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Libertarianism 101


An article titled “What Is Libertarianism?” explains the concept of libertarianism very simply. Paraphrasing the article, libertarianism is the belief that individuals own their lives and property, and have the right to make their own choices as to how they live their lives – as long as they respect the right of others to do the same. The article goes on to explain in more detail that libertarianism is the combination of:

  1. Liberty – the freedom to live your life in any peaceful way you choose

  2. Responsibility – the prohibition against the use of force against others, except in defense

  3. Tolerance – honoring and respecting the peaceful choices of others

David Boaz, in his book Libertarianism: A Primer, exerts of which appear on, expounds upon several libertarian principles in even greater detail. The three “key concepts” that engender the essence of libertarianism, in my opinion, which Boaz enumerates in his book are: the rule of law, limited government and free markets.

Boaz says that to libertarians the rule of law means that people are governed by generally accepted legal rules and “not arbitrary commands…these rules should protect the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness in their own way.”

A natural extension of the concept of the rule of law is the principle of limited government. Libertarians believe that government can be a serious impediment to the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness in their own way. As a result, Boaz says, “Limited government is the basic implication of libertarianism,” and limiting government is achieved, “generally through a written constitution,” which delineates those powers delegated to government by the people.

The pursuit of happiness by individuals entails, says Boaz further, “the right to exchange property by mutual agreement.” The principle of free markets to libertarians, as far as Boaz is concerned, is thus the idea that individuals are, “freer and more prosperous if government intervention in people’s economic choices are minimized.”

The lasting impression that I take from the above material on libertarianism is that as it relates to political, economic and social philosophy, it is always best to error on the side of more freedom, and not less.

If these ideas about libertarianism have sparked your own personal interest on the subject, then also visit YouTube and watch Ron Paul discuss “libertarianism” and read David Nolan’s article “The Essence of Liberty” in which he lists five “indispensable points” that a person has to agree with – from his perspective – in order to be considered a libertarian politically.

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