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What is a libertarian?

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What does it mean to be a libertarian? If you go the the libertarian party website and look at issues, one can get an idea of what it means, but after talking to and reading about people who consider themselves to be libertarians, you'd think it means something entirely different. I've seen people describe themselves as a "libertarian/anarcho-communist", a "libertarian socialist", one person said he was working on merging libertarianism with communism.

 

Does that term have multiple meanings that I'm not aware of?

Are people just young and stupid and don't know that their views contradict? 

Or is it just cool for young people to refer to themselves as a libertarian?

What gives?

 

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It's very general, it's basically just as broad as "left-wing" and "right-wing". Pretty vague, but not totally useless. Socialists and Communists are both left-wing, but they're different and don't imply support of each other. At least, I can broadly understand what is seen as The Problem, politically. Libertarian, at least for today's usage in my observation, is that the government today is itself causing issues. Left-wingers and Right-wingers seem to say that the government doesn't control enough of something. Past that though, it won't help. Still, phrased in this way, anarcho-communists can be libertarian.

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Are people just young and stupid and don't know that their views contradict? 

Or is it just cool for young people to refer to themselves as a libertarian?

It's not just young people, but includes professional intellectuals and professors. Check out Bleeding Heart Libertarian to see what one such set say. From what I can tell, they do hold free-markets as being ideal, but use the idea of past-injustices as an explanation for places they are willing to support things like government-provided "basic income".

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What Libertarianism Is

May I recommend this website:     public.callutheran.edu/~chenxi/phil345_122.pdf‎

John Hospers had numerous conversations with Ayn Rand, some congenial, some not so. Overall, the Libertarian political movement is weak, but not without merit. Nor is it without potential as an alternative to business-as-usual in local, national, or for that matter, global policy-making. I will admit, anyone running for public office should be under the utmost suspicion. Nonetheless, an ideological movement has to start somewhere. So far, I have no genuine argument against the Libertarians, other than their "open-border" position regarding immigration.

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Libertarian is a very wide and permissive tag for a category. 

I've found that Libertarian can mean almost anything. 

 

Nazis call themselves Libertarians, but so do Individualists. 

 

Many 'Racial Realists' also deliberately use the word Libertarian when they don't want to be confused with aggressive or offensive Racists.  

 

I think Libertarian describes the "California Ideology" that emerged in the 60s alongside Hippism. 

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Political libretarianism is best represented by Ron Paul's agenda, and generally supports Objectivism except as a means of getting votes.

 

"The central tenet of Paul's political philosophy is that 'the proper role for government in America is to provide national defense, a court system for civil disputes, a criminal justice system for acts of force and fraud, and little else.'" ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_Ron_Paul

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But Libertarianism, even Ron Paul's Libertarianism is a big tent!  their principles are not explicit (otherwise they would clash) 

Edited by volco

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I'm quite sure Milton Friedman once said that he identified himself as "a libertarian, with a small L rather than a capital L." I will agree that labels on political parties don't always explain their ideologies. Who knows, in one hundred years from now, maybe the Democrats will promote smaller government again, as they did when Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were associated with them. (Jefferson's friends and followers called themselves Republicans.)

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