Essay from Machan's Archives: This essay should come in handy these days when "libertarianism" has become almost a household word. Here is a summary discussion of its central tenets, at least as seen by some prominent libertarians.
Libertarians uphold the sovereignty of each adult individual in social life. They distinguish themselves in the political arena in most western countries from both the Left and the Right because, on the one hand, the Left is inclined primarily to impose restrictions on individuals pertaining to their economic or material actions, while the Right embarks upon imposing on individuals when it comes to their spiritual or mental actions. Both Left and Right enlist government for the purpose of regimenting certain aspects of the individual's life, whereas the libertarian sanctions only those laws or rules that aim at keeping everyone's sovereignty, at protecting individual rights to life, liberty and property.
For example, the Right in the USA endorses the war on drugs as well as a closer unity between government and church, bans on prostitution, gambling, pornography and other vices. It is mostly concerning the crafting of people's souls that the Right enlists the government's coercive powers, although since body and soul aren't ever sharply divided, this often involves regulating people's economic activities as well (e.g., when Sunday blue laws prohibit commerce in liquor).