Thursday, August 26, 2010

What is a Libertarian?


Starting a new subject here...

When you have time, I wonder if you would define what you consider the concept of "libertarianism" to mean. Personally, I find the term to be fascinating.

I have in my collection a number of excellent reference books. Starting with my encyclopedias and dictionaries, I found libertarianism to be absolutely absent from my Britannica, as well as most of the dictionaries. Curious, that. I also have three or four compendiums on philosophy. Once again, the term is not even mentioned in them. Curiouser and curiouser...

I had decided to first see what I could learn about this term from bound volumes - and got essentially nowhere. So, reluctantly, I headed for the Internet. Wikipedia has a brave, confusing article on the term - with an external link to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

On reflection, I found this to be rather significant. "Bound volumes" (of reference) may constitute, if you will, a measure of a particular concept's gradual evolution. For instance, my 1944 Webster's cites libertarianism only briefly under the heading of "liberty". The term is then entirely excluded from the 1956 and 1969 editions. What this indicates, to me at least, is that the term had little or no common application at least up to the 70's. On the other hand, the Wikipedia and IEP articles are fairly extensive, which indicates perhaps that the term has only recently come into vogue.

I'm genuinely curious as to what you think the term means - and I don't mind telling you why. You have on more than one occasion identified yourself as a "libertarian". It seems to me this means you are guided (more or less) in your political thought by a specific set of principles. What are they?


P.S. This might be fun.

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