Libertarianism is the philosophy of liberty–of personal, political and economic freedom. The modern concept of liberty emphasizes the right of individuals to live as they choose, to speak and worship freely, to own property, to engage in commerce, and to be free from arbitrary arrest or detention. A free person is free to do as he chooses, with his own person and property, as long as he does not violate the rights and freedoms of others to do as they choose.
Why do libertarians value freedom? There are many reasons.
Freedom allows each of us to define the meaning of life, to define what’s important to us. Each of us should be free to think, to speak, to write, to paint, to create, to marry, to eat and drink and smoke, to start and run a business, to associate with others as we choose. Because only when we are free, can we construct our lives as we see fit. Freedom is part of what’s needed to lead a full human life.
Freedom also leads to social harmony. There is less conflict when we have fewer specific commands and prohibitions about how we should live—in terms of class or caste, religion, dress, lifestyle, or schools.
Most freedom leads to responsible citizensimportantly . A person who is free to choose must also bear responsibility for those decisions. He has no right to force others to pay for his mistakes. It is this discipline and accountability that freedom imposes that is vital to the economic development of a nation.
As a Libertarian I believe that everyone has certain rights–natural rights that come from our creator. These include the right to our own life–to do what we want with it and live it the way we choose best, the right to liberty and freedom, and the right to pursue our own happiness. These rights do not come from the government nor can they be taken away by any government. On the contrary, people with rights create governments as a mechanism to help protect those rights.
And as a Libertarian I strongly believe that all are men and women are born equal and with equal rights. And so while I am free to do what I choose with my life I also know that I cannot violate the rights of others. There are no superior or inferior human beings where rights are concerned. The people in government have the same rights as the citizens and no more–a government employee is not some sort of superhuman acquiring rights denied to ordinary people. And they have the same obligation as you and I do to respect the equal rights of all people. In other words, the government must respect the rights of the citizens that elected it, not the other way around.
As a Libertarian, I am also against the use of force. This means that any initiation of force against those who have not themselves used force—actions such as murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and fraud–should be strictly against the law. Libertarians, in general, are also against war.
I also believe in economic freedom which means that people should be free to produce goods and services and to exchange them with others in a marketplace free of unnecessary regulations. I believe that a voluntary exchange is best because it benefits both parties otherwise it will not take place. This sort of free exchange is the characteristic of free markets where prices are determined freely through mutual negotiation as opposed to being imposed by the government.
I believe that prices in a free market carry information throughout the economy about what people want and what can be done more efficiently. For an economy to function efficiently, prices must be free to tell the truth. If apple prices go up, then it signals that apples are in demand and producers will respond by increasing production. And when supply exceeds demand the prices of apples will fall to reflect that oversupply. But if the government imposes price controls and minimum support prices then prices will not accurately reflect information. No one will know what consumers want and how much. Some central planner somewhere will determine what should be produced and how much of it. This is the economic model of centrally planned economies like Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Russia, and to some extent China. We all know that such centrally planned economies misallocate resources and cause misery among its people. India followed such a model till recently when the socialist-era Planning Commission was abolished.
Economic history is unambiguously clear about one thing–a free economy driven by the profit motive gives people the incentive to invent, innovate, and produce goods and services for the entire society. That means satisfaction of more wants, greater economic growth, and a higher standard of living for everyone. So while many may associate profit with greed we must remember that almost every new innovation that has improved our quality of life came about as a result of someone wanting to make a profit.
Here is the birthplace of the inventors of the 100 top inventions that shaped the 20th century:
47 Americans, 30 Britons, 4 French, 3 Canadians, 3 Germans and 2 Swedes. Argentina, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Soviet Union and Switzerland produced one inventor each.
Almost all inventions originated in countries with competitive capitalism & economic freedom. And billions around the world benefited from these inventions. All these inventions were the result of free people pursuing profits in a free market. You take away the profit motive and you destroy innovation, economic growth, and human progress.
There is this myth that the private sector is self-interested and motivated by greed while the public sector is interested in public service. Hence the public sector will provide better services.
In fact, just the opposite is true. A private entrepreneur knows his livelihood depends on the customer’s acceptance of his product/service and does his best to provide the best product at the best price. The best example of this is the competition among private companies in the telecom industry and how that has reduced prices and improved quality. A government employee, on the other hand, is interested primarily in aggrandizing power and using that power to enrich himself. Customer service is secondary for him and since he has no skin in the game he is least concerned about either price or quality.
Now you have the facts –you decide. Free markets and private enterprise or government control of economic resources ( socialism). Logic and evidence are unequivocal: The war between socialism and free market capitalism is over, and free markets have won. It is now a universally accepted fact that the exercise of free choice in a free marketplace is the best way to achieve human prosperity.
And so as a Libertarian I believe in free markets. I believe that incentives drive human performance and that the profit motive is the key to providing innovative and new ideas that improve quality of life. And as a Libertarian, I believe that the primary source of major economic disruptions is Government interference in the functioning of free markets.
Political freedom is a necessary ( but not sufficient) condition for economic liberty. So as a Libertarian, I am also concerned about the relationship between the individual and the government. What rights do individuals have? What form of government will best protect those rights? What powers should the government have?
A strong and effective government is necessary for a productive society. The rule of law is critical to the protection of our liberties and our rights. And only the government can ensure that citizens abide by the law, and if they break the law that fair, equal and expedient justice is administered. But the powers of this government have to be limited in size and scope because the power that the government holds is wielded by real people, not ideal people, and real people are imperfect. Some are corrupt, and some are even evil. Some of the worst are actually attracted to state power. But even the well-intentioned, the honest, and the wise are still just people exercising power over other people. And history reminds us that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
As a Libertarian, therefore, I believe in a small and limited government whose major role is to protect our lives, rights, and property. The government can perform a useful function when it is required to marshal resources that are beyond the capabilities of individual citizens. For example, building a large highway requires land purchases that only a government can procure. Also, governments can provide public goods which cannot be provided by the private sector because the costs and benefits cannot be assigned to a person or group. For example, a street lamp gives benefits to anyone who passes by, but it would be hard to assign its cost to a set of people.
Here is what all Libertarians believe: A smaller government means less corruption, waste and abuse, more efficiency, lower taxes, a more representative political class, and a more empowered citizen. A bigger government, on the other hand, will come with greater politicization, more bureaucracy and red tape, higher taxes, greater corruption, abuse and waste, and a diminished citizen.
I have attempted to sketch here what it means to be a libertarian. There are many kinds of Libertarians. Some describe themselves as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal,” or in other words, they want the government “out of my pocketbook and out of my bedroom.” Some just have an instinctive belief in freedom or an instinctive aversion to being told what to do. Some have learned from history that governments always seek to expand their size, scope, and power, and must be constrained to preserve freedom. Some have noticed that war, prohibition, cronyism, racial and religious discrimination, protectionism, central planning, welfare, taxes, and government spending have deleterious effects.
Libertarian ideas of freedom have been around since the advent of mankind but its formalization as an economic philosophy is largely due to thinkers from John Locke and Adam Smith to Ludwig von Mises, Frederick Hayek, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick, and practitioners like Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan, and to some extent Mahatma Gandhi.
The old ideologies have been tried and found wanting. All around us—from the post-communist world to the military dictatorships of Africa to the insolvent welfare states of Europe and South America—we see the failed legacy of coercion and big government. At the same time we see moves toward libertarian solutions— constitutional governments in Eastern Europe and South Africa, privatization in Latin America, democracy and the rule of law in South Korea and Taiwan, the spread of women’s rights and gay rights, and economic liberalization in China, India, and some countries in Africa.
Libertarianism offers an alternative to a coercive government that should appeal to peaceful, productive people everywhere. A libertarian world won’t be a perfect one. There will still be inequality, poverty, crime, corruption, man’s inhumanity to man. Libertarianism holds out the goal not of a perfect society but a better and freer one. It promises a world in which more of the decisions will be made in the right way by the right person: you. The result will not be an end to crime and poverty and inequality but less of those things.
In the end, I am a Libertarian because I believe that we’ve been blessed with the opportunity to stand for something—for liberty and freedom and fairness. And these are things worth fighting for.
Are you a Libertarian ?
Answer YES or NO ( YES = 1 point and NO=0 points)
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT:
- You should be free to do what you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone or violate the rights of other people.
- Human relationships ( business or personal) are best if they are voluntary.
- All humans should have equal rights.
- Inequalities are the natural outcome of some people working harder than others, being more determined, more knowledgeable, and blessed with more talent.
- The best a government can do is to ensure that everyone starts the race together–it cannot guarantee that everyone finishes together.
- The best economic outcomes are the result of free people pursuing their own production instead of policies imposed coercively by the government.
- Market-based solutions provide, on average, better outcomes than government-imposed solutions.
- The government’s primary role is to protect the life, liberty, rights, and property of its citizens.
- Each one of us should be responsible and accountable for our own decisions. If we screw up we pay.
- Peace and nonviolence should be the natural state of all mankind.
- The government has no business forcing me to wear a seat belt or a helmet because it doesn’t violate anyone else’s rights.
- A person who doesn’t drive in his designated lane violates the rights of others.
- I should be free to sell my product at a loss to drive away competition ( as UBER does).
- Discipline comes from understanding and respecting our rights and the equal rights of others.
- There is nothing wrong in making a profit as long as it is done without coercion or through unscrupulous means.
If you scored more than 12 points you are a Libertarian.