Libertarianism


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Financial, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

Libertarianism

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.

Cross-references

Anarchism; Independent Parties; Natural Law; Utilitarianism.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Of course, there is more to Wired than romantic libertarianism. The magazine now and again veers into a Panglossian picture of democracy's future on the Internet.
Secular humanists, in contrast, may find The Libertarian Idea the first account of libertarianism they can identify with, if not accept altogether.
This conflict, particularly between libertarianism and egalitarianism, is occasionally resolved on utilitarian grounds, especially when the conflict does not involve a fundamental aspect of the American health care delivery system.
Maybe someday I will discover some terrible inconsistency between libertarianism and progressive Episcopalianism.
In terms of substance, the book is quirky because each author ends up staking out a position that is not the only, or even the most mainstream, version of conservatism or libertarianism. Schlueter's conservatism is in fact the "natural law liberalism" defended by political scientist Christopher Wolfe in his book of the same name.
And, yet, prohibiting such heinous acts by law which occurs in all civilized jurisdictions is not an option for libertarianism. Is that a problem for this philosophy?
In contrast, Ron Paul-style libertarianism, guided by the insights of Ludwig von Mises and other Austrian economists, recognizes that any attempt to impose an integrated vision of government is doomed to failure.
Notwithstanding this intellectual disarray, there is broad agreement that both of these movements have economic, political, social, and moral components--not so libertarianism. In the words of one staunch and radical libertarian:
Brennan's book joins a number of other recent introductions to libertarianism, including Jacob Huebert's Libertarianism Today (New York: Praeger, 2010) and Gerard Casey's Libertarian Anarchy (London: Continuum International, 2012).
Unfortunately, this thematic assumption thereby rules out of consideration things that political philosophy urgently needs to consider: specifically, private-property anarchism and a libertarianism that is unconcerned with the emotional demand for "equal concern and respect"; more on these points later.
In fact, Rogers pushes this thesis a bit further, for she holds that Anselm is the first Christian thinker, and 'perhaps the first person on the planet', to espouse a true metaphysical libertarianism.
My Christmas wish this year is that people stop typing the word libertarian without first doing a modicum of research on what libertarianism means and how it relates specifically to the issue about which they're writing, or maybe even ask a handful of folks who at least call themselves libertarian.

Full browser ?