Descriptions Of Libertarianism

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There are numerous varieties of libertarianism, so no one description will suffice. Here are some overviews and classifications that will give you a broader picture of libertarianism.


Introduction To Libertarianism
The big picture of libertarianism. Three realms of libertarianism and its place in politics.
What Is Libertarianism?
Twenty views of the big picture of libertarianism.
Marxism of the Right [More...]
"The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simple: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life."
2013 American Values Survey: In Search of Libertarians in America [More...]
Americans are about equally libertarian and communalist, about 7% each. Quite different than the Nolan Chart would leave you to believe. And surprise! Most are young, while males who favor legalizing marijuana, but oppose same-sex marriage.
Libertarianism (International Encyclopedia Of Public Policy) [More...]
Philosopher Karl Widerquist presents an even-handed overview and contrast of left, right and socialist libertarian ideas. Places the terms anarchism, classical liberalism, anarcho-capitalism and neoliberalism correctly. From the "International Encyclopedia Of Public Policy Volume 3", 2009.
A brief attempt at (right-)libertarian taxonomy in the US (RationalWiki) [More...]
13 groupings of libertarians reflecting differing origins, philosophy and policy.
A small round of applause for decent Time Magazine writing
"Without coming out and saying it, it’s easy to see how libertarianism, despite all the heavy-handed rhetoric about freedom, is fundamentally a right wing authoritarian philosophy... Getting the government out isn’t about rejecting authority, but making individuals of the proper sex (male), proper race (white), and proper socio-economic status (property owners and independent businessmen) the ruling classes of a series of small societies."
Anarcho-capitalism (10 links)
The "logical" extreme of libertarianism, doing away with all government in favor of hi-tech feudalism. But libertarians have missed the obvious fact that Anarcho-capitalism exists; property ownership in land just happens to be dominated by about 200 firms called “governments.”
Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?"
Matt Yglesias wrote a very poor article at ThinkProgress, but many of the comments provided great insight into the nature of libertarianism.
Critical Map of the American Libertarian Movement [More...]
Descriptions of 8 of the most noisy libertarian groups.
Cyberlibertarianism: The Extremist Foundations of ‘Digital Freedom’ [More...]
An analysis of the ideology of cyberlibertarianism, placing it within the neoliberal thought collective along with classical liberalism, neoliberalism, and libertarianism. A must read!
Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View [More...] (2 links)
An important academic paper that shows that libertarianism is incompatible with six fundamental liberal institutions. "[...] the primary institutions endorsed by the liberal political tradition are incompatible with libertarianism.[...] what we have in libertarianism is no longer liberalism, but its undoing.
Libertarian Self-Delusions (21 links)
Libertarians believe many weird things about themselves compared to others. Many are splendid examples of the Dunning–Kruger effect. See also: Derp.
Libertarians are neither right wing nor left wing. (3 links)
Libertarians are simply pragmatic conservatives who have a moral focus on non-interference by the government, according to George Lakoff. That makes them solid right wingers.
Paleolibertarianism (10 links)
A strategy of old-time racist conservatism combined with libertarian mummery and Historical Revisionism. Adherents include(d) Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell, Ron Paul, Charles Murray, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and now perhaps Donald Trump.
The "No True Libertarianism" fallacy [More...]
Libertarians cannot explain why there has never been a libertarian society, and find excuses to explain that existing small governments are not "true libertarianism". The real reason is that libertarianism, like communism, is contrary to human nature.
The many divisions within libertarianism.
Libertarians are united only by a rhetoric of liberty. Socially, philosophically, and economically they have innumerable, unreconcilable divisions. If you ever want to side-track a group of libertarians, raise one of these divisions in discussion.
The Trouble with Libertarianism [More...]
Edward Feser identifies "libertarianism" as 3 major doctrines with no philosophic unity. While they seem to be committed to "freedom", that "freedom" is supposed to be a result of their actual foundations in other ideas such as self-ownership, natural rights and utilitarianism.
Theocratic Libertarians (4 links)
A Dominionist theocratic movement. Libertarians who want an economic zone free of government regulation, but want religious dominion over government and economics. Libertarianism conforming to "biblical economics" and theocracy.
Vulgar Libertarianism (4 links)
The ideology of structuring society to provide liberty and reward for the successful, and who cares about the rest? A term promoted by mutualist Kevin Carson. An ideology promoted by the Koch brothers.
You don't know what 'Libertarian' means... [More...]
Polls show that people who claim to be libertarians don't know what they are talking about by the standards of the odious 1980 Libertarian Party Platform.


Thus despite, for example, the dogmatic insistence on “spontaneous order” as the exclusive result of market-based transactions -- transactions that in core neoliberal dogma are said to be the only permissible form of social planning -- the social policies pursued by the MPS [Mont Pelerin Society] and its outer shells [libertarianism, classical liberalism, etc.] are often exquisitely planned, anything but spontaneous, and have nothing to do with any market.
David Golumbia, "Cyberlibertarianism: The Extremist Foundations of ‘Digital Freedom’"
Having no conception of a political society, libertarians have no conception of the common good, those basic interests of each individual that according to liberals are to be maintained for the sake of justice by the impartial exercise of public political power.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 149
I argue that libertarianism's resemblance to liberalism is superficial; in the end, libertarians reject essential liberal institutions. Correctly understood, libertarianism resembles a view that liberalism historically defined itself against, the doctrine of private political power that underlies feudalism. Like feudalism, libertarianism conceives of justified political power as based in a network of private contracts. It rejects the idea, essential to liberalism, that political power is a public power, to be be impartially exercised for the common good.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 107
Libertarianism is, in the end, not so much about liberty as it is about protecting and enforcing absolute property and contract rights.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 133
The non-consensual constraints on conduct recognized by libertarians are quite extensive. Our duties to respect the lives and the physical integrity of others' persons, and their freedom of action and extensive property claims, our obligations to keep our contracts, avoid fraud, and make reparations for harms we cause, are not based in free choice, consent, or any kind of agreement (actual or hypothetical). These are natural rights and duties, libertarians claim, that people possess independent of social interaction. Despite their emphasis on consent, voluntariness, and contract, libertarians are averse to appeals to consent or social agreement to justify their preferred list of moral rights and duties.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 125
Libertarians of course deny the institutional conception of property. Fundamental to their arguments are ideas of noncooperative natural property and pre-social ownership. They assume the lucidity of these concepts, and take it as self-evident that property involves unrestricted rights to use and dispose of things.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 130
Having no conception of public political authority, libertarians have no place for the impartial administration of justice. People's rights are selectively protected only to the extent they can afford protection and depending on which services they pay for.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 149
If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism. Society in fact requires both individualism and collectivism, both selfishness and altruism, to function. Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics. And like Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.
Robert Locke, "Marxism of the Right"
A Libertarian is someone who wants everyone else to lift themselves up by their bootstraps just like they didn't.
mrb (Twitter pseudonym, 7:27 PM - 9 Jul 2016)
Libertarianism is like Leninism: a fascinating, internally consistent political theory with some good underlying points that, regrettably, makes prescriptions about how to run human society that can only work if we replace real messy human beings with frictionless spherical humanoids of uniform density.
Charles Stross, "Why I want Bitcoin to die in a fire"