Libertarianism is the group of political philosophies that advocates minimizing coercion and emphasizes freedom, liberty, and voluntary association. Libertarians generally advocate a society with significantly less government compared to most present day societies.
There is no consensus on the precise definition of libertarianism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines libertarianism as the moral view that agents initially fully own themselves and have certain moral powers to acquire property rights in external things. George Woodcock, author of a history of libertarianism, defines it as the philosophy that fundamentally doubts authority and advocates transforming society by reform or revolution. Libertarian philosopher Roderick Long defines libertarianism as "any political position that advocates a radical redistribution of power from the coercive state to voluntary associations of free individuals", whether "voluntary association" takes the form of the free market or of communal co-operatives. According to the U.S. Libertarian Party, libertarianism is the advocacy of a government that is funded voluntarily and limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence.
Libertarian schools of thought differ over the degree to which the state should be reduced. Anarchistic schools advocate complete elimination of the state. Minarchist schools advocate a state which is limited to protecting its citizens from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud. Some schools accept public assistance for the poor. Additionally, some schools are supportive of private property rights in the ownership of unappropriated land and natural resources while others reject such private ownership and often support common ownership instead.
Some political scholars assert that in most countries the terms "libertarian" and "libertarianism" are synonymous with left anarchism, and some express disapproval of free-market capitalists calling themselves libertarians. Likewise, many libertarian capitalists disapprove of socialists calling themselves "libertarian." In the United States people commonly associate the term libertarian with those who have "economically conservative" and "socially liberal" political views (going by the common meanings of "conservative" and "liberal" in the United States).