What is a libertarian?
To answer that question we have to distinguish between a libertarian (small-L) and a Libertarian (big-L):
A libertarian (small-L) is
a person who believes people should be free to live their lives as they choose, as long as they do not violate the equal rights of another person. We believe that people and governments must not violate the rights of any individual. We promote and uphold the principles of individual liberty (people inherently have both personal and economic freedoms), self-ownership (every person has the right to control their own body, actions, speech, and property), and personal responsibility (people are responsible for the choices that they make).
A Libertarian (big-L) is a member of a political party that advocates for libertarian principles. Not all libertarians are Libertarians -- or members of the Libertarian Party -- but we are all part of the broader libertarian movement.
What is the Libertarian Party?
The Libertarian Party was founded in 1971, by the individuals and groups in the libertarian movement, as an alternative to the other political parties which all support larger and more intrusive government. It’s the third largest political party in the United States and the only one dedicated to promoting libertarian principles in government and expanding freedom for every individual: It does this by influencing public policy and electing candidates to public office.
The Libertarian Party strongly opposes any government interference into an individual’s personal, family, and business decisions. Libertarians believe all people should be free to live their lives and pursue their interests as they see fit, as long as they do no harm to another. While the Libertarian Party is not the whole libertarian movement, it has been described as the political-wing of that movement.
What are the Libertarian Party Platform and the Statement of Principles?
Libertarian Party Platform can be described as the practical or transitional application of libertarian principles -- in the form of planks -- with the intent of moving us towards the goals in the Statement of Principles. The Statement of Principles, which is included in the Libertarian Party Platform, can be described as the main purpose and philosophical foundation of the Libertarian Party. Individual platform planks can be, and are, changed more frequently than the Statement of Principles; however the planks must conform, and cannot conflict, with the Statement.
Does the Libertarian Party just want to get rid of all government?
No. The Libertarian Party has never advocated for the abolition or overthrow of all government. It does, however, want to substantially reduce the size and intrusiveness of government and cut or eliminate taxes at every opportunity.*
*There is some debate among members of the Libertarian Party, and in the libertarian movement in general, about the extent to which government or “the state” should exist. However, in order to maintain its broad libertarian-coalition, and to welcome diverse groups of people interested in reducing government, the Libertarian Party remains agnostic on the topic until such time as a “minimal state” is achieved. This is the result of formal and informal agreements, which came to be known as the
, made by members at the 1974 Libertarian National Convention.
Are Libertarians conservatives or progressives (modern liberals)?
Neither. Libertarians support all of your economic and personal freedoms, and prioritize the preservation and expansion of individual liberty for everyone. While we may believe in and support other “moral” values, Libertarians believe it is immoral to violate the individual liberty of another person in order to promote those values – this includes violations by governments. Whenever possible, Libertarians favor voluntary interactions and decentralization over government intervention and centralized control.
Although conservatives may support some libertarian principles – mainly related to economic freedoms – they prioritize “security” and “traditional values” over individual liberty. As a result, when issues related to your personal freedoms conflict with those other priorities, conservatives favor government intervention to achieve their objectives. Conservatives tend to support limited decentralization, primarily when it doesn't conflict with their security or moral goals.
On the other hand, progressives (modern liberals) may also support some libertarian principles – mainly related to personal freedoms – but they prioritize “social justice” and “the common good” over individual liberty. When issues related to your economic freedoms conflict with those other priorities, progressives also favor government intervention to achieve their objectives. Progressives tend to support more central planning and greater centralized control in order to advance their collectivist goals.
Are Libertarians “left” or “right” on the political spectrum?
Neither or both, depending on your point of view. Some Libertarians may describe themselves as being “left-leaning” and others as “right-leaning.” However, many Libertarians believe that the left-right political spectrum is inadequate at describing most people’s complex opinions and beliefs.
Generally, political beliefs can be divided into economic and social dimensions, but the left-right spectrum is most useful at capturing only economic beliefs. As a result, not all people fall neatly into the left-right categories. In order to address the shortcomings of the left-right spectrum and account for both economic and social beliefs, other assessments of political opinion have been developed, including
The World’s Smallest Political Quiz and
The Political Compass. Both are more useful measures of political opinion.
What is the non-aggression principle (NAP)?
non-aggression principle is the ethical position that the initiation, or threat, of force against persons or property is inherently wrong. The principle does not forbid the use of force in defense of persons or property.
The Libertarian Party has incorporated the non-aggression principle into its structure by
asking members to certify that they “oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals”; and the Statement of Principles states: “...we support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others.”
Is a porcupine really the symbol for the Libertarian Party?
libertarian porcupine” icon is an unofficial symbol of the Libertarian Party and is used by many in the libertarian movement. The porcupine was chosen as a symbol within the broader libertarian movement because it is a peaceful animal that harms no one when left alone, however it will defend itself against aggression with its quills. The icon was originally designed by Kevin Breen in 2006 and was inspired by the logo of the
Free State Project. As an unofficial symbol for the Libertarian Party, it is meant to be an animal mascot similar to the Republican elephant and Democratic donkey.
Over the years, the national Libertarian Party has used
official symbols such as “Lady Liberty” and the current “Torch Eagle” logo. However, the national, state, and local parties can each adopt their own symbols or logos -- some state and local Libertarian Party affiliates have adopted the porcupine as part of their logo.
What’s this “taxation is theft” thing?
This is a popular slogan among many in the libertarian movement, especially anarcho-capitalists, who believe that all interactions should be voluntary and property rights should be protected. It is used to express the concept that it's immoral to take someone else’s property without their consent or under the threat of force -- and governments should be held to the same moral standards as individuals. This idea is based on the principle that every individual has the right to control their own body, actions, speech, and property; thus they are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. It was the economist Murray Rothbard who coined the phrase: “Taxation is theft.”
Are Libertarians only interested in being selfish? It seems like they don’t want to help others or improve the community.
No. Most Libertarians want to improve the community and promote a better life for family and friends. We understand that these things are most effectively accomplished voluntarily by individuals and private organizations: government is generally inefficient and less effective at responding to people’s needs, and it displaces private organizations as it grows in scope. This is why most Libertarians prefer to volunteer with, donate to, and participate in social and community groups -- and encourage others to do so too. Libertarians favor a strong private sector and civil society to respond to the needs of individuals and communities.
What is the two-party system?
The two-party system is a political system where only two major political parties dominate and control the government. In the United States, the two old parties -- Democrats and Republicans -- have spent more than 125 years creating
electoral laws that limit the ability of “third parties” and independents to gain a foothold in local, state, and national politics. This has produced a system where the two major parties alternate controlling the political system and work together to maintain the two-party structure.
What’s the difference between registering to vote Libertarian and becoming a “member” of the Libertarian Party?
register to vote Libertarian by selecting “Libertarian Party” as the political party preference on your state voter registration application.
This is the first step to showing your commitment to smaller and more responsible government, social inclusiveness, and the expansion of individual liberty for everyone. It shows you are free from the false choices presented by the two old parties and the two-party system.
You can become a “member” of and
join the Libertarian Party by paying membership dues to the party and certifying that you “oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.” As a dues-paying member,
you are showing a greater commitment to growing the Libertarian Party and protecting everyone’s freedoms: Your investment helps fund the party and gives you a greater voice by granting you voting rights on party business.