The Meaning of Reformed Libertarianism

The definition of libertarianism is the legal theory (which has political ramifications) which holds that no man may initiate aggression, or threat to initiate aggression, against the property of another human being, lest he engage in criminal behavior. That is to say, under the libertarian legal theory, a criminal is defined as one who breaches the above described “Non-Aggression Principle.” The logically deduced implications of this principle includes actions such as theft, murder, rape, fraud, breach of contract, trespassing, battery, kidnapping, and so on. For the libertarian, that which is illegal is determined in terms of private property ownership and therefore not all things that may be categorized as immoral, unethical, sinful, and so on are necessarily criminal.

The Reformed libertarian agrees with all of this and thus in this way, we don’t differentiate “our type” of libertarianism from a “regular one” when it comes to the meaning of libertarianism. We are purist, Rothbardian-Hoppean libertarians.

What we are trying to communicate, however, with our phrase, is that when we look at the foundation or justification of the above meaning of libertarianism, we source it within the context of a Christian worldview, the epistemology and moral theory of which is distinct from other potential foundations for libertarianism.

For instance, there are utilitarian libertarians (Mises), Natural Law libertarians (Rothbard), Kantian libertarians (Hoppe). There are others as well.  But what libertarians have in common is not their worldview, not their justification of knowledge, and not their personal lifestyle preferences.  Rather, they have in common their agreement with the first paragraph above. Libertarianism is “thin,” which means that it is a set of propositions about the use of force in society, but the doctrine itself is distinct from the defense of that doctrine. Rothbard and Hoppe are not two types of libertarians, and neither are we a distinct type. But we might refer to distinct arguments to build the foundation for defending the first paragraph.

More generally, what we are communicating with the label “Reformed Libertarian,” is A) that each editing contributor to this site is theologically Reformed; B) we are interested in investigating relationships in theory and history between the libertarian world and the Reformed world; and C) that, yes, Reformed Christians can and should be libertarian!