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What is Libertarianism?

Updated: Aug 31, 2021

Libertarianism has developed over the course of many centuries. It is a deep and rich philosophy that cannot be fully described in one short article. Rather than delving into history, I want to share some of the key concepts of Libertarianism, some questions to consider and how I think the concepts apply in 2021.


Key Concept: Only individuals make choices and therefore should be responsible for those decisions.

Questions to Consider: Should government start mandating one hour of exercise per day? Should government ban alcohol and tobacco? Should vehicles be removed from the road as they can lead to injury and death? Should government be given authority to remove all risk from our lives regardless of the resulting consequences of a zero-risk strategy?

How it applies in 2021: Health decisions should be the responsibility of each individual based on their own risk assessment. This applies in all situations and under all conditions.

Individual Rights

Key Concept: Individuals have the right to be secure in their life, liberty and property. Government is not the grantor of rights, rather the protector of said rights.

Questions to Consider: Should government be able to suspend individual rights indefinitely whenever a “public health crisis” presents itself? Should government pursue “climate lockdowns” in an effort to meet emissions targets?

How it applies in 2021: There is no justification for government to suspend the lives of its citizens, their freedoms or their ability to earn a living and provide for their families.

Spontaneous Order

Key Concept: The actions of millions of people working together in order to achieve their individual objectives is the origin of a civil society. Central government is not required for the development of languages, law, markets or other complex institutions.

Questions to Consider: Governments across the world were given unfettered power in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, were they able to effectively navigate this complex situation? Given government’s track record on the pandemic and other major issues, what is the outlook for a government led economic relaunch, post-COVID? If climate change is an existential threat, is government the best mechanism to address it?

How it applies in 2021: Big government policies result in inefficiencies, cronyism and corruption. Individuals working together to overcome common challenges is the most effective way to advance civil society.

The Rule of Law

Key Concept: Individuals are free to pursue their own dreams as long as they respect the equal rights of others. Laws should protect individual liberty rather than pursue a particular outcome.

Questions to Consider: Should the federal government, specifically the Prime Minister, be able to appoint judges in Canada? Should there be greater separation between the three branches of government in order to ensure impartiality?

How it applies in 2021: Recently, Trudeau appointed four Liberal Party donors as judges. It is reasonable to consider that these appointments will lead to future bias as can be seen in the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the federal carbon tax. Judges must make decisions based on the law, not personal bias or political pressure.

Limited Government

Key Concept: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” – Lord Acton. Throughout history, those countries with limited central authority have resulted in greater individual liberty, economic success and better standards of living.

Questions to Consider: Will governments willingly relinquish the power that they have acquired in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

How it applies in 2021: Despite comprehensive data showing that lockdowns and other non-pharmaceutical measures had little to no impact on the transmission of COVID-19, many provinces in Canada still enforce public health orders. Certain US states which pursued a response based on individual liberty have seen similar direct COVID-19 health impacts, but have faired significantly better in their economic recovery and saw reduced mental health impacts.

Free Markets

Key Concept: Property rights and free markets enable individuals to succeed. Less government intervention in the market, leads to greater prosperity for the individual.

Questions to Consider: What are the short and long term consequences of governments paying some Canadians to sit at home for 16+ months? If an individual is willing to accept the risks within the marketplace to create opportunities for him/herself, their family and their community, should the government be able to step in and say no?

How it applies in 2021: Over the past 16+ months, unprecedented government intervention in the marketplace has led to the largest transfer of wealth from the low and middle class to the wealthy in human history. Property rights and individual liberty must never be restricted in this way again as the measures put in place by governments harmed the very people they were intended to protect.

Virtue of Production

Key Concept: There is dignity in work. Libertarians believe that individuals should keep what they earn, rather than a central authority redistributing wealth through taxation.

Questions to Consider: What has been the impact of 16+ months of lockdowns on Canadians mental health? What is impact of lockdowns on individual dignity? Were government subsidy programs effective in transferring funds from one taxpayer to another?

How it applies in 2021: Government programs, however well intentioned, never deliver the results that they initially intend to produce. If Canadians were afforded the ability to work throughout the pandemic, to maintain their employer/private health insurance and keep their hard earned money in their pockets, they would have been a much better position to fight a virus than if they transmitted the virus while unemployed, isolated and poor.

Harmony of Interests

Key Concept: One individual’s plans for employment, business or otherwise may conflict with someone else’s. In a free society, these individuals work together to find a solution that works for all parties. When government intervenes, political pressure leads to handouts and favours to small groups to the determent of others.

Questions to Consider: Aside from war times, has there ever been a period in history that resulted in as much lobbying activity as over the past 16+ months during the pandemic? Did the numerous handouts and favours help the average Canadian or connected insiders? Who ultimately pays for the handouts given to connected insiders?

How it applies in 2021: There have been a number of examples of private industry taken the initiative to create solutions to significant problems over the past 16+ months. One such example would be the COVID-19 testing program at the Calgary International Airport. This allowed the safe and free flow of people who wished to travel internationally. Instead of allowing the private sector to continue this program, the Federal Liberal government enacted the quarantine hotel program which led to division, inefficiencies and sexual harassment within the facilities. Which outcome is preferable for Canadians?


Key Concept: Free individuals have the right to defend their families, communities and property from foreign and domestic threats. The act of war however, leads to death and destruction and results in more power being transferred to the government.

Questions to Consider: Has the government fulfilled one of its basic duties in protecting Canadians from foreign threats, this one in the form of a virus? Why was the only acceptable solution for protecting Canadians against the virus to lock them up for 16+ months? Is the cure worse than the disease?

How it applies in 2021: War in the traditional description has not been seen by the Western world for a significant period of time now. Instead, we are directly involved in a war of ideologies. This is fought in the media, the classrooms, in businesses and in government. In order to preserve their Charter Rights, Canadians must be able to maintain freedom of speech, the most important Charter Right. The introduction of Bill C-10 and Bill C-36 by the Federal Liberal government strikes a significant blow to Canadians ability to speak freely. Government should be protecting our Charter Rights, not actively stripping them away.

Whatever the question is, liberty is the answer.


Jared Pilon

Libertarian Party Candidate for Red Deer – Mountain View, AB

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