The political philosophy of non-initiation of force. This means that no one (not even the government) can force you to do something unless you violate someone elses rights by initative force against them.

Libertarians generally believe in a very small government. Standard views are that the free market is the best solution, drugs should be legalized, that cooperative, voluntary behavior can solve the social problems of the day.
Politically its represented by the Libertarian Party of which I'm a member.

It should be noted that "Libertarianism" universally referred to Anarchism from the mid-19th century onward until the term was co-opted by the right wing in the 1950s.

A political philosophy derived from 18th century political philosophies that were originally designed to justify the ripoff of English peasants by the new upper and middle class.

Libertarians claim that no one should use force unless their property is infringed upon--they tend to ignore the fact that all property was acquired by force in the first place. What they're really saying, following Locke, is that individual property rights should be enforced absolutely, without regard to their impact on others (unless, of course, a conflict can be treated as a clash between two different sets of property rights).

A libertarian society is really a plutocracy, where wealth determines the influence that any given individual will have in government.

There is a neat SF story that depicts a libertarian utopia founded on another planet; ironically, the society depicted also has Marxist elements, since their currency is based on a labor standard and lending at interest is forbidden. However, in a society that is really starting from scratch, libertarianism makes sense. On this planet, it will enforce already existing barriers between wealth and poverty.

"My contacts with Libertarians always leave me with a certain amount of contempt for their philosophies, which all seem to rely on the assumption that, if you can string together enough vague and high-sounding rhetoric, you can ignore both (1) all of human history and (2) what everyone else on earth now wants." - Anonymous

"To say that governments are evil is on a par with saying that humans are evil. To claim that it is a necessary evil is on a par with saying that cars are a necessary evil. What we are really talking about are subjective preferences which may or may not be satisfied, not some theological notion of right and wrong. The inescapable evils of coercive behavior are not unique to government. Our government is where we choose to channel and regulate them, because the alternative (private, unregulated coercion) gives much worse results, as the history of privately owned states (monarchies, dictatorships, despotisms) and private "law" such as slavery, mafias, warlords, etc. show rather clearly. We have constructed a government that is jointly owned by all, because private ownership gives too much incentive for profit through coercion of others." - Mike Huben

"There isn't much point arguing about the word 'libertarian.' It would make about as much sense to argue with an unreconstructed Stalinist about the word 'democracy' -- recall that they called what they'd constructed 'peoples' democracies.' The weird offshoot of ultra-right individualist anarchism that is called 'libertarian' here happens to amount to advocacy of perhaps the worst kind of imaginable tyranny, namely unaccountable private tyranny. If they want to call that 'libertarian,' fine; after all, Stalin called his system 'democratic.' But why bother arguing about it?" - Noam Chomsky

"An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup." - H. L. Mencken

"Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all." - Adam Smith

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." - James K. Galbraith

I would like to relate, if I may, the general outline of a conversation that occured with a very staunch Libertarian at my church recently. I had done a sermon on Democratic Socialism the Sunday before, and he accosted me as I was socializing. He proceeded to explain why socialism is evil. He cited England's socialized medicine system as the typical socialized medical system (it's one of the worst medical systems in the world regardless of it's structuring), and then he proceeded to declare that Germany and France ware horrible Socialist countries and that Germany gets nothing done economically because none of its citizens wanted to work due to it's socialist nature (It's the largest economy in Europe). Also according to him, German students are tested at 13 or 14 (true) to determine their life long career (false) and that they will never be able to change that career (very false). "Don't you feel that capitalism exploits people though?" I query him. "Oh, no! That's just what children are taught. If you look at the average income you'll see that 85 and even up to 90 percent of people's incomes are from paychecks." This fact could be true, but would it matter? Who cares? If the world was left to him he would pay people with salaries of under 20k a year on a gradated scale: The more under 20k you make the less money you get. Very clever plan that. Surely that's an incentive, but my car isn't going to beat a Dodge Viper just from willpower, and these people aren't going to get any richer due to that system. Well there's more, but I'd like to change to something a little broader. Let's look real quickly at their actual web site. (www.lp.org) Now I ain't saying that they're pretty much against the idea of government by the people and for the people, but just analyze this statement if you will:

Libertarians always put freedom first. Republican Politicians sometimes put "National Security" first. Sometimes they put "Public Order" or "the Public Interest" first. Sometimes they put "Character" or "Virtue" first. Sometimes they put "Western Civilization" or "Religion" or "American Values" first.

Now this pretty much says to me at least, that nothing is more important than freedom, including what the people want or need. So:

Libertianism:Cut social funding! It's infringing on rights and freedoms!
The Poor:Oh Good! You have freed us from the burden of soup kitchens and welfare!
Libertarianism:Freedom is more important than everything else!
Citizens: Hooray! We can fend for ourselves if there's ever any sort of international problems. We won't have to worry about the government handling it for us! We'll do it ourselves. Nuclear war? Sure no problem.
Libertarianism:Guys I think we need more tax cuts!
Citizems:We'd be happy to take out our own trash and pave our own streets. Sure we've never done it before, but we'll catch on soon enough.

This is the perfect utopia!

I can pretty much tolerate most beliefs but I can't stand the naiveity that is involved with Libertarianism. It's like all the realism has been pulled out and replaced with stupid idealism that for the most part favors the rich.

Libertarianism is also a doctrine regarding free will and determinism. Sometimes this position is referred to as metaphysical libertarianism to distinguish it from political libertarianism.

Libertarian free will refers to the incompatibilist viewpoint that free will exists and determinism is false. I would guess that most people in the United States hold this position. The term, libertarianism, is generally only used by philosophers, though.

Like on the difference between United State's liberals and european liberals, in this case there's also a general confusion in terms between the US libertarians and the rest of the world ones.

United States' Libertarians seem to stand in the extreme right, claiming for radical diminution of government, to be replaced by free market ruling. Though I fail to see clearly where they draw the line, it seems that any initiative that is not "productive" (as, for example, gubernamental aid to unemployed, homeless or disabled; government-supported school and health care) would not be acceptable. Government would ensure that none attempted against the individual freedom. Their typical vision of this would be infringements of private property rights.

In South America, Libertarians stand on the extreme left, tend to defend variations of socialism and are frequently associated with nationalist movements. Examples: Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatist Army for National Liberation), Frente Sandinista para la Liberación Nacional (Sandinist Front for National Liberation), etc.

In Europe, Libertarians are often associated with left-winged anarchism. United States' libertarism, right-winged anarchism, or anarcho-capitalism is virtually unknown, at least to the point where I have notice, and their claims are usually regarded as extreme rightist neo-liberal ones.

Libertarian Communism does exist, as opposed to (for example) U.S. Libertarian Party. One example is Spain's CNT ("Confederación Nacional del Trabajo", National Work Confederation) wich is an anarch-syndicalist trade union. Their flag is diagonally divided in two triangles, the lower black and the upper red, which stand for freedom and solidarity, respecitvely. Although they believe on minimal government (reduced to coordination purposes) for the maximization of individual rights, they also defend the dissapearance of private property, market and money, since they regard them as cohercitive for the people's freedom. (The diagonal divission of the flag also has its meaning, since it calls for the dissappearance of frontiers).

To my knowledge, outside the U.S.A. the Libertarian Community is generally referred to as the people who fight against opression, wether this comes from a market-riden capitalist society, or from a despotic implementation of communism (it is important to note the difference: while most non-U.S. libertarians oppose to capitalism itself, many accept the ideals of communism, if rejecting the authoritaric approaches).

I have no information sofar regarding what does "libertarian" mean by African, Asian or Oceanian standards.

Till here I've stated facts. I'd like now to suplement a consideration of my own:

Etymologically speaking, I think that United States' Libertarians and left-winged anarchists should share the general name of "Anarchists", since anarchism means literally "no government".

"Libertarian", on the other side, stands for liberty and freedom, which are not compatible with capitalist mentality. An exposition of these reasons can be found under the node "Anarchism".

So, essentially, I think that the names are messed all the way around, at least in the United States.

A political philosophy that values personal freedom and limited government. A great deal of confusion, both among critics of libertarianism and among libertarians themselves, comes of failing to distinguish between two schools of libertarian thought:

Natural rights libertarians
Or "moral libertarians," believe in personal freedom as an end in itself. They argue that individuals should be free to govern their own lives, to do anything they want that does not impinge on the freedom of others. Natural rights libertarians typically hold that the use of force (except in self-defense) or coercion by threat of force is always immoral.

An extreme natural rights libertarian would therefore argue that taxation is wrong because because it involves a government taking its citizens' property, by threat of force, against their will. And barriers to trade are similarly immoral because they limit individuals' freedom to exchange their property with other willing individuals.

Locke and Jefferson were early and influential natural rights libertarians; Ayn Rand is a well-known 20th century example.

Pragmatic libertarians
Or "consequentialist libertarians," believe that people can handle their own affairs, individually and through private cooperation with others, better than the government can do it for them. Pragmatic libertarians believe not that the exercise of government power is immoral but that it often does not work- or does not work as well as the unrestrained operation of free markets. They take an ultimately utilitarian moral position, more concerned with human happiness than with natural rights.

Pragmatic libertarians would argue that high tax rates are undesirable because they take away people's incentive to be productive, and that trade barriers hurt the countries that impose them by raising the price of goods.

Consequentialist libertarianism descends from Adam Smith as natural rights libertarianism does from John Locke. Milton Friedman is the leading 20th century American exponent of this school.

Many people who consider themselves libertarians fall into both camps, of course. And the Libertarian Party regularly argues from both positions in its literature. The natural rights position and the pragmatist position lead to generally similar political consequences, but many libertarians seem unwilling to acknowledge the distinction between the two points of view, or to choose between them when the two philosophies come into conflict.

A libertarian will argue, for instance, that minimum wage laws are undesirable both because they abridge the right of individuals to enter freely into contracts with each other and because they create unemployment. The first is an absolute moral argument, the second is an empirical argument, contingent on particular economic circumstances. Libertarians (and the Libertarian Party) ought to determine what their position would be if it turned out that minimum wage laws do more good by raising wages than they do harm by putting the least-skilled workers out of work.

In the United States there is arguably a third category of Constitutionalist libertarians who believe that the federal government should limit its actions strictly to the powers enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. This point of view is allied with the judicial philosophy of strict construction. In theory a Constitutionalist could support a larger, more active government, but feel that the Constitution should first be amended to make additional government power legally legitimate; in practice most Constitutionalists also support a small, limited government on either natural rights or pragmatic grounds.


http://www.libertarian.org/theory.html 3/24/04
http://www.stuorg.iastate.edu/libertarians/FAQ.html 3/24/04

Lib`er*ta"ri*an*ism (?), n.

Libertarian principles or doctrines.

 

© Webster 1913.

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