In 2018, when I ran for office, I knocked on a lot of doors. I was surprised by how many people had no idea what a Libertarian was. Most people only knew about the positions of the two major parties.

Rather than try to understand what it means to be a Libertarian, most just tried to determine if I was more of a Republican or a Democrat.  Did I lean to the left or the right? 

The idea that someone could subscribe to a political philosophy that is neither Republican nor Democrat was a completely foreign idea and difficult for non-libertarians to get.

What I discovered by talking to people, both during my campaign and in ordinary conversations, is that libertarianism is completely misunderstood by most people.  Even people who call themselves libertarians don’t know what a Libertarian is.  

Even Libertarians don’t know what a Libertarian is.

In 2014, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey to learn more about people who call themselves libertarians..  According to their survey, 11 percent of those surveyed described themselves as libertarians, but only 57 percent  of those who identified as Libertarians were able to correctly choose “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government” as their definition of a Libertarian.

So what is a Libertarian?

Libertarians believe in limited government.

Libertarianism is a political philosophy, and the Libertarian Party is the political party for people who subscribe to this philosophy. You do not have to be part of the Libertarian party to call yourself a libertarian. 

Libertarians believe that people should be able to live their lives and make their own decisions without government interference as long as they aren’t harming others.  We believe that the role of the government should be limited.  In other words, the government should only be involved in our lives to protect us from harm or from fraud.  

Libertarians are peaceful.

Libertarians believe  in what is known as the non-aggression principle. The non-aggression principle is pretty simple. We don’t believe anyone should threaten or commit violence towards another person unless that person threatens you with violence.

It’s pretty much the same idea as you shouldn’t hit someone unless they hit or threaten you first.  Libertarianism is a peaceful way of life. We don’t agree with aggression unless someone is defending their person or property.  

Libertarians believe that liberty creates prosperity.

We believe that people are most prosperous and happy when they are able to make their own decisions and live their lives in a way that makes them happy.   When the government interferes with people’s abilities to make their own decisions for their business, with their job, where they can buy a house, or how they live their lives it limits their ability to be prosperous.

People are naturally self-motivated. For example, a person who owns a business will make decisions that are best for their business to be prosperous, better than if the government makes or limits their ability to do so.

Concepts of libertarianism

The premise of individualism

Libertarians believe in the concept of individualism, meaning each individual has their own individual rights and creates their own individual goals.  Individualism means that people are in charge of themselves, rather than a group of people making decisions for the individual.  We believe in individual rights and personal responsibility for our actions.

Non-Agression Principle 

We do not believe in the use of violence or force to achieve political or social goals.

Rule of law

Libertarians believe in laws, but they should be fair, equal, and publicly known.  We don’t believe in the use of law for arbitrary rules created by bureaucrats 

Limited government

Most libertarians believe there should be some form of government, but the size and scope of the government should be limited to protecting people from harm and fraud.  

Misconceptions about libertarianism

Libertarians are “liberal”

Because the word libertarian starts with “liber” people assume that it means you are a liberal. I have even had people say to me,  “Well why do you have liberal in your name then?” The term libertarian is rooted in the idea of classical liberalism, which is entirely different from being liberal.  Classical liberalism is a political philosophy that believes in personal property rights, a free-market economy and rule of law.

Libertarians are extreme Republicans or Extreme Democrats

Libertarians are neither Republican or Democrat.  They are not a hybrid of Republican or Democrat.  They are not somewhere in between a Republican and a Democrat  although some libertarians are centrists.  The Libertarian party is a very unique political party.  Just like Mountain Dew tastes nothing like Coke or Pepsi, Libertarianism is nothing like the two major parties.  We have a unique political platform that is different from both the Republican and Democrat party.

Libertarians are Anarchists 

Anarchy is a philosophy opposing all authority.  Libertarians are not anarchists, although some in the party are anarchists. Most libertarians believe there should be a government, but the size of the government should be limited to protecting us from harm and fraud.  

Can you be a Libertarian and not agree with limited government?

ILibertarianism is not a complicated philosophy; however, if you ask any libertarian what libertarians believe you may get a different answer.

If you have been a Libertarian for any length of time, you’ve probably heard someone say “you’re not a real libertarian.” This is one of my biggest pet-peeves.

People join the Libertarian party from different walks of life. You can be a libertarian and have different views on political positions such as abortion, foreign policy, or how limited the government should or shouldn’t be. 

While our goal is to have a very small limited government, how we achieve that goal varies from Libertarian to Libertarian. Some Libertarians want to see a radical change in government, while others are more pragmatic and want to achieve the goal of smaller government in a natural, pragmatic way, shifting the size of our government smaller slowly over time.

If you would like to learn more about the Libertarian Party please visit LP.org.