5. Overview of Beliefs
Views within specific political parties generally follow the same principle objectives; some variation on these principles does exist, however, and depends on the individual’s tendency on the liberal-conservative scale (often referred to as leaning “left” or “right”). Libertarianism is an alternative political party that has gained popularity in the United States over the last few decades. Libertarians, those who identify with Libertarianism as their political philosophy, believe in decreased government involvement and increased private freedoms. These ideas come from Ayn Rand’s proposition that a private individual’s freedom and happiness is above all else as long as it doesn’t infringe upon others’ equal rights. Libertarians tend to espouse a shared view of government intervention - that the government should never be allowed to regulate the lives of the individual. They believe that the solution to political problems lies in a free-market economy, civil liberties, and peace and free-trade.
4. History of the Movement
Eight political activists founded the Libertarian political party in 1971 in Colorado. Six months after its founding, members held their first National Convention and nominated John Hospers as their first presidential candidate. Notably, Libertarian is the first political party in US history to secure an electoral vote for a woman, Tonie Nathan, vice-presidential candidate. The party saw its first elected state legislator in Alaska when Dick Randolph won in 1978. Libertarians continued gaining momentum nationally and in 1994, the US has more than 40 members serving in public office. In 2002, Libertarians had over 1,600 candidates running for office. By the end of 2013, they held 149 elected offices.
3. Notable Libertarians
Although Libertarianism as an American political party is relatively new, the concepts and values behind the movement are ancient. Numerous individuals throughout history have identified with Libertarian principles. Some of them are quite surprising. Notable Libertarians include people as Thomas Jefferson (founding father and principle author of The Declaration of Independence of the US), Isabel Paterson (journalist, novelist, and one of the founders of American Libertarianism), James Madison (fourth US President and author of the Bill of Rights), and Rose Wilder Lane (journalist, travel writer, and political theorist).
2. Criticism of Libertarian Ideology
The criticisms of the Libertarian movement are many and include concerns rooted in environmental, economic, pragmatic and ethical issues. Environmental critics claim that the Libertarian party does not address abuses such as degradation and resource depletion. These critics support regulation because they believe privatizing natural resources could be dangerous. Economic critics oppose government nonintervention because, they argue, uncontrolled economies produce monopolies and redistribution of wealth improve financial health. Pragmatic concerns stem from a lack of actual countries ruled by a complete Libertarian government. And finally, the ethical criticisms point out that deregulated capitalism promotes aggressive coercion among property owners. They also claim that libertarianism is based on the unproven notion that economic growth results in increased quality of life.
1. Modern Significance and Legacy
Perhaps the greatest contribution of Libertarianism towards the development of modern political platforms is the reintroduction of the age-old idea that the private individual should take importance over the government. This political ideology has successfully changed the political landscape in the US and has helped the country divert from a two-party system. If its party does not achieve presidential status in the near future, it is possible that its increased involvement in Congress will keep civil liberties at the forefront of all policy debates.
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