“Libertarianism does not offer a way of life; it offers liberty, so that each person is free to adopt and act upon his own value and moral principles.” – Murray Rothbard
I have often been asked in recent weeks, “What is libertarianism?” It’s a question I love to get, because if someone is asking, it means the message is spreading.
Libertarianism is a political philosophy which promotes individual liberty, self-ownership, non-aggression, and limited government. We libertarians believe that the sole purpose of government, if it is to exist at all, is to protect individual rights to life, liberty and property. Specifically, most libertarians promote what is known as a Night-Watchman State, which consists of a military for national defense (actual defense, not imperialization), which can be formed and controlled by a federal government, a court system, and police, which can be handled at a more local level. A truly libertarian society would handle all other matters through the free and unregulated market, or with private, voluntary donations.
So what exactly do I mean when I say that libertarians promote individual liberty, self-ownership, non-aggression and limited government? Why are these things important?
Libertarians believe that all interactions between individuals should be voluntary, and all voluntary interactions between adults should be legal. Therefore, if Adult A wants to purchase marijuana from Adult B, the government has no right to interfere.
Libertarians also believe that each individual is the owner of their own body, and that everyone should be free to do with their body whatever they wish. Therefore, if Adult A wants to smoke marijuana on their property, the government has no right to interfere.
Libertarians don’t just stop at marijuana, though. We believe in the decriminalization of all drugs, even though we may not agree that they should be used. It is not our right or the government’s to protect anyone from their own choices. Furthermore, the government’s War on Drugs has been a colossal failure, costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year, and costing millions of non-violent, otherwise law-abiding citizens their freedom, while simultaneously allowing for the creation and growth of violent drug cartels and the expansion of government power.
Libertarians believe in a non-interventionist foreign policy, which means that we do not want to interfere with the affairs of other nations. We believe that foreign intervention leads to negative blowback, such as the attacks on September 11, 2001, which, as explained in Ron Paul’s book The Revolution: A Manifesto, were a result of years of our government meddling in the Middle East. Libertarian foreign policy is best explained by Thomas Jefferson, who said, “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”
Libertarians understand that taxation is immoral, because it requires coercion from agents of the government. If you choose not to pay your taxes, you will find yourself being visited by men with guns who will attempt to arrest you. If you resist arrest, they are legally allowed to beat and kill you. Therefore, taxation is theft.
And, although it is theft, some libertarians do believe a small amount may be necessary. Those in favor of a Night-Watchman State, myself included, admit that some taxes must be collected to fund “essential” functions of government, including courts and police. Ideally, society will one day be ready to do away with government completely, and these functions will be privatized and made available on the free market. Until that day, it is imperative that we strictly limit and control the government, and work to reign in the out-of-control government we have now.
While nearly all libertarians can agree on taxation, foreign policy and ending the drug war, there are some issues we disagree on. Abortion comes to mind.
Libertarians recognize the individual as the sole owner of their body, and fight for an individual’s right to do with their body as they wish. Many libertarians are therefore pro-choice when it comes to abortion. However, libertarians also understand natural law, and recognize that everyone has a right to life. Therefore, many libertarians are pro-life. Many who are pro-life are politically pro-choice, because they don’t believe government should be involved in abortion at all. This is just one example of our disagreements.
Another issue we libertarians disagree on is how national borders should be controlled. Some believe individuals have a right to travel freely across borders, while others believe borders are essential to preserving liberty. Nearly all libertarians will agree, however, that national borders being privatized would be the best course of action.
I hope this short article has helped you become more familiar with libertarianism. For more information, I recommend going to Google or YouTube and searching for Jason Stapleton, Ron Paul, Murray Rothbard, The Mises Institute, Ludwig Von Mises, and Austin Petersen. From there, you should be more than capable of conducting your own research and forming your own opinions. Thank you for reading; stay free.