Introduction to Philosophy/Libertarianism
Libertarianism is at its core a belief in liberty. Libertarians tend to divide this liberty into two areas: social liberty and economic liberty. Social liberties are things like the ability to engage in free speech or be gay without persecution while economic liberties include being able to do business in a free market without having to pay an exorbitant amount of taxes or import/export tariffs, or adhere to strict regulations on trade.
Libertarians desire a government with low or minimal regulation of both the economy and of people's social liberties.
Where libertarianism becomes interesting on a philosophical level is as follows: some libertarian philosophers deny that the social contract theory that justifies the existence of the State is valid and that without the State a form of anarcho-capitalist alternative could or should exist. The libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick has argued for a form of social contract theory that relies on capitalist, free market principles but that has a built-in limit to a minimal, "nightwatchman" state. Adherents to this kind of theory are called "minarchists", and the debate between Nozick and the liberal philosopher John Rawls is detailed on the page about Liberalism. Finally, libertarians make a variety of moral claims: for instance, that "taxation is theft". Ayn Rand argues for an ethical theory of egoism which says that all actions that are considered ethical are actually done out of self-interest, and that we should try and act in accordance with self-interest rather than according to the ethics of what she described as "altruism".
Reference and further readings
- Libertarianism at Wikipedia.