Monday, September 22, 2008

What's A Libertarian?

I dunno. Most libertarians I know are small "L" libertarians, meaning they refuse to identify with any political party. Yes, there is a Libertarian Party. This year, Bob Barr is the Libertarian candidate for president.

Well, the Tome of the Unknown Blogger wonders just what the hell is a libertarian.
I guess I don’t know what the definition of Libertarian is; I’d thought it might be an agglomeration of Liberal and Contrarian.
The problem is, I think, that there is no single definition. Just as libertarians tend to refuse party affiliation, they also tend to bristle at being "defined." Because libertarianism is all about the individual, not about his or her group affiliations. Wiki has a good starting point.
Libertarians are committed to the belief that individuals, and not states or groups of any other kind, are both ontologically and normatively primary; that individuals have rights against certain kinds of forcible interference on the part of others; that liberty, understood as non-interference, is the only thing that can be legitimately demanded of others as a matter of legal or political right; that robust property rights and the economic liberty that follows from their consistent recognition are of central importance in respecting individual liberty; that social order is not at odds with but develops out of individual liberty; that the only proper use of coercion is defensive or to rectify an error; that governments are bound by essentially the same moral principles as individuals; and that most existing and historical governments have acted improperly insofar as they have utilized coercion for plunder, aggression, redistribution, and other purposes beyond the protection of individual liberty.
All that said, the libertarian that has probably come closest to approximating my feelings was the late Harry Browne. Here are some excerpts from his 2000 Presidential Platform:
Libertarians believe you are better able to run your life than any politician can.

In short, Libertarians want to get government out of your life.

Harry Browne and Libertarian candidates across America want to enforce the Bill of Rights, keep the federal government out of every area for which it has no constitutional authority, and restore the freedom and security the Founding Fathers intended for you.

We want you to keep every dollar you earn - to spend it, save it, or give it away as you decide, not as the Republican and Democratic politicians think is best for you.

We want you to control your own life and make your own personal decisions.

We want you to be free.
I disagreed with Browne on some points, even some very important points. But his basic philosophy of minimal government interference in the lives of individuals is at the root of my philosophy as well. I am sure Cousin Don and Laurel's mileage will vary.


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