As I mentioned, I'm going to be debating/speaking with a Libertarian on campus next week. I have some questions about Libertarianism I'm hoping he will answer.
The most obvious questions is, what precisely is Libertarianism? Is it just a laundry list of political positions? There's nothing wrong with that — both the Democratic and Republican parties take this approach; it's called a "platform" — but it would be nice to know if there really is a cohesive, non-trivial philosophy underneath.
Without putting words in anyone's mouth, the most concise description of Libertarianism I've heard is that state power should prohibit the initiation of coercion, and only the initiation of coercion. But this description doesn't seem coherent; specifically, the initiation of coercion seems to equivocate with the use of force the speaker does not like or that goes against his or her personal or class interests. Again, there's nothing wrong with a specialized, subjectivist, interests-based political philosophy, but it doesn't seem helpful to label a subjectivist philosophy as objective, and it's dishonest to justify a specialized interpretation with our moral intuitions about the general, literal interpretation.
Is Libertarianism better because it's more moral, or is it more moral because it's better? In other words, is Libertarianism justified on moral grounds or pragmatic grounds?
Are there objective reasons to consider the use of economic power non-coercive? Or is it just that Libertarians approve of economic power and disapprove of physical, directly violent power? Again, it's unproblematic to approve of one kind of power and disapprove of another, but does Libertarianism make the distinction explicit, and does it refrain from equivocation to leverage moral intuition?