump stocks as machine guns, or when he said he would think about banning suppressors.
Ron Paul summed up the libertarian view on guns like so: Nobody should tell you you cant own a gun because it might be misused. And George Orwell, a socialist of all things, explained why: That rifle on the wall of the labourers cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.
One of the libertarian ideas people often struggle with is this: Any political party or form of government has the potential to turn tyrannical. More than 250 million people were killed by their governments during the 20th century alone. Guns preserve political freedom by equipping people to fight back against the only organization which is legally allowed to kill them. In a country where gun confiscation has quite literally concluded with democide, it is crucial to remember that guns arent simply fun toys for rednecks.
Just like it places a premium on property rights, libertarianism maintains that you have total autonomy over your own body. You have the right to accept or refuse any medical treatment you wish to, just as you have the right to take any recreational drug that you please. (But if you get drunk and do something foolish, the consequences are all yours to enjoy.)
Libertarianism rejects the welfare state, including the governments nationalization of healthcare. As Walter E. Williams put it, There is no moral argument that justifies using the coercive powers of government to force one person to bear the expense of taking care of another. Thomas Sowell completed the libertarian argument against nationalized healthcare: It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it.
Free-market healthcare is subject to competitive forces that continually improve medicine; government-controlled healthcare must only satisfy whichever criteria impassionate bureaucrats create for it. As is always the case, incentivizing innovation is the surest way toward progress not yoking it to government officials who are more concerned with polls than they are public health.
John Locke summed up the duty we have to children in Some Thoughts Concerning Education: Children are strangers to all we are acquainted with; and all the things they meet with, are at first unknown to them, as they once were to us: and happy are they who meet with civil people, that will comply with their ignorance, and help them to get out of it. (Not all of the libertarian movements preeminent thinkers get it quite so right. Murray Rothbards assertion that parents have no legal obligation to feed their kids can be considered frosty at best.)
The experience offered by public education suffers greatly for its dependence on tax revenue. When teachers must place the demands of government officials before the diverse needs of their students, and when the public education system indoctrinates children with whatever ideologies the dominant political party prescribes, we fail our children. Many libertarians wish to shield vulnerable children from politicians and their special interests by divorcing education from the government entirely.
You have likely noticed that we peppered this article with mentions of several people. These are the thinkers whose work you should explore if you want a firmer grasp of libertarianism. (You had better add Ayn Rand to the list while youre at it.) Keep learning, and one day soon you too may be able to bore your friends to tears with long-winded explanations as to why taxation is theft and the government should bugger off.
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- Credit every American - The Spokesman-Review - July 14th, 2021
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- Why Conservatives And Libertarians Should Think Globally About Environmental Policy - Forbes - June 27th, 2021
- Relief payments to Black farmers on hold amid lawsuits backed by former Trump aides, conservative groups - Kansas Reflector - June 27th, 2021
- Never-Trump Republicans Announce New Fundraising Effort To Re-Defeat the Ex-President - Reason - June 27th, 2021
- The Problem Belongs to Every Last Person: On Matt Bell's Appleseed - lareviewofbooks - June 27th, 2021
- Letter: It's time to take care of Earth and stop wasting tax dollars - Worcester Telegram - June 27th, 2021
- Jane Coaston Wants To Have Better Arguments - Sojourners - June 23rd, 2021
- Right Wing Crazies & Libertarians Join In On Socialist Rally To Defund The Police With Hilarious Results - Free Keene - June 23rd, 2021
- Noticing the common good | Religion | themountaineer.com - The Mountaineer - June 23rd, 2021
- How a GOP Senate resolution condemning critical race theory distorts the facts - Poynter - June 23rd, 2021
- Letter: Freedom could be more individualized, but not lost in the United States - Shreveport Times - June 23rd, 2021
- Libertarianism | Polcompball Wiki | Fandom - June 13th, 2021
- Neo-Libertarianism | Polcompball Wiki | Fandom - June 13th, 2021
- Thinking critically about critical race theory - The Nevada Independent - June 13th, 2021
- Letter: History shows Libertarian ideas are winning | Letters to the Editor | heraldextra.com - Daily Herald - June 11th, 2021
- Letter: The Libertarian position is pro-vaccine - INFORUM - June 11th, 2021
- Libertarian Party submitting two marijuana ballot initiatives in Wyoming ahead of 2022 election - Oil City News - June 11th, 2021
- Paul Frew: The libertarian electrician now charged with sparking the north's economic recovery - The Irish News - June 11th, 2021
- Third parties in the U.S. What options do voters have? - Deseret News - June 11th, 2021
- The Difference Between Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism - May 31st, 2021
- Bubba Horwitz: Crypto Is The Currency Of The Libertarian And Free Markets The Daily Dive - The Deep Dive - May 31st, 2021
- What 'The Enduring Tension' Can Teach Us about the Core Institutions of Our Civilization | Richard Morrison - Foundation for Economic Education - May 31st, 2021
- Ted Budd Officially Entering 2022 NC Senate Race - The Rhino Times of Greensboro - The Rhino TImes - April 29th, 2021
- Elections official admits breaking rule | Indiana | Journal Gazette - Fort Wayne Journal Gazette - April 29th, 2021
- Libertarian Party of Wisconsin holds annual convention in Eau Claire - WQOW TV News 18 - April 25th, 2021
- Letter: Calling out the misinformed, on the right and left, about COVID-19 - Eagle-Tribune - April 25th, 2021
- Boris's threat to intervene in the Super League furore is proof that his libertarian instincts are dead - Reaction - April 23rd, 2021
- WAHRHAFTIG: This Year's Primary Affects Everyone And Everyone Can Vote - Patch.com - April 23rd, 2021
- The Economic Fallout of COVID-19: Could We Have Avoided This Disaster? - Worth - April 23rd, 2021
- Letters to the Editor: April 5, 2021 - West Hawaii Today - April 6th, 2021
- The Bad Kind of Globalism - Splice Today - April 6th, 2021
- Vaccine Passports and Supply Chain Political Blacklist Risk - Reason - April 4th, 2021
- Glenn Nielsen and David Tyson Smith race toward the 45th District special election - Columbia Daily Tribune - April 4th, 2021
- Letters to the Editor for March 31, 2021 | Serving Carson City for over 150 years - Nevada Appeal - April 4th, 2021
- How Living on a Socialist Kibbutz Reveals the Value of Private Property - Reason - April 4th, 2021
- I Am An Ambedkarite And A Libertarian And I Do Not Owe Anything To Your Opinion - Youth Ki Awaaz - March 31st, 2021
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- Why We Don't Need Any More "Political" Clubs on Campus The Skidmore News - Skidmore News - March 25th, 2021
- If we don't rediscover our libertarian spirit, the next pandemic will crush us - Telegraph.co.uk - March 25th, 2021
- Is it any surprise Republican men dont want the COVID vaccine? - The Boston Globe - March 25th, 2021
- Area business participates in hygiene drive | News, Sports, Jobs - The Express - Lock Haven Express - March 25th, 2021
- Recover the Moral Imperative of Law and Order city-journal.org - City Journal - March 25th, 2021
- Will Prohibitionists Tie The New Conservative Movement To Trump? - The Fresh Toast - March 25th, 2021
- 'Tip of the iceberg': Lawmakers mull domestic terrorism legislation after Capitol riot, other violence - USA TODAY - March 25th, 2021
- Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs announces he will run for reelection in 2022 - Knoxville News Sentinel - March 25th, 2021
- Bidenomics - The Nation - March 3rd, 2021
- Warren, Pressley among Dems pushing to strip police of 'qualified immunity' - Fox News - March 3rd, 2021
- Nick Robinson on 'Silk Road' and Carrying the Torch for 'Jurassic Park' - Hollywood Reporter - March 3rd, 2021
- Wyoming's Voter Registration Numbers Dip By More Than 20K Sheridan Media - Sheridan Media - March 3rd, 2021
- Recollections of Murray on His Ninety-Fifth Birthday - The Shepherd of the Hills Gazette - March 3rd, 2021
- Threatened by Libertarians, Iowa GOP moves goal posts - The Gazette - February 28th, 2021
- The New Foreign Flavor of CPACs Red Meat - New York Magazine - February 28th, 2021
- CPAC and the New Republicanism - The New York Times - February 28th, 2021
- Libertarian Party of Indiana's response to Secretary of State's resignation - Shelbynews - February 28th, 2021
- Iowa's bad election bill will stifle early voting, micromanage auditors - The Gazette - February 28th, 2021
- Letter: School voucher programs benefit the wealthy - The Republic - February 28th, 2021
- News - The Bankruptcy of Conservative Political Paternalism - The Heartland Institute - February 18th, 2021
- Rush Limbaugh galvanised and embodied the modern American right - The Economist - February 18th, 2021
- People Of Georgia's 14th Congressional Make Decision Who Will Occupy That Seat - Jamestown Post Journal - February 18th, 2021
- My Take: Here's a unity solution: Have one standard - HollandSentinel.com - February 18th, 2021
- 77 third-party candidates received more votes than the winner's margin of victory in 2020 Ballotpedia News - Ballotpedia News - January 29th, 2021
- Empathize with Trump voters? A Progressive and a Libertarian agree to disagree - KUOW News and Information - January 27th, 2021
- STATE: Constitution, Green parties no longer recognized in North Carolina - The Stanly News & Press | The Stanly News & Press - Stanly News... - January 27th, 2021
- Book Review: When A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear, nobody wins (except the reader) - NPI's Cascadia Advocate - January 27th, 2021
- Brennan: Intel Agencies To Probe The 'Bigots' Behind US 'Insurgency' - The Federalist - January 27th, 2021
- The politics of an Auschwitz survivors son - The Boston Globe - January 27th, 2021
- Sedition Cases Against Capitol Rioters 'Will Bear Fruit Very Soon,' Says FBI - Reason - January 27th, 2021
- Former GOP congressman urges Never Trumpers to join Libertarian Party - Washington Times - January 15th, 2021
- Letter to the editor: There are options to political dissatisfaction - Jacksonville Journal-Courier - January 15th, 2021
- The war between Silicon Valley and Washington takes a new turn - POLITICO - January 9th, 2021
- LETTER: Yukon the Libertarian friend of a reindeer? - The News Herald - January 1st, 2021
- 21 Things That Kept Me Going In 2020 - kottke.org - January 1st, 2021
- What Happened?: The 2020 election showed that libertarians have a long way to go before they can become a national movement. - USAPP American Politics... - December 29th, 2020
- My New Year's wish for Sarasotans - Sarasota Herald-Tribune - December 29th, 2020
- Splinter Republican representatives sign "termination of the state" document calling Sununu a 'tyrant' - Concord Monitor - December 29th, 2020