What Is the Difference Between "libertarian" and "liberal"?


Quick Answer

In American political parlance of 2014, Libertarians are those who believe in minimal governmental involvement or interference in private business and social matters, while liberal is used to describe those who advocate the use of governmental power to achieve desired societal outcomes. Most libertarians are members of either the Libertarian, tea or Republican parties. Most liberals are either Democrats or members of left-wing political parties.

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Full Answer

Libertarians and liberals agree on few solutions to economic issues. On the economy, Libertarians believe that a free market with minimal outside regulation is best for efficiently allocation scarce resources. Liberals, on the other hand, believe that free market capitalism needs close governmental oversight to assure an equitable distribution of resources. On gun control, Libertarians believe the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens the unconditional right to own firearms. Liberals believe the Second Amendment only provides for armed, regulated state militias. They contend that it does not allow an armed population, and public safety should be maintained by state law enforcement agencies. Immigration is the issue on which Libertarians and liberals agree most.

The Libertarian Party, as of 2014, is the third largest U.S. political party, after the Democratic and Republican parties, and it was founded in 1971. The modern Democratic Party was founded in 1828.

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