Libertarianism is a social and political philosophy in the Western liberal tradition committed to the advancement of personal liberty. It is distinguished from egalitarianism by its views on property rights and the use of force. Although the term libertarianism first appeared in political discourse in the 1950s, its conceptual framework was firmly established in the 18th and 19th centuries by political economists and philosophers in the “classical liberal” tradition, most notably John Locke and John Stuart Mill. Despite marginal theoretical disagreement, most libertarians agree that the principles of self-ownership and nonaggression are foundational.

The most influential 20th-century libertarian theorists are in the Lockean deontological (rights-based) moral tradition. Robert Nozick and Murray Rothbard defend liberty via rights, independent of utilitarian considerations. Other recent scholars are in the ...

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