#50A: Libertarians value individual
freedom in both personal and economic matters (see Figure #50a).
They insist on having complete control over, and accepting
personal responsibility for, how one's body and personal property are
used. While the term
"libertarian" wasn't used until the mid 19th century, its
beginnings can be traced to John Locke (1632-1704). He felt owning
property was a natural right (Figure #42a) derived from a person's
labor. Viewing humans as inherently selfish, he nonetheless felt no one
had the right to harm another's "life, health, liberty, or
Libertarians are not fans of big government (Figure #50b). They
advocate limiting the power of government so individual liberty is
maximized. Most believe in
the sanctity of private property,
and view government challenging private property rights as tantamount to
it trampling on their freedom. They value reason and generally embrace the
non-aggression principle, popularized by philosopher/novelist Ayn Rand
(Figure #50c), founder of the objectivism philosophy.
It states that coercive physical force or the threat of such
force against person or property should never be used first, and that
its only legitimate use is for defensive purposes by individuals or
retaliatory purposes by governments. In this regard she wrote, "A government is the means
of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective
control...under objectively defined laws."
One can distinguish two types of libertarians: those who believe
some minimal amount of government is needed (called libertarians and
discussed here), and those who don't (called anarchists and discussed in
the next section).
will allow the government to seemingly infringe on their liberty.
They accept police forces, the justice system, national defense
and the taxes to pay for them—believing that these will protect them
against even greater violations of their freedom.
They will not tolerate government interference in laissez faire
capitalism = self interest based economics.
They are enthusiastic supporters of competition, "the virtue
of selfishness" (also the title of a 1964 book by Ayn Rand and
Nathaniel Brandon), and "Economic Individualism" (theme #19).
The purest of them will denounce with equal vehemence both
government help to individuals (welfare assistance) and
handouts to corporations (corporate welfare).
Many of them attack concepts like "the common good" and the "social responsibility" of business. On the latter, in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman wrote, "There is only one social responsibility of business—to use its re-sources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say it engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud." He elsewhere links social responsibility with "the most explicitly collectivist doctrine"—"Socialism"
at Libertarian Rally
(theme #49B), which he and most libertarians
abhor. Putting profits
before ethics, they are not fans of "Ethical Orientation"
(theme #42). Lamenting both government inefficiency and excessive
government regulation, they similarly abhor "Ethical
Globalization," and "Environmental Economics" (themes #51
There are many variations of libertarianism.
Some value the role of government more than others.
One, promoted by Robert
Ringer, author of Winning Through Intimidation,
relaxes the prohibition against using force.
Another—left libertarianism or libertarian socialism—values
egalitarianism, income redistribution and collective ownership.
Some libertarians support decentralized co-operative economic
ventures (theme #48). Some
are found fervently promoting the wise use movement.
#50B: Left libertarianism that completely devalues
government is called left anarchism.
It comes in various forms, one being collectivist anarchism—where
the means of production would be collectively owned, controlled, and
managed by the producers themselves.
Some left anarchists are comfortable with co-operative economics
(theme #48) provided no government is involved.
Their dislike of government has two fundamental aspects.
They feel 1) government taxation and other policies violate the
non-aggression principle, and 2) government interference in markets
destroys competition, protects monopolies and prevents workers from
being fairly compensated. (The economic theory of mutualism elaborates.)
Ayn Rand had no use for anarchism,
viewing it as an "irrational, anti-intellectual ...whim-worshiping
fringe of the collectivist movement."
While a majority of anarchists sub-scribe to left anarchism, anarcho-capitalists do not.
Neither collectivists nor egalitarians, they believe in the
sanctity of private property. They also believe government is not needed
to supply legal, security and defensive services—arguing the
free market can effectively do this.
Figure #50c: Ayn Rand's Answer to "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
back to worldview theme(s) #50