Right-libertarianism (or right-wing libertarianism, and usually simply referred to as libertarianism) refers to libertarian political philosophies that advocate negative rights, natural law and a major reversal of the modern welfare state.[1] Right-libertarians strongly support private property rights and defend market distribution of natural resources and private property.[2] This position is contrasted with that of some versions of left-libertarianism.[3] Right-libertarianism includes anarcho-capitalism and laissez-faire, minarchist liberalism.[4][5][6]


The non-aggression principle

The non-aggression principle (NAP) is often described as the foundation of present-day right-libertarian philosophies.[7][8][9] It is a moral stance which forbids actions that are inconsistent with capitalist property rights. The principle defines "aggression" and "initiation of force" as violation of these rights. The NAP and property rights are closely linked, since what constitutes aggression depends on what libertarians consider to be one's property.[10]

Because the principle redefines aggression in right-libertarian terms, use of the NAP as a justification for right-libertarianism has been criticized as circular reasoning and as rhetorical obfuscation of the coercive nature of libertarian property law enforcement.[11] The principle has been used rhetorically to oppose such policies as victimless crime laws, taxation and military drafts.

The state

There is a debate amongst right-libertarians as to whether or not the state is legitimate: while anarcho-capitalists advocate its abolition, minarchists support minimal states, often referred to as night-watchman states. Minarchists maintain that the state is necessary for the protection of individuals from aggression, theft, breach of contract and fraud. They believe the only legitimate governmental institutions are the military, police and courts, though some expand this list to include fire departments, prisons and the executive and legislative branches.[12][13][14] They justify the state on the grounds that it is the logical consequence of adhering to the non-aggression principle and argue that anarchism is immoral because it implies that the non-aggression principle is optional and that the enforcement of laws under anarchism is open to competition. Another common justification is that private defense agencies and court firms would tend to represent the interests of those who pay them enough.[15]

Anarcho-capitalists argue that the state violates the non-aggression principle by its nature because governments use force against those who have not stolen or vandalized private property, assaulted anyone, or committed fraud.[16][17] Many also argue that monopolies tend to be corrupt and inefficient and that private defense and court agencies would have to have a good reputation in order to stay in business. Linda and Morris Tannehill argue that no coercive monopoly of force can arise on a truly free market and that a government's citizenry can not desert them in favor of a competent protection and defense agency.[18]

Libertarian philosopher Moshe Kroy argues that the disagreement between anarcho-capitalists who adhere to Murray Rothbard's view of human consciousness and the nature of values and minarchists who adhere to Ayn Rand's view of human consciousness and the nature of values over whether or not the state is moral is not due to a disagreement over the correct interpretation of a mutually held ethical stance. He argues that the disagreement between these two groups is instead the result of their disagreement over the nature of human consciousness and that each group is making the correct interpretation of their differing premises. These two groups are therefore not making any errors with respect to deducing the correct interpretation of any ethical stance because they do not hold the same ethical stance.[19]

Property rights

While there is debate on whether left, right and socialist libertarianism "represent distinct ideologies as opposed to variations on a theme", right-libertarianism is most in favor of private property.[20] Right-libertarians maintain that unowned natural resources "may be appropriated by the first person who discovers them, mixes his labor with them, or merely claims them—without the consent of others, and with little or no payment to them". This contrasts with left-libertarianism in which "unappropriated natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner".[21] Right-libertarians believe that natural resources are originally unowned and therefore private parties may appropriate them at will without the consent of, or owing to, others (e.g. a land value tax).[22]

Right-libertarians (also referred to as propertarians) hold that societies in which private property rights are enforced are the only ones that are both ethical and lead to the best possible outcomes.[23] They generally support the free market and are not opposed to any concentrations of economic power, provided it occurs through non-coercive means.[24]


Libertarianism in the United States developed in the 1950s as many with Old Right or classical liberal beliefs in the United States began to describe themselves as libertarians.[25] H. L. Mencken and Albert Jay Nock were the first prominent figures in the United States to privately call themselves "libertarians".[26][27][28] They believed Franklin D. Roosevelt had co-opted the word "liberal" for his New Deal policies which they opposed and used "libertarian" to signify their allegiance to individualism. Mencken wrote in 1923: "My literary theory, like my politics, is based chiefly upon one idea, to wit, the idea of freedom. I am, in belief, a libertarian of the most extreme variety".[29] However, the term "libertarianism" was first publicly used in the United States as a synonym for classic liberalism in May 1955 by writer Dean Russell, a colleague of Leonard Read and a classic liberal himself, who justified the choice of the word as follows:

Subsequently, a growing number of Americans with classical liberal beliefs in the United States began to describe themselves as "libertarian". The person most responsible for popularizing the term "libertarian" was Murray Rothbard,[31] who started publishing libertarian works in the 1960s.

In the 1950s, Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand developed a philosophical system called Objectivism, expressed in her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged as well as other works, which influenced many libertarians.[32] However, she rejected the label "libertarian" and harshly denounced the libertarian movement as the "hippies of the right".[33] Philosopher John Hospers, a one-time member of Rand's inner circle, proposed a non-initiation of force principle to unite both groups—this statement later became a required "pledge" for candidates of the Libertarian Party and Hospers himself became its first presidential candidate in 1972.

Austrian School economist Murray Rothbard was influenced by the work of the nineteenth-century American individualist anarchists, themselves influenced by classical liberalism.[34] However, Rothbard thought they had a faulty understanding of economics because they accepted the labor theory of value as influenced by the classical economists while he was a student of neoclassical economics which does not agree with the labor theory of value. Rothbard sought to meld 19th-century American individualists' advocacy of free markets and private defense with the principles of Austrian economics: "There is, in the body of thought known as 'Austrian economics,' a scientific explanation of the workings of the free market (and of the consequences of government intervention in that market) which individualist anarchists could easily incorporate into their political and social Weltanschauung".[35]

The Vietnam War split the uneasy alliance between growing numbers of self-identified libertarians, anarchist libertarians and more traditional conservatives who believed in limiting liberty to uphold moral virtues. Libertarians opposed to the war joined the draft resistance and peace movements, as well as organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society. They began founding their own publications, such as Reason magazine and Murray Rothbard's The Libertarian Forum;[36] and organizations like the Radical Libertarian Alliance[37] and Society for Individual Liberty.[37]

Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona presented a challenge to established Republican politics in 1964 that had a major impact on the libertarian movement[38] through his book The Conscience of a Conservative and his run for president in 1964.[39] Goldwater's speech writer, Karl Hess, became a leading libertarian writer and activist.[40]

The split was aggravated at the 1969 Young Americans for Freedom convention, when more than three hundred libertarians organized to take control of the organization from conservatives. The burning of a draft card in protest to a conservative proposal against draft resistance sparked physical confrontations among convention attendees, a walkout by a large number of libertarians, the creation of libertarian organizations like the Society for Individual Liberty and efforts to recruit potential libertarians from conservative organizations.[41] The split was finalized in 1971 when in a New York Times article conservative leader William F. Buckley, Jr. attempted to divorce libertarianism from the freedom movement. He wrote: "The ideological licentiousness that rages through America today makes anarchy attractive to the simple-minded. Even to the ingeniously simple-minded".[42]

In 1971, a small group of Americans led by David Nolan formed the Libertarian Party.[43] The party has run a presidential candidate every election year since 1972. Educational organizations like the Center for Libertarian Studies and the Cato Institute were formed in the 1970s, and others have been created since then.[44]

Modern libertarianism gained significant recognition in academia with the publication of Harvard University professor Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia in 1974, a response to John Rawls's A Theory of Justice. The book proposed a minimal state on the grounds that it was an inevitable phenomenon which could arise without violating individual rights. Anarchy, State, and Utopia won a National Book Award in 1975.[45][46]

British historians Emily Robinson, Camilla Schofield, Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite and Natalie Thomlinson have argued that by the 1970s Britons were keen about defining and claiming their individual rights, identities and perspectives. They demanded greater personal autonomy and self-determination and less outside control. They angrily complained that the 'establishment' was withholding it. They argue this shift in concerns helped cause Thatcherism and was incorporated into Thatcherism's appeal.[47]

Since the resurgence of neoliberalism in the 1970s, free market capitalist libertarianism has spread beyond North America and Europe via think tanks and political parties.[48][49]



Anarcho-capitalism (also referred to as free market anarchism,[50] market anarchism[51] and private property anarchism)[52] is a political philosophy which advocates the elimination of the state in favor of individual sovereignty in a free market capitalism.[53][54][55] In an anarcho-capitalist society, law enforcement, courts and all other security services would be provided by privately funded competitors rather than through taxation and money would be privately and competitively provided in an open market.[56] Therefore personal and economic activities under anarcho-capitalism would be regulated by privately run law rather than through politics.[57]

The most well-known version of anarcho-capitalism was formulated in the mid-twentieth century by Austrian School economist and libertarian Murray Rothbard. Rothbard coined the term and is widely regarded as its founder. He combined the free market approach from the Austrian School of economics (classical liberalism) with the human rights views and a rejection of the state he learned from nineteenth-century American individualist anarchists such as Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker (though he rejected the anarchists' anti-capitalism, along with the labor theory of value and the normative implications they derived from it).[58] In Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism there would first be the implementation of a mutually agreed-upon libertarian "legal code which would be generally accepted and which the courts would pledge themselves to follow".[59] This legal code would recognize sovereignty of the individual and the principle of non-aggression.

Classical liberalism


A night-watchman state, or minarchy, is a model of a state whose only functions are to provide its citizens with the military, the police and courts, thus protecting them from aggression, theft, breach of contract and fraud and enforcing property laws.[12][60][61] 19th-century Britain has been described as standard-bearer of this form of government among European countries.[62]

Robert Nozick received a National Book Award in category Philosophy and Religion.[63] for his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia. There, Nozick argues that only a minimal state limited to the narrow functions of protection against "force, fraud, theft, and administering courts of law"[64] could be justified without violating people's rights.




Traditional classical liberalism is a political philosophy and ideology belonging to liberalism in which primary emphasis is placed on securing the freedom of the individual by limiting the power of the government and maximizing the power of capitalist market forces. The philosophy emerged as a response to the Industrial Revolution and urbanization in the 19th century in Europe and the United States.[65] It advocates civil liberties with a limited government under the rule of law and belief in laissez-faire economic policy.[66][67][68] Classical liberalism is built on ideas that had already arisen by the end of the 18th century, such as selected ideas of Adam Smith, John Locke, Jean-Baptiste Say, Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo, stressing the belief in free market and natural law,[69] utilitarianism[70] and progress. Classical liberals were more suspicious than conservatives of all but the most minimal government[71] and adopting Thomas Hobbes's theory of government they believed government had been created by individuals to protect themselves from one another.

Neoliberalism emerged in the era following World War II during which social liberalism and Keynesianism were the dominant ideologies in the Western world. It was led by economists such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman,[72] who advocated the reduction of the state and a return to classical liberalism (neo-classical liberalism). However, it did accept some aspects of social liberalism, such as some degree of welfare provision by the state, but on a greatly reduced scale. Hayek and Friedman used the term classical liberalism to refer to their ideas, but others use the term to refer to all liberalism before the twentieth century, not to designate any particular set of political views and therefore see all modern developments as being by definition not classical.[73] As a result, the term neoliberalism has often been used as an alternative, though this term has developed negative connotations and is usually only used as a pejorative.


Paleolibertarianism is a variety of libertarianism developed by capitalist theorists Murray Rothbard and Llewellyn Rockwell that combines conservative cultural values and social philosophy with a libertarian opposition to government intervention. Paleolibertarianism is a controversial current due its connections to the Tea Party movement and the alt-right. However, these movements are united by an anti-Obama stance and liberal gun laws instead of further ideological overlaps. In the essay "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement", Rothbard reflected on the ability of paleolibertarians to engage in an "outreach to rednecks" founded on social conservatism and radical libertarianism. He cited former Louisiana State Representative David Duke and former United States Senator Joseph McCarthy as models for the new movement.[74] In Europe, European Union-parliamentarian Janusz Korwin-Mikke supports both libertarian economics and anti-immigration and anti-feminist positions.

Taxation is theft

The idea of taxation as theft is a viewpoint found in a number of political philosophies. Under this view, government transgresses property rights by enforcing compulsory tax collection.[75][76] Voluntaryists, anarcho-capitalists, as well as Objectivists and most minarchists and libertarians see taxation as a clear violation of the non-aggression principle.[77]


Right-libertarianism has been criticized by the political left for being "pro-business" and "anti-labor,"[78] for desiring to repeal government subsidies to the disabled and the poor,[79] and being incapable of addressing environmental issues, and therefore contributing to the failure to slow global climate change.[80]

Noam Chomsky has repeatedly accused right-libertarian ideologies as being akin to "corporate fascism" because of how they remove all public controls from the economy, leaving it solely in the hands of private corporations. Chomsky has also argued that the more radical forms of right-libertarianism, such as anarcho-capitalism, are entirely theoretical and could never function in reality due to business' reliance on state infrastructure and subsidies.

From the right, the traditional conservative philosopher Russell Kirk criticized libertarianism, quoting T. S. Eliot's expression "chirping sectaries" to describe them. Kirk had questioned fusionism between libertarians and traditional conservatives that marked much of the post-war conservatism in the United States.[81] Also stating that although conservatives and libertarians share opposition to collectivism, the totalist state and bureaucracy, they have otherwise nothing in common. He called the libertarian movement "an ideological clique forever splitting into sects still smaller and odder, but rarely conjugating." Believing that a line of division exists between believers in "some sort of transcendent moral order" and "utilitarians admitting no transcendent sanctions for conduct." He included libertarians in the latter category.[82][83]

Contention over placement on the political spectrum

Corey Robin describes right-libertarianism as fundamentally a conservative ideology, united with more traditional conservative thought and goals by a desire to retain hierarchies and traditional social relations:[84] However, within right-libertarianism many reject associations with conservatism and often reject traditional left-right labels.

In the 1960s, Rothbard started the publication Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought, believing that the left–right political spectrum had gone "entirely askew" since conservatives were sometimes more statist than liberals. Rothbard tried to reach out to leftists.[85] In 1971, Rothbard wrote about right-wing libertarianism which he described as supporting self-ownership, property rights and free trade.[86] He would later describe his brand of libertarianism as anarcho-capitalism.[87][88]

Anthony Gregory points out that within the libertarian movement "just as the general concepts 'left' and 'right' are riddled with obfuscation and imprecision, left- and right-libertarianism can refer to any number of varying and at times mutually exclusive political orientations". He writes that one of several ways to look at right-libertarianism is its interest in economic freedom, preference for a conservative lifestyle, view that private business is "a great victim of the state", favoring a non-interventionist foreign policy sharing the Old Right's "opposition to empire". Some pro-property libertarians reject association with either right or left. Leonard E. Read wrote an article titled "Neither Left Nor Right: Libertarians Are Above Authoritarian Degradation".[89] Harry Browne wrote: "We should never define Libertarian positions in terms coined by liberals or conservatives—nor as some variant of their positions. We are not fiscally conservative and socially liberal. We are Libertarians, who believe in individual liberty and personal responsibility on all issues at all times".[90] Tibor R. Machan titled a book of his collected columns Neither Left Nor Right.[91] Walter Block's article "Libertarianism Is Unique and Belongs Neither to the Right Nor the Left" critiques libertarians he described as left and right, the latter including Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Edward Feser and Ron Paul. Block wrote that these left and right individuals agreed with certain libertarian premises, but "where we differ is in terms of the logical implications of these founding axioms".[92]

Author Ilana Mercer draws even further distinction between right-wing libertarianism and left-wing libertarianism, which she refers to as "Lite Libertarianism", stating that the "difference between lite libertarians and the Right kind is that to the former, the idea of liberty is propositional–a deracinated principle, unmoored from the realities of history, hierarchy, biology, tradition, culture, values. Conversely, the paleolibertarian grasps that ordered liberty has a civilizational dimension, stripped of which the libertarian non-aggression axiom, by which we all must live, cannot endure"[93] and "that Classical Liberalism of the 19th century certainly allows for the individual to do as he pleases [...] but the authentic libertarian emphasizes the right to life, liberty and property".[94]

Notable People Associated with Right-Libertarianism



Political Commentators

Publications Associated With Right-Libertarianism

See also



    1. Baradat, Leon P. (2015). Political Ideologies. Routledge. ISBN 978-1317345558.
    2. Kymlicka, Will (2005) "libertarianism, left-". In Honderich, Ted. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy: New Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 516. ISBN 978-0199264797. "Right-wing libertarians argue that the right of self-ownership entails the right to appropriate unequal parts of the external world, such as unequal amounts of land."
    3. Vallentyne, Peter (2007). "Libertarianism and the State". In Paul, Ellen Frankel; Miller Jr., Fred; Paul, Jeffrey. Liberalism: Old and New: Volume 24. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 13 June 2013. ISBN 978-0521703055. "The best-known versions of libertarianism are right-libertarian theories, which hold that agents have a very strong moral power to acquire full private property rights in external things. Left-libertarians, by contrast, hold that natural resources (e.g., space, land, minerals, air, and water) belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner and thus cannot be appropriated without the consent of, or significant payment to, the members of society."
    4. Marshall, Peter (2008). Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism. London: Harper Perennial. p. 565. "In its moderate form, right libertarianism embraces laissez-faire liberals like Robert Nozick who call for a minimal State, and in its extreme form, anarcho-capitalists like Murray Rothbard and David Friedman who entirely repudiate the role of the State and look to the market as a means of ensuring social order".
    5. Goodway, David (2006). Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: Left-Libertarian Thought and British Writers from William Morris to Colin Ward. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. p. 4. ISBN 1846310253, ISBN 978-1846310256. "'Libertarian' and 'libertarianism' are frequently employed by anarchists as synonyms for 'anarchist' and 'anarchism', largely as an attempt to distance themselves from the negative connotations of 'anarchy' and its derivatives. The situation has been vastly complicated in recent decades with the rise of anarcho-capitalism, 'minimal statism' and an extreme right-wing laissez-faire philosophy advocated by such theorists as Murray Rothbard and Robert Nozick and their adoption of the words 'libertarian' and 'libertarianism'. It has therefore now become necessary to distinguish between their right libertarianism and the left libertarianism of the anarchist tradition".
    6. Newman, Saul (2010). The Politics of Postanarchism, Edinburgh University Press. p. 43. ISBN 0748634959, ISBN 978-0748634958. "It is important to distinguish between anarchism and certain strands of right-wing libertarianism which at times go by the same name (for example, Murray Rothbard's anarcho-capitalism). There is a complex debate within this tradition between those like Robert Nozick, who advocate a 'minimal state', and those like Rothbard who want to do away with the state altogether and allow all transactions to be governed by the market alone. From an anarchist perspective, however, both positions—the minimal state (minarchist) and the no-state ('anarchist') positions—neglect the problem of economic domination; in other words, they neglect the hierarchies, oppressions, and forms of exploitation that would inevitably arise in a laissez-faire 'free' market. [...] Anarchism, therefore, has no truck with this right-wing libertarianism, not only because it neglects economic inequality and domination, but also because in practice (and theory) it is highly inconsistent and contradictory. The individual freedom invoked by right-wing libertarians is only a narrow economic freedom within the constraints of a capitalist market, which, as anarchists show, is no freedom at all".
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    55. See J. C. Lester's philosophical critique of mainstream private-property libertarianism and his New-Paradigm Libertarianism alternative: https://philpapers.org/rec/INDNLA
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