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Who Is A Libertarian?


Well there has been some talk on the list of what libertarianism is and
what it stands for including an unfounded attack by Jim Choate worthy of
Kent Crispin.

For your enjoyment and education I shall once again quote from Dean
Russell with a piece he wrote in "Ideas on Liberty", May 1955: "Who is a

    Those of us who favor individual freedom with personal responsibility
have been unable to agree upon a generally acceptable name for ourselves
and our philosophy of liberty. This would be relatively unimportant except
for the fact that the opposition will call us by some name, even though we
might not desire to be identified by any name at all. Since this is so, we
might better select a name with some logic instead of permitting the
opposition to saddle us with an epithet.

    Some of us call ourselves "individualists", but others point out that
the opposition often uses that word to describe a heartless person who
doesn't cars about the problems and aspirations of other people.

    Some of us call ourselves "conservatives", but that term describe many
persons who base their approval of an institution more on its age than on
its inherent worth.

    Many of us call ourselves "liberals". And it is true that the word
"liberal" once described persons who respected the individual and feared
the use of mass compulsions. But the leftists have now corrupted that
once-proud term to identify themselves and their program of more
government ownership of property and more controls over persons. As a
result, those of us who believe in freedom must explain that when we call
ourselves liberals, we mean liberals in the uncorrupted classical sense.
At best, this is awkward and subject to misunderstanding.

                        A GOOD AND HONORABLE WORD

    Here is a suggestion: Let those of us who love liberty trade-mark and
reserve for own use the good and honorable word "libertarian".

    Webster's New International Dictionary defines a libertarian as "one
who holds to the doctrine of free will; also, one who upholds the
principles of liberty, esp. individual liberty of thought and action."

    In popular terminology, a libertarian is the opposite of an
authoritarian. Strictly speaking, a libertarian is one who rejects the
idea of using violence or the threat of violence-legal or illegal-to
impose his will or viewpoint upon any peaceful person. Generally speaking,
a libertarian is one who wants to be governed far less than he is today.

    * A libertarian believes that the government should protect all
persons equally against external and internal aggression, but should
otherwise generally leave people alone to work out their own problems and

   While a libertarian expects the government to render equal protection
to all persons against outright fraud and misrepresentation, he doesn't
expect the government to protect anyone from the consequences of his own
free choices. A libertarian holds that persons who make wise choices are
entitled to enjoy the fruits of their wisdom, and that persons who make
unwise choices have no right to demand that the government reimburse them
for their folly.

    * A libertarian expects his government to establish, support, and
enforce the decisions of impartial courts of justice - courts which do not
recognize or refer to a person's race, religion, or economic status. If
justice is to be rendered, the decisions of these courts must be as
binding upon government officials and their actions as upon other persons
and their actions.

    * A libertarian respects the right of every person to use and enjoy
his honestly acquired property - to trade it, to sell it, or even to give
it away - for he knows that human liberty cannot long endure when that
fundamental right is rejected or even seriously impaired.

    * A libertarian believes that the daily need of the people can best be
satisfied through the voluntary processes of a free and competitive
market. And he holds the strong belief that free persons, using their own
honestly acquired money, are in the best possible possible position to
understand and aid their fellow men who are in need of help.

    * A libertarian favors a strictly limited form of government with many
checks and balances -and divisions of authority- to foil the abuses of the
fearful power of government. And generally speaking, he is one who sees
less, rather than more, need to govern the actions of others.

    * A libertarian has much faith in himself and other free persons to
find maximum happiness and prosperity in a society wherein no person has
the authority to force any other peaceful person to conform to his
viewpoints or desires in any manner. His way of life is based on respect
for himself and for all others.

    * A libertarian doesn't advocate violent rebellion against prevailing
governments - except as a last resort before the concentration camps. But
when a libertarian sees harm rather than good in certain acts of
government, he is obligated to try his best to explain to others who
advocate those measures why such compulsory means cannot bring the ends
which even they desire.

    * The libertarian's goal is friendship and pease with his neighbors at
home and abroad.

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