Libertarians believe we all have the right to live as we choose, without government interference, as long as we respect the equal rights of others to do the same. Though some in the media tend to portray Libertarians as militant extremists, our philosophy is fundamentally grounded in nonaggression. We believe force should be used only in the defense of persons or property. And a whole host of interesting implications follow logically from this description of what government is for.
For over 25 years now, the Advocates for Self Government have published books, pamphlets, and now electronic media to educate people about libertarianism. Here is one of their most concise summaries:
Libertarians support maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters. They advocate a much smaller government; one that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties.
And because these views are based on principle rather than polling, Libertarians apply them consistently to all parts of society. We do not rail against welfare for the poor while winking at corporate welfare, or vice versa; we oppose it all. We do not pick and choose only a few civil liberties that the government must respect; we demand them all.
Libertarians also tend to speak plainly about the extent to which governments take from some people to benefit others. Tax credits for Prius owners force some people to subsidize others’ car preferences. Bailouts in the banking and auto industries force taxpayers to pay for other people’s failures and deny well-managed competitors of the bailed-out firms their just rewards for prudently managing their own affairs. All of these policies are described by their proponents as being in “the public interest,” but the fact is that the costs and the benefits fall on individual people; there are winners and losers. Libertarians oppose the Santa Claus mentality that so often backs these giveaways—not because we hate free stuff, but because we know the stuff is not free and we don’t think people should be coerced into paying for it.
As this discussion makes clear, libertarianism is essentially political. In other words, libertarianism speaks to the proper relationship between the state and the individual; it does not speak to what individuals ought morally to do voluntarily. Thus, to take an obvious example, Libertarians overwhelmingly oppose the nation’s “war on drugs” even though most of us are not drug users.
Most Libertarians accept the view that our libertarian principles are universally true as a matter of natural law. However, there are many other practical reasons for insisting on a very narrow scope for government action. Libertarians believe that when government fails to confine itself to the protection of persons and property, its actions are generally unnecessary, routinely inferior to private action, and very frequently counterproductive.
Are you a Libertarian?
The Libertarian Party is our nation’s third-largest political party, and we’re the fastest-growing party in Maryland. But those aren’t reasons to join. The only good reason to join the Libertarian Party is to support political principles that appeal to your reason and your conscience. If you’re wondering how well you fit within the Libertarian Party, you might enjoy this online quiz from the Advocates for Self Government. Please also take a look at the State Program of the Libertarian Party of Maryland, which explains how we can start restoring our liberties in the “Free State”, and the National Libertarian Party Platform, which details how “we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives, and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.”