It’s a very commonly held belief that the libertarian philosophy is conservative on fiscal issues and liberal on social issues. Indeed, many libertarians themselves define libertarianism that way. However, this simplification is not entirely accurate.
At its core, libertarianism is the belief that government should have as little an impact on people’s lives as possible. So while libertarians can personally hold socially conservative views (and not socially liberal views), they do not believe the government should force others to abide by their moral beliefs about society. Nevertheless, libertarians do embrace a common set of principles that guide their thinking.
Libertarian fiscal and economic philosophy derives heavily from the economic teachings of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman. Both strongly advocated that the free market is the best mechanism for solving market failures, not government intervention. Taxes should be as low as possible because high taxation leads to less innovation, less entrepreneurial risk taking, and less wealth creation overall. Libertarians also oppose increasing the minimum wage, which leads inevitably to depressed hiring and higher consumer prices, Minimum wages also prevent the United States from competing with other countries who have less strict labor laws.
In fact, libertarians are wary of regulations in general. Bureaucratic red tape hurts small businesses who can’t afford the costs of abiding by unnecessary government restrictions.
Libertarians greatly fear government tyranny, and thus support the right to bear arms– after all, one way to prevent a tyrannical government from emerging is to arm the populace. Governments that fear reprisals by an armed citizenry that is ready and willing to defend itself will be less likely to impose autocratic rule that seriously curbs individual liberty.
Due to their general dislike and mistrust of government, libertarians also strongly oppose any form of mass surveillance. Libertarians believe very strongly in the right to privacy. When the government spies on its citizens, it belies a desire to exert power and control over their lives and chills individual freedom. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Libertarians support a broad interpretation of the First Amendment rights of free speech, free press, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly. These protections ensure that citizens have the ability to speak against the government. Any government that attempts to control what people can say or believe, libertarians hold, is far too big.
Libertarians are frequently caricatured as “the party of pot,” but their arguments in favor of marijuana legalization stem from their basic principles. They view the federal “war on drugs” as an ineffective, overly costly failure that unnecessarily increased prison overcrowding by criminalizing possession of a substance that harms no one but the user. Libertarians believe that individual people, and not the government, should decide what they do with their own bodies and should do as they see fit, so long as no one else will be negatively affected.
When it comes to foreign policy, most libertarians hold to the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP), which discourages any offensive use of force. Libertarians believe that foreign wars intended to effect regime change have made situations in many countries far worse, and have cost America too much in blood and treasure. Advocating for a non-interventionist foreign policy is a deeply held libertarian belief. However, libertarians are not isolationists; they believe that free trade between countries (with as few tariffs and quotas as possible) leads to more consumer choice, cheaper goods for consumers, and a better economy.
Overall, the libertarian philosophy comes down to one simple expression: leave people alone.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.