Difference Between Liberal and Libertarian

Liberal vs Libertarian

If one looks at the political spectrum in US on a continuum from left to right, he comes across many political ideologies with communism at the far left and fascism at the extreme right. Liberal and libertarian are political ideologies that are similar to each other and lie somewhere in the middle of this political continuum. Because of these similarities, there are many who treat these ideologies as synonymous and interchangeable. However, despite similarities and overlap, there are differences that cannot be overlooked and will be highlighted in this article.


Liberals are people who believe that people should be as free as possible with as little government intervention as possible. They are opposite to conservatives who believe the status quo and stick to old traditions and policies. Liberals are advocates of changes in policies that are meant for the betterment of people. At one point of time, liberals stood for personal liberty more than anything else. Liberalism in politics means standing for the rights and freedom of the individual. Liberals are believed to be standing to the left of the centrist position. If you are a liberal, you can be criticized for being socialistic in leanings.


Libertarian is a political ideology that believes in Live and let live. These people want very little intervention from the state in the affairs of the citizens; so much so that, at times, they are referred to as supporters of anarchism. The word is derived from liberty, and a libertarian is an individual who believes in liberty. Personal freedom is what libertarians believe in though they also believe in social responsibility. A libertarian is dead against any governmental interference in personal or business decisions of citizens. This in turns translates into smaller governments, taxes, and bureaucracy while at the same time signifying greater personal freedom.

What is the difference Between Liberal and Libertarian?

• During 1800’s liberals and libertarians stood for same ideals and values. Over time, however, differences between the two ideologies have cropped up.

• Both stand for personal freedom but liberals want to secure this freedom through government while libertarians want this freedom without any government intervention.

• Marxism led liberals to believe that social justice could be achieved with the help of government and they got seduced forgetting all about personal freedom.

• Today liberals are seen justifying bigger governments, higher taxes, and stringent regulation.

• On the other hand, libertarians are even today distrustful of government and want minimal intervention from it to ensure personal freedom.

• Libertarians want private initiative to solve social problems.

  • David Morris

    This is bogus and contrived comparison. You cannot state that liberalism stands for freedom and minimal government and then champion central government solutions.

  • gadfly85

    “Marxism led liberals to believe that social justice could be achieved with the help of government and they got seduced forgetting all about personal freedom.” Biased much?

  • http://theoconsequentialism.com RDSouth

    Modern liberalism, often called “social liberalism” can still be said to be aiming at optimal levels of freedom. The government is not the only possible oppressor of liberty: powerful private associations and business concerns can be just as much a threat. If practiced carefully, government can be used to control private rule without taking more liberty than is gained. For political reasons, true liberals (as defined in the Oxford Manifesto) have had to ally with some with more relish for regulation than for the liberty to be guaranteed by it, and this has tainted the good name of liberalism.

  • jtom

    Either this is sadly out of date, needs to discuss the changing definitions of liberalism and conservativism, or is just plain ignorant.

    Liberalism is now synonymous with big government making all the decisions for the people.. Libertarianism believes that the individual should make his/her own decisions.

    This country was founded by libertarians. It is their values and traditions that conservatives seek to protect, plus traditional social values.

    The divide between conservatives and libertarians comes from the social issues. Many conservatives want to protect traditional social values (who can be married, no polygamy, no abortion, no recreational drugs, etc), while a libertarian would not want government involved in those issues. The overlap between the two is the desire for limited government for everything else.