"Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others. Libertarians defend each person’s right to life, liberty, and property—rights that people possess naturally, before governments are instituted. In the libertarian view, all human relationships should be voluntary; the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have not themselves used force—actions such as murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and fraud.
Libertarians believe in the presumption of liberty. That is, libertarians believe people ought to be free to live as they choose unless advocates of coercion can make a compelling case. It’s the exercise of power, not the exercise of freedom, that requires justification. The burden of proof ought to be on those who want to limit our freedom. ...
The old ideologies have been tried and found wanting. All around us—from the postcommunist world to the military dictatorships of Africa to the insolvent welfare states of Europe and the Americas—we see the failed legacy of coercion and statism. At the same time we see moves toward libertarian solutions— constitutional government in Eastern Europe and South Africa, privatization in Britain and Latin America, democracy and the rule of law in South Korea and Taiwan, the spread of women’s rights and gay rights, and economic liberalization in China, India, and even some countries in Africa. Challenges to freedom remain, of course, including the continuing lack of Enlightenment values in much of the world, the unsustainable welfare states in the rich countries and the interests that fight reform, the recurring desire for centralized and top-down political institutions such as the Eurozone, Islamist theocracy, and the spread of “populist,” antilibertarian responses to social change and economic crisis. Libertarianism offers an alternative to coercive government that should appeal to peaceful, productive people everywhere.
No, a libertarian world won’t be a perfect one. There will still be inequality, poverty, crime, corruption, man’s inhumanity to man. But unlike the theocratic visionaries, the pie-in-the-sky socialist utopians, or the starry-eyed Mr. Fixits of the New Deal and Great Society, libertarians don’t promise you a rose garden. Karl Popper once said that attempts to create heaven on earth invariably produce hell. Libertarianism holds out the goal not of a perfect society but of a better and freer one. It promises a world in which more of the decisions will be made in the right way by the right person: you. The result will be not an end to crime and poverty and inequality but less—often much less—of most of those things most of the time."