Liberty 101

A number of people, through choice or misunderstanding, fail to draw a distinction between what are called large “L” Libertarians, small “L” libertarians, and anarchists. While there are similarities, there are also some differences. Anarchists are probably best described as being in opposition of all government.  Small “L” libertarians are a little more accepting of a little bit of government, as long as it doesn’t interfere with any individuals rights.

Large “L” Libertarians, which I consider myself, are pretty much in line with the small “L” libertarians, with a dash of pragmatism added. They generally support a constitutionally-limited government, while realizing that our original Constitution fell short of protecting everyones’ rights and might need an occasional amendment.  I think they are more likely to belong to the Libertarian Party, although there are certainly a lot of small “L” members.  I can personally testify that it makes for lively conventions.

One thing that Libertarians, libertarians and civilized anarchists generally agree on is the non-initiation of force.  That doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to defend yourself or to help others defend themselves.  It simply means you don’t have the right to initiate aggression against another person, or another person’s property.  Furthermore, you don’t have the right to designate another person or group to initiate that aggression on your behalf.

Just as you don’t have the right to force others to support a cause you might find worthy, neither do you have the right to prevent others from supporting a cause they might find worthy.  It is what sets the Libertarian Party apart from other parties, and it’s one thing that prevents Myanmar and other governments around the world from ever being considered libertarian.

Put as simply as possible, the Libertarian Party holds these principles:

  • That all people possess certain unalienable natural rights, and that among these are rights to life, liberty, justly acquired property, and self-governance.
  • That the only moral basis of government is the preservation and protection of unalienable natural rights.
  • That no person or institution, public or private, has the right to initiate the use of physical force or fraud against another person, and that all people are bound, without contract, to abstain from infringing upon the natural rights of other people.
  • That all people are entitled to choose their own lifestyles, as long as they do not forcibly impose their values on others.
  • That the voluntary and unrestricted exchange of goods and services is fundamental to a peaceful and harmonious society.

Somebody once said that “There may be two Libertarians somewhere that agree on everything, but I’m not one of them.”  I’m not either, but I think you will find that most agree that we need a smaller, less expensive and less intrusive government.

Of course, there are a lot of people that don’t consider themselves to be Libertarians that will agree with that.

As I said at the outset, this is just my version, and I’m pretty sure that even if we find that other Libertarian out there that agrees with me, I’m just as sure that with just a little effort we can find something here to disagree about. That’s another thing Libertarians do.

Rex Bell is a Wayne County Libertarian that writes a monthly column on events that shape our lives from a libertarian point of view. If you have a comment or question on a particular subject, you can e-mail him at lpwc@msn.com or snail-mail him at 17059 State Road 38, Hagerstown.

The History of the Libertarian Party

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