Re: Definition of Libertarianism (was: prejudices)

Derek Strong (
Wed, 17 Sep 1997 02:41:49 -0700

Ping writes:

> I wandered around the site and noticed the following definition
> at the top of the current issue's page:
> "A libertarian is a person who believes that no one has the right,
> under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human
> being, or to advocate or delegate its initiation. Those who act
> consistently with this principle are libertarians, whether they
> realize it or not. Those who fail to act consistently with it are
> not libertarians, regardless of what they may claim."
> This is an interesting and somewhat curious definition. According to
> the above it would seem that any person who applied force to stop the
> rape or murder of someone they loved would not be libertarian.
> Thus, for example, i fail this qualification in my current state.
> Is this the intent of "libertarianism"? I seek to improve my
> understanding. Thanks,
> Ping

The libertarians who like this definition usually argue that the key to the
definition lies in the word "initiate." They would say that you are not
initiating force when you are acting in defense of yourself or others. The
rapist initiates the force, and you react with force only when it is
initiated by another.

I'm not positive that "never initiate force" works as a complete definition
of the libertarian philosophy, but it seems like a pretty good
generalization. In any case, I don't think you act "unlibertarian" in the
sense meant by this particular definition when you defend yourself (or, by
extension, others). That is not initiation.

The interesting (and more often debated) part of the definition is the word
"force." I'm sure many a thesis has been devoted to the question.

Derek Strong aka Derek Ryan
Webmaster, Extropy Institute