We hear from those in the Democratic party “you’re an anti-government radical,” and we hear from those in the Republican party “just another group of liberals letting the democrats win,” but what is libertarianism in reality?
The Libertarian Party was founded in 1971, but that’s not when the ideology originated. You can see early libertarian thought from English philosopher John Locke in the late 1600’s. The main libertarian principle is live and let live. Libertarians believe that the government has basically no role in anyone’s social or economic life. As John Locke says, every individual has natural rights to “life, liberty and property.” The government’s only role, according to libertarians, is to protect those natural rights.
Think about the last time that you’ve been to the DMV. You walk into a room that is filled with strangers and you pull a number to see when you’re going to be helped. You pull 103 and look up to see that they’re currently serving number 12. You wait and wait and wait until its your turn, only to be told that you need to fill out a form and pull a new number. An experience at the DMV should be enough to convert anyone to the Libertarian way.
Libertarianism is about more than just the inefficiency of government. It is about each individual having unlimited freedom to do what they want, as long as they are not infringing on the natural rights of another person.
Along with John Locke, Adam Smith was one of the early libertarian thinkers. One of his main philosophies was essentially that order would come from chaos. His thought process was that, even with no government in place, there would still be a strong, functioning free market economy. He said that people would operate in a self-interested manner and an “invisible hand” would lead people to help others and, in turn, society as a whole. To get a job or sell something for money each person would have to figure out what others would like to have in order to have any success. This is the “invisible hand” at work.
One of the key phrases of libertarianism comes from a saying that French merchants told to King Louis XV when he asked “how can I help you?” They responded “Laissez-nous faire, laissez-nous passer. Le monde va de lui-même” or “Let us do, leave us alone. The world runs by itself.”