I tend to think of myself as a libertarian or at least as having strong libertarian tendencies. What this means, I think, is that I recognize the gubmnt has important roles such as law enforcement, provision for contract enforcement and the common law, and (dare I say this) the provision of some sort of social safety net. But the problem with this last gubmnt activity is that it creates distorted incentives and opens the door for lobbying for increased gubmnt actions to raise the height of the social safety net. This is a problem, potentially, because the higher the social safety net, the lower are the incentives for people to prepare for and plan for different contingencies in their own lives.
Unlike many libertarians, I am willing to tolerate this problem to some extent. I am willing to use the force and power of gubmnt to require that we all become "our brothers' keepers" to some extent. But not much, especially when individuals choose to take risks of serious personal loss that they ought to know about and ought to prepare for (yes, this is a normative statement).
I was prompted to write this by a recent Bryan Caplan posting at EconLog, where he writes,
[C]ritics of libertarianism will never run out of empirically plausible "hard cases." When faced with these hard cases, the best response we'll ever have is, "Charity can probably provide for the deserving poor. Everyone else should live with the consequences of their actions - and stop blaming total strangers for failing to help them."
This conclusion of his posting captures my views pretty well. At the same time, I have little objection when the gubmnt provides some basic family welfare (e.g., beans have high protein content and will keep people from starving).
Having said this, though, I'm not at all in favour of using gubmnt to force us all to help out all people who suffer calamatous losses. For example, consider those who lose their homes to hurricanes, floods, etc. These are clearly insurable risks, and it is beyond me that people choose to live in high risk areas without having adequate insurance. If the answer is that the insurance premia are "too high" (whatever that means), then I still see their choice to live there as a voluntary decision; they could have lived elsewhere.
In these instances, I support the role of (and indeed have contributed to) private charity to help people through the transition after natural disasters, and I have offered assistance to people who have maxed out their deductibles and co-pays for various unexpected calamities. And that is an important part of my quasi-libertarianism: private charity must step up, especially to the extent that gubmnt doesn't always do a very good job.