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Libertarianism is a political philosophy that states that government should be as small as possible and that people should be in control of their own lives. It is different from modern liberalism, which takes a much more statist approach. It is also different from modern conservatism, that though libertarians believe in free market capitalism, it does not call for the expansive military or promotion of conservative social values.[1] Libertarians most often adhere to the Austrian school of economics.

Libertarianism is the antonym of authoritarianism.

History of Libertarianism

In the eighteenth Century, "Liberal" (in the sense of classical liberal) ideas flourished through Europe challenging the rule of monarchs and focusing on pursuits like reason. Libertarianism was first used in late-era Enlightenment thinkers to refer to free will.

In the United States by the early twentieth century, modern liberalism began to take a more statist approach wanting more government in everyday life. Today, the Libertarian Party takes root in the U.S. and other nations wanting as minimal of a government as possible, or in the case of anarcho-capitalists, none at all.

Libertarian Stances on Issues


Main Article: Abortion

Libertarians are divided on this issue. Some libertarians believe that the government should not tell a woman what to do with her body, and would be pro-choice. Other libertarians would state that the killing of an unborn child violates that child's right to life, and would be pro-life. The United States Libertarian Party is officially pro-abortion, but a divide exists in the community. Libertarians for Life represent the pro-life faction of libertarians.


Libertarians believe that taxes should be as minimal as possible, or that there should not be taxation. Many libertarians believe in either a flat tax or a national sales tax to cover the government's actions, and anarcho-capitalists believe that taxation is theft and should not occur.

Foreign policy

Libertarians believe that an isolationist foreign policy is ideal. They believe that a nation should not strike first, but has every right to defend itself with equal force.


Libertarians believe that people are free to do with their own bodies as they please, as long as they do not infringe on another person's right to do the same. Thus, they would support legal drugs for personal use.

Schools of Libertarianism


In this school of libertarianism, it is believed that there should be no government at all and that private business can provide all necessary services. This would allow for competing schools, businesses, police stations, fire stations, and any private alternatives for anything that government would normally offer.


These libertarians believe that a government is necessary, but it should be as restricted as possible. Taxation is minimal and the main legitimate government functions are a police force and other local services, courts, and a military, as well as infrastructure.


This is a special kind of libertarianism in the United States. These libertarians are firm believers in the United States Constitution and believe that the federal government cannot overstep its boudaries.


This is a school of libertarianism where social conservatism is seen as essential.


Right-libertarianism, or conservative libertarianism, is a school which melds conservatism and libertarianism. This is the school in the United States where small government Republicans like Ron Paul would fit.


  1. Libertarian FAQ