It is often assumed by many who do not know better that libertarians are just conservatives who like to smoke pot and really like guns. There is something to this simple minded assessment, but it is very simple minded. Libertarians are for liberty on both the social and the economic front. It is a forward looking ethos. It does not cling to tradition per se, but believes that solutions for society are best found using an uncoerced marketplace of ideas. Sometimes age old traditions are the best solution, sometimes they are not.
Fundamentally libertarians believe that they own their own lives. The government can not lay claim arbitrarily to one’s life or livelihood. A government must earn trust from its citizens in the same way we must earn trust from our neighbors and how companies earn the trust of their customers. The goal is to make society as voluntary as humanly possible.
Where liberals and conservatives see areas of society which demand coercion from the state, the draft, taxes, Obamacare, drug laws, etc, libertarians see none.
Libertarians are also fundamentally opposed to the mixing of state and business, which invariably ends in some form of crony capitalism (the friendliest form of fascism – which is not too friendly).
Libertarianism is the most important movement in American politics today. It might be the most important movement in the world. And we are still in very early days.
Let’s have a look at some numbers of the people who call themselves “libertarian.” A few weeks ago, a think tank called the Public Religion Research Institute released a big data report on those who describe themselves as “libertarian.” There are some big consistencies; for example, 96 percent oppose Obamacare. But what is most striking is that a majority (39 percent) consider themselves “moderates”—not conservatives or liberals.
To be sure, this report notes that most libertarians are registered Republicans (45 percent). However, more libertarians are independent (35 percent), third party (15 percent), or Democrats (five percent) when combined. It is a misinterpretation of libertarian values to assume that all would vastly prefer Republican candidates. If we were just looking at party affiliation, Republican libertarians do not represent even half of the libertarian demographic.