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.

255 comments:

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Paul451 said...

Luke Bessey,

Okay, back to libertarian theory only, but via a real world example.

Since you mentioned fishing. This raises another question I have. There's plenty of islands here in the south pacific where tribes have fished the island's reefs (by paddle and sail) for centuries. They feed their whole population this way.

Call one of them Tribe X, from Island Exx. So another tribe, Y, from a neighbouring island, Why, why not, buys motor boats and gillnets (via advance payments from a Japanese company). They take more and more of the fish around Why, why not, selling them to Japan, increasing the wealth of the boat owners, but they over-fish their reef, and their fishery collapses. This has happened a lot.

But the motors allow members of tribe Y who own boats to travel far from Why, why not to other fisheries, including the one used by tribe X. If the X don't defend the reef, Y will inevitably collapse the fishery. This has also happened a lot.

Clearly the Exx Reef is being used by tribe X, but is it owned by the members of that tribe? They can't "fence" or "homestead" a reef system. Does libertarianism allow X to claim the reef and entire fishery near Exx, or can they only claim what they catch on a particular day, and tribe Y (or anyone) has as much claim to whatever they can harvest by their own labour? In this case, forget practicalities. Clearly X would defend the reef. But I'm curious about whether libertarians believe that X has the right to defend the reef, to claim ownership over the entire resource? Or is Y perfectly reasonably using a resource to better themselves? Is Y the aggressor, or is X? Stephan Kinsella said (paraphrasing) "you can't own more air than you can hold in your lungs". Can you claim more fish than you can fit in your boat? Can you claim the future harvest of fish just because you protected the last harvest from over-exploitation?

(Heh. Turing word: arreef.)

LarryHart said...

I don't know if this thread is still being monitored, but I'll respect Dr Brin's wishes to keep the libertarian stuff here. Maybe it can reach 300 comments the way the Ayn Rand thread did?

I was actually thinking about this discussion while shoveling snow this morning. Specifically about the notion of SCARCITY, and how it speaks to that example someone posited earlier about a tribe landing on a deserted island (or asteroid), finding a cave, making the place support life, and then a second tribe arrives.

Seems to me that the implications this presents about ownership turn on the question of scarcity of vital resources. And that there are THREE (not just two) significant categories they can fall into:

1) PLENTIFUL. It's the Garden of Eden. Caves, food, and water are everywhere and available to anyone willing to do a trivial amount of work. Climate is hospitable enough that caves are nice, but not necessary for survival.

2) SCARCE. There are caves, but they're difficult to locate, and occupied by poisonous vermin. Climate is inhospitable enough to require shelter and/or energy for heat. Food is available, but requires much labor to produce a harvest, and more labor to store for the winter.

3) RARE. There is only one cave, and the climate is often cold, windy and rainy. The available food and water is so sparse that it can barely support the first tribe, and that only in the best of years.

Ok, it seems to me that in situation #1, there would be little point in establishing rules of private ownership.

In situation #3, rules would be almost pointless for a different reason. It's not a game. The almost-inevitable result would be a war for survival between the two tribes. The only possible compromise would be if it were possible for one tribe to leave, and one decided to do so. The victor of a war (or the remaining tribe after an exodus) would make all the rules, regardless of any "objective" claim that might favor the other.

Only in situation #2 would it be possible for all involved to decide to forego war by establishing rules of ownership acceptable to all (or at least preferable to war by all).

What I'm getting at is that it seems to me that the rules of private ownership are by no means natural or objective, let alone self-evident. They are situational--a way of avoiding a perpetual state of war.

LarryHart said...

Ok, continuing the train of thought from last night...

Much of the argument in this comment thread is between two distinct notions of property ownership: a pragmatic (resluts-oriented) approach and an absolutist approach. The former asks "What is the end result of such a system?", while the latter is more concerned with "What is?"

The purists, it seems to me, believe that there is such thing as objective ownership--that an individual can be said to own a thing irrespective of any pariticular social system of laws and customs. In their view, the best system of laws and customs is one that correctly identifies True Ownership (as it were), and then protects the claims of those True Owners. I don't claim to speak FOR the other side of the debate--I'm just trying to do what Dr Brin asks and paraphrase what I THINK I'm hearing from them.

With all due respect, I believe the task of determining objective, culture-independent True Ownership is as futile a task (in much the same way) as is trying to establish "objective" coordinates for positions in space independent of the objects located there. It might be an interesting philosophical exercise, but has little bearing on any practical applications.

What I was getting at in my previous post is that "ownership" isn't something that exists objectively. It is a social convention by which individuals decide on boundaries they agree to live by so as to avoid the alternative of perpetual war.

In the case where there are not enough resources to support all of the players' most basic needs, rules of ownership are meaningless because the individuals will take what they need regardless, and the losers won't be around to press a claim later.

In the case of the Garden of Eden, rules of ownership are likewise meaningless. Why bother putting any time or effort into establishing (as Stephan Kinsella suggests) individual ownership of each banana when all the bananas anyone could want are there for the taking?

Only in the case of resources sufficient for survival and comfort, but requiring expendature of effort on individuals' parts does it make sense to draw lines around who owns what, and by what means have they established that legitimate claim. The end result--a fair society that can adjudicate claims without resorting to warfare--is the true object here. The sort of Platonic ideal of True Ownership, independent of social norms and customs, is a pointless red herring.

P.F. Bruns said...

"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."

The only problem I have with this is that even in markets where governments have not had much sway--the housing market in the early 2000s, for instance--delusion was not only not discovered and removed, but encouraged. Now, perhaps this was because non-governmental elites (the banks) were controlling the market, but I think it's easy to find examples where people are easily swayed in what they THINK is an open and transparent marketplace, whether it's one of ideas, property, liberty, or otherwise. It's important to distinguish between real and bogus transparency.

Part of that is simple, of course: if you're watching it on TV, it's probably bogus transparency, at least to some extent.

P.F. Bruns said...

Also, "Transparency" in the crossed tile picture is misspelled.

Paul451 said...

LarryHart,
Re: Three values of property.

Didn't the aliens in Joe Haldeman's A !Tangled Web have an explicit system like that? A thing could have no value, finite value, or infinite value. (And as a plot point, negative value, ie, a threat, which is forbidden. Kind of like in libertarianism. So libertarian philosophy is slightly less developed than one made up for a SF short story? :) The hero bid on a block of land by offering something that was of all three values, which was a riddle, and the aliens loved riddles.

(Does this mean I could have posted this in the new thread?)

"and an absolutist approach. [...] while the latter is more concerned with "What is?" "

Hmmm, interesting. Kinsella would say that his philosophy is "normative", not "positive". If you are right in your interpretation, then he's making the same is/ought mistake he accused others of.

sociotard said...

I'm a US Citizen and even I'm outraged by this

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2087574/Richard-ODwyer-extradition-A-naive-British-student-facing-10-years-chains.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

A British student is being extradited to the US for doing something that isn't illegal in his own country. He didn't even copy files, he just linked to places where the infringing material could be found.

Of course the law that permits him to be extradited for this is from the war on terror. It reminds me of what a part-native-american friend of mine said about the patriot act:

Once a Man said to a Horse "If I put this saddle on you, together we can hunt and kill the Wolf, our mutual enemy."

The horse agreed and was saddled. After the Wolf was slain, the Horse turned to the Man and said, "Now please take the saddle off."

The Man laughed, and said "No."

sociotard said...

A very nice rebuttal to Dr. Brin's assertion that Pax Americana has been a good thing.

The war on democracy

Paul451 said...

sociotard,
"A British student is being extradited to the US for doing something that isn't illegal in his own country."

I recall a similar story about a British chemical exporter in Britain. Family business, fully licensed and security checked in the UK, voluntarily provided his customer list to British intelligence, voluntarily cooperated with US state police where some UK-legal chemicals were illegal to import. Yet was extradited for violating US import laws. (Can't remember enough details to google it, sorry.) I do remember comments that he was basically mocked by the UK extradition judge and prosecutors.

And the McKinnon hacker case. Britain has anti-hacking laws, there's no reason not to prosecute it domestically, where the crime was actually committed.

(Or the guy in Florida who was arrested for buying pain killers on prescription. Apparently the law sets the amount for an automatic charge of "dealing" lower than the standard prescription amount. And, in court, the judge ordered that no one could mention the prescription, nor could his doctor or pharmacist testify, because "had a prescription" is not specifically listed as a defence under the law.)

"the Horse turned to the Man and said, "Now please take the saddle off." The Man laughed, and said "No." "

My preferred version ended with "the Man laughed and said 'Giddy up Dobbin.' "

LarryHart said...

sociotard:

Of course the law that permits him to be extradited for this is from the war on terror. It reminds me of what a part-native-american friend of mine said about the patriot act:

Once a Man said to a Horse "If I put this saddle on you, together we can hunt and kill the Wolf, our mutual enemy."

The horse agreed and was saddled. After the Wolf was slain, the Horse turned to the Man and said, "Now please take the saddle off."

The Man laughed, and said "No."



I'm not sure where your source is, but a very similar fable was quoted (though more chillingly) by Salvor Hardin at the end of the "The Mayors" chapter of Asimov's "Foundation" novel.

So maybe I could have posted THIS under the new blog post as well.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

"the Horse turned to the Man and said, "Now please take the saddle off." The Man laughed, and said "No." "

My preferred version ended with "the Man laughed and said 'Giddy up Dobbin.' "


"...and applied the spurs with a vengeance."

THAT'S the Asimov "Foundation" version, isn't it?

sociotard said...

Paul451 said:
(Or the guy in Florida who was arrested for buying pain killers on prescription. Apparently the law sets the amount for an automatic charge of "dealing" lower than the standard prescription amount. And, in court, the judge ordered that no one could mention the prescription, nor could his doctor or pharmacist testify, because "had a prescription" is not specifically listed as a defence under the law.)


This guy?
Richard Paey

rewinn said...

Looking at history, we (...speaking largely...) can actually see the results of the "island" experiment, more or less, several times.

* Historical Iceland (... once any prior Irish homesteaders were massacred or enslaved ...) was at least in legend run on more-or-less the homesteading principle. "Hrafnkl's Saga" describes how freely contracted labor resulted in a dispute over terms, enforced by private means. What gives the story legs is that both plaintiff and defendant had valid legal arguments for their case and therefore private counsel, hired for the purpose, resolved the issue with the sword. It may be one of the earliest recorded lawyer jokes ... extremely dry.

Something similar occurs at the climax of "The Saga of Burnt Njal". It's worth noting that within a few generations, something like a third of Iceland's arable land was destroyed and the population begged to be bailed out by its richer neighbors. This sort of thing is a problem that free marketers in general and libertarians in particular really ought to solve before implementation.

* In the 1790s, the UK and Spain nearly went to war over Nootka Sound. British Captain Meares said he'd bought a piece of land from Chief Maquinna, whose people had owned it from time immemorial. The Spanish said, no, it was their land, acquired by some similar fair trade. We aren't sure what Maquinna said, but it was most likely that he had intended rental to either or both, since in his culture no-one in their right mind would camp in the same spot forever. Everyone in the case having a valid argument, each side would have had a legal right to enforce their claim but, fortunately, negotiations broke out that resulted in a treaty so helpfully ambiguous that the implementation took years, by which time the claims based on homesteading or purchase were mooted by events. I suppose Maquinna's successors in interest could stir up some trouble if they wanted, but they seem a more practical lot.

* A few years ago, Iceland took another shot at markets unfettered by government regulation, this time not in real estate but in the financial services sector where there was some space for building institutions that, once built, would perform effective homesteading by crowding rivals out of the market. Free from pesky public regulation, Iceland prospered mightily until the balloon burst. Then it had to beg its socialist neighbors for a bailout, or at least not to enforce their contractual rights with rigor.

All of the behavior described above may, in some sense, be immoral, but it is going to happen whereever you have humans and therefore any useful theory must account for it.

Paul451 said...

Sociotard and LarryHart,

Both right. Richard Paey, and Isaac Asimov respectively. (Just checked the first Foundation book, and then ended up reading it again, because... well, you have to, don't you.)

And for the finale. The other extradition case I mentioned was Brian and Kerry Ann Howes. Scottish couple legally exporting chemicals. Both are to be extradited. Their six children (including a new born) will be dumped into the US child care system, unless someone can be found to care for them in the UK.

The introduction.

and the sequel.

(I guess the thread is no longer being monitored by the libertarians. I really would have liked my questions answered. Are these issues that libertarians discuss amongst themselves, or are such challenges considered blasphemy?)

LarryHart said...

Maybe it's because Dr Brin doesn't seem to be monitoring this thread either.

OTOH, is it possible that Mr Kinsella simply doesn't realize that posts #201- display on a separate page?

I'm actually hoping we can get it up to 300 posts.

Paul451 said...

"I'm actually hoping we can get it up to 300 posts."

Doesn't work with no one shouting at us. Liar, thief, imbecile.

Okay, so here's a challenge if you've the time... For anyone still watching... if you think you understand basic libertarian/propertarian philosophy...

Leave "states" alone for now. Lets go international. If you wanted to design the UN from scratch, intended (as it was) as a system to reduce wars, but according to libertarian principles (with governments as "individuals") rather than a "world government".

How would it work?

Stephan Kinsella said...

Marino:

"just one simple question. Why "everyone owns his/her own body" should be a "self-evident truth"?

IMHO it's pure metaphysical nonsense.

It means that there is something (the "I") owning the body as if the body were a separate entity. Now, it's really "ghost in the machine" Cartesian mind( or soul)/body ..."

Nonsense. It does not imply this in the slightest. There are no religious or even metaphysical connotations. It's just a condensed way of answering the question: who gets to control your body--you, or someone else? Surely you recognize that slavery is possible--? For A to have ownership rights over B's body? Libertarians are opposed to slavery: they think B should be the one who has the say over what happens to her body. For example if you are on a date with a girl and want to have sex with her, who should decide whether you are permitted to do this--you, or her? You cannot evade these questions by saying "Well 'she' is no different than 'her' body and therefore it's meaningless to say 'she' is a self-owner." I mean this is just a prelude to a rape. Again, as with one of the commenters above, 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."

Likewise: anyone who denies self-ownership is setting the stage for claiming some kind of right to invade your body.

LarryHart said...

Blogger is acting goofy, and I only reached this point by a circuitious route--finding the blog post in the "Archives" and accessing the comments from there.

Nonetheless, let's see if it posts correctly.

Stephan Kinsella:

Surely you recognize that slavery is possible--? For A to have ownership rights over B's body? Libertarians are opposed to slavery: they think B should be the one who has the say over what happens to her body.


I can agree to that even as a liberal rather than a libertarian. You probably think of the notion of other-ownership as being leftist (the state owning your body), but I see it as a right-wing construct in the acceptance of slavery, of employer-ownership of employees' bodies, of parental (and specifically paternal) ownership of children.

Nonetheless, let's stipulate that we agree on self-ownership as an absolute truth. Is that ownership transferable by voluntary contract? What is the libertarian position (in your view) of selling oneself into slavery?

This is not a trivial question. If self-ownership is an inalienable right, then it is completely obvious in the eyes of the law and of any observers who owns which body. If the right is transferable by contract, then "I own my body" is no longer self-evident. You might be forced to prove that you haven't sold that right. I'm genuinely curious as to your thoughts on this.


For example if you are on a date with a girl and want to have sex with her, who should decide whether you are permitted to do this--you, or her?


Interesting, as even before you posted this, I was going to pose the question: "Do you own your spouse?" Or more to the point--does the institution of marriage confer a claim of (voluntary) group ownership over the couple?

Stephan Kinsella said...

LarryHart:

"I can agree to that even as a liberal rather than a libertarian. You probably think of the notion of other-ownership as being leftist (the state owning your body), but I see it as a right-wing construct in the acceptance of slavery, of employer-ownership of employees' bodies, of parental (and specifically paternal) ownership of children."

This is confused. Both right and left believe in forms of slavery--the right, in terms of say the drug war or conscription, the left in terms of taxation. But being an employee is not slavery; it is a voluntary relationship among self-owners. This is too obvious to debate. If you really think employment is enslavement you are too stupid to have a conversation with.

"Nonetheless, let's stipulate that we agree on self-ownership as an absolute truth."

I never said it was an "absolute truth," whatever that means. Rather, it is my view, as a libertarian, that the person him or herself has the right to control his/her body, not others. IT is that simple. IF you are not a libertarian you have to believe in exceptions to this in some cases. It's that simple.

"Is that ownership transferable by voluntary contract? What is the libertarian position (in your view) of selling oneself into slavery?"

That is neither here nor there, but most libertarians (including me) believe rights in one's own body are not alienable by contract, because of the difference in body-rights and rights in external objects that we acquire. I have written on this in various articles on my site, stephankinsella.com/publications, search for "inalienability"

"This is not a trivial question."

It is not trivial but it is irrelevant here. You or someone asserted that slef-ownership is mystical. IT is not. It is pefectly coherent. It is just a way of expressing the answer to the question: who has the right to decide who gets to use A's body?--A (self-ownership) or some other party B (slavery).

" If self-ownership is an inalienable right, then it is completely obvious in the eyes of the law and of any observers who owns which body. If the right is transferable by contract, then "I own my body" is no longer self-evident. You might be forced to prove that you haven't sold that right. I'm genuinely curious as to your thoughts on this."

It is inalienable. WEll not quite true: you can alienate your rights not by contract, but by committing an act of aggression. That is why it is okay to use force to defend against or even punish a criminal: becaus by committing crime he gives up the right to be free from violent force.


"'
For example if you are on a date with a girl and want to have sex with her, who should decide whether you are permitted to do this--you, or her?'

"Interesting, as even before you posted this, I was going to pose the question: "Do you own your spouse?" Or more to the point--does the institution of marriage confer a claim of (voluntary) group ownership over the couple? "

No.

And you or someone above wondered why I use the term "newb".

LarryHart said...

First of all, Stephan K, I'm glad you can still post here even while blogger is making it difficult to find. Well, maybe "glad" isn't the right word considering how arrogant and condesending your response was, but glad to continue the conversation.


But being an employee is not slavery; it is a voluntary relationship among self-owners. This is too obvious to debate. If you really think employment is enslavement you are too stupid to have a conversation with.


And you're too arrogant to have one with, but we're stuck with the people we are, not the people we wish we were.

I didn't say "Employment IS enslavement." I was getting at the idea promoted on the right which says an employer has the right to demand anything he wants of you (on the clock OR off), and you have no recourse other than to quit your job. I wondered if there was a partiuclar libertarian view on that relationship.


"Nonetheless, let's stipulate that we agree on self-ownership as an absolute truth."

I never said it was an "absolute truth," whatever that means.


An inalienable right, then. A right that you always have, not a right that you might (or might not) have voluntarily transferred to someone else. If you're answer is "yes, it is", that's fine. I don't see why you think it's ridiculous to ask the question, though.


Rather, it is my view, as a libertarian, that the person him or herself has the right to control his/her body, not others. IT is that simple. IF you are not a libertarian you have to believe in exceptions to this in some cases. It's that simple.


So since you list an exception below, you are not a libertarian. It is that simple.


"Is that ownership transferable by voluntary contract? What is the libertarian position (in your view) of selling oneself into slavery?"

That is neither here nor there, but most libertarians (including me) believe rights in one's own body are not alienable by contract, because of the difference in body-rights and rights in external objects that we acquire.


That was the answer to the question I posed. I don't see what the point was of all the invective which followed.


You or someone asserted that slef-ownership is mystical. IT is not. It is pefectly coherent.


Oh, I see. Since "me or someone else" asserted something different from what I said, then "me or someone else" is a blithering idiot. But why can't we all be individuals here?

[continued...]

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

"If the right is transferable by contract, then "I own my body" is no longer self-evident. You might be forced to prove that you haven't sold that right. I'm genuinely curious as to your thoughts on this."

It is inalienable. WEll not quite true: you can alienate your rights not by contract, but by committing an act of aggression. That is why it is okay to use force to defend against or even punish a criminal: becaus by committing crime he gives up the right to be free from violent force.


First of all, you just listed an exception, so you are not a libertrian, right? Or is it not really "that simple"?

Second, "a crime" is defined by the state, so...well, you know. You're saying that you give up your rights if you smoke pot? Of course, you're not. So you don't really mean "a crime" in the legalistic sense. You mean some sort of True Crime as recognized by libertarians. But in any case, "By comitting a crime, he gives up his right to be free from violent force" is by no means self-evident.

You're not as consistent as you think you are.


"Do you own your spouse?" Or more to the point--does the institution of marriage confer a claim of (voluntary) group ownership over the couple? "

No.


Ok, then. Again, why the invective that follows?


And you or someone above wondered why I use the term "newb".


Again with the "you or someone else"? I've got a few choice words to describe you too, dude.

Stephan Kinsella said...

I was referring to a genuine crime. Not malum prohibitum. But malum in se. Libertarianism concerns only the latter.

Of course the fact that you lose some rights in your body when you attack others' does not mean libertarians don't believe in self-ownership. Put it this way: everyone is initially, or presumptively, a self-owner. But aggressors do forfeit some of their rights.

swizzzler said...

Where are we at in this conversation? Still trying to decide whether a libertarian political philosophy is pragmatic or utopian?

Paul451 said...

Stephan Kinsella,
"you are too stupid to have a conversation with."

You really are a pig. You speak to people like shit.

Larry Hart would have to be one of the "softest spoken" and respectful regulars on David's blog, if you can't be civil to him, there's something wrong with you.

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

I was referring to a genuine crime. Not malum prohibitum. But malum in se. Libertarianism concerns only the latter.


As a theory, or perhaps a starting point for an actual social system, I'm all in favor of this.

It's the practicality of an actual socio-political system based upon this theory that I have trouble envisioning.

Once you allow that there are circumstances in which an individual forfeits his rights, how does everyone else know who has done so and who has not?


Of course the fact that you lose some rights in your body when you attack others' does not mean libertarians don't believe in self-ownership.


Just as the fact that a requirement that you support and defend the society which supports and defends your rights does not mean that non-libertarians don't believe in self-ownership.


Put it this way: everyone is initially, or presumptively, a self-owner. But aggressors do forfeit some of their rights.


Forfeits to whom? Who gets to "own" your body once you give up your rights? Who is authorized to say that the debt is paid and to restore your rights? And more to the point, by what means does a third party observer know who is a full self-owner, and who has forfeited such rights?

rewinn said...

@LarryHart and @Sociotard seem to be doing a fine job of pursuing an enlightening thread; I am holding off posing questions to our local libertarians so that they do not feel swarmed.

However since the question arose of someone criticizing the use of the term "newb", I will take ownership of that criticism (...having homesteaded it in a transferable yet non-exclusive way...). As a naif and uninformed person, let me try to restate the key features of @Stephan Kinsella's form of Libertarianism:

1. It is a normative system, that is, its core is labeling humans actions as good or bad. Thus it is to be distinguished from such things as observational science (which describe actions in realspace) or arts (which attempt to modify human feelings), or professions such as law or organized religions.

2. It is the codification of principles derived from a small number of axioms. If so, it might be considered a sort of mathematics (!) or logical system.

3. It is not a political philosophy. This part surprised me, but @Stephan Kinsella explicitly denounced political action.

4. One axiom stated early in this thread is that "the problem of conflict ... stems from the fundamental fact of scarcity". This is IMO a very interesting axiom, since it is rooted in a testable claim about human nature. If disproven, it would require substantial reworking of the theory.

5. From these axioms, a normative conclusion is drawn: "... the solution is liberty, defined in terms of a certain conception of property title allocation (self-ownership plus Lockean homesteading)". While the validity of the axioms and the soundness of the logic leading to the conclusion may be questions, it may be more interesting that this conclusion appears to be normative, not prescriptive. That is to say, what a Libertarisn would call a "solution" to "conflict" may be "peace", but not necessarily what anyone else would call "peace".

The above is an attempt to understand Libertarianism as understood by @Stephan Kinsella; I may have missed a point, and other Libertarians may have different ideas (...that seems to be the underlying point of @Dr Brin's OP). Surely if Christians and Marxists may have hundreds of denominations and factions, Libertarians may do the same, but it somewhat complicates discussion.

But in any discussion of Libertarianism (or Christianity, Marxism, etc.) it is always worth recalling a fairly ancient principle of our common law, as expressed by Lord Henley in Vernon v Bethell (1762):
"necessitous men are not, truly speaking, free men, but, to answer a present exigency, will submit to any terms that the crafty may impose upon them."

Stephan Kinsella said...

LarryHart:

"As a theory, or perhaps a starting point for an actual social system, I'm all in favor of this.

It's the practicality of an actual socio-political system based upon this theory that I have trouble envisioning."

It's not a system. A certain society would result from widespread agreement on basic libertarian norms.

"Once you allow that there are circumstances in which an individual forfeits his rights, how does everyone else know who has done so and who has not?"

Everyone already knows: finder's keepers; mind your own business; live and let live.

"Just as the fact that a requirement that you support and defend the society which supports and defends your rights does not mean that non-libertarians don't believe in self-ownership."

An aggressor is committing aggression. You cannot compare just existing to this. You are trying to justify aggression by "society" against innocent indviduals. You just can't justify it. As Papinian said, it is easier to commit murder than to justify it.

"Forfeits to whom? Who gets to "own" your body once you give up your rights?"

The victim.

Stephan Kinsella said...

rewinn:

"1. It is a normative system, that is, its core is labeling humans actions as good or bad."

It might be better to say it is a limited normative system--we only concern ourselves qua libertarians with the morality or permissibility of interpersonal violence. We have no position on other type of moral matters. some people say it is metanormative b/c we only have a view as to what rules should be in place as conseqeunces for certain types of actions. So that it is justified for a victim to punish his aggressor, i.e. that it is a rights violation to commit aggression--but that whether it is moral or immoral for you to commit aggression is a matter of private morals (as is the qeustion of whether it is moral or immoral of you to enforce your right to punish in some cases).

" Thus it is to be distinguished from such things as observational science (which describe actions in realspace) or arts (which attempt to modify human feelings), or professions such as law or organized religions."

I guess you can view it this ad hoc sort of way.

"2. It is the codification of principles derived from a small number of axioms."

I would not say they are axioms, but okay. It's working out the implications of certain basic normative views or assumptions--e.g. the idea that people ought to live cooperatively if possible, that prosperity is good, and so on--that, coupled with basic economic literacy (which is the chief failing of most liberals, and even conservatives), leads to libertarian political principles.

The chief problem in the world today is economic illiteracy; it is why most people are socialist to one degree or the other (to be clear: anyone who is not a libertarian is a socialist/statist of one type or another: socialism being the name for institutionalized aggression).

"3. It is not a political philosophy. This part surprised me, but @Stephan Kinsella explicitly denounced political action."

You are confusing political philosophy or theory with electoral politics or strategy. THey are different. Many libertarians engage in activism or electoral politics (particularly members of the Libertairan Party); but not all of us. But libertarianism is most certainly a political philosophy: a systematic view of politics, rights, law, etc.

"4. One axiom stated early in this thread is that "the problem of conflict ... stems from the fundamental fact of scarcity". This is IMO a very interesting axiom, since it is rooted in a testable claim about human nature."

Actually it is not. It is an apriori assumption: it is impossible for their to not be scarcity, for without scarcity there would be no such thing as human action (see Mises' definition of this and the praxeological categories of human action: action is a choice to pursue a given end or goal, by selecting certain scarce means that are causally efficacious at achieving the end sought. THe physical sciences come into play with the practical knowledge of cause and effect to help you select the right scarce means/resources to achieve the end sought. But any attempt to deny that there are scarce means, would be an action, which by its nature has to employ scarce means and thus would be self-refuting.
[cont]

Stephan Kinsella said...

[cont]

some knowlege is of this character. For example in econoimcs the law of supply and demand, or the idea that if you print more money then ceteris paribus prices will tend to rise, or that if you impose a minimum wage then ceteris paribus unemployment will tend to result--none of these things need be or can be tested. They don't need to be because they can be deduced as necessarily true from what it means to act, and given the explicitly introduced empirical or contingent assumptions (e.g., that here is a money society). And it is futile to test it because they cannot possibly be falsified--any more than the law of non-contradiciton could be. If you raise minimum wage and employment goes down then all we know is that ceteris was not paribus.

some knowledge is of this type, some is empirical: in partuclar, what physical causal laws there are. But the assumption that there IS cause and effect is also not testable; instead it is an apriori assumption of doing science at all. The natural sciences thus are empirical but rest on apriori assumptions, or protophysics and logic etc. So it is frustrating when natural science types who know almost nothing about epistemology of the philosophy of science but only know how to talk about causal laws and conduct experiments make the assumption that only such type of reasoing counts as real science. This is "scientism". The view that econoics, etc., should ape the methods of the natural sciences, to be real science. That is why positivists like Milton Friedman etc. would say we hypothesize the minimum wage law and test for it. they have a mistaken view of teh foundation of economics.

Stephan Kinsella said...

see e.g.
http://blog.mises.org/5416/c-p-snows-the-two-cultures-and-misesian-dualism/
C.P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures” and Misesian Dualism

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

"Once you allow that there are circumstances in which an individual forfeits his rights, how does everyone else know who has done so and who has not?"

Everyone already knows: finder's keepers; mind your own business; live and let live.


No, that's not the point of my question. It wasn't "Which rules determine whether someone has forfeited his rights?" It was "How does everyone else know whether or not a particular individual has broken such a rule?"

If you come across two people having a fight, and each claims the other was the aggressor, how do you know who to believe? If you jump in to defend the supposed-victim (or hire your services out to him or whatever) and then later it turns out you were mistaken and HE was the actual aggressor, have you yourself committed an offense? What if it's a complete "He said/She said" situation, and neither claim can ever be objectively substantiated?

If your system depends on human omniscience and infallability, then I'd consider it to have a fundamental flaw.

rewinn said...

@Stephan Kinsella:

Why is it important that the system of thought you are describing be considered "science"?

What I get from your statements on this thread is that
(A) you and Mises
(B) reason from assumptions
(C) to reach conclusions
(D) without any testing assumptions, reasoning or conclusions against IRL
(E) or generating falsifiable hypotheses.

Am I mistaken as to any of the elements above, and if so, which ones?

There is nothing wrong with such an intellectual enterprise, but it isn't "science".

Stephan Kinsella said...

rewinn:

"Why is it important that the system of thought you are describing be considered "science"?

What I get from your statements on this thread is that
(A) you and Mises
(B) reason from assumptions
(C) to reach conclusions
(D) without any testing assumptions, reasoning or conclusions against IRL
(E) or generating falsifiable hypotheses.

Am I mistaken as to any of the elements above, and if so, which ones?

There is nothing wrong with such an intellectual enterprise, but it isn't "science". "

It is science. You modern guys are confused. in the Constitution it says we should have copyright law to promote the sciences. Why is that? b/c science is a broad term.

I am a BSEE and MSEE. I konw my math and science. But I appreciate the difference.

the reason it's important is that elevation of physics, chemistry etc. as science, and the confusing idea that its method is the only way of doing science, has corrupted the teleological and normative sciences like economics and misled them. and it has led to natural scientists who think they are able to pronounce on normative matters using mere data, all the while unaware that this violates the is-ought Humean gap. It leads to error and confusion. And scientism. Read your Hayek and Mises and Hoppe, and you will see the manifest problems of scientism. Try Rothbard's The Mantle of Science. Just google it. I know you can.

rewinn said...

1, @Stephan Kinsella wrote:

"...unaware that this violates the is-ought Humean gap..."

That is a testable proposition: whether the vast majority of scientists understand the difference between positivist and normative intellectual enterprises?

I state confidently that, based on multiple conversations with scientists, most do, in fact, understand the difference and can describe it with great care.

For evidence in the particular case of economics, do you remember back when anyone was paying attention to "Marxist Science", it was roundly denounced for mixing up its teleological visions with positive predictions? Several of my Econ profs or fellow students pointed out that although the former could never be falsified (... and who knows? there are probably some people somewhere proclaiming them ...), the latter had never came to pass. Eventually, most people, including virtually all scientists, came to understand the latter to have been a sufficiently grave disadvantage in a science that Marxist Science now sleeps on a cot somewhere Christian Science and Phrenology.

2. Teleological and normative "sciences" may be a form of "science" in the sense of "organized knowledge", and if that sort of thing is what "economics" means to Mises and Company, that's well enough in a literary science; but isn't it questionable for it to borrow intellectual credit from the positive sciences whose methods it denounces?

In addition, the argument that teleological and normative economics may be a valid intellectual enterprise is not at all probative as to the question whether positivist economics is a science.

3. The argument that the Copyright Clause is probative as to the nature of science is just silly. Thank you.

4. I have started to read Mises and so forth, but he and they reminds me too much of Acquinas and Augustine, and for that matter Marx, to be taken seriously. These are all brilliant men, eloquent and sophisticated, who make huge arguments from assumptions, and so patently afraid to commit themselves to changing their ideas if, put to a test, they are shown to be mistaken ... that they have nothing to teach a courageous seeker after truth.

For example, consider the experiment with living wages mentioned above; were results of repeated experiments consistently to disagree with the predictions of the hypothesis "that a rise in minimum wage must result in a fall in living standards", perhaps a "normative scientist" may conclude not that the theory is flawed but that the experiment is flawed. However, this would not be "science" in the ordinary meaning of the word.

5. If Libertarianism is wedded to normative and teleological "sciences" as described, I venture a prediction: in the Western World it is going to (A) go nowhere, unless it is (B) used by politicians to justify their use of power in the same way they currently use normative and teleological religions. (See: Ron Paul). This sort of thing has happened in history before, and it always ends in sorrow (See: Marxism)

I appreciate that this is akin to telling Catholics that the Pope is not infalliable, and I apologize in advance for offending the Faithful.

Stephan Kinsella said...

rewinn: "
2. Teleological and normative "sciences" may be a form of "science" in the sense of "organized knowledge", and if that sort of thing is what "economics" means to Mises and Company, that's well enough in a literary science; but isn't it questionable for it to borrow intellectual credit from the positive sciences whose methods it denounces? "

this is such an ignorant statement. True economics is not like literature. It is a systematic body of knowledge. True economics does not try to borrow credit from the natural sciences. That is the very error made by scientism that I am criticsim. Are you completely unable to comprehend?

duncan cairncross said...

"this is such an ignorant statement. True economics is not like literature. It is a systematic body of knowledge. True economics does not try to borrow credit from the natural sciences. That is the very error made by scientism that I am criticsim. Are you completely unable to comprehend?"

True economics like libertarianism is a self contained truth that cannot be changed by interaction with the real world

In other words - just another cult

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

An aggressor is committing aggression. You cannot compare just existing to this. You are trying to justify aggression by "society" against innocent indviduals. You just can't justify it. As Papinian said, it is easier to commit murder than to justify it.

"Forfeits to whom? Who gets to "own" your body once you give up your rights?"

The victim.


What if the victim is dead?

What if there are multiple victims?

LarryHart said...

Stephan Kinsella:

"Just as the fact that a requirement that you support and defend the society which supports and defends your rights does not mean that non-libertarians don't believe in self-ownership."

An aggressor is committing aggression. You cannot compare just existing to this. You are trying to justify aggression by "society" against innocent indviduals. You just can't justify it.


And a tax cheat is committing theft of services. You can't justify it either.

You use public services, if only police and fire protection. You may or may not make use of the public court system. You probably use public roads. By your own stated principles, you should be paying for your use of the internet. Heck, by your own stated principles, you should be paying someone royalties for using the English language. After all, YOU didn't invent it. SOMEONE did, so they should own it.

You are perfectly willing to benefit from and be protected by society, but you are not willing to pay the associated costs. I'd say society has the same right to apply coercion that you yourself would claim if a publisher took the profits from your book without paying you.

rewinn said...

@ Stephan Kinsella said...

"True economics .."

...your "normative/teleological economics"?

Do you deny that there is a positive science called "economics" with data collection, testing etc?

Do you say that information it derives from testing hypotheses (including tests of conclusions you yourself think true) is unscientific?

"... is not like literature. It is a systematic body of knowledge.

I *stated* that your "True Economics" (TE) may be "organized" (you said "systematic"). TE is "literary" in the sense that it consists of words only, not IRL observations etc.

TE does not have "knowledge" in the sense of "information about the real world"; TE explicitly bans observation and experimentation. TE is only the use of words to draw conclusions from assumptions and having no interest (you say) in testing against IRL. This makes it a literary science, comparable to the science of smithing mithril.

"True economics does not try to borrow credit from the natural sciences"

Why, then, the urge to CALL it a "science"?

People love to attach the word "science" to their intellectual enterprises, e.g. Marxist Science, Christian Science, to comfort themselves personally and benefit their enterprise's publicity.
The name of a thing does not change the thing itself, so why worry?


"That is the very error made by scientism..."

"Error" only in the evaluation of people who have contributed roughly zero to the sum total of human happiness. Trade every copy of every book of Karl Popper ever wrote for a single battered Chilton's shop manual, and you are richer.

"Are you completely unable to comprehend?"

No. It is obvious that I comprehend very well. What so evidently distresses you is that I *disagree*.

A bit of personal history: I, too, was a True Believer at one time, first with Christianity, then with Marxism, then I became a bit of an intellectual floozy, flirting with Libertarianism and Eastern mysticism at the same time, along with any philosophy with a ready smile and firm diction.

I loved the sweet, sweet promises and the hot swell of ideological rigor rising to greet me. But they kept wrecking the car and leaving me to clean the toilets.

The beautiful literary intellectual enterprises are just too similar; they start with different assumptions, but the machinery thereafter was the same. Promise everything, and give the same excuses when their predictions didn't come ("Marxism has never truly been tried! The Libertarian ideal has never truly been tried! Baby, give me one more chance - I promise this time we'll make it to Heaven!")

I don't regret the experimentation as a necessary part of growing up; I'm just glad I didn't get any nasty diseases. Maturity has taught me to what to do with the "sciences" that were too afraid to commit to experimentation.

They are now in the same place as other old lovers who refused to commit. I don't mind meeting them in a public park and blogging about Old Times. But I'll never let them sleep on my couch until they have the guts to get a job and risk finding out that, hey, maybe taxation isn't theft but merely the free expression of a sovereign People's right to self-organize.

It's tough-love time, baby!

Or, as @duncan cairncross said...

"True economics like libertarianism is a self contained truth that cannot be changed by interaction with the real world. In other words - just another cult"

Outside the Box said...

I'm going to pick one relatively unimportant nit, and then ask for some references:

David, your article is titled and its thrust is "what should libertarianism be about", and you conclude that it should be about enhancing competition.

I'm interested in this theme of how important it is to enhance competition, but I'm just not sure it's very constructive to try to call that "libertarianism". Seems to me that libertarianism already has a definition: it's advocacy of the absence of the initiation of force.

Thus, I'm not sure it's productive to try to repurpose "libertarianism" to mean what you want it to mean. As you've seen here, mostly that's going to result in squabbling with those who use the definition I give above.

Can you call your advocacy for libertarianism something else, as a way to better focus folks' attention on what you are trying to say, rather than squabbling about definitions?

On to point 2: I've read this entire bible-length thread (whew) and seen you reference many times the notion that "private property is what has enabled oppression etc throughout history." I still don't really "get it", though. Could you or your folks here point me at what you think is the best exposition of this notion? I totally get your passion on this point and as someone interested in a peaceful, thriving world, I certainly don't want to advocate something that is actually working *against* my desired ends... but largely, that's the claim *I* make to those advocating the state/government: you're working against your own desired ends (my current advocacy - of course I'm willing to change as I learn more - is, like Stephan, anarcho-capitalism). So I get the structure of what you are trying to convey, just not the logic behind your interpretation of the historical record.

I'm also still pretty unclear on your suggested alternative. When I asked you that earlier in this thread, the only thing you referenced was a strict inheritance tax. I hope you can understand how I see that as somewhat incomplete. Is that the only deviation from a "capitalist's" definition of property that you advocate, or is there something significantly more? Does the state's duties end at making sure the inheritance tax is implemented, or does the state take on considerably more duties? If the latter, how are they related to the issues of property that you are talking about?

The heartening thing is that when you scratch most political "philosophies", including yours and anarcho-capitalism (which is really just a subbrand of "libertarianism", one that extends the notion of non-aggression to the concept of the state and concludes that the state is by definition aggression (I can try to expand on this if you're interested), in many cases you seem the same goals of a peaceful and happy world. The disheartening thing is that people from the many camps of "libertarianism" cannot freaking have discourse with each other without it devolving into insults. We're all trying to get to the same place; why we need to argue about various philosphical purities instead of focusing on our common goals and how to join together to reach them is the reason that bullies, thugs, murderers, rapists etc are laughing at our self-destructive squabbling.

Jonathan Hall said...

Brin,

I completely agree with your position on competition. And there is no conflict with either the N.A.P. (Non-aggression Principle) or property. Only force can interfere with competition, so these two are easily seen as tautological. The only trouble the only conflict the only compromise happens when the absurd privilege of homestead is introduced. Ask a homesteader how much labor converts into how much property and they can never give an answer because the concept is nothing but the bare assertion of privilege. And once that poison pill is swallowed then force and all its problems are concealed.

Here is a simple proof that shows how property derives from freedom but, does not, can not include homestead.

"Homestead" is the madness of the libertarians.

http://mises.org/Community/forums/p/28533/461303.aspx#461303

reason said...

"Read your Hayek and Mises and Hoppe, and you will see the manifest problems of scientism. "

Or maybe I'll just see the manifest problems with Hayek and Mises and Hoppe? Doesn't that worry you?

reason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
reason said...

True believers, with their self-referential systems are so boring. Doesn't he realise that to some extent Hayek, and to a much larger extent Mises and Hoppe are often wrong. Inevitably. They are humans.

Who does he think he is kidding with his bluster?

reason said...

Look, the problem with any scientific reasoning is not usually logical inconsistancy (although that happens) it is mostly incompleteness.

Think for instance of the "law of supply and demand" (i.e. demand falls with price and supply rises with price). Well there are goods where demand rises with price (Giffen goods) and goods where supply falls with price (scarce resources). And the reason is of course that there is not just a substitution effect, but also an income effect. Similarly, if is fairly well known that even well behaved individual supply and demand curves of heterogenous individuals and firms don't necessarily add up to well behaved collective supply and demand curves (the aggegation problems). So simple reasoning from first principles can be misleading. What usually points this out is empirical verification. Cut this out and important inaccuracy is almost inevitable.

reason said...

Outside the box
"On to point 2: I've read this entire bible-length thread (whew) and seen you reference many times the notion that "private property is what has enabled oppression etc throughout history." I still don't really "get it", though."

You seem to missed this:
rewinn
"necessitous men are not, truly speaking, free men, but, to answer a present exigency, will submit to any terms that the crafty may impose upon them."

That is absolutely the key point!

reason said...

"Only force can interfere with competition, so these two are easily seen as tautological. "

Simply not true - simple (and common) increasing returns to scale, monopoly ownership of vital resources or significant barriers to entry will do.

reason said...

And the bit about ceterus parabus (specifically to do with minimum wages) before from Stephan Kinsella, was a bit strange. Ceterus parabus reasoning - means that I am deliberately doing a partial analysis. There can be disagreements, in a complex system like economics deal with, in just how partial that analysis can be and still be relevant. His argument just makes him look silly. (I'm sure he isn't - even clever people can use silly arguments.)

reason said...

A question to any non Stephan Kinsella libertarians out there. Are you happy having him talk for you, or would you rather he kept well away. To me, he makes neither an attractive or convincing spokesperson. He may go well in the echo chamber, but I don't think his style is at all appropriate here. How do you feel about it?

Alex said...

To ask if Libertarianism is fundamentally about Property or Competition is to miss the point, and to demonstrate a fundamental ignorance about it. What is most centric, fundamental to the libertarian philosophy is neither property nor competition, even though these are valid and accepted effects of its most core principle.

That is what is being overlooked in this sophisticated propaganda piece. All aspects of liberty regarding property, capital, competition, or property emerge as subordinate 'effects' of their primary cause. What is this primary cause of these effects? NAP. The non-aggression principle.

Competition:
To compete with others is just the result of individual persons interacting in an environment of scarce resources. This has happened for all organisms since the beginning of life. However, to compete without initiating force against other persons is only possible as an -effect- of accepting NAP. This is market competition by definition. We recognize that because humans are capable of interacting in this way as we reap the rewards on a daily basis. The rewards are as simple as human trade, and I don't think I must list what has been made possible by human trade. Yet it must be recognized that human trade/market competition is an -effect- of libertarian core NAP, not an isolated, non-libertarian philosophical concept or even a fundamental libertarian pillar.

Property:
Again, property is not a core principle of libertarian philosophy, it is yet another -effect- of NAP, coupled with objective requirements of living organisms. To lightly touch on the argument: You have requirements to live, and to act upon fulfilling these requirements without initiating force against other persons results in justification of property rights. Property is either originally appropriated, or voluntarily exchanged as a result of accepting NAP, the libertarian core principle.

Conclusively:
Property and competition are both arguably the most obvious effects of accepting core libertarian thought, but to suggest that is what fundamentally composes libertarian philosophy is to demonstrate ignorance of libertarianism.

isomorphismes said...

Seems to me that transparency automatically brings with it a burden of (regulatory) oversight.

If private entities aren't already disclosing XYZ and have to be coerced into doing so ... doesn't that imply larger government?

Mantenimiento de propiedades said...

Thanks for posting, definitely going to subscribe! See you on my reader.

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