I am not a Libertarian Because I Believe in Freedom and Property Rights, And I’d Like to Minimize Government Coercion
by Mike Kimel
I am not a Libertarian Because I Believe in Freedom and Property Rights, And I’d Like to Minimize Government Coercion
I wandered over the Libertarian Party and I found their Platform. I’m sure there are a few items here and there with which some libertarians disagree, but in general, it seems to me to be a pretty fair representation of libertarian beliefs, so I encourage you to read the whole thing. That said, I do not believe libertarians live up to their stated beliefs. Here’s the first sentence of the pre-amble:
As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.
To that end, of course, the libertarian philosophy also seeks to minimize government, in particular, government coercion.
And it is precisely here – in the first sentence of the pre-amble, and its implications, where libertarians go off the rails. Consider the following… my neighbor, whom we have never met and might not even have seen (we’re not certain) despite living in this house for two years, seems to enjoy letting her lawn grow uncontrollably. (Feel free to substitute “loud music” or “noxious fumes” or “toxic waste” or “rats and other vermin” or “vile (like there are any other kind) windchimes” or “measles”, etc., to make the story more relevant to you.) As I type, the place is something of an eyesore: weeds, overgrown bushes and knee-high grass. Now, a libertarian would say that our neighbor, being the home-owner, has the right to do what she will with her property, and I should mind my own business and my own property. As it happens, I agree. I may wish she would have weed collection trimmed, but the weeds are on her property and she paid for the right to do what she wants on that property.
My problem is that my neighbor also has taken upon herself to make choices about what happens on my property. See, the weeds she has chosen to grow, or rather, allow to grow, have seeds, and she has chosen to allow the seeds from her weeds to cross onto my property instead of keeping them on her property. Put another way, she has made a decision that I either have to have dandelions and weeds on my own lawn, or I have to expend resources (some combination of time, effort, and money) to eradicate outbreaks. The more weeds she chooses to cultivate on her property, the more resources I have to apply to keep weeds in check on my property the following year. But it isn’t just me – she is also making the same decision about the lawns of other people on the block too.
Now, in this instance, there is a simple solution that anyone who truly believes that property rights should be sacrosanct and nobody should be coerced by anyone else should be willing to agree upon. See, she should have every right to cultivate weeds on her property, but should have zero right to place weeds (actively or passively, it makes no difference to the rest of us) on anyone else’s property. Put another way – it should be her responsibility to ensure that she does not cultivate weeds on our property without our say so.
Now, it turns out that the city has some rules about this. Last year I saw signs placed on some people’s doors saying essentially: “clean your lawn or the city will do it and bill you for it.” As far as I can tell, a libertarian – every libertarian I have come across, would view that as coercion. I, on the other hand, see things differently – were the government to allow people to create infestations on their property that inevitably spread onto their neighbors’ property, the government is essentially coercing the neighbors of those that would grow weeds into either growing weeds themselves or spending an inordinate number of resources fighting it. And to some extent, the libertarians, and I, are both partly right. But here’s what they’re missing; someone will be coerced, no matter what, as long as there are people who will grow weeds. Or play loud music or emit noxious fumes or dump toxic waste or allow rats and other vermin to proliferate or put up vile windchimes or refuse to get their kids vaccinated for measles, etc. In the end, the question is – who will be coerced, how many will be coerced, and how bad will the coercion be? I tend to come down on the side that the coerced party should be the one that is the first to try to coerce others, and that the coerced party should be as small as possible, and that the coercion should be the least bit possible. And it is clear that while libertarians may say the same thing, it isn’t true, as the one they don’t want to see coerced is my neighbor, but they have no problems coercing everyone else on the block.
Now, frankly I can understand how many libertarians don’t see this. Many of them are misfits or eccentrics. Others simply can’t reason out that there are two sides to every equation (and this, six decades after Coase!). Some like to view themselves as lone wolves, in no way beholden to the rest of society. Some find they can be more successful in business if they don’t pay taxes and/or find export their costs onto third parties. And of course, there are the thugs. Guess which group will take over if libertarians ever get their way.
You’ve just described my neighborhood. FYI: Maryland is not a bastion of Libertarianism but it takes the efforts of a lawn service and my own efforts to keep the neighborhood weeds out of my yard.
Your analogy exists today without the dread specter of Libertarianism so your point is lost.
You should have read further. Section 2.1 Property and Contract:
“The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others.”
Let me put this out there before I Begin. I’m not sure if I’m Libertarian or not, I tend to lean towards a lot of there views. that said I will explain what I think I saw in your story. The way I understand it, when Libertarians speak about government, they are speaking of the federal government. and say this because I hear this statement a lot. example, Drugs should not be illegal. this is true on a federal level. if states want to outlaw them, they will still be illegal, just not handled by the fed. also. Neighborhoods have or can have, rules in order to live there, if she wants to let her weeds grow, she needs to live in a community that allows that. I see the premise your trying to lay down here. but it does not work on a local level. but, that being said. it works great in that if states lay out the laws of there land, then if you don’t like a state, you can move. if the federal government does not like it. your out of options. The way I see it, and I may be wrong, is that if the federal government sticks to the Constitution, and rules from that perspective, the states can fill in the void. and it works down from there. That way we all have options. if this neighborhood lets the weeds grow, you can move to another that has a homeowners group, that you must adhere to in order to live there. If a State wants to legalize Marijuana, and you don’t like it, the next state over may have it illegal. and so on. you would have choices that would allow you to fulfil your dreams and pursuit of happiness with out anyone telling you how to do it. The main thing I look at when thinking about my government is, are they keeping there word on the Constitution? and from what I see, the answer is no. They are running over it and they don’t care that we care. so I disagree with how your looking at this situation. but like I said. I could be wrong. but it seems as if the 4th amendment is no longer valid in this country. next it will be the second, then the first. and we will not even be having this discussion.
The greatest error in libertarian philosophy, and one you have also made, is that is mistaken about what property is. Libertarians believe that is a “thing”, your example indicates you see property the same way. that is her land and the weeds on it our her property, the promblem consists in the externalities caused by her use of her property.
The correct understanding of property is not as a thing or even the owner’s rights in regard to a thing; but as the owner’s rights in relation to others as regards the thing. The relation between an owner and a thing is merely physical, it is the legal relationship between the owner and everyone else which constitutes property. Seen this way your neighbor is not being coerced to in order to deal with the externalities caused by the exercise of his propertiy rights because he has no right to impose his weeds on you.
This is the basis of American property law as it has developed over the last two centuries although unfortunately even many lawyers do not grasp this conceptually.
I’m reposting this comment to correct my atrocious typing.
The greatest error in libertarian philosophy, and one you have also made, is that it is mistaken about what property is. Libertarians believe that property is a “thing”, your example indicates you see property the same way. that your neighbors land and the weeds on it are her property, the promblem consists in the externalities caused by her use of her property.
The correct understanding of property is not as a thing or even the owner’s rights in regard to a thing; but as the owner’s rights in relation to others as regards the thing. The relation between an owner and a thing is merely physical, it is the legal relationship between the owner and everyone else which constitutes property. Seen this way your neighbor is not being coerced to in order to deal with the externalities caused by the exercise of his propertiy rights because he has no right to impose his weeds on you.
This is the basis of American property law as it has developed over the last two centuries although unfortunately even many lawyers do not grasp this conceptually.
The standard libertarian answer would be that you had suffered harm-and therefore could sue for damages and win…including some sort of injuctive relief. If the problem continued, your neighbor would be subject to the coercive power of the state. Over a short period of time, people would learn that they cannot get away with harming others in this way, or they will suffer by being coerced into paying appropriate damages.
This would require a simplified court system…and one that truely applies law consistantly.
But as a libertarian, I have few objections to the scenario you layed out. Your neighbor should be coerced into compensating you if she will not do so voluntarily.
What Terry said.
A libertarian would (should) have a problem with the federal government (or perhaps even local government) exercising a right to clean up your lawn and billing you for it *without your consent* and will equally have a problem with allowing your neighbour to negatively impact to (perceived) value of your lawn (obviously also without your consent).
If you choose to live in a community where no such consent is required to be given, then it is not any government’s task to decide for you whether your lawn must be kept or unkept. Precisely because you have written this article, there would under any circumstance be communities with their own rules which people living there can *voluntarily* subscribe to (implicitly by living there or perhaps even explicitly) and these rules could even be enforceable by local authorities. After all the one who is being enforced against will be the payer of the bill, so there is pretty limited downside risk to the general taxpayer as well.
I doubt you will find any libertarian who has a problem with a community enforcing its own rules (in fact I would say you would have trouble finding one who is not excited about that concept).
Your whole argument that one side has to be coerced in order to keep the peace is a logical fallacy because one can choose to live in a community with garden keeping policies or in one that has none, were the libertarians to have their way. Thus any coercion by the community is implicitly accepted by those who are coerced to clean their lawn and is thus not really coercion but rather an enforcement of the rules which were freely chosen (unlike in your example where nobody gets to choose anything and there is coercion whichever way). There don’t have to be two sides to every argument of this nature. If we apply a free market mechanism to local regulation like this (people can choose how to live, that’s the whole principle) everybody gains.
On a sidenote, there is no law that says that weeds are “less than” any other plant. The whole thing is entirely subjective, and who are you to decide for your neighbour (or the government, or the community) what they like in their garden? What if your neighbour personally likes dandelions and what not? You are going to prevent them from enjoying my garden because you happen to dislike them? Is that ethical? Most likely, you will have certain flowers on your lawn which may transmit seeds into their lawn? Why is your neighbour’s right to have your flowers destroyed not equal to your right to have their dandelions destroyed? Who makes these rules, and should it really be the government (any type) to decide what you can grow in your lawn in a centralized (thus coercive) manner?
To conclude, you clearly don’t understand the first thing about personal liberty and you are in favour of repressive societies where there is no room for personal taste in favour of what the masses like (unless you were really only talking about gardens and not about everything where it is a sort of gray area on who should accomidate whom). Comparing libertarians with misfits, business cronies and thugs is not only unfounded, it’s also offensive.
You imbecile! You know why you don’t play loud music? because you are afraid of retaliation (e.g. Others playing music even louder)
You see the nicer neighborhood? Do you think they have nice lawns because they have laws? No! It’s because they want to preserve their property! If you’re telling me that you need laws to take care of yourself, then you are truly lost
And if you think that the state (not state in u.s., but state as in government and it’s entities) comes before individual rights, then ANYTHING done by government can be justified – withholding penicillin for syphilis experiment on blacks, the holocaust, imprisoning japanese descendents during ww2, or issuing assassinations to u.s. citizens.
And btw, this is why the u.s.public is angry with elitist people like you – you impose your will on others at the expense of their tax dollars.
Read up on 4th amendment – the principle is that people have the right to be left alone by the government
Seriously, a sheep like you really piss me off; you don’t think about the unanticipated negative consequences of all these policies, or don’t even care why the policies came about in the first place, and who are benefitted by them. Next time, use some logic before blindly believing what government says at the face value.
Here, read this: http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/politics/7672-the-last-nail-by-ron-paul-with-documented-hyperlinks
Maybe then you’ll get a glimpse of libertarianism
But stated like that their view is stricter than mine. I think she should have the right to cultivate weeds as long as she doesn’t place weeds on anyone else’s lawn. But a lot of folks find their enjoyment of the neighborhood diminished by the eyesore. (Me included, but I wouldn’t stop her on that basis for crying out loud.) So it comes back to who gets coerced and for what reason. Section 2.1 sets the bar very, very, very low.
You are not describing libertarianism. You are describing Federalism.
You may be right, but as you say, “even many lawyers do not grasp this conceptually” and in practical terms, it doesn’t seem to work that way.
One more thing. I don’t know if all cities have rules against out of control lawns. The one I live in does. It is quite possible that some cities do not. And I know with certainty that the Federal government does not regulate that.
All that said, I do like your marijuana example. I think I’ve posted on this: I have zero interest in smoking marijuana or any other illicit drug and that wouldn’t change if marijuana was legal. (I don’t drink alcohol, and I’m fairly sure that’s legal everywhere in the US.) However, I think it should be legal. I think people should be allowed to take any drugs they want. However, they have a responsibility to not affect others. I have no problems with someone smoking pot and then walking down the street, but I don’t want someone zonked out on PCP driving a school bus. If some moron wants to take PCP, he should be allowed to do so, in his own padded room.
“Comparing libertarians with misfits, business cronies and thugs is not only unfounded, it’s also offensive. “
You forgot those who can’t reason out there are two sides to every equation. And I suspect most fall into that group. Let me demonstrate on you:
“you clearly don’t understand the first thing about personal liberty and you are in favour of repressive societies where there is no room for personal taste in favour of what the masses like”
You missed the whole point. I have no problems with her doing her thing on the land she purchased. Its when her thing – be it noise, weeds, measles, toxic fumes, whatever – crosses onto the land someone else bought, I have a problem.
I’m not worried that some plant on my property might spawn seeeds onto her grounds that are offensive to her is that it seems clear she doesn’t care about what is going about. Besides, it is fairly to anyone who walks down the street and looks at the distribution of weeds and flowers that she is exporting far, far more weeds onto the rest of us than the rest of us are exporting flowers onto her property. (I can assure you, its not that she is spending more resources eradicating flowers that might otherwise bloom on her property than that we are doing the same about weeds.)
“until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others.”
Who gets to decide which rights are valid? Is it my right to not have my lawn seeded with weeds? Is it my right to look at lawns free of overgrowth? Is my aesthetic sensibiltiy a more valid right than her right to maintain the natural plant habitat of her choice.
Sorry, fetishizing “property” doesn’t actually solve these problems. The real issue is that the idea of “property” doesn’t exist outside of a coercive government.
Of course you are right regarding your garden situation, she should clean her garden. I got the part where you don’t care as long as it doesn’t affect your garden, and I agree with the notion that it should be (and is) forbidden to cause preventable material harm to someone or someone’s property. The comment you quoted I made not because of your view on the garden situation, but due to the way you condescend the libertarian movement.
To be clear, I’m not a libertarian myself, but I sympathise with a lot of their views and the idea that the biggest sloth wins (as he has no material discomfort from the mess made and nobody else could make a bigger mess) is not my view on libertarianism. Within every party there are views which are borderline retarded but are not at all representative of what those who actually hold the power within a political group think. I don’t think I need to name any examples.
In my view, you are just using this garden situation to make a straw man argument against the libertarian movement.
Actually, my point is that someone is going to get coerced. You can minimize coercion or you can maximize it. Letting someone grow weeds is coercing the neighbors into growing weeds or continuously fighting weeds.
As to “ The real issue is that the idea of “property” doesn’t exist outside of a coercive government.” – what do you think would happen if the government wasn’t coercively protecting property rights? You get situations where neighbors threaten each other over stuff now. Imagine if there was no government to prevent thugs from threatening their neighbors.
I find extremely condescending to hear libertarians tell me they believe in freedom and I don’t or they believe in property rights and I don’t, or they have some knowledge about what is in the Constitution that I don’t. Its especially condescending when coming from people whose views are not internally consistent. I wonder if you thought it important to tell any libertarians they are being condescending when they say such things, or whether you are only upset that I object to being condescended to first.
I think what libertarians don’t get:
Corporations are pure creations of the state. They barely existed when this country was founded, they had severely restricted charters, and the founders viewed them with serious, even profound, misgivings.
The state has given them immense power over people’s lives (and protections in their usage), notably powers of economic coercion.
Only the state is powerful enough to stand against those forces of coercion.
Are you people splitting hairs a bit too finely. We’re all libertarians up to the point that someone else infringes upon our liberties. We then suddenly become more interested in law enforcement. As some wag on this site pointed out not too long ago, the true libertarian would pick up and move to Somalia where he/she can enjoy total freedom from government interference in his every day life. Those describing themselves as Libertarians would make far more sense if they were less concerned with the size of the government and more concerned with the quality of their government. Lately we in the United States have been getting a choice between reactionary fools seeking public recognition and the celebrity status that goes along with that and corporatist self promoters that have only their own financial best interests at heart. We all suffer the consequences.
Steve Roth & Jack,
I believe that Libertarians would allow you to enforce your own rights through civil action in the courts. Simply hire a lawyer and sue to recover the costs of your time and expenditures.
Of course, poor people can’t gather the money together to sue, for the Libertarian solution leaves them without rights. It also poisons neighboehoods by requiring neighbors to confront each other in adversarial constats in order to enforce their “rights”.
I rather like society making reasonable rules and enforcing those rules anamonously. It just is more effcient and effective. That leaves all of us with more resources to enjoy live rather than defending it.
IOW, what libertarians don’t seem to get is that 1. there’s such a thing as economic coercion, and 2. any system — even one with no rules at all — inevitably subjects its participants to various forms of economic coercion.
There’s no single identifiable entity that takes your freedom away. The loss of liberty is an inherent, emergent property of any economic system composed of many entities.
So the question becomes: what economic system delivers the highest sum(people:freedom)?
If like me you believe that individual freedom is primarily a function of individuals’ bank balances (wealth), you quickly conclude that unfettered, unmanaged corporate capitalism is *not* that system, because it inevitably concentrates wealth rather than distributing it. Again: it’s an inherent, emergent property of the system. (Marx got this part right.)
This even though corporate capitalism, as it has been managed by governments over the centuries, has done more to deliver prosperity, hence freedom, than any other innovation in human history.
If it were better managed, it could deliver far, far more.
Mike I think you might need to take a step back here and consider the possibility that most political ideologies don’t stand up to reductio ad absurdum type arguments.
For example, I happen to be allergic to pollen. My neighbor growing up had a beautiful flower garden which made me sneeze nearly every time I walked past it. Certainly, I was being passively coerced into spending money on tissues, claritin, and generally being made uncomfortable due to her inconsiderate dispersion of pollen into my locus. But i don’t really think either of us would argue that my home village should have passed a “no flowers ordinance”.
1. clear property rights
2. rational actors
3. minimal transaction costs.
1. and 2. In a democracy, the city’s yard upkeep laws were enacted with the consent of the governed, so mow your lawn or pay up. If it’s a homeowner’s association or co-op, you knew what you were getting into when you moved in, so mow your lawn or get out. Libertarians have no problem with penalties for those who break a contract or law.
Now if those laws get completely out of hand or the legal system becomes unreliable and owning property becomes increasingly burdensome and reform is perceived to be legislatively impossible, the last act of a citizen of that state or country is to move out, as many of my fellow New Yorkers of my age are doing. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/13/new-yorkers-plan-to-leave_n_861580.html
(But do come back soon as there will be PLENTY of quick fixer-upper properties on sale after the austerity riots.)
3. If the extra garden work exceeds the costs of going to court, then to the lawyer’s office we go. Libertarians are not opposed to regulation or coercion per se, especially when externalities impose high social costs. Ayn Rand herself believed it moral for government to have a monopoly on the initiation of force to protect individual rights. Libertarians have an a problem with how proposed collective solutions and Pigovian taxes are legislated and implemented and how accountable the regulators are.
The orderly society with reliable systems of trust, trade and conflict resolution is a public good, but sometimes those mechanisms are captured by rent-seekers, be they corporations, unions, or the voting blocs composed of transfer payment recipients. Some libertarian think tanks are also not immune from rent-seekers attempting to rationalize imposing barriers to entry on competitors.
In the realm of public debate, the libertarians are like guerillas, who only have to point out every little bureaucractic inefficiency to prove its case and we have all encountered it at the DMV and post office. On the other hand, the proponents of the existing system have to fight an uphill battle to justify its spending and taxes at every turn.
This post hit home (pardon the bad pun) because I have a close relative going through much the same thing, with the notable exception being that the owner of the property is the bank that foreclosed on the now-vacant property. There is a local nuisance law, and the bank evidently has come out once after my relative called the local authorities, but I don’t see the bank voluntarily keeping the property out of a constant state of disrepair – and ‘disrepair’ is putting it mildly after seeing the property myself. Personally, I would take the odds of shaming an individual into doing the right thing over coercing a bank.
And how many times is this being repeated or worse nationally? I can’t imagine how the banks could keep up with this in some of the high foreclosure areas, even if they wanted to do so. Chalk it up to another side effect of laissez-faire policies.
Lots of good comments identifying the impracticalities of libertarianism, but the major one for me is the one touched on by Steve Roth in both of his comments. Much excessive power/coercion through history has come from economic and social forces, not ‘big’ government. In fact, ‘hands-off’ government policies often have enabled and encouraged these forces, to the point they became extremely difficult to dislodge. Also, I have never understood their disdain for shock absorbers.
What’s the difference whether the one controlling my fate draws a government paycheck or not? Like Steve Roth, I don’t think Libertarians get this. I also have noticed that Libertarians tend to look at issues from an inside/out perspective (how I interact with my immediate sphere of influence and how I can maximize my own welfare) rather than how the society as a whole interacts, including the elements that don’t directly affect them. This leads, I think, to under-recognition of the benefits they do derive from government/society.
A political philosophy whose proponents tell us they are for freedom and property rights – implying the rest of us aren’t – should have no complaints about a thorough examination of their claims. Make simplistic, all-ecompassing claims and don’t complain if others check those claims. When some Republicans claim they are “pro-growth”, or some Democrats claim they are “pro-worker” its worth checking those claims too.
That said, I disagree that this is reductio ad absurdum. See, I think I bring the rpoblem back to the real world:
“In the end, the question is – who will be coerced, how many will be coerced, and how bad will the coercion be? I tend to come down on the side that the coerced party should be the one that is the first to try to coerce others, and that the coerced party should be as small as possible, and that the coercion should be the least bit possible. And it is clear that while libertarians may say the same thing, it isn’t true, as the one they don’t want to see coerced is my neighbor, but they have no problems coercing everyone else on the block. “
Sorry… but by that standard, I don’t think you’d have a chance at a “no flowers ordinance” in your village by my standard. That said, if she was cultivating mosquitoes that carry malaria, or refusing to vaccinate her children, in my world she’d have a problem (though it seems in the US of today she doesn’t, though in the US that eradicated polio she would).
A follow-up. I have a recollection of Reagan (I think it was him and not someone else) pointing out, back in the 1980s, that the Soviet Constitution was very, very similar to the US Constitution. The difference was in how it was applied. I think we both know almost all Americans would agree with Section 2.1. However, there is a difference in how a libertarian would apply Section 2.1 and how the average American would apply that same statute.
One more problem. My son is too young to be vaccinated for a wide range of communicable diseases that are making a comeback with the anti-vaxx movement. (At least we aren’t seeing polio or smallpox… yet.) Who would I sue if my son caught one of those diseases? And would it really make things OK ex post if I could identify “the person” to sue?
I wouldn’t have bothered wrting a comment if you’d have offered something against libertarianism beyond a straw man argument and some unverifiable personal anecdotes as to why they carry such grievances (who cares what libertarians tell you?). Only a comment below makes a valid case as to why libertarianism doesn’t work as an idea.
If everybody felt the need to vent about the GOP (or any other political ideology for that matter) every time some GOP-supporter called them un-american or unpatriotic for a silly reason, dear god that is all people would write about anymore.
You also haven’t replied to any of the arguments I’ve made, for example why libertarian views would be against a residential community making its own rules if this is the wish of the people living there (which is your straw man, incidentally).
Yeah (kind of a tangent here): even though some of the most articulate and superficially convincing libertarians (think: George Mason University) are well-steeped in the concepts of emergent systems and game theory, they seem to ignore all that, toss it aside, when promulgating their economic beliefs — they love simplistic two- or few-person barter-economy (or at least money/debt-neutral) thought experiments.
The system dynamics of money economies is where the meat is.
If you are going to use their Platform document as a your basis for criticism, you can’t just say “but they don’t really mean it.”
This is a great column. I’ll also add another two cents, and that is that many libertarians are frankly lazy when it comes to checking out how (if) their expressed ideals are in any way feasible in the real world. Then they aren’t, by default they vote corporatist (GOP). I see few examples of when this doesn’t happen. Economics, as well as politics, is about power. It is the subject of power that libertarians need to look into – where does it lie, who possesses it, what are the dynamics of it in the real world, what are the outcoes of that dynamic. Such analysis would, I think lead one away from, not towards, voting for the corporatist party.
Uh, Mike, you made my point. The dea of “property” doesn’t exist outside of a coercive government. Without a coercive government determining what was valid and not valid, there are no property rights–there is only the law of the jungle. The only way to have a generally recognized and uniformly enforced “right” to “property,” is when government holds the only legitimate use of violence.
It is the subject of power that libertarians need to look into – where does it lie, who possesses it, what are the dynamics of it in the real world, what are the outcomes of that dynamic.
That’s a big flat rock that libertarians won’t turn over and for a very good reason, namely that it might force them to face the fact that goernments aren’t the only source of power.
I guess we’re kind of in agreement.
“You also haven’t replied to any of the arguments I’ve made, for example why libertarian views would be against a residential community making its own rules if this is the wish of the people living there (which is your straw man, incidentally).”
Liberterians are free to move somewhere and create a community that has no rules to which they don’t agree. I suspect after sixty years such a town would have a similar set of rules as any other town. Historically we see towns set up in the middle of nowhere, and then over a few generations, as more people move in, rules get set up because everyone has a grievance about something and someone else. At some point, the set of rules gets very big. From then on, sometimes the rulebook expands, sometimes it contracts, but it really doesn’t ever end up looking like Galt’s Gulch except when it goes full metal Somalia.
What we see with libertarians is not going off and founding a new town where the bylaws are basically the same as those in the Libertarian Party Platform and which do not get added to beyond that basic limit no matter what. Instead, what happens is that someone in an established city with a lot of existing rules and regulations starts complaining that he can’t dump something toxic into the river that runs through his property. But without rules, the guy upstream would have already smoked him out with his own dumping of $#%& in the water.
Interesting. Honestly it sounds like your beef is with libertarians more than libertarianism.
The point you’re making about society in general boils down to “what you do affects others.” Yes, no one questions that. The libertarian philosophy is generally, “err on the side of ‘live and let live'”. That actually sounds a lot like you’re saying as well: “coerced party should be as small as possible…least bit possible, etc”. Contrast that with a more a more traditionally leftist standard of “we should coerce whoever we need to coerce in order to further the common good” [which can be used to justify wealth redistribution, for example, whereas your standard clearly cannot. I’m not accusing you of being a leftist, by the way, I have no idea what your personal politics are, I was just drawing out a contrast].
So you’re advocating a fairly libertarian standard for government intervention, then picking a fairly extreme hypothetical [can a community make *any* rule governing what I do on my own property?], saying, “well obviously we should have a weed rule in place”, and then saying, “but a strict appilcation of the libertarian philosophy would not allow it, and also a libertartarian would never go for that, so I’m not a libertarian. Also I don’t like them they’re too self-righeous.”
I mean, you don’t have to be a libertarian, I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. But I think you’re overplaying your hand here.
You use the phrase “straw man.” It doesn’t mean what you think it means.
In my city, there is an ordinance against letting your grass grow too long. If you do, you get a warning that the city will cut it for you and bill you. Nothing reducio absurdum or straw man about it. It is very real, and from time to time, it does happen.
Mike left out the fact that long grass can be a refuge for rats and other vermin (e.g., snakes). Like the seeds of weeds, rats and snakes are also impossible to contain on one person’s “property,” and are an infrigement on the “property” of others.
Here in the real world, Julian, the idea of “property,” including real estate as well as “money,” has no meaning except in the presence of a coercive government. The myth of libertarianism is that there is a meaningful “right” to “property” absent a government with the sole right to the legitimate use of violence. There isn’t.
Today, 16:33:46 – Flag – Like – Reply – Delete – Edit – Moderate
Your argument is flawed. Your neighbor is not cultvating anything. She is not maintaining the height of her lawn to you and your neighbor’s standards. Unless she went and actually purchased weeds and is tending them like a garden, the seeds came at no greater a rate than they come to every other yard in the neighborhood. And, I would guess that you and your neighbors are probably already treating your yards. She has chosen not too.
Loud music? There are ordinances for such things because as someone pointed out, it infringes on others’ rights. Your argument is flawed and poor. And, I would add that Liberty minded folks can see past your desire to paint them in a negative light using a straw man argument.
But, please keep up the effort as it only further isolates folks from such spin…
“the seeds came at no greater a rate than they come to every other yard in the neighborhood.”
Actually, they probably are. Grass and weeds that are mowed regularly don’t throw seeds. Only grasses that are allowed to grow throw seeds.
Whether or not that is the best reason to prohibit overgrowth of weeds (denying habitat to vermin is a better reason), the belief that it would be a source of seeds is valid.
“Liberty minded folks can see past your desire to paint them in a negative light using a straw man argument. “
You talk about straw men, and you refer to yourself and others like you as “liberty minded folks.” So what are the rest of us? Eager to sell ourselves into bondage? Seriously – what are the rest of us? What is the state of being something other than “liberty minded”? (And make sure it fits a person who believes in letting other people live their lives as they wish – regardless of sexual orientation and desire to use drugs, to use just two examples – as long as they limit their externalities onto third parties. Someone who, as the post noted, “ I tend to come down on the side that the coerced party should be the one that is the first to try to coerce others, and that the coerced party should be as small as possible, and that the coercion should be the least bit possible..” So tell me what such a person should be called, because you’ve just said “liberty minded” ain’t it.”
“So what are the rest of us?”
Mike, John isn’t really interested in “liberty” or “rights” or “freedom.” John is about tribalism. He has a name for his tribe–“liberty minded folks”–and you are either in his tribe or not. It isn’t about reconciling philosophy with reality. Indeed, it doesn’t have any connection with reality as most people experience it.
Libertarianism is the apotheosis of solipisim. John Duncan is embodying the solipsisim that is libertarianism.
the trouble with your answer is that the States were lynching some of their citizens until the the Federal government stepped in. Or, if you can stand a little history: the Civil War interefered with the right of States to allow its citizens to hold human beings in slavery. And as it happened the Civil War actually began as a result of those States attempting to coerce the non-slave states into allowing slave owners to, for example, “rent” their slaves as laboreres in the free states.
Moral here is that the world is just too complicated for “libertarian” ideas to be a useful guide to governing. Theoretically we have the best hope with a democracy with checks and balances. And as you know that almost never works out to everyone’s satisfaction.
We are all “libertarians.” We all want to be left alone. We all hate taxes and government regulations that limit what we can do. But as long as we have to share the world with other people we are going to form “government” that limits what we can do. Better to have a government that is on your side than one that pretends to be “against government” while selling you out to the thugs.
suppose the owner of the yard is an eighty year old woman with a bad heart. and not enough money to hire a lawn service.
maybe you need to volunteer to cut her grass.
but yes as to the libertarians. they have their reasons. all the rest of us, see, are commies who love government regulation and high taxes. so libertarians have to vote for insane republicans in order to protect the country from us.
but just to be fair: i do read from time to time proposals by “liberals” that do sound a lot like “tax the rich” and “regulate the hell out of everything.” i don’t think even the liberals believe in this, they just don’t think any better than the libertarians.
only “some” liberals of course.
re the loud music.
we have noise laws in our little town. the other day i went over to complain about the noise some rich people were making and nearly got arrested. you see, I was the one causing the trouble.
don’t count on laws, or even high libertarian principles, to save you.
Of course I can say they don’t mean it if I demonstrate it. Reagan did essentially the same thing when talking about the Soviet Constitution.
If you’ve read this blog, I have over the years come back to a few themes over and over: its a good thing to maximize growth, and a good thing to minimize externalities. Libertarians are supposedly about minimizing externalities, but the way they go about doing it does not minimize externalities (the point of this post). Similarly, as I keep showing over and over, one thing needed to maximze growth is to increase tax rates. Doesn’t mean I’m happy about it, but it is true, and we’re all better off in the long run if we do.
As I said, I’ve been here two years and have yet to see the women, much less meet her. I’ve seen a car drive up and out a few times, and I’ve caught a glimpse of the woman driving it from a distance.
I also tend to agree with you about liberals who have stupid proposals on the economy. You may notice I’m always very careful to try to propose things that maximize economic growth and stay away from objectives which aren’t measurable.
I used to live in an apartment back in Los Angeles. I found there was no point complaining about noise there either. Which is why I find liberals like Atrios who constantly tout the benefits to society of us all living closer together as unrealistic as I find the libertarians. In the real world, the liberals get us into slums because all it takes is one bad actor to ruin everyone else’s standard of living when we’re all living close together.
I began reading Golden Bough (pre WW II) over the weekend. An intricate study of how ‘man’ evolved from magic to myths to religions.
I think libertarians want to go back to the “magic” period when man was his own priest. Even to the ideas of sympathetic magic.
The priest eventually showed there were gods pulling the strings instead of charms and taboos…………..
I don’t see any discussion of empire loving libertarians. Maybe, they are the libertarians working in defense plants who think they are better than unemployed folk.
Who runs the US form of this magic?
You don’t demonstrate anything here. You merely surmise how a libertarian might respond, and then criticize it. Your evidence, the Libertarian Platform (in general, it seems to me to be a pretty fair representation of libertarian beliefs, so I encourage you to read the whole thing), actually contradicts your thesis.
As others have said, property rights is about coercion (or governmental backed exclusion).
Say that I e.g. “own” some forestland.
* If this “property right” include the right to forbid other people to hike across the land it mean that the state will impose your will on the rest of the population (in regard to this preference).
* If this “property right” don´t include the right to forbid other people to hike across the land it will simply mean that the state wont impose your will on the rest of the population (in regard to this preference).
By what reasonable definition of coercion could the second scenario be less about freedom (even though every libertarian would scream about state interventions in the scenario where the state refuse to intervene)?
It would be mistaken to suggest that the Libertarian Party platform (the current version of which I assembled in 2008) does not recognize negative externalities as coercion. Here are some platform quotes to set the record straight:
* Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, and wildlife.
* The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others.
* Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. We support restitution of the victim to the fullest degree possible at the expense of the criminal or the negligent wrongdoer.
The problem with standard libertarian doctrine in this area is not that it fails to see the problem of negative externalities, but rather that it offers a one-size-fits-all solution: torts. Forward-looking libertarians recognize the need for other regulatory responses to negative externalities. For more info, Google “green libertarianism” or the Free Earth Manifesto.
P.S. The right to private property, like most or perhaps all rights, cannot be practically realized without government (i.e. a monopoly on rights adjudication), but it’s silly to conclude from this that property rights are arbitrary, or should be subject to the whims of the minority (or majority) that dominates the government.
when i moved to oregon i did not own a lawn mower and didn’t understand the concept. a neighbor came over and mowed my lawn. i guess he was taking a chance. but he kind of destroyed the chip on my shoulder. i tend to think you exaggerate the dangers of weeds and vermin, but i think you need to find a way to talk to your neighbor and see what the deal is.
with regard to “liberals” its hard to talk about them, because they are not all alike. just as its hard to talk about “libertarians.”
i would say, here, for the sake of “why can’t we all get along” that “libertarianism” is a fine philosophy for those who need a philosophy. it won’t work in the real world, but it is a good enough starting point for a general preference against excessive reliance on government coercion.
the trouble i have with people who call themselves libertarians is that they never take the next step of actually confronting the real world and “how do we deal with this problem in the world as it is today.” and of course the conversation goes to hell why they try to justify their “principles” in an imaginary best of all possible worlds. fact is they do seem to be all about no taxes and not stopping pollution or regulating thugs of great wealth.
i gave up on noise and moved out of the slums. Now my friendly neighborhood noise makers are rich. And of course they are entitled to do whatever they want. And the cops take their side.
for the record, i don’t mind ordinary noise. but the sub sonic thump thump thump of the super basses on steroids drives my heart in strange ways and i feel i am being physically attacked.
with a little work the libertarians could refine their beliefs to be a reasonable political preference. but they never do that. and they end up calling for laws or the lack of laws that fail to protect people from those who happen to have more power than they have… usually because they have more money.
So by all means, develop your platform. But then we need to get down to the business of actually governing the country in a way that provides reasonable protection for ALL the people.
I noted upthread that I have a vague recollection of Reagan (I was young at the time) pointing out that the Soviet Constitution looked a heck of a lot like the American Constitution, but that there were some major differences in how the two documents got applied in the real world. The Libertarian Platform has many elements with which I agree – I’ve been writing about negative externalities for a long time. The difference is, it seems to me, (and I thank you for forcing me to think this through and articulate it) that when push comes to shove, libertarians err on the side of having the government not get involved. That means if someone is playing loud music and someone else is bothered, many libertarians will say that yes, there are negative externalities being generated. However, I have yet to meet the libertarian who will say: “and therefore, that’s a great example of a situation of where some agent of the government should put a halt to the activities if complaints are generated.”
My position is different. As I stated in the post: “I tend to come down on the side that the coerced party should be the one that is the first to try to coerce others, and that the coerced party should be as small as possible, and that the coercion should be the least bit possible. “
I view that as follows: if one person is generating loud music that is disturbing twenty others, the twenty others should have the right to have the music stopped. In my opinion, the music listener has the right to listen anything he/she chooses, but he does not have the right to make other people listen to it, and it is his/her responsibility not to force others to listen to something they don’t want to hear.
I guess I agree with that. But even that much is a hard principle to make work in the real world.
Incidentally your formulation makes it sound as if twenty people have the right to force one person to listen to something he doesn’t want to.
Me, I try to share the world with all kinds. But some trespasses are harder to bear than others. And super basses on steroids have no right to exist. and it’s the “libertarian” response of those who buy them to inflict pain on others that they “have a right to listen to anything they want” that makes me furious with libertarians.
Yes, but we still call it real estate, meaning the king’s land.
Mike – I like your post. Those asserting its a straw man, or that it doesn’t really speak to libertarianism’s broader philosophy, are missing the point. Its the realist critique from the 1930s and 1940s, and it shows libertarian philosophy to be hopelessly inconsistent.
Several have pointed out that most libertarians, adopting Mill’s harm principle, have a response to any kind of exertanilty. But beyond the problem of defining externalities,Mike’s citicism is on a different tack – the key phrase is there is government coercion no matter what policy one chooses. The fact that they adopt the harm principle is of no relevance – the whole idea of libertarianism is to choose the policy that promotes freedom and minimizes coercion, but Mike’s critique is that any policy you choose is coerive – and there’s no getting away from it.
Another way of stating Mike’s post is “my freedom to do X is a privilege to harm other people.” That privilege is given by the state (usually in the form of property), but coercion still exists.” Take the facts of Miller v. Schoene, very similar to Mike’s example – http://supreme.justia.com/us/276/272/. That case involved a Virginia Oak tree owner challenged a law permitting the state of Virginia to cut down his oak trees because oaks carried “rust”, a fungus, which lives naturally on oak trees and is harmless to them. But rust spreads to apple trees and kills them, and apple orchards were a major Virginia industry. To protect that industry, in the middle of the Depression, Virginia passed a law requiring certain oak trees to be cut down in order to protect the orchards and the money they generated. A libertarian, whose central political belief is that government coercion should be avoided, has a problem with such a policy: the state cutting down oak trees is clearly coercive. Coercion = bad.
But if the law didn’t exist, what happens? Is that a policy of “freedom” that the libertarian will favor because of his devotion to liberty? Maybe – but only if the libertarian doesn’t blindhimself to the obvious – without a law for cutting down oak trees, the oak tree owner is privileged to harm the apple orchard owner. How do we know that there is a privilege to coerce? Ask yourself what happens if the apple tree owner comes in a tries to cut down the oak trees on his own. The apple owner is thrown in jail for trespass BY THE STATE. How can the oak owner use his coercive power? Well, among other things, he can say to the apple owner “hey, I’ll cut down my oak trees, but you have to give me 50% of your profits! Hahahahaha”. It may be government coercion exercised by a private actor, but its government coercion because it’s the government protecting the oak owner’s privilege to harm. In other words, its all coercion.
Before you say that Mike and my examples are just stupid garden issues, understand that the Legal Realist critique can be applied to any right, even ones we might nominally like. Just think about who is harmed when you exercise a right – the right of Nazi’s to march thru a town of Jews is the privilege to cause those Jews nightmares – the right of a woman to have an abortion is the privilege to cause sadness in family members and the father (to say nothing of the fetus). Etc Etc. The realist critique can be applied to all rights, but fundamentally its a critique of libertarianism that shows the philosophy to be incoherent. Exciting stuff.
I read that corporate capitalism invented the helicopter.
i can’t quarrel with your analysis of philosophy, which i think is correct.
but i would take the side of the oak tree owner. the “right” of the state to enforce the wishes of those with a money interest is, yes, a practical fact. but the people should be very very wary of allowing this to happen. the apple tree people can take all the ordinary steps to deal with rust as a fact of nature. giving them the power to destroy the “property” of others to make their lives easier and more profitable is dangerous…. and in my opinion fundamentally wrong.
dangerous is many ways… deep and to the core dangerous.
it would be nice to have a “philosophy” or even a religion that absolutely prevented this kind of use of force against individuals. but as we have seen, such philosophy is inadequate and such religion apt to be dangerous in its own ways. so i think we are left with trying to deal with each situation on its own merits.
but a strong preference for leaving people alone would be a healthier civic attitude than one that favors either state intervention on any pretext, or a knee jerk favoring of “what’s good for the economy”.
well, i was hoping
for someone to offer a “principle” that would save the oak tree… or the apple orchard.
i am pretty sure the law could come up with a rationalization either way. and no doubt the people would believe it or not believe it according as they identified with oak owners or apple growers.
me, i take the attitude that me and my oak have been here for hunnerds of years, and now you want to plant apple trees on your proppity and then claim the right to force me to cut down my oak so it won’t harm your appples. the hell with you is what i say. you want to grow apples, grow em any way you can, but that doesn’t give you or the state the right to cut my trees. next you’ll be claiming that because kids steal apples you should send my kids to work on a plantation down the river to protect your apples.
you can see where this goes.
Coberly – “[T]he apple tree people can take all the ordinary steps to deal with rust as a fact of nature. giving them the power to destroy the “property” of others to make their lives easier and more profitable is dangerous…. and in my opinion fundamentally wrong …[next post] a strong preference for leaving people alone would be a healthier civic attitude than one that favors either state intervention on any pretext, or a knee jerk favoring of “what’s good for the economy”.
I don’t think you’re quite responding to the point of the critique. Its not about favoring what’s good for the economy – although some people (Coase and Law and Economics folk) would give that as the only basis on which policy to choose. That’s a different point though. The point of the realist critique is that the language of “leaving me alone” and “don’t destroy my property” is fundamentally incoherent. The realist critique shows that either way, regardless of which policy you choose, you are giving one party the power to destroy the property of others. Period. There is no way to just “leave people alone.” If we left people alone, the apple owner would buy a big gun/chain saw and cut down the oak trees. The state, by its nature, gets to choose that it will protect the Oak tree’s property, or it can license the apple owner to have those trees cut down.
The response that “rust is natural” is no response at all. If you choose that position, you are just letting the oak owner destroy the apple trees. You may justfiy that on lots of grounds – the Oaks were here first (why does that matter), or Oak trees are nice, or children like to climb oaks, or apples are gross. Oak trees eat more Carbon. Whatever. Lots of ways to justify that. The L&E folks choose a policy based on what is “wealth maximizing.” But no matter what, you can’t justify either policy on the grounds that its “leaving people alone…” having no law leaves the oak tree owner alone, yes, but it equally destroys the property of the apple owner. You can substitute in Mike’s original example of a “perfect lawn” versus dandilions, or free speech rights versus intimidation, but the point of the critique is that the resort to language about “leaving me alone” and “preserving liberty” is fundamentally incoherent.
Why I’m not a Libertarian – because their program is unworkable, proven historically to have been unworkable, and insane. But other than that I have no problems with it. Some high points from their manifesto:
“Preamble …(3) the right to property — accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation.” Which means roads, rail and air all become privatized. I won’t go into the insanity of that, it should be obvious even to the most casual libertarian. Try getting a right-of-way to build a new highway or airport. Does anyone believe they could build ANY new rail in the US without eminent domain?
“2.0) All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.” This effectively closes the EPA and FDA. I like clean water and salmonella free hamburger. Eliminates the ability of (whatever’s left of) the government to generate income to sustain the national defense or the courts because it eliminates tariffs and sales taxes.
2.2 “Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources.” Bwahahaha! That is probably the stupidest line in the entire manifesto. It shows a total lack of understanding of humanity. It allows me to strip mine with impunity. Heck, just let your imagination flow at the incredible naivety this line represents. The robber baron era and the actions of chemical companies prior to the establishment of the EPA should dissuade you. Or just look at their actions in the third world.
“2.2 Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, and wildlife.” So who is going to do the protecting and enforcement? Exactly how to you plan to enforce my right not to breathe contaminated air 200 miles downwind? The courts? Bwahaha! The individual vs. Dow Corning!
“2.4 Government Finance and Spending “We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution.” Note the total lack of a list, other than IRS, in this statement. Let’s have a LP person list the programs and services and agencies to be cut so they can be properly mocked. The IRS is the arm of the government that brings in taxes to fund the government. Something has to do this. We call it the IRS. You can abolish the IRS but the next day the XYZ agency will be right there […]
2.5 Money and Financial Markets: In summary: No regulations at all, no accounting standards, no truth in advertising, not even a standard money. Allows the banks to print their own money. This has ‘gold-bug all over it. More historical ignorance on display.
“2.8 Recognizing that the education of children is inextricably linked to moral values, we would return authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government.” Yep throw out child-labor laws and no enforcement of compulsory education. This creates a large pool of cheap labor to be exploited. We tried this before and it failed miserably.
“2.9 We favor restoring and reviving a free market health care system.” No standards, anyone can call themselves a doctor and no regulation at all of the health care system. Let people die in the streets!
“3.4 Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders.” Total loss of control of the US border. Another scheme to allow access to a large pool of easily exploitable labor.
So in summary: No knowledge of how these ideas worked historically (incredibly badly) and why they were thrown out. No knowledge of how human beings respond even with 100s of years of historical proofs heck just look around any third world nation. No ability to fund the government.
But the biggest failure in the entire document is the theory that there should never be prior restraint, which can only be imposed by government regulation of the economy, health-care, etc, etc. You’re only able to stop an action, after the fact, not before and then seek redress through the courts (which are not funded without the IRS, by I digress). The stupidity and pure insanity in this philosophy is why I’m not a libertarian.
Islam will change
Considering that you have, on many occasions, stated that the state can tell people where to work and how to live by use of force if necessary, your defense of the Oak Tree’s from state power seems hypocritical at best.
The State of Virginia (you know the old wise men of the tribe) decided it was in the best interests of all to cut down the deseased oak trees. Who are you to question your elders? You’ve told me over and over through the years that they know best and the plebes should just get in line. And suddenly now you want to stand up for property rights?
Islam will change
A few quick points:
– Force in response to force is not classicly considered coercion in libertarianism; being able to justifiably defend property is fundamental to a coherent concept of property.
– Property as a concept doesn’t require fiat government decree/legislation; there is a rich history of clearly and rationally bounding the concept through ideas such as homesteading, easement and other related ideas.
– A monopoly provider of violence within a given territory (i.e., a state) is not a logical requirement for defense of property.
– Locales which have been devastated by long statist histories, e.g. Somalia, make poor examples for the failings of libertarian concepts.
– Libertarianism doesn’t claim to eliminate all coercion and all wealth concentration, it simply seeks to minimize the leverage that powerful interests can wield through monopoly institutions, which amplifies their extant power.
– Democracy used to be considered highly impractical and empirically disproven during the height of the age of monarchy.
– Being in the right, will not stop you from losing your property to a larger force. Thus you need government to enforce your property rights. If you cannot defend your property you don’t own it. There is a rich history clearly and pointedly bounding that simple concept. Ask the Carthagians about it. One of the principle purposes of every government in history has been the common defense.
– Without a monoploy provider of violence within a discreet territory you will end up with the multiple providers fighting each other. Again the human race has a rich history of this from the Roman Republic to the SS slaughter of the SA in the Nazi Reich. It may not be logical, but it is a requirement.
– Somalia is an example of anarchy not libertarianism (or any other form of government)
– Libertarianism explicitly allows monopoly institutions and has no ability to restrict their power. To do so would require a government to regulate economic activity – something not allowed by the LP manefesto. There is no minimization of monopoly or high wealth concetration of power and the use thereof. I just read the LP manifesto – point to me where there is ANY prior restraint on any such powerful institution.
– And the monarchist were idiots and are gone. They considered the rabble unable to govern themselves and barely able wipe their butts when they shat. Thus they had to be lead by the nobles and high-born. (Coberly will back you here, but no one else). Democracy proved far superior to letting the elites dictate to the rabble what was good for them. HEck, Democracy has proven far superior to any other form of government we’ve inventer so far. But I bet you would have no problem being the farm serf would you?
Islam will change
Poppies – “– Force in response to force is not classicly considered coercion in libertarianism; being able to justifiably defend property is fundamental to a coherent concept of property. “
Again, this is an example of libertarians not getting it: the whole point is that you can’t define what’s a “justified” defense of property without already having a definition of property which results in coercion of others. The oak tree owner can “justifiably defend” his property only if the state has already defined his property rights to include the right to have rust infected oak trees. The apple tree owner can “justifiably defend” his property only if the state has already defined his property rights to mean having an apple orchard which he can defend from rust by having infected oak trees cut down. The “justified” comes from state coercion in the first place. Hence the incoherence of libertarianism – your statement is circular.
The only way to avoid this conundrum is to resort to a natural law definition of property. (eg the definition of property, and what constitutes a justifiable defense of property, comes from godly law that we can determine through reasoned deliberation. Unfortunately, while people commonly resort to natural law rhetoric, nobody who’s studied law (outside of some right wing ubercatholics like John Finnis) believes in natural law anymore (basically, because its pretty damn easy to come up with reasoned arguments for lots of different and competing definitions of property. Thus natural law appeals will do no good).
buffpilot, you seem to imply that governments won’t fight each other, and that they aren’t also in danger of succumbing to a larger force. To both of these points I would say that violence is expensive, and that governments are much more effective at externalizing their costs compared to private defense.
i have never stated that the state can tell people where to work and how to live. This is the mess your brain made of my thought that the state ought to take an interest in solving poverty by finding better ways to educate people for jobs that offer them a shot at human dignity.
Let me say it again: it’s your mind that created the “dale who believes in communist dictatorship.”
I get tired of your putting your nightmare fantasies onto me because you jump to conclusions.
I already told you I agreed with you about the philosophical issue — that is there is no coherent solution. I was merely talking about my preferences re Oak Trees. If you want to get into the “I was here first” as a philosophical justification… you are going to have to find someone else to argue with.
But as a practical issue… I am afraid that I will take a stand against every damn fool who thinks that because he plants an orchard in an area where rust is endemic that he has a right to force his neighbors to destroy their way of life so he can make more money.
Just don’t confuse me with a libertarian.
And let me rant on.
“is no response at all” is a stupid response. It was a goddam response. You may not agree with it. It may not fit the way you choose to parse the issue. But it was a response. And it was intended to show the kind of issue that might get people to choose sides and shoot at each other.
I did try to suggest it is an issue which does point at something the libertarians are trying to get at… even if as a “philosophy” or worse, a “rule of government” it fails.
But leaving people alone if you possibly can is a good place to start if you want to live in reasonable peace with others.
Just want to let you know that this commie dictatorship loving sub-person agrees with you entirely in your critique of the Libertarian platform.
But then I’ll turn around, because DY didn’t get it, and say that insofar as the Libertarians “general” believe in being left alone, if possible, I agree with them. So do you.
But that doesn’t mean the government should “leave the economy alone.” Or leave the poor to write their own resumes.
i was about to agree with you, until you made that crack about Coberly.
I do believe the more successful in a society have a self interest in looking after the less successful. I get that idea not from Louis XIV or Carl Marx, but from my son in law who runs a farm and tries to make sure that he can find work for the local labor supply… according to their ability… in a way that preserves their dignity.
The reason I have my doubts about the people being able to govern themselves is that I read what the Congressmen say every day.
so does that make your “natural law” argument circular?
I would agree with Buff about democracy if he would let me. The only thing that works, sort of, so far is a democracy with checks and balances.
But I’m not even sure that will work once we lose our respect for our neighbors wishes and feeling.
To make that a little clearer: I will fight to defend my “right” to be left alone (with my oak trees). No doubt you will fight to protect your investment in apples. You will likely be better able to buy a few legislators than i will. But if i can persuade my neighbors that what you are trying to do is dangerous and unfair, we may meet you at the bridge with our muskets.
There is your “natural law.” Push the people far enough and they will fight. One way or the other. Of course, it’s easy enough to convince the people they have been pushed far enough when you only ask them to pay a reasonable tax to support the army that protects them from the French and Indians… as George III found out.
Let me speak for Buff until he can find a way to disagree with me.
I don’t think he implied any such thing. He merely pointed out that your Libertarians were opening themselves up to a level of anarchy that will be much worse for them than the government coercion they are experience today in the US of A.
Of course governments fight each other. That’s why we ask you to pay taxes to support an army. And why we ask you to pay taxes to support the people who will have to fight in the army.
NOt all of them of course. JUst those who can’t seem to support themselves adequately under the current economic arrangements.
No buff, I am not talking about other arrangements like socialism. I just mean that today a programmer makes good money. Tomorrow we may need strong laborers more.
And we may really, really want those oak trees back, when you find out that man does not live on apples alone.
As noted earlier on this thread, libertarians decry government intervention only until they see some use for such intervention. It’s all in how one spells out the need. Certainly you have all heard or read by now the words of recently elected Sen. Rand Paul, the great libertarian in a long line of libertarians. Well maybe not so long a line. In case you missed it, Rand has stated clearly that it’s OK with him if the government voids the First Amendment and starts to jail people not only for their extreme or reactionary words, but also for their listening to such words. You’d best sell your personal copy of Mein Kampf before its too late. From the Sean Hannity interview: “But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.”
Does that mean that I risk government intervention because I’ve read of the Hannity interview and it’s unlikely to find anyone more extreme than Hannity conversing with Rand Paul? Any discussion of the legitimacy or consistency of someone’s libertarian philosophy should take into account the total inconsistency of that philosophy as typically held by most libertarians.
Re: Property rights. Carl Sandburg, in his book ‘The People, Yes’ tells the following story.
A young man was patrolling the farthest acres of his family’s very, very large ranch when he came across a squatter’s mud home. The squatter was outside tending to a garden. The young man told the squatter had to move because it was not his land. The squatter asked the young man. ‘Where did your father get his land?’ The young man answered ‘From my grandfather.’ The squatter asked ‘Where did your grandfather get his land?’ The young man replied ‘He fought the Indians for the land.’ To which the squatter replied ‘Get down from your horse and I’ll fight you for the land.’
Nice story. In the real world the young man probably would have pulled out his rifle and shot the squatter dead. But the point is still valid.
@Coberly – “so does that make your “natural law” argument circular?”
Kind of – I don’t know if “circular” is the right term, but certainly I consider Natural Law appeals invalid. My point was that saying that “justifiable” defenses of property is not coercion is inevitably circular because the very definition of justifiable relies on a coercive defnition of the basket of property rights. Some people try to avoid that conundrum by using some sort of “Natural Law” rule, but I don’t think that will work because Natural Law appeals don’t work. Like most lawyers, I’m a positivist, meaning I believe that “laws” are rules made by and for humans, and not something we can find in “nature.” So saying “God” or “reason” demands X rule of property law is not something anyone finds remotely convincing, unless you have an a prior definition of God that you are not willing to argue about (this is what Finnis and other natural law catholics do).
But anyway, I wanted to respond to this earlier statement you made:
“But as a practical issue… I am afraid that I will take a stand against every damn fool who thinks that because he plants an orchard in an area where rust is endemic that he has a right to force his neighbors to destroy their way of life so he can make more money.”
That statement is relying on a libertarian argument that the realist critique renders incoherent (I’m not accusing you of being a Paulite – resort to libertarian arguments is common all across the spectrum). But the point of the critique is that you can’t just choose a policy by deciding which one “leaves me alone” – you are “forcing” someone, be it the apple owner or the oak owner, to suffer a loss. What if the apple owner said this:
“The Oak owner is a damn fool who thinks that because he plants his oak trees in an area where I’ve been raising my apple trees, that he has a right to force his neighbors to destroy their way of life so he can have oak trees to cut down for firewood and let children play in.”
So who do you stand with? Compare that statement with your earlier statement on teh side of the oak owner. You stood with the oak tree owner in your earlier post because he had his oak trees first (or that’s what your pos timplied), and you don’t think he should have to cut them down. What if the apple trees were there first? (I would actually think that situation is more common – especially when you bring in a foreign invasive species that wipes out preexisting native species). Should we decide which legal policy should exist based on whose property existed first? What’s the justification for that? What if the oak trees came second and existed beside apple trees for a 5 years, but then a rust fungus (or any other nuisance) migrated in and starting infecting apple trees? Again, the point is that you can’t choose your polciy based on which one “leaves me alone”. BOTH POLICIES COERCE SOMEBODY.
Coming up with a way to choose a policy has been the project of a lot of 20th century legal thought, and there still aren’t many good answers after 50 years, so I don’t expect you to come up with one (and while I think choosing the “wealth maximizing” policy is generally a good idea, for mayn of the reasons you’ve articulated I don’t think that can be the only criteria). My point was simply that using the phrase “leave me alone” fundamentally won’t work as an actual argument, even if as politicla rhetoric it’s a potent weapon. […]
Sorry for the typos….yuck
I agree with you about the incoherence of a libertarian “philosophy.”
Then you fail to follow me when I add that from an entirely unphilosophical perspective I will fight any damn fool who thinks he can come to where I live and tell me to cut down my trees.
I was hoping you could see the difference. I am not relying on “philosophy.” I am telling you what I will fight for. I am perfectly willing to coerce you if you are so dumb and greedy you think you can coerce me to your advantage.
I think we can learn something from the libertarians… if not their philosophy or their political platform… which is insane… but just the idea that it’s a good idea to have some respect for the wishes of our neighbors.
I think the “i was here first” does have good standing in law. But i decided not to become a lawyer when i saw how easy it was for judges to make stuff up and rationalize it.
As for “wealth maximizing”… that is the insanity that is destroying us.
by the way… i did not understand that you were NOt proposing “natural law” as a philosophy…. read the way you wrote it and you may see why it was confusing. but in any case i am glad to correct my misunderstanding. it feels so much better than telling someone his response “is no resonse at all.”
on the other hand, it strikes me that you are anti libertarian not so much because they are philosophically inadequate as because you DO approve of unlimited government power to interfere in the lives of people. And government power means the desires of those with the money to influence government.
So while I think the libertarians are insane, I think they may be necessary to provide a check on the unrestrained “liberals” who are just as much fools of the folks who own government as are the libertarians.
trouble is the libertarians we got don’t restrain government anywhere it might actually do people some good. quite the opposite.
in the real world the “owner” would have called the cops and they would have shot the squatter dead if he resisted arrest.
you see, what makes the Libertarian position insane is that they reserve the right to call in the government to enforce their proppity rights. but they don’t want to pay taxes for it. and they don’t want you to be able to call in the government to enforce what you may foolishly imagine are your rights against their encroachment. and of course they prefer a world in which the future soldiers or laborers are left to starve because any government program that would solve an economic problem is ipso facto an infringement of their right to be free of government and taxes.
you put your finger on it. the people calling themselves Libertarians these days are insane. They can get elected because they appeal to the simple minded belief that taxes are too high and the gummint is a meddling fool.
Of course taxes probably ARE too high, and the government is often a meddling fool… but that’s the price we pay for civilization.
Yes, my note on natural law was originally confusing – I was trying to anticipate where people might go looking for justifications for definitions of property, but it came off as endorsing natural law rather than condemning.
I wasn’t trying to insult your response as “no response at all”, I’m sorry it came off that way. I was trying to say that an argument in favor of the oak owner getting to keep his trees because rust is natural is non responsive to the argument that doing so coerces the apple owner. It may be true, may not be, but the point is that its coercion no matter what. It also sounded kind of catchy at the time.
As for me being a liberal, kinda but not really. The realist critique not only hits libertarians hard, it hits all of liberal political theory (that was my original point about all rights being subject to the critique). This is one reason it briefly fell out of fashion during WWII and the 1950s (only to be revived by Critical Legal Studies) Never have I been more intellectually challenged in my life than when my very left wing professor used realist style critiques to come after Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas. I’ve never seen better arguments be lodged against those sacred liberal rights than by a radical who actually favored them.
Its not so much that I’m in favor of unrestrained government or private coercion, its that I think its inevitable to have coercion everywhere. Rhetorically, we call some of this coercion “rights” and pretend its not coercion. I try to favor policies not based on which promote “liberty” and “freedom,” which although useful as rhetorical tools — Instead, I actually somewhat endorse what you said – don’t worry too much about deep philosophy – but if you think the oak owner should keep his trees, then goddamnit light up a torch. And that gets me to Richard Rorty, who I’ve only briefly read, but from what I understand, he says “screw philosophy – do what pragmatically makes sense!” And that’s a philosophy anti-philosophy I can agree with.
I can agree with that.
But permit me. I never said rust is natural so let me keep my rusty trees. I said I got there first and I’ll fight for me trees.
Then you seem to think you can turn my argument against me: what if the apple trees got there first?
Sorry to disappoint you, but if I arrived in a new country with my bag of oak seedlings and they said, sorry, no oaks here, bub, we got apples. they got rust, I might be disappointed, I might be angry even. But i’d respect that “they got there first” so much that i’d only be mad at myself for lack of due diligence. Not that I am going to endorse “i got here first” as a universal principle the law should follow in all cases. Only that my experience has been that most reasonable people respect it…. when they can. And of course when I say “reasonable” I mean “they think like me.”
And I do a pretty good job of making people on both sides of the aisle mad at me, when I say…. but wait, he may have a point there we need to think about.
and yes, it always comes down to coercion… and persuasion… and sometimes a little decent restraint.
the thing about the law is it lets you know which side the big guns are on.
What is the definition of a “community”, is it just a gated sub-division, or is it the town? what if that town happens to be NYC? Is NYC still a “community”? Is a State a community, logically is should be if NYC is, since NYC has more people in it than half of the states. Why isn’t the USA as a whole a community? If a “community” chooses a new ordinance for say weeds, one that I happen to live in and don’t agree with, am I not still coirsed to go along, or coersed into moving out of where I have been living. Why is it volentary if it happens in a “community” of 300, but not in a “community” of 300 million?
because in Galts Gulch we all get along.
DY, I’ve not met too many people who hold the views you hold. I find them very interesting and would love to ask you questions directly so as to not threadjack at AB. Would you be okay with that?
The hard LP types are just as nust as the looney left or the religous right. For the LP they take a good idea – small, effective government that basically leaves you alone, and ratchets that up to 11 as the saying goes. I could have added more to my rant, but this was enough. Most of the LP platform has already been tried and failed historically and we have moved on.
Your not a sub-person, just a commie loving one! 🙂
Islam will change
Sorry – it was a cheap shot. I’ll tone it back down. But you point about Congressmen is an excellent rebuttal….
Islam will change
That was very nice and just about what I would say. And probably nicer also!
I would add that governments are much better at pooling resources for effective defense compared to private defense. See Somalia as a clear example where private defense cannot even come close to stopping a public backed offense. You don’t get M-1 tanks in teh private sector….
Islam will change
Yea-I’m not sure how to do that without publicizing our respective emails. Should we care if we publicize them?
Libertarians want you to believe that the rights will be available to all, when the top 1% will use their property rates to even further take over the country.
We’ve already been through the Era of Libertarianism in the late 19th century. It was an era where the robber barons bought up the country and used their economic power to pay poverty wages to everyone else. Government was owned by the robber barons and existed to keep their economic power and property right monopolies intact. If it wasn’t for the accidental presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, it would have gone on well into the 20th century.
What amazes me is that all of the Libertarians believe that they are going to be part of the top 1%, when it is far more likely that they will be digging dirt with the other 99%.
Libertarian or not, we have to decide what kind of country we want to live in, what level of government involvement we truly want in our private lives. In your example, each choice, government policing of property upkeep or self policing of property upkeep, has its pros and cons. If we turn over issues such as weed control, noise control, etc. to the government, this robs us of the opportunity to work with our neighbors in such a way that could be to everyone’s benefit. Yes, there will be times that we are inconvenienced by our neighbors, but does this mean that we have no recourse but to call on the government to force our neighbors to do what we like, or are there other, more civil options. In the case of your neighbor with the weed problem, have you ever spoken to her about why she doesn’t keep up her lawn? Do you know whether or not she has the money, resources, or energy to deal with such a problem. Maybe you might have the opportunity to help your neighbor as well as yourself by helping her to deal with her yard. Sure, it might cost you some money and time, but maybe not so much more than what you would spend simply trying to protect your own yard, and you might gain a friendship, or perhaps your neighbor might be more inspired to keep up her yard because she would care more about the impact it had on her neighbors. If we use the force of the state to deal with these kinds of issues, we could be placing a much greater hardship on our neighbors than we know. Maybe your neighbor just lost her life savings in the stock market and has to make a choice between weed killer and bread. Maybe she had a serious injury and can’t do the physical work to keep up her lawn. The government does not care about such things. It is not flexible. It enforces the law no matter what. Is this the better option?
finally, someone with a clue. this is first semester law concepts and the basis of all property law in the usa. learn this first and then spout your ‘understanding’ of libertarian concepts.