The political arena is often characterized by left wing and right wing, originally derived from discourse after the French Revolution between fans or foes of the monarch. Fans sat on the right side of the French Assembly and foes sat on the left side. Over the years various labels have been attributed to these sides, with conservatives, reactionaries, and fascists on the right and progressives, socialists, communists, and radicals on the left. In the libertarian view, they all represent high degrees of governmental control for varying purposes.
In American politics, the Republican Party is associated with the right wing and the Democratic Party with the left wing. Until the year 2000, the color red used to be associated with the left wing because of red flag symbolism of the Communist Party and the Red Guard. Then the color red was redefined by the media as associated with rural American states, “rednecks,” and Republican party politics. The color blue became associated with the Democrats.”
The word “liberal” originated as a libertarian term advocating all forms of freedom, as it is still used in Europe today as classical liberal. But in the U.S., the word “liberal” came to be associated with the left wing in the 20th Century. As the term became unpopular with voters, the left wing abandoned it for the “progressive,” a term that took root in the early 20th Century under the Progressive Party of Sen. Robert LaFollett and President Theodore Roosevelt.
Libertarians are neither right nor left, though they might occasionally identify with either side on particular issues. For instance, the right wing sometimes, though not consistently, favors less government control over business and the economy with lower taxes and less commercial regulation. The left wing frequently favors more government control and taxes on business and commercial regulation.
On the other hand, the left wing sometimes, though not consistently, favors less government control over personal lifestyle decisions. Conversely, the right wing frequently favors the imposition of more government controls on personal lifestyle behavior such as sex, drugs, and gambling.
In the absence of principle to guide their behavior, right-wing and left-wing advocates can be found vacillating on important issues. For instance, in the 19th Century gun control was opposed by many on the left and favored by many on the right. Then in the 20th Century, their relative positions on gun control flipped. Libertarians are consistent on the issue of self-defense by applying the NAP.
The right wing and left wing have both favored aggressive military interventions abroad. Most American wars in the 20th Century have begun under Democratic administrations while Republicans have enthusiastically supported them. The reverse occurred in 2001 with recent wars in the Middle East. Libertarians tend to support only strictly defensive military action and prefer behavior that keeps the nation out of foreign affairs.
“Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”
By subscribing to the nonaggression principle (NAP), libertarians remain consistent in championing all forms of personal freedom, at home and abroad, at any given time or with any particular issue.