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What is Libertarianism?

What is Libertarianism?

Libertarian Country |

Welcome! We're glad you have taken an interest in libertarianism.

This easy-to-read guide serves as an introduction and will help give you a basic understanding of the political philosophy of libertarianism.

 

Are You a Libertarian?

Many people feel they don't fit in with Democrats or Republicans. They believe Democrats are tax-and-spend socialists who want big government and Republicans are outdated warmongers who worry far too much about what people do in their private lives.

Libertarians fight to keep Democrats out of your wallet and Republicans out of your bedroom. Libertarians respect and value all your freedoms all the time.

People are looking for a political party that suits them better, and many are choosing to switch to the Libertarian Party. Beyond a third-party option, many seek a political philosophy they can identify with and apply to their lives.

Maybe you feel the same way?

Do you value freedom, individual liberty, self-ownership and personal responsibility? Do you think people should be free to live as they see fit as long as they don't hurt others? Are you tired of the American two-party system?


If you answered yes to these questions, then congratulations, you're a libertarian!

 

Libertarianism Explained in Simple Terms

Libertarianism is a complex philosophy with many principles and virtues, but there is a simple way to look at it and understand it.

At its core, libertarianism is the idea that people function best when left alone. People do not need the government to manage every aspect of their lives.

Imagine you have started a new job. You were hired by upper management because you excel at your craft, and they see you as a potential asset to the company.

After a few weeks on the job, it has become apparent that your supervisor is smothering you. They are looking over your shoulder every minute of the day.

They're eager to point out your mistakes before you catch them yourself. They complain about how you dress and what you're having for lunch and are happy to point out that you got a couple of crumbs on the floor. They're ruling over you like a British nanny.

You love the job, but your supervisor is driving you nuts.

Now picture an efficient supervisor who can run a good shift but doesn't bother you. The supervisor allows you to catch your mistakes, gives you breathing room to operate without being watched, and even overlooks minor offenses because they understand you're human.

Which supervisor would you prefer? The aggressive micro-manager eager to punish or the good supervisor who gives you space to flourish and excel at your career?

Libertarians want a government that behaves like a relaxed supervisor. One that is efficient at its assigned tasks but does not want more authority to creep into every aspect of your life.

 

What is the appropriate size and scope of government?

Under libertarianism, the government would provide national defense, protect natural rights, participate in criminal justice and enforce contracts, but not much else.

Many ideas, thoughts and beliefs go into answering the question, but libertarians all agree on one thing; the government should have limited power and be reduced to function at a basic level.

When the state interferes in areas (like the free market) it wasn't designed to be involved with, the people's liberty suffers. When people's freedom suffers, progress is slowed and the quality of life declines.

Scientific, intellectual, technological, economic and humanitarian progress relies on a certain level of freedom to flourish. We learned this during the Enlightenment. Progress sped up when the grip of the church and government's power loosened in Europe in the late 17th and 18th centuries. It was called 'The Age of Reason.'

We have enlightenment philosophers like John Locke to thank for contributing libertarian ideas that shaped America's constitution and republic.

Limiting and reducing government is the objective of the libertarian. Freedom is essential, and we fight for a government that protects natural rights and honors libertarian principles.

The government is far too big and powerful. If you agree, you're well on your way to proudly calling yourself a libertarian.

 

What is Libertarianism?

Libertarianism (the etymology of which derives from the Latin Libertas, meaning liberty or freedom) is an umbrella term for a collection of political philosophies that proclaim individual liberty as their core value. Libertarianism, in a nutshell, is the diametric opposite of authoritarianism.

Let's take a closer look. 

Libertarians believe that people function best when they're allowed to be free. Libertarian activists, such as Spike Cohen, fight for this ethos to be implemented into law and government.

Marked by a firm rejection of tyranny, libertarianism calls for a stripped-down version of government, dismantling corrupt laws that stifle individual liberty. The objective is to reduce the government's role to a fundamental function.

The mantra of libertarianism is "less government, more freedom."

Libertarianism is a celebration of the inalienable rights all people possess. Libertarians support an individual's right to live as they see fit, so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others, a concept endorsed by classical liberal thinkers such as Locke and Bastiat and pinned down in the U.S. Constitution.

Libertarians may find someone's personal choices despicable and immoral, but so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others, they maintain that it is their choice. Libertarians believe in the free exchange of ideas and that others can be persuaded to morality by words or leading by example rather than by force. The essential ingredient is liberty.

 

Tenets of Libertarianism

Many different philosophies comprise the overall libertarian ethos, but ironclad principles exist throughout. This section will examine essential tenets to help you better understand libertarianism. They are:

 

Self-Ownership

Self-Ownership--What is Libertarianism?

Perhaps the most vital of libertarian tenets is the belief that humans own themselves. No human can own another human being, no matter what. A person may contract out their labor or agree to pay off debts with service, but to whom the service is rendered does not claim possession over those who perform the service.

The transaction is impossible, philosophically speaking, even if a person wishes to sell themselves--because self-ownership is immutable. To conduct such a transaction would violate the laws of nature, such as in the unethical practice of slavery. Those who claimed ownership over slaves did not, by natural law, actually own them. Even in the event of imprisonment, conservatorship, or a call to military service, individual sovereignty is perpetually maintained.

Libertarians hold self-ownership as a core value. To dispute the concept and paradigm of self-ownership is a blatant contradiction to the philosophy of libertarianism.

"Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself" ~ John Locke

 

Non-Aggression

Non-Aggression Principle--What is Libertarianism?

Libertarians--on a large scale--subscribe to an axiom called The Non-Aggression Principle, or simply The NAP.

The Non-Aggression Principle states that force must not be applied against an individual without justification or provocation.

Violence, rape, theft, slavery and murder are examples of force that libertarians (and most of the population) eschew and denounce. 

Libertarians believe in peaceable existence, and avoid force and violence unless it is in self-defense.

"Don't hurt people and don't take their stuff" is a famous libertarian adage that simplifies this principle. 

 

Freedom of Speech

Lenny Bruce Wrongfully Arrested on Obscenity Charges

Lenny Bruce wrongfully arrested on obscenity charges 

Freedom of speech is a cornerstone libertarian principle throughout every libertarian sect. Libertarians have fought for the right to free speech for decades. The freedom to communicate ideas--whether in the written word, verbal communication, art, video or any other medium--is essential to a free society, a fundamental human right, and must never be hindered or eradicated. 

As pointed out by the ACLU, even disgusting and pernicious speech must be protected. Otherwise, all speech risks being trivialized or thwarted via censorship and government repeal. Although some speech may provoke a public backlash and result in negative ramifications, the government must never possess any power to mitigate, curtail, censor or forbid any speech, regardless of how it's defined.

 

“To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the right of the hearer as well as those of the speaker" ~ Frederick Douglas

The Right To Bear Arms

The Right to Bear Arms--What is Libertarianism?

Guns; love 'em or hate 'em, it is your inalienable human right to possess them, and libertarians have stood by this principle since the term 'libertarian' was first coined in 1789 by William Belsham.

There are many reasons that the right to keep and bear arms is essential, including: 

    • The inalienable right to defend one's own life and safety
    • The inalienable right to protect one's property
    • The inalienable right to defend one's liberty and freedom
    • The inalienable right to protect your family and loved ones
    • The inalienable right to own private property without needing to justify ownership. Meaning you can buy a gun, put it on your wall and do nothing else with it, for it is your right to possess it for whatever reason you choose, so long as you do not infringe on the rights of others.

The Second Amendment states that a well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Across the libertarian spectrum, the right to keep and bear arms is essential.

"The constitution shall never be construed...to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms." ~Alexander Hamilton.

 

Free Markets

 Free Markets--What is Libertarianism?

(Photo) 'Bob Chitester and Milton Friedman during the pre-filming of the 1980 series 'Free to Choose' from Wiki Commons.

In the scope of Libertarianism, there are two main economic systems endorsed by libertarians. One, on the right of the political spectrum, advocates private ownership and is called Laissez-faire Capitalism (or free market capitalism); the other, on the left, supports collective ownership and is called Libertarian Socialism.

While these two economic philosophies clash, both advocate for free markets and are anti-authoritarian.

For a more in-depth understanding of economics, we recommend the following books: 

Free Market Capitalism

Libertarian Socialism

Market forces, according to libertarians across the politico-economic sphere, must always be kept free from state control. State control, central planning and interference with the market leads to a host of problems, including but not limited to; inflation, gas hikes, rent control, price controls, commodity shortages, housing shortages, luxury goods shortages, agricultural surplus (government surplus), wealth devaluing, rationing, lost pensions/retirement funds, bond yield deflation, stock market crashes, and more.

Markets function well when left to their own devices, seemingly automatically (a force known as 'the invisible hand.') The invisible hand is a metaphor for the unseen forces that operate in the free market. Through individual ambition and freedom of production, a society's needs (and wants) are met through an interdependence commonly referred to as 'supply and demand.' If there is a demand for a product, the incentive to profit leads manufacturers to the production line. This free exchange of need/desire and production/supply is the pinnacle of laissez-faire economics. It is why free markets are superior to the central planning found in socialism or communism. 

In state socialism or communism, centralized economic planning is generally utilized to determine what is to be produced, the volume of what's being made, distribution, pricing etc. Spurring the Soviet Union's post-war, mid-century economic growth, socialism appeared to be a viable economic alternative to Western capitalism. Ultimately, it failed to compete on the global stage, leading to its collapse in 1991. Western nations' market capitalism proved far superior in the long term. 

Libertarians believe in the free exchange of goods and services. The free market is a brutal yet beautiful jungle and should be left uncorrupted. The freer the markets, the freer the people. 

Recap

We covered some of the most important tenets of libertarianism. They are:

    • Self-Ownership
    • Non-Aggression
    • Freedom of Speech
    • The Right to Bear Arms
    • Free Markets   

Conclusion

Libertarianism has earned a rank among scholars, academics, philosophers, great thinkers, as well as everyday citizens across the globe. What makes libertarianism attractive is this notion of self-ownership and the ability to live as one sees fit.

Hardline conservatives and liberals favoring big government have criticized libertarianism for its seemingly chaotic and impractical beliefs. Still, more and more people are being drawn to it for its emphasis on personal responsibility and non-aggression.

Voluntaryism and freedom of choice, coupled with the integrity and honor of self-discipline, make libertarianism a philosophy that will stand the test of time.      

We thank you for reading our guide to Libertarianism and urge you to continue your education. Keep thinking, my dear friends, for it's not illegal yet! :)

 

More Educational Resources

Libertarian Country offers insight, perspective, opinion and knowledge concerning various subjects pertaining to libertarianism. Below, you will find an index of articles we have written for you to better understand libertarian philosophy.

  1. Are Libertarians Capitalists?
  2. Do Libertarians Support Death With Dignity?
  3. Is The Pledge of Allegiance Mandatory?
  4. Do Libertarians Support Lowering The Legal Drinking Age?
  5. Are Libertarians Against Public Schools?
  6. Do Libertarians Oppose Social Security?
  7. Do Libertarians Oppose The Porn Industry?
  8. Do Libertarians Support Legalized Gambling?
  9. Are Libertarians Pacifists?
  10. Are Libertarians Anti-Racist?
  11. Do Libertarians Support Heroin Legalization?
  12. Do Libertarians Support the LGBTQ+?
  13. Can Atheists be Libertarians?
  14. Who is Thomas Sowell?
  15. Are Libertarians Against Welfare?
  16. Do Libertarians Believe in Charity?
  17. What is Cryptocurrency?
  18. What is Self-Education?
  19. What is a Profit Incentive?
  20. Do Libertarians Support Gun Control?
  21. Can a Libertarian Be a Republican?
  22. Are Libertarians Left or Right?
  23. What is Libertarian Feminism?
  24. The Ultimate Guide to Libertarianism
  25. Is Christianity Compatible With Libertarianism?
  26. What is Authoritarianism?
  27. What is the Non-Aggression Principle?
  28. What is Self-Ownership?
  29. What is Free Market Capitalism?
  30. What is Anarcho-Capitalism?
  31. Do Libertarians Support Black Lives Matter?
  32. Do Libertarians Believe in The Legalization of Prostitution?
  33. Do Libertarians Support Women's Rights? 
  34. Do Libertarians Support Marijuana Legalization?
  35. Do Libertarians Believe in The Right to Bear Arms? 
  36. Do Libertarians Believe in Freedom of Speech?

 

 

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