Libertarianism is an idea in politics that emphasises individual Liberty, personal responsibility, and free markets, and seeks to minimise or even eliminate the government. All of this will be explained below.
Most libertarians, the vast majority, support having a very small government. They believe we should have government-run police departments and a government-run court system, which they believe is necessary to prevent crimes such as theft, rape, murder, and enslavement. However, they do not usually want the government to do much else, and they believe people should be free to do what they want as long as they don’t hurt others. These limited-government libertarians are sometimes referred to as “minarchists.”
A tiny minority of libertarians want to get rid of government completely. They believe private companies can be hired to protect them from criminals and that these companies would do a much better job than the government. They also believe that private companies can be hired to settle disputes like courts do. These no-government libertarians are often called “anarchists.”
Individual Liberty means, basically, having the freedom to make choices for yourself, so long as those choices don’t involve robbing or hurting others. (Of course, when you rob someone, that hurts him or her; so we could just say “so long as those choices don’t involve hurting others.” Either way, it means the same thing.)
Although it is a bad idea to use certain drugs, especially without your doctor or parent saying its safe for you, libertarians believe it is wrong to throw people into jail for using drugs. Libertarians say that it should not be illegal to make stupid decisions as long as those stupid decisions don’t harm other people, even if those stupid decisions do harm the people making them.
Libertarians also don’t believe it should be illegal to not wear your helmet when you go biking. Of course, it’s usually a good idea to wear your helmet, as that helmet keeps your head safe. It might be dumb not to wear your helmet, but not wearing your helmet shouldn’t be considered a crime because it doesn’t hurt others if you don’t wear your helmet.
Libertarians understand that with freedom comes great responsibility. Not wearing your helmet is very different from, for example, hitting your sister. When you hit your sister, you are hurting her. Libertarians say you must take responsibility for your actions, and that includes not hurting other people.
You are also responsible if you steal. Stealing from people is another way of hurting them. If you do anything to hurt another person, including stealing, this is a real crime, and you may be punished for it.
Libertarians believe the best system of economics is the free market. According to libertarians, when a bunch of people want something (for example, cheeseburgers), other people will naturally get together and form companies to sell the products people want. When there are multiple companies selling the same product (McDonald’s and Burger King, for example), these companies are “in competition with one another.”
Because both companies want you to buy their own burger rather than the burger of the other company, they will both try to make their burgers as good as they can or as cheaply as they can. Often, companies do both, trying to make their products good and cheap!
Libertarians believe that companies that are “in competition with one another” provide the best things at the lowest prices. Government, on the other hand, doesn’t do a very good job because it has no competition.
The free market is what you get when the government stays out of the economy and let private, competing businesses provide goods and services to the public.
The third largest political party in the United States is the Libertarian Party, which was started in 1971.
Click here to return to the Kids Coяner.