Controversies within libertarianism

Controversies within libertarianism

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that emphasises the liberty of the individual and seeks to minimize or even abolish the state. [Professor Brian Martin, [ Eliminating state crime by abolishing the state] .] [Murray Rothbard, [ Do You Hate the State?] , The Libertarian Forum, Vol. 10, No. 7, July 1977.]


Consequences vs. rights

Milton Friedman defined consequentialist libertarianism as a philosophy that advocates "the least intrusive government consistent with the maximum freedom for each individual as long as he does not interfere with individuals pursuing their own freedom." [ [ Take It To The Limit: Milton Friedman on Libertarianism. Transcript from an interview] ] Where rights-theorist libertarians oppose "all" intrusion by government, if they support the existence of a state at all, consequentialists libertarians accept limited government interventions that they consider needed to maximize liberty. Another view, contractarian libertarianism, holds that any legitimate authority of government derives not from the consent of the governed, but from contract or mutual agreement. Robert Nozick holds a variation on this view, as does Jan Narveson, economist James M. Buchanan, Canadian philosopher David Gauthier and Hungarian-French philosopher Anthony de Jasay. [ [ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on "Contractarianism"] , revised April 4, 2007.] [Anthony de Jasay, [ Hayek: Some Missing Pieces] , The Review of Austrian Economics Vol. 9,NO.1 (1996): 107-18, ISSN0889-3047] [Hardy Bouillon, Hartmut Kliemt, [ "Ordered Anarchy"] Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2007, foreward, ISBN 075466113X, 9780754661139]


Libertarian who support property rights, deregulation and free trade call themselves capitalists or free marketeers. Libertarian models of socialism oppose capitalism and have various views on freedom of trade and property rights. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains that “left-libertarianism” is a variation on libertarianism which "differs on unappropriated natural resources (land, air, water, etc.)." [citation|contribution-url=|title=Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy|contribution=Libertarianism|url=|publisher=Stanford University]



Libertarians generally support freedom of movement,including over borders. A minority argue that open borders amount to legalized trespass.

LGBT rights rights

Libertarians believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual (LGBT) adults have a right to choose their own lifestyle or sexual preference, provided that such expression does not trample on the same freedom of other people to choose their own sexual preference or religious freedom. They support eliminating any role for government in marriage and propose all marriage contracts between legal two or more adults of any sex be accepted as legal contracts.

Laws regarding race and sex

Libertarians are against laws which favor or harm any race or either sex. These include Jim Crow laws, state segregation, interracial marriage bans, and laws restricting womens' rights; they likewise oppose state enforced affirmative action, hate crime laws and anti-discrimination laws. They would not use the state to prevent voluntary affirmative action or voluntary discrimination. [Murray Rothbard, [ Big Government Libertarians] , November, 1994] [Review of Charles Murary, [ "What it means to be a Libertarian"] , Cato Institute Journal, 1997.] [ [ Libertarian Party 2008 platform] ]


Libertarians support womens' rights to choose abortion, though some argue abortion becomes homicide at some point during pregnancy and therefore should be outlawed at that point. [ [ "Ask Dr. Ruwart"] , Advocates for Self-Government.] The Libertarian Party of the U.S. platform supports keeping abortion legal. Groups like the [ Association of Libertarian Feminists] , the Objectivist-influenced Capitalism Magazine, and [ Pro-Choice Libertarians] support keeping the government out of the issue. Libertarians For Life argues that zygotes and fetuses should have the same rights as children and calls for outlawing abortion.

Capital punishment

Libertarians are divided on capital punishment, also known as the death penalty. Those opposing it see it as an excessive abuse of state power which is irreversible nature, as well as being a conflict with the Bill of Rights' ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." Those supporting who support it do so on self-defense or retributive justice grounds.

Foreign military intervention

Most libertarians oppose and are suspicious of government intervention in the affairs of other countries, especially violent intervention. Many Objectivists and libertarian conservatives argue that intervention is not unethical when a foreign government is abusing the rights of its citizens, but whether a nation should intervene depends on its own self-interest.


Some libertarians believe that logical consistency to fundamental libertarian principles like the non-aggression principle oppose all coercive taxation and support tax resistance. ["The libertarian, if he is to be logically consistent, must urge zero crime, not a small amount of it. Any crime is anathema for the libertarian. Any government, no matter how “nice,” must therefore also be rejected by the libertarian." Walter Block, Governmental Inevitability: Reply to Holcombe, Journal of Libertarian Studies Volume 19, NO. 3 (Summer 2005): 71–93] . They would fund all services through contributions and user fees. Some proponents of limited government support low taxes, arguing that a society with no taxation would have difficulty providing public goods such as crime prevention. Geolibertarians support a land value tax.

Natural resources

Some libertarians, (such as free market environmentalists and objectivists) believe that environmental damage is a result of state ownership and mismanagement of natural resources and believe that private ownership of all natural resources will result in a better environment, as a private owner of property will have more incentive to ensure the longer term value of the property. Others, such as geolibertarians, believe that such resources (especially land) cannot be considered property.

Intellectual property

Libertarians hold a variety of views: natural rights justify property rights in ideas (and other intangibles) just like they do property rights in physical goods; utilitarian justifications for these rights include maximization of innovation. Contrary views hold that "intellectual property" is a euphemism for intellectual protectionism and should be abolished altogether.


Libertarians may disagree over what to do in absence of a will or contract in the event of death, and over posthumous property rights. In the event of a contract, the contract is enforced according to the property owner's wishes. Typically, libertarians believe that any unwilled property goes to remaining living relatives, and ideally, none of the property goes to the government in such a case.


Political alliances

Libertarians ally politically with modern conservatives over economic issues and gun laws (but for a libertarian defense of gun control see [] ) and non-interventionism, while they are more prone to ally with liberals on other civil liberties issues. They may choose to vote for candidates of other parties depending on the individual and the issues they promote.


Libertarians generally agree on the desirability of creating fundamental change in power or organizational structures in a relatively short time, aka "revolution." However, they may disagree on the means for doing so.

See also

*Issues in anarchism


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