Libertarianism is a umbrella term for many political ideologies that wish to maximize freedom, promote voluntary association, social liberalism and individual choice. Libertarians are skeptical of authority and the state, and wish to limit the power of social systems that are coercive and forceful. We are always secular, but not inherently atheist, and against the intermingling of power and religion. Likewise, we seek to also separate the economy with the state, either by reducing the state's role to that of a night-watchman who only protects it's basic functions, or abolish the state completely and letting the free market balance and retain power through competing enterprises.
What we aren't
Against the Poor
Another commonly cited belief is Libertarians are against all welfare and hate the poor. While not exactly false - some libertarians are against all welfare, although I doubt any consciously hate the poor, indeed, most see long term economic gains more beneficial to the poor than any form of welfare and almost all libertarians are against the idea of the welfare state - others are willing to tolerate market friendly welfare models such as the Negative Income Tax or voucher based welfare, often with the condition that to receive welfare one must be employed or seeking employment. That being said, even libertarians who do wish to do away with all welfare are at least willing to prioritize and dismantle the welfare state top down first (that is, eliminate "corporate welfare" and other subsidies that conservatives create to incentivize the private sector from their own self defeating policies) and seek to first establish a totally unrestricted free market with high levels of employment, opportunity, and competing charity organizations replace welfare until it isn't needed.
Racists or Nativists
It is important I bring this up, as I've seen racism crop up here and there among libertarians, and associations with racism through figures like Ron Paul, Murray Rothbard, and Lew Rockwell, which may or may not be true, but is worth noting. With the paleoconservative overlap and racist organizations attempting to hijack libertarian movements, symbols, and strategies, I feel like I should say this:
If you think foreigners are a threat to society, immigration should be fully restricted, the Jews control the Federal Bank, one race should have legal and/or social benefits over other races, and think David Duke or Louis Farrakhan is a swell guy, then drop the label "libertarian," since you are not one. Racism, being a primarily collectivist notion of privilege gained without merit, is fundamentally anti-libertarian. While it is true that the fundamental libertarian society gives the person the right to associate with anyone and even discriminate, that should not give you the idea that racism will be accepted in a profit oriented libertarian society, or that people have to accept your bullshit. (Knowing they have the right to turn you down as much as you can turn them down, expect it.) The market will take care of your racism like it took care of Paula Dean, so if you are thinking that you'll be able to realize your racist utopia within the bounds of polite society, think again.
Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a manís genetic lineageóthe notion that a manís intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.
The Tea Party
To be fair, the Tea Party did start out as a libertarian leaning movement, with most of it's original members either being indifferent to social issues or sympathetic to liberal ones, with the main gripes being against higher taxes, crony corporatism, and a government that sold them out. However, now it has been more or less hijacked by a mixture of paleoconservatives, religious fundamentalists, and white nationalists, and had been used as a speaking voice of various right wing conspiracy theorists. Mind you, there are still libertarians who may sympathize with the Tea Party or see it as a "means to an end" so to speak, but others are put off by it's rhetoric, desecration of the Gadsden Flag, populism, social conservatism and religiosity. The Verdict? The Tea Party isn't libertarian.
To prove this, I've included a graph:
Right or Left Wing
Libertarianism is a diverse range of ideologies, although while I clearly talking about free market capitalistic libertarians here, it's to be acknowledged that the term libertarian - particularly outside the Anglosphere - refers to libertarian socialism. "Right Wing" or "Left Wing" are misnomers for both, "right" or capitalist libertarians have nothing in common with the right wing, being against social conservatism and protectionism all the same. Likewise, while the anarcho-communists are typically described as "left wing," however, most similar anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist strains, such as Mutualism, are hostile to most traditional leftist beliefs and actions as it empowers the state and limits the market in order to impose the unimposable - equality and prosperity - while hypocritically destroying both in the process.
That being said, the libertarian label is superfluous and can be attached to anyone who shares a few set of values. Simply put, a libertarian is someone who believes that liberty is the highest virtue, and should come before anything else - equality* tradition, security, etc.
*many libertarian socialists equate equality with liberty, where libertarian capitalists may tend to see inequality with synonymous with liberty, which carries the whole right-left distinction in libertarianism. That is not to say on the libertarian capitalist's part that they necessarily seek privilege or power through inequality, but simply see inequality as a function of meritocracy through capitalism, yet at the same time it could be argued that a.) the government causes the most inequality and b.) even unequal peoples under libertarian capitalism would be many times freer than if they were under statist capitalism, and would be more able to exercise their natural rights.
Libertarianism is NOT conservatism. The modern "libertarian" movement in America is plagued with conservative sympathizers and borderline theocrats masquerading as a classical liberal to gain the young Republican voter group's support through the vague and unofficial movement known as the Tea Party, which started as an anti-tax movement that quickly was overrun by the Religious Far-Right. The whole LinkFusionist theory that libertarians can mix with traditionalist conservatives sounds like the punchline of a bad joke. Being socially liberal, any libertarian associating with a conservative movement, such as the Republican Party, is significantly compromising his or her principles, or is merely not a advocate of a free society. Neoconservative "national security" that blankets the reality of imperialist neocolonialism and corporatocratic rule in America turns the third world into pro-US natural resource producers and spreads warfare and violence everywhere, while the Great Oil Pirates (GOP) makes millions off the deaths of many and their arms manufacturing sponsors keep the military-industrial wartime economy going, shows anti-liberty Republican stances. The inherent nationalist tendencies of conservatism, and it's occasional strays into theocratic principles, should turn off a libertarian completely to the Republican Party. The also similar but not as popular "neo-fusionist" idea that libertarianism should mix in with the Democratic Party is equally stupid, as the party represents no more than a bastion of pushover leaders, giving in to right-wing attack ads and passing more conservative nonsense, or compromising their own views for the sake of the Malicious Right. True right-libertarianism that these American liberal Republicans fail to see is either laissez-faire minarchism or, more prominently, anarcho-capitalism and even individualist anarchism.
Libertarianism is NOT Anocracy. Libertarians reject the "Somalia Model" (and that term gives the African hellhole too much legitimacy as a political system) as being nothing more than many petty geographically arbitrary monopolies of force and violence engaging in gang-like turf war over a statist system in-decay. Somalia represents a microcosm of what the world is like, as it is a bunch of territorial armies fighting over resources, religion, ideology and dominance. The constant competition between regional regimes is essentially the world wars on smaller, more local scales. The state is no different from a street gang, a pirate's crew, a terrorist group or a warlord's personal militia, as all are inherently authoritarian monopolies of coercion within certain regions.
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