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What is Libertarianism?

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  • Originally Written By: Michael Anissimov
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2014
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Libertarianism is a complex political philosophy that favors maximizing individual freedom and minimizing the concentration of power. Adherents to libertarianism, who are known as libertarians, want people to be allowed to do virtually whatever they want unless it infringes upon the rights or property of someone else. Advocates of libertarianism want to discard the enormous collection of rules, regulations, laws and bans that are common to most of the world's governments. In its extreme form, libertarianism is anarchism — the absence of all rules — but in practice, most libertarians advocate government as a necessary evil. Government for the purpose of national defense is a typical example.

Absence of Government Interference

Libertarians visualize a libertarian society as a network of groups and individuals who define and enforce their own collective laws and norms without the interference of a national government body. In a libertarian society, almost everything would be entirely privatized — law enforcement, research of all types, utilities, road maintenance and so on. The idea is that if people want something, they will pay for it, and supply will emerge to meet the demand. This is the notion of free markets, which also is central to libertarianism.

Maintaining Order

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Members of more popular political parties fear that a libertarian society would degenerate into chaos. Libertarians argue that, to the contrary, the market would cause order to exist, eliminating the unnecessary excesses and waste of big government and making society more efficient and effective. Proponents of libertarianism are opposed to any form of government handouts or societal safety nets, so publicly funded programs that provide services such as financial support, health insurance and the like would all be dissolved and presumably replaced by private programs if there is sufficient demand for them. Libertarians believe, to a certain extent, that a society based on "survival of the fittest" would be a better place to live.

Modern Libertarianism

Historically, libertarianism has been poorly funded and badly organized. This has changed slightly over time, because there has been a strong presence of libertarians in techno-savvy, entrepreneurial circles that have experienced great success. Libertarians see themselves as forward-looking and against all types of boundaries or coercion. They might also see advocates of more conventional political parties as tools of big government.

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