Libertarianism (from Latin: libertas, meaning "freedom"), or libertarism (from French: libertaire, meaning "libertarian"), is a political philosophy and movement that upholds liberty as a core principle. Libertarians seek to maximize political freedom and autonomy, emphasizing individualism, freedom of choice and voluntary association. Libertarians share a skepticism of authority and state power, but they diverge on the scope of their opposition to existing economic and political systems. Various schools of libertarian thought offer a range of views regarding the legitimate functions of state and private power, often calling for the restriction or dissolution of coercive social institutions. Different categorizations have been used to distinguish various forms of libertarianism. This is done to distinguish libertarian views on the nature of property and capital, usually along left–right or socialist–capitalist lines.

Libertarianism originated as a form of left-wing politics such as anti-authoritarian and anti-state socialists like anarchists, especially social anarchists, but more generally libertarian communists/Marxists and libertarian socialists. Those libertarians seek to abolish capitalism and private ownership of the means of production, or else to restrict their purview or effects to usufruct property norms, in favor of common or cooperative ownership and management, viewing private property as a barrier to freedom and liberty.

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The Austrian School is a heterodox school of economic thought that emphasizes the spontaneous organizing power of the price mechanism. Its name derives from the identity of its founders and early supporters, who were citizens of the old Austrian Habsburg Empire, including Carl Menger, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Ludwig von Mises and Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek. Currently, adherents of the Austrian School can come from any part of the world, but they are often referred to simply as Austrian economists and their work as Austrian economics.

The Austrian School was influential in the late 19th and early 20th century. Austrian contributions to mainstream economic thought include involvement in the development of the neoclassical theory of value and the subjective theory of value on which it is based as well as contributions to the "economic calculation debate" which concerns the allocative properties of a centrally planned economy versus a decentralized free market economy. From the middle of the 20th century onwards, it has been considered outside the mainstream, with notable criticisms related to the Austrian School leveled by economists such as Bryan Caplan, Jeffrey Sachs and Nobel laureates Paul Samuelson, Milton Friedman and Paul Krugman. Followers of the Austrian School are now most frequently associated with American libertarian political perspectives that emanate from such bodies as the Ludwig von Mises Institute and George Mason University in the United States.

Austrian School principles advocate strict adherence to methodological individualism—analyzing human action exclusively from the perspective of an individual agent. Austrian economists also argue that mathematical models and statistics are an unreliable means of analyzing and testing economic theory and advocate deriving economic theory logically from basic principles of human action, a method they term "praxeology". Additionally, whereas experimental research and natural experiments are often used in mainstream economics, Austrian economists contend that testability in economics is virtually impossible since it relies on human actors who cannot be placed in a lab setting without altering their would-be actions. Mainstream economists are generally critical of methodologies used by modern Austrian economists—in particular, a primary Austrian School method of deriving theories has been criticized by mainstream economists as a priori "non-empirical" analysis and differing from the practices of scientific theorizing as widely conducted in economics.

Austrian School economists generally hold that the complexity of human behavior makes mathematical modeling of an evolving market extremely difficult (or undecidable) and advocate a laissez faire approach to the economy. They advocate the strict enforcement of voluntary contractual agreements between economic agents and hold that commercial transactions should be subject to the smallest possible imposition of coercive forces. In particular, they argue for an extremely limited role for government and the smallest possible amount of government intervention in the economy.

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The Constitution does not say who will become traitors, by "levying war against the United States, or adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

It is, therefore, only by inference, or reasoning, that we can know who will become traitors by these acts.

Certainly if Englishmen, Frenchmen, Austrians, or Italians, making no professions of support or friendship to the United States, levy war against them, or adhere to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort, they do not thereby make themselves traitors, within the meaning of the Constitution; and why? Solely because they would not be traitors in fact. Making no professions of support or friendship, they would practice no treachery, deceit, or breach of faith. But if they should voluntarily enter either the civil or military service of the United States, and pledge fidelity to them, (without being naturalized,) and should then betray the trusts reposed in them, either by turning their guns against the United States, or by giving aid and comfort to their enemies, they would be traitors in fact; and therefore traitors within the meaning of the Constitution; and could be lawfully punished as such.

There is not, in the Constitution, a syllable that implies that persons, born within the territorial limits of the United States, have allegiance imposed upon them on account of their birth in the country, or that they will be judged by any different rule, on the subject of treason, than persons of foreign birth. And there is no power, in Congress, to add to, or alter, the language of the Constitution, on this point, so as to make it more comprehensive than it now is. Therefore treason in fact – that is, actual treachery, deceit, or breach of faith – must be shown in the case of a native of the United States, equally as in the case of a foreigner, before he can be said to be a traitor.

— Lysander Spooner (1808–1887)
No Treason (1867)

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The Nolan chart, whose basic form is used in the World's Smallest Political Quiz
Credit: JayCoop

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Murray Newton Rothbard
Murray Newton Rothbard was an American economist of the Austrian School who helped define modern libertarianism and founded a form of free market anarchism he termed "anarcho-capitalism".

An individualist anarchist of the Austrian School of economics, Rothbard associated with the Objectivists in his early thirties before allying with the New Left in the 1960s and eventually joining the radical caucus of the Libertarian Party. In the course of his life, Rothbard was associated with a number of political thinkers and movements. During the early 1950s, he studied under the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises along with George Reisman. He then began working for the William Volker Fund. During the late 1950s, Rothbard was an associate of Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden, a relationship later lampooned in his unpublished play Mozart Was a Red. In the late 1960s, Rothbard advocated an alliance with the New Left anti-war movement on the grounds that the conservative movement had been completely subsumed by the statist establishment.

However, Rothbard later criticized the New Left for not truly being against the draft and supporting a "People's Republic" style draft. It was during this phase that he associated with Karl Hess and founded Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought with Leonard Liggio and George Resch, which existed from 1965 to 1968. From 1969 to 1984, he edited The Libertarian Forum, also initially with Hess (although Hess' involvement ended in 1971). In 1977, he established the Journal of Libertarian Studies, which he edited until his death in 1995.


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