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Political philosophy that stresses personal liberty. Libertarians believe that individuals should have complete freedom of action, provided their actions do not infringe on the freedom of others. Libertarianism's distrust of government is rooted in 19th-century anarchism. Typical libertarians oppose not only the income tax and other government impositions but also programs seen by many as beneficial, such as social security and the postal service. In the U.S. their views often crosscut traditional party boundaries (e.g., libertarians oppose gun control, as do most Republicans, but support the legalization of prohibited drugs, as do some liberal Democrats). Among the thinkers embraced by libertarians are Henry David Thoreau and Ayn Rand.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on libertarianism, visit Britannica.com.