The Great Awakening, The Enlightenment, and The Furthering of Libertarian Thought


Structure of the Libertarian Movement

In this article their are a few ideals that must be looked at in history when a rational interpretation of the modern day Libertarian Party is sought. One of the reasons I decided to research this topic was the fact that in my District(13), in Pinellas County Florida, we were without a Democrat candidate for the upcoming Primary and General Elections for the House. This led to a lot of upheaval on the Democratic side of the fence, for good reason. This is a pretty substantial hit to the ideals of democracy because people felt limited on how they could vote.

However, though grim, District 13 had a Libertarian candidate by the name of Lucas Overby. This sparked my interest in the Libertarian party – as I am Independent – and the best Independent we had to offer was the very eccentric writer in Michael Levinson. On top of it all we had our incumbent David Jolly who sits easily within his swing district.

To give direction to this article we will take a look at the history behind the Libertarian party, the philosophical influences, ideals, and contributions to the Libertarian party, and some of my opinionated experiences with District 13’s Libertarian candidate, Lucas Overby, and, overall, the importance of informed voting.

What is the Libertarian Ideal

Lucas Overby, Libertarian Candidate, District 13 in Pinellas County, FL. Coined the Libertarian with the biggest shot of winning the past November election. Source: CBN2, Examiner

Lucas Overby, Libertarian Candidate, District 13 in Pinellas County, FL. Coined the Libertarian with the biggest shot of winning the past November election.
Source: CBN2, Examiner

Liberty is the basis of Libertarian ideals. Liberty is a broad statement because it encompasses so many aspects of political, ethical, social, and logical thought. Liberty, at the bare minimum, is the ability of a person to control their own actions. That is, in a Democratic society, liberty constitutes our natural rights as well as any inferred rights not documented within the Constitution – like privacy.

To understand Libertarianism as a whole one must look into and account for how these ideas evolved.

The Great Awakening

Great awake

The Great Awakening is a series of four expansions in Religious thought. These four revivals are important because it shows a break away from the strict doctrines of the Church which spurred on the advancement of logical thought and reason. We will look at the first Great Awakening.

The First Great Awakening, 1731 – 1755

A Depiction of Martin Luther, writer of the 95 Thesis, and creator of Lutheranism. Source: Oceans Bridge

A Depiction of Martin Luther, writer of the 95 Thesis, and creator of Lutheranism.
Source: Oceans Bridge

The Great Awakening were not movements that denounced religion. They were movements that revived religion. This is an important distinction. In the earlier years of religion it was seen as a focal point for society. Even in the Dark Ages the only link to some form of knowledge was through the Church. The 1700’s marked a century of religious decline due to a number of factors such as continued expansion West, and the inability of the Church to address the issues of the day. Also certain ideals of the Church began to be seen as suspicious. This juxtaposes our suspicions of politics and politicians in today’s government.

It is good to note that many in this time fled to the Americas due to religious prosecution: Puritans, Calvinists, and Lutherans.

Protestant Churches

This decline in the faith of religion affected the masses who were looking for new ideals that helped them live their daily lives. In a world not dominated by science, people needed fulfillment religiously because of the hardship of daily life, and the stress of the unknown. So, the Great Awakening can be seen as a step stone into the boundaries of logical thought in a very structured organization.

The Enlightenment

During the Enlightenment there were many factors that contributed to the ideals of reason and knowledge that encompass the logical thought of this movement. The Enlightenment affected Europe and America respectively:

Immanuel Kant see

Immanuel Kant, the synthesizer of empiricism and rationalism, the philosopher of compromise.
Source: NewLearningOnline

Political: In Europe there was extreme unrest within each country due to a aristocracy. Kings and Queens in the 1700’s still ruled but had to tread carefully due to the fiery emotions of society. With the advancement of logical thought, the ideas of natural rights, and human happiness; aristocracies all but ended in a violent show. The French executed their king in the French Revolution of 1794 and the English did so previously in 1642. In the Americas the British were struggling over its colonies who, on July 4th 1776, declared their independence with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

This document emphasized the idea of natural rights and was influenced by the Enlightenment thinker John Locke.


Economical: The trade of the 1700’s bred a new wealthy middle class. This in turn pushed the middle class to demand more political power that was generally designated to the nobility of the time. Also, the decline in Church power (emphasized above in The Great Awakening section) afforded people more time to focus on themselves and work to build a happier

The Enlightenment, What Is It?

John Locke Source: UTM

John Locke
Source: UTM

A good question to ask is “What exactly is The Enlightenment.” Basically The Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason) is the evolution of human thought from self-centered and religious to self-centered and logical. Enlightened thinkers of the time believed that humans lived in a world of ignorance and to break free of that ignorance we had to use reason, science, and the respect for humanity. This thought process evoked certain ideas such as:

  • Discovering the natural laws of the universe.
  • Determining the natural laws of mankind.
  • The unending advancement of knowledge
    and technical achievement.

Deism also evolved from this thought process. Deism is the belief in a god figure who is the master architect of the universe. This figure built the universe in the form of a well groomed machine that is meant to stay in motion without divine intervention. Humanitarianism also formed during the Enlightenment – the idea of the expansion of the human welfare.

All the ideas in the Enlightenment formed the basis for the ideas of liberty; especially when looking at humanitarianism in which the sole purpose is to expand human welfare; human welfare gives people the chance to control their own lives to the greatest extent possible. To conclude this specific section the back bone of Libertarianism, liberty, has been continually expressed since the Enlightenment; therefore, Libertarianism is not a modern political party based on ideals.

All About the Enlightenment The Age of Reason

What Ideas Constitute Modern Libertarianism?

The history of Libertarian Party starts off in 1971 with a meeting set up by David F. Nolan and eight other activists in Colorado Springs. The Libertarian party in 1972 believed in a free economy, privacy of persons, and the denouncement of the draft.

In January of 1999 David Boaz wrote in his book “Libertarianism: A Primer” on the ideals of the current Libertarian party. He stressed the ideas of individualism, where an individual is solely responsible for their actions and for the emphasis of dignity. With this idea he includes that each person should extend such dignities to all others (Whites, Blacks, Spanish, Women, Men). This individualism also fosters a strong connection to the idea of individual rights which are defined in the U.S Constitution. Boaz believed that these thoughts are not just relevant because of the Constitution, but are actually infused within human nature.

Boaz also noted the correlation of societies ability to be guided with little force. He notes that the biggest societal organizations were bred by what he called “spontaneous order.” This means, quite literally, that order happens spontaneously. This can be seen in organizations such as “language, law, money, and markets.” Spontaneous order plays into the form of law since law was bred from spontaneous order. Boaz explains that the “Rule of Law” is important to Libertarianism because it creates a society with a framework where people can coexist to work towards their goals. This is a big idea because it protects people from the harsh realities of other forms of government. If people accept a social contract to live by equal rights of others then society can flourish from unimpeded human motivation.

There are many forms of modern Libertarians today. This is a main reason why it is extremely hard for one to gain enough traction to be voted into the government. One candidate might be a progressive Libertarian while the other a civil Libertarian. They do not form a cohesive bond with each other like the Democrats and Republicans.

David Boaz Source: Cato

David Boaz
Source: Cato

Depiction of those in power controlling those not in power. This corresponds to the ideals of a social contract.  Source: Wikimedia

Depiction of those in power controlling those not in power. This corresponds to the ideals of a social contract.
Source: Wikimedia

Most Libertarians view government as a necessary evil. The less government within a society the freer the society is able to run; the more productive a society can become. The necessary part refers to the social contract the citizens of a society all agree upon so that the equal rights of citizens remain enforced.

Libertarians idealize the Framers of the Constitution when it comes to the decreased powers of a limited government and point to the “dispersion of power in Europe” that ultimately led to increased individual liberty.

When one talks of government, economics is not far behind. Libertarians take a similar stance on economics with regards to a limited government which government plays little roll in the regulation of the economy.

Along with the limited roll of government in society, Libertarians believe in the sanctity of the working class. They believe that those who work for their wealth should retain their wealth, and should have little impediment from the government. This came about in the 1700’s due to the aristocrat class taxing the lower classes and living off of their wealth. Libertarians take a strict stance on the dignity of workers and the working class.

Liberty, Peace, and Libertarians

The groundwork to the Libertarian party ultimately comes back to a peaceful society. Therefore, Libertarians take a negative stance to acts of war and aggression. This is because war is perceived as a way to control the people not in rule. Throughout history it is a continuous motif of war and aristocracy, and people soon began to associate war with harsh rule. Everything a Libertarian believes goes towards the idea that a society can be at peace with itself and within the world. This goes for economics and government just as much as international politics. Everything has its natural flow. This is a direct quote from David Boaz’s book:

  • Natural Harmony of Interests. Libertarians believe that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive people in a just society. One person’s individual plans — which may involve getting a job, starting a business, buying a house, and so on — may conflict with the plans of others, so the market makes many of us change our plans. But we all prosper from the operation of the free market, and there are no necessary conflicts between farmers and merchants, manufacturers and importers. Only when government begins to hand out rewards on the basis of political pressure do we find ourselves involved in group conflict, pushed to organize and contend with other groups for a piece of political power.”

My Personnel Experience

When it came down to this upcoming election, I felt cheated. However, as I looked into the facts more I realized that there are people who do not identify and conform to current norms, and that is what I ask of everyone who reads this. I am not trying to persuade you to become a Libertarian, because I am not a Libertarian myself. What I ask is that you look into each candidate and actually choose the one that is best for the office. Things are not always black and white, and that is something Lucas Overby taught me. So when it comes down to an election get informed and don’t just vote for the Democrat because you are Democrat. There have been some terrible Democrats in office, and vice verse in regards to Republicans. That kind of democracy needs to stop. Getting motivated and personal people into office will change the U.S for the better, so I implore each and everyone of you to get informed, go out and vote, and bring this country back to greatness.

Sources Cited:

  • “Key Concepts of Libertarianism.” Cato Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 July 2014. <>.
  • “Our History.” Libertarian Party. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 July 2014. <>.
  • “Great Awakening.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 June 2014. Web. 3 July 2014. <>.
  • “Protestant.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Jan. 2014. Web. 3 July 2014. <>.
  • Bristow, William. “Enlightenment.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 20 Aug. 2010. Web. 3 July 2014. <>.
  • McClure, Beverly. “The Enlightenment or Age of Reason: 1700s / Eighteenth Century – Europe and America.” . N.p., n.d. Web. 3 July 2014. <>
  • “David Nolan (libertarian).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Jan. 2014. Web. 3 July 2014. <>.
  • “Minor/Third Party Platforms: Libertarian Party Platform of 1972.” Minor/Third Party Platforms: Libertarian Party Platform of 1972. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 July 2014. <>.
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