Print Story Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose
By TheophileEscargot (Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 08:57:58 AM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "For A New Liberty". Watching: "Alpha Papa". Links.

What I'm Reading
For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto by Murray Rothbard. 1973 book that gets recommended a lot on the anarcho-capitalist forums.

Some libertarians are willing to accept a minimal government for national defence and contract , but Rothbard wants to abolish it altogether. Defence funding will instead be purely voluntary:

In the first place, the form and quantity of defense expenditures would be decided upon by the American consumers themselves. Those Americans who favor Polaris submarines, and fear a Soviet threat, would subscribe toward the financing of such vessels. Those who prefer an ABM system would invest in such defensive missiles. Those who laugh at such a threat or those who are committed pacifists would not contribute to any "national" defense service at all. Different defense theories would be applied in proportion to those who agree with, and support, the various theories being offered. Given the enormous waste in all wars and defense preparations in all countries throughout history, it is certainly not beyond the bounds of reason to propose that private, voluntary defense efforts would be far more efficient than government boondoggles.
Policing is similar:
...police services were supplied on a free, competitive market. In that case, consumers would pay for whatever degree of protection they wish to purchase. The consumers who just want to see a policeman once in a while would pay less than those who want continuous patrolling, and far less than those who demand twenty-four-hour bodyguard service.

...suppose that the Times Square area, including the streets, was privately owned, say by the "Times Square Merchants Association." The merchants would know full well, of course, that if crime was rampant in their area, if muggings and holdups abounded, then their customers would fade away and would patronize competing areas and neighborhoods. Hence, it would be to the economic interest of the merchants' association to supply efficient and plentiful police protection, so that customers would be attracted to, rather than repelled from, their neighborhood.

I was expecting that there would be at least some kind of token acknowledgement of the existence of collective action problems, and if not a solution, some attempt to downplay them. The obvious thing here is free rider problems. Everyone as an individual has an incentive not to contribute to the defence fund and rely on their neighbours: but if everyone acts that way there's not enough money. Similarly every merchant in Times Square has an incentive not to pay for the policing and rely on the others in the association. However, Rothbard simply ignores them.

The obvious solution to the free-rider problem is of course to make the area of ownership big enough. If a single company owns Times Square, it can pay for security in that area with no such problem. Rather than run the shops itself, which requires specialist knowledge, it might lease out shops, or perhaps sell the permanent right to live or work there, in exchange for the appropriate taxesfees, and as long as they follow the lawsrules. Rothbard doesn't suggest this, perhaps because it would raises awkward questions about whether that concept is actually different to a state.

Regarding the theory, the chief doctrine is the "non-aggression principle", that no-one can violate the property rights of anyone else. The entire libertarian world, including rivers, is to be private property. Issues like pollution are to be solved by lawsuits where everybody sues the polluter. Human rights are considered to be themselves property rights by the concept of "self-ownership".

The right of land ownership is considered to derive from labor. Rothbard quotes John Locke, who he considered to be a proto-libertarian extensively

Though the water running in the fountain be every one's, yet who can doubt but that in the pitcher is his only who drew it out? His labour hath taken it out of the hands of Nature where it was common . . . and hath thereby appropriated it to himself
Rothbard, as most libertarians, talks a lot about the "homesteader" in this context:
For, as we have seen, no producer really "creates" matter; he takes nature-given matter and transforms it by his labor energy in accordance with his ideas and vision. But this is precisely what the pioneer — the "homesteader" — does when he brings previously unused land into his own private ownership. Just as the man who makes steel out of iron ore transforms that ore out of his know-how and with his energy, and just as the man who takes the iron out of the ground does the same, so does the homesteader who clears, fences, cultivates, or builds upon the land. The homesteader, too, has transformed the character of the nature-given soil by his labor and his personality. The homesteader is just as legitimately the owner of the property as the sculptor or the manufacturer; he is just as much a "producer" as the others.
Rothbard argues that since the homesteader has applied his labour to give the land labour, he therefore has a right to sell this land to others, or to will it to his descendants.

The obvious problem here is what happens when you get to later generations than the original "homesteader". (Where I live, the homesteaders lived in the Bronze Age.) By then, the landowners will have either inherited or bought the land: they might do their own labour, or they might employ others to work for them. If they employ others though, then somehow the labour-rights of a long-dead homesteader to the land are overriding the labour-rights of many subsequent generations. The typical left-anarchist belief that the land belongs to whoever works or occupies it therefore seems more consistent than the anarcho-capitalist "homesteader" concept.

It could of course be argued that land ownership by non-workers is more economically efficient. However, Rothbard explicitly rejects any such utilitarian justification of property rights, pointing out that this inevitably leads to a softening from libertarianism to mere liberalism.

There were two grave consequences of this shift from natural rights to utilitarianism. First, the purity of the goal, the consistency of the principle, was inevitably shattered. For whereas the natural-rights libertarian seeking morality and justice cleaves militantly to pure principle, the utilitarian only values liberty as an ad hoc expedient. And since expediency can and does shift with the wind, it will become easy for the utilitarian in his cool calculus of cost and benefit to plump for statism in ad hoc case after case, and thus to give principle away....

It so happens that the free-market economy, and the specialization and division of labor it implies, is by far the most productive form of economy known to man, and has been responsible for industrialization and for the modern economy on which civilization has been built. This is a fortunate utilitarian result of the free market, but it is not, to the libertarian, the prime reason for his support of this system. That prime reason is moral and is rooted in the natural-rights defense of private property we have developed above. Even if a society of despotism and systematic invasion of rights could be shown to be more productive than what Adam Smith called "the system of natural liberty," the libertarian would support this system.

Overall, a bit disappointed by the book. I spent a bit of time on the Reddit anarcho-capitalism forums lately, and Rothbard seems to be regarded as the great intellectual heavyweight of the movement, but he doesn't seem to be a whole lot more convincing than the other Internet libertarians. The foundations of the movement seem to be based on a certain amount of magical thinking, and they evade the problems this causes rather than confront them.

Why is it coercive when a state says "pay taxes, follow laws or leave", when it's non-coercive for a corporation to say "pay fees, follow rules or leave"? When land property rights come from "mixing labour with the land", why do the rights of a distant homesteader ancestor supersede the rights of the current labourers? What about collective action problems like the tragedy of the anticommons and the free rider problem? These questions aren't even answered unconvincingly, they're just ignored.

However, the book is clearly written and has detailed examples of how a libertarian world is supposed to work. I'm prepared to believe this is the best book on libertarian philosophy that there is.

What I'm Watching
Saw the Alan Partidge: Alpha Papa movie. Fairly entertaining, some funny moments. Helped by a great performance from Colm Meaney as a sacked DJ holding the radio station hostage. Suffers a bit from having all the best bits in the trailer. I also find the humour-of-embarrassment a bit wincing at times, but liked this though I found the later TV series a bit too hard to take.

Socioeconomics. Why labour markets don't clear: the spiral of intervention. Waiting in vain for the rebound. Mondragon and the system problem. Paul Krugman Will Hutton review Piketty.

Video. Crosswind plane difficulties on BHX "rock and roll runway"

Sci/Tech. AIM and MSN messenger/ Was Windows 8 a mistake What is the evolutionary benefit or purpose of having periods?

Articles. The Radical Victorian Lady behind an Essential Collection of Botanical Art. 5 Terrible Things I Learned as a Corporate Whistleblower/ Etymology of "abracadabra"

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Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose | 25 comments (25 topical, 0 hidden)
Planning to have a crack at Nozick? by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #1 Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 10:16:31 AM EST
Anarchy, State, Utopia?

I thought your review of Rawls was a bit harsh bit didn't have my thoughts together enough. I don't even remember the bit on states of exception from A Theory of Justice.

Iambic Web Certified

Probably not by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #3 Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 10:39:13 AM EST
Feeling distinctly lacking in energy for another long, complicated read. Will get even harder when I start the new job soon.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Nozick isn't all that complicated by lm (4.00 / 1) #6 Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 03:46:42 PM EST
And, from what I recall from my reading of it several years ago, he brings up some of the same problems with Rothbard's scheme, which he refers to as the ultra-minimalist state, that you do.

But certainly it does take time. As a new parent, your time is a precious commodity and one that is going to be stretched overly thin now that you're starting a new position and have to tackle some new technologies.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Oh well by Scrymarch (4.00 / 2) #14 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 10:09:36 AM EST
There's certainly no shortage of problems by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 2) #17 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 11:46:37 AM EST
With utilitarianism.

But as a theory, capitalism is definitely deeply bound up with utilitarianism; both in its Enlightenment origins, and its moral justification as a way of maximizing the satisfaction of preferences. Trying to reformulate capitalism as a theory of natural rights instead is very difficult and tends to leave you with something completely incoherent. The main advantages of doing so seem to be that it gives you an excuse to object to taxes and incovenient laws and get on your high horse about "rights" while doing so.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
True enough by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #27 Sun Apr 27, 2014 at 09:51:13 AM EST
It's also interesting that Rawls, who had one of the better alternatives, basically proposed a different utility function. The idea that you had to think about society as a whole in very material terms was established very firmly already, and was one of the more radical aspects, as I understand it.

I suspect non-consequentialists like libertarians are better off arguing a Rawlsian veil of ignorance means we should choose some sort of minarchist or anarcho-capitalist state. Ie accept Rawls argument structure but not his premises. In fact I vaguely recall people doing, but I'm not really up on the latest hip anarcho-capitalist trends, especially since Reason mag and Cato got more tedious and doctrinaire under the Koch brothers ownership. Or maybe I just started seeing through their shtick more.

Hayek and von Mises would be other libertarian intellectual usual suspects. One day I'll read The Road to Serfdom instead of the PJ O'Rourke cliff notes. Of course by most strict libertarian definitions they are merely austere liberals. Funding public education! The gall.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
BHX... by ana (4.00 / 1) #2 Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 10:19:39 AM EST
Yikes. I remember one landing at Manchester, NH in a crosswind in winter. It was bumpy enough that the passengers gave the cabin crew an ovation after we rolled out.  

I now know what the noise that is usually spelled "lolwhut" sounds like. --Kellnerin

"Working the land" by ucblockhead (4.00 / 3) #7 Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 09:07:16 PM EST
There are always implicit assumptions about what "working the land" means.  Someone (usually a white guy) is "working the land" because he fenced something off and started growing crops, but the dark skinned guy he drove off, who was harvesting the wildlife for meat and furs wasn't "using the land".
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
Microsoft by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #8 Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 09:13:19 PM EST
This line jumped out at me:

"I think the problem with Windows 8 all along has been that nothing about it was driven by user need,"

That is also the reason the XBox One is struggling compared to my own company's product.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

wow by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #9 Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 10:24:15 PM EST
A merchants association could get together, require its members to pay a fee and keep the streets clean and safe.  You could call this association, I dunno, a city perhaps?

Maybe by lm (4.00 / 1) #11 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 12:56:41 AM EST
One big difference is implied (vs explicit) agreement to the contract.

Another big difference is a city providing necessary services (e.g. police) even if an entity (individual or corporate) declines to pay taxes whereas a contractual association would decline to provide services if an individual declined to pay dues.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
what if "clean and safe" by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #22 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 07:54:56 PM EST
requires the non-consensual removal of undesirables? Oddly, the first thing that popped to mind was the reputation of safety [for whites, not sure about others] in Baltimore's Little Italy:(deep in the city, back long before the Inner Harbor became a tourist attraction). The Mob always seemed to be the type of government Libertarians idealize, so maybe it is.


[ Parent ]
The mob may not be a great example by lm (4.00 / 2) #24 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 10:55:25 PM EST
Protection rackets, as one example, frequently use force to convince folks to pay up whether they would like to or not.

Anyway, there is the free rider problem. If police services were entirely a private affair, many people would move into a well policed area and not pay for police services. Eventually, the number of non-policed homes would grow and make burglary an attractive proposition because there are decent odds that one would be breaking into a non-policed house. Signs indicating police contracts would become meaningless because many people would put fake signs up to fool would be burglars.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
True, but by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #26 Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 01:52:51 PM EST
I never really thought a "protection racket" protected you from anybody other than the mob (and was deeply suspect of the "Myth Adventure" book that was based on such an assumption). Not sure if it was the Mob proper (and providing full service for their cut), people reading in too much into a community watch (known for brandishing machine guns during riots), or simply the mob deciding that they would be the only operating criminals in their community (completely aside from protection).

I just lived in the burbs and heard that the small area in what would be later seen as "The Wire"land was considered "safe".


[ Parent ]
baby steps. by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #23 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 10:28:52 PM EST
I'm sure the first governments of the world didn't just poof into existence.

[ Parent ]
I can't make heads or tails of that response by lm (4.00 / 5) #10 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 12:53:25 AM EST
A private entity owns a plot of land. This entity rents space to individuals who sign a private contract and if they violate that contract are punished or evicted using threats of violence according to the terms of the contact.

A state controls a section of land. The state allows individuals who accept the social contract to reside there if those individuals violate the contract, they are punished or evicted using threats of violence according to the terms of the social contract.

In both cases, barring places like North Korea, individuals who do not like the contract can more out. Wherein lies the difference?

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
A brave and open-minded reader, as always by johnny (4.00 / 4) #12 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 06:38:22 AM EST
At first I wondered why a sophisticated and schooled thinker as yourself would bother reading a book on Libertarian magical thinking theory. I certainly never would.

But as I read your review I felt a growing sense of gratitude, because it is, in a way, rank prejudice to dismiss Libertarian magical thinking theory as flat-earth, the-moon-is-made-of-green-cheese nonsense without having read their #1 thinker. So now you've given it a careful reading and have reported back to us that it is, in fact, nothing but magical thinking all the way down as we long suspected. And for this, I thank you.

She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)

Theophile reads these things so we don't have to by priestess (4.00 / 3) #15 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 11:18:12 AM EST
Seems to me the biggest difference between a libertarian state and a proper one is essentially democratic control.

In one votes get some say, in the other it's money all the way.

Chat to the virtual me...

[ Parent ]
Windows 8 by priestess (4.00 / 1) #16 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 11:20:50 AM EST
I've used Windows 8 for all of two minutes. Didn't like it much. It's so bad it's driven even my parents into Apple's hands.

Mind you, Gnome was getting silly too. I seem to have switched to using XFCE when I upgraded to Jessie, coz Gnome just gets more slow and horrible each release. It's like going back in time to when computers weren't so horrible to use and when they were actually fast and responsive.

Which is good.

So maybe everything in computer UI since the naughties was a mistake.

Chat to the virtual me...

whistleblowing on anybody by garlic (4.00 / 0) #18 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 12:43:38 PM EST
is like proving to your current and future employers that you're a turncoat. Doing the right thing is probably going to hurt you a lot, and often times more than it hurts them.

crazy talk by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #19 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 05:17:00 PM EST
> Issues like pollution are to be solved by lawsuits where everybody sues the polluter.

This will not work.

The problem is that you cannot establish with sufficient specificity that whatever harm was caused by $pollution is traceable to that particular polluter. Because there's more than one, especially when it comes to air pollution, so you can't establish that any individual source is either necessary OR sufficient to cause your injury.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

you're spending time with the an-caps? by gzt (4.00 / 1) #20 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 05:51:29 PM EST
they're intellectually vapid. Rothbard is just a race-baiting kook.

the only person with any kind of respectable intellectual pedigree barking anywhere near them in Nozick. and he doesn't like them.

Nothin' ain't worth nothin', but it's free. by ana (4.00 / 2) #21 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 06:09:46 PM EST
 Which reminds me of the time, while in college, that I was working at a fast food joint. I went out to sweep up the trash in the parking lot, and found a business card sized piece of paper. It had the name and address of a campground a state away (roughly a day's drive), a bunch of stars around the edge, and the inscription
not good for anything; it's just free

I now know what the noise that is usually spelled "lolwhut" sounds like. --Kellnerin

This is great. by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #25 Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 11:05:26 PM EST

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Fascinating. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #28 Sun Apr 27, 2014 at 05:22:32 PM EST
I did not realize how little I knew about the placenta until today. Thank you.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose | 25 comments (25 topical, 0 hidden)