Threats in Libertarian Theory

From: The NAPster

Sent: Sunday, August 30, 2020 7:59 AM

To: Kenn Williamson

Subject: Typhoid Mary

Walter and Kenn:

Interesting discussion that you two are having.

I agree with Kenn in principle: libertarianism does not allow for punishing pre-crime (to use the term made popular in the movie, The Minority Report).  Pre-crime is how most state regulation works: the state posits that action A might lead to damage, and thus prohibits action A, but that unnecessarily and immorally constrains all of those using their own property engaging in action A who don’t cause the theoretical damage.  Only when damage is actually caused, or is imminent, is responsive force justified.

However, I would raise a slight issue with one thing Kenn said, namely, “Any person has the right to regulate who is coming into their property but they do not have the right to regulate the activity of others on their own property.” I think that it would be compatible with libertarianism to “regulate” (by which I assume Kenn means “use force against”) the activity of others on their own property if that activity were itself causing an invasion of one’s own property.  So, to use Kenn’s example, if A had a fan that was blowing VINE-19 seeds onto B’s property, then B could use reasonable force to try to stop this.  It would be no different than if A were firing bullets at B from A’s property.

Applied to Typhoid Mary, private-property owners could always exclude her from coming onto their property, but could only enter her property if she were somehow spewing forth her infectious disease from there.

Zack Rofer

Check out my book: Busting Myths About the State and the Libertarian Alternative

Dear Zach:

Of course you are correct in saying that “libertarianism does not allow for punishing pre-crime.” I never ever said that it did.

Where you and I part company is that in my view, violence is justified not only in punishment for crime, but, also, in stopping THREATS to engage in criminal behavior.

If you come running at me with a knife held aloft, with blood in your eye, screaming, I have a right to shoot you even though you have not YET committed any crime. But you’re a THREAT.

Similarly, if you go out in public with a contagious disease, you are also a THREAT, and violence may properly be used against you, at least according libertarian theory as I understand it.

Don’t you agree with me that libertarianism not only is compatible with using violence against criminals as punishment, but, also using violence in self defense against THREATS?

Best regards,



3:22 am on October 28, 2020