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Libertarianism, in political theory, is the view that that state governs best that governs least; its function is only to keep people from harming each other. In other words, individuals should be free to do anything they want, so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others to do what they want. The government's role is to protect those rights.

For libertarians, there are no rights to food or shelter or health care; we only have rights to life and legal justice, and rights to do what we like with whatever we have at our disposal, so long as it hurts no one else.

Therefore, the proper functions of government might include the maintainance of the courts, the police, the military, and perhaps a few other vital functions. But under no circumstances, according to libertarians, should government do such things as establish schools, or heavily regulate industry, or run social welfare programs. Nor should government restrict free speech, sexual practices, gambling, or any other so-called victimless crimes. For libertarianism, government's main imperative should be: Hands off!

Libertarians prefer not to be called RightWing?, and libertarianism has significant differences with both ConservatisM? and LiberalisM? (as those terms are used in the UnitedStates): see PoliticalSpectrum.

Many people outside the UnitedStates (and a few within it) treat LibertarianisM as being synonymous with AnarchisM. Most libertarians in the UnitedStates, however, do not consider themselves anarchists but, rather, advocates of MinimalStatism?. There is such a thing as LibertarianCommunism, which is synonymous with TraditionalAnarchism. See [this collection of web links] if you want to try to sort out the mess.

Compare ClassicalLiberalism?; ConservatisM?; AnarchisM; MinimalStatism?.

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Last edited February 16, 2001 7:42 am by LarrySanger (diff)