• What is libertarianism?

    15 Jun 2010, 2:29

    Here's a good article on what libertarianism is (and isn't). It also takes a look at different libertarian views on, for example, natural resources and property rights. Keep in mind that libertarianism is not a complete moral or aesthetic theory; it is only a political theory.

    Libertarianism holds that agents initially fully own themselves and have moral powers to acquire property rights in external things under certain conditions. It is normally advocated as a theory of justice in the sense of the duties that we owe each other. So understood, it is silent about any impersonal duties (i.e., duties owed to no one) that we may have.

    Libertarianism can be understood as a basic principle or as a derivative one. For example, one might defend libertarianism on the basis of rule utilitarianism or rule contractarianism (see, e.g., Narveson 1988). Here, however, we shall focus on libertarianism as a natural rights doctrine.

    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, 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 unappropriated natural resources (land, air, water, etc.). Right-libertarianism holds that typically such resources may be appropriated 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.


    I, for one, hold individual liberty in a high regard and don't feel like I need a government to limit my life much. That's why I hold myself as a libertarian. If you feel the same way, consider joining this group: