What Is Libertarianism?

Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights). So strong and far-reaching are these rights that they raise the question of what, if anything, the state and its officials may do.

- Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia

Podcast of the Day

The political landscape in America is very polarized nowadays. Many people identify themselves as "Conservative" or "Liberal," and are willing to defend their beliefs vigorously. The political debates tend to focus more on the areas of disagreement, rather than the issues people agree on. Now, a new blog has popped up that attempts to combine the political beliefs of Libertarians, who support free markets and property rights, with the ideals of "bleeding heart" Liberals. We speak to the creator of "Bleeding Heart Libertarians" about the motivation behind his blog, and what he hopes people will take away from it.

Listen to Matt Zwolinski on Can a Libertarian Be An Advocate for Social Justice?

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

Libertarians are generally opposed to the welfare state. Part of that opposition is pragmatic in nature. Libertarians often argue that welfare encourages dependency, and that it destroys incentives to work. But the more important source of opposition—the more distinctively libertarian source—is that the welfare state is coercive. It’s one thing to give your own money to charity; it’s quite another to do as the state does, and give money that you’ve coercively seized from someone else.

Let’s call this the Core Libertarian Insight about the welfare state...

Continue reading Matt Zwolinski's article: Libertarianism and the Poor

Further Reading

In the most general sense, libertarianism is a political philosophy that affirms the rights of individuals to liberty, to acquire, keep, and exchange their holdings, and considers the protection of individual rights the primary role for the state. This entry is on libertarianism in the narrower sense of the moral view that agents initially fully own themselves and have certain moral powers to acquire property rights in external things...

Perhaps as a result of Nozick's fame, libertarianism is often thought of as “right-wing” doctrine. This, however, is mistaken for at least two reasons. First, on social—rather than economic—issues, libertarianism tends to be “left-wing”. It opposes laws that restrict consensual and private sexual relationships between adults (e.g., gay sex, extra-marital sex, and deviant sex), laws that restrict drug use, laws that impose religious views or practices on individuals, and compulsory military service. Second, in addition to the better-known version of libertarianism—right-libertarianism—there is also a version known as “left-libertarianism”. Both endorse full self-ownership, but they differ with respect to the powers agents have to appropriate unowned natural resources (land, air, water, minerals, etc.). Right-libertarianism holds that typically such resources may be appropriated, for example, by the first person who discovers them, mixes her labor with them, or merely claims them—without the consent of others, and with little or no payment to them. Left-libertarianism, by contrast, holds that unappropriated natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner. It can, for example, require those who claim rights over natural resources to make a payment to others for the value of those rights. This can provide the basis for a kind of egalitarian redistribution...

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Libertarianism by Vallentyne & van der Vossen

Related Topics

 Capitalism | DemocracyEconomics | Equality | Free Speech | Freedom | Justice | Political Philosophy | Toleration

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