Originally posted February 17, 2015.
Where does America go after two long wars, chronic deficits, the financial crisis, an unsustainable welfare state, and the abuses of executive power under both presidents Bush and Obama? Thanks to David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, you can now get the complete guide to the history, ideas, and growth of the Libertarian movement that has the potential to turn our country around. In his updated book, The Libertarian Mind, David explains the libertarian philosophy of personal and economic freedom that is deeply rooted in Western civilization and in American history. Below are key concepts:
Individualism: Only individuals make choices and are responsible for their actions. Libertarians emphasize the dignity of each individual as well as the rights and responsibilities that result from these rights.
Individual Rights: The right to secure life, liberty and property is not granted by government or by society, but is an inherent right of all human beings.
Spontaneous Order: Throughout human history, the most important developments in society—language, law, money, markets—arose spontaneously and without central direction. It was coordination of individuals with actions of other individuals that allowed humans to survive and flourish.
Rule of Law: Libertarianism purposes a society of liberty under law. That is, individuals are free to pursue their own rights as long as they respect the equal rights of others. Individuals are not governed by arbitrary commands that lead to any particular result or outcome. Rather individuals are governed by generally applicable and spontaneously developed legal rules.
Limited Government: Government should have limited power through a constitution that enumerates and limits the powers the people delegate to government.
Free Markets: The economic system of free people is free markets. Economic activity allows people to flourish and create wealth. Individuals are freer and more prosperous when government intervention is minimalized.
The Virtue of Production: Thomas Paine wrote, “There are two distinct classes men in the nation, those who pay taxes, and those who receive and live upon the taxes.” Modern libertarians defend the right of productive people to keep what they earn, against a new class of politicians and bureaucrats who would seize their earnings to transfer them to non-producers.
Peace: Throughout history, war has usually been the enemy of peaceful, productive people on all sides of the conflict, bringing death and destruction on a grand scale. But war also gives more power to the ruling class, which may explain why leaders do not share the popular sentiment for peace.
As David Boaz notes, “Each new government directive takes a little bit of our freedom, and we should think carefully before giving up any liberty. … Those who claim to believe in liberal principles but advocate more and more confiscation of the wealth created by productive people, more and more restrictions on voluntary interaction, more and more exceptions to property rights and the rule of law, more and more transfer of power from society to state, are unwittingly engaged in the ultimately deadly undermining of civilization.”
Read David Boaz’s The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom.