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Not to be confused with metaphysical libertarianism or cultural libertarianism, or especially civil libertarianism. You might also be looking for the Dunning-Kruger effect.
One of the more pretentious political self-descriptions is “Libertarian.” People think it puts them above the fray. It sounds fashionable, and to the uninitiated, faintly dangerous. Actually, it’s just one more bullshit political philosophy.
George Carlin[1]

Libertarianism is, at its simplest, the antonym of authoritarianism, at least according to some libertarians (e.g., as in the Political Compass). The term was coined at the end of the 18th century (in the sense of metaphysical libertarianism), first being used politically in Joseph Dejacque's letter to Proudhon titled "On the Human Being, Male and Female"[2] and was used mainly for self-identification with anarcho-communism and labor movements. In the 20th century, Albert Jay NockWikipedia (1870–1945) and H. L. Mencken (1880–1956) were among some of the first prominent figures in the United States who used the term libertarianism to refer to themselves.[3] However, Murray Rothbard was most responsible for popularizing libertarianism to describe a political and social philosophy that advocates laissez-faire capitalism as a panacea for virtually everything.[4] Non-libertarians view this as synonymous with oligarchic plutocracy after the fashion of the American Gilded Age. Meanwhile, the reality-based community tends to realize that one cannot just yank economic theories out of the air and magically expect them to work.

This anti-government phenomenon is found primarily throughout most Western countries, particularly in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. The term "liberal" is generally used to define the American and Canadian meaning of neoclassical libertarianism. The word "libertarian" itself generally refers to the general support of individual freedoms, regardless of economic policy. Historically, the term has been associated with libertarian socialism and even sometimes anarchism in its more extreme case. However, this article mainly covers libertarianism in the United States, or what's also called "right-libertarianism" (as in "right-wing" not being right).

The US political party most aligned with libertarianism is the Libertarian Party, "America's Third Largest Party,"[5] whose candidate obtained 4.5 million, or 3.27 percent, of the vote in the 2016 presidential election.[6] This total was greater than their 1 million votes (0.99%) of the popular vote in the 2012 presidential election[7] and 0.32% of the popular vote[8] in the 2004 presidential election (though, if any amount of fairness is to be given to them, first-past-the-post election methods are mathematically predetermined to trend towards a two-party system).[9]

There is also an "Objectivist Party," formed as a spin-off from the Libertarian Party by those who thought that the party's 2008 presidential candidate, Bob Barr, was too left-wing,[10] and a Boston Tea Party (no connection other than ideological to that other tea party) formed as a spin-off by those who thought the Libertarian Party had become too right-wing on foreign policy and civil liberties after the LP deleted much of its platform in 2006. That, again, due to the arbitrary definition of the word itself, makes little sense, as the general notion of libertarianism specifically emphasized social liberties, with economics having little to do with the definition itself. However, the term "liberal" has primarily been associated with the left due to the moderate left's support of social liberties, which played into the word "libertarian" becoming popularized in the United States to differentiate between the two.

Critical definition[edit]

The Nolan chart. Libertarians are, naturally, at the top, the exact opposite of Hitler.[note 1][note 2]
Basically everyone agrees with libertarians on something, but they tend to get freaked out just as quickly by the ideology’s other stances.
—Seth Masket[11]

The dominant form of libertarianism (as found in the US) is an ideology based mainly on Austrian School economics and Chicago School, or neoclassical, economics. The Austrian School relies on normative axioms rather than hard empirical analysis, primarily concerned with what is ideal instead of "what is". The branch of libertarianism that has had the most success in influencing public policy is largely informed by the Chicago School.

Proponents of modern libertarianism frequently cite the "Non-Aggression Principle" (NAP) as the moral basis of their ideology. The NAP states that everyone is free to do whatever they want with their lives and property, so long as it does not directly interfere with the freedom of others to do the same. Under this rule, one may only use "force" in response to prior inappropriate force against the life and/or property of oneself or others. Compare and contrast with John Stuart Mill's "The Harm Principle". The critical difference between the two is that libertarians entirely oppose the preemptive use of force. By contrast, Mill and other classical liberals believe that the preemptive use of force to prevent likely future harm can be justified, so long as it is for the greater good. Despite this, Mill believed that it should be seen as a last resort. Morally, modern libertarianism, specifically "classical liberals" of the Chicago School, has primarily been influenced by utilitarianism on an ethical level, which combines both individualist and some aspects of collectivist thought.

Under any logical scrutiny, it becomes evident that the precise definition of aggression is highly subjective and supposes a strict libertarian definition of property.[12] Therefore, the NAP can be used in almost any way its user intends by changing the definition of aggression to suit their particular opinion/agenda. For example, throwing someone in prison for massive tax evasion is seen as an act of aggression by the state, whereas raping a thirteen-year-old because the child "consented" is not seen as aggression.

View of Government[edit]

Libertarians secretly worry that ultimately someone will figure out that the whole of their political philosophy boils down to "get off my property". News flash: This is not really a big secret to the rest of us.
—John Scalzi[13]

Many libertarians, who do not identify as either classically liberal or more left-wing branches, believe that government is the largest threat to an individual's freedom. For this reason, they are closely associated with opposition to gun control, government surveillance, safety nets, and prohibitory drug policy.

The primary functions of government that most (emphasis: most) libertarians believe should be permissible elements of the state are:

  • Civil courts to handle contract disputes (including fraud) and handle suits of harm (such as dumping hazardous chemicals on land).
  • Criminal courts and (sometimes) a prison system.
  • A police force.
  • A (small) standing army.

This brand of the ideology, often referred to as "minarchism", is as close to pure anarchy one could get while still getting away with calling themselves "libertarian". This governmental structure is often referred to as a "Night-Watchman State". However, instead of dedicating their lives to defending the lands of Westeros from the Wildlings, these folk focus on dedicating their lives to protecting the lands of Western civilization from anyone whom they deem a "statist," whatever that means.

It doesn't end there, of course, because if one moves down the spectrum towards the extremes, more and more things usually handled by the police and criminal courts are instead handled by civil courts. Eventually, even the civil courts are privatized.[note 3] This is a very ironic philosophy and, in a sense, makes so-called "libertarians" who believe in this ideology look extremely incoherent for various reasons. Besides the fact that "anarchism" is literally the root word of anarcho-capitalism, there are some differences between the latter model and mainstream libertarianism, including minarchism, which is commonly seen as a halfway point.

Libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism are often erroneously associated due to a vast misunderstanding of both philosophies. First, it is essential to understand the difference between both economic structures. "Libertarian" is more of a political label than a specific ideology. In fact, libertarianism is a term that encompasses an extensive range of political ideologies that advocate limited government on a variety of scales and across the political spectrum. Anarcho-capitalism is a specific school of thought encompassed within the "anarchist" belief system. By definition, anarcho-capitalism is "right-wing" anarchism, although this really only exists on paper. If one looks at anarcho-capitalism, one will realize that it is basically a sham. Anarcho-capitalists will virulently argue against their corporatocratic agenda. Still, if one takes a closer look at their views, one will realize that it is nothing more than crony capitalism, if it can even be considered capitalism. Over time, trusts and monopolies would continue to merge, with a single major corporate powerhouse running the economy, making the laws, enforcing the laws, and levying taxes to help support its upkeep. There is nothing libertarian about this, as libertarianism opposes big government and a regulated economy. Anarcho-capitalism is basically a gateway to a political brand of corporatocracy where worldwide business conglomerates become a stand-in for the state. Anarcho-capitalism is a clever way to label an ideology catered to line the pockets of robber barons, industrialists, and business executives to abolish total protectionism to instill their own personal interests upon those of lower economic status. The whole idea and result of the concept are that abolishing the state enables the opportunity to establish a new state disguised as a private corporation. Libertarians, on the other hand, are generally for the free market, speaking of those on the more moderate to right wings. Competition and consumer choice are critical elements of the free market, as well as an emphasis on small businesses and firms owned on a more local level.

Most libertarians, even those on the hard left, oppose most forms of taxation (as taxes are "theft of property by force") and any function of government outside of a general wish list. Proving that it is not a singularly consistent ideology relating pure policy, there are often layers of hypocrisy as they have several things they like over others. Additionally, they are against the use of taxes to deal with externalities, commons, or free-rider problems. Their most common remedy for these problems involves using civil suits to deal with (negative) externalities and, in the case of minarchists, the privatization of commons, which allows civil suits to handle harms to this private property. Of course, these answers are often woefully inadequate in practice.[note 4]

Libertarians advocate extensive individual rights - an ideological stance that has always been consistent with their core beliefs. Libertarians advocate a society where "anything peaceful and voluntary" is allowed so long as it does not infringe on anyone else's life, liberty, or property or engender force or fraud. However, the exact nature of a right as "positive" or "negative" differs among libertarians, as some may believe that paying taxes for specific social programs is a necessary evil for the sake of national utility (sometimes a view espoused by both classical liberals and left-libertarians). In contrast, many others on the right believe that the government has no right to take a person's hard-earned money to contribute to programs like healthcare, which, while, in its own way, a fair argument from an individual liberty standpoint, is not necessarily for the "greater good," which has always been a principle of libertarian ethical philosophy. It is to be said that many libertarians are opportunists who hate taxes, often seeing themselves as unique and hip for lambasting taxes to the rest of society when, in reality, everyone hates taxes. Most standard libertarians, left-libertarians, and classical liberals agree that the state and taxes are unfortunate necessities.

All libertarians have an intertwined ethical and moral philosophy derived from Mill's utilitarianism. One should be able to do as they please so long as they don't hurt others or the equally important collective. If one wants to pursue faux pleasure, particularly in the hedonistic sense, they should have a right to live their own life as they please, even if those choices have negative, even harmful, consequences. The idea is that those choices are life's natural learning experiences as a means to do something different in the future. Unfortunately, while a libertarian state (ironically funny words to use together) would (hopefully) never endorse such, actions that can physically and mentally harm the body would be allowed under a free society. For example, one might say smoking in public is a personal liberty that affects nobody. In contrast, another would say it forces second-hand smoke upon those around them, interfering with their own right to not inhale smoke (note that most libertarians who are fed their talking points from think tanks fall into the former category thanks to second-hand smoke denialism). This is where a divide would rise between classical liberals, who believe in a minimal state, and minarchists, who believe in a microstate. A classical liberal would most likely appeal to the practical idea that the good of a few people is better for overall utility as opposed to the individual person's desire to smoke a cigarette at that exact location at that very moment. It inconveniences the non-smokers more than it does the smoker. Mill's liberalism proposed that everyone is entitled to their own self-interest (yes, women too) until they impede another person's right to exercise their own self-interest. The self-interest of classical liberalism, which is also economically applied to policy in Chicago School neoclassicism, differs from the self-interested notions espoused by many run-of-the-mill (No, not John Stuart Mill) conservatives and wingnut libertarians, who seem to misinterpret basic economic and social egoism with egotism. Many minarchists and even certain Republicans who have never expressed a belief in any libertarian policy or platform in their entire political career have this weird fetish with the novel Atlas Shrugged by Russian-born American author and self-proclaimed "philosopher" Ayn Rand. Her anti-communist opinions and literal hatred of even the mixed economy of the free world's democratic system are semi-understandable, given her homeland's descent into tyranny under Stalin, but she was hardly reasonable. Later on, she garnered a cult of personality that would constantly rave about her half-baked ideology, known as "Objectivism", which seems to be based on half-baked interpretations of Aristotle's (somewhat pro-government and ironically somewhat altruistic) philosophies and bad Friedrich Nietzsche readings.

Objectivism and utilitarianism are two completely contrasting philosophies. However, both are often applied to modern libertarianism, and the pro-market factions differ in how their views on the topic are expressed. Classical liberals and moderate libertarians are generally more influenced by utilitarianism and other Enlightenment philosophers, while Objectivism is at the heart of many minarchism circles and paleolibertarianism. It has since found its way into mainstream conservatism for some reason. Some Republicans, including the more religious folk, seem to have some fetish for Rand, seeming to, on their own, have half-baked interpretations of an already half-baked philosophy, also seeming not to take into account that Rand was an atheist and that Objectivism is not all that compatible with Jesus Christ's teachings.

Most libertarians, with only a handful of exceptions, are generally opposed to expansionism and preemptive military aggression, with most being somewhat skeptical of globalism. This libertarian belief against the prior use of force extends into foreign policy. This is sometimes referred to as a "non-interventionist" foreign policy. That does not automatically make them pacifists, necessarily. Some camps vigorously promote the concept of self-defense and usually accept national defense as one of the few legitimate functions of government. However, they tend to agree that the size of the standing military needs to be drastically reduced.

Political Outlook[edit]

Libertarianism, as a term, has become a sort of buzzword used to describe anyone who wants to lower taxes and dislikes government oversight, both on the right and left. Many right-wingers often refer to themselves as libertarians precisely because they have some obsessive vendetta against the federal government and, in some cases, the establishments of their own party. This is pretty much "faux-libertarianism", as conservatives are generally opposed on a political level to social liberty, which is the original foundation of the movement. As a result, many people confuse libertarians and these Republicans, many of them paleoconservatives and members of the Tea Party. The difference between the two is simple: libertarians want a limited government, while conservative Republicans want the decentralization of executive power. These Republicans tend to be "anti-federalist", favoring states' rights. Libertarians, on the other hand, simply want smaller government in all respects, both on a federal level and at a state level. To them, letting the states dictate tax policy, choosing to exercise extensive government oversight, dictating social liberty, and having central executive power on its own is the same as the federal government having that kind of power.

Some more conservative-leaning libertarians, also known as paleolibertarians, often express a mixture of those opinions. Despite (or maybe because of) their extreme reverence for the United States Constitution (particularly an originalist reading of the Bill of Rights), these paleolibertarians are rarely elected to office. Cynics have suggested that refusal to provide adequate pork for their district hurts their chances in congressional elections. Other cynics point out that if they don't win an election in the first place, how can their "porcine provision" skills be tested? Libertarianism seems to function as a platform instead of an actual cohesive political movement these days, mainly because there is no specific set belief system to unite all libertarians, even within the Libertarian Party. Often times libertarians have proven that they have a better chance of being elected when they run as Republicans, as were the cases with Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Barry Goldwater, Emperor Trajan, Mike Lee, and another guy whose name our editor has forgotten. In his defense, it looks like he just had an Aleppo moment.

The narrow usage of "libertarian" as a label is also a cause, as some who take moderate libertarian positions are frequently called a "free-market liberal/Democrat" or a "pro-____ rights conservative/Republican" - or even derisive epithets like "libt kiddies." Often, Republicans and reactionary populists appropriate the term for their own usage. So many wingnuts like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck have turned many rational people off from the idea of libertarianism, leading many who are not as politically knowledgeable to think that they are all crazy wingnuts. While this can be the case many times, as some conservatives hate the Republican establishment so much that they want to rebrand themselves as something else, libertarianism has nothing to do with conservatism at all, and it never has. It just so happens that right-wing fiscal policy is more in line with that of libertarianism. Other than that, libertarians are basically just your average Democrat, but less, as they would say, "statist".

Libertarianism is such a broad yet, at the same time, almost stupidly simple concept to understand. Like anarchism and authoritarianism, it only describes a general opinion on how the government should be run on an institutional level. It is very similar to atheism: just as atheism is not a religion, libertarianism is not one set ideological alignment. When one thinks of an atheist, a particular image may come to mind, such as the "common neckbeard", clearly representing the loudest members of the atheist community. A once-respected scientist turned reactionary bigot, like Richard Dawkins, may also come to mind. That being said, atheists come in many different forms, with drastically different social and political beliefs, such as these types of folks: Alt-Right Loony Tunes, right-wing shitposters, conspiracy theorists, edgy middle schoolers, misogynists, science nerds, secular humanists, your amiable next-door neighbor, dipshit comedians, philosophers, intellectuals, progressives, someone's drunk uncle, and radical progressive types. Atheism, to reiterate, is not a religious ideology like some would have you believe. The only thing that unites Atheists is a common lack of belief in a deity of any kind. There is nothing more to it.

Libertarians come in many shapes and sizes and from different ideological backgrounds. There are conservative libertarians, fiscal right-wingers, more conspiracists, classical liberals, leftists, angry middle-aged white men, weed enthusiasts, registered Republicans, registered Democrats, registered Libertarians, social democrats, Christians, Atheists, progressives, non-progressives, objectivists, utilitarians, and even Marxists. The one thing that unites libertarianism is the common belief in the illegitimacy of the state, but a grounded realization that government is still a necessity as it relates to upholding the social order, all of such being centered around the idea that each and every human being is equal and has the right to pursue a means to exercise personal freedom.


Ayn Rand, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan walk into a bar. The bartender serves them tainted alcohol because there are no regulations. They die.
—Miss O'Kistic[14]

Many libertarians found the political philosophy through one of a small number of influential fiction books. The works of novelist Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged) and Robert Heinlein (The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress) are often cited. For example, many libertarians in the United States might quote Rand's Atlas Shrugged when they speak of government:

The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.
—Galt Speech,[15] Atlas Shrugged

Not that confusing, right?

Other libertarians may point to such works of non-fiction as Libertarianism in One Lesson by David Bergland, which posit a clear set of axioms and then delineate how society might follow them and how it would be best for everyone.

Many are the ideological descendants of "classical liberals" (by definition, they could arguably be considered more liberal than the American left). However, many "classical liberals" who do not identify as libertarians per se were decidedly more moderate than the current U.S. libertarian movement in that they were willing to accept more government regulations and taxes.[16] In light of this, modern libertarianism can be better described as a radical offshoot of classical liberalism. Classical liberals tend to be more intellectual than libertarians and often align themselves more with the two major parties for practical reasons. They tend to be center-left to center-right, and instead of adhering to the "philosophies" of Ayn Rand, they are more attracted to utilitarianism, particularly the teachings suggested by John Stuart Mill, a socialist, an abolitionist, feminist, and atheist who supported gay rights...over a century before the Civil Rights movement even began. They believe that all men and women are essentially good and that the collective and the individual are equally important. Taxes are essentials, and the greater good trumps individual happiness since happiness can be collective. For instance, a classical liberal would most likely dislike something like Obamacare due to its statist implications. Still, they would be gladly willing to sacrifice a portion of their wealth to ensure that those who cannot afford healthcare could live the happy and healthy life they are entitled to. After all, are we not all entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Internet libertarians have been compared to teenagers by using the argumentum ad cellarium fallacy. As an anonymous commenter on Charlie Stross's Bitcoin rant put it, their concerns precisely mirror those of privileged teenagers:[17]

And if you grow up in your parent's [sic] basement, then you are shaped by an environment where the fundamental constraints on what you want to do are shaped neither by scarcity nor malignance, but by genuine good intent. Your relatives probably don't want you to spend all day smoking pot and playing video games; in some cases they will over-estimate just how much of a bad thing that is. And even if they are right, it's not like anyone facing such hectoring is going to admit it.

Pretty much every libertarian position can be understood in that frame of restrictive but benevolent authority being the root of all 'real' problems. It's a rare parent who literally tortures their kids, so torture is, at best, not a 'real' issue, not a priority. But many make them do stuff for their health, so mandatory health insurance is a big deal. Pretty much no parents kill their child with drones, many read their diaries. And so on.

So to libertarians, Bitcoin is like wages from a fast food job as opposed to an allowance; lets you buy what you want without someone else having a veto. Only money that doesn't judge you can be considered entirely yours...

Tendency towards bigotry[edit]

Libertarianism, in practice, does not denote an anti-government philosophy as much as a co-optation of left-wing anti-authoritarianism as a means of justifying (or simply denying) the social and economic hierarchies under capitalism under the guise of freedom.

Murray Rothbard famously bragged that the movement stole the word "libertarian" from anarcho-socialists, something left-libertarians, like Noam Chomsky, have confirmed.

A 2013 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that US libertarians skew to white (non-Hispanics), male and elderly (over age 50) compared to the population as a whole: 94% vs. 66%, 68% vs. 48%, and 62% vs 53%, respectively.[18]

This is evidenced by the fact some of the most rabid sexists, racists, and other bigots claim to be libertarians. This can range from anti-feminism and sexism under the guise of economic analysis (women choose lower-paying jobs!), justifying racist and ableist discrimination, or, most commonly, classism and poor-shaming.

The most egregious examples of libertarianism existing with precisely the intention of justifying structures of privilege are as follows.

  • The tendency of libertarians to ignore or outright deny the existence of workplace sexual harassment is a commonly observed phenomenon. Over the last decade, libertarian publications like Reason magazine and libertarians like Cathy Young have consistently underplayed or denied rape culture and how said phenomenon manifests itself in corporate structures. As Catharine A. MacKinnon pointed out in her seminal work Sexual Harassment of Working Women, heterosexual male-dominated property structures, if left entirely unchecked and unregulated, will result in hostile work environments and negative social externalities, which will result in a culture of institutional discrimination, ranging from discouragement in specific fields (mainly STEM) to discrimination in promotions. In extreme cases, these corporate structures will create "secret arbitration" mechanisms to ignore the rule of law. This phenomenon is often either completely glossed over and ignored or is justified using pseudo-liberal language like "due process" or using sexist bigotry, a la "Women don't want to be engineers" or "Women just want to be housewives".
  • Libertarians often ignore that a vast concentration of wealth ownership will typically result in outrageously high levels of nepotism. In other words, if there are five landlords in town and they all appoint their mediocre sons (ring a bell?) as CEOs of their real estate companies, competition doesn't matter, and Thomas Sowell's insistence that capitalism produces optimal labor markets doesn't ring true. Given what this means for class mobility, this is often justified using copious amounts of classism and, if the society has a large brown underclass, racism.
    Labor rights (job safety or the right to organize) and the rights poor or oppressed people are generally ignored. For example, the right-libertarian Canadian think tank Fraser InstituteWikipedia ranked Honduras as having the second highest economic freedom in the world in 1975 (after Hong Kong) at a time when Honduras was under military dictatorship. Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Uruguay also ranked in the top 15 countries in 1975 when they were also ruled by oppressive dictatorships.[19]:64[20]
  • Libertarians generally do not offer any solution to the struggles people who cannot find employment face. This often leads to absolutely comically ableist rationales for the issues people with disabilities face in the labor market (in extremes, it results in Ayn Rand calling for disabled people to be segregated).
  • Libertarians deny that institutional racism is a thing and believe that being perceived as of color does not have any bearing whatsoever on one's ability to advance in society. When confronted with racial income disparities, libertarians will engage in racist justifications for why this is, ranging from Thomas Sowell's argument of the "democratic plantation" to Christopher Cantwell's scientific racism. Moreover, many libertarians will use model minorities to justify why you should just work hard, ignoring that model minorities also face racism. While they will not be as vigorous as conservatives in defending police brutality, many will not understand the often economic dimensions of this brutality as a means of class warfare.
  • Libertarians, while not always homophobes and transphobes, offer absolutely no recourse for LGBT+ people in a capitalist society filled with queerphobia. They ignore the historic ghettoization of the queer community for precisely this reason, and contemporary issues like gentrification and pinkwashing by oppressive power structures to just enforce existing hierarchies without compensation for those at the bottom rungs of society.
  • Libertarians often vigorously defend neoliberal neo-colonialism and outsourcing as morally virtuous and economically beneficial while ignoring the horrible social externalities of extremely low-wage labor and capital flight on economically deprived communities. Moreover, libertarians do not understand how automation will often result in very adverse outcomes for labor.
  • Libertarians hate unions. This is not a secret. Moreover, they will often ignore or actively downplay how unions are necessary to counterbalance the abovementioned factors.

These problems are a feature of 21st-century libertarian thought, not a bug.


Some self-proclaimed libertarians espouse racist views, which often gives them a bad reputation.[21] Although of Jewish origin himself, Murray Rothbard[note 5] has been suggested to have possibly sympathized with white nationalists, paleoconservatives, and anti-state right-wing populists, many of whom claimed to be "libertarian". However, paleoconservatism is not a libertarian philosophy, and Rothbard was not a libertarian but an anarcho-capitalist who did nothing to advance the libertarian movement influenced by folks like Friedman.[22] Indeed, many libertarians oppose civil rights laws for violating their "freedom of association".[23]

The South will rise again[edit]

Different strains of libertarians have been arguing about the American Civil War for years. Rather than the Union versus the Confederate States of America, it is "cosmotarians" and "liberaltarians" (i.e., socially liberal libertarians) versus neo-Confederates (e.g., Lew Rockwell and Ludwig von Mises Institute).[24] This argument flared up in 2013, when Jack Hunter,Wikipedia who was then a staffer for libertarian Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, was a member of the extremist neo-Confederate group League of the South, which advocates for secession from the United States.[25] Peculiarly, Neo-Confederates view their liberal brethren as "intolerant, hypocritical and pro-war".[24] Here is one case where the National Review, Reason magazine and the Cato Institute (even despite a previous 2010 purge of liberaltarians[26][27]) seemed reasonable in their opposition to the neo-Confederates.[24]

In the antebellum South, there were obvious libertarian aspects. The leaders who were wealthy landowners and formed an oligarchy. They ensured that the government protected property (which then included slaves) foremost, after all property rights were specified in the United States Constitution. They prioritized property rights over individual rights and freedom such as was written in the Declaration of Independence ("all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"). In furtherance of this the Southern leaders insisted that the Federal government should be minimalist: not engaging in economic activity, and restricting itself to "deliver the mails, manage foreign affairs, collect tariffs, maintain a small military force in the West to push back against Comanches, and of course, protect slavery."[28]:44


By pure definition, libertarianism is the least compatible political ideology in the history of free society with fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, given that totalitarians teach that individuals only have worth if they serve the state. In contrast, libertarianism is opposed to the state. However, there have been those who seem to espouse both, as after all, being opposed to the government doesn't mean that you don't support racism, sexism, homophobia, or anti-Semitism. Certain segments of the alt-right identify as libertarian yet also express sympathy for Nazism or neo-Nazism; the website "The Right Stuff" (which prominently features pictures of Hitler and broadcasts a radio show called The Daily Shoah, whose guests have included Christopher Cantwell) is one notable example. Another would be the Holocaust denier and goat blood-drinking pagan extraordinaire Augustus Sol Invictus, who ran on a libertarian ticket in Florida for the Senate. That being said, they are incredibly inconsistent in their beliefs.

Quite a few libertarians hold to a paranoid or conspiracist worldview, which may include Holocaust denial in some cases. This and the relationship between libertarianism and the gun culture, may partly explain the appeal of Nazi or Nazi-like ideas to some self-proclaimed libertarians.

Much like orthodox Marxism (which holds that a "dictatorship of the proletariat" is a necessary transitional stage between the capitalist status quo and true, stateless communism), it is also possible that some people might see libertarianism as the desired end state but believe that fascism (and the genocide of "undesirables") is necessary as a transitional stage.

Arguments against strict libertarianism[edit]

While a preference for maximum personal freedom is pretty much universal throughout most of the political spectrum (though less so on the fringes), libertarianism presents several difficulties:

Philosophical problems[edit]

  • Libertarianism is a circular argument. Libertarians speak of "property" and "contract" as if these legal ideas somehow had meaning in the absence of law. Law is what matures mere possession or occupancy into "property". It's what allows your right to your dwelling to persist even when you leave it. These rights must be recognized by the consensus of local society to exist. The process that creates that consensus is a government, whether it's arrived at formally with pomp and circumstance by legislators and kings or an ad hoc discussion around the campfire. That consensus may be expressed more or less formally, but it necessarily includes definitions and limits.

In the real world, they're actually property privileges, not property rights.

  • The aforementioned "Non-Aggression Principle" isn't quite as clear as many libertarians make it sound. Libertarians support force to hold up a system of property. This system required force to be created (ask any indigenous person in a European-colonized country) and required force to be maintained. Take fraud, for example. If a man is found to have lied to his health insurance company about a pre-existing condition, the police (in libertarian parlance, "Men with Guns") will use force against him. Libertarians call this "retaliatory force" and frame the acts by the sick man as initiating force which makes for a nice game of mental gymnastics.[29] You may not use the same rationalizations to frame racism, sexism, or union-smashing as force (and their solutions as retaliatory force) since those are things libertarians are okay with.

Hidden and uncountable costs[edit]

  • In a strict libertarian world with no welfare programs, people with disabilities that rendered them unable to work or unemployable who did not have families or a benefactor willing to support them financially would essentially be doomed to starve to death, become a prostitute, or turn to theft and drug dealing for survival. As automation, globalization, and artificial intelligence continue to make more people unemployable and labor less valuable, entire swaths of the population will essentially have to choose between death and debt slavery. Unemployed parents would not be able to keep their children and would have to allow wealthy people to enslave adopt them if they couldn't make a livable wage.
  • No matter how many whine about it, governmental regulation often corrects problems that an unregulated free market could not. One example is health care regulations, such as enforcing credentialing for physicians to ensure they're not some self-certified nut in a lab coat; making sure pharmaceuticals have the ingredients they say they do and are relatively safe, AND that they work as intended; and ERs being required to treat people regardless of their ability to pay. Another is related to public health: how would consumers be able to determine which food vendors would be safe (and therefore, want to exchange capital with) in a festival experiencing bacterial contamination?[30] And why should businesses take on the risk of preventing epidemics?[31] Many libertarians don't have a coherent answer for what to do to correct these problems in a free market; they simply insist that "competition" will solve the problems or at least make them inconsequential.
  • To many libertarians, environmental damage is just a cost of doing business.[32][33] Regulations to stop or correct negative externalities caused by private companies are seen as "anti-business." Environmentalists are the new socialists.[34] Apparently, not even disastrous economic catastrophes that affect the lives of millions are reason enough to hold the corporations that caused them accountable. For example, Rand Paul (a professed ardent libertarian) criticized government regulation and enforcement to clean up the millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico as an un-American boot heel on the throat of British Petroleum.[35]
  • Like many other political positions, libertarianism is also subject to fundamentalist thinking. In libertarianism, this can lead to figurative and literal arms races and an attraction to fringe groups such as the tax protester movement, calling for the dismantling of central banks and resumption of the gold standard.
  • Libertarians want to push the government away from the banking and finance industries, often stating banks/depositors/investors should not be bailed out by the government in banking crises.[36] None would, however, wish their own funds to evaporate if they had money in these accounts (or investments) and their bank acted irresponsibly. This highlights the often championed "This pain needs to happen for freedom! …but not to me." witnessed in a good amount of libertarian thinking.
  • International organizations enforcing universal standards on machinery and telecommunication (such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) would not exist anymore. This means that all corporations in these sectors have to come together to form any coherent universal standard. You would be lucky if all corporations abide and agree with it. That basically means that you can't phone some of your friends because the telephone they own is different from the one you are using. You have to entirely re-learn your job because the machine you are using has a notably different architecture from the one you have learned to work with. Such a move would make the life of literally everyone even more complicated and annoying, forcing many people in these sectors to become jobless. It would prevent the formation of many corporate start-ups. Not to mention that the very internet you are viewing this article on probably wouldn't exist, although things such as a Small Office Home Network or a corporate network probably would. Further, if the corporations did cooperate to the extent required in enforcing standards, this could quickly develop into a monopoly (something libertarians deny a free market allows).

What difference would it make?[edit]

  • Libertarian business structures greatly resemble government hierarchies, even military hierarchies in the case of Taylorism. It seems contradictory to opine that citizens do not need rulers while maintaining that workers need managers; libertarians claim this is fine because joining a business is voluntary, although some critics of libertarianism would point out that changing jobs is not always possible and that this argument would only be applicable if there actually were an abundance of businesses without such hierarchies who are hiring,[note 6] and that resigning is not an option because (especially when there is no welfare state) it may result in them being unable to afford food, water, housing, etc. In other words, this type of "freedom" means "the freedom to choose one's own masters or to starve under a bridge." Maybe not even the last, if all property has been privatized—will homeless people be constantly imprisoned as trespassers?
  • What, exactly, is the goal? The selling point of libertarianism is its offer of expanded individual liberties to do as you please. The offer is illusory if it, in fact, means that your freedom of action is hindered at every turn by bosses, owners, and other toll collectors. They all can demand money or that you contract away your libertarian freedoms for the privilege of stepping on their lawns. These new gatekeepers of "liberty" can still do stuff like fire you for testing positive for now-legal drugs. If maximizing individual freedom is what you're after, or even securing maximal protection for enumerated liberties, you should realize that your boss is a bigger threat to your freedom of speech or freedom to practice your religious faith than the local police or your local government. In a democratic republic, property rights libertarianism would diminish the sorts of social control that at times have to answer to voters and replace them with social control with no such accountability.
  • You are reading this page using something initially created by the big, bad gummint. And not only was ARPANET (the predecessor for the internet) developed by and for the US military, but the first non-DOD Internet services were in two colleges, including the public UCLA. The HTTP protocol that makes the Web work? Yeah, that was developed by workers at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), almost entirely funded by various governments. HTML, the language that most websites are scripted in (including this one), was also developed by CERN researchers. And that doesn't even get into the various other government-funded technologies that form the foundation of the Information Age, from a nationwide network linking dozens of mainframe computers in a real-time, redundant system (the USAF Semi-Automatic Ground Environment), to NASA's development of the geosynchronous communications satellite. Even the plastic parts of their computers, made with molds cut using Computer Numerical Control machines, directly descended from those developed with Air Force funding in the 1950s. Such technologies were then allowed to be developed further by various corporations (for absolutely no thanks from libertarians, we need not add).


Systems that attempt to boil themselves down to "a few simple rules" are seldom actually simple; for example, ancient Judaism's Deuteronomic reforms started out as just about half of the modern book of Deuteronomy but eventually grew to encompass the whole Torah, large swaths of the rest of the Jewish Bible,[note 8] and ultimately to the vast body of commentary known as the Talmud. Though defined in only sixteen grammatical rules, Esperanto is quite a complex language since its rules are defined by established rules in Indo-European linguistics. Even some sports — particularly golf — have a strong element of common law in their rule systems.

There is no guarantee that a society built on a libertarian legal structure would remain that way without redeveloping a common law structure or even a statutory structure that codifies all precedents. Given that most societies governed by the rule of law already have this, it's hard to see what would be accomplished other than a massive reinvention of the wheel.[note 9]

The United States, for instance, is technically almost a truly libertarian country, even today, since the only laws it has are to "adjudicate between free men." Starting with a base, at least at the federal level (after the collapse of the Articles of Confederation) of a fairly simple Constitution and some Roman and English common law, the country's government has evolved as a balance between virtually total liberty and adjudicating the inevitable conflicts that arise between free men (or, in the case of drug laws, sodomy laws, etc., between the government and one somewhat unfree man). This adjudication has taken the form of legislation to deal with issues that arose and judicial analysis of the application of such legislation. Of course, 240 years offer many opportunities for "free men" to need adjudication, so now, to self-styled "libertarians," the results look needlessly complicated. Such is life in the real world.

Typically libertarians argue that people should be free to do whatever they like as long as it doesn't hurt others. While this idea may seem very simple at first glance, the problem is that what "hurts" people and what doesn't is very nuanced. For instance, it is common for libertarians to oppose laws that reduce air pollution even though the latter can have a severe impact on the health of others, even if it is assumed that global warming is a gummint conspiracy to justify raising our taxes; more so than many direct acts of violence. It is also common for them to oppose laws mandating car drivers to wear seatbelts, even though seeing a person die due to not wearing one can have a major psychological effect on onlookers. Similarly, they may oppose anti-smoking campaigns as an unwarranted intrusion on personal liberty while ignoring the financial burden of smoking-related illnesses on private insurance and taxpayer-funded health care.[note 10]

Branches and disputes within libertarianism[edit]

Pretty much.
In a global context:
Ideological roots
Political parties
Adjacent ideologies

While libertarians all generally agree on the premise of the Non-Aggression Axiom, there are internal rifts and disagreements over to what extent the Non-Aggression Axiom applies. On the one hand, the Libertarian Party types (colloquially called "minarchists") advocate minimal government. On the other hand, the market anarchists believe that all the government's services are unjust monopolies, which the free market can handle better if let go of by the state. Market anarchists can be split into "anarcho-mutualists" who believe in a free market but not in capitalism or class and anarcho-capitalists who believe in completely unregulated capitalism.

There is usually little room between these two, but different branches exist within these umbrella terms. On the Minarchist side of the libertarian ideology, paleolibertarians advocate a strong return to the Constitution. They are somewhat conservative in their arguments to preserve moral law, much like the Old Right paleoconservatives. Ron Paul, who is often viewed as a libertarian, would more fit the paleoconservative/libertarian framework. Additionally, there exist the geo-libertarians (who advocate simply a tax on all land),[39] neo-libertarians (often regarded not in any sense as libertarians, as their political views conflict with the very principles of the Non-Aggression Axiom - they defend a mixture of traditional libertarian ideas with views more commonly grounded in neoconservatism, such as American exceptionalism and military interventionism and action to promote America's superiority in the international community), and other branches with their own nuances. On the anarchist side of the spectrum, things tend to be more homogeneous. The major disagreements usually only amount to how to achieve a libertarian society and solutions to ethical dilemmas.

This ideological division occurs not only externally in political theory but also philosophically. On the one side, there are the deontological natural rights theorists (Murray Rothbard being the most prominent advocate). On the other are the utilitarian libertarians (David D. Friedman is often the most associated with this view). A few minority nihilists and radical subjectivists exist within these circles. Still, these views are often in conflict with the general premises laid out by the Non-Aggression Axiom.


The word "libertarianism" was used before the current usage to refer to anarchists, who are against hierarchies brought about by stratified classes and a state controlled by the wealthy elites and thus opposed capitalism. Many call themselves 'libertarian socialists', a philosophy championed by Noam Chomsky. The use of "libertarianism" to describe anarchy dates back to the late 1850s, with Le Libertaire, Journal du Mouvement Social being the name of a journal published by anarcho-communist Joseph Dejacque. The term 'libertarian communism' originated in the 1880s when the French anarchist congress adopted it. As late as 1954, a largely anarcho-syndicalist movement named The Libertarian League was set up in the US.

The current Libertarian Party in the US only came into being in the early 1970s, well over 100 years after anarchists had begun using the term to describe themselves. In the US, to quote Murray Bookchin:

[The] term 'libertarian' itself, to be sure, raises a problem, notably, the specious identification of an anti-authoritarian ideology with a straggling movement for 'pure capitalism' and 'free trade.' This movement never created the word: it appropriated it from the anarchist movement of the [19th] century. And it should be recovered by those anti-authoritarians... who try to speak for dominated people as a whole, not for personal egotists who identify freedom with entrepreneurship and profit." Many left-libertarians of this school favor equality as much as liberty and argue for fraternal health societies, civil disobedience through the black market, non-capitalist free trade and competitive worker co-ops.

As late as the 1990s, the Libertarian Labor Review newspaper promoted anarcho-syndicalism while still using the libertarian label. Samuel Edward Konkin III labeled his underground-economy-based "agorism" as left-libertarianism while claiming influence from right-libertarians like Rothbard. The term may also accurately describe Karl Hess, the former Goldwater Republican and Cold Warrior who aligned himself with Murray Rothbard for a few years, then swung to the hard left during the late 1960s and 1970s and joined the New Left.[40]

There are some areas where the more "rational" libertarians and liberals have overlapping concerns, notably, opposition to corporate welfare and the military-industrial complex and valuing personal liberty and freedom of speech.

A brief attempt at (right-)libertarian taxonomy in the US[edit]

There is a good deal of overlap between these groups, but the hardliners tend to lavish hate on each other:


See the main article on this topic: Anarcho-capitalism

These are deontological anarchists that adhere to the teachings of Murray Rothbard. Most anarcho-capitalists adhere to the Austrian School, though David D. Friedman opts for the utilitarian Chicago School, despite not being an anarcho-capitalist himself. A few others follow the pure pacifism of Robert LeFevre. Modern examples include Adam Kokesh, who claims the only real anarchists are anarcho-capitalists, and Walter Block of the LvMI.

Samuel Edward Konkin III described his philosophy of agorism as an exceptionally concentrated strain of Rothbardianism. Still, Konkin and adherents consider(ed) themselves part of the libertarian left. This may be fair since Konkin coinages like Kochtopus have entered the general leftist lexicon. The main problem with anarcho-capitalism is that it advocates entirely eliminating the government, which could lead to corporations and trusts becoming so large that they would ultimately become stand-ins for the state, bringing everything back to square one, as well as having no checks on the power of mercenaries. While their support of the free market is compatible with many other libertarian circles, this distinct possibility puts anarcho-capitalism at odds with most other groups from an ideological perspective, as libertarianism is, at its core, anti-state. Additionally, actual libertarians believe in some degree of government, whereas ancaps do not believe in government. It puts them at odds with the vast majority of anarchists as well, as anarchism in general is staunchly anti-capitalist.

"Beltway libertarians"[edit]

Also known as Novacrats, these folks are the more utilitarian and are usually associated more with the Chicago School than the Austrian School. The term "Beltway" is used as a pejorative by the hardline anarchists, minarchists, and deontological types to paint them as sell-outs because they've gotten some traction in DC. Prominent Beltway types include Thomas Sowell, Nick Gillespie, and the late Milton Friedman.

Anti-feminists and MRAs[edit]

There exists a very disproportionate amount of libertarians in anti-feminist communities and vice versa. While there are certainly many libertarian feminists (like Cathy Reisenwitz and Sharon Presley), they're outnumbered many times to one by their opponents.

One of the possible reasons for this is the libertarian belief that the gender pay gap is a myth and that gender discrimination is impossible because capitalism is perfect. Another would be the kind of faux anti-authoritarianism many libertarians espouse, namely that using state intervention to lessen the impact of gendered hierarchies that arise under capitalism (affirmative action, fighting the pink tax, woman-specific welfare measures, etc.) is the devil, but using military force to kill anti-capitalists or to steal indigenous land is totally justified. Moreover, libertarianism's recruiting base (young privileged white dudes on the internet) is typically chock-full of limerent, sexually frustrated losers that made up most of Gamergate's membership.

Paul Elam and Christopher Cantwell are stereotypical examples of this in action. Their anti-feminist views are justified using libertarian arguments. The fact libertarianism seems to constantly espouse every anti-feminist issue under the sun (mansplaining the pink tax, denying the gender pay gap, spouting reactionary talking points about rape culture, etc.) indicates the cross-pollination is pretty thorough.

This is not new. Even before the rise of the modern "Men's rights movement", Rothbard attacked feminism (and anti-racism) in 1973 on stark anti-egalitarian race realist and sexist grounds.[41] It was later part of a larger book he wrote, Egalitarianism As A Revolt Against Nature And Other Essays.

Crank magnets[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Crank magnetism

These are usually conspiracy nuts, survivalists, sovereign citizen types, or gold bugs who think the gummint is out to get them. Also includes some white supremacists who want to bring back "states' rights" to resurrect segregation and dominionists who wish to restore official state religions. Also includes fans of the seasteading, micronation, and vonu movements, "life extension," Galambosianism, Liberty Dollars, and pretty much anything from the Loompanics book catalog. May suffer from an excess of colloidal silver in the bloodstream. Alex Jones is the epitome of the crank magnet libertarian.

Single-issue wonks[edit]

Some take up the mantle of libertarianism because it aligns with their opposition to some federal law they don't like. On the more benign end, this includes activists for sex workers and cannabis legalization, who typically overlap with the below-mentioned civil libertarians. While on the crankier end, one may find woo-meisters, pedophiles, and peddlers of some form of illegal quackery, who can more often be found with the crank magnets. Another example of this would be college kids who claim to be libertarian just because they want weed to be legal.


See the main article on this topic: Paleolibertarianism

A term coined by Lew Rockwell. Their policies are mostly the same as the "Taft Republicans" of the Old Right. They are advocates of the Austrian School, originalism, states' rights, and strict Constitutionalism and are generally socially conservative despite opposing the drug war and "bedroom laws." Ron Paul falls into this camp. Many conspiracy nuts are also paleolibertarians, such as the almighty Alex Jones mentioned above, Texe Marrs, and Mark Dice.


Largely the venerable predecessors of the modern libertarian movement, who were an influence on Rothbard but rejected anarchism, influenced Rand but rejected orthodox Objectivism, etc. Minarchists today are not all necessarily influenced by Rand, but they tend to believe in the concept of a "Night-watchman State", which is defined as a radically minimalistic government that only exists to provide three essential public services: law enforcement, a legal system, and a small standing army to exist for defense purposes only. While many of today's minarchists favor capitalism, the system also applies to socialist thought. Karl Marx could also accurately be described as a minarchist. He believed that the government should only exist for minimal protection and the distribution of wealth after the working-class revolution he advocated.


See the main article on this topic: Ayn Rand

Usually generic deontological minarchist libertarians, the only difference being that they identify themselves with the tenets of Objectivism. Rand herself hated the Libertarian Party and denounced them as poseurs.[42] Alan Greenspan is probably the most famous Randroid, and we all know what happened there. Paul Ryan is also technically a Randroid, but he is highly inconsistent. Despite his claims to be influenced by Rand, she would have probably laughed at him. He is literally an embodiment of Republican statism.


Generally, these are Silicon Valley inhabitants who attempt to apply hacker culture to politics. Lots of overlap with techno-utopian movements like transhumanism and singularitarianism. Also overlaps with the seasteading, life extension, and digital-currency crank magnets. See also Eric S. Raymond, Bitcoin, and Anonymous. Ironically, technological leaps have made surveillance of citizens easier than ever before in human history.

Vulgar libertarians[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Vulgar libertarianism

Their true ideological motivations are unknown, but they use the "free market" language to shill for corporations that don't want to deal with regulations or taxes. They can usually be found at some DC think tank cranking out bogus research while bankrolled by Koch Industries or Exxon. Steve Milloy is a prime example.

South Park Republicans[edit]

See the main article on this topic: South Park Republicans

These people say they are libertarians but dutifully pull the lever for most anyone with an "R" after their name (not, however, for Ron Paul) every election. In between elections, they shill for military interventionism and attack liberals — but never conservatives — for being enemies of liberty. And a lot of Al Gore bashing. Their idea of a "libertarian Republican" is Rudy Giuliani. Their only real claim to being libertarians is their irreverent attitude, but this really boils down to being a jerk for the sake of it. Glenn Reynolds and Matt Drudge have made a lucrative career pushing their buttons.

Civil libertarians[edit]

Those whose main attraction to libertarianism is civil liberties of the ACLU sort, anti-war issues, gay rights, marijuana, privacy, police abuses, women's lib, conscription, etc. They may view liberals as unreliable on these issues or hold conservative economic views and prefer to align with libertarians. The Cato Institute used to emphasize outreach to them in its early years via Inquiry magazine and The Libertarian Review. Today, Radley Balko, Conor Friedersdorf, and Carol Moore might be prominent examples, as was the late American Indian Movement activist Russell Means. In Europe, these types are typically associated with pirate politics, though a few mainstream libertarians like Johan Norberg could be included. Along with classical liberals, they are arguably the most reasonable out of the bunch. Civil libertarians do not always have to be classical liberals or minarchists, as social democrats like Bernie Sanders (who is not a socialist) can be described as such.


Those for whom the Libertarian Party and the libertarian movement are one and the same thing. Ideologically suspect to the more hard-core, they differ from Beltway libertarians. They prefer to throw all their effort into building the Libertarian Party instead of trying to get cred inside the Beltway. They typically want to trim and gut the party platform to attract more people and/or disseminate an oversimplified version of the libertarian message in the name of "effective communication." Fond of using the World's Smallest Political Quiz and other materials from the Advocates for Self-Government. See Michael Cloud, Carla Howell, former Alaska state representative Dick Randolph, 1980 LP presidential nominee Ed Clark, and 2013 Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis.


See the main article on this topic: Ron Paul

Usually refers to fans of Ron Paul, who express their rabid support for him through the internet. More recently, it has come to refer to irritating "Internet libertarians" in general who find a home for themselves on certain Internet sites, especially YouTube, and proceed to "upvote" everything that agrees with their worldview while "downvoting" anyone who disagrees with it en masse. Any site with an upvote/downvote system (i.e., Urban Dictionary, ABC News… hell, it's easier to list sites they haven't taken over at this point) is up for grabs for these people. There tends to be heavy overlap with the crank magnets, Austrian schoolers, and the online MRA movement oddly. When not shilling for Ron Paul, being conspiracy nuts, or just being unbelievably self-righteous in general, their favorite pastimes usually include rambling about Barack Obama, excessive quote mining of Paul Krugman (and it's always Krugman), and using snarl words such as "fascist," "sheeple," "statist," etc.

Fake libertarians[edit]

Refers to conservatives, neocons, Christian rightists, etc. who have no clue what libertarianism is but simply identify as "libertarian" because it "sounds more hip" or to avoid association with the Republican Party. Many of these fake libertarians think that anti-federalism and libertarianism are the same (e.g., a Christian fundamentalist "libertarian" who complains about the Nanny state and cries for a smaller federal government so that Alabama can criminalize homosexuality, pornography, and abortion on the state level). Another example would be right-wing talk radio host Neal Boortz who identifies as a libertarian but supported the federal government spying on anti-Iraq war protesters.


  • Milton Friedman, a prominent economist and Nobel laureate. Although often regarded as a libertarian, he departed from the laissez-faire principles in his support of the Chicago School's economic ideology of Monetarism instead of the Austrian School. Controversially advised the Pinochet regime in Chile to follow a course suggested by his economic theories. His reasoning was that a healthy and free market would bring a healthy and free political system.
  • Ron Paul, a candidate in the Republican Party presidential primaries in 2008 and 2012, managed in that capacity to be included for the first time in televised debates (outside of C-SPAN). He was able to get much more TV airtime than any previous libertarian. Yet, many differ from his views on immigration and religious faith and think his federalism (not to mention his refusal to address allegations of racist connections) is a cop-out.
  • John Stossel, of ABC and Fox News fame, produced hour-long special programs that contrasted the libertarian approach to issues against a statist approach. One of them, "Sick in America," disastrously attempted to rebut Michael Moore's Sicko film and can still be seen on YouTube.
  • John Locke, a hero in name only. He was not a libertarian by today's standards, but his work is often cited by modern libertarians. His work had a profound effect on Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps his most influential work was his theories of value and property.
  • Adam Smith, another hero in name only. He opposed mercantilism, and his work promoted relatively free markets, which is why libertarians try to claim him as one of their own, but his views were far more moderate than they are often made out to have been. His coining of the term the "invisible hand" is also often invoked by libertarians, rarely in a way Smith probably would have approved of.
  • Neil Boortz, a talk radio host who calls himself a libertarian. No one else does.
  • Penn and Teller, stage magicians and skeptics who for eight seasons in the noughties hosted Bullshit, about evenly split between attacking woo of one kind or another and advancing libertarian causes. The gift shop at the Rio in Las Vegas, where their long-running nightly act is performed, sells wallet-size copies of the Bill of Rights engraved on stainless steel, which they state are intended to alternately annoy or educate the security personnel at McCarran Airport by deliberately setting off metal detectors.

Associated organizations[edit]

The following institutions and groups are closely or loosely associated with modern libertarianism:

Quotes on libertarianism[edit]


  • If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?- Frederic Bastiat[44]
  • Legalize Freedom: Vote Libertarian!- Slogan of the US Libertarian Party[note 11]
  • This country is a one-party country. Half of it is called Republican and half is called Democrat. It doesn't make any difference. All the really good ideas belong to the Libertarians.- Hugh Downs, on 20/20 in 1997
  • I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.- Grover Norquist[46]
  • You speak as if you were fighting for some sort of principle, Mr. Rearden, but what you're actually fighting for is only your property, isn't it?" — "Yes, of course. I am fighting for my property. Do you know the kind of principle that represents?- Ayn Rand[47]
  • However, it is important to remember that the true purpose of regulation is to limit competition, not protect the public.- "Health freedom" supporter DayOwl[48]


  • A Libertarian is just a Republican who takes drugs.- Anarchist essayist Bob Black[49]
  • He always pictured himself a libertarian, which to my way of thinking means "I want the liberty to grow rich and you can have the liberty to starve." It's easy to believe that no one should depend on society for help when you yourself happen not to need such help.- Isaac Asimov on Robert A. Heinlein and libertarian ethics[50]
  • That's libertarians for you — anarchists who want police protection from their slaves.- Kim Stanley Robinson
  • I’d rather vote for Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, or Jerry Lewis. I don’t think they’re as funny as Professor Hospers and the Libertarian Party.- Ayn Rand[42]
  • A simple-minded right-wing ideology ideally suited to those unable or unwilling to see past their own sociopathic self-regard.- Iain Banks
  • I tend to take the stance that Libertarianism is like Leninism: a fascinating, internally consistent political theory with some good underlying points that, regrettably, makes prescriptions about how to run human society that can only work if we replace real messy human beings with frictionless spherical humanoids of uniform density (because it relies on simplifying assumptions about human behaviour which are unfortunately wrong).- Charles Stross[51]
  • It cannot be said too often – at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough – that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamed of [… But] a return to ‘free’ competition means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the State. The trouble with competitions is that somebody wins them. Professor Hayek denies that free capitalism necessarily leads to monopoly, but in practice that is where it has led, and since the vast majority of people would far rather have State regimentation than slumps and unemployment, the drift towards collectivism is bound to continue if popular opinion has any say in the matter.- George Orwell[52]

Not to be confused with[edit]

  • Librarianism, also a philosophy, but more about cataloging books and helping people find them, no matter what the book is about. Librarians also hate totalitarian regimes, as they tend to be real jerks when it comes to stocking unpopular or controversial books. Just don't talk in their libraries.

See also[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about Libertarianism.

External links[edit]


  • Radicals for Capitalism, by Brian Doherty
  • From Social State to Minimal State, Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Written by the former Prime Minister of Denmark eight years before he entered office, he later renounced it as full of crap. A good example of observing libertarian logic up close.)


  1. But when the time comes to criticize actual fascists, oh well, fuck it.
  2. Also, two things to note on this version of the chart: a) they're listing communists as being less socially authoritarian than Nazis, and b) that the Nazis were "legislating equality."
  3. This is known as anarcho-capitalism.
  4. Notice how neither of those address free-rider problems nor the lack of incentives for positive externalities like vaccines nor that there is no agent with sufficient power under their model to identify commons and make it privately owned.
  5. Not the bad guy from Swan Lake.
  6. Of course, libertarians always counter with "the state is the sole creator of monopolies." (Good morning, Microsoft.)
  7. Again, one must wonder how democracy or capitalism became a thing, then.
  8. Or at least the parts such as Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the bulk of Job, etc., that aren't prophecy, simple narrative, or worship music.
  9. And this, to a non-libertarian at least, is a best-case scenario. Libertarian theorists haven't convinced their critics that a wholly unregulated market won't lead to neo-feudalism. This system already exists in some industrial areas and was famously lamented by Tennessee Ernie Ford in his hit protest song "Sixteen Tons."
  10. Again, let us point out that Ayn Rand gave herself lung cancer and then took Medicare payments without blinking an eye, though she kept it secret, despite rationalizing it years earlier.
  11. Well, according to the Internet, but the party website doesn't mention it.[45] Their current slogan appears to be "Smaller Government * Lower Taxes * More Freedom."


  1. Napalm and Silly Putty by George Carlin. p. 339.
  2. On the Human Being, Male and Female by Joseph Déjacque (1857) The Anarchist Library.
  3. Burns, Jennifer (2009). Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 309.
  4. Cantor, Paul (2012). The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture: Liberty Vs. Authority in American Film and TV. University Press of Kentucky. p. 353.
  5. Introduction: America's Third Largest Party The Libertarian Party (archived from November 13, 2008).
  6. Official 2016 Presidential General Election Results (2019) Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Elections.
  7. Official 2012 Presidential General Election Results (January 17, 2013) Public Disclosure Division, Office of Communications, Federal Election Commission.
  8. 2004 Election Results Federal Election Commission. Libertarian Party gets 0.32% of popular vote.
  9. The Spoiler Effect The Center for Election Science.
  10. 2008: The Five Faces of Political libertarianism by rtbohan (August 17, 2008) The Nolan Chart. No, really]
  11. When Everyone's Libertarian, No One Is by Seth Masket (August 13, 2014) Washington Monthly
  12. Fun game: identify the aggressor in this animated gif by Matt Bruenig (April 20, 2014).
  13. I Hate Your Politics by John Scalzi (March 22, 2002).
  14. Ayn Rand, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan walk into a bar. The bartender serves them tainted alcohol because there are no regulations. They die. by Miss O'Kistic (8:14 PM - 13 May 2014) Twitter (archived from 17 Dec 2018 15:31:11 UTC).
  15. The Galt Speech is available at this hilariously named website.
  16. Stein, Herbert (1994-04-06). "Board of Contributors: Remembering Adam Smith." The Wall Street Journal Asia: A14.
  17. Why I want Bitcoin to die in a fire by Charlie Stross, Charlie's Diary. Comment #98 by (December 18, 2013 18:35).
  18. Libertarians By the Numbers: A Demographic, Religious, and Political Profile by Joseph Goodman (11.07.2013) Public Religion Research Institute.
  19. Economic Freedom of the World by James Gwartney, Robert Lawson & Walter Block (1996) The Fraser Institute. ISBN 0889751579.
  20. The Trade Union and Labour Situation in Guatemala by Julio Coj (2022) International Union Rights 29(3):16-17.
  21. Exposing the Racist History Of Libertarianism And Murray Rothbard by Gary Anderson (Oct 3, 2011, 4:19 PM) Business Insider.
  22. Something Libertarians Must Admit: Murray Rothbard Sucked by Charles Peralo (August 9, 2016) Being Libertarian.
  23. Why Libertarians Oppose Civil Rights, Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs 19 July 2020
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 The libertarian war over the Civil War by Rachel Weiner (July 10, 2013 at 3:46 p.m. EDT) The Washington Post.
  25. Rand Paul aide has history of racial comments by Rachel Weiner (July 9, 2013 at 12:05 p.m. EDT) The Washington Post.
  26. A Purge at the Cato Institute? by David Weigel (August 23, 2010 2:05 PM) Slate (archived from August 25, 2010).
  27. A Liberaltarian Purge? by Joseph Lawler (8.24.10) First Things.
  28. How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America by Heather Cox Richardson (2022) Oxford University Press. ISBN 019758179X.
  29. The Nature of Government by Ayn Rand (December 1963) The Ayn Rand Center. Here's Ayn Rand] blathering on about how force is okay sometimes but only if she likes it.
  30. If nothing else, cronut burger saga shows value of public health agencies. (How would libertarians handle this?) by Matt Elliott (7:47 AM · Aug 27, 2013) Twitter (archived from 6 Sep 2013 06:49:39 UTC). Oh, it's not a market failure! Privatize for efficiency!
  31. How Libertarians Would Handle an Ebola Outbreak in Texas by Victoria Bekiempis (10/2/14 at 4:51 PM EDT) Newsweek.
  32. Why Libertarians Must Deny Climate Change: I must applaud Matt Bruenig's summing up of the inherent conflict between libertarianism and environmental issues by George Monbiot (6 Jan 2012 07.26 EST) The Guardian.
  33. Politics or Scholarship? by Jeffrey Friedman (2008) Critical Review 6(2-3):429-445.
  34. Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik M. Conway. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth of Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. New York: Bloomsbury, 2010; p. 254.
  35. Rand Paul: Obama Sounds 'Un-American' For Criticizing BP Over Gulf Oil Spill by Sam Stein (05/21/2010 09:18 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017) Huffington Post.
  36. Bailout or Bankruptcy? A Libertarian Perspective on the Financial Crisis by Jeffrey A. Miron (January 2009) Cato Journal 29(1).
  37. I need a break folks. by Joseph P. Silvestri (14 November 2013 05:01) Vote Silvestri. Here's a Nevada Libertarian Party organizer complaining that he can't corral libertarians for five minutes.]
  38. See Thomas DiLorenzo's attack of constitutional economics for not being libertarian enoughWikipedia (something which is already quite out there).
  39. Libertarianism and Land Value Taxation by John H. Beck (Last Modified: Jul 13, 2004, 10:03 PM EDT) Free State Project (archived from November 30, 2004).
  40. Boyd, James. "From Far Right to Far Left - and Farther - With Karl Hess", The New York Times Magazine, 12/6/1970
  41. We're Not Equal, on Lew Rockwell. by Murray N. Rothbard (Fall 1973) Modern Age via The title kind of says it all, really.
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 Ayn Rand's Q & A on Libertarianism The Ayn Rand Institute (archived from August 10, 2004).
  43. True-blue bids for Senate (3 October, 2002, 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK) BBC News. Stan Jones, would-be member of Blue Man Group.
  44. The Law by Frédéric Bastiat (1850) The Constitution Society.
  45. Search: legaize freedom vote libertarian Libertarian Party.
  46. Morning Edition (NPR): May 25, 2001.
  47. Atlas Shrugged: The Trial of Hank Rearden.
  48. Commenting on the medical science blog Respectful Insolence
  49. The Libertarian as Conservative by Bob Black (1984).
  50. I. Asimov: A Memoir, 1994.
  51. Why I want Bitcoin to die in a fire by Charlie Stross, Charlie's Diary.
  52. The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek / The Mirror of the Past by K. Zilliacus by George Orwell (9 April 1944) The Observer via Maude's Tavern.