John Stossel

I used to be a Kennedy-style "liberal." Then I wised up. Now I'm a libertarian.

But what does that mean?

When I asked people on the street, half had no clue.

We know that conservatives want government to conserve traditional values. They say they're for limited government, but they're pro-drug war, pro-immigration restriction and anti-abortion, and they often support "nation-building."

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And so-called liberals? They tend to be anti-gun and pro-choice on abortion. They favor big, powerful government -- they say -- to make life kinder for people.

By contrast, libertarians want government to leave people alone -- in both the economic and personal spheres. Leave us free to pursue our hopes and dreams, as long as we don't hurt anybody else.

Ironically, that used to be called "liberal," which has the same root as "liberty." Several hundred years ago, liberalism was a reaction against the stifling rules imposed by aristocracy and established religion.

I wish I could call myself "liberal" now. But the word has been turned on its head. It now means health police, high taxes, speech codes and so forth.

So I can't call myself a "liberal." I'm stuck with "libertarian." If you have a better word, please let me know.

When I first explained libertarianism to my wife, she said: "That's cruel! What about the poor and the weak? Let them starve?"

For my FBN show tomorrow, I ask some prominent libertarians that question, including Jeffrey Miron, who teaches economics at Harvard.

"It might in some cases be a little cruel," Miron said. "But it means you're not taking from people who've worked hard to earn their income (in order) to give it to people who have not worked hard."

But isn't it wrong for people to suffer in a rich country?

"The number of people who will suffer is likely to be very small. Private charity ... will provide support for the vast majority who would be poor in the absence of some kind of support. When government does it, it creates an air of entitlement that leads to more demand for redistribution, till everyone becomes a ward of the state."

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate