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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

NPR's Planet Money team has noticed that some people are calling this November's elections a competition between socialism and libertarianism.

Recently, we brought in a socialist, who explained socialism. He pointed out that he doesn't see any similarity between the Democratic Party and his own ideology. Well, today, we do the same for libertarianism.

Here's NPR's Adam Davidson.

ADAM DAVIDSON: Is a vote for the Republican Party a vote for libertarianism? Short answer, absolutely not. That's according to David Boaz with the CATO Institute and the author of "Libertarianism: A Primer."

He says let's start with first principles: What do libertarians believe?

Mr. DAVID BOAZ (Author, "Libertarianism: A Primer"): Adult individuals have the right and the responsibility to make the important decisions about their own lives. And our government today interferes with that right in a whole variety of ways. It tells us where to send our kids to school, how we have to save for retirement. It tells us what we can smoke, and who we can marry.

DAVIDSON: Boaz says that both parties go against these core libertarian values.

Mr. BOAZ: Well, yeah. It's mostly Democrats who want to raise our taxes and tell us how to save for retirement and how to give to charity. But it's mostly Republicans that tell us what we can smoke and who we can marry. So there are ways that both liberals and conservatives interfere with individual freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

DAVIDSON: If you apply traditional labels of conservative and liberal, it gets really confusing trying to place libertarians on a political ideology map. Sure, most libertarians have what sound like conservative views: no taxes, no welfare, little regulation of private companies.

But then, libertarians start sounding like fringe lefties. Legalize all drugs, even the super-hard stuff; same with prostitution. Gay marriage should be legal. And we should have wide-open borders, all immigrants welcome - and totally free trade with the rest of the world.

Maybe the biggest break that libertarians take with traditional conservatism: No foreign military actions unless defending the U.S. from a direct attack. Pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan - completely and totally.

Boaz says libertarians do tend to vote for Republicans more than Democrats. Why? Why do libertarians vote with a party that's made up of many social conservatives and interventionist neocons who are against gay marriage, against legalizing drugs and the rest?

Mr. BOAZ: The Democrats are not for gay marriage. The Democrats are not for easing up on the drug war. So there's not as much difference on those issues as there might be.

DAVIDSON: Boaz says libertarians are like most of us. If they're going to vote, they have to vote for someone they don't agree with on everything. Since neither party supports taking the government out of our private lives, at least the Republicans support less government in the marketplace.

But no, he says, this November's election is not between socialism and libertarianism. It's a race between two slightly different approaches to government intervention in our lives.

Adam Davidson, NPR News.

BLOCK: And in case you missed Adam's first report, on socialism, you can find it at our website, npr.org.

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