(redirected from Libertarians)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Financial, Encyclopedia.
Related to Libertarians: liberty, liberalism, Libertarian capitalism


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 ?
Trump is neither a conservative nor a libertarian but something else--a populist nationalist.
But, as the Free Staters (who, lefs face it, get the credit for this) point out, NH now has more sitting Libertarian state reps than the other 49 states combined.
Greens and Libertarians have generally banked on those races - when they lack Democrats - in their quest for relevance.
The town hall is expected to focus on the state of the 2016 race as well as the Libertarian platform.
Or to go farther back, it's a replication of Ed Clark's "low-tax liberalism," now transformed into pot-friendly conservatism The media is pushing the Libertarians this year because they think they'll split the Republican vote and deliver the White House to the Clintons.
5) The most powerful critique of the thin against the thick libertarians is the reductio ad absurdum: both left and right thicksters include opinions on several issues in their definition of this philosophy; for example, hierarchies, feminism and racism.
Numbers like these led the statistical-minded political commentator Nate Silver to write in The New York Times in 2011 that "there have been visible shifts in public opinion on a number of issues, ranging from increasing tolerance for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization on the one hand, to the skepticism over stimulus packages and the health-care overhaul on the other hand, that can be interpreted as a move toward more libertarian views.
Take, for instance, the dean of judicial libertarians, Richard Epstein, who teaches at the University of Chicago Law School.
Since the Tea Party has united libertarians and social conservatives, that unity has forced them to downplay the social issues.
Hard libertarians tend to favor deontological positions in political morality.
Thus he depicts libertarians as dogmatic by definition.
Again, many libertarians would not agree that this as a realistic possibility, because they think it neglects the medium- to long-term effects of a system with such systematic interference in economic calculation.