What is a Libertarian

So now we’ve answered the questions “What is a Liberal?” and “What is a Conservative?”. Now it’s time to look at Libertarians.

So what is a Libertarian?

A Libertarian is someone whose positions on issues are driven by a single factor: greed.

[NOTE: If you read my post “What is a Conservative?”, you can skip this section on greed as it is a word-for-word replication.]


Libertarians want to keep what they have, and they want more of it, be it money or guns or status.

The Good

As Gordon Gecko once said, “greed is good.” And he was right. Greed makes us strive to be more than we are, and in that striving we create billion-dollar companies that produce millions of jobs, we create drugs that cure cancer, and we personally better ourselves.

Greed is an achievement engine for humanity.

The Bad

While greed can lead to untold heights, unrestrained greed invariably leads to corruption, inequality, and instability. There is example after example after example after example after example of unregulated greed leading to net negative consequences for our society.

So why do Libertarians argue for little to no regulation and unrestrained free markets if unfettered greed eventually leads to worse conditions for most Americans? Because just as sympathy and a desire for egalitarianism can cloud Liberals’ judgement, so too can greed cloud the judgement of Libertarians. When it comes to issues that will impact their material possessions, Libertarians will ignore, deny, or rewrite history and economic laws because their own desire for personal gain can outweigh any chance for rational thought.

So while Libertarians are correct that greed has led America to the greatest heights of any civilization in the history of the world, they need to be able to take a step back from their selfish desires at times to accurately identify those situations in which moderation of greed is the best course of action.


So an interesting question is, why are there Libertarians? Aren’t Libertarians just another type of Conservative? And if so, why isn’t “maintaining the status quo” part of their belief system like it is with Conservatives?

There are two primary reasons why Libertarianism exists.

There is a sizable portion of Libertarians who are simply driven by greed, and that’s it. They are not socially conservative. They’re happy to see people let their freak flags fly, and as long as nothing gets in the way of everyone accumulating more stuff, they’re perfectly content.

Then there’s the second type of Libertarian, which in my estimation represents the vast majority of them. These people are actually Conservatives. However, they have come to realize that there is a fundamental incompatibility that exists between two core stated principles of Conservatives— small government and maintaining traditional values.

Conservatives say they want small government because a small government does not require much capital to sustain it. Therefore one need only pay very little in taxes — a Conservative’s dream. Government should protect our safety, fix our roads and bridges, and then get out of the way. Don’t interfere with the Free Market, and get out of my personal life.

However, Conservatives are perfectly happy to create a large and powerful government that dictates what women can do with their own bodies (anti-abortion), makes it illegal for a boy to marry another boy (anti-gay marriage), and tells people when they can die (anti-physician-assisted suicide/“pulling the plug”).

Hmm. How does it make sense for Conservatives to believe in a small government that stays out of people’s personal lives but then believe government should dictate what people can and cannot do in their personal lives?

That is a fundamentally incompatible position.

And a portion of the Conservative population has come to understand this contradiction. They realize they must pick one or the other or risk being seen (and seeing themselves) as hypocrites. And as they do their soul searching, they realize that their greed outweighs their desire to maintain traditions and norms. I’m happy to let you get an abortion so long as I get to keep my sh*t and pay as little in taxes as possible. And a Libertarian is born.

So just to recap, greed is a Libertarian’s sole motivator, and this driver can lead to great innovation and economic progress, while at other times cloud Libertarians’ judgment and lead them to deny reality to an extent that results in erroneous conclusions.

NEXT UP: What is a Generalization?, Part I