Sociology Index


Libertarianism is a term used by political philosophies which seek to promote individual liberty and seek to minimize or abolish the state. Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others. On social issues rather than on economic issues, libertarianism implies what are commonly considered left-wing views. Left-libertarianism endorses full self-ownership, but differs on unappropriated natural resources. Left-libertarianism holds that unappropriated natural resources belong to everyone and must be distributed in some egalitarian manner. Right-libertarianism holds that unappropriated natural resources may be appropriated by individuals.

Leonard Read rejected the concepts of left libertarianism and right libertarianism, calling them authoritarian. Libertarian socialism is often used as a synonym for non-individualist anarchism or socialist anarchism, to delineate it from individualist libertarianism.  

People who do not use "libertarianism" as a synonym for anarchism but use it to refer to individualistic free-market economics philosophy only, refer to free-market anarchism as "libertarian anarchism." Libertarianism is also synonymous with classical liberalism. The word libertarian is an antonym of authoritarian. Till recently the term libertarianism was often used as a synonym for anarchism.

Libertarians are highly skeptical of political authority and state legitimacy. Since people are, quite simply, independent and equal beings, with none naturally subordinated to any other, states ought to respect the moral rights and copyrights of individuals, including their rights over their persons and their legitimate possessions.

Libertarianism: A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow – October 13, 2013 by John Hospers. The Original Book that Inspired the Worldwide Political Movement. John Hospers on What Libertarianism Is:

1) No one is anyone else's master, and no one is anyone else's slave.

2) Other people's lives are not yours to dispose of.

3) No human being should be a non-voluntary mortgage on the life of another. Dr. Hospers sees these as three versions of the same absolute right of personal liberty.

Liberatio: Hedonistic Libertarianism - Jason Licht (Author). Welcome to a brave new world! Liberatio is a manifesto for the dawn of a new age, where governmental oppression is replaced by freethinking, where a herd mentality and conformity are replaced by individualism, and where submission to authority is replaced by personal strength.

Nothing is holy and everything is questioned in this anti-government, anti-totalitarianism, anti-tax, anti-military, anti-police, anti-religion, anti-war, anti-work, anti-school, anti-conformity, anti-submission, anti-nationalistic, anti-patriotic, pro-drugs, pro-prostitution, pro-libertarian, pro-hedonism, pro-individual manifesto that will open the eyes of those who have served as slaves for too long and who are in desperate need of an awakening.

Libertarian theory is closely related to the classical liberal tradition, as embodied by John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Immanuel Kant. It affirms a strong distinction between the public and the private spheres of life; insists on the status of individuals as morally free and equal, something it interprets as implying a strong requirement of individuals sovereignty; and believes that a respect for this status requires treating people as right-holders, including as holders of rights in property.

Libertarians generally deny that merely receiving a benefit suffices to justify enforceable requirements to pay. Some theorists, such as Hayek (1960), argue that it can be permissible for people to be forced to pay for basic police services. But this argument seems problematic within libertarian theory.

Libertarian theories can be put on a continuum from right-libertarianism to left-libertarianism, depending on the stance taken on how natural resources can be owned. Simply stated, a libertarian theory moves from “right” to “left” the more it insists on constraints aimed at preserving some kind of equality.

Books on Libertarianism

A History of Libertarianism by David Boaz. In this excerpt from Libertarianism: A Primer, Boaz tells the history of the movement for liberty, from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu through the 20th century. The first known libertarian may have been the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who lived around the sixth century B.C. and is best known as the author of the Tao Te Ching. Lao Tzu advised, “Without law or compulsion, men would dwell in harmony.”

The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism by Ronald Hamowy (Editor). As a continuation of the older tradition of classical liberalism, libertarian thinking draws on a rich body of thought and scholarship. Contemporary libertarian scholars are continuing that tradition by making substantial contributions to such fields as philosophy, jurisprudence, economics, evolutionary psychology, political theory, and history, in both academia and politics.

The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism is purposed to be a useful compilation of and introduction to libertarian scholarship. The Encyclopedia starts with an introductory essay offering an extensive historical and thematic overview of key thinkers, events, and publications in the development of libertarian thought.

Libertarianism: A Primer by David Boaz. Simon and Schuster, 1997. Tens of millions of Americans, from Generation X-ers to baby boomers and beyond, are rediscovering libertarianism, a visionary alternative to the tired party orthodoxies of left and right. In 1995 a Gallup poll found that 52 percent of Americans said "the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens." Later that year, "The Wall Street Journal" concurred, saying: "Because of their growing disdain for government, more and more Americans appear to be drifting, often unwittingly, toward a libertarian philosophy."

The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom – February 10, 2015 by David Boaz. A revised, updated, and retitled edition of David Boaz’s classic book Libertarianism: A Primer, which was praised as uniting “history, philosophy, economics and law—spiced with just the right anecdotes—to bring alive a vital tradition of American political thought that deserves to be honored today” (Richard A. Epstein).

The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu.  David Boaz. Simon and Schuster. The first collection of seminal writings on a movement that is rapidly changing the face of American politics, The Libertarian Reader links some of the most fertile minds of our time to a centuries-old commitment to freedom, self-determination, and opposition to intrusive government. A movement that today counts among its supporters Steve Forbes, Nat Hentoff, and P.J. O'Rourke, libertarianism joins a continuous thread of political reason running throughout history.

Libertarianism Defended Paperback – Import, 28 Sep 2006 by Tibor R. Machan.
Ever since the publication in 1974 of Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia, libertarianism has been much discussed within political philosophy, science and economy circles. Yet libertarianism has been so strongly identified with Nozick's version of it that little attention has been devoted to other than Nozick's ideas and arguments.

While Nozick's version of libertarianism has preoccupied the academic discussion Nozick himself did not respond to the many criticisms raised and yet other defenders of libertarianism have not remained silent. In this book Tibor R. Machan analyses the state of the debate on libertarianism post Nozick.

Real Libertarianism Assessed: Political Theory After Van Parijs Hardcover – 26 Nov 2002 by Andrew Reeve (Editor), Andrew Williams (Editor).
In 1995, Philippe Van Parijs published Real Freedom For All: What (If Anything) is Wrong With Capitalism? His book provided not only an original argument for radical social change in the form of unconditional basic income, but also a rigorous examination of a host of issues central to contemporary political philosophy, normative economics and social theory. The book was described by the American Political Science Review as "required reading for most political theorists and their graduate students" and in 2001 its author was awarded the Francqui Prize for academic achievement.