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The Libertarian Movement: An Analysis

Sarah Craig

Respectfully submitted to Doctor Joy Qualls

August 17, 2015
Liberty University: SCOM 345-D0


Libertarians stand rooted in the idea of personal liberty and limited government (Watts,
2010). Individuals such as Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand helped rebirth
Americas founding leaders vision of limited government and maximum liberty. Although there
are different spectrums of Libertarians, it is with mutual agreement that all Libertarians are wary
of Democrats and Republicans, feeling neither can be trusted to defend Americas Bill of Rights
(Watts, 2010). Libertarianism allows for the joining of the two parties together, while also
allowing the room for favoring more in either the left or right spectrum. Civil liberties, limited
government, free market economics, personal autonomy, and property rights are the cornerstones
of individual liberty to the Libertarian. Ultimately believing all people should be free to live their
lives as they see fit so long as they do not violate, harm, or scam others in the process (Watts,
The current unaccountable and overreaching government exemplifies the growth of the
libertarian movement. However, the momentum of the libertarian movement is in direct relation
to previous and current presidential elections, particularly to the campaigns of Ron Paul, Gary
Johnson, and Rand Paul. Multiple polls and surveys are showing a continuing growth in the
number of Americans identifying as or with Libertarians. As of 2015, 44 percent of Americans
claim to be the Libertarian combination of socially liberal and economically conservative
(Guckert, 2015). An analysis of the contemporary Libertarian movement reveals that a growing
number of Americans, particularly millennials, desire maximum liberty and minimum
government; limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. This analysis will
cover the history of Libertarianism, details of the Libertarian philosophy, the Libertarian
spectrum, the contemporary Libertarian movement, and evidence of its growth in America.


History of Libertarianism
Libertarianism originates from the classical liberalism of John Locke and other founders
of America. John Locke and America's founders stressed the individual's right to life, liberty,
private property, and the pursuit of happiness (Libertarianism, 2011). Due to the Libertarians
middle ground approach to the left-right political spectrum, Libertarianism includes a diverse
array of thinkers including such as Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand
(Libertarianism, 2011). Ludwig von Mises was firm in his opposition to state interventionism of
all kinds, from redistributive welfare to fascism (Libertarianism, 2011). The Austrian-school
economist advocated laissez-faire capitalism, viewing private property and free markets to the
flourishing of entrepreneurial innovation (Libertarianism, 2011). Mises saw government
intervention in the economy as dangerous to natural price equilibrium and the delicate,
interwoven structure of supply and demand (Libertarianism, 2011). Mises correctly theorized the
business cycle phenomena of inflation and unemployment in government manipulation of the
money supply (Libertarianism, 2011). Murray N. Rothbard was also profoundly influential to
Libertarianism (Libertarianism, 2011). As a student of Ludwig von Mises, Rothbard further
developed the Misesian business cycle theory, focusing on its class dynamics (Libertarianism,
2011). According to The Encyclopedia of Political Science, Rothbard correctly theorized that
central banking creates a structure of class privilege, in which systematic inflation of the money
supply causes not only the boom-bust cycle but also a fundamental redistribution of wealth to
some groups at the expense of others (Libertarianism, 2011).
Leaning more liberally as opposed to Mises and Rothbard was Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand
thought Mises and Rothbard disconnected their political commitment to freedom from the wider
philosophical and cultural context (Rand, 2011). Ayn Rand challenged the establishment parties


as well as the traditional left-right political spectrum (Rand, 2011). Despite her disagreements
with Mises and Rothbard, she openly shared common ground with them, a key aspect of
Libertarianism. Rand agreed with Mises and Rothbards strong opposition to state
interventionism (Rand, 2011). Rand was even influenced by Misess theory of business cycles,
monopolies, and social crises (Rand, 2011). Rand influenced the mutual agreement of
Libertarianism through her belief of minimal government versus her liberal belief toward issues
like gay marriage and abortion (Rand, 2011). Ayn Rand authored both fiction and nonfiction. Her
two most influential novels are The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. The Libertarian Party
became an official political party in December of 1971, at the home of David Nolan and eight
fellow Libertarians (Libertarian Party, 2015). They held their first national convention the
following year, nominating John Hospers as their president (Libertarian Party, 2015). The
Libertarian Party is now the third-largest political party in the United States (Libertarian Party,
Libertarianism: The Libertarian Philosophy
According to the Dictionary of American Government and Politics, Libertarianism is
defined as political philosophy that stresses the importance of individual liberty (Watts, 2010).
Libertarianism rests on the foundation that personal, political, and economic liberty results in
maximum well-being and efficiency for all (Watts, 2010). While the core of the Libertarian
philosophy is maximum liberty and minimum government, Libertarianism is much deeper and
more complex than that. Civil liberties, limited government, free market economics, personal
autonomy, and property rights all encompass the Libertarian philosophy.


Civil liberties are first and foremost to the Libertarian. While many people use civil
liberties and civil rights interchangeably, they are not the same. Civil rights deal with abuses
under the law, civil liberties are the rights granted by the Constitution. Former civil attorney and
founder of The Future of Freedom Foundation, Jacob G. Hornberger says, Contrary to popular
opinion by what Americans are so often taught by their government officials, the procedural
safeguards in the Constitution are not mere technicalities to protect the guilty. They are instead
well-established safeguards to protect the innocent; those who have been accused falsely of a
crime by their government officials (Hornberger, 1990). Hornberger goes on to explain further
that all too often he had cases where law enforcement denied his client's Constitutional rights
until he had to prove their innocence. For example, the right to be protected from unreasonable
searches without warrant under the Fourth Amendment, the right to remain silent by our Fifth
Amendment, and the right to a fair trial by our Sixth Amendment. Many forget that these are
Constitutional rights the more that our government ignores and disrespects them, and as
Hornberger also says, losing one is a threat to losing them all (Hornberger, 1990). Because our
Constitution was designed to protect the people from an overreaching government, so the
Libertarian expects that an overreaching government would eventually dishonor the Constitution
in a growing attempt to remove its safeguards.
Libertarians define overreaching government as one that micromanages and enforces
beyond the boundaries of preventing and punishing coercion and violence. Libertarians also refer
to the government as out of control the more it disrespects the Constitution. Due to the
Libertarian belief that limited government is vital to freedom, Libertarians particularly oppose
government interference in the economy and the personal lives of its people (Watts, 2010). The
Cato Institute, the premier Libertarian think tank for 35 years, explains that accomplishing


limited government is through a written constitution that keeps the government from
overstepping its power (Boaz, 1999). The purpose of the written constitution circles back to why
civil liberties are most important, to ultimately protect the people from its government.
Libertarian economists strongly embrace the Laissez-faire capitalist economic system
(Johnson, 2005). The Encyclopedia of American Business defines Laissez-faire as let them do
or leave it alone originating in the protests of the 18th-century French conflict between
government and business regulation (Laissez-Faire, 2011). The leave it alone and let them
do pertains to a free market economy without government involvement (Laissez-Faire, 2011).
And a free market economy is the economic system to free people (Boaz, 1999). Libertarians
promote lowering taxes, limiting bureaucratic regulation of businesses, and empowering
charitable welfare as opposed to government welfare (Watts, 2010). Unfortunately, the Federal
Reserve Banks monetary policies vastly influence and regulates the economy. The Federal
Reserve Bank influences and controls interest rates through its buying and selling of assets,
Treasury bonds, and mortgage-backed securities from the federal government. The Federal
Reserves monetary policies are also responsible for elevating the national debt and devaluing
the dollar (Snyder, 2013).
Libertarians have a strong sense of personal autonomy. James Taylor (2005) in his book
Personal Autonomy: New Essays on Personal Autonomy and Its Role in Contemporary Moral
Philosophy defines Autonomy as self-law or self-rule (p. 183). Therefore, an autonomous
individual is one who is fully responsible for their life and the choices that they make, whether
good or bad, like that of free will. Also equally important to autonomy is consent, or allowing the
influence of others to overrule ones judgment without agreement (Taylor, 2005). Consent is
important because Libertarians believe it is vital to respect the personal liberty of others as well


as our own. Libertarians support autonomy because it is essential to a free person. Autonomy is
why most Libertarians believe that drugs should be legal. Libertarians also believe that
prostitution should be legal because actions between consenting adults should be of no business
to the government. However, these issues are subject to shift more politically left or right
depending on the individual Libertarian.
For Libertarians, property rights are important but a complicated issue. Maximizing
freedom is different from total freedom in that granting private property, and ownership rights
are restricting the freedom of those who do not own the rights to the same piece of land or work.
There are three types of property, and it is important to understand their differences. The most
fundamental property claim is the ownership of our bodies (Friedman, 2013). No one has the
right to harm or force another. Maximum personal liberty to the Libertarian does not equate the
freedom to violate the rights of others. Property created by human action is also easily definable
(Friedman, 2013). A painter has full rights to their paintings. A farmer has full rights to their
crop. However, private property of land is not easily definable. Land is an uncreated resource,
making it difficult to say how anyone could have a right to it (Friedman, 2013). However,
Libertarian writer Matt Zwolinski for the Cato Institute would say that no property rights means
no industry or trade, even in their crudest and most basic forms. (Zwolinski, 2013). Private
property of land provides a safe space for individuals and their families to live. Private property
of land also provides a safe space for individuals to conduct business. It would only restrict
freedom more without a system of private property in place, by preventing others from enjoying
the full benefits of what others can make that one cannot make for themselves (Zwolinski, 2013).
Because of the cognitive effort it takes to move past the establishment parties,
Libertarianism requires elaboration likelihood model of persuasion at the central route of its


continuum. The central route requires information processing that occurs as a result of a persons
careful and thoughtful considerations of the true merits of the information present (Larson, 2013,
pp. 96). Libertarianism requires one to think outside mainstream media and business as usual
establishment politics. Libertarians refer this central route information processing as waking
up to the truth, that both establishment parties and the media that promotes them are
manipulative and self-seeking as well as dangerous. School, home life, and media teach the
Democrat and Republican principles from childhood also known as the cultural pattern, or
socially transmitted values (Larson, 2013, pp. 258). It requires less cognition, called the
peripheral route located on the opposite end of the elaboration likelihood model continuum
(Larson, 2013, pp. 96) for an adult to accept either establishment party this way. Libertarians
refer to individuals who believe everything they are told by the media and business as usual
politicians as sheeple or sheep people, difficult to persuade against their cultural patterns
otherwise known as socially transmitted values.

The Libertarian Spectrum

Libertarianism has a complexity and depth that make it more appealing to those who find
the establishment Democrat or Republican political parties too authoritarian. Libertarianism
allows for the joining of the two parties together, while also allowing the room for favoring more
in either direction. The Libertarian spectrum includes the pure Libertarian, Libertarian-left; also
known as Liberal Libertarian, Libertarian-right; also known as Conservative Libertarian, and
Libertarian-Leaning. The pure Libertarian has a purely liberal stance on personal freedom along
with a purely conservative stance on economics. The issues that typically cause a Libertarian to


lean more liberally or conservatively involve where they stand on specific issues socially and
economically but, for the most part, remain true to Libertarianism. The issue of abortion is one
such issue that causes a Libertarian to lean more left or right. While some believe the right to
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness includes the unborn child others believe that women
have the right to do what they choose with their bodies regardless.
Other issues open to Libertarian interpretation include foreign intervention, drug policy,
marriage equality, and business regulation. Libertarians approach these issues, and others like it,
in a way that allows people who disagree to rest on their mutual ground and discuss the issue
intelligently. They see first their commonality not their differences, unlike the Democrat and
Republican parties (Davies & Harrigan, 2013). Libertarian-leaning pertains to the Democrat or
Republican who holds true to their party, but leans closely to Libertarianism. For example,
Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul is considered by most as a Libertarian-leaning
Republican (Boaz, 2015).
There are currently two surveys that accurately place an individual on a chart to help the
individual discover where their Libertarian loyalties lie on the political spectrum. The first of the
two is the Nolan Chart, developed by Libertarian Party Co-Founder David Nolan in 1965
(Mariotti, 2013). The Nolan Chart is a visual representation of the political spectrum that
measures not only liberal versus conservative tendencies but also Libertarian versus
Authoritarian tendencies (Nolan Chart, 2015). By placing social issues along the Y axis and
economic issues along the X axis, the Nolan Chart gives an accurate and meaningful
representation of the surveyors political viewpoint (Nolan Chart, 2015). The Nolan Chart
updated in 2007. The current version presents an even more accurate and meaningful
representation with its gray area for the centrist, due to the blurred beliefs many suffer from



(Nolan Chart, 2015). The second survey that will accurately represent ones political viewpoint
on a chart is the Political Compass test. While the questions on the Political Compass are more
ambiguous than the questions on the Nolan Chart, the questions are different and help solidify
each other in ones quest to know ones political loyalties. The Political Compass test has
received many enthusiastic reviews from professors and media around the world (Political
Compass, 2015).

The Contemporary Libertarian Movement

Previous elections, due to particular candidates, have exemplified the growth of the
Libertarian movement. Much of the current Libertarian energy originated from the presidential
campaigns of former Texas Senator Ron Paul and New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (Boaz,
2014). Ever since Ron Pauls election victory to Congress as an Independent in 1976, he was
preaching against big government spending, money printing, and warmongering (Boaz, 2012).
However, it was not until Ron Pauls 2008 presidential campaign that the Libertarian movement
got its momentum, propelling it into what it is today. In Ron Pauls 2008 presidential campaign,
he carried less than six percent of the Republican electorate, and in 2012 his second run nearly
doubled in votes (Guckert, 2015). In particular, during a 2008 debate Ron had a fiery exchange
with Rudy Giuliani over foreign policy that was powerful enough to garner attention from media
(Boaz, 2012). As Ron Pauls attention grew through grassroots via social media, he had more
YouTube subscribers than Senator Obama, so did Republicans awareness of the unconstitutional
acts of the Republican administration (Boaz, 2012). Ron Pauls message effectively reached out
to new voters of all ages at some of the highest rates seen supporting any candidate (Krieger,



2012). At this point, Ron Paul had a clear following of Americans who are fed up with both
establishment political parties. Just as David Boaz said, Its not that Ron Paul moved closer to
the center but rather that the center of American political discussion moved closer to him (Boaz,
2012). Ron Paul ran again as an Independent in 2012, and even though he lost the delegates he
needed to win, his popularity has only continued to grow since. Also in 2012, former New
Mexico Governor Gary Johnson ran for president as a Libertarian. Even though he was denied to
participate in the debates, his campaign marked the Libertarian partys high point in presidential
elections (Leahy, 2014). Johnson succeeded obtaining 1.2 million votes in his favor, exactly one
percent of the popular vote during the 2012 presidential election (Leahy, 2014).
While Libertarianism is arguably the most ethical political party, unfortunately, Ron
Pauls campaign in 2012 violated ethics of deception. Deception is a broad term that includes any
intentional behavior that misleads, misinforms, or misdirects (Larson, 2013, pp. 53). Iowa
Senator Kent Sorenson admitted to receiving pay first by Michele Bachmanns campaign and
later Ron Pauls for endorsement (Gold, 2014). Sorenson and both campaigns denied the
accusations until he pled guilty in 2014 (Gold, 2014). Sorenson admitted to receiving $7,500
from Bachmanns then $73,000 to switch to Pauls (Gold, 2014). While most of Ron Pauls
supporters argue that this ethics violation does not take away from his message, others would cite
that any violation of ethics ruins ones reputation. The ability to be trustworthy in the highest
office of the land is delicate to voters, no matter how insignificant the violation. Most likely this
is why Ron Paul has decided to not run again in 2016.
Today, Ron Pauls son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, is running for president. While
some argue that Rand Paul is not as true to Libertarianism as his father, others dismiss such
accusations. Rand Paul previously ran his father's campaigns, as well as his Libertarian



legislation and voting history during his first and current term in office is evident of
Libertarianism. On multiple occasions, Rand has fought against unconstitutional legislation and
big government overreach, particularly by his filibusters. The first filibuster was unsuccessful
against President Obamas claim to the right to execute secret orders to assassinate any American
citizen without due process via drone strike (Friedersdorf, 2014). The second filibuster being
successful against the renewal of the USA Patriot Act (Pappas, 2015). Interestingly, Rand Paul is
much like his father Ron, sharing typically more conservative Libertarian views towards issues
like abortion, the only major difference is Rand running as Republican and not Independent.
Presidential candidate Rand Pauls opinion of contemporary Libertarianism is evidence of his
Libertarian-leaning tactics. I think a plurality of Americans dont consider themselves to be
either Republicans or Democrats. I also think there was a time, maybe 30 years ago, when
Libertarian was a term that scared people. Now I think it seems more like a moderate point of
view. So I think the term is something that is attracting, not repelling people (Leahy, 2014).

The Libertarian Movements Growth

TIME published an article by Nick Gillespie in 2013 explaining the growing expansion
of the Libertarian movement. He said, After a dozen-plus years of government mismanagement
of the economy, foreign policy, and basic civil liberties under Republicans and Democrats, a
record number of Americans rightly believe that the government has too much power.
Libertarians are young, intense, principled, and highly engaged in politics. They are going to be
around for a long time to come, and in ever-larger numbers (Gillespie, 2013). In this case,
statistics (Larson, 2013, pp. 243) proves to be an effective method of persuasion among many,



considering that individuals tend to listen and follow their connections in social media. For
example, the more who see the Libertarian movement's growth statistically, and seeing people
they know affiliate themselves with it, more will begin to affiliate as well.
The Libertarian movement relies on different arguments to persuade others to wake up.
Cause-effect reasoning and proof (Larson, 2013, pp. 228-229) are the most successful arguments
Libertarians use. The Cause-effect of elected officials from both parties resulting in the same
constitutional violations and ineffective policies and the proof of their corruption have mostly
resulted in more Americans waking up. In February of 2015 TIME published writings by David
Boaz of the Cato Institute. Boaz further solidified the Libertarian movements continuous growth
as a product of the expansion of government overreach during former President Bush and current
President Obamas terms (Boaz, 2015). There are many issues that Americans cite as evidence of
an overreaching out of control government and unfortunately, the current disrespect of Civil
Liberty is one of them, contributing to the growth of the Libertarian movement. Examples of
passed legislation that violates multiple amendments in the U.S. Constitution are the USA Patriot
Act, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance
Act. The USA Patriot Act violates Americans Fourth Amendment right to unwarranted searches
and seizures through its authorization of the bulk collection of all Americans telecommunication
data (Barnett, 2015). The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act violates Americans Fourth and
Eighth Amendment rights; with the Eighth Amendment protecting from cruel and unusual
punishment (Hallow, 2015). The National Defense Authorization Act violates Americans First,
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment rights (112th Congress, 2012). The First
Amendment protects free speech, the Fifth Amendment grants the right to remain silent, and the



Sixth Amendment grants the right to a fair trial (112th Congress, 2012). These constitutional
violations are examples of proof in support of the Libertarian movement growing.
Americas welfare system is another disastrous example of what Libertarians consider
government waste and overreach (Zwolinski, 2015). The federal government spends over $600
billion on 120 different welfare programs (Zwolinski, 2015). Most Libertarians say these
programs create the incentive to stay in poverty rather than working to become financially stable,
contributing to the destruction of the middle class (Bluey, 2012). Other government overreaching
includes massive taxpayer bailouts, bureaucratic regulation of businesses, the IRS scandals, the
Federal Reserves monetary policies, excessive executive orders, 18 trillion dollars in national
debt, and government-subsidized health care.
In 2011, CNN and Gallup Polls conducted a poll based on peoples belief in whether or
not the government is doing too much or not enough (Silver, 2011). The Libertarian response, the
government is doing too much, was as high as 63 percent (Silver, 2011). This Libertarian
response is up from 61 percent in 2010 and 52 percent in 2008 (Silver, 2011). A solid indicator of
an ever-expanding political movement. Also, a 2013 survey conducted by the Public Religion
Research Institute found that 22 percent of Americans are consistent Libertarians or Libertarian
leaners (Harris, 2013). According to the same survey, one in every four of these Libertarians are
under 30 millennials (Harris, 2013).
In 2014 according to one Harvard poll, only 47 percent of millennials approved of the
presidents job performance as of April of 2014 (Gaven, 2014). Other polls by Harvard has
shown how the same millennials feel about how the president has handled other important issues.
Climate change with 51 percent disapproval, the economy with 61 percent disapproval, Iran with



59 percent disapproval, healthcare with 59 percent disapproval, the federal budget deficit with 66
percent disapproval, Syria with 62 percent disapproval, student debt with 60 percent disapproval,
and the Ukraine with 59 percent disapproval (Gaven, 2014). The Pew Research Center conducted
their own surveying search of Libertarians in 2014. Pew discovered 57 percent of both those who
identify and do not identify as Libertarian know what the term means (Kiley, 2014). 14 percent
of that number claimed to be Libertarian, and about 11 percent who described themselves as
Libertarian know what the term means (Kiley, 2014).
As of 2015, 44 percent of Americans claim specifically to be socially liberal and
economically conservative, many unaware of that defining Libertarianism (Guckert, 2015). The
Cato Institute conducted and published their surveys discovering that between 30 and 40 million
Americans hold Libertarian views on a range of questions (Boaz, 2015). And the latest Gallup
Governance Survey found that 24 percent of their responders fall into the Libertarian spectrum as
well, all rather powerful numbers for a growing political movement (Boaz, 2015). While these
differing organizations and institutions concluded separate results, one thing is clear, the numbers
are large and growing.

Libertarians strongly advocate personal liberty and small government. Individuals such as
Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand renewed the vision of limited government
and maximum liberty that Americas founders had, solidifying the libertarianism. Libertarians
share mutual agreement distrusting the establishment left-right parties. Libertarianism allows for
the joining of the two parties together, while also allowing favoritism in either direction.



Libertarians continue to identify with each other regardless of any difference in opinion on
specific issues, like abortion, so long as they share the common ground of limited government
and maximum liberty. Civil liberties, limited government, free market economics, personal
autonomy, and property rights all encompass what libertarians advocate. Believing individuals
own themselves, and their labor, libertarians think all people should be free to live their lives and
pursue their goals in their individual way. So long as they do not violate the freedom of another
in the process.
Previous presidential candidates have given the Libertarian movement its momentum,
who campaigned awareness to the current out of control and overreaching government. Multiple
polls and surveys show the number of Americans identifying as or with Libertarians is growing
as fast as the government. Responsible for this growth is the result of what Libertarians view as
an unaccountable and out of control due government, dishonoring the Constitution. As of 2015,
44 percent of Americans claim to be socially liberal and economically conservative, which is
Libertarian by definition (Guckert, 2015). This analysis of the contemporary Libertarian
movement reveals that a growing number of Americans, particularly millennials, desire
maximum liberty and minimum government; limited to protecting individuals from coercion and




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