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WHAT is meant by being a libertarian?

We sling the term or title , "libertarian" around all the time . Please define your image or idea of libertarian.
Let's see if you have a correct concept idea of the title.

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I believe

Libertarian ideology is historically evolving while its unique ethic concerns the exercise of volitional choice relating to conscientious principle.

A derived model of "volitional" governance would therefore edify autonomous international/federal/state/county/town/estate/self Constitutions while being reflexive to individual rights (premises including property/agency (ex. currency)/corporality (your body)/sovereignty (travel)/philosophy and/or spirituality).

A civic body can subsequently create an electoral station (ex. interstate highways or local sheriff departments) however any function that is coercively anti-voluntary (ex. income taxation, mandated insurance or Selective Service conscription) would be adjudicated as null and void.

To cite an example, I believe most people would agree that interstate highways are important and would be willing to apportion some funds to their development and maintenance (others might find federal space programs to be more inspirational and would contribute accordingly). If there is public dissatisfaction with the care of roads, a competing enterprise could provide better services and likewise be endorsed a managing bond while the human force of pragmatic necessity would ensure the amenity’s continuance.

Practically speaking, I believe such a system would prove itself to be quite solvent while disabling corruption and abuse.

Critically in contrast, systems of 'limited' government could be described as unprincipled when permitting some degree of infringement on individual rights.

For individuals Groups have no rights as groups.

Economics from Greek Oiko-nomos literally means "house rules".

Economics isn't the dismal science. It's not a science.
Economics proper is the rules of exchanges and exchange statistics. [Contract Law and Commodity prices ticker, for example]

So I'll just throw these out here. Am Interested in concrete examples.

All exchanges are voluntary and no exchanges forced.

No third party coercion forcing exchange.

No third party forcing denial of exchange.

An alternate rule set?

Associative - Any individual may associate with another.

Commutative - Both individuals equally can agree or not.

Distributive - Third party may not forcefully favor or hinder one party over another.

Free includes debt-free!

Who will decide

if I have a correct concept idea of the title?

I actually made a whole video

I actually made a whole video about libertarianism. check it out.


liberty lover in Nor Cal!


it is a good video and thankfully spares us the pretension of identifying a "correct" version.

Someone did some homework

I salute you, my young brother.

Three things: 1. Leave me

Three things:

1. Leave me alone and I will leave you alone.

2. Do onto others as you want them done to you.

3. Doesn't mean 100% freedom, because you cannot annoy other people with loud music; You can't race your car up and down the street at night where people sleep etc.

If you disagree with me on anything you are not a real libertarian...


I have to check the Bible and other related sources to get even a better understanding.

Btw, perhaps Jesus was the ultimate libertarian.


I'd have to agree

I just ordered Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on The Gospels by Christoyannopolous. Can't wait to read it.

I'm don't know if you'd apply the anarchist label to Jesus, but I'd agree that, yep, Jesus was pretty radical.

The book of Samuel has some interesting things to say about establishing a government too.

King of Kings

Does that define a libertarian?

It's good to be king, if your a good king.


Free includes debt-free!


to the overly prideful.

There is a difference

Capital L Libertarian is the political party
Little l libertarian is the philosophy. It covers most anarchists, volenterists and Libertarians.

The founding principle is the non aggression axiom. Do you suppose it is OK to use force and be the aggressor against another?

No one has yet

referenced the Libertarian Party. How did it show up?
You're straining at a knat. Can't you think? Or are you just tooo smart for me.
your comment should say; volenterists and Libertarian Parties.



oh was it snarky?

Tone is so hard to read on the internet sometimes. I love snark!

Socially speaking

Big picture- socially speaking, some would call it 'social liberal', but that's not what it is.
The old phrase was called 'minding one's own business'. Those who fail that, are often liable to get their own nose chopped off. One of life's simple lessons, really.

Minding one's own business

would entail not paying for someone else or bothering with anyone else. We would all have to be recluses. Is that what we want? Is that libertarian? Does equality then boil down to isolatioism? For this is the only perfect liberty. Do as you please.

I would say rather that what the founders of America gave us is true liberty. An ageed upon set of rules that lets all citizens equal in all realms of society. The very thing they seem to want to destroy. LAW and yet grace. Grace is extended to others, as others extend grace to you.
The American understanding.

ME having to pay for or giving benefits to a lifestyle I do not approve of, is not Liberty. It is blackmail. I never ask for anything from others. I was placed into a system , Period.

Important distinction

The word "libertarian" can refer to a political philosophy or to a political morality.

As a political morality, a libertarian is someone who endorses self-ownership, from which the non-aggression principle follows.

As a political philosophy, the only *essential* feature is that government must be small in both size and scope. Put differently, you have to endorse the "libertarian set of political institutions" for whatever reason. You don't have to believe in natural rights, the non-aggression principle, self-ownership, or any of those things to count as a libertarian in this sense.

Most people equivocate between the two senses of "libertarian" and so you get silly claims like that you HAVE to believe in the non-aggression principle to be a libertarian. No, you don't.

I wrote a lengthier bit about this here, if you're interested: http://www.thevolunteer.ca/2011/03/bleeding-heart-libertarians/

reedr3v's picture

Peter, I read your linked essay and

have watched the bleedinghearts effort with interest. As a lifelong libertarian, I both welcome newer activists and evolving libertarian thought to refine its core mission/identity and dialogue, with attention to current issues.

But I have doubts about the rush of some libertarians to ally themselves philosophically and culturally with modern liberals. You say the U.S. welfare state is not at all what liberals intended. I'd agree, just as many totalitarian systems are not as their early proponents intended. But I also see it as the logical outcome of slippery policies and philosophy.

I disagree with your rejection of the NAP as the core definition of libertarianism. Without it we will be as subject to the meanderings of philosophy and policy as today's liberals, and as blindsided by outcomes of political policy.

I find ideas of Panarchy to be a more fruitful direction for achieving practical alliance with liberals than diluting or abandoning the unique and essential insights of libertarianism.

A couple of responses

First, thanks for reading the piece, and for a thoughtful response.

I do not say that the welfare state is not what liberals intended. I don't talk about that at all. I talk about the moral obligation to pull a child out of a puddle of water. I ask if this is a genuine moral obligation. If you happen to be walking by a baby, face down in a puddle of water, and it would cost you a clean pair of shoes to pull the baby out, are you obligated to pull the baby out?

I think most people think that you are, in fact, obligated (notice that no one should care whether or not people will or won't, descriptively. What we're trying to get at is the normative truth).

Then I ask: What follows about political institutions? The answer, of course, is nothing at all. It does not follow that some government institution needs to be set up to pull babies out of their puddly doom. But the modern liberal will believe that a government institution will be the most efficient or effective method of ensuring more babies get pulled out, while the libertarian who shares the intuition that you gotta pull the baby out will have different EMPIRICAL beliefs. The difference between them is about what each of them thinks will actually happen in the real world.

Separately, let me ask you this. Suppose that adherence to the non-aggression principle would not lead to better overall outcomes for everybody. Suppose, just for the sake of the thought experiment, that a bit of aggression would improve everyone's lives (including those who are aggressed against).

If you answer that you would be okay with that small amount of aggression in this crazy possible world that is not this world, then you are not a genuine supporter or NAP. You support it just because it happens to improve people's lives. If it didn't, we would abandon the NAP.

If you answer that you would still insist on the NAP, then I have another thought experiment. If a deaf and blind man is about to walk into traffic, would you tackle him to stop him from waltzing into his doom?

I have a hard time with the above examples. I used to believe in the NAP. I used to be a natural rights libertarian. But I'm not anymore, because I see those as genuine and overwhelming objections to the view.

Again, thanks for reading. Apologies for the length of this response.

reedr3v's picture

Not to be nit-picky, but in your article

you say, "liberal commitments to “social justice”... "do not analytically lead to anything resembling a modern welfare-state. To get there, you need to believe not only in the moral urgency of getting babies out of puddles and providing ladders, you need to also believe that the most effective way to do those things is through certain state institutions." But an ideology that has no solid core principle that would not be trespassed by political policy is why liberal-inspired policies don't work as advertised.

Your baby/puddle example reflects the philosophies of individuals. Liberals trust institutions/abstractions more than real-life people, forgetting that bureaucrats are quite ordinary humans with the added corruptibility of power over others and self-interested perks/entitlements.

By contrast, individuals attracted to and committed to the NAP have no stake in power, no entitlement to protect.

In my experience, libertarians (considered as a general group) accept personal responsibility for their own actions, for their families, communities. Such individuals are not the ones who would coldly or casually pass by a drowning baby.

Personal responsibility is taking peace seriously in one's own life (the NAP) and not irresponsibly passing jobs on to strangers wearing badges or state uniforms. It is also not accepting state violence in the guise of "do-goodism," but rather knowing that doing good means rolling up one's sleeves and helping, or donating one's own resources to charitable causes; not imagining that forcing others to "donate" through forced taxes will ever accomplish a peaceable, respectful, loving society.


But notice that my claim in the bit you excerpted is simply that nothing is *logically* entailed from a liberal commitment to social justice. If you believe that you have an obligation to pull babies out of puddles, it does not follow that you ought to discharge that duty through a third party, like the state.

The claims about psychological tendencies may be true. People committed to the NAP may also feel like they should pull babies out of puddles. But notice that it does not logically follow from the NAP that you have this obligation. In fact, if it is a genuine obligation, and not just something that it would be nice for someone to do, then the NAP cannot be the only grounding for ethics. Some other principle is involved in pulling babies out.

At any rate, thanks for the exchange!

I really like your article and it sort of makes my case on DP.

You definatly mention defining one's self and what you deem as ideal. Too many people look at the label and assume it is for the ideal of, liberty for all.
(You) know this is not the case as you state even for yourself, that you would try to accomplich a socialized state.
I believe this is the opposite of what most folk believe to be libertarian and their liberty ideal.
The concept in one person's thinking may not be the same concept in another's mind. This is why I say libertarian is an umberella. It contains whatever you want it to contain. This is why it is said that even Carl Marx was a libertarian. The candiate must define him or herself. So, the umberella can stretch from communism to anarchy.
This is what I am trying to get, definition to people's minds. Libertarian is in the eye of the beholder or rather the one in power.

I noticed you used a capital "L" in your writting. This notice is only for BigT.

My definition

For me it means "Liberty Lover". Liberty being what Paul (bible paul) talks about with the "Law of Liberty" (for me, translates to small government, sound money, individual rights and responsibilities, etc...).

For many I talk to though, it means "Druggie". It's a "reactionary" response which tells me it's been Learned, from somewhere. I don't know where it comes from but that's the most common response I get when talking about Libertarians. "They're a bunch of pro drug people."

Here's my definition

May be at odds with "pure" libertarians. But to me it's the "premise" that less government is better (not no government), and that if people are doing something privately that doesn't harm others, the government has no right to be involved.

Here ya go, classic :)


How's that for concept.

≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make
violent revolution inevitable."
John F. Kennedy

That is the concept of liberty but does not equate to the

title libertarian. Liberty to do as one pleases is not Liberty for all. Someone gets limited or we have infringement. Infringement is not liberty.

Conservative and Liberal

One can be a personal conservative, frugal, responsible, traditional, preparing for the future, investing, etc., and still be a libertarian politically.

One can be a personal bleeding-heart liberal, generous, tolerant, caring for the needy, etc., and still be a libertarian politically.

One can be a libertarian personally, preferring a libertarian parenting style, or managment style, allowing children and employees to use self-initiative, and be a libertarian politically.

One can be an authoritarian, personally, and be a very bossy boss of one's kids, employees, or students, and still be libertarian politically.

In fact, even though authoritarians are the opposite of libertarians in their preference for a vertical social structure with a single person in charge at the top, they have an even greater reason to be a political libertarian unless they think they, personally, will get or be the boss they want. There should be very few political statists once people grasp this concept.

What do you think? http://consequeries.com/

Figured this was your post POW...

since you patronized in the Gary Johnson post about the term, the one where you included communism into the "umberella" (sic).

You say "Liberty maybe one motive" after you say it "has nothing to do with "liberty"". What??

My opinion is that just because the term has been hijacked by Beck and others, it still holds the meaning of those who prefer small government, personal freedom, and abhor the use of force upon others who have done nothing to deserve it.


The Libertarian "title"
Submitted by POW on Thu, 09/01/2011 - 17:42.

has nothing to do with the word "liberty".
It is a broad label of different persuasions, from left to right. ONE umberella of political motivations. Of which Liberty maybe one motive. Communistic persuasion maybe another. Actually, Libertarian is the "widest umberella" of collectivism, if a Candidate wants to use it as such.

'Cause there's a monster on the loose