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Encyclopedia > Libertarian

See also Libertarianism and Libertarian Party Libertarianism is a modern political philosophy that supports individual rights, private property rights, and free market capitalism. ... Libertarian Party can refer to several libertarian political parties, including: United States Libertarian Party Libertarian Party of Canada Movimiento Libertario of Costa Rica The Libertarianz of New Zealand Libertarian Society of Iceland There are also political parties that hold some of the same policies as the above parties but do...


Libertarian,is a term for person who has made a conscious and principled commitment, evidenced by a statement or Pledge, to forswear violating other's rights and usually living in voluntary communities: thus in law no longer subject to government supervision. The status was fundamental to and helped create common law, fell into obscurity, and has been revived by the Libertarian movement as essential to social stability especially where desired replacement of government programs with voluntary ones is concerned.

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FREEMAN CONCEPT OF GOVERNMENT


While Libertarian is a term commonly associated with any person desiring less coercive and smaller government thru better attention to individual rights and liberty of exercise thereof. Yet it also has a long received and specific legal definition; this concept of FREEMAN that has been determining the actions of the Libertarian movement in ways not apparent to many commentators. A Libertarian, also called a Franklin, or Freeman, is legally defined as a class of citizen where, by taking a 'Libertarian Pledge' which is an oath or undertaking not to initiate force and generally respect other's rights, one is therefore treated as self-governing and thus immune from the operation or obligations of the government, especially as often defined, namely as an entity sanctioned to impose regulations coercively.


The status was often associated with the right to be a juror deciding law and fact, immunity of one's homestead from commercial use or judicial invasion or levy ("A Man's Home is his Castle" )and immunity from taxes or imprisonment. A person who takes the Pledge is thus a Libertarian: conversely, a Libertarian is, legally since time immemorial, only that person who has solemnly taken the Pledge.


Government, or more precisely government institutions and officials, is thus treated as having strictly a military and auxiliary character, optional to the citizen, as appeared to be the case in e.g. the early Roman Republic. Current theories of government are treated as misguided conflations of several public and private services, religious customs, etc under what was originally a limited military authority, a view with considerable historicity in many countries. In effect, if one treats government as a trust or agency as conceived in the FEDERALIST, a Libertarian, by taking and committing to the pledge, makes the agent formally unnecessary, keeping the agent on a very short leash or dismissing him entirely. The status came under attack in the 1800's, especially by the early US nationalist socialist movement and philosophies of positive, or legislature imposed conventional law; only to be revived starting in the late 1971 into a world movement, when Libertarians in the Us and Spain began reviving public interest.


This last sense, as often commonly understood, is in the sense of the sociologist Weber, who defined it as a territorial monopoly on justice and other services. In contrast, Libertarians advocate a limited confederacy of small communities, with a choice of small (i.e. local), minimal (i.e. services privately provided), or non-governmental communities (e.g. classical anarchist) as may be most suitable to the local users and under the Libertarian pledge, the whole making a voluntary approach for all government programs or services in Weber's sense. The distinction was also made by Ancient writers, e.g. Cicero and many Roman jurists distinguished between coercive government fit only for barbarians, and governance based on negotiation ("Imperium") where even the Senate's decrees were only advisory ("Consultum"), each family acting as seemed best; laws being applicable solely to foreign immigrants or soldiers at war.


LIBERTARIANISM: APPROACH

The Libertarian Pledge effectively summarizes what has been called the principle of "cuius eio," or "to each his own property" or self-ownership, the axiom from which both natural and common law are in principle derived. It also acts to minimize conflict, by engaging conscious understanding and committment to respect others, the very act of talking the Pledge creating social boonds that inoculate against coercive behavior. Often it was used in early societies to teach and elicit commitment to that principle, often with additional specifications such as agreement not to legislatively seize property or change boundary lines (Athens). Modern Libertarianism grows from this practice, and is defined by the [Libertarian International Organization] as, politically, a movement where people seek to protect rights by committing not to initiate force, and develop non-governmental and voluntary means of action to replace current government programs.


As such its approach may be treated as anarchist in the classical sense: Proudhon thus summarized anarchism as the form of social government or constitution, ideally of a small community where order is maintained by public awareness of right with education so as to continually diminish punitive measures; but is Libertarian in that the awareness of right is conscious adoption of the Libertarian non-coercive principle and general knowledge of the voluntary means and structures available (ANARCHISM, Britannica 11th Ed). That is, while a Libertarianism is by that definition anarchist, not all anarchies are Libertarian. In classical usage government and anarchism were often treated as identical, a view that survived among many intellectuals such as Mencken's statement that anarchism was the form of government of educated and peaceful men.


HISTORY

Also called Libertario, Libertarii or Elutheroi in Iberian, Latin and Ancient Greek common law respectively, Libertarians traditionally created self-governing, small communities under the pledge of mutual respect or non-coercion called anarchies (literally no priest-king or, in some readings, personal rule) or more precisely, ataraxies (from the Greek term for self-discipline or self-government, which was always used in parallell to the term anarchy which was more descriptive of a moral attitude) , of which the communes of Ancient Iberia, the city of Thurii (so-called city of Hippodamus) described in Aristotle, and the communes of Pythagoras are held up as examples. According to Plutarch, Numa Pompilius and others adapted 'anarchy for ordinary men' and developed what came to be called polities or in Numa's case, the Roman Republic. The philosophy of anarchism is attributed to the Greek Philosopher Diogenes who himself came from Sinope, believed to have been a Celto-Iberian Libertarian community. However, scholars have noted that in many early Greek societies eleutheroi communities exacted no impositions such as taxes, regulations, forfeitures, slavery or military drafts on citizens. Citizens resolved disputes through arbitrators or juries, and issues such as immigration and bails were handled through personal sponsorship.


Modern Libertarian scholars have also noted similar mechanisms in Celtic law such as the "tuatha" system, early Icelandic common law, and the traditional Xeer law of Somalia. Historian Will Durant notes that the consciously anarchist communities associated with Diogenes generally evolved into Christian monasteries and communities, and the ideal re-surfaced in movements against centralism such as the Amish, who self-govern through a jury process and social pressure. In the medieval period many Libertarian or Libertarian oriented communes flourished and were centers of culture, free trade, and havens from persecution such as the Republic of San Marino and the communes of Galician Spain, along with the more restrictive burger Republics such as Venice. In China similar concepts arose under the T'ang Empire.


RECENT HISTORY

In British common law the status of Libertarian was well established though always in conflict with the central monarchic government; Libertarian scholars have recently pointed out that indeed what was called common law arose from the Libertarian processes of voluntary resolution of disputes. The saying "City Air Makes free" arose as Libertarian or quasi-Libertarian communities offered asylum to slaves, serfs, and criminals fleeing government abuses. Libertarians influenced the small cities, rural communities called "Hundreds," and their non-coercion pledge was recognized as early as King Canute as the basis of common law and good order. Scholars have documented that many mechanisms considered essential to coercive government derived from voluntary and non-governmental mechanisms, such as early juries which remain in law technically private groups selected by the litigants, the Law Merchant, and the initially strictly advisory status of legislatures. Many themes considered advanced in present day Libertarianism, such as individually sponsored control of immigration and private policing, and non-punitive legal process, were fully functional at various times. The founder of the current US Libertarian Party, David Nolan, has noted that the party pledge for members models the similar oaths going back to Ancient Greece.


In the 1800's, even as movements supporting Libertarianism or reviving interest in classical anarchism as a Libertarian form arose, the Freeman status began to fall into legal disuse in many countries under the influence of positive-law, collectivist and conservative ideologies that sought to bring citizens under equal social government control. In the US the status is technically preserved in the privileges and immunities, and common law supremacy, clauses of the Constitution with many remnants in law such as the process of "voire dire" and homesteads immune from taxation. In the UK (Britannica, 11th Edition FREEMAN) the status was essentially gutted as to legal effect into an honorary status under a series of enactments called the Corporation Acts. These had had wide influence, and shaped the attitudes of jurists in not only the British Empire but adjoining countries and there Empires. In the 1970's Libertarian parties and civic action leagues began to arise worldwide dedicated to reviving the Libertarian status through the Pledge, and educating people on how to replace coercive government programs with voluntary structures.


TERMINOLOGY

There is some confusion of terminology among modern Libertarians do, according to the Libertarian International Organization at least in part attributable to a lack of awareness of Libertarian history by many new adherents or even some distinguished academic proponents. Libertarian structures may involve quasi-anarchistic competing limited governments or government programs (if not territorially based modern Libertarians call these anarcho-capitalist, though some confuse anarcho-capitalism with anarchist communities) confederating small local communities through a 'center of information' (as in the FEDERALIST) such as a Congress. These may be traditional anarchies with some degree of formality called mini-governments or mini-archies (or minarchies, some state, incorrectly, that these are not anarchies; they are in fact anarchies with a common and dominating purpose or culture e.g. socialism, a particular mode of religion, etc.) and include everything from New England town governments to Libertarian socialism; minimal governments where all functions are performed privately but there is a symbolic government formal structure for e.g. unity; and plain anarchies that are completely informal and settle disputes through arbitrators or juries under the Libertarian Pledge. The interlocking whole is a Libertarian Republic, with no one stage or form necessarily dominating, allowing people to either develop or simply move conveniently to the most suitable community, as in the US gambling aficionados might simply move to Las Vegas and those unhappy with certain taxes move to communities where such taxes are absent, only more localized due to wider use of small communities. and allowing a natural evolution towards Libertarianism once principles such as anarcho-capitalism, devolution, and intentional communities are accepted, which e.g. are all supported in principle by US law, or even endorsed by opposing political movements where the Greens and international Democrats of the US Endowment for Democracy agree that devolution is critical. THE LIO The Libertarian International Organization or LIO is the transanational network of the Libertarian movement. ...


The Libertarian Republic approach was substantially outlined by the anarchist founder of the first Spanish Republic, Pi y Margall; it still influences Spanish policy today, which emphasizes devolution, local rule, privatization, and other such features.



It also has an arguably firm basis in US Constitutional law: the US Constitution was viewed by many of the Founders as essentially and merely a free trade and defense consultation pact; it barely mentions government, defines it as government of the military and officials (Article I, Sec 8) by the people--and not the reverse--and that Founders such as Jefferson conceived the ultimate goal of the US Revolution when the time is "ripe" as a loose confederation of jury run anarchies and mini-archies he called wards, and compared them to the 'hundreds' of the original British procedure, so it became in many ways a restoration in his writings. Jefferson also wrote about government measures that would be sign posts in the destruction of the US, and his warnings against a draft, a central bank, income taxation, and other items highlight items slated for abolition by US Libertarians. He also developed a system of simplified common law based on the principle of arbitration, minimal action and shunning or excommunion as the main sanction that developed into the now widely used Robert's Rules.


Also, under a policy known as the 'Dallas Accord' the US Libertarian Party (US LP) applies the Libertarian Republic concept by seeing its role as presenting the public with the Libertarian approaches available so they can elect people willing to move government policy in a Libertarian direction: the US LP maintaining, logically enough, that it is not its job but up to local users to decide locally or personally which is best for them. It also is based on the original concept of government as simply management of public officials, which was for many centuries a main use of the term. As a result, US Libertarian Party leaders also reject claims by some libertarian socialists, libertarian municipalists, libertarian mutualists, libertarian communists as being a party unaware of or hostile to their views: they note that under the 'Dallas Accord' they present these as one form of mini-archism, leaving any decisions on their use to the actual users at the local level.


CURRENT REVIVAL

In the XIXth century US Libertarians became determined to restore the Freeman status though adapted to modern times. Indeed, the famed Libertarian commune Modern Times (now the city of Brentwood, New York) served as a laboratory for demonstrating not only a jury run Libertarian anarchism, but as an incubator for everything from private currencies to Victorian women for the first time donning pants. Influential Libertarian groups such as the Foundation for Economic Education's had e.g. a journal named THE FREEMAN; and Libertarian groups have been taking the Libertarian Pledge continuously for decades in a formulation made by Pearl Andrews, an influential Libertarian commune developer of the 1800's.


The form of Pledge developed by US Libertarians emphasizes that one not advocate coercion as a problem solving tool. The US Libertarian Platform (2000) is seen in every area as expressing an application of the Pledge so it is a summary of natural law. It has thus become highly influential in re-thinking and formulating policy: it articulates in key areas the operation of the Freeman's right by presenting or alluding to voluntary alternatives to replace, or make obsolete, current government programs by means of voluntary alternatives. It even begins with a challenge to the state, invoking the ancient legal form by which one refused to recognize a court's legitimacy; a statement re-quoted favorably by Ronald Reagan and the Baltic Worker's statement of rebellion that started the collapse of the Iron Curtain.


Libertarian leaders emphasize the importance of a growing number of Libertarians in the population who, by taking the Libertarian Pledge and thus working to rebuild proactive social bonds--public awareness of right--not only generate demand for Libertarian alternatives, but assure their correct operation so as not to degenerate into the e.g. crony style privatizations they abhor or an excuse for social intolerance. In several countries with differing non-government traditions e.g. China and India, Libertarians have successfully associated the Pledge with the one rule of Confucianism or Taoism, and the swa-tantra or self-responsibility concept in some Hindu traditions. Many US Christian Libertarians also associate the Pledge with the Golden Rule, but as being more aware of other cultures, along with its common law role.


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