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Here is how I illustrated a definition of libertarianism to a group of non-libertarians in Massachusetts.  I had already signed my Statement of Intent to move to the ‘Live Free or Die’ state of New Hampshire, and so, when an advanced personal growth seminar gave me the assignment to “Illustrate a strongly held belief”; the philosophy of liberty was on my mind.

An Illustration of Libertarianism

I sat John down in a chair on the stage, and turned to explain to the 35 attendees:

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“Let’s say that John was peacefully minding his own business
but I wanted something that John had,
or I wanted John to do something that he didn’t want to do.”


I held my index and thumb like a gun and pointed it to John’s head.

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“Almost everyone agrees that
if I threaten violence against an otherwise peaceful John
… to give me something that is justly his
…… or to do something for me that he does not want to do,
that I am doing something evil and wicked.”

Everyone was smiling and nodding.
(In Massachusetts, “We don’t like guns”);
Everyone knew where this was going!)


I pulled up burly Andrew, had him point his “gun” at John’s head, and took out a $100 bill.

What is Government? | Free State Project

“And almost everyone also agrees that
if I hire a thug like Andrew
… to threaten violence against an otherwise peaceful John
that I am still doing something evil and wicked.”

Most of the audience was still nodding, but a few, more politically astute, were showing worried signs of caution.


I brought Steve onto the stage, placed him behind Andrew.
I gave Steve $200 and had him hand one of the $100 bills to Andrew who was still holding the gun to John’s head.

The Definition of Libertarianism | Join the Free State Project

“But most people think that,
if I vote to hire a politician like Steve,
… who hires an “officer” like Andrew,
…… to threaten violence against an otherwise peaceful John
……… to take that which is John’s and give it to me,
then what was evil before is evil no more
… but has been magically transformed into Good.


And I drove home our libertarian point about the universality of human ethics:

“A libertarian is someone who does not believe
that human ethics change
based on the number of intermediaries,
… how I choose them,
…… or what I call them.


Definition of Libertarianism | Join the Free State Project

The Definition of Libertarianism

While this libertarianism definition distinguishes libertarianism from authoritarianism succinctly, most people have been indoctrinated into believing that political authority provides an exception to the universal human ethics that we all try to live daily. The subjugated have been taught that they may ethically hire rulers to do that which they know they may not ethically do themselves.

Thus, a definition of libertarianism is that:

The same act that is unethical for any of us does not magically become ethical for a politician.

The Group Compared to Free Staters

The group politely clapped, but several were visibly angry. One woman fumed at me for the rest of the day. As we were going home late that night, she came up to me,  “Don’t ever do that, again!”, and walked off without another word, satisfied that her warning about my libertarian definition had been delivered and would be heeded.

But now that I have moved to New Hampshire, I’m happy to report that I do “that” all the time:  I talk and write about the ethical definition of libertarianism every day.

I have a solid group of liberty friends around me, all of whom are trying, with me, to create one place on earth where human relationships will be peaceful, consensual, and voluntary.  None of us would ever consider the authoritarian approach to human relationships.   We are dedicated to not threatening violence against peaceful, innocent people; we won’t threaten it ourselves, and we won’t vote for proxies to threaten it.  Not even if it would profit us. Not even if we could conform others to our preferences for how to live.  And we certainly haven’t fooled ourselves that there is some ethical exception for politicians or government bureaucrats so that they can do evil for us.

Those of us who have moved here to create a free state know that hiring someone to do an evil act can never make evil Good. Evil remains evil, no matter how many people voted for it, and no matter how many people we might insert between ourselves and the evil act.

And a Free State, for me, is about finding ways to eliminate (legitimized) evil from our small subsociety.

Here is how I illustrated a definition of libertarianism to a group of non-libertarians in Massachusetts.  I had already signed my Statement of Intent to move to the ‘Live Free or Die’ state of New Hampshire, and so, when an advanced personal growth seminar gave me the assignment to “Illustrate a strongly held belief”; the philosophy of liberty was on my mind.

An Illustration of Libertarianism

I sat John down in a chair on the stage, and turned to explain to the 35 attendees:

What is Government? | Join the Free State Project

“Let’s say that John was peacefully minding his own business
but I wanted something that John had,
or I wanted John to do something that he didn’t want to do.”


I held my index and thumb like a gun and pointed it to John’s head.

What is Government? | Join the Free State Project

“Almost everyone agrees that
if I threaten violence against an otherwise peaceful John
… to give me something that is justly his
…… or to do something for me that he does not want to do,
that I am doing something evil and wicked.”

Everyone was smiling and nodding.
(In Massachusetts, “We don’t like guns”);
Everyone knew where this was going!)


I pulled up burly Andrew, had him point his “gun” at John’s head, and took out a $100 bill.

What is Government? | Free State Project

“And almost everyone also agrees that
if I hire a thug like Andrew
… to threaten violence against an otherwise peaceful John
that I am still doing something evil and wicked.”

Most of the audience was still nodding, but a few, more politically astute, were showing worried signs of caution.


I brought Steve onto the stage, placed him behind Andrew.
I gave Steve $200 and had him hand one of the $100 bills to Andrew who was still holding the gun to John’s head.

The Definition of Libertarianism | Join the Free State Project

“But most people think that,
if I vote to hire a politician like Steve,
… who hires an “officer” like Andrew,
…… to threaten violence against an otherwise peaceful John
……… to take that which is John’s and give it to me,
then what was evil before is evil no more
… but has been magically transformed into Good.


And I drove home our libertarian point about the universality of human ethics:

“A libertarian is someone who does not believe
that human ethics change
based on the number of intermediaries,
… how I choose them,
…… or what I call them.


Definition of Libertarianism | Join the Free State Project

The Definition of Libertarianism

While this libertarianism definition distinguishes libertarianism from authoritarianism succinctly, most people have been indoctrinated into believing that political authority provides an exception to the universal human ethics that we all try to live daily. The subjugated have been taught that they may ethically hire rulers to do that which they know they may not ethically do themselves.

Thus, a definition of libertarianism is that:

The same act that is unethical for any of us does not magically become ethical for a politician.

The Group Compared to Free Staters

The group politely clapped, but several were visibly angry. One woman fumed at me for the rest of the day. As we were going home late that night, she came up to me,  “Don’t ever do that, again!”, and walked off without another word, satisfied that her warning about my libertarian definition had been delivered and would be heeded.

But now that I have moved to New Hampshire, I’m happy to report that I do “that” all the time:  I talk and write about the ethical definition of libertarianism every day.

I have a solid group of liberty friends around me, all of whom are trying, with me, to create one place on earth where human relationships will be peaceful, consensual, and voluntary.  None of us would ever consider the authoritarian approach to human relationships.   We are dedicated to not threatening violence against peaceful, innocent people; we won’t threaten it ourselves, and we won’t vote for proxies to threaten it.  Not even if it would profit us. Not even if we could conform others to our preferences for how to live.  And we certainly haven’t fooled ourselves that there is some ethical exception for politicians or government bureaucrats so that they can do evil for us.

Those of us who have moved here to create a free state know that hiring someone to do an evil act can never make evil Good. Evil remains evil, no matter how many people voted for it, and no matter how many people we might insert between ourselves and the evil act.

And a Free State, for me, is about finding ways to eliminate (legitimized) evil from our small subsociety.