Generally speaking, conservatives believe that citizens should have economic freedom, but that their personal behavior should be controlled – for the common good – by the government.
And, generally speaking, liberals believe that citizens should have personal freedom, but that their economic decisions should be controlled – for the common good – by the government.
Authoritarians, or Statists, believe that – for the common good – the government should control most of what the citizens do.
Libertarians believe that citizens should have all the freedoms, right up to the point where they start taking those same rights away from others. Then, and only then, should the government step in. As David Boaz says in his book Libertarianism, A Primer, “Conservatives want to be your daddy, telling you what to do and what not to do. Liberals want to be your mommy, feeding you, tucking you in, and wiping your nose. Libertarians want to treat you as an adult.”
The Constitution is very much a Libertarian document (or at least it was until the Sixteenth Amendment, allowing a tax on income, was passed), and for the first 120 or so years of its existence, the United States was a Libertarian nation. The Libertarian freedoms, of course, did not at that time extend to slaves or women. This was fixed by the Thirteenth, Fifteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments.
The Libertarian Party favors a much stricter interpretation of the Constitution than we have now, particularly the Tenth Amendment, which clearly says that, if the Constitution does not specifically grant a power to the federal government, that power is reserved to the state governments or to the people. Period.
The Libertarian Party is dedicated to a free-market economy, civil liberties, personal freedoms and personal responsibilities, and a foreign policy of non-intervention, peace, and free trade.
The Libertarian Party was founded in 1971 by people who believed that the federal government has become so bloated, unresponsive, and unmanageable that it no longer serves the needs of the people. They also believed that the citizens of the United States can do something about a bloated, unresponsive, and unmanageable government. The Libertarian Party is a grassroots movement, and is the third largest and fastest growing political party in the United States. There are members in every state in the Union. In the 2004 presidential election, the Libertarian candidate for president, Michael Badnarik, appeared on the ballot in 48 states – more than any other third-party candidate.