Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is Libertarianism Fundamentally about Competition? Or about Property?

Some folks have heard me beat this drum. But it’s a fresh-enough thought - going to fundamentals that run deep beneath normal politics - so that I am moved to raise it yet again. In part because someone recently asked me, as author of The Transparent Society:

              “Can transparency and libertarianism complement each other?”

Now let’s have the simple answer first. Yes. A sane, better-focused libertarianism would be utterly compatible with transparency. In fact, it should be the very top priority.

Both Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek proclaimed that markets are healthy in direct proportion to the number of skilled and knowing player-participants. Indeed, one chief indictment against every  pre-modern economic system is that nearly all of them were based on “allocation” of resources by elites. Allocators are inherently knowledge limited and likely to be delusional, precisely because they are few.

201817627023582025_gCf0T29V_cJust to be doubly clear on that: almost all previous cultures used GAR - or Guided Allocation of Resources - as their guiding economic principle. Whether the allocation was done by kings, feudal lords, priests or communist nomenklatura, it was nearly always the same: decisions over how to invest society's surplus, which endeavors to capitalize and which products to produce were made by a small clade of delusional elites, as wrong in their models as they were sure of them.

Starting with Adam Smith - and later fervently preached by others, including Hayek - the notion of FIBM, or Faith In Blind Markets, began to compete against GAR.  The core notion? That the mass wisdom of millions of buyers, sellers, voters and investors will tend to emphasize or reinforce better ideas and cancel or punish bad ones. Delusions - the greatest human tendency - will be quickly discovered because no longer will some narrow group be able to nurse them without question.  Hence, getting back to the original question: the more transparency - and the greater the number of participants - the more people can come up with relatively accurate models and act upon them... or acutely criticize flaws in the models of others.

But let’s extend that thought and ask an even more general question.

Isn’t libertarianism fundamentally an appreciation of competition?

Think about all the core enlightenment processes -- entrepreneurial markets, science, democracy and justice. Each of these modern systems produce the modern miracle of positive-sum games... creating win-win scenarios for everybody. The famous rising tide that lifts all boats.

Now sure, there’s a lot more involved than just competition! There are many cooperative or consensus or even moral aspects... read Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, to see that "competition" does not mean "cut-throat" or the brutal image of social darwinism. Many of today's libertarians oversimplify, especially the followers of Ayn Rand.

Nevertheless, it is wholly right and proper for a libertarian to emphasize and focus on one main feature of these positive sum processes. The fact that they all arise by harnessing and encouraging fair rivalry among human beings. So let me reiterate.

Competition is the great creative force of the universe.

That's proved. Competition produced all of nature's evolutionary marvels... and us.  By far the most successful human enterprise - science - is an inherently competitive process and scientists tend, by personality, to be extremely assertive in going after rivals.  Moreover the arts, supposedly our "highest" endeavors, are inherently - often ferociously - competitive, even when they are lecturing us about cooperation!  And yes, in professing this vast generalization you can see the libertarian in me - (despite my deep disdain for Ayn Rand.)

But the sane libertarian also knows that competition - in nature and primitive human societies - contains an inherent contradiction. A runaway process of self-destruction that historically always led (and I do mean always) to calamity...

...to the winner turning around and cheating! Victors in ancient combat were never content with incremental or partial success in war. Can you picture the victorious helping their adversaries to their feet and welcoming them to come back to another equal fight the following year? It was human nature, rather, to destroy opponents. The battlefield may have made you great, but you do not want to return there again and again for an endless series of even matches!

Think. In order to have maximum creative output, competition has to go on and on, maximizing innovative aspects and minimizing blood. The clearest example of transforming destruction into endlessly vigorous competition may be the ritualized combat systems called rule-based sports.

Wealth-of-NationsNor is this just about war. Adam Smith saw what had happened in markets and societies for 4000 years. Winners in capitalism tend not to be satisfied with success in the latest market battle, with a cool product or in achieving recent financial or political success. Human nature propels us to use our recent victory to ensure that competitors will fail in future struggles. To bias the next competition. Or to stomp our defeated competitors flat! To absorb their companies. Squat on patents. Create monopolies or cartels to divvy-up markets. Eliminate transparency. Spy on competitors but keep them - and consumers in the dark. Capture regulators and make them work for us. Capture politicians and make the laws favor us.

Suppose that I become rich and powerful. What will I do, if I am one of the 99% who let human nature play out? Then I’ll use wealth and power to game the system so new competitors won't challenge me! If you deny this, you're just being silly. It was the way of oligarchy, in 99% of human cultures. The top priority of the owner-lords in all those nations was one distilled goal - to prevent bright sons of the the peasant class from competing fairly with the children of the rich. Admit it. Go ahead, choose a random decade across the last 60 millennia, in some random locale that had metals. Tell me this wasn't the pattern.

It worked. It’s in our blood. We're all descended from the harems of guys who pulled off that trick.

And here is where Adam Smith came in.  He looked around, saw all the cheating by owner-oligarchs destroying the creative effectiveness of markets.  And - in the seminal year 1776 - he called for something new.  A way to get the best, most creative-competitive juices flowing, in the largest possible variety of human beings, while preventing the old failure mode.  And it turned out there was a way.

As in rule-based sports, competition can only becoming self-sustaining... continuing to deliver its positive-sum outcomes... amid a network of transparent, fine-tuned, relentlessly scrutinized -- and universally enforced -- rules.

The vital importance - and difficult complexity - of “fairness”

Fair competition isn’t just a matter of morality. It is also the way to maximize competitive output, by ensuring that bright people and teams get second, third chances and so on. And creating ever-flowing opportunities for new competitors to keep arising from the population of savvy, educated and empowered folk. That kind of fairness requires rules and careful tending to ensure new competitors can and will always arise to challenge last year's winners. And that earlier winners can't cheat. Because... we've seen... they will.

the-theory-of-moral-sentimentsLet’s be plain here. The founder of both liberalism and libertarianism - Adam Smith - weighed in about both of these reasons for fairness, To him, they were equally important. All right, liberals and libertarians each emphasize different ones. Liberals talk about the moral reasons for fairness and libertarians the practical, competition-nurturing ones.  They tend to forget that - as followers of Smith - they actually want the same end result!

What they share is something deeper that both movements ought to recognize.  They want every child to hit age 21 ready and eager to join the rivalry of work, skill and ideas.

Liberals should recall that fair competition is the driver, the engine of our cornucopia. The source of the wealth that made social progress possible. And libertarians need to pause, amid their dogmatic, “FDR-was-Satan” incantations, and recall that the word “fair” is the only thing that can make competition last.

Ironically, government can play a role there, if carefully watched. e.g. by ensuring that all poor kids get the care and education needed to become adult competitors! By ensuring that social status - whether poor or hyper-privileged - is never the prime determinant of success or failure. In other words, a sane libertarian who loves competition does not scream "Socialism!" at every state intervention. Instead, that grownup libertarian calmly judges every intervention by one standard.

              "Will this help to increase the number of skilled, vigorous competitors?"

And by that standard, suddenly, liberals and libertarians have something to discuss.  Without a scintilla of doubt, measures for civil rights, sanitation and public health, infrastructure, childhood health care  and... yes... the vast increases in literacy wrought by public education... vastly increased the number of citizens capable of independent engagement in markets and innovative goods and services.

Sure, we are finding flaws in our schools! But that judgment (let's remember) is from the higher plateau of expectations and desires that public education created!  It is only because we achieved 99% literacy that - suddenly - 99% literacy is no longer anywhere near enough. Is it time to bring market tools and competition into education?  Sure. Probably. And I am willing to discuss the assertion that teachers' unions have "become a cartel."  Still, when criticism turns into willful dogmatism, a failure to acknowledge the accomplishments and effectiveness of mass society - brought into effect by government, exactly as demanded by Adam Smith(!) - well that's churlish ingratitude and hardly a basis for saying "let's move on to something better."

And there are things government should not do!  Some well-intentioned things that stymie competitive creativity, instead of enhancing it.  "Equalizing all outcomes.  is socialism and I am not on that boat!  But maximizing the number of skilled and ready competitors is a different goal and I am here to hold that conversation. You may be surprised how many liberals and moderates will be willing to discuss it (and occasionally vote libertarian) if you make that the issue, instead of "FDR-was-Satan!"

A Movement based on LOVE of something, not HATE...

Sorry, but this needs to be hammered home, so let me repeat it. Screeching an incantation that government inherently suppresses competition is pure religious cant, disproved by countless counter-examples, from education and public health to the vast stimulative effect of public investments in science and technology and infrastructure. Again, look at 4000 years of history. Instead of simple-minded hatred of government, be more interested in pragmatic ways to enhance creative competition. Then the movement might have the subtlety of a surgeon or mechanic, instead of the sensibility of a berserk lumberjack.  Make it about love of something, not bilious blame and hate.


So... is libertarianism consistent with transparency?

By that standard, transparency is clearly one of the most vital things that libertarians could defend. Hayek himself said that markets (and democracy and science and justice) only work when all participants know as much as possible. Absence of light is death to all four positive-sum games.

Alas, today's libertarians are (I grieve to say it) in-effect quite mad. They worship unlimited private property, even though it was precisely the failure mode that crushed freedom in 99% of human cultures. And they rage against a system that in general resulted in vastly more wealth, freedom and more libertarians than any other.

This is a quasi-religious idolatry. It makes them complicit allies of the enemies of competition. It makes them murderers of the thing that they should love.

256 comments:

1 – 200 of 256   Newer›   Newest»
Stephan Kinsella said...

I think it's somewhat confusing to even ask what libertarianism is "about". It's not like it's a novel with a plot or theme.

So I take such questions to mean: what is libertarianism? What are its core beliefs or principles? I'd say that to the extent it's "about" anything, it's about peace and cooperation and freedom and liberty, and the problem of conflict, which itself stems from the fundamental fact of scarcity. And it recognizes that the solution is liberty, defined in terms of a certain conception of property title allocation (self-ownership plus Lockean homesteading).

I don't think it's about competition. Competition is just one phenomenon that can result when people have liberty, like people learning, having families, and sleeping at night. Libertarianism is not "about" these consequences or phenomenon of a society that respects property rights. I discuss more in What Libertarianism Is.

milam command said...

"About" simply means what's the fundamental idea regarding X. What's the gist of it?

The gist of Libertarianism is: property rights. If you understand Locke's and Rothbard's passages about property, and consistently apply them , you've got 90% of it.

Locke: http://bit.ly/wgCroX
Rothbard: http://mises.org/daily/2569

Stephan Kinsella said...

Milam: sure, that makes sense. But it's about property, because people want to find a way to use scarce resources cooperatively and fairly, without unnecessary violent conflict. So in a sense it's about people opposing violence and favoring peace and prosperity.

Jacob said...

I want nothing to do with a Libertarianism that is fundamentally about Property.

Jonathan Burns said...

You've hit a key insight:

(1) Equal opportunities result in unequal rewards.

(2) Unequal rewards result in unequal opportunities.

(3) Unequal opportunities result in unequal rewards.

Anyone can see where this feedback loop goes. Would you agree that it goes there even assuming competition is clean and transparent?

If so, and if you want the overall benefits of having lots of serious competitors at the starting line, then somebody has to help pick up the losers and reestablish their opportunities. As well, some portion of the overall reward has to be confiscated for that purpose.

If that confiscation is too onerous, then the competition isn't worth having. Either confirm the latest winners in a perpetual monopoly, or decide that the enterprise is as productive as it's ever going to be, and socialize it as a public chore.

Stephan Kinsella said...

Jacob: and yet, you would surely not want your own property taken.

Your comment reminds me of one of Rand's great lines:
"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter."

Jacob said...

The taking of property matters not compared to how that taking affects the liberty of the individual from which it was removed. It is my Liberty and others that I am concerned about. Property is something I respect but only in the context of how it affects the freedom of individuals.

That is Libertarianism that is not fundamentally about property. I believe David Brin is correct that the focus is wrong.

Carl M. said...

I would say that libertarianism is about liberty. This does mean endorsing property, with some caveats. Slavery is a form of property, and yes, you can have slavery as the result of voluntary transactions. People selling themselves into indentures or even indefinite slavery happened frequently throughout history. So libertarianism does restrict the right of property to a degree. (This includes strict Rothbardian libertarianism.)

Libertarians of the geoist school would bundle the right to have room to operate under the term "liberty." Thus, they endorse land taxation or jubilee laws or similar mechanisms to make use of a share of planet Earth part of the bundle of rights which cannot be alienated.

I, as a pragmatic semi-libertarian, note that property requires guarding, and that sometimes the state provides economies of scale that allows it to beat the price of market based protection services. I would thus favor property over income taxes. Publicly visible property can be taxed without serious privacy meddling, unlike an income tax. If Bill Gates buys property in 100 different counties with different name spellings, etc. it matters not that there is no total in a government database. Even numbered accounts would work. Property taxes are progressive in the sense that the poor can mix more labor with their property and thus get a better ROI.

Patents and copyrights are a grey area. Some libertarians oppose this form of property. (I believe Mr. Kinsella is of this school.) I favor taxation of older patents and copyrights as part of government funding.

Income taxation clobbers those who are getting rich. This is a fatal error of modern liberalism. It is also an observation that led the once-liberal-Democrat Reagan to join the Right. Death taxes are a sort of retroactive property tax, but have their own serious problems. (The lack of accountability of many of our older corporations stems from trying to break up family fortunes too aggressively. Compare Ford with GM. The unbrilliant heirs to Henry at least had a stake in the long term survival of the company vs. the next quarters' earnings.)

Without any government, government-like services would be mostly charged by property value. The owners of the Biltmore estate would pay more than the 99% regardless of the income earned from said estate. The real question is how long there would be a market in protection before merger mania results in a new government. Having read a great deal of history and Forbes magazine articles since I got in the game, I fear not very long. Thus my current semi-libertarian status.

The mostly avoided question among libertarians is that of past injustice. Do we ignore the difference in inheritance between blacks and whites caused by slavery and Jim Crow? What of the losses by the working classes due to the wealth subsidies caused by chronic deficit spending? Transitions are important.

Stephan Kinsella said...

Georgists are economically illiterate cranks.

Ian said...

Not on topic but several news items of interest:

Single-celled organisms evolve multicellularity in the lab:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/01/evolution-of-multicellularity/

Scotland on track to get 100% of its power from renewabe sources by 2020.

http://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/scotland-guns-100-renewable-energy-2020.html

While it's still resisting a national limit on its GHG emissions China has announced plans for limits on emissions from seven of its largest provineces and municipalities.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21361-china-set-to-launch-first-caps-on-co2-emissions.html

David Brin said...

Stephan Kinsella I wish you were right, that libertarians - the supposedly most devout believers in individualism - were truly diverse and independent-minded. Alas, in my experience they are definitely not. In fact, they tend to be among the most rigidly dogmatic, angry and litmus-testing catechism-reciters on the planet, putting Jesuits to shame.

In fact, you are entirely wrong about propertarianism leading to freedom. Note that you utterly ignored my challenge, to randomly pick decades and places (that had metallurgy) across the last 4000 years and find for me ANY examples where those who possessed the most property were not the principal oppressors against liberty and open rights and markets. You cannot do it. What's more, you KNOW that you cannot do it.

That is why libertarians have transformed, in recent years, from very interesting fellows who knew a lot of history (e.g. Goldwater and Buckley) to among the most mystical, incantation-reciting people alive today, never, ever citing the long litany of failures in our past.

Dig it Stephan. Competition is the true sign of health. When there is a lot of it, freedom cannot be taken away and people are inventing. But in order to have it, you cannot have lords. Choose. You cannot have both. Lords and freedom.

Choose.

David Brin said...

Milam, you have got Locke all wrong. You are cherry-picking. Both he and Smith knew that property was NOT the core element of freedom. It is a contingent good ENABLED by freedom.

Study the revolution in Peru wrought by Hernando de Soto. There, establishing property rights helped both freedom and justice. Now compare that great accomplishment, using property rights to EQUALIZE opportunity... versus property fetishism that only creates and serves the LORDS who oppressed every generation of our ancestors.

You have a mind that is capable of parsing subtle distinctions. USE IT!

David Brin said...

Jonathan Burns GETS the point! (See above). But he then asks: "Anyone can see where this feedback loop goes. Would you agree that it goes there even assuming competition is clean and transparent?"

Well... you do need more than just clean and transparent competition... but clean-ness and transparency are the MOST important enlightenment innovations that unleashed our enlightenment. And they are the things that the New Oligarchs are fighting hardest to eliminate. (Using Propertarianism as their excuse.)

Look, the Enlightenment is our one and only and last-best chance to escape the attractor state known as feudalism, that spanned nearly every human generation since copper tools. The absolutel refusal of libertarians to even LOOK at that long history - while they PRESCRIBE for us how humans ought to live - is proof of stunning insanity.

The experiment engendered by Locke, Smith, Franklin and ... yes... FDR resulted in the miracle of a society that simultaneously was relatively FLAT and socially mobile, WHILE engendering vastly creative entrepreneurial capitalism. A combination that was positive sum... no matter how much the socialists and right-wingers scream that it must be ZERO-sum.

That achievement is now under threat. The flatness is going away at the SAME time as entrepreneurial capitalism is failing! Guess what, FDR was right. These things are linked. And the libertarian notion that FDR was Satan is diametrically opposite to the truth.

David Brin said...

Gawd what historical ignoramuses they be! For example, did you know the Founding Fathers were LEVELLERS? No generation of US leaders ever seized as many aristocratically-held assets as Washington et al did! DIstributing them to the poor and middle classes!

They utterly banned primogeniture and demanded equal division of wealth among a dying man's kids! Today that would be seen as govt tyranny! But it succeeded in getting vast estates broken up, so we could be free. They HAD TO do all that, in order for American life to begin again, both flat and competitively free.

Stephan... you make an error when you quote Ayn Rand and believe that it will make smart people think better of your erudition. I have shown that she is an utter Marxist, top to bottom, with only two small tweaks to make her different. There are no ways that quoting her makes you seem smart.

Carl M. said...

David, do you have any references on the primogeniture thingy?

(Of course, a much earlier banning of primogeniture can be found in the Old Testament. The first son got a double share, not the whole share. And sons by concubines inherited. That provision would have made Jefferson's estate division interesting...)

Stephan Kinsella said...

David:

"Stephan Kinsella I wish you were right, that libertarians - the supposedly most devout believers in individualism - were truly diverse and independent-minded."

I don't recall arguing either thing. Humans are always diverse, but I am not sure what is the relevance of this. Let's say you are right that libertarians are not diverse. Or they are too cultish. Still--how does this show that aggression is justified? It does not, in my view.

I suspect you are affiliating small-l libertarians too much with members of the Libertarian Party--big-L Libertarians. The latter tend to be electoral politics types. There are a host of problems with this.

" Alas, in my experience they are definitely not. In fact, they tend to be among the most rigidly dogmatic, angry and litmus-testing catechism-reciters on the planet, putting Jesuits to shame."

Even if this is true, it does not mean their non-aggression principle is wrong, or that aggression is justified.

"In fact, you are entirely wrong about propertarianism leading to freedom."

I don't think I said this, but in any case, I said that libertarianism's core idea is about how to deal with the problem of scarcity: that is by allocating property rights that let resources be used productively and peacefully. If and to the extent such Lockean property rights are institutionally respected, people have legitimate freedom. I am not sure what your dispute with this proposition is.


"Note that you utterly ignored my challenge, to randomly pick decades and places (that had metallurgy) across the last 4000 years and find for me ANY examples where those who possessed the most property were not the principal oppressors against liberty and open rights and markets. You cannot do it."

I'm not a historicist or empiricist. I also do not think that we have ever had a libertarian society. The fact that there is and always will be private crime does not mean it is legitimate. Same with public crime (the state).

"That is why libertarians have transformed, in recent years, from very interesting fellows who knew a lot of history (e.g. Goldwater and Buckley) to among the most mystical, incantation-reciting people alive today, never, ever citing the long litany of failures in our past."

I am not sure what you are talking about. Libertarians oppose aggression, and they are very aware of the nature of the state and its role in inevitably committing widescale institutionalzed aggression. WE are against the state for the same reason you are against a rapist: because it is wrong, harmful, unnecessary, unjustified.


"Dig it Stephan. Competition is the true sign of health."

As an adherent of the Austrian school, as a libertarian, as a patent lawyer who wants patent and copyright abolished just because they interfere with free market competition--sure.

"When there is a lot of it, freedom cannot be taken away and people are inventing. But in order to have it, you cannot have lords. Choose. You cannot have both. Lords and freedom."

As an anarchist--of course, I am anti archist--anti-Lords. I am for freedom--but defined in terms of the Lockean conception of property rights.

Choose.

Nicholas MacDonald said...

David, have you seen this? Optimism meets romanticism- and George Lucas in a video about Star Trek?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC2MCbnQlfA

sakhalinsk said...

I agree libertarianism is fundamentally about competition. But it's essential to understand at what level the competition is occurring. The most basic level of competition would be on the gene level, progressing through to the individual and eventually to civilizations.

Therefore in libertarianism, the fundamental level of competition occurs on the gene level; not the individual or group. Therefore sexual competition, kin selection, coevolution, mutualism, etc. all derive fundamentally from competition on the gene level. I am not saying gene level competition is the most important, just the most basic and fundamental level of competition.

At this point I must strongly say I disagree with social darwinism and it's evil fruits of fascism and racism. And I think extrapolation of competition beyond the gene and individual levels to fuel societal progress extremely dangerous.

daedalus2u said...

It is their fanatical adherence to the status quo that destroys their ability to compete. I discuss the physiology of it here.

http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2010/03/physiology-behind-xenophobia.html

The most important competition is of course war.

In Sun Tzu's The Art of War, (III Attack by stratagem), he says:
18. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy
and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a
hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy,
for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will
succumb in every battle.

Why did the Iraq war take so long? Because the neocon chicken hawks didn't know the first thing about war, they didn't know the enemy and they didn't know the mindset of people in war.

Paul451 said...

[From the last thread]

Re: "Company pension funds"

How common are these? I thought you guys had private superannuation funds? Isn't that the "401k" I keep hearing about in American films/TV?

Pension funds run by your employer (or your union), seems like a bizarre anachronism. Why does anyone still do it?

J. said...

Provocative share. For me the libertarians lose me when they profess to not understand that aside from the digits I use to type this, and the rest of my being they are attached to, as being my exclusive province, while I'm alive, and with respect to "ownership," there are legitimate issues in many contexts with not comprehending that, at least from a theoretical perspective, their philosophy does not address the how, and the when, of going about determining what collective measures they do agree on. Eg: How one might decide who, and when one must give up land for the purposes of building a light-house to protect the shore. (I realize that certain technologically based counterarguments could be made against prospective tangents of this rhetoric, strictly as to its practicality, though I would counter-counter ,argue not without potentially jeopardizing "freedom", if boats were, or are mandated to have GPS devices, and for that matter, local or Federal Gov't, had to have satellite coverage of every area of our border all the time.) Cheers!

Stephan Kinsella said...

J.: the fact that you say that the libertarians "lose you" is simply not a justification for the various types of aggression that all non-libertarians endorse.

Paul451 said...

Stephen Kinsella
"various types of aggression that all non-libertarians endorse."

Ah, there it is.

David Brin said...

tephan so wonderfully illustrated several things, compactly:
"the various types of aggression that all non-libertarians endorse..."

The non-coercion principle! It achieves many great things at once:

1- it seizes the moral high ground in much the same way that declaring human life to begin at conception does. In both cases you get a pure, platonic essence, a crystal declaration, that declares a priori that the declarer is not only morally superior, but safe from argument. Because any demurral must be, by nature, either a violent thief or a murderer!

2- "I own what I own and if the government come to take what is mine, then it is violent theft." Again, convenient. Ignoring the fact that ownership itself is a convention within any given society of assumptions as to what ownership means. And disagreements over that meaning have always been settled by violence. COnsensus LAW, mediated by government" has been the only EXCEPTION to the rule of ownership by might!

3- Like the anti-abortionists, the holders of non-coercion can point to no basis in nature, in natural law, in thermodynamics, genetics or any other verifiable science for the centrality of their "obvious and fundamental" principle. Indeed, life and nature have been always exceptionally violent and so was our evolution.

4- Indeed, as Daniel Pinker shows, the rates of violence have only fallen in the last 60 years... because... of the consensus systems called nations and many many fine-tuned rule sets mediated by... government. It has been PRACTICAL men and women - not platonist idealists - who have wrought this miracle.

5- NOTICE that Stephan has utterly ignored - as did David Friedman and every other classic, Rothbardian or Randian libertarian - my open challenge to actually look at human history.

Watch. He won't do it this time. He will never do it. Nor will any of them. Because to look at those four to six thousand years of relentless oppression by owner-oligarchs will be to admit that there's PROBLEM to be solved. And it won't be solved by propertarian versions of libertarianism.

Guys like Carl M are different. They admit that libertarianism needs to go back farther, to Adam Smith, who KNEW DAMNED WELL what the problem was... and remains.

We need to go back to Smith. Emphasize fair and transparent and FUN competition, rather than selfishness and idolatry of property.

In fact (and choke on this) too much property in too few hands has always been THE formula for destroying everything that libertarians should sanely and intelligently be for.

Robert said...

For anyone interested I recently reviewed a rather well-done science fiction/space opera webcomic called Outsider. I actually considered it a rather well-done science fiction that turns several traditional tropes on their ears and is well drawn and well written.

Rob H., Tangents Reviews

Tony Fisk said...

What is property?

...and who owns Wikipedia?

gordool: a work of art, wrought from precious bodily fluids.

Sky Wickenden said...

Hi David, amongst all the blinkered responses to your post I just wanted to say that I thought that this was a brilliant post. Thanks for writing it.

sociotard said...

John McCain just endorsed Romney for President. Amusingly, someone also just leaked McCain's 200 page opposition research file on Romney.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/the-book-on-mitt-romney-here-is-john-mccains-ent

sociotard said...

Robert: I like Outsider, but it updates once a never. I have a hard time getting into a webcomic if they don't at least do once a month. Even Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (admittedly not a comic) wears on me in this area.

David Brin: (I actually accept your premise that 4000 years shows winners making unfair playing fields, but I like playing devils advocate)

How about the Potlach communities of the Pacific Northwest? The wealthy took in gifts, but were expected to give back gifts as well.

I was going to read the wikipedia article on the subject to makea better devil's-advocate argument, but of course I can't today. Stupid SOPA!

sociotard said...

Robert: did you ever review "Romantically Apocalyptic"?

I didn't see it on your site.

Robert said...

I've not gotten to that comic yet. Been reading it I think (if it's the one with the nuclear apocalypse and the space aliens and the like). And Outsider has started updating again - at least, it did just update yesterday I believe. I think the artist had RL issues come up, which I'm always understanding of.

Though I do have a means of dealing with the rarely-updating. I read lots of webcomics. So if one doesn't update, I've a dozen others filling the void. =^-^=

Rob H.

Instant Karma said...

David, this piece is brilliant!

I agree modern libertarians focus too much on Rothbardian fundamental property rights, and not enough on the role of competition and positive sum win/win interactions.

I believe we have a cognitive misunderstanding on competition. People tend to view competition and cooperation as opposites and to assume one is good and the other bad. I would offer that both competition and cooperation can be constructive or destructive. To oversimplify, what we want is more constructive competition and cooperation, and less of the destructive manifestations.

As you mention, sports, science, markets and democracy foster constructive cooperation and competition. They are social constructs that encourage variation, selection, and propagation. They accumulate and build positive sum outcomes. (Yes, even sports -- the classic zero sum game-- is really win/lose game encased in a larger positive sum process. Consider the fans and the player salaries and enjoyment).

Your comments on the role of victors to eliminate or restrict future competitors was especially enlightening. Yes, this is in our nature. I will add though that it is not just those with lots of property that threaten liberty and constructive competition/cooperation. All incumbents are drawn to this tactic. This includes factory workers that want to restrict competitors from their jobs, taxi drivers that want to limit new entrants, government bureaucrats and teachers that don't want to compete with private markets, and the various politicians and political coalitions that pander to these groups.

Let me now add a question... You are clearly arguing FOR competition, are you also arguing AGAINST well designed property rights?

Stephan Kinsella said...

David:

"tephan so wonderfully illustrated several things, compactly:
"the various types of aggression that all non-libertarians endorse..."

The non-coercion principle! It achieves many great things at once:

1- it seizes the moral high ground in much the same way that declaring human life to begin at conception does. In both cases you get a pure, platonic essence, a crystal declaration, that declares a priori that the declarer is not only morally superior, but safe from argument. Because any demurral must be, by nature, either a violent thief or a murderer!"

David, the non-aggression principle is really just a compact way of describing the libertarian view of property rights. Libertarians are simply people who prefer and value cooperation to violent struggle. We recognize that the world is full of scarce resources and the only way they can be used productively is to assign ownership in them to people based on objective criteria--such as first-use, in the case of external resources; or self-ownership in the case of one's own body. WE recognize that the only alternative to this is chaos and violent struggle (no property rights); or an unfair or arbitrary, usually collectivist, assignment of property rights (instead of first use, the stronger guy or the group or the state owns things; instead of self-ownership we have other-ownership, commonly known as "slavery", whether partial or more complete).

If you are not a libertarian you have to favor some combination of these alternatives: violence and chaos and battle; slavery and domination; collectivist or even "communist" ownership. AS you told me earlier, you must choose.

Stephan Kinsella said...

David: "3- Like the anti-abortionists, the holders of non-coercion can point to no basis in nature, in natural law, in thermodynamics, genetics or any other verifiable science for the centrality of their "obvious and fundamental" principle."

Verifiable science? This sounds a bit scientistic to me. (Check out Mises, Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science; or Hoppe, Economic Science and the Austrian Method -- both at mises.org and hanshoppe.com).

In any case, it is clear what the alternatives are, as i just noted in the previous comment. We do live in a world of scarcity. Either we have a system of ownership in these resources so they can be used producively, or we do not. Are you seriously in favor of violence and battle as the civilized norms used to determine who gets to use what resource? Or are you in favor of someone having the legally recognized right to control resources? If so, who should it be--in the case of bodies, the person himself, or someone else, his master? In the case of previously unowned resources, who should be the owner--the guy who first appropriated it, or some latecomer, someone who came later--i.e., a thief?

You mention the history of violence in human civilization. So what? There has always been crime too. Norms are prescriptive, not descriptive.

"Indeed, life and nature have been always exceptionally violent and so was our evolution."

Yes. So what? Are you saying this justifies people attacking each other? REally? ARe you really in favor of people just using violence against each other to dominate, kill, rape, steal from them, to get what they want? Does the fact that some people have used violence mean that it's justified and moral?

{more next comment--space limited)

Stephan Kinsella said...

"4- Indeed, as Daniel Pinker shows, the rates of violence have only fallen in the last 60 years... because... of the consensus systems called nations and many many fine-tuned rule sets mediated by... government."

HOw does this show that it is fine to use violence against people? You are here praising states or whatever, because violence has fallen--this means you are implicitly agreeing that violence is a bad thing. But that is all the libertarian says. That interpersonal violence is bad, and is to be reduced as much as possible. Our view is simply that the way to do this is to respect property rights in scarce resources, based on body-ownership and the Lockean first-use appropriation/homesteading principle.

" It has been PRACTICAL men and women - not platonist idealists - who have wrought this miracle."

This does not show that the libertarian opposition to aggression is wrong.

"5- NOTICE that Stephan has utterly ignored - as did David Friedman and every other classic, Rothbardian or Randian libertarian - my open challenge to actually look at human history."

I am not sure what you are talking about. I am aware that history has had violence. I am aware that there has alwauys been private crime, and still is, and that we have long had institutional/public crime in the form of governments or states. So what?

"Watch. He won't do it this time. He will never do it. Nor will any of them. Because to look at those four to six thousand years of relentless oppression by owner-oligarchs will be to admit that there's PROBLEM to be solved."

I already said there is a problem: the problem of social coordination and cooperation; the problem of how to be able to live cooperatively, peacefully, in civilization and society, in a world of scarcity. This is the classic problem of political economy. It all arises from scarcity. And the solution is: to have each resource have a distinct owner, where his ownership claim is objective and publicly discernable and verifiable, and is based on objective criteria and links--namely, self-ownership of one's body, and ownership by the first user, the appropriator, of resources previously unowned.

" And it won't be solved by propertarian versions of libertarianism."

It can only be solved this way. No other system even attempts a "solution". Having "no rules"--might makes right, war of all against all--is no solution to the problem of conflict that arises due to scarcity. Having A owns B is a solution but not a fair or moral or stable or good one. You have to choose: chaos and violence, or slavery, or liberty.

Instant Karma said...

sakhalinsk,

I agree that a complex hierarchy of competition has grown on top of fundamental genes. One major breakthrough was the transition from the rules and constraints of the genetic level (kin selection, mutualism, etc) to cultural evolution. Although extremely recent (possibly as recent as 50,000 years or so ago), this type of competition operates very, very differently than its genetic base.

Cultural evolution is millions of times faster, unfathomably better at combination, spreads omni-directionally, is subject to much more variation, is potentially more efficient and less brutal (ideas can die rather than living things), smarter (can be partially directed), and is potentially more progressive. It is also more prone to group selection.

I understand your fears about social Darwinism and its strange fruits. However, this does not lead to a rejection of competition. It leads to a rejection of destructive win/lose competition. Societies have started to learn how to construct the rules of competition in ways which are potentially constructive or positive sum. We can compete to cooperate better (which is what free enterprise is all about -- producers compete constructively to optimize the win/win interaction with consumers.) Science and sports have different rules, but they too are social constructs to drive innovation and progress via constructive competition.

I have dedicated my life to the study of progress and am convinced that constructive competition is essential to the process (and that destructive competition is cancerous to it).

JohnSerenity said...

While it is apparent to me at least that "all outcomes are equal" from Marxism is incompatible with the best parts of our civilization - somehow many libertarians view the necessary caveat "some outcomes must at all costs be avoided" with the same disdain. I've delved into discussion and debate with self-identifying libertarians.
It is akin to pulling teeth in these conversations to extract this simple necessity: in our civilization there are some outcomes that must be disallowed or negated. We must avoid raising a class of impoverished children, unequal access to basic life sustaining systems, people in government and private industry who cheat and prosper by their cheating

Unrestrained libertarianism - in the Randian sense - can only end in a corrupt, complicit government unable to enforce rules and the rise of new feudalism. It really is happening in the US today.

I still posit we are only as strong as our weakest link while we live in an optimized, organized, democratic society. Should our chain fail, the civilization that we willingly pull forward together will fall to an ugly anarchy reverting to an uglier feudalism.

I'd rather not have that. I don't know many who would, when pressed on the matter, above mentioned libertarians included.

Gilmoure said...

Interesting short article on the cost of 'lost youth' to America.

n one year, a single lost youth will cost all taxpayers $13,900. The total cost to the economy is $37,450, with most of that coming from crime -- including the price of cops, courts, and prisons, as well as the cost to victims. By comparison, government welfare and healthcare costs are a drop in the bucket.

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

it's about property, because people want to find a way to use scarce resources cooperatively and fairly, without unnecessary violent conflict. So in a sense it's about people opposing violence and favoring peace and prosperity


I skimmed your article, so I might have missed an important point. Given that "caveat emptor", I think you are making a fallacy that anything that is not owned is fair game for a "first owner" to claim it.

If humanity were to find itself residing in the Garden Of Eden (suppose a Garden big enough for 8 billion people) so that no one need labor for basic needs beyond the effort of walking short distances and picking food, then would the Libertarian position be that every individual should be free to do so? Or would it be that whoever laid first claim to "ownership" of the land and all its bounty could morally prevent any other humans from eating "his" food or sleeping on "his" land?

It sounds as if you are arguing in favor of the latter option, which to me is a dangerous fallacy.

Libertarianism is theoretically opposed to the initiation of force, but "force" is defined too narrowly if you presume it only to refer to physical violence or the threat thereof. If I assert a legal claim to ALL of the available food, or ALL of the available water, or ALL of the available air, or ALL of the available land, then I am de-facto able to withhold the means of survival from you unless you accept my unilateral terms. If that is distict from "force", it is a distinction without a difference.

LarryHart said...

Carl M:

Without any government, government-like services would be mostly charged by property value. The owners of the Biltmore estate would pay more than the 99% regardless of the income earned from said estate. The real question is how long there would be a market in protection before merger mania results in a new government.


Isn't there also a question of authority? In our society, government has the monopoly on the application of corecive force. If government is abolished in favor of private "protection", then where does the moral authority vest? I may have the RIGHT to hire mercenaries to protect my own property, but their ABILITY to protect my property would seem to rely on "might makes right", and once they HAVE that ability, what prevents them from using the same ability to enforce their own will regardless of true ownership?



The mostly avoided question among libertarians is that of past injustice. Do we ignore the difference in inheritance between blacks and whites caused by slavery and Jim Crow?...


I agree that that is AN important question, but I think the "most-avoided" question among libertarians is more fundamental than what you suggest--the question of whether certain things belong in a category of "off-limits to claims of ownership".

For example, we all breathe oxygen produced by marine life and Brazillian rainforests. Is it right that an individual gets to claim OWNERSHIP of the rainforests and the oceans on the grounds that NO OTHER INDIVIDUAL has a private claim on those things? Even though every human being has been (indirectly) using those things for millions of years?

I oversimplify, but I trust you my point is clear.

Stephan Kinsella said...

LarryHart:

"I think you are making a fallacy that anything that is not owned is fair game for a "first owner" to claim it."

It has to be fair game, because no one else has the right to stop you. If they did, THEY would be the owner, contrary to the assumption. Anthony de Jasay and Hoppe go into this more -- see the notes in What Libertarianism IS mentiononing them. http://mises.org/daily/3660

"If humanity were to find itself residing in the Garden Of Eden (suppose a Garden big enough for 8 billion people) so that no one need labor for basic needs beyond the effort of walking short distances and picking food, then would the Libertarian position be that every individual should be free to do so?"

Technically scarcity means rivalrousness: so in a world of a near infinite superabundance of bananas, then still, if they are physical, each banana would be a scarce resource. IF I have one and you take it, it's theft. But the thign is, in such a world, why would I care if you took it? I coudl conjure up another one easily. Or why would you take it--you have easy access to the superabundance. So in this sense lack-of-abundance type scarcity turns into rivalrousnessness at the limit.

[continued]

Stephan Kinsella said...

But the point is, in our world things are scarce(rivalrous), so that means if you take it from me or use it, I don't have it any more. We cannot both use a bicycle at the same time, and we cannot both eat the same banana. So if we are to be able to use these good productively and cooperately and peacefully, as means to fulfill our own ends, then there need to be property rules saying which person has the ownership of it. It's really pretty simple. And part of human history, if we want to take that into account. Property is a natural institution--just as violence is. But the former is civilized and productive. the latter is not.

" Or would it be that whoever laid first claim to "ownership" of the land and all its bounty could morally prevent any other humans from eating "his" food or sleeping on "his" land?"

Yes. If we are to be able to use resources that were previously unowned, then they will have to be used FIRST by someone. If no one can be the first user, they coudl never be used. and if the second guy to come along coudl take it from the first guy by force, then that is not property rights; that is might makes right, the war of all against all. It is the rule of possession, not the rule of ownership. Which is contrary to the assumed desire to find property norms that permit productive, peaceful use of scarce resources.

"It sounds as if you are arguing in favor of the latter option, which to me is a dangerous fallacy."

An option is a fallacy? Preferring peace and cooperation is a fallacy?

"If I assert a legal claim to ALL of the available food, or ALL of the available water, or ALL of the available air, or ALL of the available land, then I am de-facto able to withhold the means of survival from you unless you accept my unilateral terms."

Libertarian Lockean homesteading does not permit you to just "claim" ownership of things by verbal decree. IF you allowed that, then multiple people could claim the same thing. There would be no unique owner. This is why appropriation involves actually using some particular resource, and transforming it somehow so that your claimed borders are objectively visible to others. So you can homestead a tract of land by building a house on it, putting upa fense, tilling the ffields. but you don't thereby get the entire continent. Rothbard explains this in his concept of "relevant technological unit." Just google his name and that term, and maybe with my name.

" If that is distict from "force", it is a distinction without a difference."

I agree that claiming something that you have never used, and trying to enforce that, is a type of aggression. Of course that happens nowdaday by the state which claims the moon, antarctica, and millions of acres of virgin forest in the national parks, etc. Only with a state could a private claimant get away with having title based on no appropriation, use, or occupation or transformation.

rewinn said...

"In the case of previously unowned resources, who should be the owner--the guy who first appropriated it, or some latecomer, someone who came later--i.e., a thief?..."

Argument by insult is a concession that you have no argument at all.

Stephan Kinsella said...

Rewinn: ""In the case of previously unowned resources, who should be the owner--the guy who first appropriated it, or some latecomer, someone who came later--i.e., a thief?..."

Argument by insult is a concession that you have no argument at all."

So.... if some guy A homesteads some property, and some later guy comes along and physically takes it from him, it's ... an .... insult ...? to .... call him a thief...? What else would you call him?

Howlin' Hobbit said...

JohnSerenity said...
Unrestrained libertarianism - in the Randian sense - can only end in a corrupt, complicit government unable to enforce rules and the rise of new feudalism. It really is happening in the US today.

where precisely is (or was) this "unrestrained libertarianism" in the U.S. that's led us to where we are today?

rewinn said...

And, as is surprisingly common, Schlock Mercenary has a forceful comment on SOPA/PIPA (...also relevant to this "property" discussion...)

"I don't really have anything original to say about how bad the SOPA and PIPA legislation is. And yes, they're so bad that if I say something unoriginal, and the person who originally said it takes issue with that, they would have the power to replace not just my blog, but the entire site with something like that graphic"

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

If you are not a libertarian you have to favor some combination of these alternatives: violence and chaos and battle; slavery and domination; collectivist or even "communist" ownership. AS you told me earlier, you must choose.


The real world contains bullies and victims. Libertarians will not admit that they do have to choose whether they are in favor of freedom FROM bullies or freedom FOR bullies. You can't have both.

When you abolish government, you say that everyone (bully or not) is free to do whatever he wishes. In reality, it means the bullies get their way because there is no opposing force to stop them. You can claim that you are "against" the use of force by bullies as well as by governments, but the system you advocate can't do anything ABOUT bullies, so they win. They couldn't give a flying crap about whether or not you approve of them.

Any system resting on a foundation of "Well, first we'll go somewhere without bullies and keep them out, and then everyone else will engage in trade as equals" is a fantasy. You say you are "against" the rule of lords as much as you are against the rule of government, but once you abolish government, what prevents the most ruthless of lords from getting his way?

rewinn said...

@Stephan Kinsella said...
"...if some guy A homesteads some property, and some later guy comes along and physically takes it from him, it's ... an .... insult ...? to .... call him a thief...? What else would you call him?"

There are so many possibilities, e.g.:

* A creditor
* A tax collector
* A prior owner who the "homesteader" didn't notice.

It all depends on the facts of the situation. The problem with your entire line of argument is that you explicitly eschew empiricism.

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinesella:

But the point is, in our world things are scarce(rivalrous), so that means if you take it from me or use it, I don't have it any more. We cannot both use a bicycle at the same time, and we cannot both eat the same banana.


But we CAN both drink from the same river and breathe oxygen from the same forest. When someone comes along and dumps sewage into the river or chops down the forest for lumber, he takes that water and that oxygen away from both of us. Neither of us individually owns our environment, but why shouldn't an assertion of "Hey, we were USING that" be able to prevent someone from claiming that enviornment as his own personal property.

rewinn said...

@socitard brought up potlach communities.

The wonderful thing about pre-Vancouver Puget Sound country is that was really friendly to human habitation. You could get all the protein you needed by digging in the sand at high tide; even today a few beachowners can enjoy seafood every day if they don't mind holding their breath and swimming underwater (...please ignore the industrial pollution...). This had disadvantages as well, but to the point ...

"Rich" potlachers had nothing like the distribution of wealth we see today. Most goods were impermanent; potlachs tended to be more like the efficient distribution of surpluses than sheer displays of economic bad-assery (...although no doubt there was some of that as well. Humanity is a status-loving species!) There also does not seem to have been a tradition of inheritance of significant wealth, and no real concept of land ownership at all (...which made the white "purchase" of land all the easier). For this and perhaps other factors, hereditary oppressive aristocracies did not arise (...although there was undoubtedly bullying and tribal rivalries; slaves had to come from somewhere!)

Stephan Kinsella said...

Larry:

"The real world contains bullies and victims. Libertarians will not admit that they do have to choose whether they are in favor of freedom FROM bullies or freedom FOR bullies. You can't have both."

what are you talking about? We know there are bullies and victims. We favor the victim being free from bullies. We oppose freedom for bullies. And of course, the biggest bully is the state.

"When you abolish government, you say that everyone (bully or not) is free to do whatever he wishes."

"Government" is used here in an equivocating way. YOu seem to mean it to describe law and order. We do not oppose government if that is what it means. We favor law, rights, defense of rights. We are in favor of force used to defend against bullies. We are simply opposed to the *state* since it is also a "bully". "Government" in your sense does not need to employ aggression--force, but not aggression. States necessarily employ aggression, as I explain in What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist.

" In reality, it means the bullies get their way because there is no opposing force to stop them."


this is not true. we are not pacifists.

" You can claim that you are "against" the use of force by bullies as well as by governments,"

I am against the use of force by private criminals, and also the institutionlized use of aggressive force by states. But not against self-defensive force used by victims, or by their agents/defense agencies.
" but the system you advocate can't do anything ABOUT bullies, so they win."

YOu just don't know what you are talking about. There is a whole literature on justice systems in private law societies. Hoppe, david Friedman, Rothbard, the Tannehills, Randy Barnett, George Smith.

Rewinn:

" @Stephan Kinsella said...
"...if some guy A homesteads some property, and some later guy comes along and physically takes it from him, it's ... an .... insult ...? to .... call him a thief...? What else would you call him?"

There are so many possibilities, e.g.:

* A creditor
* A tax collector
* A prior owner who the "homesteader" didn't notice."

The creditor has a contract with the owner. So the owner has contractually transferred title to the creditor. So he is not a thief. As for the "prior owner," that is fighting the hypo since we are assuming the first guy homesteaded an *unowned* piece of property.

The tax collector is indeed a thief. Good point.


"It all depends on the facts of the situation. The problem with your entire line of argument is that you explicitly eschew empiricism."

YOu don't know what you are talking about. Misesians like me are methodological dualists. We are all in favor of the scientific method for exploring the domain of causal laws. We just realize it's not appropriate when understanding norms and teleology. Got to use the right tool.

Stephan Kinsella said...

LarryHart said...

" Stephan Kinesella:

But the point is, in our world things are scarce(rivalrous), so that means if you take it from me or use it, I don't have it any more. We cannot both use a bicycle at the same time, and we cannot both eat the same banana.


But we CAN both drink from the same river and breathe oxygen from the same forest."

That is why air, say, is not currently a scarce resource. When I breathe I do not prevent you from breathing (though each of us gulps a mouthful of air that is our proprty so long as it is in our own lungs).

" When someone comes along and dumps sewage into the river or chops down the forest for lumber, he takes that water and that oxygen away from both of us."

Yes, that is why libertarians recognize pollutions as a form of property trespss. See Rothbard's Law, Air Pollution and Property rights classic article.

" Neither of us individually owns our environment, but why shouldn't an assertion of "Hey, we were USING that" be able to prevent someone from claiming that enviornment as his own personal property."
You are confused. For a particular resource that can be used only by one person--a scarce or rivalrous thing--there can be contests over it, competing claims by 2 or more people. If we want to avoid fighting and just letting the stronger guy win, we have to decide who has the better claim to own it. Whoever we assign it to, it does not mean he can use his property to pollute other people's property. If you own a gun it doesn't mean you can shoot other poeple with it. The actions we can perform (usually with the aid of varous scarce resources, or means) are limited by others' property borders.

Carl M. said...

@LarryHart:

1. I haven't been an anarchist for decades. However, I still recommend David Friedman's "The Machinery of Freedom." Many government services today taken for granted have in the past been performed by competitive agencies. Policing in pre-Imperial Rome and pre-Norman England were both services for hire. (Read Churchill on the latter.) Whether competitive services are a better arrangement than monopoly government is another question. Depends on the society, IMO.

Mutual agreement upon laws can and has happened, and there are quite a few examples of geographically overlapping legal systems. Happened a lot under empires as well as in feudal Europe.

2. Your issue about Brazilian rainforests is an important one, but I didn't list it as overlooked because the geoist school takes such issues very seriously. I consider myself a peripheral member of this school.

Carl M. said...

@everyone: Just in case it is not obvious, I am not a member of the same school of thought as Mr. Kinsella. I outgrew Rothbard decades ago. I find Kinsella's proof-by-churlishness a dark comedy, detrimental to liberty. Those who enjoy quality rancor can do a google search containing both our names for much amusement.

Stephan Kinsella said...

Rewinn:

"@Stephan Kinsella
"...the owner has contractually transferred title to the creditor."

No. When you buy gas for your car, you don't contractually transferring title to your house to Exxon."

Yes you do. There are ancillary aspects of contracts, conditional transfers of title. See my article on the title transfer theory of contract, at stephankinsella.com/publications.

""... we are assuming the first guy homesteaded an *unowned* piece of property."

Your assumption is silly. There are no such pieces of property anywhere on Earth today,"

sure there are--in the national parks. but that is not hte point. currently used land had to be first used at some point. And the first user has a better cliam than others.

""The tax collector is indeed a thief"
At least in the West, there is a contractual relationship between citizen and government."

No there is not. This is just social contract theory which is nonsense. I never entered into an agreement with the US. Shirley, you are aware of many criticisms of social contract theory.

" So long as the government follows the law (...which admittedly is not always the case...)"

the state never follows true law. It always violates it and makes exceptiions for itself, as when it commits theft (taxation) that its laws do not let normal people engage in.

"However, I am not unreasonable. I am willing to revert all property rights that rest upon the taking of land by force for its first finders. But then, I've married into a Coastal tribe and therefore have original title to the land on which sits my house.

May I expect rent checks from @Stephan Kinsella soon? "

I discuss this regarding property titles in http://blog.mises.org/14867/property-title-records-and-insurance-in-a-free-society/ and http://www.libertarianstandard.com/2010/11/19/justice-and-property-rights-rothbard-on-scarcity-property-contracts/. As Rothbard writes:

"It might be charged that our theory of justice in property titles is deficient because in the real world most landed (and even other) property has a past history so tangled that it becomes impossible to identify who or what has committed coercion and therefore who the current just owner may be. But the point of the “homestead principle” is that if we don’t know what crimes have been committed in acquiring the property in the past, or if we don’t know the victims or their heirs, then the current owner becomes the legitimate and just owner on homestead grounds. In short, if Jones owns a piece of land at the present time, and we don’t know what crimes were committed to arrive at the current title, then Jones, as the current owner, becomes as fully legitimate a property owner of this land as he does over his own person. Overthrow of existing property title only becomes legitimate if the victims or their heirs can present an authenticated, demonstrable, and specific claim to the property. Failing such conditions, existing landowners possess a fully moral right to their property."

Stephan Kinsella said...

Carl "M.":

"
@everyone: Just in case it is not obvious, I am not a member of the same school of thought as Mr. Kinsella. I outgrew Rothbard decades ago. I find Kinsella's proof-by-churlishness a dark comedy, detrimental to liberty. Those who enjoy quality rancor can do a google search containing both our names for much amusement."

You say you "outgrew" it. That is a condescending and jerk thing to say. Yet you say my argument is by churlishness. This takes some chutpah given your own lack of argument and condescension; and it's false, to boot: my argument is extensive and systematic as is that of Hoppe, Rothbard, and others.

In fact I have been civil here despite rudeness and being piled on (Brin's dismissive tone, telling me to "choke on this"), and patient with people who are obvious newbs but asking decent and sincere questions.

If you used to be an anarchist, but now are now, when did you start believing the systematic aggression employed by the state is legitimate?

rewinn said...

@Stephan Kinsella
"...the owner has contractually transferred title to the creditor."

Oh, ok. If someone has a claim on your property, then taking it is not theft. Excellent! Then ....

"... we are assuming the first guy homesteaded an *unowned* piece of property."

... your argument therefore concerns nothing in physical reality today. There are no such pieces of property anywhere on Earth, barring perhaps seasteading and vulcanism; all homesteading in North America at least has been subject to prior claim by government....

"The tax collector is indeed a thief"
... except ( at least in the West) there is a contractual relationship between citizen and government. So long as the government follows the law (...which admittedly is not always the case...) it is not a thief under any legal definition of theft.... including your own above!

If your private definition of theft is that it necessarily includes all taxes because you have no prior contract with government, then that definition may have some application but only in a world that does not exist. You are welcome to it!

---

However, I am not unreasonable. I am willing to revert all property rights that rest upon the taking of land by force from its first finders. But then, I've married into a Coastal tribe and therefore have original title to the land on which sits my house, and perhaps some interest in the land that you are sitting on right now.

May I expect rent checks from y'all soon?

rewinn said...

"...the state never follows true law...."

LAW: You keep using the word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Look, Stephan, you're a very amusing fellow but you have private definitions for a great many words, and you don't seem interested in discussing physical reality.

You're entitled to all that, of course, but you can not expect people who are interested in actually accomplishing things to do more than be amused.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Stephan, you seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place. If I might, you seem to be of the opinion that the only good government is none, or a bare minimum. What functions would you legitimately assign a government? Bear in mind that anything you can't perform for yourself, you will have to pay someone else to do. This includes but is not limited to guaranteeing clean water, roads, and protection (fire, police, etc.)

BTW, the current proposition seems to be the "Government of One." After that, you end up with varying spectra of social contracts, up to and including assorted sizes of governments. Where does your flavor of Libertarianism fit in?

TheMadLibrarian

menons: a discredited meme

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

Whoever we assign it to, it does not mean he can use his property to pollute other people's property. If you own a gun it doesn't mean you can shoot other poeple with it. The actions we can perform (usually with the aid of varous scarce resources, or means) are limited by others' property borders.


First of all, I'm glad to hear you say that. Your personal philosophy may not be a bad one.

However, 21st century Libertarians seem (to me) to be on the side of the absolute right to pollute. Not that you have a right to dump garbage on MY land, but that you have a right to run your business in such a way that the air and water of the surrounding community, or even the surrounding continent, end up eating your toxic waste.

Rand Paul is an actual US Senator who argues that attempts to get BP to pay for the damage it did to the Gulf of Mexico, or attempts to prevent it from doing the same sort of damage again, amount to President Obama "stepping on the upturned neck" of the corporation.

Being a US Senator, Dr Paul has probably had to take some positions you don't consider True Libertarian, but if what he says doesn't count as a libertarian position, then really, what DOES count as such? I'm not an insider in the Libertarian Party or a student of its literature, but I can't believe there's a particular subset of canon on which all would agree "These positions count as libertarian--all these others spoken by those who consider THEMSELVES to be libertarian are mistaken." So when I hear a position advocated by Ron or Rand Paul and cheered by their followers, I think of it as a "libertarian position", and I'd put the onus on you to demonstrate otherwise.

Carl M. said...

Kinsella writes: "This takes some chutpah given your own lack of argument and condescension; and it's false, to boot: my argument is extensive and systematic as is that of Hoppe, Rothbard, and others."

Systematic as Rothbard = proof by churlishness.

In this thread you echoed Rothbard's technique when you wrote: "Georgists are economically illiterate cranks." Rothbard's "refutation" of Georgist arguments in "For a New Liberty" was of a similar caliber.

The justification of the state is conditional: if it results in more liberty than anarchy, it is justifiable. You may now proceed to refute my argument by invoking Santa Claus.

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella said many times:

States necessarily employ aggression...


If anyone "necessarily" employs aggression, it is a corporation. I'm genuinely curious (not presuming to know the answer) as to whether you are also "an-archist" against the coercive power of corporations.

Robert said...

Libertarianism seems to be concerned less with individual liberties and more with reduced government influence. The problem is that nature abhors a void. If government is not there, private industry will be. And they will be far less charitable to people than government is.

If there were no laws protecting free speech, for instance, then corporations would go after anyone who ever said anything negative about their products. If you were hurt by one of their products they'd sue you and claim you were directly responsible for what went wrong. They would do everything in their power to ensure that they remain in power and also work to destroy any and all competition.

This is the nature of corporations. They do not pity. They do not consider ethics. They don't care what is right. They only "care" for their own maximized power. One example of this lies with what happened in the U.S. a little over a century ago when corporations did everything in their power (including bribing government forces) to destroy the union movement.

This is why I'm a Social Libertarian. We need government to protect people from industry. But government should stay out of the affairs of its civilians, so long as our actions do not harm others.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

You say you "outgrew" it. That is a condescending and jerk thing to say. Yet you say my argument is by churlishness. This takes some chutpah given your own lack of argument and condescension; and it's false, to boot: my argument is extensive and systematic as is that of Hoppe, Rothbard, and others.

In fact I have been civil here despite rudeness and being piled on (Brin's dismissive tone, telling me to "choke on this"), and patient with people who are obvious newbs but asking decent and sincere questions.


Ok, seriously dude! You don't see the irony of juxtaposing a claim that someone else is a condescending jerk with your own flip references to others as "obvious noobs"? Or your own Rand-Paulish assertion that one person's dismissive tone constitutes "piling on"?

Try listening to yourself some time.

sotonohito said...

Wow, I think I've seen everything now.

A self admitted follower of the religion of **AUSTRIAN ECONOMY** calling someone else an economically illiterate crank?

This from a guy who explicitly rejects empiricism.

I say again, wow!

John Kurman said...

Okay, real world example:

Would you return aboriginal lands?

If you (you being whatever stripe libertarian you are, gold kryptonite, red, whatever) accept the "no force or fraud" principle (and presume that the exclusive or is in effect, i.e. the taking of Indian lands is OK under force and fraud), then are you ready to give up your ill-gotten gains?

Me, I'm ready to be contrary and suggest that perhaps there exists out there in the real world (you know the place where you have to deal with empirical results) some thing like the Right of Conquest. It may not be pretty, but it does exist.

So, ready to return your land to the Indians? If not, why not?

Lisa said...

The fact that you can even ask the question "Is Libertarianism Fundamentally about Competition? Or about Property?" means that you really don't understand what libertarianism is about. It isn't primarily about either of those. It's about liberty. It's about recognizing the personal autonomy of individual human beings.

Capitalism comes in as a consequence; not as a fundamental principle. To whatever extent capitalism (or what's called capitalism) doesn't jibe with that sort of personal autonomy, it isn't a libertarian ideal.

And the whole idea that the State is entitled to restrict the liberty of the individual for social engineering purposes, be it to increase competition or any other motive, reduces human beings to pawns on a gameboard. No majority has a moral right to play with people that way. Even a near unanimity doesn't.

Libertarianism is a complete rejection of social engineering in any and all forms.

Your claims that unlimited private property has crushed 99% of civilizations are bizarre. Not one of those civilizations was actually free. They all had monarchies with absolute power to override private property. They all had monarchs who did favors for those they liked and confiscated things from those they disliked. That's what causes obscene concentrations of wealth like we see today. It simply doesn't happen unless there's government interference.

The closest we have ever come to a truly free society is the USA, and that's been eroded over the years until it's almost as bad as those monarchies.

Lisa said...

That said, most self-professed libertarians are abusing the term.

Ian said...

"Libertarians are simply people who prefer and value cooperation to violent struggle."

- Stephan Kinsella

Do you have any empirical evidence that this is in fact the case? For example, are libertarians less likely to be charged with violent crimes? More likely to be conscientious objectors?

I might propose an alternate theory that those who are the beneficiaries of past coercive economic relations might tend to oppose further such coercion since they're likely to be net losers from it.

David Couzins said...

Libertarians are okay with a few rules, if they weren’t, they’d be anarchists. I agree that keeping competition fair is critically important.

Skimming this very interesting thread just made me realize that the storyworld I just created contains the three societal states mentioned above: 1.) a group living in complete freedom except for a very few tribal rules (all Native American Indian nations); 2.) a group living under total government control with equal rationing of goods (The vast majority of Americans who moved into sealed bunkers to protect themselves from a dangerous world.); and 3.) a few small, scattered groups living in “strongholds” structured as a feudal system.

I was trying to create a fun adventure that championed freedom (individual liberty) and small government over big government. But this discussion has me wondering if shouldn’t dig deeper and showcase the pros and cons of all three systems…but still coming down on the side of fairly competing Libertarians of course!

Thanks everyone for making me think.

Ian said...

"So.... if some guy A homesteads some property, and some later guy comes along and physically takes it from him, it's ... an .... insult ...? to .... call him a thief...? What else would you call him?"

In the case of Native Americans, I believe the traditional term was "Paleface", at least in Holywood parlance.

David Brin said...

WOw, a hornets' nest!


Instant Karma I agree that "self-serving elites" can take many forms. The American enlightenment is based upon suspicion of authority and when politics are sane, the decent conservative frets over Big Brother moves by snooty academics, big labor and faceless bureaucrats. The decent liberal worries over power grabs by aristo-oligarchs and faceless corporations. BOTH ARE RIGHT and they should be guarding each others' backs,

Instead, the right is so fixated on a pallid and gelded-neutered enemy "socialism" that working stiffs are distracted from even noticing the return of THE enemy that destroyed freedom in 99% of human cultures.

The refusal of any of my libertarian visitors... especially David Friedman... to ever ever ever even discuss 4 to 6 thousand years of human history, when the same failure mode repeatedly ruined freedom and markets, shows their intellectual cowardice.

Utter (and ignoramus) cowardice.

IK said: "Let me now add a question... You are clearly arguing FOR competition, are you also arguing AGAINST well designed property rights?"

In fact, there is an arc. Without well-definded property rights the poor cannot rise up and compete. The reforms of Hernando deSoto (look him up!!!!) in Peru delighted BOTH libertarians and liberals and created a boom. I may be a heretic libertarian but I am a libertarian! And I believe that property rights are key to both justice and enhancing creative competition --

-- up to a point. At which point we have to address the AGE-OLD WAY THAT FREEDOM FAILED. In every other civ. And it failed directly and undeniably because of excessive ownership. Because the idolatry of private property turns it into a power base from which humans (naturally) thereupon endeavor to CHEAT!

Dig this well... our US Founders knew this. The ink on Wealth of Nations was barely dry. They LEVELLED property to an astonishing degree. Washington and Jefferson wanted to be able to be rich. But merely rich! Satiably rich. Rich in a limited extent, the way the Japanese insist upon, today. The way we were after the Founders seized millions of oligarch acres and redistributed them, then banned primogeniture in order to break up huge estates.

The Way FDR crafted a FLAT social order that was simultaneously market competitive and vastly entrepreneurial... two facts that went together not in conflict.

==

David Brin said...

Stephan, your sanctimony and strawmanning of my position would do Savanarola or Rasputin proud.

"If you are not a libertarian you have to favor some combination of these alternatives: violence and chaos and battle; slavery and domination; collectivist or even "communist" ownership. "

This is utter drivel and lying bullshit. It is not even logical within its own context.

YOUR unlimited propertarianism is precisely the failure mode of 6000 years that led to slavery, battle, oppression and horror. It is only in the last century that enlightenment civilizations staunched such things.

"You mention the history of violence in human civilization. So what? There has always been crime too. Norms are prescriptive, not descriptive."

Good lord. The sciences of biology, evolution, history... all of it dismissed with a blithe shrug! All that matters to him is his incantations.

You know who else utterly dismissed the relevance of biology? (Though at least he knew more history than libertarians do.) Karl Marx. His incantations were doozies!

But finally Stephan asks a decent question:
DB:"Indeed, life and nature have been always exceptionally violent and so was our evolution."

Stephan Yes. So what? Are you saying this justifies people attacking each other? REally?

Bullshit. I am saying that violence does not go away because you and rothbard wave your arms and proclaim "begone violence!" What dippy nonsense. Priests have waved more powerful incantations than yours at the problem, which has roots sunk deep into our evolution as far back as paramecium!

Only one thing ever decreased violence and it was not mystical "normative" incantations. It was reciprocal accountability - what libertarianism OUGHT to be about. The Enlightenment experiment, toward wrich you and rothbard are so horrifically ungrateful.

Armwavings and armwavings. The solution is to have each thing have an owner? Bullshit again. MANY societies have had everything "owned"... by kings and oligarchs and feudal lords and master guilds....

Stephan blithely dismisses the lessons of 6000 years as irrelevant. SO? There has always been violence but MY untested and purely platonic -idealized essence prescription will handle it!

Incantations. The kings and lords all had their own priests incanting at them. It never did a whit of good.

Stephan Kinsella said...

A few brief replies. Calling people newbs is not an insult. Part of what I do as a scholar and teacher is to teach people who are new to things.

Consistent libertarians are anarchists, as I am. This does not mean they are against rules at all. Only against state-enforced law.

Whether libertarians are less criminal in their private life is likely, as actions tend to follow ideas and values, but classifying people as libertarian is about their ideas.

Rejecting empiricism-logical positivism-scientism and monism is not to reject empirical evidence or science. It is to recognize the proper domain and application of the method of the natural sciences, and those applicable to the social and teleological sciences such as economics and normative studies.

Stephan Kinsella said...

As for corporations, the state should not exist, and it should not grant incorporation charters. But in a free society, companies could organize themselves by contract alone and have the main features that corporations have now, including perpetual lifespan and limited liability of shareholders, as Robert Hessen showed with his In Defense of the Corporation.

I do not see much civility or willingness to discourse honestly here, so unless that changes I do not expect to spend much more time here.

David Brin said...

Lisa, a burden of proof is on you that a failure mode that crossed 6000 years was not because of the one common trait shared by those failed civilizations...

...unlimited property ownership by an oligarch-ruler caste.

Dig it... competition is pretty much the SAME as freedom when it is fair and truly open... because the two cannot exist without each other. Delusional humans will make a million mistakes. we can be held accountable from above (the way of 6000) years...

...or we can be held accountable reciprocally, by each other, the enlightenment way and the way libertarians should recognize as THEIRS!

Idolatry of propertarianism is to SEEK the failure mode of 6000 years. And to abandon the one that your movement should be for.

Ian said...

Question for the "Austrian Economists" present: I'm a plain old economist.

I use that descriptor because I spent five years (mostly part-time) obtaining a degree in Economics, then went on to work for approximately a decade as an economist working for both private and public sector employers and undertaking additional post-graduate study during that period.

How about you?

In there are accredited university somewhere with courses in "Austrian Econometrics" and "Austrian Micro-economics"?

David Brin said...

"I do not see much civility or willingness to discourse honestly here, so unless that changes I do not expect to spend much more time here."

Bah... we can be brusque here, but challenging and fair. We are varied! Not the chanting incantation-shouters where you may otherwise hang.

You have been made welcome here, in our fashion, with the thing bright minds ought to want.

Challenge.

Stephan Kinsella said...

DB:

"DB:"Indeed, life and nature have been always exceptionally violent and so was our evolution."

Stephan Yes. So what? Are you saying this justifies people attacking each other? REally?

Bullshit. I am saying that violence does not go away because you and rothbard wave your arms and proclaim "begone violence!" What dippy nonsense."

I agree it is nonsense. And I never said it. Norms and rights are prescriptive. They are not self-enforcing. Unlike causal laws, which are facts and not breakable. That right there should show you the problem with monistic scientism.

My view is that it takes resources to find ways to survive, to conquer the elements, and ot defend against dangers, whether they be lions or hurricanes or disease, or other men. I do not believe that having a state that has the monopoly of violence, justice, and law, is the appropriate means of stopping private crime. If anything, states do a terrible job at the one thing they are supposed to do: protect us from crime; and they become bigger criminals themselves. The fact that private crime is possible simply does not normatively justify the commission of crime by people calling themselves our governors.

" Priests have waved more powerful incantations than yours at the problem, which has roots sunk deep into our evolution as far back as paramecium!"

I have never deluded myself that incantations work.

"
Only one thing ever decreased violence and it was not mystical "normative" incantations."

FYI I am not religious. I oppose mysticism and such ideas. But norms are not mystical. Norms are just rules. They generally are teleological in that that they are aimed at achieving some goal of hte actor, based on the actor's values. Most of us share a lot of common value or norms, which I call grundnorms (after Kelsen). These inform the laws and rights and rules that we agree to and propose and advance. Among the community of the civilized they alreayd tend to agree on basic things, like not harming each other unless they are a threat; live and let live. But there are some that are threats, and we have to deal wit them. Your error is in thinking this fact of private crime justifies public crime. To make this argument is itself a normative endeavor, but it fails.

" It was reciprocal accountability - what libertarianism OUGHT to be about."

I thought it was about competition.

IN any case I agree that reciprocity is a huge part of our system: we have rights with respect to each other insofar as we agree to respect each others' rights. I agree to respect your right to do as you please, if and so long as you grant me the same recognition. this is what society and civilizaiotn is about. The ones who do not are outlaws in some sense, and beyond the normal protection of the law, like pirates on the sea without a flag.
[cont]

Stephan Kinsella said...

"Armwavings and armwavings. The solution is to have each thing have an owner? Bullshit again. MANY societies have had everything "owned"... by kings and oligarchs and feudal lords and master guilds...."

yes, and these things have an owner: the king, etc. Every system allocates some identifiable owner of each contestable resource. The only question is: who is the right person to award it to. I say: my body belongs to me, not to a king or the tax man. Some land I have foudn and improved, or goods I have produced through my effort using or from my land or other property, -- I am the one who ought to have the right to control it, not a king, president, brigand, or tax man. If you disagree, then you still think it has an owner, you just disagree with me on who it is.

"
Stephan blithely dismisses the lessons of 6000 years as irrelevant."

I don't dismiss anything; I don't see a clear argument for what these lessons are. You seem to jump like a monistic empiricist from mere facts to what you see must be obvious normative conclusions--violating Hume's warnings about the is-ought gap. You cannot go from facts/is to values/ought purely logically, it's a category mistake; you must at some point introduce some value that you are presuming or assuming, either explicitly or implicitly. I know engineers get impatient with not being able to brute force everything, but,,, hey I didn't create the universe.

" SO? There has always been violence but MY untested and purely platonic -idealized essence prescription will handle it!"

I never said that. I said that aggression is unjustified. Whether committed by private criminals or the state. I have yet to see you even attempt to offer a justification for aggression.

Stephan Kinsella said...

DB: "Bah... we can be brusque here, but challenging and fair. We are varied! Not the chanting incantation-shouters where you may otherwise hang.

You have been made welcome here, in our fashion, with the thing bright minds ought to want."

Fair enough. And thanks for the clarification and welcome. I have been booted before from similar places for daring to differ. It is frustrating to see such bizarre assumptions being made. You and others seem to be conflating me with views of others. How about we be individuals here.

Hank Roberts said...

Brin gets Paine.

Brin:
"... by ensuring that all poor kids get the care and education needed to become adult competitors! By ensuring that social status - whether poor or hyper-privileged - is never the prime determinant of success or failure. ..."

Paine:
"... It appears as if the tide of mental faculties flowed as far as it could in certain channels, and then forsook its course, and arose in others.... It appears to general observation, that revolutions create genius and talents; but those events do no more than bring them forward. There is existing in man, a mass of sense lying in a dormant state, and which, unless something excites it to action, will descend with him, in that condition, to the grave. As it is to the advantage of society that the whole of its faculties should be employed, the construction of government ought to be such as to bring forward, by a quiet and regular operation, all that extent of capacity which never fails to appear in revolutions....
...
... When the mind of a nation is bowed down by any political superstition in its government ... it loses a considerable portion of its powers on all other subjects and objects....
...
... that which we ought to conceive government to be, is no more than some common center in which all the parts of society unite."

http://www.ushistory.org/Paine/rights/c2-03.htm
Thomas Paine -- The Rights of Man

sotonohito said...

"This does not mean they are against rules at all. Only against state-enforced law."

So, what about non-state enforced laws that are restrictive and oppressive?

Take, for example, most tribal societies. There is no state in any real sense, but the laws enforced in those societies are often shockingly restrictive and oppressive.

As for empiricism, you seem to be saying that economics is disconnected from reality and you can simply declare, ex cathedra as it were, that certain things are true. Since you've rejected empiricism there is apparently no way to actually discuss economics with you. To me that looks like you've reduced it to religious status.

I can either agree with your declared axioms and join you in worship at the font of Austrian Economics, or disagree an dbe a heretic and a sinner, but it appears you wish to forbid anyone from bringing up actual evidence or experimental data.

Given that, why should I care about Austrian Economics any more or less than I care about Shinto theology, or discussions of Harry Potter's magical abilities? All seem equally made up.

Carl M. said...

@Ian: George Mason University has quite a few economists of the Austrian school, including some who challenge the orthodoxies that Stephan seeks to defend.

@David: Upon further reflection, I'm curious as to why you are calling out David Friedman in this article. Friedman cites quite a bit of history in his writings and is well aware of Adam Smith's observation. David Friedman to my knowledge has not endorsed Republicans over Democrats. I don't think he votes at all.

One of his core arguments for anarchy is that it is easier for the elites to buy out a government than competing services. You can spend a congressman or a captured regulatory agency many times.(A rough paraphrase)

His primary example of working anarchy was medieval Iceland, which I believe was relatively egalitarian.

sociotard said...

Stephan Kinsella said:
If anything, states do a terrible job at the one thing they are supposed to do: protect us from crime; and they become bigger criminals themselves. The fact that private crime is possible simply does not normatively justify the commission of crime by people calling themselves our governors.


This much I know is false. It might almost work if you restrict crime to theft, and then call taxes theft. Look, however, at murder rates. They're much higher in places with little organized government control. The government exececutes relatively few people. There is prison, and I will agree that the US prison population needs to be smaller, but I would say that our current situation is much better than places that lack strong government.

John Kurman said...

Carl M: "His primary example of working anarchy was medieval Iceland, which I believe was relatively egalitarian". "relative" being the operative word here. As long as you ignore the chattel slavery, the blood feuds, the clan socialism, the aristocratic rent-seeking, vigilantism, ritualized rape, etc., in other words, all the things libertarians don't seem to like, but which nevertheless exist.

And I notice no one wants to touch the Indian Land Reparations Question. Why is that?

rewinn said...

To apply the original post to today's problem:
What is the Libertarian response to the PIPA/SOPA debate?

Much of the concern of the netgods is that PIPA/SOPA protects property rights (and therefore one form of freedom, I suppose) but discourages freedom in almost every other sense (e.g. "free to choose").

I can't fairly characterize the Libertarian response, not being one myself nor a "scholar", but an analysis by both Orthodox and Reformed Libertarians may yield light.

====

@John Kurman wrote:
"No one wants to touch the Indian Land Reparations Question. Why is that?"

I think there was copypasta from Rothsburg about the impracticality of untangling land claims, and the virtue therefore of severing such claims by "homesteading". This may have some coherence in the case of England, where figuring out what the Angle-Saxons are owed by the invading Normans would be hard indeed. But it is factually wrong with respect to our American example; we have extensive documentation of takings by force or by forcably imposed treaties and at least one descendent can easily be located in practically all cases.
Would any Libertarian care to run for political office in Indian Country and put the theory to the test?

===

Also, on the subject of competition, it occurs to me that there is an extensive practical literature as to effective competition, that is, competition that results in better competitors, in the electronic gaming industry. Ironically (...or not...) massive competition in gaming has lead gaming organizations to work very hard to figure out what people like about competition. Their theories are put to the test every day, with the strongest incentives for staging satisfying competitions: corporate survival! While this is not directly analogous to economic or other societal competition, there may be lessons to learn. One place to start is A Theory Of Fun In Game Design.

sociotard said...

This is awesome.

Republicans had told Warren Buffet that if he thought his taxes were too low, he was welcome to make a voluntary donation.

In a challenge, issued in a Time Magazine interview last week, Buffett promises to match voluntary contributions aimed at reducing the deficit by "all Republican members of Congress, and I'll even go three for one with (Senate Minority Leader Mitch) McConnell."

But the story gets better:

'Impressed' and 'Delighted' Warren Buffett Matches GOP Rep's Deficit Donations

Warren Buffett will be writing a check made out to the United States Treasury for just over $49,000 to help pay down the national debt.

He's matching voluntary contributions made this year and last year by Rep. Scott Rigell, a Republican representing Virginia.

In a letter to Rep. Rigell released today by Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett writes he's "particularly impressed that you took this action before my challenge."

Lisa said...

David, you ignore the fact that property is accessible to everyone under a free market. Again, you're comparing apples and oranges. A bully comes and declares "Everything now belongs to me" and kills anyone who disagrees. That's not valid property ownership. Not according to any libertarian viewpoint. And that's what those monarchies are.

The experiment of freedom is just that. It's something that hadn't been done before. Still hasn't, entirely. So no, the burden of proof isn't on me to show that unlimited ownership of private property is different than theft and coercion. The burden is actually on you to demonstrate why you think that the theft and coercion of socialist or semi-socialist governments, like that in the US, is any different from the theft and coercion of monarchy after monarchy in history.

Stephan Kinsella said...

rewinn: re PIPA/SOPA: I put up blackouts today on stephankinsella.com and c4sif.org. I have been opposing SOPA nad related laws for years. The libertarian view is that copyright and patent are illegitimate state monopolies. That is the root cause of the SOPA problem. Down wiht copyright. See www.c4sif.org/resources, including my many articles, speeches, courses, and my book Against Intellectual Property.

swizzzler said...

The core of Libertarianism is that each man and woman owns his or her body and mind, and that it is wrong to aggress against another person's. Everything else extends from this premise.

The battle for the last 10000-6000 years has been between forced collectivism/slavery and individual sovereignty. The reason for no examples is that there have been very few instances in history where individual sovereignty has peeked through. Greek golden era, Renaissanc, Enlightenment, Golden age of the Islamic empire, The Magna Carta, the American revolution, etc. The west made strides during the 19th century but it faded away in the 20th.

Humans, as far as we know are the only creatures with sentience, so that being said we as humans use this sentience to meet our own ends, with the scarce resources of this planet. Like other creatures on this planet we compete for these scarce resources but unlike the other creatures we have our reason to best allocate these resources to our own ends, coercive monopolies private or public intervene and disrupt this allocation with disastrous consequences that prompt more and more interventions. Which results in loss off individual sovereignty until the result is slavery.

With the basic notion of libertarianism being self-ownership(private property) and the non-aggression principle this allows for an order that is voluntary and contractual to take place during competition. spontaneous order without coercion.

Seems idealic? This social/economic order is what brought civilization to mankind. It's private property based, anything else results in decivilization and barbarism.

rewinn said...

@Lisa - I'm trying to understand your position. Are you saying that you have no evidence to support your claim that libertarianism is better than our current system, and feel no need to produce any?

If so, fine with me, but would you not agree that this is not going to persuade anyone of anything?

@Stephan Kinsella
Thank you for your response re PIPA/SOPA. Pace Amazon, I put up a greyout and I hope many people at least discuss the issue's relevance to their interests.

A few questions:

* By "illegitimate" you don't mean "unConstituional", correct? Since the patent system is specifically provided for in our federal Constitution, the Libertarian argument would be that it must be amended?

* Is it the Libertarian position that intellectual property is per se illegitamate, or is it that IP is legit but enforcement of those rights must be by agreement between privates parties? If the latter, does my use of your IP carry with it an implied contract to agree to your terms for that use; do we rely upon explicit contracts only - and if there is no contract, you have no recourse if I use your IP; or may a free people contract among themselves to let some sort of joint agency supervise enforcement?
Each way may have certain moral and practical difficulties but I wouldn't want to waste time discussing a view that Libertarians don't hold.

* IIRC it was Mark Twain who suggested that limitations on intellectual property would be fine with him, so long as the same limits were placed on real property and personal property. Thus after 75 year or so, ownership of houses would revert to the commons or to the next squatter. Some may say that he was satirical, but were he a Libertarian, would he be serious?

* What does "illegitimate" mean, anyway? Surely not bastardy ;-)

Stephan Kinsella said...

rewinn:

"By "illegitimate" you don't mean "unConstituional", correct?"

No. I mean unjust. The Constitution itself is a centralizing, statist docuemnt. It was a mistake. A retrogression. The result of a centralizing, power-grabbing coup.

" Since the patent system is specifically provided for in our federal Constitution, the Libertarian argument would be that it must be amended?"

MAny unjust thinks are constitutional, such as income tax. One response is to amend it. Another is to leave. Another is to find a way to evade or avoid it. Antoher is to have a revolution.

Anyway it is arguable that copyright is unconstitutional as is, since it restricts free speech, which is protected in the 1st amendment. But the 1st amendment was ratified in 1791, an the copyright clause in 1789, so if there is a conflict--and there is--the bill of rights trumps the copyrgiht clause. Further, there is no evidence that copyright or patent as implemented actually do promote the progress of science and the arts, so it is arguable that both patent and copyright law are currently unconstutional unless it can be shown that they promote the progress.

"Is it the Libertarian position"

Don't say Libertarian. That means a member of the LP. I am a libertarina, not a Libertarian. Don't initial caps things--it makes you look like A Crank.

" that intellectual property is per se illegitamate,"

Yes, most of us think it is statist. See http://mises.org/story/3682

" or is it that IP is legit but enforcement of those rights must be by agreement between privates parties? If the latter, does my use of your IP carry with it an implied contract to agree to your terms for that use; do we rely upon explicit contracts only - and if there is no contract, you have no recourse if I use your IP; or may a free people contract among themselves to let some sort of joint agency supervise enforcement?"

It's all nonsense. It's just monopoly privilege. There is nothing wrong with copying, learning from, emulating, competing.

"Each way may have certain moral and practical difficulties but I wouldn't want to waste time discussing a view that Libertarians don't hold.

* IIRC it was Mark Twain who suggested that limitations on intellectual property would be fine with him, so long as the same limits were placed on real property and personal property."

They are not similar. A lot of authors are very biased because the do, or think they do, depend on copyright. (I do too: I'm an IP lawyer.) Their personal stake in rents derived from an unjust statutory scheme is quit irrelevant, however.

" Thus after 75 year or so, ownership of houses would revert to the commons or to the next squatter. Some may say that he was satirical, but were he a Libertarian, would he be serious?"

I don't know, but he would be wrong.

"* What does "illegitimate" mean, anyway? Surely not bastardy ;-) "

It means unjust, or unjustified, or unjustifiable. Or as some laymen might say, "wrong" or "bad."

sociotard said...

I'm seeing a lot of 'no true scotsman' in this discussion. Or no true Libertarian, or libertarina or whatever. Language is so flawed.

Anyway, legitimate technically means "in accordance with established rules, principles, standards, or laws." The root in latin means "Lawful". It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with justice or natural rights, except insofar as those are enshrined in law.

The Bastard connotation actually came about through this way. Bastards aren't illegitimate because they're bad people, they're illegitimate because they have a different standing with regard to the law (especially inheritance law).

rewinn said...

So, to summarize, view of a "libertarina" is that:
* Intellectual property is bad
* The Constitution is not merely imperfect, but inherently bad
* Capitalising Libertarian is the sign of a crank.

I don't have a dog in this fight, but I would like to hear from a Libertarian (cranky or mellow).

David Brin said...

I am less interested in the "small-L" aspect of Stephan's "I am a libertarina" than in the strange spelling and pronunciation.

Was that a misspelling? I hope not. I am fascinated!

---

Stephan, "normative values" - free of any grounding or correlation in either practicality or scientific fact - are simply incantations. The heirs of Plato used such "essences" as a weapon against democracy, social mobility, transparency and everything Periclean. Now you claim that Platonist essences will SUPPORT all of those things!

Most of the last 6000 years, priests have preached their own versions of "self-evident" normative values that were blatantly obviously correct... and just happened to justify the use and abuse of power by the owner caste. Just as Rothbardism just happens (surprise!) to justify unlimited wealth accumulation and cheating by today's aristocracy.

(Oh howl that you don't support "cheating." Malarkey. WHen 5000 aristo gold buddies meet to appoint each other to boards in order to "pay" each other billions ripped off from stockholders, while fostering monopolies and cartels, that is cheating. And you play into their hands.)

"If anything, states do a terrible job at the one thing they are supposed to do: protect us from crime; and they become bigger criminals themselves."

Utterly fact free. In western societies, rates of violence and criminality have plummeted across the last 200 years. Steeply. This holds only if you DEFINE government as crime. Circular! Plato would be proud.

"FYI I am not religious."

Oh yes you are.

DB: " It was reciprocal accountability - what libertarianism OUGHT to be about."

STephan: "I thought it was about competition."
Are you being obtuse deliberately, or should I be gentler?

The armwavingd go on and one, denying the relevance of HOW kings and lords and owners relentlessly were THE force that crushed freedom. I must admit, Stephan's armwavings are articulate!

But can anyone here paraphrase for me one thing he said that explains why - after 60 centuries of abuse by cheating propertarians - we should suddenly plunge FARTHER into mystical propertarianism?

David Brin said...

Carl, I call out David Friedman because - after finally proving my exact point, with exact quotations from Adam Smith - he refused to hold up his side of the bargain. He promised he would look at those 6000 years of propertarian oligarchy as the main enemy of freedom, and explain why unlimited property should be the top libertarian agenda item, instead of breakup of power centers and the fostering of exuiberant and universal readiness for creative competition.

I agree that today's government offers opportunities for the mighty to buy government action. That is not reason to tear down what has often been the only institution capable of facing down the lords! The thing to do, in that case, is to shine light! Re-take the institutions with vigorous public/citizen action! Transparency and... if need be... specific deregulations.

As when the democrats disbanded the ICC and the CAB. Not the republicans. Democrtats did that.

Lisa, you are being silly, sorry. Those kings could get away with what they did because they owned F#$##@g! everything! Your conflating consensus driven, democratically elected and deliberated government and laws with the monsters of 6000 years is disingenuous and mystical and absurd.

Swizzler "self-ownership and non-aggression" are platic normative ideals and they are NOT processes that are even remotely grounded in nature or actual pragmatic experience. They are just excuses for holier-than-thou posturing by mystics who have forgotten the Lockean roots of all this.

In contrast, competition is a PROCESS that is so solidly grounded in nature, in science, in democracy, in justice systems and economics. It is HOW we apply reciprocal accountability on each other and thereby ensure our freedom. Competition is both the chief OUTCOME of freedom and its principal source. And it creates positive sum creativity... the cornucopia of wealth that makes all else possible.

It has been downgraded by Rothbard and others for one simple reason. It does not serve the New Lords and masters. Mystic propertarianism suits them just fine! But emphasize competition? And suddenly you realize... the super rich can be relied on to CRUSH competition and to cheat.



===
Hey Warren Buffett! I have been donating against the national debt every year since 1979! And I am a registered republican! So match me!

matthew said...

To the thought of calling taxes "theft." Taxes are part of our social contract. If you do not wish to be part of our social contract then you have the legal right to renounce your citizenship and leave. Sail a boat in international waters. Try your luck in Somalia. You might not like the result, but you have the choice. Since you have a choice to be a citizen and pay taxes, taxes are not and cannot rightly be called "theft"

David Brin said...

Matthew, right on. Locke was the first social philosopher to "get" what was going on... that primitive man still had rights. These were manifest in an IMPLICIT social contract...

...but starting with Periclean Athens, then in various experiments through the Magna Carta and so on, the increasingly educated masses were able to demand the contract be made more EXPLICIT over time.

Eventually, our fully empowered and cyber enhanced g-children may live in a society Heinlein alluded to, wherein every new adult is so sovereign and skilled and empowered that he/she negotiates a contract with society de novo - totally explicit... or moves to a place where the deal is better. Very libertarian.

What today's mad libertarians miss is that this process of evolution from implicit to explicit social contracts must PASS THROUGH AN AWKWARD INTERMEDIATE PHASE.

What would you expect such a phase to look like? A civilization trying to transition would look --- complicated! Bells on whistle on patches on bandaids, because we don't yet know what we're doing! And yes, the vehicle we use for much of this experimentation... government and laws deliberated via clumsy democracy -- will grate on us.

So? Why do I keep bringing up history? Because if folks actually look at the last 60 centuries of misery, what we have got looks like a fucking miracle! I want it to be better. I want a future when govt can wither to 1/10th its present size!

I will fight to make it so. Through my championing of transparency and sousveillance, I have probably accomplished more toward that end than anyone you know.

But I refuse to be a goddamned ingrate.

It's a miracle. WE did it, together, via those clumsy methods and via tools like Franklin Delano Roosevelt. If we can move on, it's because of where we've already come.


=====
Hilarious summary offered on Google Plues, of my tiff with Stephan here, offered by Eugene Budovsky

"- David, I couldn't agree more. It was interesting reading the back and forth between you and Kinsella, which could be summarised as follows:

David Brin: Lack of state and unfettered property rights have historically always led to violence and oppression, please address this!

Stephan Kinsella: I don't dwell on history, but the best way to get rid of violence and oppression is to get rid of the state and institute unfettered property rights

Rinse and repeat 10 times. I always find it confusing how someone that can seem so coherent on the surface can at the same time be so frustratingly illogical."

Paul451 said...

All modern land-property laws are essentially descended from the feudal system of lordly or kingly ownership. All the land "belonged" to the king, and land-holders were only renting it. It was seen as "right and natural and proper", not just the way things were, but the way they should be. Normative, if you prefer. It was even legitimate.

The only other system of land "ownership" that has ever existed has been the commons. Shared ownership by the tribe. Also normative (in both major senses).

Over time we replaced the king's ownership with a modernised variant of tribal ownership, indirect ownership by the people, but we retained a right-of-exclusive-use idea from feudalism. Ie, all land ultimately belongs to the people, via the national laws. The government is, in effect, the board of directors of a land management trust, of which "We The People" (to use the Americanism) each have one voting share. All purchases of land are under that system. There is no absolute "ownership" (as libertarians use the word) of land outside of that, there never has been. Land has never in all of history been "owned" in that way, except by kings. What you have purchased is a conditional, transferable, right of use under the existing system of shared ownership, for which you've agreed to pay an annual rent.

Any new system which says "current property holders" are now "true libertarian/propertarian owners", in effect says that those current holders (and no one else) can arbitrarily ignore the contract that they, and all past property holders, agreed to when buying the land. You are effectively stealing land from the people that own it, simply because you happen to be the one renting it from them at the time you introduced your new system. No different than if I claim my flat from my landlord, by right of occupation and use (he's certainly never been here.) What gives you the right to draw a line in history and say, this, this moment, this is where all existing rights-of-use becomes ownership-absolute, and none of the conditions under the past contracts shall be honoured.

[cont...

Paul451 said...

...inued]

Hell, even if a libertarian government was elected, unless they were elected by 100% of able-minded people, what gives them the right to take away the system that others have invested so much labour trying to build, from the people who don't consent to it? Your own damn philosophy says you can't enact policy as a government, because government is coercion, force, violence. Stephen (and other libertarians) claim he didn't "agree" to the current system, therefore it has no right over him, if so, by what right do you have to force your system onto others who don't agree to it?

Libertarianism requires a new territory where everyone who enters has, by entering, morally agreed to the Rules. And there is no such territory. Except by ignoring someone else's claim because you arbitrarily decided they haven't done enough to deserve it. For example, Stephen's claim that National Parks are unused (implying that they should be free to the first person who "homesteads" them.) I consider National Parks to be used (as National Parks), to be developed (as National Parks), to have a clear purpose and function (as National Parks). They are even protected by people hired by "We The Owners"; rangers, fire-fighters, etc. But no, you get to say, "this is not real use, this is not real ownership", and to hell with anyone who doesn't agree.

(messeed: Is anyone else having the Turing word timing out really quickly?)

Paul451 said...

And now for something completely different...

Use google search in instant-results mode. Type "define" (don't press enter.) Let instant-result update.

Every result on the first page is what you'd expect.

Now type a colon. Ie, "define:"

The weird thi... one of the weird things about that, is that "define:" is a google search command to look up definitions. (In the way that "site:" limits the search to one domain.)

Paul451 said...

This cape is made from the silk of the Golden-Orb spider. It is undyed, that's the natural colour of the silk.

http://www.ecouterre.com/worlds-largest-cape-made-from-golden-spider-silk-goes-on-display/print/

(fughand: Old Irish term for the dominant hand.)

Tony Fisk said...

This news is *shocking*!

(Actually... no, it's not! Not at all!!)

notorit: what you do to a bit of gossip

Anonymous said...

From bOINGbOING this morning (and downright timely to boot)...
"Whenever people are certain they understand our peculiar situation here on this planet, it is because they have accepted a religious Faith or a secular Ideology (Ideologies are the modern form of Faiths) and just stopped thinking."
-- Robert Anton Wilson

- The Vagabond

Tazzdaro - a Latin-style dance performed with law enforcement implements

Instant Karma said...

David,

Thanks for the reply. We agree on the view the importance of competition and win/win interactions and their under-appreciation in modern libertarian literature. We also agree that property rights are important for instrumental reasons.

My careful reading of the last 6000 years is simple. The vast majority of people scraped by on the equivalent of a dollar or two per person per day by producing or growing or trading for their needs, and a small minority of exploiters used force, deception and coercion to live off these productive masses. These were thieves, barbarians, and stationary bandits -- ie elites.

There were three major forces which kept the standard of living so low for so long:

1) The Malthusian curse -- If economic development does not consistently exceed the growth in population then we stay poor. Agricultural societies have big trouble with this curse.
2) The curse of Exploitation -- Zero-sum win/lose interactions where those with power used it to take from those without. Exploitation reduces the incentive to produce, leads to wasteful arms races of defense and offense and undermines capital investment. Those good at exploitation specialized in it.
3) The Incumbents curse -- Change creates winners and losers. Incumbents suppress change and competition and new entrants to maintain their status. (See guilds, monopolies, etc). Incumbents restrict potential progress.

The rise of modern prosperity came about when these three curses were partially bypassed. I could explain why and how, but it will lead us astray. Furthermore, Western society began shifting to a positive sum dynamic, where people valued creating wealth by voluntary win/win interactions. The Enlightenment value of liberty gained prominence. Property rights conventions were an important piece of this recipe.

My reading of history does not lead me to view property rights as a fundamental problem. I do agree that until the modern era, the path to prosperity has been overwhelmingly zero sum. It came at someone else's expense as people fought over a fairly fixed-size pie. For 95% of history, the wealthy were those exploiting or restricting others.

In a free market (with secure property rights), a secondary path is opened up. People can create wealth in a win/win way by growing the pie. People can become immensely wealthy by creating prosperity for others.

Yes, for most of 6000 years those with property used their power and influence to exploit or restrict competition. But I view the problem as being with their methods -- coercion -- not with property rights or the size of their estates. Freedom failed because people were able to take advantage of or limit the freedom of others.

The wealthy are only one source of potential coercion. There are plenty of others (the masses, the state, outsiders, etc)

Property rights, freedom and constructive competition are instrumental conventions to encourage a productive, positive sum path to prosperity and progress.

David, does this summary ring true to you?

Instant Karma said...

Stephan K.,

Thanks for all the insights and the article in the Mises Institute.

I think it IS important to ask what libertarianism is about. And I do not think it is about property rights.

It is about the widespread flourishing of human beings. Mises did not prescribe values; he studied what people actually desired and how they go about achieving these goals.

People -- in general -- desire for themselves and those they care about to be free, prosperous, and live long, happy, healthy lives. Libertarianism is fundamentally about how we go about achieving these ends. Property rights (and division of labor and non-coercion) are simply human conventions to achieve these goals. If human nature was different, or property rights led to conflict or impoverishment, then a libertarian should reject property.

Let me provide an example. I am a surfer. In surfing we also have conventions of ownership -- in terms of who has a right of way on a wave. And like other property rights, the point of the conventions is to optimize the enjoyment of these scarce resources. Rights are not based upon territory (for obvious reasons -- it is tough to delineate territory on moving water) but about positioning on the wave. The first to stand up, the closest to the wave's peak has rights to that wave. Everyone else is expected to get out of the way. Yes there are property rights, but these are conventions designed (from the bottom up) by surfers to optimize enjoyment and minimize conflict and injury. They also serve to incentivize surfers to compete for prime positioning.

Yes, property rights and an emphasis on non-coercion do differentiate libertarianism from other "isms." They are, as you state, among its core beliefs and principles. But -- in my opinion -- they are not what it is primarily about.

And I agree with David that libertarians should focus more on the constructive role of competition and the value of positive sum interactions.

Robert said...

Tony, while I appreciate your use of html coding to embed the URL, your use of a shortened URL means I'm not going to click the link. I don't trust a URL that I can't track in some way.

Seeing that you are using HTML coding anyway, why not just encode in the hidden long-form URL? Sure, it forces you to side-scroll in the Posting Comments field, but we the reader can mouse-over the URL and see where it will lead us.

Rob H.

sociotard said...

Tony's full link.

http://twitpic.com/88ueqz


It is worth looking at. It's about SOPA

LarryHart said...

rewinn:

Much of the concern of the netgods is that PIPA/SOPA protects property rights (and therefore one form of freedom, I suppose) but discourages freedom in almost every other sense (e.g. "free to choose").


The problem with SOPA is not that it protects copyright, but that it protects it using an atomic sledgehammer. It would only be different in degree, not in kind, if the law said tha any copyright holder whose property was being unlawfully disseminated on the web can unplug the entire internet in response. It's equivalent to saying that if someone killed a family member of yours in Cincinatti, you have the right to nuke Cincinatti in order to make sure you have executed the perpetrator.

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

"You have been made welcome here, in our fashion, with the thing bright minds ought to want."

Fair enough. And thanks for the clarification and welcome. I have been booted before from similar places for daring to differ.


I hope you take it to heart. I for one HAVE been trying to understand your positions. Sure, I'll make my disagreement known as well, but that's how discourse works. No one here is going "Burn the witch!"


It is frustrating to see such bizarre assumptions being made. You and others seem to be conflating me with views of others. How about we be individuals here.


Well, you've been doing a lot of assertions of "The libertarian position", so it's only fair that a listener brings to the table what he's heard before from self-described libertarians. If you've got unconventional views that other libertarians (by and large) will disagree with, then it's confusing when you claim to be more purely libertarian than they are.

It would be similar to my claiming that Americans are not racist, and when confronted with thousands of counterexamples, saying "Well, he's not REALLY an American."

Stephan Kinsella said...

Larry: I am a noted and long-time libertarian theorist. I think I am entitled to give my view on what libertarianism is. As for you trying to grok my views: I gave links. I have tons of material up on stephankisnella.com including on the Media page, a whole recent free course on libertarian controversies, and one on libertarian theory. My views are crystal clear and in print and media.

And yes, David, I did misspell libertarian. NO biggie.

I think you are really a confused positivist. I think you would benefit from reading the Mises book Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, Rothbard on the Mantle of Science, and HOppe on Economic Science and the Austrian Method. But I realize in your late 50s you are probably stuck forever in your engineering mentality. I have BSEE and MSEE degrees, so am well acquainted with the scientistic mindset. (NOt that liberal arts math-illiterates are much better.)

I do not know how ot answer various queries more clearly than I have. I find your and ohters' approach scattershot and full of bizarre assumptions and non sequiturs, lurching from one hidden assumption to the next, and never forming coherent, well thought out argument from start to finish. You guys do not even seem to realize what norms are (you deride them as "mystical" which is frankly stupid) or that they do not logically follow from some recitation of empirical facts. So I do not know wher to go with you guys.

Think on this. You are bothered that you are encountering a fellow American--peaceful, successful, intelligent, well-read--who is *unwilling to violate your rights*, unwilling to condone anyone aggressing against you. And this bugs you? WTF? How insane is that?

Go out and vote for criminal politicians who will rob me of money or liberty, if it makes you feel better. You've won. Congratulations. You are getting your way. Your little corrupt democratic statism is in force, you get to vote an foment and be patriotic and you and your cronies can force me and my fellow minority-individualists to comply with your stupid laws, on pain of imprisonment. Fine. You've won. Yet it bugs you that we whine about this treatment? I pay the taxes to support your evil wars and welfare and drug laws--far more than anyone here, I would bet. So I am paying for your crap. Is that not enough for you people? You want us to shut up, be muzzled, too? I tell you I would gladly switch places: have a free society where a few fascists and communists wandered aroudn bitterly--I'd be happy to let you whine, so long as you could not impose your destructive collectivist views on me and mine. Any takers?

BTW re the Indians: of course, if some individual person alive todya can show better title to a piece of land than the person inhabiting it, of course he should get it back.

sociotard said...

Aren't titles sort of Statist? Especially since some of the titles I would go to would actually be violated treaties between the US and native tribes.

sociotard said...

Cool, Stephan has a wikipedia entry.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Stephan, I find it really hard to sift out your legitimate points when they are imbedded in statements like this:

"Go out and vote for criminal politicians who will rob me of money or liberty, if it makes you feel better. You've won. Congratulations. You are getting your way. Your little corrupt democratic statism is in force, you get to vote an foment and be patriotic and you and your cronies can force me and my fellow minority-individualists to comply with your stupid laws, on pain of imprisonment. Fine. You've won. Yet it bugs you that we whine about this treatment? I pay the taxes to support your evil wars and welfare and drug laws--far more than anyone here, I would bet. So I am paying for your crap. Is that not enough for you people? You want us to shut up, be muzzled, too? I tell you I would gladly switch places: have a free society where a few fascists and communists wandered aroudn bitterly--I'd be happy to let you whine, so long as you could not impose your destructive collectivist views on me and mine. Any takers?"

I find this more insulting than helpful at understanding your views. After a while of being browbeaten (you still haven't addressed my question of nearly 2 days ago about jobs that might legitimately be assigned to a government) I'm even less inclined to wade through tl;dr screeds in search of understanding.

TheMadLibrarian

shklype: Minor Egyptian deity of confusion

Stephan Kinsella said...

MadLibrarian:

"I find this more insulting than helpful at understanding your views. After a while of being browbeaten (you still haven't addressed my question of nearly 2 days ago about jobs that might legitimately be assigned to a government) I'm even less inclined to wade through tl;dr screeds in search of understanding."

Why would you ask this after I have repeatedly stated I am an anarchist and hav posted my articles about what it means to be an anarcho-capitalist? the answer is nothing. The state is illegitimate. It is a criminal gang.

If you are talking about "government" in terms of legitimate services like law and justice, well then these are just private functions of civil and commercial society--no one "assigns" anything to them. But in a free society there would be private institutions of law, justice, and so on. They would defend property, settle disputes, protect against enemies and robbers. They would simply have no jurisdiction over peaceful people who were not their customers, and they could not tax anyone, and they could not outlaw other similar agencies. It's not so hard to grok. But this is not a 'system" I favor. I simply oppose the commission of aggression, by private criminal, or by agency. that means I recognize the state as criminal, necessarily, and thus object to it, and maintain that it is unjust and illegitimate. In a just world enough people would recognize this that the state could not exist--for it exists only because most people make the error of thinking it is necessary, good, and legitimate. If the state did not exist, what would society look like? Who knows? It would have less crime, but other than that, I don't know. It's onl ya guess. See John Hasnas, The Myth of the Rule of Law. You can google it.

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

Larry: I am a noted and long-time libertarian theorist. I think I am entitled to give my view on what libertarianism is.


My comment was in response to your "Why can't we be individuals?" If you're speaking for libertarianism, then expect people to argue with (what they've heard from) libertaians by proxy with you. If you're just giving Stephan's personal opinion, then maybe don't bring a group identity into it at all.


As for you trying to grok my views: I gave links. I have tons of material up on stephankisnella.com including on the Media page,...


And I did read some of it already, but don't expect anyone to suddenly make your body of work a life's mission immediately. Until my employer exercises his right to outsource me (which is actually going to happen in another two months), my time is limited.

At times, I feel like quoting comic-book writer Dave Sim: "It's not that I don't UNDERSTAND what you're saying. I simply disagree with it," but I'm also willing to consider the possibility that I'm mistaken.


I do not know how ot answer various queries more clearly than I have. I find your and ohters' approach scattershot and full of bizarre assumptions and non sequiturs, lurching from one hidden assumption to the next, and never forming coherent, well thought out argument from start to finish.


These are limited-size posts on a comments section of a blog, not dissertations. This "place" is more like spoken converstation in real time than it is like a research paper which is edited and rewritten over a period of months. And while it might seem to you as if "we" are all one unified opponent in a debate, that's not the case. Rewinn or Ian or Tacitus2 or gosh-knows-who might take a DIFFERENT opposing positon to something you said than I would. That doesn't make any of us inconsistent.


You guys do not even seem to realize what norms are


I liked the example someone gave of how surfers "own" a wave by their own agreed-upon convention. What YOU "do not even seem to realize" is that land-ownership is a quite similar process. It's not something that exists outside of social norms.

Even you yourself have to resort to saying that someone can take ownership of a parcel (emphasis mine) IF HE CAN SHOW BETTER TITLE. "Title" is a bureaucratic mechanism, as subject to fraud or corrpution as any government function.


Think on this. You are bothered that you are encountering a fellow American--peaceful, successful, intelligent, well-read--who is *unwilling to violate your rights*, unwilling to condone anyone aggressing against you. And this bugs you? WTF? How insane is that?


That's not what "bugs" me. What bugs me is how blithely you would un-do the social mechanisms which currently PROTECT my rights and PREVENT aggression against me. You want to replace all that with your personal word of honor? Even if I believe you (and I probably would), it's not YOU I'm going to be afraid of.

sociotard said...

If the state did not exist, what would society look like? Who knows? It would have less crime, but other than that, I don't know.

But there are places that lack a formal state. The political vacuum creates warlords, tribalism, and far more crime than populations with stable, strong governments.

Stephan Kinsella said...

yes there are places without a state but we are anarcho-CAPITALISTS meaning we oppose the state because we oppose aggression; we oppose all forms of aggression: private and public. If you have a society with no state but with rampant looting and not widely respected property rights this is not a libertarain, free, private-law society. we are simply in favor of respecting others' property rights and we oppose committing aggression. I am baffled this is hard to grok.

As for your questions about "title" this is pettifogging. call it what you wish. And for you to say we want to get rid of your property rights, allow aggression, and move to some society where we "replace" "the social mechanisms which currently PROTECT my rights and PREVENT aggression against me" with "your personal word of honor"--I never said this. So you evidently do NOT undersatnd the libertarian perspective. First, we would not replace the system now with "word of honor." I hav said repeatedly: you can use force, or your agents can, to defend your rights. And I quoted Rothbard explicitly to show that most nominal property titles would continue to be respected. So what are you talking about? You guys need to learn to listen, and comprehend. At least know what you are disagreeing wiht.

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

If the state did not exist, what would society look like? Who knows? It would have less crime, but other than that, I don't know.


Since this is a David Brin blog, perhaps you are familiar with his novel "The Postman?"

If the state did not exist, I think "society" would look a lot like it does in that fictional post-apocalyptic landscape, complete with roving gangs of ruthless bandits and emcampments of hypersurvivalist-feudal Holnists.

Robert said...

Stephan, the problem is that as bad as Democrats are (and I hold my nose while voting for them on the Federal level - trust me, on the State level I vote Republican as they're an endangered species in Massachusetts), they're still heads and shoulders better than what the Republican Party has become. This is a case of voting the lesser evil.

And I understand that there are those who refuse to see Republicans as the Greater Evil. I've friends who are that way. I was that way for a long time. But I also saw that after over a decade of abusive policies (under Clinton and Bush the Younger), they have become recalcitrant and refuse to admit they are wrong and should fix the problems they created. Instead, they want to obstruct efforts to fix the problems... and throw hissy fits when the politicians elected by the majority in an election that had a significantly greater number of voters than usual try to do their jobs.

I hoped that after 2008 they would learn their lesson. They did. They learned that hissy fits make both sides look bad... and that anger at the lack of progress smears the majority party and thus regained control. It was the wrong lesson to learn. Rather than stepping away from policies that destroyed what makes America great... they embraced those beliefs with a death grip.

I want my Republican Party back. But I realize this will never happen. The Republican Party is dead. What is calling itself Republican is in fact some sick twisted parody shambling along, like some insect infected by a fungus that "zombifies" it. The only cure at this point is the end of the Republican Party, and starting fresh from social libertarian principles.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

we oppose all forms of aggression: private and public.


Just digressing here...when you speak of "we", don't be surprised that we can't just all be individuals.

Ok, back to...


If you have a society with no state but with rampant looting and not widely respected property rights this is not a libertarain, free, private-law society. we are simply in favor of respecting others' property rights and we oppose committing aggression. I am baffled this is hard to grok.


Ok, here's what you're misunderstanding.

I don't think anyone here is saying that libertarians THEMSELVES will be the aggressing bandits in a stateless society.

What we're saying (well, what I'm saying anyway) is that it seems likely that that sort of "society" is what will inevitably come about IF you achieve your dream of bringing down the state.

In other words, while I may well enjoy living in Galt's Gulch or some other true-libertarian paradise, I don't think that is what the world will look like without state power. I think your predictions are WRONG. I think that you are unwittingly advocating a system that will result in much, MUCH LESS freedom.

And if that sounds condesending, I've been on the receiving end of similar assertions, liberal that I am. "Being against war means Saddam Hussein gets to butcher his people." "Giving food to poor people encourages them to stay poor." People question my faulty reasoning on a daily basis.

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

I hav said repeatedly: you can use force, or your agents can, to defend your rights.


And I have said repeatedly that it will then come down to which agents are most able to exert their own will, and once there is a "winner", there's no guarantee that that agent will work in service of the good.

swizzzler said...

DB: "self-ownership and non-aggression" are platic normative ideals and they are NOT processes that are even remotely grounded in nature or actual pragmatic experience. They are just excuses for holier-than-thou posturing by mystics who have forgotten the Lockean roots of all this."

How is self-ownership not grounded in nature? Seems like basic unit of sentience. I don't own you and you don't own me it's pretty simple. If AI ever comes as far as man the first one to achieve sentience will no doubt will assert self-ownership.

I also believe you are caught in a performative contradiction. By choosing to use persuasion instead of force to make me agree that I am not sovereign over myself, you implicitly grant that I have a right to use my body in order to argue.

Forgotten Lockean roots? The basis of Locke's thought stemmed from self-ownership. From Locke's Two Treatises on Government "every man has a Property in his own Person." Also "an individual has a right to decide what would become of himself and what he would do, and as having a right to reap the benefits of what he did"

I agree DB: "that competition is a PROCESS that is so solidly grounded in nature, in science, in democracy, in justice systems and economics."

Partial agreement.
DB: "Competition is both the chief OUTCOME of freedom and its principal source. And it creates positive sum creativity... the cornucopia of wealth that makes all else possible.

Freedom does come from competition but freedom's source comes from self-ownership.

How has Rothbard downgraded competition when wanted more competition?

swizzzler said...

matthew: "To the thought of calling taxes "theft." Taxes are part of our social contract."

So if I refuse to pay taxes i'll be thrown in jail. what is the difference between that and a robber holding me hostage until i give him my wallet? Isn't that theft? Also what is your definition of social contract?

LarryHart said...

swizzler:

So if I refuse to pay taxes i'll be thrown in jail. what is the difference between that and a robber holding me hostage until i give him my wallet? Isn't that theft?


Well, if you eat a candy bar in the 7-Eleven and then refuse to pay for it, you'll also be thrown in jail. Is that "theft" too?

swizzzler said...

yes. do you think that is not?

LarryHart said...

...and I see my example is ambigouous, so just to be clear...

In my mind, anyway, the eating of the candy bar (and then not paying for it) is theft.

The store's demand for payment for the candy bar that you already ate, backed up by the threat of jail time, is not theft.

To me, taxes are more like the latter than they are like the former. I'll grant that there may be individuals who wish to live by only their own efforts, neither asking help from nor wishing to contribute to a larger society. I assert, however, that thats a tiny minority of those who complain about taxes--not just that taxes are too high, but that they are inherently unjust. Seems most of these people want the benefits of a first-world society but they don't want to pay for it.

Robert said...

To put it another way, let's say you are deficient in paying your taxes. You state you don't have to pay your taxes because you disagree with the policies of the government and the like. Then someone breaks into your house. You call the police... who refuse to go to your aid because you have not paid taxes. You are then injured by the criminal who then sets your house on fire. You call for emergency services because the criminal let you keep your phone. The fire department refuses to go to your house and the ambulance refuses to pick you up and bring you to the hospital... because you have not paid the government, which subsidizes these services.

Are they right in refusing to help you, thus resulting in you burning to death horribly? Is that criminal wrong for robbing and then being behind your death? And is it murder seeing you refused to participate in society and the social contract through the refusal to pay taxes?

Rob H.

Stephan Kinsella said...

"I don't think anyone here is saying that libertarians THEMSELVES will be the aggressing bandits in a stateless society.

What we're saying (well, what I'm saying anyway) is that it seems likely that that sort of "society" is what will inevitably come about IF you achieve your dream of bringing down the state.

In other words, while I may well enjoy living in Galt's Gulch or some other true-libertarian paradise, I don't think that is what the world will look like without state power. I think your predictions are WRONG. I think that you are unwittingly advocating a system that will result in much, MUCH LESS freedom."

I am not a libertarian bec. of predicitons. I oppose aggression because it is wrong, not b/c I predict that if people stop aggressing then some outcome--other than less aggression--will result. I am not a utilitarian or even consequentialist. I did not base my argument in favor of individual rights on a prediction. You people think this way and thus you asked "waht is your system" "what would result" so I gave you a guess. Then you are comfy b/c we are back to your "let's let some rulers tweak things to achieve the best result" mentality.

Again: we libertarians do NOT favor some kind of lack of institutional force that is wielded against criminals. We only oppose the state. Why does the agency that protects you have to be able to steal from you (tax)? Why does it have to outlaw other ones? Since when is someone having a monopoly on some service supposed to make them a good provider of it?

Stephan Kinsella said...

Robert: "To put it another way, let's say you are deficient in paying your taxes. You state you don't have to pay your taxes because you disagree with the policies of the government and the like. Then someone breaks into your house. You call the police... who refuse to go to your aid because you have not paid taxes. You are then injured by the criminal who then sets your house on fire. You call for emergency services because the criminal let you keep your phone. The fire department refuses to go to your house and the ambulance refuses to pick you up and bring you to the hospital... because you have not paid the government, which subsidizes these services.

Are they right in refusing to help you, thus resulting in you burning to death horribly? I"

The problem is they OUTLAW all other competition. THere is no one else I can call. This is akin to jailing someone for a victimless crime, and then refusing to give them food.

sociotard said...

Oh! Now we have the root of the problem.

One side is pramatists. If small amounts of violence and theft (government) can prevent more extreme violence and theft, it is acceptable.

The other side is idealists. If there is any violence or theft, it is wrong and unacceptable.

That fixes the terms for the debate.

sociotard said...

Yeesh, Pragmatists. Pramatists would be people who like British baby strollers.

Stephan Kinsella said...

Sociotard: (I see why you use a nym, wiht these views):


"The other side is idealists. If there is any violence or theft, it is wrong and unacceptable."

Libertarians do not oppose violence. Only aggressive violence. But we do oppose all theft. I gather you think theft is sometimes okay. Yep. That is the essence of statism.

sociotard said...

If government theft prevents more rampant or more violent theft, then yes, I want that kind of theft. It is smaller.

So, as a pragmatist, I will wait to see an actual anarcho-capitalist society that has no government where I can expect to lose less than 15% my annual income in theft and where I can expect similar levels of aggresive violence.

If you would persuade me, speak in pragmatic terms.

TheMadLibrarian said...

I think we are having an argument at this point about the definition of 'theft', where Stephan wants to define it as 'taking anything from me that I don't authorize.' While that might be okay for some values of 'theft', I would recommend we stick with the accepted dictionary definition(s). Problem being, the definition also involves the term 'unlawful', which may or may not be recognized in this particular context. Hmmm... illegal law... there's an oxymoron for you!

TheMadLibrarian

Unhari: brand name depilatory

David Brin said...

InstantK... you express the problem well... I think there were added factors beyond the three you mention. e.g. conservative, anti-change memes and intertribal conflift. Feminists would add a couple of others, I reckon.

But note, I never attacked property right as an essence, but rather as a good thing that can be carried to excess, like most good things. And in 99% of human cultures it was. And when owners can gather most of society's value in the hands of a few, then they (1) collude, (2) pass on outrageous inherited and unearned advantages, (3) cheat.

And cheating as coercion is something that obviously vastly rich owners can do. Have done, will always do. Unless prevented. As Adam Smith recommended.

"roperty rights, freedom and constructive competition are instrumental conventions to encourage a productive, positive sum path to prosperity and progress."

I agree overall. But note that some things like freedom to speak and know must be treated as if they were sacred absolutes, because any dilution ruins their ability to function. Property and privacy - while very important - are CONTINGENT rights, meaning that each generation may choose to redefine them, and Jefferson was adamant about this generational right.

But in any generation the dissenters MUST be allowed onto the streetcorners shouting "You all have made a terrible mistake! If that goes away, then we are painted into a corner

David Brin said...

===
SKinsella says: " I find your and ohters' approach scattershot and full of bizarre assumptions and non sequiturs, lurching from one hidden assumption to the next, and never forming coherent, well thought out argument from start to finish."

I absolutely agree with you Stephan. It is very clear that you perceive things this way! And yes, the fact that you do perceive them that way is evidence of the mental "diversity" humans are capable of.

It is kind of sad that a "major libertarian theorist" should be unable to parse intelligent statements by very intelligent and well-based interlocutors. But we'll try to speak more slowly.

"Think on this. You are bothered that you are encountering a fellow American--peaceful, successful, intelligent, well-read--who is *unwilling to violate your rights*, unwilling to condone anyone aggressing against you. And this bugs you? WTF? How insane is that?"

Yep that is pretty darned insane! I agree. For you to interpret that as even remotely related in any way to anything that we have said? Yep. That is insane. You're on a roll!

Um... you wrote that ... and then lecture us about "whining"?

Fact, you seem incapable of recognizing allies. We all here want enhanced freedom and not a single person here is "communist" or even socialist. (Well, a few of our members lean a bit toward favoring govt solutions... but we're a diverse group and we put up with them! ;-)

Most of us agree on wanting a society in which hamhanded govt "problem-solving" devolves gradually into a withered-away structure much less prevalent in peoples' lives, leaving most decisions to autonomous, free, educated, empowered and sovereign individuals. If you despise us, despise THAT.

Where many of us disagree with you is that crazy notion that eliminating the current social contract... under which all the best stuff happened... and hurling ourselves back toward feudal propertarianism...seems a wonderful idea! It is, in fact, a really, really dumb idea.

You cite as "evidence" te ravings of two "philosopher-economists" who did more than ever Ayn Rand to ruin libertarianism as a useful American political movement.

I cite as evidence 6000 years of brutal oppression and stagnation, followed by 100 years of scintillating progress in a mixed society that you owe everything you have.

---
Swizzler, you are doing it again! Cramming words into my mouth. I never, ever denied "self-ownership." WHich is a platonic essence word. A religious catechism. You imbue in it meanings and I agree with some of those meanings. But you are still armwaving like a religious nut.

COmpetition is one TOOL that the enlightenment used to create greater freedom and positive sum games. The sentence previous to this one contains words that have universal definitions, not gobbledy incantations designed to make you sound smart.



"As it is to the advantage of society that the whole of its faculties should be employed, the construction of government ought to be such as to bring forward, by a quiet and regular operation, all that extent of capacity which never fails to appear in revolutions....http://www.ushistory.org/Paine/rights/c2-03.htm
Thomas Paine -- The Rights of Man

Rob Wicks said...

How can you tell when theft would be smaller? It seems to me that you guess, attack, and assume you were right after the fact.

Is there any action which is prohibited if you think it would result in the greater good? Are all options "on the table," so to speak?

Whskyjack said...

I will have to admit that the libertarian comments on this blog last night provided me and the wife some amusement. They very much reminded me of the sixties radicals who went around spouting quotations of Chairman Mao. As those clueless lefties, they live in a country where it is harmless and they don't have a clue how much their country/government really protects them.
Last night after reading through the comments I had some work to do in the shop. The radio was on as usual and tuned to NPR. They were talking about the conditions in Pakistan and important to this thread, property rights. It seems that Pakistan is having trouble enforcing private property rights so the people are having to resort to private means. What does that mean? Well Pakistan is increasingly divided into groups with private militias. Criminal gangs, tribal groups, religious groups and so on. You affiliate with one of those groups and they provide protection at a cost of course.
As I listened to the story and thought about some of the comments on this blog it occurred to me what was bothering me about the libertarian's comments. They seemed to believe that property rights were a gift that descended from on high, a free gift. But as Pakistan points out they are anything but free.
It takes a well organised functioning government to enforce property rights and from judging the governments around the world it is not an easy thing to do as many are failing to do so right now.
In that we in this country are very lucky and have been so for so long that we have a sizable portion of our population who believe it is a natural right for free, rather than one defended by our government.

Jack

Outside The Box said...

I find this a really interesting conversation, and I haven't read your stuff before David on focusing on competition over property, and I always like to hear a different perspective.

For me, though, libertarianism is about *violence*. It's advocating the position that we would all be better off if we agreed to eschew violence as a way of interacting with each other.

For me, then, "property" doesn't define my libertarianism; it is the best known way to achieve it. "Property" has been a hugely successful social convention in preventing violence. If you and I both want A and B, but we've agreed that A is yours and B is mine and we both act according to that agreement, there is no violence. Any arrangement that does not make it clear who gets to use what runs into the near-certainty that eventually we are going to disagree on who gets to use something, and that is a huge cause of violence. That said, there has been more than one suggestion for property "rules", and there's a worthwhile discussion on what those should be.

Is that what you are suggesting? I note for example that left-libertarians advocate a "use" criteria for the transfer of property title, that is, if you are the one really using some property, then title for that property transfers to you.

Are you suggesting something similar? You make statements lamenting "limitless property", which indicates that you advocate a limit on how much property someone can own? Is there a concrete and definite rule that you are suggesting, say, past a certain amount of property, no property title can be transferred to you?

A completely different interpretation might be that you aren't suggesting an actual enforcement mechanism or hard limit etc, but that what you are asking is for people (such as your readers) to actively work - peacefully, however, that is, not through the power of government, but rather privately - to promote more competition?

IOW, what is unclear to me is what means you are advocating are allowable in the pursuit of promoting competition? Given my focus on the importance of minimizing violence, what I'm looking for is to what extent you are advocating the use of violence.

Part of this is that I haven't read much of your stuff before and so I don't understand the whole context of what you advocate.

sociotard said...

Rob Wicks said:
How can you tell when theft would be smaller? It seems to me that you guess, attack, and assume you were right after the fact.

It is difficult to get good crime statistics. Especially if there is no government for that job.

Rob Wicks said:
Is there any action which is prohibited if you think it would result in the greater good? Are all options "on the table," so to speak?

Yes. For example, torture should be off the table.

A big difference between the Mafia and the Government? Both may take my property without my consent, but I get some small say in how the government spends what it takes, and how it enforces its will.

matthew said...

Swizzzler, SK, you are ignoring my point. Taxes are not theft if you can renounce citizenship and leave. Go perch in international waters and make your way there. You have a choice. By not leaving, by continuing to use resources (internet, roads, etc.) that *I* willingly fund through my taxes, you are a part of a civilization. A civilization that has invested in *You*. If we are willing to let you leave, wiping out our investment and you do not leave, then how can you call our insisting on payment for services that have been tendered to you "theft?"

Stephan Kinsella said...

Matthew: "you are ignoring my point. Taxes are not theft if you can renounce citizenship and leave."

this is incredibly asinine. Suppose I point a missile at your house and say look, you can leave or you can pay me $10k, not to shoot you. It's your choice.

The effing criminal mafia in DC has no right to tell me to leave my property. They have no claim over it.

How stupid can you be? Are you serious, really this daft?

matthew said...

Ah, namecalling. No, I am not stupid. I just think your ideas are daft. You have benefited from this civilization we live in and you don't like having to put back in for the benefits we get from it. I point put that you do have a choice- you can leave if this golden age upsets you where you refer to taxation as theft. You have revealed that you do not have the strength of conviction to leave the system that has produced you.

David Brin said...

Note what marks “Outside the Box” as an adult and decent interlocutor, (1) courtesy. (2) Curiosity and willingness to learn. (3) Interesting fresh viewpoints. (4) An eagerness to paraphrase others... not as an excuse to mock them as strawmen, but in order to bracket and get close to understanding what they ACTULALLY meant to say.

All four traits are vastly more important than any of the details in my answer to him. He/(she) is welcome here!

Having said that -

First, theanti-violence aspect of libertarianism is a potemkin way to seize moral high ground, similar to the right’s anti-abortion stance. I shut down when I hear liberts going on and on about it. If violence were their true core concern, they would look to the processes that have ACTUALLY reduced violence to low levels that are minuscule compared to any other human generation.

Those processes have been more complex than reflexive ideologues prefer. A mix of improved law enforcement, improved laws, rising professionalism, rising health and education and increases in social justice. And yes, reliable vesting in property... though please note that “public property” in the form of parks and schools and institutions and universities and national I.P. all seem to work pretty well. The proper degree of socialism is clearly not ZERO!

Now, I lean toward the libertarian side in my reflexes. I prefer to pragmatically find ways to keep up steady pressure to keep the socialist side of things minimized. But my chief temperament is pragmatic. I see the stunning accomplishments of this mixed society, and I refuse to be an ungrateful asshole!

If my fellow citizens have voted for a general mixed economy - both politically and by consensus acquiescence - and if that mixed society has worked vastly vastly vastly better than any other... then I am willing to ask for changes INCREMENTALLY!

Um.... duh?

As for property, I have made clear my admiration for Hernando de Soto. Look him up! His work vesting the poor with their land in Peru, delighted both libertarians and liberals!

Still, I am very knowledgable about history. And (rare for a libertarian) I actually think history is relevant! And the nearly universal failure mode of oppression by the owner-oligarchs means that there must be limits to the power that small aristocratic cabals can accumulate! And yes, absolutely, that fundamentally means there must be upper limits on ownership!

Our American founders thought so. They seized more land and resistributed and levelled the social castes far more than FDR did! They performed major feats of levelling! And the capitalism that resulted did just fine!

In fact, capitalism had boom times in the wake of FDR, too. The biggest entrepreneurial boom ever... amid the flattest social structure ever, and yes amid high top tax rates.

They went together for a reason.

Paul451 said...

Mr. Kinsella, I was wondering if you intended your idea of "libertarianism" to be an actual thing in the real world. A real place that people would live. Or do you intend it to be used as an idealised state that you know can't exist, but which you want to serve as a way of judging and measuring things which do exist. (By "state", I don't mean "State".)

Or do you intend it as a philosophy for people who live in a society that doesn't share that philosophy, a religion almost (or Zen-like non-religion). (Or as Outside The Box phrased it, "It's advocating the position that we would all be better off if we agreed to eschew violence as a way of interacting with each other.")

If you mean either of these then I suspect that changes how people would talk to you about it on this blog. (Although it might help if you stopped calling people daft just because they disagree with you. It makes you seem like a wanker.) They are assuming that you actually want to replace their own society with one based on your libertarian philosophy, in order to achieve actual real-world anarcho-capitalism. In the same way that, for example, anarcho-socialists replaced societies with ones based on communist philosophy, in order to attempt to achieve anarcho-socialism.

Do you see the difference between "this is the belief system I have that I wish everyone shared", and "this is the belief system I have that I'm trying to make everyone live under".

On the other hand, if you DO intend for libertarianism to be an actual place that people live, then my question is why haven't you and other libertarians (and Libertarians), simply done what you advocate?

You say that (paraphrasing) "Government monopolises law/justice/etc". But again, how are they stopping you? Instead of paying taxes why don't you simply purchase your own law/justice/security/etc? Perhaps from other libertarians who wish to sell you that service.

David Brin said...

Anybody have a direct email address for David Friedman? He demanded I find citations to prove what is common knowledge in any graduate-level US history course... that the American founders went to great lengths to prevent the kind of domineering landed aristocracy that dominated Britain.

Especially, Friedman demanded that I cite the banning of primogeniture... something a scholar should be able to do for himself. Still, it took just moments to grab a few quotations at random.


"In America and later in Britain itself, the practice of primogeniture came under intense pressure because it was seen to be incompatible with both republican political life and the true nature of property as developed in modern philosophy and as suited to modern political economy."

P. 69 The American Founding and the social compact by Pestritto & West 2003

"One of the founders, Thomas Jefferson, best articulated the hatred most Americans felt toward the aristocratic and religious hierarchies of British society.... Jefferson helped reform the laws of primogeniture and entail opening up land ownership..." Protestantism and the American founding by Engeman & Zuckert

Edward Rutledge, 10th gov of S. Carolina ..."in 1791 drew the act which abolished primogeniture and gave an equal distribution of the real estate to intestates..." National Cyclopedia of American Biography, vol 12

See also ref to Arnoldus Vanderhorst, 7th gov of S. Carolina who helped pass that law. Similar to a majority of states at that time.

"Closely related to the changes in landholding was the abolition of the system of entail and primogeniture. Pillars of aristocracy, these Old World institutions had become deeply rooted in American soil, particularly in the south..." p177 A History of the American People by Carman and Syrett....


I could go on and on... but the questions are (1) why didn't a historical scholar and expert on this precise kind of thing know about this already?

And more important (2) why am I always the one who has to do homework for David Friedman, while he refuses ever single assignment I have given him? I asked for simple things. Like a fair ratio of past tyrannies that were perpetrated by socialist bureaucrats vs those run by owner-oligarchies.

A simple, honest ratio. An honest man would grit his teeth and re-evaluate.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Guys,

My tuppence worth as a Scotsman (with our totally undeserved reputation for meanness) and Socialist

I agree with Adam Smith and David Brin, a mixture of socialism and capitalism has worked, (I would probably disagree as to the exact mix)

To those who believe in in rampant individualism - the biological term for a single human in nature is "Cat Food"

I have been thinking that if we were to look at life as if we were playing a game we would all be more receptive to the idea that we need "Rules" in order for it to be a fun game, rules in games set limits - I can train to ride a cycle race but I can't ride a motorbike

In the game of life too much money is like riding a motorbike in a cycle race - spoils everybody's fun

Tony Fisk said...

re. Friedman. I think, David, that you are taking a page from Bill McKibben's list of new year resolutions, and being naive. (although I doubt you need much teaching)

Looking at the photograph on that Salon article, I think my sign would read 'Hug the Oligarchy'... under a picture of asian bees smothering a japanese hornet. The alternative is this

mindfu: the martial art of... sarcasm

Instant Karma said...

David (and Stephan),

I agree culture is an additional (and complex) factor in the relative social development or progress of society.

I also agree that property rights can be taken to excess. I believe they are social conventions that enable cooperation and constructive competition (most libertarians forget the competition bit). And you are right that these conventions can adapt and evolve over time in the service of humanity.

As I wrote to Stephan, I believe libertarianism is about the widespread flourishing of a social species. Oddly he has ignored my friendly challenge and has focused on his more extreme critics.

Finally, we agree that history reveals that wealth has tended to go to those specializing in the effective use of violence or other such forms of zero-sum exploitation. Furthermore, those that have amassed wealth have consistently used their power and position to collude, cheat, seek privilege or use violence to protect their wealth.

Where we may disagree is in the cure to this disease. I believe the answer is social conventions (laws, mores, institutions, etc) that prohibit exploitation, coercion, privilege seeking (unfair/unjust rules), cheating and so forth. Property is no sacred absolute (nor is freedom). But it is essential that we do not use the power of the state to determine winners and losers in a zero-sum win lose fashion. Coercive redistribution is a dangerous and self defeating game that leads to problems of its own.

In other words, I see exploitation by the powerful and wish to focus on limiting exploitation. It seems you see the exploitation by the powerful and want to cure it by limiting one particular type of power (wealth). i believe this ignores other potential sources of power and abuse and will actually feed power to the other exploiters (populists, politicians, etc).

I believe billionaires are great for society and that we should hope we all become as wealthy as the Waltons and Gates. What we should focus on is not allowing them to use that wealth coercively against the rest of us.

Does this make sense, or have I misrepresented your views?

PS -- Stephan, I would appreciate your take on this as well. I'd value input from your more Rothbardian interpretation.

LarryHart said...

Instant Karma:

Property is no sacred absolute (nor is freedom). But it is essential that we do not use the power of the state to determine winners and losers in a zero-sum win lose fashion. Coercive redistribution is a dangerous and self defeating game that leads to problems of its own.


I don't think Dr Brin or anyone else here is calling for coercive redistribution OR for the state to pick winners and losers.

To me, there are two reasons it makes sense to have a progressive tax that falls more (but not exculsively) on the rich than on the poor.

1) Taxes are more of a hardship on the poor. If the government requires X billion dollars to perform its functions this year, and X divided by everyone's income comes out to (say) 2%, I would argue that everyone should pay a flat tax. If that rate is (say) 30%, it is almost inconceivable that we'd demand the poor pay that much of their meager income. Higher taxes on the rich (who can afford them) gives relief to the poor (who can't). It's sort of like saying that instead of a flat rate on percentage of income, we should have a flat rate on the pain induced by the tax.

I realize that libertarians probably reject that argument out of hand, but they should be more open to...

2) The rich have more to protect. More of the burden of government spending serves the interest OF the rich than of the poor, therefore they should be asked to pay more of that burden. If government charged ExxonMobil user fees for services like keeping shipping lanes open or fighting foreign wars on their behalf, we could maybe do away with income taxes altogether.

It only occured to me as I was typing that both of those arguments have something in common--that the Steve Forbes "flat tax" arguments can justify taxes being structured as to equalize the cost/benefit ratio instead of equalizing the tax/income ratio.

LarryHart said...

Instant Karma:

In other words, I see exploitation by the powerful and wish to focus on limiting exploitation. It seems you see the exploitation by the powerful and want to cure it by limiting one particular type of power (wealth). i believe this ignores other potential sources of power and abuse and will actually feed power to the other exploiters (populists, politicians, etc).


I can't speak directly for Dr Brin, but it seems to me that he seeks to limit a particular form of power and abuse because that form is currently winning the war, and is in real danger of overthrowing the democratic form.

LarryHart said...

...and when I posted above that

To me, there are two reasons it makes sense to have a progressive tax that falls more (but not exculsively) on the rich than on the poor.


... I forgot to make the point that NONE of my reasoning involves either "punishing" the wealthy or taking what they have because I "envy" it.

Instant Karma said...

Larry,

I am fine with progressive taxation as long as we have controls to limit zero sum win/lose redistribution. It makes sense that those with wealth should pay vastly more than those without. My understanding is that most western societies do have such progressive systems and that in general this is a good thing.

It would take us WAY off course to describe what I mean by limiting zero sum redistribution, but in brief it implies that taxation should be a part of the voluntary social contract. Society has costs as well as benefits, and we should choose among competing alternatives to join those that optimize personal and collective well being.

David Brin said...

Tony that is some honeybee video!

IK: I accept all your points. I agree that it is preferable to limit the *behaviors* of power abusers and potential power abusers. That is entirely compatible with my pushing transparency and reciprocal accountability, as preferable over clumsy-bludgeon regulations

Generally speaking, most of the abuses by the mega-moguls would be reduce if LIGHT merely shone on their insider deals and anti-competitive connivings. Above all, libertarians should have no complaint against my proposal that all ownership be publicly declared! If you do not openly avow "I own that!" then you lose all ownership rights.

This one measure, if applied world wide, would take away the ill-gotten riches owned by criminals. It would force disputes into open court. Above all, it would allow accountability - e.g. tort damages - to be applied directly to those whose property is abused or the source of abuse... which all libertarians should be entirely for. In fact, it would allow a lot of matters to be settled under contract or tort law that are currently handled by bureaucratic regulation

Indeed, this social compact change should be the TOP priority of honest libertinas like S Kinsella. (?) You own stuff? Say so! But they won't go there. Why? Because the movement has been suborned. It is a propaganda machine owned by the oligarchs. sad.

Having said all that... and as much as I admire Gates and Buffett... I believe there must be upper limits to wealth accumulation. The simplest and best way is the Inheritance tax, which need NEVER be paid if you simply do what Buffett and Gates are doing, and buying the admiration of future generations... who may have to power to resurrect you. Very pragmatic.

But think. What about if the Walton scions had TEN TIMES their current proportional share of wealth. A hundred? A thousand? Is there no limit in YOUR mind?

Remember those 4000 years. A failure mode that prevalent needs careful watching. If the founding fathers felt it needful to set upper limits, who am I to argue?

Stephan Kinsella said...

Instant Karma:
"I also agree that property rights can be taken to excess. I believe they are social conventions that enable cooperation and constructive competition (most libertarians forget the competition bit). And you are right that these conventions can adapt and evolve over time in the service of humanity."

I agree with this but do not think they can be "taken to excess". Every scarce resource is rivalrous, that is, there is potentially conflict or rivalry. For every such good, we libertarians think it is better if there is an owner. i don't see how anyone can deny this. Even socialists think it has an owner: the state, or society, etc.

Our view is that the owner is the person with the best link to it. And that this is the person who finds the thing in its unowned state and appropriates it; or the person who bought it contractually from such a person. (Or, in the case of bodies: each person is the self-owner.)

If you disagree with this, it is not because you think property rights should not be taken to excess, but because you think someone OTHER than the homesteader, contractual buyer should be the owner. It's got nothing to do with "excess".

If you say you reject libertarian views on property because they take it to excess, this is a disguised, possibly disingenuous (or confused), and equivocation. What you really mean is you think I should not own the 50 oz of gold I just contractually acquired from someone in a trade--but that the State should own it (or 1/3 of it). Something like this.

For example if you think laws putting people in jail for refusing to fight in the army or for smoking marijuana are legitimate, you think the state owns his body, because they have the right to put it in jail. They are a slaveownre. Even here, you bleieve in property. You just disagree with us on who the owner is.

And this is the case for ANY unlibertarian law or policy that you favor. In each case it means that you just disagree with us as to who owns the scarce resource that your unlibertarian law affects.

"As I wrote to Stephan, I believe libertarianism is about the widespread flourishing of a social species. Oddly he has ignored my friendly challenge and has focused on his more extreme critics."

What exactly is your question?

"Finally, we agree that history reveals that wealth has tended to go to those specializing in the effective use of violence or other such forms of zero-sum exploitation. Furthermore, those that have amassed wealth have consistently used their power and position to collude, cheat, seek privilege or use violence to protect their wealth."

Primarily by becoming states or colluding with the state (and/or they get their wealth in the first way through these means). With no state, or with a minimal state, and a libertarian rights respecting populace, a rich guy coudl only get rich by being productive and civilized, and if he started acting like a criminal he'd be treated like one. The worst case is that he emerges as a mini-state. So the danger of having states emerge from anarchy ... is the justification for states? that makes no sense.

"In other words, I see exploitation by the powerful and wish to focus on limiting exploitation."

Exploitation that does not employ aggression is permissible and should not be prohibited. And real exploitation is simply aggression (see, on this, HOppe: http://www.stephankinsella.com/2009/08/hoppe-marx-was-essentially-correct/ and http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Mises-Economics/2011/1027/Marx-was-right-about-capitalism).


As for real exploitation: the crimes that a lone guy can commit pale in comparison to the systematic, and widespread, insittutional exploitation taht states always, of necessity, engage in. So to empower a huge, criminal exploiting gang .... just to stop some rich guy from .. someday deciding to turn criminal (after a life of peaceful, productive action?), is insane.

rewinn said...

Smart designers test systems first.

One concern of we pragmatists is that the cutover to a new system (whether Randian or Marxist) is fraught with peril. What if the implementation is bad? What if there is a design flaw inherent in the design?

Both Kinsella-brand Libertarianism (tm) and Marxism seem to rest upon assumptions about human nature which pragmatists may question. It is therefore very helpful to actually test the systems before betting everything on them.

To their credit, the Seasteaders seem to take this seriously. I have my doubts about their project, but I salute their willingness to put their money where their mouths are.

A cheaper and more practical method would be simply to simulate such a society (Today Boeing announced it is modifying the 747-800 based on a potential flutter problem that has never been observed, but which simulations suggest *could* occur. This seems prudent because the outcome would be Very Bad.)

Simulating a Libertarian or Marxist society would be easy now-a-days. Any graduate of a game design studio could craft a World of Warcraft clone in which the avatars may choose to eschew violence. Run the simulation for a while, and tell us how it goes.

When we have a problem, philosophical arguments gives us gods to which we pray in vain; engineering gives us solutions (...which usually bring on other problems, but that's life!).

TheMadLibrarian said...

The problem with defining aggression and exploitation in those terms is because of the wide spectra on both. Is it exploitation to employ people as cheaply as possible? What if you used people in one location to build up your company, then moved somewhere else because labor was cheaper, abandoning your previous workers? Or used your cheap labor to create a monopoly? The Company Store is still the Company Store, and history widely regards it as unfair.

TheMadLibrarian

consi: incomplete thoughtfulness

David Brin said...

SK says: "If you say you reject libertarian views on property because they take it to excess, this is a disguised, possibly disingenuous (or confused), and equivocation. What you really mean is you think I should not own the 50 oz of gold I just contractually acquired from someone in a trade--but that the State should own it (or 1/3 of it). Something like this."

Everybody... and I mean EVERYBODY please read that statement aloud, slowly. Have you ever seen a more blatant piece of strawmanning and redirection-for-convenience?

Well... I have seen worse... from Stephan Kinsella, in almost every missive. Saying in effect: "If you disagree on these specific points, it means you are a flaming demon spawn who wants babies not to own the bottle in their mouth! You want the state to own every woman's uterus and pot smoking punished by death!"

Oh but it goes on.

"With no state, or with a minimal state, and a libertarian rights respecting populace, a rich guy coudl only get rich by being productive and civilized, and if he started acting like a criminal he'd be treated like one."

Um.... based on what experimental results do you wave this fabulist fantasy in front of us? Name ONE example.... ever!

Again and again, you refuse to even remotely contemplate what actually DID HAPPEN in every single human civilization, ever, especially those that rose up in technology to have metals. You shrug off that relentlessly repeated failure mode - which recurred on every continent - as irrelevant!

Sure, your religious catechisms trump reality. As with all ideological dogmas.

Great suggestion Rewinn! Let's simulate these worlds and models! World of Warcraft does not contain an in-game government... Oh but there's the violence thing. Let's simulate the mix of ferocious property rights and zero violence... let's do!

Stephan Kinsella said...

DAvid, I find it hard to understand you. You dance all over the place. Have you ever coherently put down what your theory of politics or rights or the state is? What exactly is your view? If I understand you, your argument runs something like this: without a state in place to stop crime and enemies and rich guys from becoming too powerful, you'll have despots and widespread crime etc. States are costly and dangerous, but they are better than the alternative. Because they are dangerous we have to keep an eye on them, but they are necessary and they make us better off than if we didnt' have them.

Is that basically your argument?

My argument is simply that I oppose aggression, and therefore the state since it commits aggression. You do not seem to deny that the state has to commit aggression to exist (I don't mean force against criminals; I mean force against innocent people: such as taxpayers or conscriptees or competing justice/defense agencies). I am not sure if you are against aggression, but my guess would be: you are against it, but you think it's impossible to live in an aggression free world. Without the state there is rampant ad hoc aggression and we are all impoverished and live in a state of chaos. With the state, we have some basline of aggression that the state has to commit to exist, but they quash greater aggression that would otherwise exist. So you are choosing level x of aggression instead of level 10x, since 0 is not possible.

Is this your view?

If that is your view, then it is a fairly honest, and straightforward, if simplistic and naive, view, and our primary disagreement would be on whether its justified to commit evil to stop greater evil, and on whether the state in fact is a lesser evil than what would persist in a free, stateless, private-law society of anarcho-capitalism.

Just b/c you hop around shouting fairly incoherent and sometimes contradictory or vague things about history does not prove you are right. The historical studies in, e.g, D.Friedman, Rothbard, Bruce Benson, and others seem to me to counter your own assertions fairly easily.

LEt me ask you aslo: how do you evaluate the current US fedgov? Is it a good state? Is it doing a good job? Is it even possible to have a "good" or minimal state? If so, how is this possible, given the inevitable incentive and inefficiency and other problems that accompany monopolies.

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kineslla:

Every scarce resource is rivalrous, that is, there is potentially conflict or rivalry. For every such good, we libertarians think it is better if there is an owner. i don't see how anyone can deny this. Even socialists think it has an owner: the state, or society, etc.

Our view is that the owner is the person with the best link to it. And that this is the person who finds the thing in its unowned state and appropriates it; or the person who bought it contractually from such a person. (Or, in the case of bodies: each person is the self-owner.)


Your paranthetical aside there is really an important point of contention. Not that I disagree with you on the sentence itself, but we apparently greatly disagree that it's the same thing as the rest of the two paragraphs above.

It's much, MUCH more self-evident that each person is the rightful owner of his own body than it is that the first person to grab a parcel of real estate is its rightful owner. I'm not flat-out saying your assertion is false, but it has to be argued. It's not at all as clear as the notion that one owns his own body. And the way you put it into a paranthetical aside makes it seem as if it is so blindingly obvious that the two things are equivalent that it hardly bears mentioning.

sociotard said...

Interesting results regarding fusion power.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/controlling-nuclear-fusion-instabilities

and you can watch the Apple textbook announcement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Evisx5tTBes

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

With no state, or with a minimal state, and a libertarian rights respecting populace, a rich guy coudl only get rich by being productive and civilized, and if he started acting like a criminal he'd be treated like one.


The thing is, my family and I have to live in the real world, which unfortunatlely (I agree this is unfortunate) is NOT exclusively a libertarian rights-respecting populace. Therefore, I don't want to design and implement a social system which only works under the premise that the populace IS libertarian rights-respecting.

I think that Galt's Gulch might actually "work" the way Ayn Rand depicted it. But so what? It's not a model that the country (or the world) as a whole can follow. It fundamentally depends upon it being an exclusive club of libertarian industrialists which is virtually inaccessible to the general public (who has no idea it exists) AND which happens to sit upon vast, heretofore-undiscovered deposits of gold, oil, and metal ore.

Social conventions in the real world have had to evolve over time to account for interaction between actual human beings, many of whom are not libertarian rights-respecting. If we abolished the police and the army, many of those people wouldn't think twice about taking your stuff by force.

As Dr Brin has mentioned before, libertarianism actually thrives better under the protection of law in The United States of America than it does anywhere else? Are you really anxious to abolish that golden-egg-laying goose and take your chances in the world that would follow?

Nate Fries said...

Stephen, you're absolutely wrong about George's economics. Property taxes, however opposed to them Libertarians may be, are certainly the most efficient way to fund a government whose only truly productive output are things like roads and bridges which increase property values. The real question is whether or not the damage to the notion of property rights because of the imposition of such an efficient and sensible system is what must be considered. The typical libertarian would say no.

As for what Jonathan Burns said about equal opportunity leading to unequal rewards which leads to unequal opportunity, he's absolutely right about this premise. His 'solution', however, would be fruitless and inefficient: and endless cycle of property confiscation and unjust rewards, with a property loss in order to pay the bureaucrats and enforcement agents responsible for coordinating and performing this process of confiscation.
Worse yet, as our own government has recently proven, completely undeserved rewards can be given from this confiscated property.
Some people will make poor choices or innocent mistakes, and some people will be successful, and this system will continue so long as there is any semblance of property and private enterprise. Those who start with more will not always finish with more, and those who start with less will not always finish with less. However, through abuse of regulators, those who start with more have effectively rigged the system in this country to improve the chances of those who start with more at the expense of those who start with less.

There's way too many points being made to go through them all, so I'll leave you with this.

duncan cairncross said...

Nate said
"Those who start with more will not always finish with more, and those who start with less will not always finish with less"

And this is correct not Always - BUT most of the time they WILL!

And this is the biggest problem with property ownership - it is a positive feedback system even without "regulatory capture"
When modeled with identical "players" most of the resources end up in a very few hands

It needs a "return to zero" button

How about - a massive inheritance tax that is used to fund a starter fund for all kids when they get to 21

Did Thomas Paine not suggest something similar?

Still not completely balanced, But gives everybody a better start

Luke Bessey said...

Stephan, thank you for providing some reason to this discussion. Your patience is very impressive. I do wonder, however, about the effectiveness of these types of exchanges. Bryan Caplan makes a great point about issues that are so basic that it takes a very analytically intelligent person to mess them up. He says, (I am paraphrasing) when something is so intuitive and simple to understand, certain "intellectuals" will over complicate things and come down on the wrong side of issue. The best way to handle these individuals is not to argue with them, but to simply make a bet. On this note...

Mr. Brin, my little brother would benefit from your...excuse me....THE computer on your desk much more than you. Kindly send it to him. If you don't hold a view of property rights then you should have no problem sending the computer (We will pay for shipping). If you do have some urge to want to keep the computer please explain yourself. Thank you.

David Brin said...

Luke, you are clearly Stephan's soulmate. Ridicule any disagreement by claiming your opponent believes absurd things that are taken entirely out of vacuum.

This is why the LP gets 1% in every election. Not because the masses are stupid - (an ironic catechism for a movement that supposedly believes in individual autonomy!) -

- but because the current crop of Rothbardian/randroids dominating it are immature dolts who could not paraphrase their was out of school detention.

I challenge you now - do the adult thing and actually paraphrase - what it is that you imagine I believe about property, before rebuking it.

That is what grownups do. They do not craft voluptuous strawmen to masturbate to. They try to paraphrase and bracket what the opponent ACTUALLY is saying, before proceeding to demolish him.

duncan cairncross said...

Thinking about Property reminds me of a Larry Niven short story
Grammar Lesson
(In the Draco Tavern series)

The Chirpsithra win a conflict because they have different words for ownership
My foot
M-y trousers
M--y house
And therefore treat them differently

Maybe this is our problem - we use the same words for things that are inherently different and that need to be treated differently

Robert said...

Given the perceived (and empirical) alteration in Dr. Brin's reactions to people questioning him (outside of long-time bloggers who he's familiar with), I almost wonder if Dr. Brin might want to take a break of several months from commenting on people's remarks in here. The perceptions I have of his patience and politeness are that they're in decline. He takes umbrage over comments far more easily now than he did, and is far less forgiving of people defending Republican opinions. What's more, I've noticed Dr. Brin is growing accusatory in his comments... and using phrasing that is more and more inflammatory.

I love your blog, Dr. Brin. And I love your perspectives and feel you should continue them. But perhaps... a break is needed from the chat aspect itself. Especially as the Insane Season of Politics comes into full swing.

Rob H.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Robert,

I disagree -
I like Dr Brin's chat - clear and directly to the point

Also I don't see any increase in his "brutality" over the years - he bit lumps out of me a couple of years ago when he disagreed with something I said!

Instant Karma said...

Stephan,

Thanks for the response and for sticking in with such a tough crowd.

I think you are assuming something about my position that is WAY off from what I have been writing.

I do not argue with your position on property rights conventions and their role in producing value among rivalrous, scarce goods. I thought your paper explained the value of property rights quite well. I could not have said it better myself.

By "taken to excess" I specifically mean treating property rights as a fundamental absolute. Where I do disagree with you on property rights is that it is the essence of libertarianism. I simply see them as useful conventions.

I think you missed my initial post to you where I spoke about property rights in surfing and wrote:

Begin self quote:
"I think it IS important to ask what libertarianism is about. And I do not think it is about property rights.

It is about the widespread flourishing of human beings. Mises did not prescribe values; he studied what people actually desired and how they go about achieving these goals.

People -- in general -- desire for themselves and those they care about to be free, prosperous, and live long, happy, healthy lives. Libertarianism is fundamentally about how we go about achieving these ends. Property rights (and division of labor and non-coercion) are simply human conventions to achieve these goals. If human nature was different, or property rights led to conflict or impoverishment, then a libertarian should reject property."
End self quote

As you can see, I am not arguing with your original owner or contractual acquirer logic at all. Nor do I think the state should own 1/3 of it (unless I voluntarily agree to such terms), nor force us into the military nor arrest us for smoking.

Finally I agree 100% that exploitation is employing aggression. I define exploitation as using force, threat, deception or fraud against another.

Let me clarify my position. I am a libertarian who believes property rights, liberty and non-coercion/aggression/exploitation are very useful conventions for achieving human prosperity. I do not worship property rights or liberty. I value widespread human flourishing. Property rights are a means, not an end. Don't you agree?

(My initial comment to you on surfing and different property rights conventions are about 2/3rds of the way down the comments.)

LarryHart said...

duncan cairncross describes a sci-fi story:

The Chirpsithra win a conflict because they have different words for ownership
My foot
M-y trousers
M--y house
And therefore treat them differently

Maybe this is our problem - we use the same words for things that are inherently different and that need to be treated differently


That's what I've been trying to get at.

Almost everyne agrees that I own "my body". Maybe there's disagreement about whether that ownership is voluntarily transferable to a creditor, maybe some disagreement (though probably not right here) about whether that ownership is transferable by a parent or guardian. But absent any such transfer, "I own my body" is almost self-evident.

Ownership of anything else is a separate kind of thing. It rests upon questions like whether the thing itself is eligible for "ownership" at all, and if so, whether someone ALREADY owns it.

I'm not arguing against the concept of property ownership per se (the absurd question about Dr Brin's computer). I'm just saying it's not as clear cut as ownership of one's own body. And I do have real problems (though I'm willing to be shown where I'm wrong) about the specific concept of private ownership of LAND.

LarryHart said...

...and I also like seeing Dr Brin's comment, and wouldn't DREAM of asking him to sit out the election.

(But it probably is a good idea for him not to respond quickly in anger.)

Instant Karma said...

David,

Good points on transparency and light. I have no idea why a libertarian would disagree with transparency and declaring ownership.

There is no essential limit in my mind to how wealthy a person becomes as long as the wealth was acquired constructively (through voluntary interactions) and not used to exploit others ( via violence/threat/deception).

The value of free enterprise is that it allows people to create limitless wealth by cooperating with other people. Gates and Buffet enriched countless people's lives and have been justly compensated. I wish they enriched even more people (employees, vendors and customers) and were compensated themselves even greater. Free enterprise is a win/win activity and I recommend encouraging more positive sum wealth, not less.

As I understand free markets, nobody can get mega rich without creating mega value for others. This of course does not apply to cronyism, socialism or theft. I am all for limiting wealth acquired via these means.

We see eye to eye on the 6000 years, but again I focus on restricting illicit means (and transparency) , not on restricting wealth itself.

And though the founding fathers and Scottish philosophers got a lot right, I don't evaluate the soundness of an argument on whether Jefferson or Smith said it.

But I could be wrong...

Stephan Kinsella said...

LarryHart:

"SK: Our view is that the owner is the person with the best link to it. And that this is the person who finds the thing in its unowned state and appropriates it; or the person who bought it contractually from such a person. (Or, in the case of bodies: each person is the self-owner.)


Your paranthetical aside there is really an important point of contention. Not that I disagree with you on the sentence itself, but we apparently greatly disagree that it's the same thing as the rest of the two paragraphs above.

It's much, MUCH more self-evident that each person is the rightful owner of his own body than it is that the first person to grab a parcel of real estate is its rightful owner. I'm not flat-out saying your assertion is false, but it has to be argued. It's not at all as clear as the notion that one owns his own body. And the way you put it into a paranthetical aside makes it seem as if it is so blindingly obvious that the two things are equivalent that it hardly bears mentioning. "

I know they are differet. That's why I was careful and clear hear. Self ownership is more self evident and is the base of property rights. And I know it has to be argued. I have done so, as have others, like Hoppe. My What Libertarianism Is, my Estoppel/punishment theory of rights, What It Means to be an Anarcho-Capitalist, and others, at http://www.stephankinsella.com/publications/ ; and Hoppe's Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, at www.hanshoppe.com.

"The thing is, my family and I have to live in the real world, which unfortunatlely (I agree this is unfortunate) is NOT exclusively a libertarian rights-respecting populace. Therefore, I don't want to design and implement a social system which only works under the premise that the populace IS libertarian rights-respecting."

THe thing is, I don't want to condone violent initiated aggression against people who have not committed aggresion against me. Because I prefer and value peace and cooperation, and abhor criminality. But hey, different strokes.

Nate Fries:

George was a crank and a nut. http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/12798.html honeslty it is not worth discussing him.

Stephan Kinsella said...

Brin:

"Luke, you are clearly Stephan's soulmate. Ridicule any disagreement by claiming your opponent believes absurd things that are taken entirely out of vacuum.

This is why the LP gets 1% in every election."

I am not a member of the LP. Never have been. I think electoral politics is a bad idea.

Stephan Kinsella said...

Instant Karma:

"I do not argue with your position on property rights conventions and their role in producing value among rivalrous, scarce goods. I thought your paper explained the value of property rights quite well. I could not have said it better myself.

By "taken to excess" I specifically mean treating property rights as a fundamental absolute. Where I do disagree with you on property rights is that it is the essence of libertarianism. I simply see them as useful conventions."

I don't konw what you mean by "fundamental absolute." I never said that about property rights. Property rights are universal but not absolute. But that does not mean we do not have princples, or that B taking property from A by force or threat can be argumentatively justified.

""I think it IS important to ask what libertarianism is about. And I do not think it is about property rights.

It is about the widespread flourishing of human beings. Mises did not prescribe values; he studied what people actually desired and how they go about achieving these goals. "

I never ask what it is "about". I ask what it is. What the primary principles and beliefs are. BUt if you are in favor of human prosperity and flourishing then you will realize that the only means to achieve this is to have cooperation mediated by the Lockean allocation of property rights.

"As you can see, I am not arguing with your original owner or contractual acquirer logic at all. Nor do I think the state should own 1/3 of it (unless I voluntarily agree to such terms), nor force us into the military nor arrest us for smoking.

Finally I agree 100% that exploitation is employing aggression. I define exploitation as using force, threat, deception or fraud against another.
"

sounds good to me. BUt I suspect now Brin will accuse you of not reading history!!

"Let me clarify my position. I am a libertarian who believes property rights, liberty and non-coercion/aggression/exploitation are very useful conventions for achieving human prosperity. I do not worship property rights or liberty. I value widespread human flourishing. Property rights are a means, not an end. Don't you agree?"

I agree with most of this. I don't "worship" it either. I just have values and preferences: one is I choose not to commit or endorse aggression. I view it as wrong. It is very simple.

Calling property rights a means is imprecise, because means to me means scarce resources used as means to action. bUt in a loose sense--sure. Property rights are a semi-conventional institution designed to fulfil a purpose.

David Brin said...

DB: "This is why the LP gets 1% in every election."

SK: "I am not a member of the LP. Never have been. I think electoral politics is a bad idea."

Urgh. Again with the nonsequiturs. Will you please actually grapple with the other fellow's actual point? By paraphrasing what perhaps he actually meant to communicate with you?

I read the following in your recent posting and almost leaped to congratulate you!

"Let me clarify my position. I am a libertarian who believes property rights, liberty and non-coercion/aggression/exploitation are very useful conventions for achieving human prosperity. I do not worship property rights or liberty. I value widespread human flourishing. Property rights are a means, not an end. Don't you agree?"

I came close to jumping in and saying "at last! Now that's the way mature people argue!"

Ah, but it wasn't you, after all. Pity. You really are bright. Very very very bright. So was Plato.

Luke Bessey said...

David, forgive me, I am a little slow.

Two groups move onto an island. No one inhabits this island prior to the groups' arrival. Group A lands on one side and group B lands on the other side. Group A finds a cave and settles in. They go into the woods and build fishing poles. They till some land and plant some crops.

Radical anarcho-capitalists will go on record suggesting that group A has the most legitimate claim over this property (the cave, the fishing poles, and the soil). Obviously in the real world if group B is bigger and stronger they can forcibly take the property from A. The first question I have for you is - who SHOULD get this property?

If you agree that A should get this property the question becomes "what system of social arrangement will lead to the highest likelihood of A retaining said property?" I assume that you would suggest that some form of statism is the answer? Please, describe your ideal system using this simplified model (group A and B). Thank you for your time.

Stephan Kinsella said...

David:

"I read the following in your recent posting and almost leaped to congratulate you!

"Let me clarify my position. I am a libertarian who believes property rights, liberty and non-coercion/aggression/exploitation are very useful conventions for achieving human prosperity. I do not worship property rights or liberty. I value widespread human flourishing. Property rights are a means, not an end. Don't you agree?"

I came close to jumping in and saying "at last! Now that's the way mature people argue!"

Ah, but it wasn't you, after all."

But I did agree with most of it, in a subsequent post, with a few nuances. I wrote:

"I agree with most of this. I don't "worship" it either. I just have values and preferences: one is I choose not to commit or endorse aggression. I view it as wrong. It is very simple.

Calling property rights a means is imprecise, because means to me means scarce resources used as means to action. bUt in a loose sense--sure. Property rights are a semi-conventional institution designed to fulfil a purpose."

***

" Pity. You really are bright. Very very very bright. So was Plato."

this reminds me of Buckley's horrible comments about Rothbard after the latter's death: "Yes, Murray Rothbard believed in freedom, and yes, David Koresh believed in God." - as David Gordon writes here: http://www.lewrockwell.com/gordon/gordon35.html

"When Rothbard died, Buckley reacted with malicious spite. In an obituary published in National Review on February 6, 1995, Buckley classed Rothbard with the cultist David Koresh. He wrote: "In Murray's case, much of what drove him was a contrarian spirit." Rothbard, in Buckley's view, was mentally ill, the victim of "deranging scrupulosity." Buckley did not scruple to mock Rothbard, who, "huffing and puffing in the little cloister whose walls he labored so strenuously to contract," was left with "about as many disciples as David Koresh had in his little redoubt in Waco. Yes, Murray Rothbard believed in freedom, and yes, David Koresh believed in God." Buckley's reference to "huffing and puffing" was especially deplorable, since Rothbard suffered from congestive heart failure."

duncan cairncross said...

Luke

There are no unclaimed islands but that is an interesting question -

Lets change it to an asteroid,

Somebody locates an asteroid in a convenient orbit - what ownership rights does the discoverer have?

Group A head off out and set up an extraction operation
Then Group B appears

My own take

The discoverer has no specific rights but can sell his information

Group A has the "right" to continue its operations - everything it has made it "owns" it is also entitled to "own" ~ say 50 years of "ore"

Group B can use the rest of the asteroid -

If Group A or B wishes to "move" the asteroid then they would both have to agree

Unknown said...

[AtomSmith here, blogger not cooperating...]

Mr Kinsella:

> With no state, or with a minimal state, and a libertarian rights respecting populace, a rich guy coudl only get rich by being productive and civilized, and if he started acting like a criminal he'd be treated like one.

(emph. mine)

I don't understand this, or rather, how you intend this to be implemented.

Does your idea of the optimal civilization really require changing what people respect?

This seems a rather fatal flaw.

Anonymous said...

Who owns the island/ asteroid.
I believe that is simple, he who can hold it, by what ever means available.
Unless you are asserting there is a governing body that dispenses right of ownership. Then it will be according to the rules of that governing body.
You may propose rules but as some of you deplore violence don't expect either the holder of the property nor any governing body to pay you any attention.

rewinn said...

As someone who has no dog in the "What-Is-Libertarianism-About" fight, but who has a bit of experience in the entirely parallel word of religion, let me observe that the refusal of most of those who call themselves libertarian (big or little "L") to be interested in actual empirical reality may be embarrassing to @Dr. Brin.

(I don't mean the regulars, like @CarlM and @Tacitus, but the soi-disant intellectuals like Friedmann the Younger and @Stephan Kinseilla).

Think about it. Brin sells a big pile of books and stuff into a very competitive environment. They aren't Danielle-Steele-esque trash or Piers Anthony hackwork, but books with plots and characters and Deep Thoughts and stuff like that. As judged by the Holy Marketplace, several are Very Good Books indeed.

(I'm not kissing up; these are just facts, introduced to show that whether Brin is right or wrong, he is at the very least not stupid.)

Now when Brin wants to talk about one of his favorite Big Thoughts - Libertarianism - and asks his fellow Libertarians to comment, what happens? The loudest responses are from people who (A) call themselves scholars and (B) call Brin a newb, incoherent, confusing and (C) refuse to put THEIR Big Ideas to the test of reality, either historical or experimental.

I, personally, would find that frustrating. A little bit of verbal abuse is tolerable when accompanied by actual intellectual rigor (which necessarily includes a willingness to test ideas), but to have one of my favorite concepts trumpeted by fools would cause contact embarrassment.

If that makes Dr. Brin a little cranky, I've been there!

Perhaps it would help to invent a new term, e.g. Libertyism, Competitivism, and leave the Libertarians to the world of divine essences that they love so much. If Bishop Spong could peel back Christianity to its core, prior to the supernaturalist accretions, then likewise an actual intellectual (as judged by the Holy Marketplace) may be able to peel back "Libertarianism" to the core of a good, testable idea.

Of course, it took Spong about 80 years and the Hierarchy doesn't like him.

Stephan Kinsella said...

"rewinn":

"As someone who has no dog in the "What-Is-Libertarianism-About" fight, but who has a bit of experience in the entirely parallel word of religion, let me observe that the refusal of most of those who call themselves libertarian (big or little "L") to be interested in actual empirical reality may be embarrassing to @Dr. Brin.

(I don't mean the regulars, like @CarlM and @Tacitus, but the soi-disant intellectuals like Friedmann the Younger and @Stephan Kinseilla).

Think about it. Brin sells a big pile of books and stuff into a very competitive environment. They aren't Danielle-Steele-esque trash or Piers Anthony hackwork, but books with plots and characters and Deep Thoughts and stuff like that. As judged by the Holy Marketplace, several are Very Good Books indeed."

I'm a soi-disant intellectual? haha. Well at least I'm not a cowardly nym. Your assertion that I am "not interested in" empirical reality is either a lie or stupidity.

As for books, I've earned about half a million dollars in the last 10 years from royalties from my books (legal treatises). More than most sci-fi authors. So I guess I'm some real intellectual now.

duncan cairncross said...

"As for books, I've earned about half a million dollars in the last 10 years from royalties from my books (legal treatises)"

I'm obviously in the wrong business if a nugget like Stephan can earn that much

To Anonymous's point
I was talking about the system I would like -
I tend to agree that it would need to be part of a framework and that the framework would need the option of violence to support it - all social structures have that final support

It's either that or - Cat Food

Luke Bessey said...

"My argument is simply that I oppose aggression, and therefore the state since it commits aggression. You do not seem to deny that the state has to commit aggression to exist (I don't mean force against criminals; I mean force against innocent people: such as taxpayers or conscriptees or competing justice/defense agencies). I am not sure if you are against aggression, but my guess would be: you are against it, but you think it's impossible to live in an aggression free world. Without the state there is rampant ad hoc aggression and we are all impoverished and live in a state of chaos. With the state, we have some basline of aggression that the state has to commit to exist, but they quash greater aggression that would otherwise exist. So you are choosing level x of aggression instead of level 10x, since 0 is not possible.

Is this your view?

If that is your view, then it is a fairly honest, and straightforward, if simplistic and naive, view, and our primary disagreement would be on whether its justified to commit evil to stop greater evil, and on whether the state in fact is a lesser evil than what would persist in a free, stateless, private-law society of anarcho-capitalism.

Just b/c you hop around shouting fairly incoherent and sometimes contradictory or vague things about history does not prove you are right. The historical studies in, e.g, D.Friedman, Rothbard, Bruce Benson, and others seem to me to counter your own assertions fairly easily.

LEt me ask you aslo: how do you evaluate the current US fedgov? Is it a good state? Is it doing a good job? Is it even possible to have a "good" or minimal state? If so, how is this possible, given the inevitable incentive and inefficiency and other problems that accompany monopolies."

I would love to see David actually address these issues instead of jumping around and putting people down.

David Brin said...

Dang youse guys is insatiable.... I have posted a new blog and I usually type "onward" at this point, in order to steer people to the new comments section. But this is an exception.

PLEASE CONTINUE THE LIBERTARIAN BICKERING HERE.

The next blog is about sci fi. Please don't pollute it. (You can also resume in the next POLITICAL blog posting.

As for Stephan, you've been a hoot, man. But ANGRY! I am not Wm F Buckley! And though I find Rothbard turgid, tendentious, illogical and an ignoramus about history, I would not deny you your pleasure in him.

He and Rand took a promising American political movement, that could have fought for non-governmental market based problem solving, and turned it into an incantation cult. But that's just my view, as a pragmatist-scientist-realist.

Luke, you are talking past us. You idealists insist that society be defined by perfect, platonic essences and the simplest, prescriptive incantations possible.

Sorry, we who have actually BUILT a civilization, who have competed and succeeded in a real marketplace, who look at this civilization as a fucking MIRACLE, after 6000 years of brutal owner-lords...

...we find your "island" metaphor pathetic. I refuse to choose group A or group B. My care is preventing either hellish war or brutal tyranny. I'll push for laws and pragmatic rules that allow the maximum number of kids to grow up healthy and ready to compete as fishermaen or netmakers or internet inventers.

Dig this please.... YOUR BRAIN DOES NOT WORK LIKE OURS! You actually believe that word-incantations correlate with the real world, or really really ought to! It upsets you that the world seems to be run by practical men and women who use incantations and metaphors as very rough ways to set up models TO BE TESTED AGAINST PHYSICAL REALITY.

You think we are somehow deficient, because we do not understand your incantations. But you are wrong. I understand your word-towers very very very well.

YOU are the ones who are deficient. These word-crutches are not the real world.

Stephan Kinsella said...

David: "As for Stephan, you've been a hoot, man. But ANGRY! I am not Wm F Buckley! And though I find Rothbard turgid, tendentious, illogical and an ignoramus about history, I would not deny you your pleasure in him.

He and Rand took a promising American political movement, that could have fought for non-governmental market based problem solving, and turned it into an incantation cult. But that's just my view, as a pragmatist-scientist-realist."

Thanks, David. I'm not an angry guy. I think you'd like a beer with me (and v-v). I'm a dad, husband, attorney, and ... libertarian. Just teh way it is. I think of myself also as a pragmatist and realist, and pro-science. I think also I am in favor of morality, good, and principle--and I really don't think you yourself oppose this either, though your scientism may give you pangs.

David Brin said...

A high note! Quick! Take the group portrait right now!

;-)

onward......

CSAFarmer said...

A clear and 'transparent' explanation of what libertarianism SHOULD be about, Mr. Brin. Much as I've enjoyed and been educated by your fiction, (just recently re-read the 'Uplift' books) this may be the piece of non-fiction writing that most made me think about our society and where we are headed.

In distant memory I read a fiction piece by an author I can't remember (apologize if it was you ;-), may have been Modesitt, possibly Bujold) in which lobbying our elected representatives had become illegal and in fact face-to-face meetings with politico's of any kind were not allowed. The premise being that the sole purpose of lobbying is to persuade the target to do something NOT in the common good.

Such a law would get my support.

rewinn said...

@Steven Kinsella wrote:
"I'm a soi-disant intellectual? haha.

Yes. You call yourself a scholar. Some would argue with that characterization, based on the evidence presented.

"Well at least I'm not a cowardly nym."

I LOL'd at that. A person of ordinary competence on the internet understands the use of handles. Were you to click on mine, you would find my IRL. Or you can just google "rewinn" - I've been doing the internet long enough to have homesteaded the name. There are dozens of Randy Winns, but only one "rewinn" (...especially one with the face attacked to my every post here!) (... since on the evidence you didn't know of these things, I'll let the "cowardly" charge slide ... this time. Buddy.)

"Your assertion that I am "not interested in" empirical reality is either a lie..."

...or a reasonable conclusion from your own words, e.g. "I'm not a historicist or empiricist", your refusal to cite historical examples, and your unwillingness to consider experimentation as evidence for your unwillingness to consider empirical reality.

Now, I may be *mistaken* as to your interests; unlike self-proclaimed intellectuals, I make mistakes all the time. If so, my error is because you have stated your interests in a way so as to indicate you are not interested in the world as it exists, with humans as we exist and with land title as they exist.

For example, your statements indicate that, for the world to be as you wish it to be, humans must change their way of thinking to fit your concept of morality. This may or may not be a good thing, but if the Soviets could not create a "New Man" by using every trick foul or fair, the burden of proof is on you to show that you *can*, and I don't think you've met that burden.

I may be mistaken as to this, but a person with an ordinary command of the English language understands the difference between such a mistake based on evidence and "lying". Look in Blackwell's.

"... or stupidity ..."

To the charge of being stupid I plead guilty. It was stupid to have high expectations of a thread that started "I think it's somewhat confusing to even ask what libertarianism is "about"..." and followed immediately with "... I take such questions to mean: what is libertarianism?".

I'm mean seriously dood - if I'm stupid, then what are you?

P.S. $50,000 a year is not bad but not especially noteworthy (estimate: $1 per year per Libertarian).

P.P.S. If you'd like to set aside personalities and talk about issues, that would be nice. You can start by not calling people "newbs" and yourself a "scholar". It never helps a case to tell the jury that you are vastly more intelligent than they are.

Luke Bessey said...

David, I would imagine a man of your stature would understand how unbecoming blind assumptions are. You don't know anything about me.

I have started several successful businesses, and I have managed several projects. I have written and self published books, managed musicians, animated cartoons, coached soccer teams...and several other market based ventures. I have literally created thousands of jobs. It is because of my deep understanding of market processes that I have come to despise the state (not to mention the moral qualms I have with people forcing their opinions onto others).

The reason I asked you to explain your ideal society using a simplified model was not because I wanted to insult you, but because I truly wanted to understand. If you don't have the patience or the decency to explain your case to people who are less intellectually capable than you, then I don't imagine you will actually do much to help create the world you want to live in.

I am 26 years old and I have already done more than most people your age. By the time I am a geezer like you I will have smashed your productivity and achievements. But now is your moment in the limelight, so if you choose to spend it being a pretentious douche bag, so be it. Congratulations, you are smarter than me. Please, act like it. Cheers.

Paul451 said...

Mr. Kinsella, I was wondering if you intended your idea of "libertarianism" to be an actual thing in the real world. A real place that people would live. Or do you intend it to be used as an idealised state that can't exist, which you want to serve as a way of judging and measuring things which do exist. (By "state", I don't mean "State".)

Or do you intend it as a philosophy for people who live in a society that doesn't share that philosophy, a religion almost (or Zen-like non-religion). (Or as Outside The Box phrased it, "It's advocating the position that we would all be better off if we agreed to eschew violence as a way of interacting with each other.")

If you mean either of these then I suspect that changes how people would talk to you about it on this blog. (Although it would help if you didn't say things like, "Your assertion [...] is either a lie or stupidity." It makes you seem like a wanker.) They are assuming that you actually want to replace their own society with one based on your libertarian philosophy, in order to achieve actual real-world anarcho-capitalism. In the same way that, for example, anarcho-socialists wanted to replace their societies with one based on communist philosophy, in order to eventually achieve anarcho-socialism.

Do you see the difference between "this is the belief system I have that I wish everyone shared", and "this is the belief system I have that I'm trying to make everyone live under"?

On the other hand, if you do intend for libertarianism to be an actual place that people live, then my question is why haven't you and other libertarians (and Libertarians), simply done what you advocate? You don't need us, you don't have to take our society away from us. You spoke of the amount of tax you pay being more than anyone here, so you have the resources to set yourself up. And you said you don't accept that National Parks as a valid use of land. Why don't you go and homestead them?

You say that (paraphrasing) "Government monopolises law/justice/etc". But again, how are they stopping you? Why don't you simply purchase your own? Perhaps from other libertarians who wish to sell you that service.

Luke Bessey said...

Paul, I could be wrong, but it probably has something to do with the guys in costumes that will use physical violence against Stephan if he attempts to do these things.

There are some people attempting to create libertarian civilizations. The Seasteading institute is likely to have their first floating cities by 2018. They have raised a substantial amount of money and attracted a decent amount of productive capital. I am not thrilled about the idea of leaving my home in the beautiful mountains, but I do respect their efforts.

Stephan Kinsella said...

Paul451:

"Mr. Kinsella, I was wondering if you intended your idea of "libertarianism" to be an actual thing in the real world. A real place that people would live."

Libertarianism is a political philosophy, not a place. but yes, a libertarian society is one that we all would want to be achieved and that people could live in, "in the real world." If there is less violence and aggression, this does not impede any of the laudable aspects of existing society. In fact it would make it better--more "civilized" (no offense, conservatives, liberals, and other fascists and socialists).

"Or do you intend it to be used as an idealised state that can't exist, which you want to serve as a way of judging and measuring things which do exist. (By "state", I don't mean "State".)"

I oppose aggression. I think it's wrong. It's really that simply. And various implications of that.

"On the other hand, if you do intend for libertarianism to be an actual place that people live, then my question is why haven't you and other libertarians (and Libertarians), simply done what you advocate?"

your question is based on confusions. I advocate liberty, and don't violate others' rights. What else can I do? I don't blame the victim, like you are trying to do. Or are you advocating a flowered up version of the fascist-stupid chant, "uhmerka, pal--love it or leave it!!"

"You don't need us, you don't have to take our society away from us."

Leave me alone, I'd be happy.

" You spoke of the amount of tax you pay being more than anyone here, so you have the resources to set yourself up. And you said you don't accept that National Parks as a valid use of land. Why don't you go and homestead them?"

Oh, screw off. This is a stupid, dishonest, insincere, and patronizeing reponse.

Paul451 said...

Luke Bessey,
Re: My comment to Mr. Kinsella
"Paul, I could be wrong, but it probably has something to do with the guys in costumes that will use physical violence against Stephan if he attempts to do these things."

Because there is no unclaimed land. But Stephan Kinsella said (paraphrasing) libertarians don't respect claims of ownership, but require demonstrable ownership. He used US National Parks and Antarctica as examples of "illegitimate" claims of ownership by states. So there's no libertarian principle preventing him from homesteading them, that wouldn't be aggression on his part. Similarly, if he owns (according to his philosophy) his home, then why doesn't he simply live a libertarian life? Why concede to a statist authority?

The answer, as you note, is that there are others who aren't libertarian, and they are more powerful than him.

But won't this always be the case?

My reason for raising the subject wasn't to be "stupid, dishonest, insincere, and patronizeing(sic)" as Stephen snarled at me (he complains about how he is treated here, but he really does talk to people like shit), it was to try to understand the practicalities of libertarianism.

If libertarians (or Libertarians) convince most of America to switch over, it does not mean all of the world follows. So without US statism, there'd be no US border (no US), only personal boundaries and individual (or company) property. I've read his comments about "hiring soldiers", but I can't see how that works in practice under libertarianism. For example, how does libertarianism deal with free-riders? Ie, if China (or Mexico, or...) invades what used to be California, why, beyond charity, would an unaffected individual in Montana care enough to hire mercenaries to defend them, what loyalty does he owe to random people a thousand miles away? So people in the border territories effectively carry the entire cost of defending the interior from invasion.

[cont...

Paul451 said...

...inued]

Some people may recognise a broad threat posed by invaders, but if there's no borders, no state, no nation, where's the line that says "This, this point, this is where it affects me." Central Montana? The Rockies? California coast? Hawaii? Tibet? The bystander effect (Genovese Syndrome) guarantees that people default to "none of my business, I'm nobody, someone else will deal with it".

I guess the California Mutual Defence Company could threaten to sell right-of-passage to Chinese troops through to an inland territory unless everyone in that territory pays up. Does libertarianism philosophy allow you to aid an aggressor, even if you yourself are not the one who commits violence? To me, this seems to be as coercive as the invasion itself, so it wouldn't be "legitimate". But without this, the people in border territory will be invaded. And ultimately, this allows the system to be picked apart.

And this scales down to any level. People in a town against a company that wants to take over the town. A powerful land baron who wants to coerce a neighbour into signing over his land. Or... Stephen Kinsella trying to avoid taxes, conscription and drug laws. Hence my question.

If Stephan Kinsella, flush with royalty cheques, can't actually be libertarian without the state stealing from him, or denying him the ability to profit from his labour by homesteading an unused National Park, then how exactly are am I or anyone else supposed to do it? If other libertarians don't perceive a group-threat when the state steals from Stephan Kinsella, famous libertarian scholar, then how can an unpublished nobody like me protect my property and myself? If it doesn't work today, how will it work tomorrow?

That's why I wondered if he (and other non-L libertarians) intended it to only be a kind of personal religion (loosely speaking), because it's something that can't exist in real life.

I hope that makes more sense.

(And since you aren't yelling at me, I'll ask a couple more questions about libertarianism (via more painfully long winded examples) in two following posts...

Paul451 said...

Luke Bessey,
You demanded of David,
"Two groups move onto an island. No one inhabits this island prior to the groups' arrival. Group A lands on one side and group B lands on the other side. Group A finds a cave and settles in. They go into the woods and build fishing poles. They till some land and plant some crops. [...] in the real world if group B is bigger and stronger they can forcibly take the property from A. The first question I have for you is - who SHOULD get this property? [...] "what system of social arrangement will lead to the highest likelihood of A retaining said property?"

This is actually similar to my previous hypothetical about a Chinese invasion, or Kinsella vs The State.

We know how the current systems (statists) around the world have addressed that issue. We know how anarcho-socialists, in theory, claimed to address the issue, and how communism worked in practice. And we know the claims libertarians make about their (your) philosophy. But how does it work in practice? Using your own example, if group A are libertarians, they believe first-come-first-served ownership. Group B believe in some version of greatest-good-for-the-greatest-number statism. And since the cave is prime real-estate and their greater number is unsheltered, group A's refusal to share is morally wrong (according to group B's philosophy/religion/laws) which justifies using force (again, according to group B). How does libertarianism allow the member (or members) of group A who first claimed ownership over the cave to actually defend their possession?

Most of the examples used by libertarians so far assume either an equal power-relationship between the criminal and the victim, or that the criminal is weaker. Ie, my private security is at least equal to your private goons. Your example shows an unequal power system. So how does it actually work?

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 256   Newer› Newest»