What Is Libertarianism?
The word “Libertarian” often conjures images of middle-aged curmudgeons puffing on joints and railing against the foolishness of a government that just isn’t smart enough to make marijuana legal. That’s certainly the image that much of the media portrays, and it’s amusing, albeit dangerous in its disingenuous dismissal. Others see Libertarians simply as conservatives who just don’t want to belong to the Republican. The funny thing about that; while the vast majority of Libertarians are, in fact, fiscal conservatives, socially, they are liberal, or at the least, ambivalent…
There are as many varieties of Libertarians as there are hamburger joints. Some are anarchists, believing that free markets are all that is necessary to ensure the peaceful coexistence of all men. Some or minarchists, conceding the necessity of government, perhaps even a minimal welfare state, but in a very limited role. Some are monetarists, who seek to limit the influence of central banks, rather than the government at large, upon the market. There are even deeper and more subtle shades of Libertarianism, but all are united by an abiding belief in the transformative power of personal liberty, freedom of markets and a deep mistrust of expanding government power.
In comparative terms, we seek the greatest amount of liberty possible via the least amount of government. As such, the roster of Libertarians has included such luminaries as author Ayn Rand, economists Milton Friedman and Friedrich A. von Hayek, magicians Penn and Teller Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, and most famously, at least recently, Ron Paul.
Yet, this is hardly a new school of though. Libertarians are influenced by thinkers and innovators over the span of centuries. With roots in the classical liberal philosophy that informs modern Libertarianism, history presents such august personages as James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Frederic Bastiat and John Locke. Yes, men such as Jefferson had their flaws, but it is through the enhancement of liberty that later generations lessened, if not quite overcame, these flaws.
In Their Own Words