Libertariansim: Understanding Political Ideas and Movements


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In our complex society, there are many complex decisions that need to be addressed by not so intelligent people. According to statistic, many workers argue that their manager or higher-ranking employee do not know what they are doing or the complexity of the job. Now take that problem and multiply it by 100,000 and you see the difficulty of a government trying to manage a society. The only way to deal with that is to distribute decision making to citizens as a whole. This is what libertarianism does. It shifts decision making from the ignorant to the informed, it decentralises very complex decisions. Moreover, libertarianism allows the government to focus on what is truly important. What kinds of things do people care about when it comes to gov-ernment? The average person would prioritise preventing violence, stopping criminality and ensuring justice sits at the top of their priority list. Despite that we have tens of thousands of murders, fraud that goes unpunished or worse investigated while at the same time we continue to spend recklessly on unnecessary stuff for the citizens. For example, paying hippies to stop smoking or hamster fighting. The libertarian approach prevents us from crowding out funding for what’s important because we won’t be spending money on whoever is politically connect-ed. In addition, libertarianism gives mora responsibility to its citizens. Our choices are down to our choice and what we choose to do by using our free will. This will make us responsible for our actions as there is no overriding power making choices for us.

One criticism of liberalism is the validity of libertarian notions of liberty and economic freedom, especially laissez faire capitalism, which is described as a system of aggressive coercion and restriction by property owners against others. Adam Smith’s ‘obvious and simple system of natural liberty’ is not a system of liberty at all, but a complicated network of restraints, imposed in part by individuals, but very largely by the government itself at the behest of others on the freedom of the ‘some’… What in fact distinguishes this counterfeit system of ‘laissez-faire’ (the market) from paternalism, is not the absence of restraint, but the absence of any conscious purpose of the part of the officials who administer the restraint, and of any responsibility or unanimity on the part of the numerous owners at whose discretion the restraint is administered. Furthermore, Libertarians are accused of ignoring market failure, although not all proponents are market zealots. Critics of laissez-faire capitalism, the economic system favoured by some libertarians, argue that market failures justify government intervention in the economy, that non-intervention leads to monopolies and stifled innovation, or that unregulated markets are eco-nomically unstable. They argue that markets do not always produce the best or most efficient outcome, that redistribution of wealth can improve economic health and that humans involved in markets do not always act rationally. Lastly, a clear weakness of libertarianism is that it has never existed, therefore it is just a theory, that may or may not work. Many critics compare lib-ertarianism with communism, in that it might sound good in theory, but never work because of the weaknesses pointed out throughout this essay. Even communism was implemented before, unlike libertarianism, which only has a party in the US, the libertarian party. This party is large-ly unsuccessful and that could be a reflection the ideology. If libertarianism was a good idea, wouldn’t at least one country have tried it? Wouldn’t there be at least one country, out of nearly two hundred, with minimal government, free trade, open borders, decriminalized drugs, no wel-fare state and no public education system.

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Key values such as individualism and liberty play a significant role within Libertarianism. The word “libertas”, means freedom, in Latin shows the underlining principles of libertarianism. Libertarians place liberty above other values and are highly against government involvement as it risks violating the liberty of the individual. Therefore, libertarians advocate what gives them the most social and economic freedom; minimal government intervention and Laissez-faire capi-talism. This idea comes from John Locke’s interpretation of the state; it should protect our life, property and liberty. This links closely within the principles of liberty as both advocate individ-uals to do whatever they wish, without restraint, as long as it does not interfere with the free-dom of someone else. Libertarians promote Negative freedom, the absence of external con-straints on actions and the individual’s total control over private sphere of the home and per-sonal life, because of their support of property rights and economic freedom – free trade. This was supported by philosophers such as, John Locke and Isiah Berlin. Therefore, the theory of liberty plays a very crucial factor within Libertarianism.

Libertarian thoughts and ideas have been heavily influenced by many liberal thoughts and be-liefs, especially classical liberalism. Both Classical Liberals and libertarians agree on many things including Equal liberty as the primary political value. Everyone should have “equal” lib-erty, in the sense that it belongs to everyone, as individuals. As France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizenputs it, “Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same right.”. Both are firm supporters in individualism and rejects, as dangerous and repulsive, collectivist ideolo-gies, like socialism. They believe everybody is different and has the right to be judged as some-thing other than simply the sum of their various group memberships. Both are very sceptical about power and that we should not worship “great men” of history or strong men simply be-cause they are strong. As Baron Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power cor-rupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men. Along with that, both support free markets and limited government. The main difference between classical liberalism and libertari-anism is the trust towards government institutions. Classical liberals have more faith in the rule of law than libertarians. On top of John Locke’s belief in free-markets, individual liberty and limited government, John Locke believed that the government had a specific purpose; to protect individual rights such as Life, Liberty and Property. This assumption comes from the assump-tion that in a world without a government, the only thing protecting Life, liberty and Property is physical force. The Government or State can act like a third-party in property disputes and will save you time as you don’t have to waste all your time and recourses protecting your property from those who want to take it from you.

To some degree, Traditional Conservatism can be seen to oppose Libertarian thoughts and ide-as. This is because traditional conservativism is authoritarian and wants to maintain social order with tradition and authority. Traditional conservatives uphold core values such as a belief in the importance of tradition and custom, highlighting the bonds that hold together past, present and future generations. Edmund Burke argued that by abandoning traditions and “the accumulated wisdom of ages” and advancing abstract ideas, post-revolutionary France would end up as more oppressed than it was before. Hierarchy is seen as the essence and core of all successful human societies and as essential for survival, regardless of where one sits within it. Obedience is also seen as natural. This is where there is tension between Libertarians and traditional con-servatives as libertarians believe that enforcement of power and authority is wrong and should be given by the citizens, in which it governs. They believe in economic and social freedom, one which traditional conservatives oppose through authority.

The idea of paternalism is heavily opposed within libertarianism, like any other ideological tra-dition that promotes authority and power. Libertarians believe that humans are capable and re-sponsible for their actions, whereas paternalistic views indicate that humans are flawed and need the state to act as a father figure t its citizens. This goes against the fundamental belief within libertarianism as it restricts your social freedom and liberty and replaces it with “protec-tion”. Paternalism and one-nation conservatives believe in a form of welfare state to prevent discontent and protection to the weak. However, this is extremely opposed throughout libertari-an thinkers as you are constrained to paying for something which you may not agree to – as selfishness is a virtue, not character fault. Therefore, you are restricting an individual’s liberty and choices.


In conclusion, libertarianism is the only political ideology that takes liberty to its core – show-ing full commitment to an individual’s rights and liberty to life, property and protection, even sacrificing some social factors in order for true liberty. While modern liberalism advocate liber-ty they support the welfare system and are constantly increasing the role of the government, which infringes on the rights of individuals. The only problem is, libertarians depends on hu-man morality. For example, instead of welfare state, they propose charities, which may be suc-cessful, or as some predict unsuccessful. Personally, libertarianism is the only political ideology that is consist with no contradiction, compared with other ideologies, and is an ever-growing and developing ideology.     

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