PhilosophyWe are the party of principle.
Libertarianism speaks to the proper relationship between the state and the individual; it does not speak to what individuals ought to do morally. The state exists to protect it’s residents and their property from those that would harm. 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.
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. Our philosophy is fundamentally grounded in nonaggression. We believe force should be used only in the defense of persons or property.
Libertarians support maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters. We 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, support the free market, practice tolerance of different ideal conceptions of the good life, and defend civil liberties. We do not pick and choose only a few civil liberties that the government must respect; we demand them all.
Libertarians directly confront policy that takes from some people to benefit others. These policies are described as being in “the public interest,” but the costs and the benefits fall on individual people; the government chooses the winners and losers. Libertarians oppose this ‘Santa Claus’ mentality because we know nothing is free.
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.
For Further Reading
Here are some links to particularly good libertarian websites. Naturally, we don’t necessarily agree with every word on every site, but they’re all worth reading, and many of them are worth a daily visit.
The Advocates for Self Government
The Cato Institute
The Independent Institute
The Ludwig von Mises Institute
The Maryland Public Policy Institute
The Mercatus Center
If you are looking for something more than you can imagine reading on your computer, there are some terrific books out there.
At the top of the list is David Boaz’s excellent introduction, Libertarianism: A Primer. This book surveys both the political and economic foundations of libertarianism, concisely and powerfully. Boaz’s book was first published in 1997, and for that reason it makes a nice contrast with Ron Paul’s 2008 contribution, Revolution: A Manifesto. Dr. Paul’s central thesis in this book (as elsewhere) is that we have departed from the principles of our nation’s founding in ways that systematically make us less free. It’s a great explanation of why we were on the wrong course long before the financial crisis of 2008 and long before President Obama took over. Dr. Paul published a more issue-oriented treatment in 2011, Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues that Affect Our Freedom. It’s also excellent.
Readers who are mostly interested in the economic case for smaller government will enjoy Henry Hazlitt’s 1946 classic, Economics in One Lesson. Hazlitt draws out the implications of one of the simplest and most important ideas in political economy, namely the fact that government largesse always involves tradeoffs and that it is important to pay attention not just to the things politicians promise to give us, but to the things we will not be able to provide for ourselves if we let them use private resources for their bright ideas.
If you want to read a prescient primary work by a Nobel laureate and prominent libertarian scholar (though he hated the word “libertarian” and preferred to call himself a “classical liberal”), try The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek. Hayek, an Austrian who experienced Europe’s descent into fascism first-hand, published this book in 1944 to connect the dots primarily for British readers who did not understand the way that centralized economic planning systematically tends toward the suppression of political freedom. Because The Road to Serfdom is primarily a critique of mid-20th-century thinking, some readers may prefer Hayek’s longer, more scholarly, and more constructive (yet still readable) Constitution of Liberty.
Another economist whose writings form a central part of the libertarian canon was Murray N. Rothbard. His For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto became an early (1973, revised in 1978) guide to the thinking of the founders of the Libertarian Party. Rothbard also wrote more narrowly within the field of economics (e.g., The Case Against the Fed), economic history (e.g., America’s Great Depression),and political history (Conceived in Liberty).
Austrian economist and philosopher Ludwig Van Mises’ “Human Action” is an intensive but important read making the case for laissez-faire capitalism based on the rational investigation of human decision-making. Mises highlights that economic calculations are the most fundamental problem in economics, and puts entrepreneurs – the ones that perform these monetary calculation – at the center of all progress and failure.
Many of these works are available as a free pdf download from the Ludwig von Mises Institute.