A Preliminary Definition of Libertarian
Friday’s post has stirred up a small bit of controversy in the comments, on Twitter, and on at least one other blog. Right now I’m in an unusual situation for me: I’m pretty confident in my conclusion, but don’t really care at all that other Objectivists disagree with it. All in all, this issue isn’t that important and to me it’s a definite case where agreeing to disagree and moving on to other things is the right way to handle the situation. That being said, one of the comments on my post got me thinking about how I would define libertarian, so I thought I’d give that a shot here. I’m not terribly good at coming up with definitions, and to be honest I haven’t really seen first-hand (because I haven’t really thought about the issue, not because I think there is no need) the strong cognitive need for them in all cases, but this is what I’ve come up with:
A libertarian is a person who believes that the initiation of force has no proper role in human society.*
The measurements omitted from my concept of libertarian include, among others, beliefs about:
- Who (if anyone) should be responsible for enacting retaliatory force?
- What lead the individual to accept his political beliefs?
- What path should we take in getting from our society to a libertarian one?
- Should the abortion of a fetus be considered initiating force against it, or should the prohibition of abortion be considered initiation of force against mothers?
- Should sexual activity between an adult and a young minor be considered initiating force against the minor, or should the prohibition of such activity be considered initiation of force against the would-be sexual partners?
That being said, there are many beliefs which aren’t omitted from my view, including:
- Is an employer who requires working 16 hour days as a condition of employment initiating force against his
employersemployees [Edit 5/10 14:37]? No, not according to libertarianism.
- Should there be a welfare system funded by coercion? No, not according to libertarianism.
- Should businesses be bailed out with money obtained by coercion? No, not according to libertarianism.
- Should any sexual activity between fully informed, mentally healthy, consenting adults be considered initiation of force? No, not according to libertarianism.
- Should the fully informed, consensual consumption of any substance obtained through consensual trade or other non-forceful means be considered initiation of force? No, not according to libertarianism.
I’m fully open to the idea that my definition here is lacking or erroneous. I’m completely certain that the concept I have in mind is a valid one, and I’m pretty sure that the concept I have in mind is indeed “libertarian”, but I’d love to hear if anyone has a word that better fits my concept here.
*: For those who aren’t familiar with Ayn Rand’s theory of definitions, a definition does not need to state all of the common characteristics of the unit of the concept, nor can a concept be simply replaced with its definition. So don’t take this to be a mathematical or computational type of definition.