Libertarians believe in individual liberty, persuasion not coercion, nonaggression. Libertarians are leery of all forms of concentrated power, whether that power is wielded by the state, big business, big religion, a mob, big wheels, big political parties, big nonprofits, etc. As Lord Acton wrote: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The real conflict in political theory … is not between individualism and community. It’s between voluntary association and coerced association.
Libertarianism is the fastest growing political creed in America today. Before judging and evaluating libertarianism, it is vitally important to find out precisely what that doctrine is, and, more particularly, what it is not. It is especially important to clear up a number of misconceptions about libertarianism that are held by most people, and particularly by conservatives. In this essay I shall enumerate and critically analyze the most common myths that are held about libertarianism. When these are cleared away, people will then be able to discuss libertarianism free of egregious myths and misconceptions, and to deal with it as it should be on its very own merits or demerits.
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Myth #1: Libertarians believe that each individual is an isolated, hermetically sealed atom, acting in a vacuum without influencing each other.
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Myth #2: Libertarians are libertines: they are hedonists who hanker after “alternative” lifestyles.
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Myth #3: Libertarians do not believe in moral principles; they limit themselves to cost-benefit analysis on the assumption that man is always rational.
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Myth #4: Libertarianism is atheistic and materialist, and neglects the spiritual side of life.
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Myth #5: Libertarians are utopians who believe that all people are good, and that therefore state control is not necessary.
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Myth #6: Libertarians believe that every person knows his own interests best.
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Conservatives and everyone else should politely be put on notice that libertarians do not believe that everyone is good, nor that everyone is an all-wise expert on his own interest, nor that every individual is an isolated and hermetically sealed atom. Libertarians are not necessarily libertines or hedonists, nor are they necessarily atheists; and libertarians emphatically do believe in moral principles.
Myth and Truth About Libertarianism, by Murray N. Rothbard
Libertarianism.org – from Cato
Libertarianism is, as the name implies, the belief in liberty. Libertarians strive for a free, peaceful, abundant world where each individual has the maximum opportunity to pursue his or her dreams and to realize his full potential.
The core idea is simply stated, but profound and far-reaching in its implications. Libertarians believe that each person owns his own life and property, and has the right to make his own choices as to how he lives his life – as long as he simply respects the same right of others to do the same.
Another way of saying this is that libertarians believe you should be free to do as you choose with your own life and property, as long as you don’t harm the person and property of others.
Libertarianism is thus the combination of liberty (the freedom to live your life in any peaceful way you choose), responsibility (the prohibition against the use of force against others, except in defense), and tolerance (honoring and respecting the peaceful choices of others).
In my experience, many pro-life conservatives would consider themselves ‘libertarian’ were it not for the abortion issue. Once they learn that there are pro-life libertarians, they are happy calling themselves ‘libertarians’ rather than ‘conservatives.’ Many ‘conservatives’ realize that there are serious problems with their ideology, but do not realize that there is an alternative.
The first problem with conservatism is that it has been hypocritical in power. Under unified Republican control of the federal government, discretionary non-defense federal spending has risen faster than it did under Clinton (and such spending actually fell under Reagan).
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The second problem with modern conservatism is that it is internally incoherent. Modern conservatism comes out of the 1950’s anticommunist movement. On the one hand, it proclaims respect for the Constitution and for the system of limited government devised by the Founders; on the other hand, it celebrates an aggressive U.S. foreign policy and a powerful bureaucracy that gives the federal government the resources to intervene, through aid or invasion, in any part of the world.
Libertarians are not conservatives.
People who say they are socially liberal often call themselves libertarians and many libertarians call themselves socially liberal. But libertarianism and liberalism on social issues are not the same thing.
Your typical liberal Democrat says she’s liberal on social issues but that doesn’t make her in any meaningful way a libertarian. For instance, the vast majority of the libertarians I know hate things like speech codes, smoking bans, racial quotas, and the vast swaths of political indoctrination that pass for “education” today. They tend to oppose gun control, think fondly of homeschooling (if not always homeschoolers) and are generally split on the question of abortion. They do not, however, think that the government should be steamrolling religious institutions with Obamacare or subsidizing birth control. Liberals tend to loathe federalism or states’ rights (though there’s been some movement there) libertarians usually love the idea. The liberals who don’t like it fear that states or local communities might use their autonomy to live in ways liberals don’t approve of. Libertarians couldn’t care less.
Libertarians are not liberals, although most libertarians would agree they are are “classical liberals”.
Libertarianism is a political philosophy concerned with the justified use of force. Libertarian law is guided by the non-aggression axiom, which stipulates that it ought to be legal for adults to do whatever they please provided they do not aggress against the person or property of another.
To all of you who think that Ayn Rand is the dominant, or even one of the dominant voices in libertarianism right now, please feel free to leave the 1970s behind and join us in the 21st century. Indeed, even when Rand was at the height of her powers, she was still only one of several important voices in the movement. During the days of Rand’s greatest popularity, [Murray] Rothbard could certainly lay claim to being a far more important theorist within the movement, although he was certainly far less famous. Indeed, Rand was a novelist, so to keep referring back to Rand in an attempt to score points against libertarianism for its alleged devotion to egoism, only displays a lack of knowledge about the intellectual history of the movement.
Libertarian and libertarian-leaning organizations include the Bastiat Institute, Mont Pelerin Society (web site), Acton Institute, CATO Institute, Reason Magazine, Reason TV, Reason’s blog Hit & Run, (Ludwig von Mises Institute, Independent Institute, Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), Hayek Institut, Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), Students for Liberty, and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
The “first” Catholic libertarian was Lord Acton, and the Acton Institute is named after him. Contemporary Catholic libertarians include Rev. Robert A. Sirico, Andrew Napolitano (Reason writings), Michael Munger (blog), Thomas E. Woods Jr. (see “Why I Am a Catholic Libertarian“), Randy England (author of “Free Is Beautiful: Why Catholics should be libertarian” – review here), and Leonard Liggio.
See “6 Myths Catholics Tell About Libertarians,” by Ryan McMaken
Books about libertarian topics include Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, Ludiwg von Mises’ Human Action, Friedrich Hayek‘s The Road to Serfdom (illustrated edition), Randy Barnett‘s The Structure of Liberty and Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty.
Also see A Conflict of Visions.
Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline. We also need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT) and to prosecute politicians and staff and their “family and friends” who profit from insider trading.
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