Libertarian Basics in 5 Minutes or Less
Updated: Mar 12, 2021
If you're looking to dip your toe here's roughly what the water is like...
The caricature of a Libertarian is either a guy in a bunker explaining why taxation is theft, or a dude living out of a van with "Hemp Force 1" painted across the side of it.
...and while all that is completely true, we're all exactly one of those two people, there's a little more to it.
Libertarianism as a political philosophy goes something like this, "Let me do what I want as long as it doesn't mess with anyone else."
THE SECRET INGREDIENT IS LIBERTY
There are more elegant ways of saying it, but that's it at its core. The official Libertarian Party states it this way...
"Libertarians strongly oppose any government interference into their personal, family, and business decisions. Essentially, we believe all Americans should be free to live their lives and pursue their interests as they see fit as long as they do no harm to another."
"All individuals have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose."
This core principle is not new, and is especially not new to America...
"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others." - Thomas Jefferson
A broad illustration would go something like this...
If someone wants to smoke weed in their home, as long as they're not putting anyone else's life/liberty/property at risk, they should be allowed to do it. If they get in a car and drive while under the influence, now they've infringed on the equal rights of others by putting lives/property in danger, and they should go to jail.
Actions only become illegal when they directly infringe on the rights of another.
LIBERTARIANS MAKE AWFUL LIFEGUARDS
BUT... as Peter Parker's Uncle Ben once said, "With great [Liberty] comes great responsibility."
"Individuals are inherently free to make choices for themselves and must accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make." - lp.org/platform
Continuing with the example above, if you decide to do drugs, likely to your own personal detriment, don't expect a government safety net when things go south.
Libertarians don't do government safety nets.
Side note, in this example we would hope that the local community surrounding those dealing with addiction would voluntarily provide the support necessary to help them.
Libertarians themselves are generous and caring people, we just don't believe it's the National or even State government's place to fill these support roles. Where some see that as naïve the counter would be that thinking the government is going to make the situation better on aggregate is instead the naïve point of view.
It's fair to question policy, that's what political debate is for, but Libertarian motives are no different from anyone else in wanting to see people succeed in life.
SO...LIBERAL? CONSERVATIVE? CENTRIST? WHAT ARE YOU?
Painting with an extremely broad brush you could say that Libertarians are "Fiscally Conservative, and Socially Liberal."
It's my belief that the majority of Americans would categorize themselves the same way, they just don't know they're Libertarian yet.
There are a few issues where positions cleanly fall in line with basic Libertarian principles, and in those instances there is significant agreement among Libertarians. A short list of some examples includes...
Gun Ownership - A fundamental check on government overreach is a well armed citizenry. Gun ownership in general is a staple of Libertarianism... we're basically Manalorians.
Gay Marriage - We don't think the government should be involved in marriage at all... so ya... have it at. You do you LGBTQ. You should be at liberty to live your life as you see fit.
Drugs - Decriminalize the possession/use of drugs. Prohibition of substances hasn't worked in the history of mankind, it just pushes things underground where it's more dangerous and more expensive to deal with. The Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland are among a handful of countries that have already decriminalized drug possession for personal use. Last I checked they haven't slipped into the sea or anything.
Privacy - People have an implicit right to privacy, even at the risk of security.
So, Libertarians believe that the lovely gay married couple across the street should be able to defend their pot with an AR15 and the government doesn't need to know about it. That's generally considered "socially liberal" outside the guns part.
Reducing the number of things that the government has to concern itself with has the knock-on benefit of making the government really efficient and by extension taxes really low, hence the "fiscally conservative" label.
But Libertarians are not a monolith. There are plenty of subjects where Libertarians as a whole don't have a generally agreed upon position. A couple examples would be...
Environmental Policy -
A) If I own a business, what I do on my land should be my choice. If environmental issues are important to my customer base then I will innovate accordingly, but should be free to do so of my own choosing.
B) Excessively polluting the local environment directly effects the longevity of my life, and my property (i.e. the quality of the drinking water and/or air in my home). Your customer base may not be as directly effected as I am and therefore rules should be in place to protect my right to a clean ecosystem.
A) Abortion is an obvious and forcible interference with of the life of an unborn child.
B) Abortion is a difficult choice that's made by a woman who should be allowed to exercise sole dominion over her own body (most of the time categorized as her own "property" when this subject is being debated among Libertarians, but I hate the use of that word here).
An in depth look at policy positions held by the Libertarian Party can be found here: lp.org/platform
WHAT'S THE CATCH?
The Libertarian Party is sort of like the Island of Misfit Toys. By definition those currently in the party are outsiders, we've chosen to align ourselves with a party solely based on principle and not on... like... winning anything yet.
Also, similarly to Biblical ideals, Libertarian ideals have been twisted towards nefarious ends at times. The party, relative to the two major parties, is not that large and therefore a select few can dominate conversation and sometimes even turn the ship off course.
Joe Exotic, the Tiger King guy, was a viable Libertarian primary candidate for Governor... I think that illustrates the point well.
I don't think Joe Exotic is representative of the typical Libertarian, but he got 19% of the vote in that primary in Oklahoma in 2018. 19%! you say... ya 19% was 664 total votes. The party is small enough for a few crazies to show up on the chart here and there.
WHAT'S THE ENDGAME?
The endgame is to win, it's just an uphill battle. The most difficult mountain to summit is getting the message out.
During Presidential Election cycles, moments in time when more Americans are tuned into political discussion than any other time, Libertarians are not allowed to debate. Republicans and Democrats jointly own the Commission on Presidential Debates, I mean literally own, it's not a neutral government entity.
The short term goal is to get a Libertarian up on that stage. If Libertarian ideals and ideas are given a proper platform I believe Libertarians will start to win at the Local and State level. The introduction of a viable 3rd Party to the American political system would be a watershed moment for the country. #Let3rdPartiesDebate
Oh, and this has nothing to do with anything else but the party symbol is a Porcupine... as in "don't touch me"... it's freakin adorable.
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