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Instead of having moral prohibitions against initiation of force, these support a limited government that engages in the minimum amount of initiatory force such as levying taxes to provide some public goods such as defense and roads, as well as some minimal regulation , because they believe it to be necessary to ensure maximum individual freedom these are minarchists. Libertarians do not oppose force used in response to initiatory aggressions such as violence, fraud or trespassing.

Libertarians favour an ethic of self-responsibility and strongly oppose the welfare state, because they believe forcing someone to provide aid to others is ethically wrong, ultimately counter-productive, or both. Libertarians also strongly oppose conscription because they believe no one should be forced to fight a war they oppose. Note on terminology : Some writers who have been called libertarians have also been referred to as classical liberals, by others or themselves. Also, some use the phrase " the freedom philosophy " to refer to libertarianism, classical liberalism or both.

Libertarian Philosophy in the Real World | Natural Rights Libertarian

Principles Libertarians generally define liberty as the freedom to do whatever one wishes as long as one respects others. At the point of interference, each party would become subject to certain principled rules for adjudicating disputes, which emphasize restitution to the victim rather than punishment or retribution alone. Some libertarians allow that such sanctions are properly imposed by a state in the form of criminal or civil penalties, though many of these dispute the degree to which such punishment is necessarily a state function.

Libertarians generally view constraints imposed by the state on persons or their property if applicable , beyond the need to penalize infringement of one's rights by another, as a violation of liberty.

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Anarchists favour no governmental constraints at all, based on the assumption that rulers and laws are unnecessary because in the absence of government individuals will naturally form self-governing social bonds and rules. In contrast, Big-L-Libertarians consider government necessary for the sole purpose of protecting the rights of the people. This includes protecting people and their property from the criminal acts of others, as well as providing for national defense.

Libertarians generally defend the ideal of freedom from the perspective of how little one is constrained by authority, that is, how much one is allowed to do, which is referred to as negative liberty. This ideal is distinguished from a view of freedom focused on how much one is able to do, which is termed positive liberty, a distinction first noted by John Stuart Mill, and later described in fuller detail by Isaiah Berlin. Many libertarians view life , liberty, and property as the ultimate rights possessed by individuals, and that compromising one necessarily endangers the rest. In democracies, they consider compromise of these individual rights by political action to be "tyranny by the majority", a term first coined by Alexis de Tocqueville, and made famous by John Stuart Mill, which emphasizes the threat of the majority to impose majority norms on minorities, and violating their rights in the process.

And selling oneself into slavery was routine for the poor in many societies.

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Most world cultures have treated the individual as a limb of the household, lineage, or tribe. We moderns abhor the idea of punishing the brother or child of a wrongdoer, but in many cultures collective punishment makes perfect sense, for each person is just part of the whole.


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What difference does this history and anthropology make to libertarian arguments about the good life? If libertarians would move real-world policy in their direction, then their premises about humans and human society should be at least remotely plausible; we are not playing SimCity here. Instead, libertarian premises arise from a worldview that was strange at its origin and is strange now, after the global triumph of liberalism.

Social psychologists have demonstrated how anomalous is the Western, especially American, view of autonomous selves. For example, Americans are likelier than others to explain what happens to people as a result of their individual traits and choices, to perform better when we are allowed to choose our own tasks, to get upset if we sense a lack of personal freedom, and to care greatly about our self-esteem.

That such fundamental cross-national differences persist after centuries of Western colonialism and a hundred years of American cultural hegemony testifies to the historical oddity of the libertarian premise.

The individual was not the prime mover of history, but its result. Of course, libertarians can concede that society preceded the individual but still argue that government was formed by contract. Spontaneous, voluntary groups grew into the minimal state, which they see as the only legitimate state. But this is also bad history. The state, as a distinguishable institution—whether Roman, Aztec, American—is distinctive, but rulership is universal, or nearly so. Government rarely if ever emerged from social contracts. A few supra-governments emerged from contracts among lesser governments, as in Philadelphia, It never has been known to be true in any instance.

All governments that we have any account of have been gradually established by habit, after having formed by force. Libertarians can concede this, too, claiming only that their just-so story serves moral philosophy. Modern Westerners do indeed endorse the principles of individual self-ownership and universal rights. We do so, however, not because the principles are self-evident but because our thoughts on the matter are the product of modern Western philosophy.

Life for the common man was better than it had ever been before. Personal liberty itself has also improved in the last century, with civil rights for minorities and women and broader guarantees of civil liberties. These advances, too, largely developed not against government but with it. Yet that watchman was often outgunned by desperadoes and vigilantes.

The high homicide rates there and in the frontier-like quarters of 19th century American cities came down largely because a bigger state—policing—stood up. American history testifies against the libertarian thesis. Both historical and contemporary research suggests that Thoreau was wrong; the government that governs least does not govern best, whether the criterion is promoting the general welfare or promoting individual liberty.

This does not mean that the converse is true, that maximal government is best. There appears to be a reasonable balancing point. We Americans seem to be below that reasonable point, and libertarianism threatens to drive us further down.

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