Outline of libertarianism

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The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to libertarianism.

Libertarianism (Latin: liber, "free")[1] is a set of related political philosophies that uphold liberty as the highest political end.[2][3] This includes emphasis on the primacy of individual liberty,[4][5] political freedom, and voluntary association. It is the antonym to authoritarianism.[6] Libertarians advocate a society with a greatly reduced state or no state at all.[7]

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines libertarianism as the moral view that agents initially fully own themselves and have certain moral powers to acquire property rights in external things.[8] Libertarian philosopher Roderick Long defines libertarianism as "any political position that advocates a radical redistribution of power from the coercive state to voluntary associations of free individuals", whether "voluntary association" takes the form of the free market or of communal co-operatives.[9] According to the U.S. Libertarian Party, libertarianism is the advocacy of a government that is funded voluntarily and limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence.[10][11]

Libertarian schools of thought differ over the degree to which the state should have a role.[7] Anarchist schools advocate complete elimination of the state. Minarchist schools advocate a state which is limited to protecting its citizens from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud. Some schools accept government assistance for the poor.[12] Additionally, some schools are supportive of private property rights in the ownership of unappropriated land and natural resources while others reject such private ownership and often support common ownership instead (Libertarian socialism).[13][14][15] Anarcho-capitalism, however, rejects collectivism and statutory law while embracing free and competitive markets in all services – including law and civil defense.[16][17]

Some political scholars assert that in most countries the terms "libertarian" and "libertarianism" are synonymous with anarchism, and some express disapproval of capitalists calling themselves libertarians.[18] Conversely, other academics as well as proponents of the free market perspectives argue that free-market libertarianism has been successfully propagated beyond the U.S. since the 1970s via think tanks and political parties[19][20] and that "libertarianism" is increasingly viewed worldwide as a free market position.[21][22] Likewise, many libertarian capitalists disapprove of socialists calling themselves "libertarian."[9]

In the United States, where the meaning of liberalism has departed significantly from classical liberalism, classical liberalism has largely been renamed libertarianism and is associated with "economically conservative" and "socially liberal" political views (going by the common meanings of "conservative" and "liberal" in the United States),[23][24] along with a foreign policy of non-interventionism.[25][26]

Nature of libertarianism[edit]

Main article: Libertarianism


  • Constitutionalism – a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law.
  • Economic freedom – the freedom to produce, trade and consume any goods and services acquired without the use of force, fraud or theft.
  • Individual responsibility – the idea that a person has moral obligations in some situations.
  • Self-management – methods, skills, and strategies by which individuals can effectively direct their own activities toward the achievement of objectives, and includes goal setting, decision making, focusing, planning, scheduling, task tracking, self-evaluation, self-intervention, self-development, etc.
  • Self-ownership – the concept of property in one's own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to be the exclusive controller of his own body and life.
  • Self-sufficiency – the state of not requiring any aid, support, or interaction, for survival. In many other contexts, it is defined as becoming economically independent of state subsidies.
  • Voluntary association – a group of individuals who enter into an agreement as volunteers to form a body (or organization) to accomplish a purpose.


  • Authoritarianism – a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority.
  • Coercion – the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force.
  • Imperialism – defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationship, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination."
  • Racism – a form of collectivism that involves treating people based on their ethnic group membership rather than as individuals.


Branches of libertarianism[edit]

Schools of libertarian thought[edit]

Libertarianism has many overlapping schools of thought, all focused on smaller government and greater individual responsibility. As interpretations of the guiding Non-Aggression Principle vary, some libertarian schools of thought promote the total abolition of government, while others promote a smaller government which does not initiate force. Some seek private ownership of all property and natural resources, others promote communal ownership of all natural resources and varying degrees of private property.

Origins of libertarianism[edit]

Libertarian theory and politics[edit]

Libertarian ideals[edit]

These are concepts which, although not necessarily exclusive to libertarianism, are significant in historical and modern libertarian circles.

Philosophers and economists who have influenced libertarianism[edit]





See also[edit]



  1. ^ Libertarianism.org. "A Note on Labels: Why 'Libertarian'?" [1]
  2. ^ Rothbard, Murray N. (1979). "Myth and Truth About Libertarianism," LewRockwell.com, [2]
  3. ^ Rothbard, Murray N. (1982). The Ethics of Liberty, Mises.org [3]
  4. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. "Libertarianism," [4]
  5. ^ The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 11:2 (Summer 1995): 132–181 [5]
  6. ^ J. J. Ray (1980). "Libertarians and the Authoritarian Personality," The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. IV, No. 1 [6]
  7. ^ a b Friedman, David D. (2008). "libertarianism," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition, Abstract.
  8. ^ Vallentyne, Peter. "Libertarianism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, CSLI, Stanford University. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b Roderick T. Long (1998). "Towards a Libertarian Theory of Class" (PDF). Social Philosophy and Policy 15 (2): 303–349: at p. 304. doi:10.1017/S0265052500002028. 
  10. ^ Watts, Duncan (2002). Understanding American government and politics: a guide for A2 politics students. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. p. 246.
  11. ^ "Libertarian Party 2010 Platform". The Libertarian Party. May 2010. p. 1. Retrieved 24 September 2010. 
  12. ^ Davies, Christie (2008). "Sociology and Libertarianism". In Hamowy, Ronald. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE; Cato Institute. pp. 480–2. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. LCCN 2008009151. OCLC 750831024. 
  13. ^ Vallentyne, Peter (September 5, 2002). "Libertarianism". In Edward N. Zalta. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2009 ed.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University. Retrieved March 5, 2010. "Both endorse full self-ownership, but they differ with respect to the powers agents have to appropriate unappropriated natural resources (land, air, water, etc.). Right-libertarianism holds that typically such resources may be appropriated by the first person who discovers them, mixes her labor with them, or merely claims them – without the consent of others, and with little or no payment to them. Left-libertarianism, by contrast, holds that unappropriated natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner. It can, for example, require those who claim rights over natural resources to make a payment to others for the value of those rights. This can provide the basis for a kind of egalitarian redistribution" 
  14. ^ Otero, Carlos Peregrin (2003). "Introduction to Chomsky's Social Theory". In Carlos Peregrin Otero. Radical priorities. Noam Chomsky (book author) (3rd ed.). Oakland, California: AK Press. p. 26. ISBN 1-902593-69-3. ; Chomsky, Noam (2003). Carlos Peregrin Otero, ed. Radical priorities (3rd ed.). Oakland, California: AK Press. pp. 227–228. ISBN 1-902593-69-3. 
  15. ^ Vallentyne, Peter (September 5, 2002). "Libertarianism". In Edward N. Zalta. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2009 ed.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University. Retrieved March 5, 2010. "Libertarianism is committed to full self-ownership. A distinction can be made, however, between right-libertarianism and left-libertarianism, depending on the stance taken on how natural resources can be owned" 
  16. ^ Ronald Hamowy (editor). The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, SAGE, 2008, p 10-12, p 195, ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4, ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4
  17. ^ Edward Stringham, Anarchy and the law: the political economy of choice, p 51
  18. ^
    • Chomsky, Noam (February 23, 2002). "The Week Online Interviews Chomsky". Z Magazine. Z Communications. Retrieved 21 November 2011. "The term libertarian as used in the US means something quite different from what it meant historically and still means in the rest of the world. Historically, the libertarian movement has been the anti-statist wing of the socialist movement. Socialist anarchism was libertarian socialism. In the US, which is a society much more dominated by business, the term has a different meaning. It means eliminating or reducing state controls, mainly controls over private tyrannies. Libertarians in the US don't say let's get rid of corporations. It is a sort of ultra-rightism." 
    • Colin Ward (2004), Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 62. "For a century, anarchists have used the word 'libertarian' as a synonym for 'anarchist', both as a noun and an adjective. The celebrated anarchist journal Le Libertaire was founded in 1896. However, much more recently the word has been appropriated by various American free-market philosophers..."
    • Fernandez, Frank (2001), Cuban Anarchism. The History of a Movement, Charles Bufe translator, Tucson, Arizona: See Sharp Press, p. 9. "Thus, in the United States, the once exceedingly useful term "libertarian" has been hijacked by egotists who are in fact enemies of liberty in the full sense of the word."
  19. ^ Steven Teles and Daniel A. Kenney, chapter "Spreading the Word: The diffusion of American Conservativsm in Europe and beyond," (p. 136–69) in Growing apart?: America and Europe in the twenty-first century by Sven Steinmo, Cambridge University Press, 2008, ISBN, The chapter discusses how libertarian ideas have been more successful at spreading worldwide than social conservative ideas.
  20. ^ Anthony Gregory, Real World Politics and Radical Libertarianism, LewRockwell.com, April 24, 2007.
  21. ^ David Boaz, Preface for the Japanese Edition of Libertarianism: A Primer, reprinted at Cato.org, November 21, 1998.
  22. ^ Radicals for Capitalism (Book Review), New York Post, February 4, 2007.
  23. ^ Moseley, Daniel (June 25, 2011). "What is Libertarianism?". Basic Income Studies 6 (2): 2. doi:10.1515/1932-0183.1215. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  24. ^ The Libertarian Vote by David Boaz and David Kirby, Cato Institute, October 18, 2006
  25. ^ Ronald Hamowy (editor), The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, Chapter: "Foreign policy", pp. 177–80.
  26. ^ Edward A. Olsen, US National Defense for the Twenty-First Century: The Grand Exit Strategy, Taylor & Francis, 2002, p. 182, ISBN 0714681407, 9780714681405.

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