Libertarianism Defined

Excerpts from:

Short Definitions of Libertarianism

lib·er·tar·i·an: One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

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“Libertarianism is, as the name implies, the belief in liberty. Libertarians believe that each person owns his own life and property, and has the right to make his own choices as to how he lives his life – as long as he simply respects the same right of others to do the same.”
Sharon Harris, President, Advocates for Self-Government

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“Libertarianism promotes a society where no one is the first to harm (strike, defraud, steal from) another. If someone fails to obey this one-and-only law, then he or she must make things right again with the one who is harmed. The only legitimate use of force is self-defense. Basically, libertarianism is a restatement of how we learned to get along with each other as youngsters. We honor our neighbors’ choices, and they honor ours. We don’t start fights and only fight back when attacked. We try to make right any wrongs that we do. Simple, isn’t it?”
Dr. Mary Ruwart, Author, Healing Our World

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“Libertarianism is what your mom taught you: behave yourself and don’t hit your sister.”
Dr. Kenneth Bisson, Advocates Board of Directors

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“As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives, and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.

“We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

“Consequently, we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.”
— from the Preamble to the Libertarian Party Platform

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“Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to [live] his life in any way he chooses so long as he or she respects the equal rights of others. Libertarians defend each person’s right to life, liberty and property-rights that people have naturally, before governments are created. In the Libertarian view, all human relationships should be voluntary; the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have not themselves uses force-actions like murder, robbery, rape, kidnapping and fraud.”
Charles Murray, author, What it Means to Be a Libertarian

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“In popular terminology, a libertarian is the opposite of an authoritarian. Strictly speaking, a libertarian is one who rejects the idea of using violence or the threat of violence — legal or illegal — to impose his will or viewpoint upon any peaceful person. Generally speaking, a libertarian is one who wants to be governed far less than he is today.”
Dean Russell, Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), 1955

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“Libertarianism is what you probably already believe… Libertarian values are American values. Libertarianism is America’s heritage of liberty, patriotism and honest work to build a future for your family. It’s the idea that being free and independent is a great way to live. That each of us is a unique individual, with great potential. That you own yourself, and that you have the right to decide what’s best for you. Americans of all races and creeds built a great and prosperous country with these libertarian ideals. Let’s use them to build America’s future.”
David Bergland, 1984 Libertarian Party presidential candidate and author of Libertarianism in One Lesson

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Related: Katherine Albrecht on Libertarianism: “People Have a Right to Sin”

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