You might be a libertarian

On Tuesday the Tea Party scored electoral wins for Republicans. But it may not be Republican sentiment driving the movement – it may be a libertarian surge.

We make a great mistake if we believe tonight that these results somehow are an embrace of the Republican party. What they are is a second chance. a second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be not so long ago.
-Marco Rubio in his acceptance speechview view>

The problem for Libertarians (large “L”) is the public is not self-consciously aware the label describes their views. The CATO Institute found that 48% of attendees at the Virginia Tea Party Convention held libertarian views. Zogby polls have found that 44% of Americans hold “fiscally conservative, socially liberal, also known as libertarian” views and the number increases to 59% by simply dropping the line “also known as libertarian.”

So what is a libertarian, and how do I know if I am one?

You are a libertarian if you believe in limited government and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets.

A traditional liberal view

A liberal takes exception to assembly and free markets. They may believe regulation and tarrifs are necessary in trade. They may wish to enforce rules upon the types of associations one can make, at least certain associations such as corporations, political groups, or clubs with exclusion rules. They believe it is the role of government to pursue an equal and fair distribution of wealth.

A traditional conservative view

Conservatives have exceptions for religion, speech, and press. They traditionally believe social norms should be regulated by the government. A conservative approach might favor government controlling substances and societal ills. They may be willing to curtail certain forms of speech and press either for the sake of security or in protection of a particular type of life.

A libertarian view

A libertarian may personally believe in the same end goals as a liberal or a conservative, but they do not believe government has the ability to best achieve the solution nor the right to do so. Government exists to protect liberty and contract.

In reality “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” is terribly misleading and a better way to think is in terms of a 2 dimensional plane rather than a 1 dimensional left-right scale. Libertarianism is north, marxism (where the state controls all aspects of life) would be south. So if “fiscally conservative” brings to mind the farm bill, corporate bailouts, etc” or if “socially liberal” brings to mind anti-god curriculums, climate control, etc – remember that these are all on the marxist end of the spectrum and the libertarian end would not have the government involved.

What does this mean practically? If you just want government out of your life – you are a libertarian. If you want government to promote your agenda, you are conservative, liberal, or marxist.

But I’m uncomfortable about…

What about murder, rape, abortion, monopolies? Well, the far north pole is really anarchy. Not many are anarchists, not many are Hitler or Stalin on the south end. You can have a handful of issues where you want government involvement and still fall in the libertarian quadrant. The distinction lies in your general and primary principles.

We’ve all got a little libertarian inside of us. Where do you think you fall on the scale?

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7 Responses to You might be a libertarian

  1. Grace says:

    Rick, my only big issue is that so many of them support abortion on demand…however I get so confused because I feel Republicans might say they do or do not support something…but often they are misleading…I don’t know…just glad Republicans came out WAY ahead this time. Goodbye Nancy.

    • Rick says:

      Even pro-choice libertarians would repeal Roe v. Wade and return the issue to the states, plus provide no public funding or support. So the situation would be immensely better. Though it is true many libertarians would not go the next step to ban abortion.

      I see the problem as a need to incorporating people’s understanding of abortion as a liberty issue and under common law principles an encroachment on the life and liberty of the unborn. To me, that is absolutely consistent with libertarian principles.

      A pro-choice libertarian is really just intellectually dishonest. The funny thing is, that’s actually a step to the conservative spectrum (using the power of government to allow certain people to infringe upon the rights of others in the name of their social preference) and the pro-life Republican is actually stepping towards libertarianism.

  2. Susanna says:

    Yes, before I met Rick, I assumed all Libertarians supported abortion. That is definitely not the case with Rick or people like Ron Paul, who has formally run as a Libertarian.

    Rick and I are both strongly against abortion as I have written about sometimes in the past. I don’t know if I will ever call myself a Libertarian but I do think the party is very misunderstood a lot of the time! It is not made up of a bunch of crazies like some people may think!;) lol

  3. Adrienne says:

    Great summary of Libertarianism. I agree that they are often misunderstood. I also think what a lot of Conservatives don’t even realize is that the traditional Conservative position, which is sometimes referred to as “classical liberalism,” is a lot closer to the Libertarian position. Current “neo-Conservative” ideas are a far cry from classic conservative principles.

  4. Megha says:

    Thanks for this post. Ari and I are Libertarians, though Ari much moreso. I am an urban planner by trade, which has ideals that are often inconsistent with a Libertarian viewpoint. Ex: public transit – planners support gov’t subsidy of public transit, fully understanding that (with the exception of major cities like NYC and Tokyo) it usually operates in the red – but it is crucial not only as a public service, but to maintain mobility and offer diversity in transportation choice, which has a direct correlation with the economic vitality of a city. The Libertarian might say that gov’t should not be funding transit, and that private industry will finance it if it is truly a worthwhile cause.

  5. bchallies says:

    Fairly far toward the Libertarian side…Many of the problems are curtailed, I think, if most decisions are made at state and even community level – good accountabilty.

  6. Miriam says:

    Thanks for this post, Rick. Ever since meeting Daniel (and all his libertarian friends!), I’ve really tried to analyze my own convictions in the context of libertarianism. I do tend to have a national perspective instead of a community perspective, which is, I think, a large part of my problem. Still, as much as I love my local library, I hate paying income taxes more!

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