What is Libertarian Centrism?

Libertarianism is not conservatism. Libertarianism is not anarchism.

Libertarianism stands for small government, low taxes, and the whole Bill of Rights. Libertarianism rejects race hatred, homophobic bigotry, religious persecution, and anti-intellectualism, not to mention the tyranny of the powerful unchecked by obedience to just law.

Real Libertarianism is Libertarian Centrism.

How are we to tell Libertarian Centrism apart from radical anarchism, Republican-lite conservatism, or conspiracy theorism? I offer a few thoughts.

Libertarian centrism is about real politics. We libertarian centrists do not agree about everything. Here are litmus questions. Litmus questions are not questions that define libertarianism. Litmus questions are questions that let you separate the sheep from the goats, the solid libertarians from the hangers-on who are not libertarian at all. An issue can be a good litmus test even though it is not an important issue. An important issue may not be a litmus test.

Warning: Like any other group of libertarians, Libertarian Centrists do not march in lockstep on every issue.

What do Libertarian Centrists on the whole believe?

We are 100% pro-choice, because government has no valid business running women's lives for them. That means we reject government bans on abortion.

We are confident: All Americans are entitled to equality in marriage, adoption, divorce, and access to military service.

We state with certainty: Slavery was the American Holocaust. Confederate apologists are rightly grouped with Holocaust deniers, and are shunned by all decent people. People who claim that the Civil War was not about slavery should be encouraged to read the actual statements by southerners at the time, because they have been hoodwinked by racist filth who sought to build our party by polluting it with supporters of the KKK and the White Citizens Councils.

We observe that Thomas Jefferson for all his flaws correctly wrote: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men'. It is only through government, limited government, that men and women will stay free. The people who claim non-aggression means that we have agreed to reject all taxes and governments are anarchists, not libertarians.

As supporters of our actual Constitution, however much it may need improvement, we reject the so-called “States-Rights” doctrine. The so-called 'States Rights' doctrine, claiming that states may keep African-Americans from voting and women from having abortions, is un-American. Politicians who say 'leave it up to the states' are an opposite of libertarian.

We firmly proclaim: While there have been conspiracies, conspiracy theorism is not libertarianism. The incoherent mutterings of conspiracy theorists, including 9/11 truthers, central banking foes, and 16th amendment deniers, offer nothing to the Libertarian political movement. They also have nothing to do with libertarianism. When they claim to be libertarians, they should be politely ignored. When they claim to be Republicans, well, cheer them on. The Bush Republican War Party and the not-at-all-conservative-party of torture have earned whatever plagues descend upon them, and the conspiracy theorists are indeed a plague.

We believe in modern science. The opponents of fact-based knowledge including evolution deniers, anti-immunizationists, flat-earthers, global warming deniers, not to mention the people who still claim that the ozone holes could not possibly be caused by chlorofluorocarbons fit in well in the Republican Party, where their explanation that belief in evolution, etc. is due to conspiracies will warm the cockles of the conspiracy theorists.

America needs an effective Libertarian political movement.

Only Libertarian Centrism offers the firm foundation on which a successful libertarian political movement can be built.

The home of that movement remains to be decided.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author/contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nolan Chart or its ownership


  1. amy pro says

    How is this even centrist? You might as well be just a libertarian.

    Libertarians go on and on about low taxes and all the fancy stuff. But never explain on how.

    • firefly6985 says

      Then you obviously are not paying attention. The currently Libertarian candidate has stated exactly what he would do to lower taxes “and all the fancy stuff.” Much more than any of the other candidates.

  2. Tom M says

    I find your classification of libertarian centrism to to be inaccurate and incomplete. I prefer the Political Compass model as a way of showing the left vs right play on authoritarianism vs libertarianism.

    “The people who claim non-aggression means that we have agreed to reject all taxes and governments are anarchists, not libertarians.”

    You say libertarianism rejects anarchism. This is false. Only moderate libertarians reject anarchism. Anarchism is the extreme of libertarianism. It is the truest form of libertarianism. It says nothing of left or right. You can be a far left anarchist socialist ( http://www.politicalcompass.org/facebook/pcgraphpng.php?ec=-10&soc=-10 ) or you can be a far right anarchist capitalist ( http://www.politicalcompass.org/facebook/pcgraphpng.php?ec=10&soc=-10 ), but they are still both a form of libertarianism. I would argue that I’m centrist in terms of left vs right, but still radically libertarian (aka anarchist)( http://www.politicalcompass.org/facebook/pcgraphpng.php?ec=0&soc=-10 ). You’re saying you’re somewhere around here ( http://www.politicalcompass.org/facebook/pcgraphpng.php?ec=0&soc=-5 ). So were both a form of centrist, but you’re a centrist on the libertarian scale, while I’m more radically libertarian. I guess I’d be a “radical libertarian centrist” and you’d be a “moderate libertarian centrist”, or something to that effect. Guess what I’m trying to say is that 5 categories is not nearly enough to help visualize this, and that centrism is usually associated with the X axis of this graph and not with the Y axis. Anyone from [0, -1] all the way to [0, -10] can be a libertarian and a centrist at the same time.

  3. Pete A says

    Just wondering where libertarian centrists stand on gun gun control? I find political beliefs in line with libertarians except on this issue. Gun control absolutely works. Can someone clarify?

  4. Lawrence Tate says

    Slavery is not an “American Holocaust”. Slavery is a humanity holocaust. Slavery is the holocaust of humanity, since its existence, using rationalization to enrich the powerful. Also, regarding Pete A’s comment, I would say that a libertarian centrist would find that tools of self protection are an unalienable human right.

    • George Phillies says

      I agree that slavery was also an abomination elsewhere, though American slavery was peculiarly hideous in its details. However, the Libertarian movement suffers occasional visitations from Confederate slavery apologists. These people are depraved enemies of civilization, and should be told so. I also agree on the 2nd Amendment.

  5. Cumberland Minuteman says

    Oh where to start?

    Without trying to make the “No true Scotsman” argument, one must first clarify what libertarianism is. As penned by Rothbard (the most prominent philosopher of modern American libertarianism), libertarianism is a political and social philosophy that classifies the use of violence in a society. Any “true” libertarian would always invoke and solve problems based solely upon the Non-Aggression Principle or NAP, which states that it is immoral, unethical and thus “illegal” to initiate violence upon others and that the only legitimate use of violence is in self defense once another has intitiated violence against you or another in which you have a voluntary defense pact.

    Thus libertarians don’t have “issues” at all, they have a philosophy. If one doesn’t consistently invoke the NAP in all matters, they are not “libertarians” at all, but more likely those that claim to be “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” statists.

    For any self proclaimed libertarian at all to invoke the theft and violence of the state to solve social “issues”, unveils them of their libertarian mask. For no intellectually honest libertarian would ever invoke the violence of the State on otherwise peaceful people, regardless.

    Honest Socratic drilling, while using the model of the NAP, will always show the State is the most vigorous offender of the rights of the individual. It is said in off hand remarks, that the difference between a libertarian and an anarchist is 6 months. True if one consistently adopts the NAP, and not stances on issues, there is no other conclusion that one can honestly come to except for a society absent of the State, or correctly defined anarchy.

    All politics is violence, or should I saw the outcome of politics is always violence. In light of this fact, even having a Libertarian (Big L) Party which strives to hold and pull the levers of politics in their favor in which the violence of the State apparatus will be used to their ends is a farce, a hypocrisy and an illusion for political refugees and cerebral simpletons.

    Although I do applaud David Nolan’s attempt to dispel the false left/right political paradigm; in no way should libertarian be included in this chart unless other axis’ are added. For almost ever -ism on that chart belongs under the label statism or authoritarianism while true libertarianism has no, nor desires any, State apparatus to wield against others. Maybe a diamond should be added to the top of the pre-existing diamond in order to differentiate between statists and non-statists as well as their desired economic model.

    I really enjoyed the whole bit about how bad and nonsensical it is to have small State govts, because that gives them carte blanche to trample the rights of its citizens, and the only way to combat that is to have a HUGE State apparatus, for it surely would never commit the same abuses, and surely not on a larger scale. This statement alone should be a big red flashing beacon of statist (not libertarian) tendencies. Furthermore, with the accolades that were heaped upon on Bill of Sale or as he called it the CONstitution, I find it rather telling that the 10th Amend of that doctrine clearly states that all things not specifically delegated to the general govt nor prohibited to the States by it, are reserved to the States or the People respectively, yet is disavowed by the author.

    Taxation is one place where the whole socially liberal conservative fails to comprehend libertarianism from a philosophical standpoint, aggression in the physical realm and betrays their self laid claims to the libertarian moniker. Tax tribute is paid under the threat of or direct application of force of violence. Consent (there is no such thing as implied consent unless one is unconscious) is a voluntary action and not a forced one. Thus an organization that survives solely on theft they call taxation and violence is not operating upon the Lockean notion of CONSENT of the governed, but by the whim, dictate and force of their masters. This line of thinking barely passes muster for being mainstream classic liberal ideology and flatly fails in basic multi-stepped application of logic and reason.

    Libertarianism (small l) is a philosophy. A centrist is one who is absolutely devoid of a philosophy. There is no principle, only pragmatism. Thus a libertarian centrist would be oxymoronic or incorrectly labeled. Just more obfuscation, political theatre, smoke and mirrors of an otherwise moral philosophy for violent self serving ends.

    In Liberty,

    • George Phillies says

      Rothbard (and Rand)’s thinking is a plague on the Libertarian political movement, arising from their belief in the NeoPlatonist religion that there are a few obvious principles from which all else can be “derived”. The last century and a half’s understanding of logic shows that logic does not work that way. Their thinking also stands in direct opposition to four centuries of progress in the modern scientific understanding of the world. Rothbard, of course, believed that Libertarians should support forced prayer in the public schools, and that it was appropriate for police forces to use summary execution against miscreants..some of his followers try to skip over these beliefs, which can be found with some effort on Lou Rockwell’s site.

      And, no, I do not agree that Libertarianism leads to the anti-liberty state of anarchism, rule by whichever group of thugs has the best combat training.

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