The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to libertarianism.

Summary Edit

Main article: Libertarianism

Libertarianism is generally considered to be the political philosophy, or group of philosophies, which emphasizes freedom, individual liberty, and voluntary association. It is often summarized along the lines that people have the right to live their lives as they choose so long as they do not initiate force or fraud against others, an idea known as the Non-Aggression Principle. However there is no general consensus among scholars on the precise definition of libertarianism, nor on how one should use the term as a historical category, since both practice and perception have gradually evolved over time. Once generally considered a left-wing philosophy, libertarianism as it has become better known is now widely seen as an independent philosophy that is neither left nor right. Libertarians generally advocate a society with little or no government power.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines libertarianism as the moral view that agents initially fully own themselves and have certain moral powers to acquire property rights in external things.[1] Libertarian historian George Woodcock defines libertarianism as the philosophy that fundamentally doubts authority and advocates transforming society by reform or revolution.[2] Libertarian philosopher Roderick Long defines libertarianism as "any political position that advocates a radical redistribution of power from the coercive state to voluntary associations of free individuals", whether "voluntary association" takes the form of the free market or of communal co-operatives.[3] According to the U.S. Libertarian Party, libertarianism is the advocacy of a government that is funded voluntarily and limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence.[4]

Noam Chomsky has asserted that in most countries the terms "libertarian" and "libertarianism" are synonymous with left anarchism.[5], and that it is only in the United States that the term libertarian is commonly associated with those who have free market positions on economic issues and liberal positions on social issues, going by the common meanings of "conservative" and "liberal" in the United States.[6] Many countries, however, now have Libertarian political parties which stand for free choice in matters of economics as well as personal autonomy.

Nature of libertarianismEdit

Main article: Libertarianism


  • Constitutionalism – a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law.
  • Economic freedom – the freedom to produce, trade and consume any goods and services acquired without the use of force, fraud or theft.
  • Individual responsibility – the idea that a person has moral obligations in some situations.
  • Self-managementTemplate:Dn – methods, skills, and strategies by which individuals can effectively direct their own activities toward the achievement of objectives, and includes goal setting, decision making, focusing, planning, scheduling, task tracking, self-evaluation, self-intervention, self-development, etc.
  • Self-ownership – the concept of property in one's own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to be the exclusive controller of his own body and life.
  • Self-sufficiency – the state of not requiring any aid, support, or interaction, for survival. In many other contexts, it is defined as becoming economically independent of state subsidies.
  • Voluntary association – a group of individuals who enter into an agreement as volunteers to form a body (or organization) to accomplish a purpose.


  • Authoritarianism – a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority.
  • Coercion – the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force.
  • Imperialism – defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationship, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination."


Branches of libertarianismEdit

Schools of libertarian thoughtEdit

Libertarianism has many overlapping schools of thought, all focused on smaller government and greater individual responsibility. As interpretations of the guiding Non-Aggression Principle vary, some libertarian schools of thought promote the total abolition of government, while others promote a smaller government which does not initiate force. Some seek private ownership of all property and natural resources, others promote communal ownership of all natural resources and varying degrees of private property.

Origins of libertarianismEdit

Libertarian theory and politicsEdit

Libertarian idealsEdit

These are concepts which, although not necessarily exclusive to libertarianism, are significant in historical and modern libertarian circles.


Influential libertarian philosophersEdit

See alsoEdit




  1. Vallentyne, Peter. "Libertarianism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, CSLI, Stanford University. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  2. Woodcock, George. Anarchism: a history of libertarian ideas and movements. Petersborough, Ontario: Broadview press. pp. 11–31 especially 18. ISBN 1-55111-629-4.
  3. Roderick T. Long (1998). "Towards a Libertarian Theory of Class" (PDF). Social Philosophy and Policy 15 (2): 303–349: at p. 304. Template:Citation error.
  4. Watts, Duncan (2002). Understanding American government and politics: a guide for A2 politics students. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. p. 246.
    • Chomsky, Noam (February 23, 2002). "The Week Online Interviews Chomsky". Z Magazine. Z Communications. Retrieved 21 November 2011. "The term libertarian as used in the US means something quite different from what it meant historically and still means in the rest of the world. Historically, the libertarian movement has been the anti-statist wing of the socialist movement. Socialist anarchism was libertarian socialism. In the US, which is a society much more dominated by business, the term has a different meaning. It means eliminating or reducing state controls, mainly controls over private tyrannies. Libertarians in the US don't say let's get rid of corporations. It is a sort of ultra-rightism."
    • Colin Ward (2004), Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 62. "For a century, anarchists have used the word 'libertarian' as a synonym for 'anarchist', both as a noun and an adjective. The celebrated anarchist journal Le Libertaire was founded in 1896. However, much more recently the word has been appropriated by various American free-market philosophers..."
    • Fernandez, Frank (2001), Cuban Anarchism. The History of a Movement, Charles Bufe translator, Tucson, Arizona: See Sharp Press, p. 9. "Thus, in the United States, the once exceedingly useful term "libertarian" has been hijacked by egotists who are in fact enemies of liberty in the full sense of the word."
  5. Moseley, Daniel (June 25, 2011). "What is Libertarianism?". Basic Income Studies 6 (2): 2. Retrieved 15 November 2011.

External linksEdit


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