Sebastian Zearing

how to be progressive without being a stupid liberal


This post was originally published at

In the spirit of my introductory post defining liberalism and conservatism, I’d like to provide a similar such definition for libertarianism.

The libertarian worldview, as currently conceived in America, holds that individuals should be free to do anything that does not directly harm another individual, and to be free from all violence against their own person and property by all agents, including government, and that government should only exercise violence to punish (or perhaps prevent) violence. This perspective holds that only when individuals are maximally free does society maximally thrive.

Libertarianism is a much simpler ideology than liberalism or conservatism. Unlike the two latter, it can be summed up in only one word: “freedom.” The simplicity of the libertarian worldview makes it unnecessary to analyze its interaction with either liberalism or conservatism in the same way as the interactions between those two. It is, as most libertarians would agree, along a different dimension. Rather, libertarianism is useful to include in the discussion insofar as the American desire for freedom is very common. Even when both liberalism and conservatism may find fault with some behavior (e.g. tobacco smoking), freedom may still win the debate. It is not that libertarianism is a competing ideology, but rather that individual liberals and conservatives alike are libertarian to some degree–the degree to which they are willing to let the ideal of freedom trump their other ideals. Libertarianism isn’t so much a political ideology as it as one individual value: that of freedom. Finally, fully libertarian liberalism and fully libertarian conservatism look the same and are implemented in the exact same way (see above paragraph).

Libertarianism can take various forms. In its most popular pure form, it decrees that all forms of government regulation be dismantled, that the entirety of government be reduced to a law-making system, police and military forces, and a criminal justice system, and that all laws prohibiting victimless crimes be abolished. The nature of pure libertarianism hinges on the definition of “individual” and “property.” If animals are taken to be individuals, then the principle of non-violence may best be interpreted as veganism. If, on the other hand, individuals are taken to be only adult men with wives, daughters, young sons, and slaves as their property, then the ancient middle east (minus non-retaliatory tribal warfare) comes close to being a model libertarian society.

I do not find libertarianism to be a particularly dynamic or organic worldview. I think it is best understood as one individual value which liberals and conservatives alike may embrace to any degree in addition to their liberalism and conservatism. I will treat it as such, and references to “freedom” can be taken as references to libertarianism.


3 responses to “Libertarianism

  1. Pingback: Anglo-American Conservatism | nebraskaenergyobserver

  2. Pingback: A Conservative | Propagating the Philosophy of Liberty

  3. Pingback: Don’t Mistake Anarchy for Apathy | Christian Michael

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