Re: Definition of Libertarianism (was: prejudices)

Eric Watt Forste (
Wed, 17 Sep 1997 13:09:24 -0700

Ka-Ping Yee quotes:
> "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."

and then writes:
> 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,

"initiate" is a big shibboleth in the libertarian ethical
theology. The standard response to your objection is that
applying force to prevent a rape or murder is not initiation of
force, but self-defense. The "initiation of force" in question
was in the actions of the would-be rapist or murderer, not the
actions of the defender.

Unfortunately, this maneuver takes us right into the well-known
schoolyard phenomenon of "He started it!" "No, he did!" in less
drastic situations, and less drastic ethical situations are very
common and pesky in real life.

One question that I've spent some time thinking about is "How
can one reliably distinguish between an act of self-defense
and a pre-emptive strike?"

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++ expectation foils perception -pcd