In the US, we seem to only talk about two
political parties. Don’t like taxes? Republican. Want more social programs? Democrat. But the
fact is, there are more political philosophies and affiliations than you might think. One
of these is “libertarianism”, and it has grown increasingly popular over the past few
elections. Never heard of it? That’s fine, a recent poll found that even amongst self-described
libertarians, nearly a quarter had no idea what the word meant. So what exactly is libertarianism? Well, the most well known version is the one
that grew out of the 1960s counterculture movement in the US. In short, the libertarian
philosophy says that everybody should have absolute freedom to live their lives how they
see fit, as long as they respect everybody else’s right to do the same. This generally
means that most libertarians advocate for minimalist government on the basis that it
should have no say whatsoever in the decisions a person makes about his or her life. This
is a pretty Republican leaning ideal. At the same time, libertarians stress social freedoms,
like the right to gay marriage and abortion. In a nutshell, Libertarianism appeals to people
because it combines both political worlds. That may be why the Libertarian party has
been called the third largest party by both membership and popular vote in the US. But Libertarianism is unique in it’s own
way. It tends to support what is called a “night-watchman state”, where the only
function of a government is to protect it’s citizens from being injured or defrauded.
Thus, government should only consist of a military, a police force, and a court system.
Additionally, some libertarians think agencies like the FDA are intrusive, because they try
to regulate what you can and can’t ingest. Safety laws, like seatbelt or helmet requirements,
are also considered to be violations of freedom. Libertarians also tend to lean towards drug
legalization, getting rid of welfare, and supporting gun rights. However some tenets of libertarianism have
glaring problems in the real world. One real world example of limited government and a
free market occurred in post-Communist Russia. Without government support, Russia’s roads
and banks collapsed, inflation skyrocketed, and many old and jobless people were left
helpless. Libertarianism sounds like a good idea, but
like a number of other political philosophies, it may be a bit too idealistic to actually
work. Still, if lower taxes, legalized marijuana, and the freedom to do whatever you reasonably
want sounds good in theory, it just might be the party for you. There’s a fine line between libertarianism
and anarchy in the world of political philosophy. To learn more about what anarchy is all about,
take a look at our video here. That video can also be found in the description below.
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