In recent years, a growing number of Americans have become interested in Libertarianism. As more people become dissatisfied with the current political climate, many are waking up and seeking an alternative. In popular media, we see Libertarians portrayed as nothing more than fringe lunatics. While there are indeed fringe groups within the ideology (as with any political movement), the movement as a whole is quite diverse and encompasses a wide range of ideas. What follows is a primer on the various ideologies.
Libertarianism in General
Despite the aforementioned diversity, most Libertarians can agree on a few things. One cornerstone of the libertarian ideology is support for free markets and capitalism. Capitalism is used as a snarl word by the left, being blamed for all the ills of society, and conjuring images of unethical business barons, but the so-called capitalism they so revile, is actually Crony Capitalism, a corrupt coalition of government and private interests.
A truly free market is one in which there exists strong competition, minimal (if any) regulation, and no government subsides. Prices are determined by merely by the flow of supply and demand.
The second idea that nearly all libertarians agree on is individual liberty, private property, and self-ownership. From a Libertarian perspective, an individual has the right to make their own decisions about everything from what they choose to do with their bodies, what they choose to purchase, and what they choose to say. Libertarians believe that as long as one does not harm another individual, they should not face legal repercussions. Libertarians generally oppose the War On Drugs, anti-gun laws, and censorship.
Classical Liberalism is the origin of most Libertarian schools of thought and is often used interchangeably with the term. Philosophers such as John Locke and Adam Smith are key figures in the development of Classical Liberalism. It is the belief in individual freedom under rule of law including freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the right to free speech, the right to free assembly and a free market.
Friedrich Hayek was one prominent advocate of such ideas
Bleeding Heart Libertarianism
Bleeding Heart Libertarians value free markets and individual liberty, and a concern for the well-being of the poor, vulnerable and worst off in society. Some Bleeding Heart Libertarians believe that the free market along will itself provide the best standard of living for those in need, while others advocate a minimal welfare state and programs such as Basic Income. Bleeding Heart Libertarianism is sometimes referred to as the Arizona School.
Advocates of this ideology include Kevin Vallier, Matt Zwolinski, and Jason Brennan. Yours truly is also an advocate of this school of thought.
Anarcho-Capitalism is a relatively young ideology compared to most. Anarcho-Capitalists support the complete and total abolition of the State. They believe the use of force, unless in self-defense, is inherently immoral. There are quite a few branches of Anarcho-Capitalism, including Voluntaryism and Agorism. Early influences on the development of Anarcho-Capitalism are Lysander Spooner and Benjaimin Ricketson Tucker. Those aforementioned anarchist philosophers were not themselves Anarcho-Capitalists, but their works influenced Murray Rothbard. Murray Rothbard is arguably the true ideological founder of Anarcho-Capitalism. His work influenced the controversial political philosopher, Hans-Hermann Hoppe (it should be noted that Hoppe is also a culturally conservative libertarian and is a rather divisive figure, even among An-Caps). Other Anarcho-Capitalists include Michael Huemer, David D. Friedman, Adam Kokesh, Stefan Molyneux, and Bruce L. Benson.
There are many other sub-sets and strains of Libertarian philosophy, but the preceding are a few of the more common strains you’ll find today. It if often said that trying to unite libertarians is like trying to herd cats. This is only natural with an individualist ideology, as it tends to draw those who value thinking for themselves. Libertarians come in many stripes, and none truly fit under a single, one size fits all banner.