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A political philosophy that advocates free will, individual rights, and voluntary cooperation.

The core doctrine of libertarianism begins with the recognition that people have certain natural rights and that deprivation of these rights is immoral. Among these natural rights are the right to personal autonomy and property rights, and the right to the utilization of previously unused resources. These two basic assumptions form the foundation of all libertarian ideals.

Libertarianism can be traced back to ancient China, where philosopher Lao-tzu advocated the recognition of individual liberties. The modern libertarian theory emerged in the sixteenth century through the writings of Etienne de La Boetie (1530–1563), an eminent French theorist. In the seventeenth century, John Locke and a group of British reformers known as the Levellers fashioned the classical basis for libertarianism with well-received philosophies on human nature and economics. Since the days of Locke, libertarianism has attracted pacifists, utopianists, utilitarianists, anarchists, and fascists. This wide array of support demonstrates the accessibility and elasticity of the libertarian promotion of natural rights.

Essential to the notion of natural rights is respect for the natural rights of others. Without a dignified population, voluntary cooperation is impossible. According to the libertarian, the means to achieving a dignified population and voluntary cooperation is inextricably tied to the promotion of natural rights.

Libertarianism holds that people lose their dignity as government gains control of their body and their life. The Abdication of natural rights to government prevents people from living in their own way and working and producing at their own pace. The result is a decrease in self-reliance and independence, which results in a decrease in personal dignity, which in turn depresses society and necessitates more government interference.

Thus, the libertarian views government as both the cause and the effect of societal ills. Government is the cause of crime and prejudice because it robs people of their independence and frustrates initiative and creativity. Then, having created the sources of crime and prejudice by depriving individuals of their natural rights, government attempts to exorcise the evils with more controls over natural rights.

Libertarians believe that government should be limited to the defense of its citizens. Actions such as murder, rape, Robbery, theft, Embezzlement, Fraud, Arson, Kidnapping, Battery, Trespass, and Pollution violate the rights of others, so government control of these actions is legitimate. Libertarians acknowledge human imperfection and the resulting need for some government deterrence and punishment of violence, Nuisance, and harassment. However, government control of human activity should be limited to these functions.

Further readings

Boaz, David. 1997. Libertarianism: A Primer. New York: Free Press.

Otsuka, Michael. 2003. Libertarianism Without Inequality. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.


Anarchism; Independent Parties; Natural Law; Utilitarianism.

References in periodicals archive ?
But the dominant strain of libertarianism still seems at home on that side of the political spectrum.
In conflating "Christian libertarianism" with a larger conservative movement toward greater public religiosity, Kruse elides one of the most important differences between libertarianism and its right-wing cousin: their attitudes about the Cold War.
But his libertarianism can take on a ridiculous, caricatured quality, as when he asked counsel during the Heller oral argument whether the right to bear arms arose out of "the concern of the remote settler to defend himself and his family against hostile Indian tribes and outlaws, wolves and bears and grizzlies and things like that.
Please note: the author is only defending these cases by the political standard of libertarianism and whether they should face coercive threat from the state.
The crucial claim - and it is the thorn in the side of any libertarianism that I can envision - is that rational, conscious choice manifests control that is neither the lockdown of cause-onto-effect nor the whim of random chance.
The book is organized as a set of responses to questions interlocutors of various sorts might have about libertarianism.
This attempt to answer the question can only be speculative, but my radar tells me they are adopting Milton Friedman's (1991) opposition to "the more absolutist slogans" of the Rothbardian variety such as interpreting libertarianism as opposition to the NAP.
Protracted conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, a new military engagement in Libya, bankers in China, and jihadists in Pakistan--now, more than ever, appears to be the opportunity for a new approach to foreign policy, one based on the principles of libertarianism as espoused by its most prominent national leaders, Texas Representative Ron Paul and his son, Rand Paul, the new senator from Kentucky.
Libertarianism is a political philosophy that holds individual rights and freedom as its supreme value and considers government the major obstacle to personal liberty.
Nozick was like Cohen in that he sought to employ philosophical tools on behalf of a political tradition anglophone philosophers had ignored--only in Nozick's case the tradition was fire-breathing libertarianism.
Yet neither view, if taken in isolation, offers a particularly strong example of libertarianism.
Libertarianism is a political philosophy that is as diverse in its concepts and applications as are such companion terms as conservatism and liberalism.

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