What is a Libertarian? (Long Answer)
A libertarian (small l ) is a person whose is philosophically opposed to initiating force. That includes not only physical assault in all its forms, but also invasion of personal space or property. One may only use force in defense, defending your rights and those of your community.
A libertarian thinks only individuals make choices and that individuals are responsible for their actions. The dignity of each individual, regardless of gender, religion, race, citizenship, or other distinguishing feature, entails both rights and responsibility.
A political Libertarian extends to his government the prohibition against initiating force. His government may not commit aggression against outside entities, but also may not initiate force against its people. It may only use force to defend the rights of its people.
The inherent rights of each individual, including rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are fundamental to a free society. They should never be subservient to any vision of a better society. It so happens that when each individual is free to live in one’s own way, the result is a very successful society. Just partial adherence to the Libertarian principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence has produced a society with great individual freedom and great wealth.
Consistent with these principles, Libertarians are opposed to government interference in interactions among consenting adults. Sale of any good or service between adults should not be illegal. Also, the government should not collect revenues without the agreement of the payers. Funds may be raised in exchange for services, through voluntary participation is government programs, or from donations. Most current government revenue schemes violate these principles.
The consequences of achieving a completely libertarian society would be profound. The role of government would be severely limited. Drastic changes to the structure of society might cause economic or political upheaval. Therefore, many Libertarians are comfortable with a gradual reduction in government authority to initiate force.
However, all Libertarians firmly oppose extensions of government authority that would bring further occasion to initiate force or the threat of force. Therefore, Libertarians oppose most most new taxes or tax increases, most new military pacts or foreign bases, most new regulations, any further restrictions on international and interstate commerce, any new restrictions on immigration, and all further abuse of emergency powers.
Finally, Libertarians seek a world of liberty: a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and are not forced to sacrifice their values for the benefit of others.