Re: Definition of Libertarianism (was: prejudices)

Ka-Ping Yee (
Wed, 17 Sep 1997 16:28:28 -0400

Anton Sherwood wrote:
> Ping: the key phrase in the definition of libertarianism
> is "initiation of force". To attack a rapist or a murderer
> is to *respond* to (and with) force. Clear?

Thank you for this clarification. I did not realize the
significance of the word "initiate."

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
> Most libertarians would consider not only self-defense, but
> post-hoc retaliation (such as arrest, trial, jail, etc.) not an
> initiation. And some conveniently redefine "force" to include
> things like intellectual property violation or blackmail to
> justify laws against those things. Most also include the threat
> of force or reckless endangerment as "initiations of force" that
> one may defend or retaliate against.

However, it appears to me that while the definition i quoted
might be a good starting point, the issue quickly decomposes
into intricate judgement calls.

For example, retaliating to an "initiated force" such as, say,
stealing an apple by killing the thief would seem unreasonable
to most. Then one needs to debate the magnitude of the reaction
as compared to the initiated force.

Similarly the definition could support other kinds of
retaliation, e.g. the police arrest you for making
inflammatory statements about the inefficiencies of government
because it constitutes aggression against the state. With
sufficient effort one could probably divert the definition to
support almost any viewpoint.

But anyway, i have a hard time reconciling the libertarian
view of little-or-no-government with the need for a system of
basic laws and enforcement. How does one keep a city safe
without spending a sizable amount of money on a police force?
(Lesson two for me?)