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Libertarianism (Latin: liber, free) is a political philosophy that upholds liberty as its principal objective. Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and freedom of choice, emphasizing political freedom, voluntary association and the primacy of individual judgment. While libertarians share a skepticism of authority, they diverge on the scope of their opposition to existing political and economic systems. Various schools of libertarian thought offer a range of views regarding the legitimate functions of state and private power, often calling to restrict or even to wholly dissolve pervasive social institutions. Rather than embodying a singular, rigid systematic theory or ideology, libertarianism has been applied as an umbrella term to a wide range of sometimes discordant political ideas through modern history.
Although some present-day libertarians advocate laissez-faire capitalism and strong private property rights, such as in land, infrastructure and natural resources, others, notably libertarian socialists, seek to abolish capitalism and private ownership of the means of production in favor of their common or cooperative ownership and management. While minarchists believe a limited centralized government is necessary to protect individuals and their property from certain transgressions, anarchists propose to completely eliminate the state as an illegitimate political system.
The term libertarianism originally referred to a philosophical belief in free will but later became associated with anti-state socialism and Enlightenment-influenced political movements critical of institutional authority believed to serve forms of social domination and injustice. While it has generally retained its earlier political usage as a synonym for either social or individualist anarchism through much of the world, in the United States it has since come to describe pro-capitalist economic liberalism more so than radical, anti-capitalist egalitarianism. In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, libertarianism is defined as the moral view that agents initially fully own themselves and have certain moral powers to acquire property rights in external things. As individualist opponents of social liberalism embraced the label and distanced themselves from the word liberal, American writers, political parties and think tanks adopted the word libertarian to describe advocacy of capitalist free market economics and a night-watchman state.
The term libertarian was first used by late-Enlightenment free-thinkers to refer to the metaphysical belief in free will, as opposed to determinism. The first recorded use was in 1789, when William Belsham wrote about libertarianism in opposition to "necessitarian", i.e. determinist, views.
Libertarian came to mean an advocate or defender of liberty, especially in the political and social spheres, as early as 1796, when the London Packet printed on 12 February: "Lately marched out of the Prison at Bristol, 450 of the French Libertarians." The word was again used in a political sense in 1802, in a short piece critiquing a poem by "the author of Gebir", and has been used in this context since.
The use of the word libertarian to describe a new set of political positions has been traced to the French cognate, libertaire, coined in a scathing letter French libertarian communist Joseph Déjacque wrote to mutualist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in 1857, castigating him for his sexist political views. Déjacque also used the term for his anarchist publication Le Libertaire: Journal du Mouvement Social, which was printed from 9 June 1858 to 4 February 1861. In the mid-1890s, Sébastien Faure began publishing a new Le Libertaire while France's Third Republic enacted the lois scélérates ("villainous laws"), which banned anarchist publications in France. Libertarianism has frequently been used as a synonym for anarchism since this time.
Although the word libertarian continues to be widely used to refer to socialists internationally, its meaning in the United States has deviated from its political origins. Libertarianism in the United States has been described as conservative on economic issues and liberal on personal freedom (for common meanings of conservative and liberal in the United States); it is also often associated with a foreign policy of non-interventionism. Since the resurgence of neoliberalism in the 1970s, free-market capitalist libertarianism has spread beyond North America via think tanks and political parties.
There is contention about whether right, left, and socialist libertarianism "represent distinct ideologies as opposed to variations on a theme." All libertarians begin with a conception of personal autonomy from which they argue in favor of civil liberties and a reduction or elimination of the state.
Libertarian socialists (social and individualist anarchists, libertarian Marxists, council communists, Luxemburgists, and DeLeonists) extoll personal autonomy and conclude from this premise that private property is inherently violent. Thus, they promote usufruct and socialist economic theories, including communism, syndicalism, and mutualism. They criticize the state for being the defender of private property and believe capitalism entails wage slavery.
Right-libertarianism developed in the United States in the mid-20th Century and is the most popular conception of libertarianism in that region. It is commonly referred to as a continuation or radicalization of classical liberalism. Right-libertarians value self-ownership and the non-aggression principle, which leads to strong support of private property and free-market capitalism, while rejecting most or all state functions. Anarcho-capitalists believe the state inherently violates the non-aggression principle, while minarchists defend night-watchman states on the grounds that certain government functions are required to protect individual rights. They defend wage labor and concentrations of wealth so long as they are voluntary.
Left-libertarianism encompasses those libertarian beliefs that claim the Earth's natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner, either unowned or owned collectively. This often includes libertarian socialists who reject private property in favor of usufruct and workers' self-management, but is sometimes defined as a narrower ideology. Contemporary left-libertarians such as Hillel Steiner, Peter Vallentyne, Philippe Van Parijs, Michael Otsuka, and David Ellerman follow the classical liberal tradition and value self-ownership, but believe the appropriation of land must leave "enough and as good" for others or be taxed by society to compensate for the exclusionary effects of private property.
Anarchism envisages freedom as a form of autonomy, which Paul Goodman describes as "the ability to initiate a task and do it one's own way, without orders from authorities who do not know the actual problem and the available means." All anarchists oppose political and legal authority, but collectivist strains also oppose the economic authority of private property. These social anarchists emphasize mutual aid, whereas individualist anarchists extoll individual sovereignty.
The non-aggression principle (NAP) is the foundation of most present-day right-libertarian philosophies. It is a moral stance which asserts that aggression is inherently illegitimate. The NAP and property rights are closely linked, since what constitutes aggression depends on what rights a person has. Aggression, for the purposes of the NAP, is defined as the initiation or threat of violence against a person or his legitimately owned property. Specifically, any unsolicited action that physically affects another individual's property or person, no matter if the result of those actions is damaging, beneficial, or neutral to the owner, are considered violent or aggressive when they are against the owner's will and interfere with his right to self-ownership and self-determination. Supporters of the NAP often appeal to it in order to argue for the immorality of theft, vandalism, assault, and fraud. In contrast to nonviolence, the non-aggression principle does not preclude violence used in self-defense or the defense of others.
Libertarian socialists have been strong advocates and activists of civil liberties, including free love and free thought. Advocates of free love viewed sexual freedom as a clear, direct expression of individual sovereignty, and sometimes traced their roots back to the early anarchist Josiah Warren and experimental communities. They particularly stressed women's rights, as most sexual laws discriminated against women: for example, marriage laws and anti-birth control measures.
Free love appeared alongside anarcha-feminism and advocacy of LGBT rights. Anarcha-feminism developed as a synthesis of radical feminism and anarchism, and views patriarchy as a fundamental manifestation of compulsory government. It was inspired by the late 19th century writings of early feminist anarchists such as Lucy Parsons, Emma Goldman, Voltairine de Cleyre and Virginia Bolten. Anarcha-feminists, like other radical feminists, criticise and advocate the abolition of traditional conceptions of family, education and gender roles. Free Society (1895–1897 as The Firebrand, 1897–1904 as Free Society) was a major anarchist newspaper in the United States that staunchly advocated free love and women's rights, while criticizing "comstockery", the censorship of sexual information. In recent times, anarchism has also voiced opinions and taken action around certain sex related subjects such as pornography, BDSM, and the sex industry.
Free thought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, in contrast with authority, tradition, or other dogmas. In the United States, "free thought was a basically anti-Christian, anti-clerical movement, whose purpose was to make the individual politically and spiritually free to decide for himself on religious matters. A number of contributors to Liberty were prominent figures in both free thought and anarchism. The individualist anarchist George MacDonald was a co-editor of Freethought and, for a time, The Truth Seeker. E.C. Walker was co-editor of the... free-thought/free-love journal Lucifer, the Light-Bearer". In 1901, Catalan anarchist and free-thinker Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia established "modern" or progressive schools in Barcelona in defiance of an educational system controlled by the Catholic Church. Fiercely anti-clerical, Ferrer believed in "freedom in education," i.e., education free from the authority of the church and state. The schools' stated goal was to "educate the working class in a rational, secular and non-coercive setting". Later in the 20th century Austrian freudo-marxist Wilhelm Reich became a consistent propagandist for sexual freedom going as far as opening free sex-counselling clinics in Vienna for working-class patients as well as coining the phrase "sexual revolution" in one of his books from the 1940s.
Most left-libertarians are anarchists and believe the state inherently violates personal autonomy: "As Robert Paul Wolff has argued, since 'the state is authority, the right to rule', anarchism which rejects the State is the only political doctrine consistent with autonomy in which the individual alone is the judge of his moral constraints." Social anarchists believe the state defends private property, which they view as intrinsically harmful, while market-oriented left-libertarians argue that so-called free markets actually consist of economic privileges granted by the state. These latter libertarians advocate instead for freed markets, which are freed from these privileges.
There is a debate amongst right-libertarians as to whether or not the state is legitimate: while anarcho-capitalists advocate its abolition, minarchists support minimal states, often referred to as night-watchman states. Libertarians take a skeptical view of government authority.[unreliable source?] Minarchists maintain that the state is necessary for the protection of individuals from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud. They believe the only legitimate governmental institutions are the military, police, and courts, though some expand this list to include fire departments, prisons, and the executive and legislative branches. They justify the state on the grounds that it is the logical consequence of adhering to the non-aggression principle and argue that anarchism is immoral because it implies that the non-aggression principle is optional, that the enforcement of laws under anarchism is open to competition. Another common justification is that private defense agencies and court firms would tend to represent the interests of those who pay them enough.
Anarcho-capitalists argue that the state violates the non-aggression principle by its nature because governments use force against those who have not stolen or vandalized private property, assaulted anyone, or committed fraud. Many also argue that monopolies tend to be corrupt and inefficient, that private defense and court agencies would have to have a good reputation in order to stay in business. Linda & Morris Tannehill argue that no coercive monopoly of force can arise on a truly free market and that a government's citizenry can't desert them in favor of a competent protection and defense agency.
Right-libertarians maintain that unowned natural resources "may be appropriated by the first person who discovers them, mixes her labor with them, or merely claims them—without the consent of others, and with little or no payment to them." They believe that natural resources are originally unowned, and therefore, private parties may appropriate them at will without the consent of, or owing to, others. Right-libertarians argue that self-ownership permits the unequal appropriation of natural resources, and are not opposed to concentrations of economic power, provided they arise through non-coercive means.
Left-libertarians believe that neither claiming nor mixing one's labor with natural resources is enough to generate full private property rights, and maintain that natural resources ought to be held in some egalitarian manner, either unowned or owned collectively. Left-libertarianism often includes libertarian socialists who reject private property in favor of usufruct, the mutual enjoyment of natural resources, but other left-libertarians support private property under the condition that recompense is offered to the local community (e.g. a land value tax).
Libertarians are divided on economic issues: right-libertarians are economic liberals of either the Austrian School or Chicago school and support laissez-faire capitalism, while most left-libertarians (social and individualist anarchists, libertarian Marxists, and left-wing market anarchists) argue in favor of socialist theories such as communism, syndicalism, and mutualism. Daniel Guérin writes that "anarchism is really a synonym for socialism. The anarchist is primarily a socialist whose aim is to abolish the exploitation of man by man. Anarchism is only one of the streams of socialist thought, that stream whose main components are concern for liberty and haste to abolish the State." Other anarchists, including Nicola Sacco, Bartolomeo Vanzetti, and Haymarket affair suspect Adolph Fischer, make the same point: "every anarchist is a socialist, but every socialist is not necessarily an anarchist." While social anarchists generally support communism and syndicalism, individualist anarchists emphasize mutualism.
Wage labour has long been compared by socialists and anarcho-syndicalists to slavery. As a result, the term wage slavery is often utilised as a pejorative for wage labor. Advocates of slavery looked upon the "comparative evils of Slave Society and of Free Society, of slavery to human Masters and slavery to Capital," and proceeded to argue persuasively that wage slavery was actually worse than chattel slavery. Slavery apologists like George Fitzhugh contended that workers only accepted wage labour with the passage of time, as they became "familiarized and inattentive to the infected social atmosphere they continually inhale[d]."
According to Noam Chomsky, analysis of the psychological implications of wage slavery goes back to the Enlightenment era. In his 1791 book On the Limits of State Action, classical liberal thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt explained how "whatever does not spring from a man's free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness" and so when the labourer works under external control, "we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is." For Marxists, labour-as-commodity, which is how they regard wage labour, provides an absolutely fundamental point of attack against capitalism. "It can be persuasively argued," noted philosopher John Nelson, "that the conception of the worker's labour as a commodity confirms Marx's stigmatization of the wage system of private capitalism as 'wage-slavery;' that is, as an instrument of the capitalist's for reducing the worker's condition to that of a slave, if not below it." That this objection is fundamental follows immediately from Marx's conclusion that wage labour is the very foundation of capitalism: "Without a class dependent on wages, the moment individuals confront each other as free persons, there can be no production of surplus value; without the production of surplus-value there can be no capitalist production, and hence no capital and no capitalist!"
Traditional classical liberalism is a political philosophy and ideology belonging to liberalism in which primary emphasis is placed on securing the freedom of the individual by limiting the power of the government. The philosophy emerged as a response to the Industrial Revolution and urbanization in the 19th century in Europe and the United States. It advocates civil liberties with a limited government under the rule of law, and belief in laissez-faire economic policy. Classical liberalism is built on ideas that had already arisen by the end of the 18th century, such as selected ideas of Adam Smith, John Locke, Jean-Baptiste Say, Thomas Malthus, and David Ricardo, stressing the belief in free market and natural law, utilitarianism, and progress. Classical liberals were more suspicious than conservatives of all but the most minimal government and, adopting Thomas Hobbes's theory of government, they believed government had been created by individuals to protect themselves from one another.
Neo-classical liberalism emerged in the era following World War II during which social liberalism and Keynesianism were the dominant ideologies in the Western world. It was led by economists such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who advocated the reduction of the state and a return to classical liberalism. It did however accept some aspects of social liberalism, such as some degree of welfare provision by the state, but on a greatly reduced scale. Hayek and Friedman used the term classical liberalism to refer to their ideas; however, others use the term to refer to all liberalism before the 20th century, not to designate any particular set of political views, and therefore see all modern developments as being, by definition, not classical. As a result, the term neoliberalism has often been used as an alternative, however this term has developed negative connotations and is now usually only used as a pejorative.
Anarcho-capitalism (also referred to as free-market anarchism, market anarchism, and private-property anarchism) is a political philosophy which advocates the elimination of the state in favor of individual sovereignty in a free market. In an anarcho-capitalist society, law enforcement, courts, and all other security services would be provided by privately funded competitors rather than through taxation, and money would be privately and competitively provided in an open market. Therefore, personal and economic activities under anarcho-capitalism would be regulated by privately run law rather than through politics.
Various theorists have differing, though similar, legal philosophies which have been considered to fall under anarcho-capitalism. However, the most well-known version, was formulated by Austrian School economist and libertarian Murray Rothbard, who coined the term and is widely regarded as its founder, in the mid-20th century, synthesizing elements from the Austrian School of economics, classical liberalism, and 19th-century American individualist anarchists Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker (while rejecting their anti-capitalism, along with the labor theory of value and the normative implications they derived from it).[note 1] In Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism, there would first be the implementation of a mutually agreed-upon libertarian "legal code which would be generally accepted, and which the courts would pledge themselves to follow." This legal code would recognize sovereignty of the individual and the principle of non-aggression.
Objectivism is a philosophy created by Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand, who condemned libertarianism as being a greater threat to freedom and capitalism than both modern liberalism and conservatism, due to what she saw as its lack of philosophic and moral foundation. She regarded Objectivism as an integrated philosophical system, whereas libertarianism is a political philosophy which confines its attention to matters of public policy. Objectivism's central tenets are that reality exists independent of consciousness; that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception; that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic; that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness (or rational self-interest); that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez-faire capitalism; and that the role of art in human life is to transform humans' metaphysical ideas by selective reproduction of reality into a physical form—a work of art—that one can comprehend and to which one can respond emotionally. Rand believed that political advocacy could not succeed without addressing what she saw as its methodological prerequisites. Rand rejected any affiliation with the libertarian movement and many other Objectivists have done so as well.
Some Objectivists have argued that Objectivism is not limited to Rand's own positions on philosophical issues and are willing to work with and identify with the libertarian movement. This stance is most clearly identified with David Kelley (who separated from the Ayn Rand Institute because of disagreements over the relationship between Objectivists and libertarians), Chris Sciabarra, Barbara Branden (Nathaniel Branden's former wife), and others. Kelley's Atlas Society has focused on building a closer relationship between "open Objectivists" and the libertarian movement.
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Libertarian socialism (sometimes called social anarchism, left-libertarianism and socialist libertarianism) is a group of political philosophies that promote a non-hierarchical, non-bureaucratic society without private property in the means of production. Libertarian socialists believe in converting present-day private productive property into common or public goods, while retaining respect for personal property.[note 2] Libertarian socialism is opposed to coercive forms of social organization. It promotes free association in place of government and opposes the social relations of capitalism, such as wage labor. The term libertarian socialism is used by some socialists to differentiate their philosophy from state socialism,[note 3] and by some as a synonym for anarchism.[note 4]
Adherents of libertarian socialism assert that a society based on freedom and equality can be achieved through abolishing authoritarian institutions that control certain means of production and subordinate the majority to an owning class or political and economic elite.[note 5] Libertarian socialism also constitutes a tendency of thought that promotes the identification, criticism, and practical dismantling of illegitimate authority in all aspects of life.[note 6][note 7][note 8][note 9]
Accordingly, libertarian socialists believe that "the exercise of power in any institutionalized form—whether economic, political, religious, or sexual—brutalizes both the wielder of power and the one over whom it is exercised". Libertarian socialists generally place their hopes in decentralized means of direct democracy such as libertarian municipalism, citizens' assemblies, trade unions, and workers' councils.
Geolibertarians are advocates of geoism, which is the position that all natural resources, most importantly land, are common assets to which all individuals have an equal right to access; therefore, individuals must pay rent to the community if they claim land as their private property. Rent need not be paid for the mere use of land, but only for the right to exclude others from that land, and for the protection of one's title by government. They simultaneously agree with the libertarian position that each individual has an exclusive right to the fruits of his or her labor as their private property, as opposed to this product being owned collectively by society or the community, and that "one's labor, wages, and the products of labor" should not be taxed. As with traditional libertarians, they advocate "full civil liberties, with no crimes unless there are victims who have been invaded." Geolibertarians generally advocate distributing the land rent to the community via a land value tax, as proposed by Henry George and others before him. For this reason, they are often called "single taxers". Fred E. Foldvary coined the word "geo-libertarianism" in an article so titled in Land and Liberty. In the case of geoanarchism, the voluntary form of geolibertarianism as described by Foldvary, rent would be collected by private associations with the opportunity to secede from a geocommunity (and not receive the geocommunity's services) if desired.
Geolibertarians are generally influenced by Georgism, but the ideas behind it pre-date Henry George, and can be found in different forms in the writings of John Locke, the French Physiocrats, Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith, Thomas Paine, James Mill (John Stuart Mill's father), David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer and Thomas Spence. Perhaps the best summary of geolibertarianism is Thomas Paine's assertion that "Men did not make the earth. It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property. Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds." On the other hand, Locke wrote that private land ownership should be praised, as long as its product was not left to spoil and there was "enough, and as good left in common for others"; when this Lockean proviso is violated, the land earns rental value. Some would argue that "as good" is unlikely to be achieved in an urban setting because location is paramount, and that therefore Locke's proviso in an urban setting requires the collection and equal distribution of ground rent.
Contemporary left-libertarian scholars such as Hillel Steiner, Peter Vallentyne, Philippe Van Parijs, Michael Otsuka, and David Ellerman root an economic egalitarianism in the classical liberal concepts of self-ownership and land appropriation, combined with geoist or physiocratic views regarding the ownership of land and natural resources (e.g. those of John Locke and Henry George).[note 10][verification needed] They hold that it is illegitimate for anyone to claim private ownership of natural resources to the detriment of others.[note 11][verification needed][note 12][note 13] Instead, unappropriated natural resources are either unowned or owned in common, and private appropriation is only legitimate if everyone can appropriate an equal amount or if private appropriation is taxed to compensate those who are excluded from natural resources. Most left-libertarians support some form of income redistribution on the grounds of a claim by each individual to be entitled to an equal share of natural resources. A number of left-libertarians of this school argue for the desirability of some state social welfare programs.
Elements of libertarianism can be traced as far back as the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu and the higher-law concepts of the Greeks and the Israelites. In 17th-century England, libertarian ideas began to take modern form in the writings of the Levellers and John Locke. In the middle of that century, opponents of royal power began to be called Whigs, or sometimes simply "opposition" or "country" (as opposed to Court) writers.
John Locke greatly influenced both libertarianism and the modern world in his writings published before and after the English Revolution of 1688, especially A Letter Concerning Toleration (1667), Two Treatises of Government (1689) and An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). In the latter he established the basis of liberal political theory: that people's rights existed before government; that the purpose of government is to protect personal and property rights; that people may dissolve governments that do not do so; and that representative government is the best form to protect rights. The United States Declaration of Independence was inspired by Locke in its statement: "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it..." Nevertheless scholar Ellen Meiksins Wood says that "there are doctrines of individualism that are opposed to Lockean individualism... and non-Lockean individualism may encompass socialism".
According to Murray Rothbard, the libertarian creed emerged from the classical liberal challenges to an "absolute central State and a king ruling by divine right on top of an older, restrictive web of feudal land monopolies and urban guild controls and restrictions", the mercantilism of a bureaucratic warfaring state allied with privileged merchants. The object of classical liberals was individual liberty in the economy, in personal freedoms and civil liberty, separation of state and religion, and peace as an alternative to imperial aggrandizement. He cites Locke's contemporaries, the Levellers, who held similar views. Also influential were the English "Cato's Letters" during the early 1700s, reprinted eagerly by American colonists who already were free of European aristocracy and feudal land monopolies.
In January of 1776, only two years after coming to America from England, Thomas Paine published his pamphlet "Common Sense" calling for independence for the colonies. Paine promoted classical liberal ideas in clear, concise language that allowed the general public to understand the debates among the political elites. Common Sense was immensely popular in disseminating these ideas, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. Paine later would write the Rights of Man and The Age of Reason and participate in the French Revolution. Paine's theory of property showed a "libertarian concern" with the redistribution of resources.
In 1793, William Godwin wrote a libertarian philosophical treatise, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Morals and Happiness, which criticized ideas of human rights and of society by contract based on vague promises. He took classical liberalism to its logical anarchic conclusion by rejecting all political institutions, law, government, and apparatus of coercion, as well as all political protest and insurrection. Instead of institutionalized justice he proposed that people influence one and other to moral goodness through informal reasoned persuasion, including in the associations they joined, and that this would facilitate human happiness.
Modern anarchism sprang from the secular or religious thought of the Enlightenment, particularly Jean-Jacques Rousseau's arguments for the moral centrality of freedom.
As part of the political turmoil of the 1790s in the wake of the French Revolution, William Godwin developed the first expression of modern anarchist thought. Godwin was, according to Peter Kropotkin, "the first to formulate the political and economical conceptions of anarchism, even though he did not give that name to the ideas developed in his work", while Godwin attached his anarchist ideas to an early Edmund Burke.
Godwin is generally regarded as the founder of the school of thought known as 'philosophical anarchism'. He argued in Political Justice (1793) that government has an inherently malevolent influence on society, and that it perpetuates dependency and ignorance. He thought that the spread of the use of reason to the masses would eventually cause government to wither away as an unnecessary force. Although he did not accord the state with moral legitimacy, he was against the use of revolutionary tactics for removing the government from power. Rather, he advocated for its replacement through a process of peaceful evolution.
His aversion to the imposition of a rules-based society led him to denounce, as a manifestation of the people's "mental enslavement", the foundations of law, property rights and even the institution of marriage. He considered the basic foundations of society as constraining the natural development of individuals to use their powers of reasoning to arrive at a mutually beneficial method of social organization. In each case, government and its institutions are shown to constrain the development of our capacity to live wholly in accordance with the full and free exercise of private judgment.
In France, various anarchist currents were present during the Revolutionary period, with some revolutionaries using the term anarchiste in a positive light as early as September 1793. The enragés opposed revolutionary government as a contradiction in terms. Denouncing the Jacobin dictatorship, Jean Varlet wrote in 1794 that "government and revolution are incompatible, unless the people wishes to set its constituted authorities in permanent insurrection against itself." In his "Manifesto of the Equals," Sylvain Maréchal looked forward to the disappearance, once and for all, of "the revolting distinction between rich and poor, of great and small, of masters and valets, of governors and governed."
Libertarian socialism, libertarian communism and libertarian Marxism are all phrases which activists with a variety of perspectives have applied to their views. Anarchist communist philosopher Joseph Déjacque was the first person to describe himself as "libertarian". Unlike mutualist anarchist philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, he argued that, "it is not the product of his or her labor that the worker has a right to, but to the satisfaction of his or her needs, whatever may be their nature." According to anarchist historian Max Nettlau, the first use of the term "libertarian communism" was in November 1880, when a French anarchist congress employed it to more clearly identify its doctrines. The French anarchist journalist Sébastien Faure started the weekly paper Le Libertaire (The Libertarian) in 1895.
Individualist anarchism refers to several traditions of thought within the anarchist movement that emphasize the individual and their will over any kinds of external determinants such as groups, society, traditions, and ideological systems. An influential form of individualist anarchism, called "egoism," or egoist anarchism, was expounded by one of the earliest and best-known proponents of individualist anarchism, the German Max Stirner. Stirner's The Ego and Its Own, published in 1844, is a founding text of the philosophy. According to Stirner, the only limitation on the rights of the individual is their power to obtain what they desire, without regard for God, state, or morality. Stirner advocated self-assertion and foresaw unions of egoists, non-systematic associations continually renewed by all parties' support through an act of will, which Stirner proposed as a form of organisation in place of the state. Egoist anarchists argue that egoism will foster genuine and spontaneous union between individuals. "Egoism" has inspired many interpretations of Stirner's philosophy. It was re-discovered and promoted by German philosophical anarchist and LGBT activist John Henry Mackay. Josiah Warren is widely regarded as the first American anarchist, and the four-page weekly paper he edited during 1833, The Peaceful Revolutionist, was the first anarchist periodical published. For American anarchist historian Eunice Minette Schuster, "It is apparent... that Proudhonian Anarchism was to be found in the United States at least as early as 1848 and that it was not conscious of its affinity to the Individualist Anarchism of Josiah Warren and Stephen Pearl Andrews... William B. Greene presented this Proudhonian Mutualism in its purest and most systematic form.". Later Benjamin Tucker fused Stirner's egoism with the economics of Warren and Proudhon in his eclectic influential publication Liberty. From these early influences individualist anarchism in different countries attracted a small but diverse following of bohemian artists and intellectuals, free love and birth control advocates (see Anarchism and issues related to love and sex), individualist naturists nudists (see anarcho-naturism), free thought and anti-clerical activists as well as young anarchist outlaws in what became known as illegalism and individual reclamation (see European individualist anarchism and individualist anarchism in France). These authors and activists included Emile Armand, Han Ryner, Henri Zisly, Renzo Novatore, Miguel Gimenez Igualada, Adolf Brand and Lev Chernyi among others.
In 1873 the follower and translator of Proudhon, the Catalan Francesc Pi i Margall, became President of Spain with a program which wanted "to establish a decentralized, or “cantonalist,” political system on Proudhonian lines" who, according to Rudolf Rocker, had "political ideas...much in common with those of Richard Price, Joseph Priestly, Thomas Paine, Jefferson, and other representatives of the Anglo-American liberalism of the first period. He wanted to limit the power of the state to a minimum and gradually replace it by a Socialist economic order.". The revolutionary wave of 1917–23 saw the active participation of anarchists in Russia and Europe. Russian anarchists participated alongside the Bolsheviks in both the February and October 1917 revolutions. However, Bolsheviks in central Russia quickly began to imprison or drive underground the libertarian anarchists. Many fled to the Ukraine. There, in the Ukrainian Free Territory, they fought in the Russian Civil War against the White movement, monarchists and other opponents of revolution, and then against Bolsheviks as part of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine led by Nestor Makhno, who established an anarchist society in the region for a number of months. Expelled American anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman protested Bolshevik policy before they left Russia.
The victory of the Bolsheviks damaged anarchist movements internationally as workers and activists joined Communist parties. In France and the United States, for example, members of the major syndicalist movements of the CGT and IWW joined the Communist International. In Paris, the Dielo Truda group of Russian anarchist exiles, which included Nestor Makhno, issued a 1926 manifesto, the Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft), calling for new anarchist organizing structures.
The "Bavarian Soviet Republic" of 1918-1919 had libertarian socialist characteristics. In Italy from 1918-1921 the anarcho-syndicalist trade union Unione Sindacale Italiana grew to 800,000 members
In the 1920s and 1930s, with the rise of fascism in Europe, anarchists began to fight fascists in Italy in France during the February 1934 riots, and in Spain where the CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) boycott of elections led to a right-wing victory and its later participation in voting in 1936 helped bring the popular front back to power. This led to a ruling class attempted coup and the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). Gruppo Comunista Anarchico di Firenze held that the during early twentieth century, the terms libertarian communism and anarchist communism became synonymous within the international anarchist movement as a result of the close connection they had in Spain (see Anarchism in Spain) (with libertarian communism becoming the prevalent term).
Murray Bookchin wrote that the Spanish libertarian movement of the mid-1930s was unique because its workers' control and collectives—which came out of a three generation "massive libertarian movement"—divided the "republican" camp and challenged the Marxists. Urban anarchists’ created libertarian communist forms of organization which evolved into the CNT, a syndicalist union providing the infrastructure for a libertarian society. Also formed were local bodies to administer of social and economic life on a decentralized libertarian basis. Much of the infrastructure was destroyed during the 1930s Spanish Civil War against authoritarian and fascist forces. The Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth (FIJL, Spanish: Federación Ibérica de Juventudes Libertarias), sometimes abbreviated as Libertarian Youth (Juventudes Libertarias), was a libertarian socialist organisation created in 1932 in Madrid. In February 1937 the FIJL organised a plenum of regional organisations (second congress of FIJL). In October 1938, from the 16th through the 30th in Barcelona, the FIJL participated in a national plenum of the libertarian movement, also attended by members of the CNT and the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI). The FIJL exists until today.
The Manifesto of Libertarian Communism was written in 1953 by Georges Fontenis for the Federation Communiste Libertaire of France. It is one of the key texts of the anarchist-communist current known as platformism. In 1968 in Carrara, Italy, the International of Anarchist Federations was founded during an international anarchist conference to advance libertarian solidarity.It wanted to form "a strong and organised workers movement, agreeing with the libertarian ideas". In the United States the Libertarian League was founded in New York City in 1954 as a left-libertarian political organisation building on the Libertarian Book Club. Members included Sam Dolgoff, Russell Blackwell, Dave Van Ronk, Enrico Arrigoni and Murray Bookchin.
In Australia the Sydney Push was a predominantly left-wing intellectual subculture in Sydney from the late 1940s to the early 1970s which became associated with the label "Sydney libertarianism". Well known associates of the Push include Jim Baker, John Flaus, Harry Hooton, Margaret Fink, Sasha Soldatow, Lex Banning, Eva Cox, Richard Appleton, Paddy McGuinness, David Makinson, Germaine Greer, Clive James, Robert Hughes, Frank Moorhouse and Lillian Roxon. Amongst the key intellectual figures in Push debates were philosophers David J. Ivison, George Molnar, Roelof Smilde, Darcy Waters and Jim Baker, as recorded in Baker's memoir Sydney Libertarians and the Push, published in the libertarian Broadsheet in 1975. An understanding of libertarian values and social theory can be obtained from their publications, a few of which are available online.
In 1969, French platformist anarcho-communist Daniel Guérin published an essay in 1969 called "Libertarian Marxism?" in which he dealt with the debate between Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin at the First International and afterwards suggested that "Libertarian marxism rejects determinism and fatalism, giving the greater place to individual will, intuition, imagination, reflex speeds, and to the deep instincts of the masses, which are more far-seeing in hours of crisis than the reasonings of the 'elites'; libertarian marxism thinks of the effects of surprise, provocation and boldness, refuses to be cluttered and paralysed by a heavy 'scientific' apparatus, doesn't equivocate or bluff, and guards itself from adventurism as much as from fear of the unknown." Libertarian Marxist currents often draw from Marx and Engels' later works, specifically the Grundrisse and The Civil War in France. They emphasize the Marxist belief in the ability of the working class to forge its own destiny without the need for a revolutionary party or state. Libertarian Marxism includes such currents as council communism, left communism, Socialisme ou Barbarie Lettrism/Situationism and operaismo/autonomism, and New Left.[unreliable source?] In the US from 1970 to 1981 there existed the publication Root & Branch which had as a subtitle "A Libertarian Marxist Journal". In 1974 the Libertarian Communism journal was started in the United Kingdom by a group inside the Socialist Party of Great Britain. In 1986 the anarcho-syndicalist Sam Dolgoff started and led the publication Libertarian Labor Review in the United States which decided to rename itself as Anarcho-Syndicalist Review in order to avoid confusion with right-libertarian views.
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The "normative core" of classical liberalism is the idea that in an environment of laissez-faire, a spontaneous order of cooperation in exchanging goods and services emerges that satisfies human wants.
Murray Rothbard was influenced by the work of the 19th-century American individualist anarchists, themselves influenced by classical liberalism. However, he thought they had a faulty understanding of economics. The 19th-century individualists had a labor theory of value, as influenced by the classical economists, but Rothbard was a student of neoclassical economics which does not agree with the labor theory of value. Rothbard sought to meld 19th-century American individualists' advocacy of free markets and private defense with the principles of Austrian economics: "There is, in the body of thought known as 'Austrian economics,' a scientific explanation of the workings of the free market (and of the consequences of government intervention in that market) which individualist anarchists could easily incorporate into their political and social Weltanschauung".
A 1971 New York Times article noted that 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza was a forerunner of modern libertarianism, writing "He who tries to determine everything by law will foment crime rather than lessen it." Its authors stated that modern libertarianism, in part a continuation of 18th-century and 19th-century liberalism, is on a "much more solid intellectual footing than old-style liberalism" because rather than taking their views from religious mysticism, they based it on "a scientific appraisal of the nature of man and his needs." 
Libertarianism in the United States developed in the 1950s as many with "Old Right" or classical liberal beliefs in the United States began to describe themselves as libertarians. Arizona United States Senator Barry Goldwater's challenge to authority also influenced the U.S. libertarian movement. In the 1950s, Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand developed a philosophical system called Objectivism, expressed in her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, as well as other works, which influenced many libertarians. However, she rejected the label "libertarian" and harshly denounced this libertarian movement as the "hippies of the right." Philosopher John Hospers, a one-time member of Rand's inner circle, proposed a non-initiation of force principle to unite both groups; this statement later became a required "pledge" for candidates of the Libertarian Party, and Hospers himself became its first presidential candidate in 1972.
During the 1960s, the Vietnam War divided American libertarians, anarchists, and conservatives. Libertarians opposed to the war joined the draft resistance and peace movements and began founding their own publications, like Rothbard's The Libertarian Forum and Reason magazine. The 1960s also saw the formation of organizations like the Radical Libertarian Alliance and the Society for Individual Liberty. In 1971, a small group of Americans led by David Nolan formed the U.S. Libertarian Party. The party has run a presidential candidate every election year since 1972. Over the years, dozens of capitalism-supporting libertarian political parties have been formed worldwide. Educational organizations like the Center for Libertarian Studies and the Cato Institute were formed in the 1970s, and others have been created since then.
Modern libertarianism gained significant recognition in academia with the publication of Harvard University professor Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia in 1974, a response to John Rawls' A Theory of Justice. The book proposed a minimal state on the grounds that it was an inevitable phenomenon which could arise without violating individual rights. Anarchy, State, and Utopia won a National Book Award in 1975.
In the United States, polls (circa 2006) find that the views and voting habits of between 10 and 20 percent (and increasing) of voting age Americans may be classified as "fiscally conservative and socially liberal, or libertarian." This is based on pollsters and researchers defining libertarian views as fiscally conservative and socially liberal (based on the common US meanings of the terms) and against government intervention in economic affairs, and for expansion of personal freedoms. Through 20 polls on this topic spanning 13 years, Gallup found that voters who are libertarian on the political spectrum ranged from 17–23% of the US electorate. However, a 2014 Pew Poll found that 23% of Americans who identify as libertarians have no idea what the word means.
2009 saw the rise of the Tea Party movement, an American political movement known for advocating a reduction in the U.S. national debt and federal budget deficit by reducing U.S. government spending and taxes, which had a significant libertarian component: a 2011 Reason-Rupe poll found that among those who self-identified as Tea Party supporters, 41 percent leaned libertarian and 59 percent, socially conservative. The movement, named after the Boston Tea Party, also contains conservative and populist elements, and has sponsored multiple protests and supported various political candidates since 2009. Tea Party activities have declined since 2010 with the number of chapters across the country slipping from about 1,000 to 600. Mostly, Tea Party organizations are said to have shifted away from national demonstrations to local issues. Following the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's 2012 vice-presidential running mate, the New York Times declared that Tea Party lawmakers are no longer a fringe of the conservative coalition, but now "indisputably at the core of the modern Republican Party."
In 2012, anti-war presidential candidates (Libertarian Republican Ron Paul and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson) raised millions of dollars and garnered millions of votes despite opposition to their obtaining ballot access by Democrats and Republicans. The 2012 Libertarian National Convention, which saw Gary Johnson and James P. Gray nominated as the 2012 presidential ticket for the Libertarian Party, resulted in the most successful result for a third-party presidential candidacy since 2000, and the best in the Libertarian Party's history by vote number. Johnson received 1% of the popular vote, amounting to more than 1.2 million votes. Johnson has expressed a desire to win at least 5 percent of the vote so that the Libertarian Party candidates could get equal ballot access and federal funding, thus subsequently ending the two-party system.
In 2013, philosopher Michael Huemer defended anarcho-capitalism in his book The Problem of Political Authority from an ethical intuitionist perspective, deviating from the traditional natural rights or deontological approach of previous philosophers like Robert Nozick.
A surge of popular interest in libertarian socialism occurred in western nations during the 1960s and 1970s. Anarchism was influential in the Counterculture of the 1960s and anarchists actively participated in the late sixties students and workers revolts. In 1968 in Carrara, Italy the International of Anarchist Federations was founded during an international anarchist conference held there in 1968 by the three existing European federations of France, the Italian and the Iberian Anarchist Federation as well as the Bulgarian federation in French exile. The uprisings of May 1968 also led to a small resurgence of interest in left communist ideas. Various small left communist groups emerged around the world, predominantly in the leading capitalist countries. A series of conferences of the communist left began in 1976, with the aim of promoting international and cross-tendency discussion, but these petered out in the 1980s without having increased the profile of the movement or its unity of ideas. Left communist groups existing today include the International Communist Party, International Communist Current and the Internationalist Communist Tendency. The housing and employment crisis in most of Western Europe led to the formation of communes and squatter movements like that of Barcelona, Spain. In Denmark, squatters occupied a disused military base and declared the Freetown Christiania, an autonomous haven in central Copenhagen.
Around the turn of the 21st century, libertarian socialism grew in popularity and influence as part of the anti-war, anti-capitalist, and anti-globalisation movements. Anarchists became known for their involvement in protests against the meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Group of Eight, and the World Economic Forum. Some anarchist factions at these protests engaged in rioting, property destruction, and violent confrontations with police. These actions were precipitated by ad hoc, leaderless, anonymous cadres known as black blocs; other organisational tactics pioneered in this time include security culture, affinity groups and the use of decentralised technologies such as the internet. A significant event of this period was the confrontations at WTO conference in Seattle in 1999. For English anarchist scholar Simon Critchley "contemporary anarchism can be seen as a powerful critique of the pseudo-libertarianism of contemporary neo-liberalism...One might say that contemporary anarchism is about responsibility, whether sexual, ecological or socio-economic; it flows from an experience of conscience about the manifold ways in which the West ravages the rest; it is an ethical outrage at the yawning inequality, impoverishment and disenfranchisment that is so palpable locally and globally."
Libertarian socialists in the early 21st century have been involved in the alter-globalization movement, squatter movement; social centers; infoshops; anti-poverty groups such as Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and Food Not Bombs; tenants' unions; housing cooperatives; intentional communities generally and egalitarian communities; anti-sexist organizing; grassroots media initiatives; digital media and computer activism; experiments in participatory economics; anti-racist and anti-fascist groups like Anti-Racist Action and Anti-Fascist Action; activist groups protecting the rights of immigrants and promoting the free movement of people, such as the No Border network; worker co-operatives, countercultural and artist groups; and the peace movement etc.
The Occupy movement is an international protest movement against social and economic inequality with the primary goal of making the economic and political relations in all societies less vertically hierarchical and more flatly distributed. It is partly inspired by the Arab Spring, and the Portuguese and Spanish Indignants movement in the Iberian Peninsula. According to The Washington Post, the movement, which has been described as a "democratic awakening" by Cornel West, is difficult to distill to a few demands. Local groups often have different foci, but one of the movement's prime concerns is how large corporations and the global financial system control the world in a way that disproportionately benefits a minority, undermines democracy, and is unstable. The movement commonly uses the slogan We are the 99%, the #Occupy hashtag format, and organizes through websites such as Occupy Together.
David Graeber has argued that the Occupy movement, in its anti-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian consensus-based politics, its refusal to accept the legitimacy of the existing legal and political order, and its embrace of prefigurative politics, has roots in an anarchist political tradition. Sociologist Dana Williams has likewise argued that "the most immediate inspiration for Occupy is anarchism," and the LA Times has identified the "controversial, anarchist-inspired organizational style" as one of the hallmarks of Occupy Wall Street (OWS).
The first Occupy protest to receive widespread attention was Occupy Wall Street in New York City's Zuccotti Park, which began on 17 September 2011. By 9 October, Occupy protests had taken place or were ongoing in over 951 cities across 82 countries, and over 600 communities in the United States. For its first two months, authorities largely adopted a tolerant approach toward the movement, but this began to change in mid-November 2011 when they began forcibly removing protest camps. By the end of 2011 authorities had cleared most of the major camps, with the last remaining high profile sites, Washington DC and London, evicted by February 2012. On 12 October 2011, Los Angeles City Council became one of the first governmental bodies in the United States to adopt a resolution stating its informal support of the Occupy movement. In October 2012, the Executive Director of Financial Stability at the Bank of England stated the protesters were right to criticise and had persuaded bankers and politicians "to behave in a more moral way".
Since the 1950s, many American libertarian organizations have adopted a free market stance, as well as supporting civil liberties and non-interventionist foreign policies. These include the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), Center for Libertarian Studies, the Cato Institute, and the International Society for Individual Liberty (ISIL). The activist Free State Project, formed in 2001, works to bring 20,000 libertarians to New Hampshire to influence state policy. Active student organizations include Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty.
A number of countries have libertarian parties that run candidates for political office. In the United States, the Libertarian Party of the United States was formed in 1972. The Libertarian Party is the third largest American political party, with over 370,000 registered voters in the 35 states that allow registration as a Libertarian and has hundreds of party candidates elected or appointed to public office.
Current international anarchist federations which sometimes identify themselves as libertarian include the International of Anarchist Federations, the International Workers' Association, and International Libertarian Solidarity. The largest organised anarchist movement today is in Spain, in the form of the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) and the CNT. CGT membership was estimated to be around 100,000 for 2003. Other active syndicalist movements include, in Sweden, the Central Organisation of the Workers of Sweden and the Swedish Anarcho-syndicalist Youth Federation; the CNT-AIT in France;[not in citation given] the Union Sindicale Italiana in Italy; in the US, Workers Solidarity Alliance; and in the UK, Solidarity Federation. The revolutionary industrial unionist Industrial Workers of the World, claiming 2,000 paying members, and the International Workers Association, an anarcho-syndicalist successor to the First International, also remain active. In the United States there exists the Common Struggle – Libertarian Communist Federation or Lucha Común – Federación Comunista Libertaria (formerly the North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists (NEFAC) or the Fédération des Communistes Libertaires du Nord-Est)[not in citation given] an is a platformist anarchist communist organization based in the northeast region of the United States.[not in citation given]
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