What is a Libertarian? – Freedom Philosophy


Ever since I announced my candidacy I’ve received one question thrice as much as any other – “what is a libertarian?”

I give out the usual talking points, “We shouldn’t be spending money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need;” “Don’t bomb children overseas;” “We think we should stop taking so much of people’s money.”

One of the fundamental weaknesses and strengths the traditional parties have been saddled with is the lack of core principles. The ability to shift positions to appeal to popular opinion wins elections in the short-run. But in the long-run, it leaves the population overtaxed, underserviced, burdened by massive debt, with rising costs of living, and politicians beholden to lobbyists who fund their campaigns; and voters are getting fed up.

The Libertarian Party does have a core philosophy in that we don’t believe in transgressions within politics, either domestically or foreign transgression – the non-aggression principle.

Although I’ve heard the argument given from philosophers, economists, politicians, historians, I’ve never heard it given better than a man who has a degree from clown college – Penn Jillette.

Imagine you have a weapon, a gun of some sort, and you see murder taking place; would you use the gun to prevent the murder? Many of us would. What about if you see some perverse assault taking place; would you use the gun to stop the assault? I certainly would. What about if some thief breaks into your home and wishes to walk away with your belongings? The question arises: When should we use force?

What about the case of building a library? If you saw an elderly woman on the street, and you needed to build a library, would you pull out a gun and demand money to build the library? This elderly woman’s difficulty is that if she doesn’t pay her taxes that soon her accounts will be garnished, eventually people with guns and a government-provided badge will show up at her doorstep and demand payment.

Every single expenditure of the government must keep this in mind at all times. Would you use force to accomplish a particular aim? No one can doubt the utility of libraries. They’re a remarkable service. All great civilizations have been built on libraries. But I wouldn’t use force at gunpoint to see to their maintenance.

Libertarians believe strongly in charity and would use charity to support causes worth supporting.

Herein lies one of the major misconceptions of libertarian principles. Our critics believe that we support libertarianism out of a desire to make ourselves wealthy. The reality is that extreme poverty gripped over 50% of the world’s population when I was born, and now this number is below 10% in 2019. The decline in poverty came in China, India, South America, wherever economies became more free poverty took a nose-dive. Capitalism and free markets conquer poverty. We support the expansion of business because society is better off this way.

As it turns out, people want to work, they want to provide for their families. When given opportunities prosperity is the more likely outcome. When economies face asphyxiation through regulation, when a business can’t expand due to extreme taxation, labour shrinks, productivity declines, and poverty abounds.

We’re libertarians precisely because we want to see people lifted out of poverty. We’re libertarians because don’t believe in bombing innocent people in the Middle East. We’re libertarians because we believe in our freedoms. We don’t believe in using force unless it’s necessary. This, in short, is a libertarian.

Read more from Brandon at BeingLibertarian here.

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Brandon Kirby

Brandon Kirby has a philosophy degree with the University of New Brunswick. He works for a Cayman Island hedge fund service firm, owns a real estate company, and has been in the financial industry since 2004. He is the director of Being Libertarian - Canada. He is a member of the People’s Party of Canada and the Libertarian Party of Canada.