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Libertarianism (from Latin: libertas, meaning "freedom") is a collection of political philosophies and movements that uphold liberty as a core principle. Libertarians seek to maximize political freedom and autonomy, emphasizing freedom of choice, voluntary association and individual judgment. Libertarians share a skepticism of authority and state power, but they diverge on the scope of their opposition to existing political and economic systems. Various schools of libertarian thought offer a range of views regarding the legitimate functions of state and private power, often calling for the restriction or dissolution of coercive social institutions.

Libertarianism can be a term for a form of left-wing politics. Such left-libertarian ideologies seek to abolish capitalism and private ownership of the means of production, or else to restrict their purview or effects, in favor of common or cooperative ownership and management, viewing private property as a barrier to freedom and liberty. Left-libertarian ideologies include anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, egoism and mutualism, alongside many other anti-paternalist, New Left schools of thought centered around economic egalitarianism. Modern right-libertarian ideologies such as anarcho-capitalism and minarchism co-opted the word libertarian in the mid-20th century to instead advocate laissez-faire capitalism and strong private property rights such as in land, infrastructure and natural resources.

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Libertarian socialism (or socialist libertarianism) is a group of anti-authoritarian political philosophies inside the socialist movement that rejects socialism as centralized state ownership and control of the economy.

Libertarian socialism also rejects the state itself, is close to and overlaps with left-libertarianism and criticizes wage labour relationships within the workplace, instead emphasizing workers' self-management of the workplace and decentralized structures of political organization. It asserts that a society based on freedom and justice can be achieved through abolishing authoritarian institutions that control certain means of production and subordinate the majority to an owning class or political and economic elite. Libertarian socialists advocate for decentralized structures based on direct democracy and federal or confederal associations such as libertarian municipalism, citizens' assemblies, trade unions and workers' councils.

All of this is generally done within a general call for libertarian and voluntary human relationships through the identification, criticism and practical dismantling of illegitimate authority in all aspects of human life. As such, libertarian socialism within the larger socialist movement seeks to distinguish itself both from Leninism/Bolshevism and from social democracy.

Past and present political philosophies and movements commonly described as libertarian socialist include anarchism as well as autonomism, communalism, participism, guild socialism, revolutionary syndicalism and libertarian Marxist philosophies such as council communism and Luxemburgism as well as some versions of utopian socialism and individualist anarchism.

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But what the Left That Was demanded was not the symbolic image of the "broken rifle" - so very much in vogue these days in pacifist boutiques - but the training and arming of the people for revolutionary ends, solely in the form of democratic militias. A resolution coauthored by Luxemburg and Lenin (a rare event) and adopted by the Second International in 1906 declared that it "sees in the democratic organization of the army, in the popular militia instead of the standing army, an essential guarantee for the prevention of aggressive wars, and for facilitating the removal of differences between nations.

This was not simply an antiwar resolution, although opposition to the war that was fast approaching was the principal focus of the statement. The arming of the people was a basic tenet of the Left That Was, and pious demands for gun control among today's leftists would have been totally alien to the thinking of the Left That Was. As recently as 1930s, the concept of "the people in arms" remained a basic tenet of independent socialist, no to speak of anarchist, movements throughout the world, including those of the United States, as I myself so well remember. The notion of schooling the masses in reliance on the police and army for public safety, much less turning the other cheek in the face of violence, would have been regarded as heinous.

— Murray Bookchin (1921–2006)
Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism (1995)

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The Statue of Liberty (a figure of a robed woman representing Libertas, a Roman goddess) is often used as a symbol of libertarianism in the United States
Credit: Fitz-Patrick, Bill

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Lysander Spooner
Lysander Spooner was a libertarian, individualist anarchist, entrepreneur, political philosopher, abolitionist, supporter of the labor movement and legal theorist of the 19th century.

Spooner is also known for competing with the United States Post Office Department with his American Letter Mail Company, which was forced out of business by the United States government. He has been identified by some contemporary writers as an anarcho-capitalist while other writers and activists believe he was anti-capitalist for vocalizing opposition to wage labor.

Later known as an early individualist anarchist, Spooner advocated what he called "Natural Law"—or the "Science of Justice"—wherein acts of initiatory coercion against individuals and their property were considered "illegal", but the so-called criminal acts that violated only man-made legislation were not. He believed that the price of borrowing capital could be brought down by competition of lenders if the government de-regulated banking and money as he believed this would stimulate entrepreneurship. In his Letter to Cleveland, Spooner argued: "All the great establishments, of every kind, now in the hands of a few proprietors, but employing a great number of wage labourers, would be broken up; for few or no persons, who could hire capital and do business for themselves would consent to labour for wages for another". Spooner took his own advice and started his own business called American Letter Mail Company which competed with the Post Office.


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