What is a Libertarian?

Are You Now or Have You Ever Been a Libertarian?

3 Responses to “What is a Libertarian?”

  1. I see Boaz quotes the same Locke text you used in the “What Is Freedom?” essay. Accident? 😉

    We now know what Freedom is (thanks to the “Constitution of Liberty” and your essay), but what is a libertarian? I mean in the strict sense.

    To take myself, I meet some definitions, but not others. I don’t meet the Nolan test, for instance. If Boaz’ test is “a libertarian is someone who believes in liberty,
    not in chaos; in the rule of law, not in lawlessness; and in a voluntary social order,” then that looks like a pretty big tent to me. (Which I understand is Boaz’ point, and I don’t mean it as a criticism, but just got me thinking about the difficulties with a strict definition).

  2. Unfortunately, despite the best wishes of David Boaz and Dean Russell, some people use the word “libertarian” to mean anarchism.

    I wish there were a word to use with less risk, which would convey without additional qualification that you’re a libertarian, but not an anarchist; a liberal, but not a socialist; in short, a “classical liberal” like Hayek or James Buchanan. This last phrase is just too academic though.

    I know David Boaz toyed with the label “market liberal”. That doesn’t quite work either.

    I know Hayek struggled to find a new word, too.

    I have found that the use of the word “libertarian” is just too confusing. The instant reaction from the man on the street is “You’re against government?” I wish it weren’t so, but that’s the life this word has taken. It covers two camps, which need to be distinguished, as they are opposed.

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