What Is a Libertarian? A Look at the Libertarian Party

Updated on February 6, 2018
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Shannon is a social worker, counselor, avid traveler, scuba diver, adventurer, and mom.

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Full disclosure, I’ve been a proponent of the Libertarian Party for a long time. It was introduced to me many years ago when I was frustrated that no one in the two-party system really represented me. I’m an economic conservative and a social liberal. I’m not just “in the middle,” I swing all over the place. I had never heard of the Libertarian Party before, even though it is the third largest party in America. When I gave it a some consideration, the Libertarian Party clicked with me. It was a good fit. Given the current political climate and the intense partisan politics playing out very publicly, maybe it’s a good time to start exploring third parties. Whether you’re a frustrated Democrat or an alienated Republican, you might find a place here.

The Libertarian Mascot.
The Libertarian Mascot.

What Is a Libertarian?

The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in the United States. In the last Presidential Election, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson was on the ballot in all 50 states and earned almost 4.5 million votes. The official website (lp.org) states that the Libertarian Party (LP) is “the only political organization which respects you as a unique and responsible adult.” The major theme of the LP is individual freedom. They support a highly limited government that stays out of your personal and professional life. They tout a platform that maximizes individual freedom, but also respects the rights of individuals and recognizes a need for security and protection by the federal government. Their primary assertion is that people are capable of being in charge of their own lives.

In their preamble, they state “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty...in which individuals are sovereign over their own lives, and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.” They believe that the only way to achieve peace and prosperity is if people are free to make their own decisions.

LP.org states:
“Libertarians advocate freedom in economic matters, so we’re in favor of lowering and eliminating taxes, slashing bureaucratic regulation of business, and charitable — rather than government — welfare."

Libertarians are also socially inclusive. We think each person should be free to make their own choices so long as they do not infringe on others’ rights. We oppose laws that seek to control people’s personal choices.”

Libertarian Stances on the Issues

  • Free Speech: Libertarians support full freedom of expression with no censorship by the government as long as it does not cause harm.
  • Freedom of Religion: Libertarians believe that everyone is free to practice any religion (or lack thereof) they choose without any interference or involvement of the government. They believe in the full separation of church and state and do not think that religion should have any regulation by the government.
  • Marijuana: Libertarians are quite notorious supporters of the legalization of marijuana. This is due to their fundamental belief that people are free to decide what they voluntarily consume and what risks they take in doing this. Some libertarians believe in the legalization of all drugs while others focus more closely on marijuana.
  • Privacy: Libertarians are against any spying on American citizens. They are also proponents of the Fourth Amendment and take the issue of unreasonable search and seizure very seriously. They believe that this includes email, communication, medical and library records.
  • Personal Relationships: Libertarians believe that the government has no business in people’s personal lives. As such, they do not think that the government should regulate anything related to marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service based on race, gender, sexual orientation or preference, or gender identity.
  • Abortion: Libertarians believe that this is also a personal matter. They recognize that it is a sensitive issue and that “people can hold good-faith views on all sides.” In that, they believe that the government should have nothing to do with regulation of abortion and the individual should be fully in control of this decision.
  • Civil Rights: Libertarians value the rights of every individual to do as they choose. That said, they do concede that some people’s actions may interfere with the civil rights of others. LP indicates that they do wish to protect freedoms of religion, association, speech, the press, and of assembly. They support a “de-militarization” of law enforcement and restricting them from using general surveillance tools, such as chest and dash cameras. They also add that they support internet freedom and privacy.
  • Parental Rights: Libertarian believes that parents are free to raise children based on their own standards and beliefs. Notwithstanding abuse or neglect, they support a parent’s right to educate and guide the moral teachings of their children without interference from the government.
  • Education: Libertarians believe in school choice. They also support home-schooling and alternative education. They assert that parents know what is best for the education of their children. They do not believe the federal government should mandate education. Many oppose standardized testing. They understand that children are individuals as well and are free to learn in a way that is best for them. They include a video on education with their views on education on lp.org. I’ve added it below.

  • Death Penalty: The official platform states that the LP opposes the death penalty in any state.
  • Crime: Libertarians believe that crime is limited to offenses that have a victim. All laws related to victimless crimes should be repealed. They support due process for accused persons who have been accused of an offense with a victim, but if found guilty, they are proponents of restitution to the victim.
  • Self-Defense: Libertarians support the use of force only in defense of life, liberty, and property. They do not believe that anyone should be prosecuted when they act reasonably in self-defense.
  • Guns: Libertarians support the right to keep and bear arms. They oppose any law that restricts those rights. This includes registering and monitoring ownership or transfer of firearms and ammunition. The LP is a large proponent of the Second Amendment.
  • Eminent domain: Libertarians oppose any seizure by the government of property including by eminent domain. They also oppose civil asset forfeiture.
  • Economy: Libertarians think that a good economy is a free-market economy. They believe that individual business owners have a right to run their business free of any interference from the government, including limits on profits, pricing, production, and whom the business chooses to trade with. They believe that the government should only be involved in the economy to protect property rights, voluntary trade and deal with disputes. They oppose the taking of property as a penalty for not paying taxes. They believe in eliminating taxes anywhere that they can. LP.org states that they want to get “government out of the way of innovation and job creation.”
  • Healthcare: They believe in free-market healthcare. They are fully opposed to government regulation of healthcare and heavily oppose any government mandate or government controlled healthcare.
  • Foreign Policy: Libertarians are opposed to interfering in the affairs of other countries. They believe in military use only as a defense. They do not support a draft of any kind and equate it to slavery. They think that all foreign policy should be focused on communicating and finding peaceful resolutions through diplomacy.
  • Immigration: Libertarian support free travel as long as persons are peaceful. They are welcoming to immigrants seeking an improvement in their lives. They state that the United States is a nation of immigrants of all backgrounds and walks of life. They oppose merit-based immigration. The only restriction Libertarians believe should be imposed on immigration is for persons with a record of violence, credible plans for violence, or violent activity. They support simplifying the immigration process and make it fair, reasonable and accessible.

For more information on the Libertarian Party or to get involved, visit LP.ORG

Unsure about voting for a third party candidate? Have a look at my article on Third Party Voting.

Would you vote for a third party?

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