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Libertarianism is a political philosophy emphasizing liberty and property. A libertarian believes in minimizing or entirely eliminating government interventionism in all aspects of life, including economic, personal, and in foreign policy matters. [1] Libertarianism is closely related to liberalism, if this word is interpreted according to its original meaning of ' classical liberalism'.

Libertarians support an expansive view of liberty as the proper basis for organizing civil society. They tend to define liberty as the freedom to do whatever one wishes up to the point that one's behavior begins to interfere with another's person or property through coercive means. At the point of interference, each party would become subject to certain principled rules for adjudicating disputes, generally accepting that one who has demonstrated a proven lack of respect for the rights of others should be subject to sanctions, including possible constraints on their freedom. They believe that liberty is the right of every individual.

Libertarians generally defend the ideal of freedom from the perspective of how little one is constrained by authority, i.e., how much one is allowed to do (also referred to as negative liberty). This ideal is distinguished from a view of freedom focused on how much one is able to do (also called positive liberty).

There are more libertarians than members of the Libertarian Party. Libertarians tend to use the word "libertarian" (small "l") to refer to the philosophy, and "Libertarian" (capital "L") to refer to the party. Two general factions exist in the libertarian movement. The first are those libertarians who apply the principles of right to person and property to an absolute. They believe that no person, group, or government is above the right to violate these two things. They thus believe that government itself is illegitimate because it violates person and property. These libertarians subscribe to anarcho-capitalism, as first named by Murray N. Rothbard. They believe that law and security can be handled by private means in the free market. The other faction believes in a very limited government. They are often referred to as minarchists. Libertarian minarchists want the state to only enforce law and order but generally nothing else.

Libertarians tend to view liberalism as a philosophy advocating less government interference in private morality and more government control of business, and view conservatism as a philosophy advocating more government interference in private morality and less government control of business, while they view libertarianism as advocating less government control in all areas. However, there have been fusionist attempts to mix libertarianism and with social conservatism. This is noted in particular by paleolibertarians. They believe that social conservatism is a natural entity in a free society, but do not believe that it can be enforced by state interventionism.

Neither the Democratic or the Republican parties are particularly well aligned with libertarian thought. While the Republican Party sometimes adopts libertarian-sounding rhetoric of small government in economic affairs, many libertarians see it as being a force that has increased government interventionism in these affairs. Libertarians generally, for example, are opposed to the USA PATRIOT Act, which they believe increases government power and removes protections on the liberty and privacy of the public. Most conservatives, on the other hand, view it as a necessary government program and believe security to be more important than personal liberty and privacy. They are generally also opposed to the Iraq War, unlike the majority of conservatives.

While all libertarians agree in general on the principles of the desirability of maximizing individual liberty and avoiding excessive government interference with the operation of the free market, individual libertarians have opinions that differ wildly within these general principles.

The libertarian movement generally gives praise on the United States Constitution, regarding it as the proper scope of the national government. They believe that the Democratic and Republican parties have overstep the limits that are in placed in the constitution. Anarcho-capitalist libertarians, on the other hand, view the implementation of the constitution as the very means in which the national government is the size it is today.

Notable Libertarians

The Christian libertarian Lord Acton referred to the philosopher/theologian Thomas Aquinas as "the first Whig" or classical liberal. Other libertarian-oriented historic figures would include Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Paine, John Locke, Patrick Henry, George Mason, Carl Menger, C.S. Lewis, Ludwig von Mises, James Madison, H. L. Mencken, Rose Wilder Lane, Albert Jay Nock, Frédéric Bastiat, Herbert Spencer, Richard Cobden, Henry David Thoreau, and Hugo Grotius.

Ron Paul, 2008 Republican Party presidential candidate.

The psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, opponent of the therapeutic state and compulsory mental institutionalization.

Nobel Laureate economists Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, Ronald Coase, and Vernon Smith.

The novelist Ayn Rand advocated a philosophy of Objectivism, embodying some libertarian thought, although differing from libertarianism in many ways. Some of her novels, such as Atlas Shrugged, have become icons of some people in the libertarian movement, while others find her materialism/atheism incompatible with moral ethics and natural rights and law.

Murray N. Rothbard was nicknamed "Mr. Libertarian." He brought life to the anarcho-capitalist movement. Rothbard was an economist of the Austrian School.

Robert A. Heinlein, science fiction author.

Penn & Teller, stage magicians turned libertarian evangelicals preaching atheism and promoting libertarian philosophies, including controversial positions such as legalization of prostitution and drugs in their Showtime series, which sports a name that cannot for reasons of good taste be expressed here.

The Canadian rock band Rush, which has been together since 1968, often explores libertarian themes in their lyrics.

Humorist Dave Barry, actor/comedian Drew Carey, actor Denis Leary, former MTV VJ Lisa "Kennedy" Montgomery, actor Kurt Russell, investigative reporter John Stossel, and the late rocker Frank Zappa have all referred to themselves as being aligned with or openly supporting the Libertarian Party.

External links

  • "Libertarians are neither. Unlike liberals or conservatives, Libertarians advocate a high degree of both personal and economic liberty. For example, Libertarians advocate freedom in economic matters, so we're in favor of lowering taxes, slashing bureaucratic regulation of business, and charitable -- rather than government -- welfare. But Libertarians are also socially tolerant. We won't demand laws or restrictions on other people who we may not agree because of personal actions or lifestyles. Think of us as a group of people with a "live and let live" mentality and a balanced checkbook." [1]