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Title: Breaking the circle: The definition of individual liberty
Authors: Bouillon, Hardy
Keywords: libertarianismindividual liberty
Issue Date: 2003
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: Hardy Bouillon, "Breaking the circle: The definition of individual liberty", in: Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics, V (2003) 2, pp. 1-12.
Series/Report no.: Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics
V (2003) 2
The definition of individual liberty as the absence of coercion or violence (threatened or actual)
includes a circularity problem. A look at prominent representatives of classical liberalism and
libertarianism (Hayek, Rothbard, Hoppe, Jasay) reveals that this is typical of classical liberals as
well as of libertarians, though the latter avoid a confusion of power and freedom. However, the
respective definitions of individual liberty analysed here rest on the assumption that coercion (or
violence) presupposes the absence of the (voluntary) agreement of the coerced party. Thus they use the
definiendum in a modified form (voluntariness) as part of the definiens in order to define the
definiendum. The resulting circle can be avoided by looking at coercion and freedom (non-coercion)
as representatives of the class of two-level decisions (meta-decision and object-decision) with different
costs on the meta-level. While coercion means that the coerced party has to face or faces artificial
costs in case of a negative meta-decision, non-coercion (freedom) does not. As a conclusion we define
freedom as the absence of artificial interference in the private sphere of another person that would
produce artificial costs for that person if she/he opted for a negative meta-decision.
Type: Article
ISSN: 1825-5167
Appears in Collections:Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics (2003) V/2

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