Libertarian Living vs. Libertarian Governing


As a libertarian, I’m often called a hypocrite for my personal views on the way I should live my life, because I don’t live libertarianism. But to me this is a very basic misunderstanding of what libertarianism is.

I was raised Mormon, and I consider that particular sect of Christianity to be the most libertarian brand of Christianity around.  I know, Christianity doesn’t seem to go hand in hand with libertarianism does it?  But it’s right there in the 11th article of faith: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our [own]1 conscience, and allow all men the same privilege[,] let them worship how, where, or what they may.” Crazy huh? To me this says it all. But let’s get a little deeper.

Let’s look back at the Libertarian National Convention in 2016.  At that convention the wonderful characters that libertarianism had to offer were on full display.  Represented in the crowd were folks with crazy hair-dos, piercings, and tattoos up the wazoo.  We also had a dude strip naked in the middle of the show, and give us a wonderful preview of his tighty whiteys and some jelly rolls that would make Santa Claus cry.  What could be more libertarian than just doing whatever you want?

Well, here’s where the problem lies. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Indeed, it’s often a conflation of the ideology with lifestyle to assume that you must act this way as a libertarian — that you must take libertarianism as an ideology and live it as a way of life, like a religion.

To me this is not what libertarianism is about; libertarianism is not a code of behavior, or a guide to how you should live your own life, but rather a lens through which you should view other people’s ways of life.  Just because I think prostitution should be legal doesn’t mean I think it’s moral or a good idea.  Just because I want drugs legalized doesn’t mean I wouldn’t urge someone not to do them, and to get help for their addictions.

Libertarianism isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a governing doctrine.  In other words, I’m a libertarian when it comes to government, not my personal life.  It’s this distinction that needs to be made to convince many Republicans to abandon their failing party lines and join the likes of Rand Paul and the freedom caucus in truly promoting liberty.  This will take well-dressed respectable men and women in suits and blouses respectively representing a governing ideology that doesn’t seek to force anything upon you.

Indeed, libertarianism is the answer that will unite the disparate ideologies by allowing voluntarism in their own lives — the freedom to live the lifestyles of their choice.  Whether you’re a socialist who wants to share his belongings in a commune, or a capitalist who wants to spend his capital efficiently to the greatest effect, these things can work together under a libertarian society, so long as the government just gets out of the way.

* Michael Tarr is an avid outdoors-man and lover of liberty. He believes libertarianism and the ideas of liberty are the bridge that will reconcile disparate ideologies, and bring people closer to unity and freedom in America.

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  1. Are there any lifestyle habits that can be called ‘libertarian’? Only a few that i can see:
    (1) Mind your business
    (2) Keep your word
    (3) Stay true to your own beliefs

    If we started calling people who acted like that “libertarian”, it might make a difference.

  2. I believe that Jesus Christ was the ultimate libertarian. Despite his authoritarian power to do whatever​ he pleased, he never forced himself upon others. He called for the rich to give up their possessions for the sake of the poor, but never forced charity and wealth distribution upon them. He called upon men to “take up their cross” and join him, but did not punish their refusal to do so. While it is not necessary for one to be Christian in order to be a libertarian, I don’t believe that the Christian faith is necessarily a huge departure from libertarian ideology.

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