Monday, June 11, 2018

Propertarianism, Libertarianism, Culture, and Tradition



I have never looked into the concept of propertarianism before.  To the extent I had heard the term in the past, I considered it a critic’s way to refer to libertarianism – you know: “those libertarians, all they care about in law is their property.”

Now it is time to correct this misconception.

First, some background.  The website from which the current essay is taken has on its masthead the following:  Propertarianism: The Philosophy of Western Civilization in Scientific Terms.  From the “About” page (all emphasis in original):

The central idea is the completion of the scientific method, and its application to the entire spectrum of human knowledge.

The rest of the work consists of application of that scientific method to the scope of human knowledge: “Here is the completed scientific method. If we apply the completed scientific method to the full scope of human knowledge, organized by combining categories of philosophy and social science into a single hierarchy, the result is *all of these ideas*.” 

The consequence of completing such a reformation of the scope of human knowledge, is our ability to explain not only all of human behavior, but to compare all human civilizations and explain why each excelled (The West), developed (China), fell into stasis (India), or regressed (Islam, Australian aboriginals, and possibly central africans), were conquered (far too many), or Collapsed (Mesoamericans).

Not a small task, and I do not intend to follow the path this far.  Instead, I will focus on a very small subset taken from the “Core Concepts” essay.  I will not examine the entire essay; I find only portions of it relevant to the discussion here and to my interests.  However, for completeness, I offer short excerpts from the introductory portions of the essay:

What is Propertarianism?  Propertarianism is a scientific, rational, empirical, approach to understanding and analyzing human behavior, incentives, norms, institutions, cooperation and conflict originated by Curt Doolittle and developed by him in cooperation with others.

What is Science?  Science, or the “scientific method” is an empirical method for gaining understanding of reality and access to truth.

Testimonialism: Testimonialism is limiting your speech and communication to testimony of that which is your personal, first-hand, knowledge; free of assumption, bias, error, misunderstanding, leaps to conclusions, etc.

Operationalism: Operationalism means speaking in operations or actions, like a recipe or a computer program.

Propertarianism Grew Out of Libertarianism: Curt Doolittle and many of his students are former libertarians or students of the libertarian project, which is itself descended from and something of a reboot of enlightenment classical liberalism.

I will not examine what are described in the essay as the errors of libertarianism, only to offer:

To correct these errors, Propertarianism seeks to reconcile what is salvageable from the libertarian project…

With this, we can begin:

What Makes Propertarianism Propertarian?  One of the central insights of propertarianism is that all rights are property rights…

So far, no conflict with libertarianism.  The issue lies in the definition of property.  Whereas libertarians limit property to the physical – to include the body – propertarianism goes farther:

What is Property?  Property is that which individuals and groups demonstrate a willingness and ability to defend.

Whether libertarians agree with this definition as pure “libertarianism,” one cannot escape that the issue must be dealt with in the real world; people will defend much more than physical property, no matter how elegantly pure the theorist.

So property could be physical, private, property, or it could be the market value of the same. It could be physical, common, property, like a park. It could be common, intangible, property: like public order and decency, the integrity of our language or culture, truth in the “marketplace of ideas,” the ancestral gene pool, or something else. It could be private but intangible: reputation, intellectual property, honor, etc.

I take exception to some of this, but will come to this later.  The problem, as advocates of propertarianism see it, is as follows:


…if the purpose of property rights, norms, and regimes, is to minimize conflicts by codifying who owns what, and consequently, who may do what, where, and why, then…there are whole categories of conflict [libertarianism] does not address nor prevent because it does not codify property rights in things that people value (with good reason) and conflict over….

Yes, this is one of the items I have struggled with.

Propertarians speak of “Property in Toto” or property in all of its forms, to include everything over which people lay claim, everything over which people demonstrate ownership, everything people defend and everything over which people conflict.

You insult my wife.  I punch you in the nose.  Which one of us has broken the law if the purpose of law is to minimize conflict?  Libertarians would have one answer and propertarians another.

If someone wants to fight you because you are insulting his woman’s honor, it’s pointless to maintain that he has no “right” to fight you because you have a “right” to say whatever you want to about her. He’s going to want to fight you, and he probably will, all your protests or arguments to the contrary notwithstanding. “Rights” arguments are generally a means of trying to get your way or justify and license your own behavior without paying its full costs (one cost of insulting someone’s woman is the cost of defending yourself from retaliation in defense of her honor.)

The fact that someone wants to fight you to defend his woman’s honor demonstrates that he considers this his property. Your critiques of its legitimacy as property are irrelevant.

This is my point.  That which is called “property” in the strictest libertarian definition may not be all that some people consider to be property.  Whatever the one offering the verbal insult believes about property, the husband is going to punch him in the nose…and there goes the idea of law minimizing conflict.

Further:

Besides the different conceptions of property and rights, the main point of departure of propertarianism from libertarianism is rejection of the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP.) The NAP is in some sense question begging, because it depends critically on a theory of property. Without a theory of property you can’t tell what is aggression and what isn’t, what is defense, retaliation, etc.

Except that the libertarians do have a theory of property; it just is one with which propertarians take issue and one which I have suggested might not fit for all people in all cultures all of the time.

Finally, the standard for valid transactions among propertarians (emphasis in original):

“Nothing but voluntary, fully informed, warrantied, transactions, free from negative externality… else we fight.”

There is much more to this piece – much that libertarians would generally agree with and some that libertarians would find disagreeable.  I may return to this at a later time.

In a short summary, I offer my two cents. 

First, to dispatch with my one strong disagreement – the criteria for a valid transaction, identified immediately above in bold.  No two parties in a transaction can ever be “fully informed” in any strict sense of the words “fully” or “informed.”  They do not have the same brain capacity, they do not necessarily know what is important to the other, they do not have similar life experiences, and they do not have similar expectations of the product – no matter how much discussion they have on the matter.  People think differently; people have different definitions in mind. 

Second, every transaction comes with a negative externality.  It is called supply and demand.  As soon as I demand a product, the price of all other similar and complimentary products will rise – albeit minutely, but they will rise.  Conversely, as soon as I supply a product, the price of all similar products will fall – complimentary product prices may very well rise.  I sell my house at a price below that which my neighbor thinks it is worth – a negative externality for my neighbor.  Tough luck for him.

If fully informed and absence of negative externality are cause for fight, we are in for a world of nothing but fights.  The world functions pretty well without certainty in either of these; I suggest leaving well-enough alone.

Now, on to my agreement: property is to be defined before one can speak of aggression or law.  It is to be defined in different ways by different groups in different places.  Propertarianism apparently comes to this through science; it seems to me culture and tradition is sufficient for the purpose – call it the science of trial and error toward what works to reduce conflict, what works over the course of generations.

That many libertarians wish property to be very strictly limited to physical property (including life) is really irrelevant.  People will defend what they value – always and everywhere – weighing the cost and benefit of that defense versus the value of the “property.”  As “we” work this out, we come to define property.

Conclusion

A child is shot as punishment for stealing an apple.  I recall writing once, upon hearing this inanity from a prominent libertarian author; you will ruin libertarianism.  I recall few, if any, prominent libertarians publicly calling out the inanity of this statement.  If this is just under libertarianism, it is a dead theory to me.    Of course, I have concluded it is not just.  Propertarians, it seems would conclude the same – perhaps for different reasons.  

I got there via culture and tradition – and defended my view in this manner from the beginning.  Propertarians get there through science – however, as I read further through the subject essay, for the most part the science is based on culture and tradition.

I may examine this additional part of the essay in the near future, but for now this is enough.

76 comments:

  1. I like the approach to defining property, even if I take exception to some of it. I sure wouldn't want to live in a culture that banned offensive speech, for example. If I insult my neighbor's wife, I might expect a punch in the nose, but I might do it anyway. If you lived next to her, you would too.

    However, calling it a scientific approach is either extremely naive or dishonest. Science requires testing with control of all relevant parameters, including a subject's knowledge and consent of the test. It can't be done either practically or morally.

    Also, the definition of Testimonialism is surreal, assuming it is to be applied to humans. Testimony "free of assumption, bias, error, misunderstanding"? Really? I doubt I could give directions to the local pub given those requirements.

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    1. Jeff,

      As I was reading your post, I was designing my reply in my head by pulling out individual sentences to quote and +1 them...but when I got to the end, I decided I agreed with it all. LOL

      Delete
    2. Jeff,

      I also felt like it was extremely pretentious and 'scientisitic' for the propertarians to proclaim their doctrine the 'completion of the scientific method.' Sounds like Yankee Puritan universalistic hubris to me.

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    3. ATL,

      "Yankee Puritan universalistic hubris" - was that your college band name? LOL

      Delete
    4. Ron,

      If only I'd thought of it then!

      It is, however, the 'band' that has been playing loudly and proudly in all these Unified States of America since since Abe's War to Prevent Southern Independence.

      Delete
    5. Hi ATL, Jeff, RC,

      First this:
      "The central idea is the completion of the scientific method, and its application to the entire spectrum of human knowledge."

      Then this:
      "What is Propertarianism? Propertarianism is a scientific, rational, empirical, approach to.."

      And you already know it's none of these. Just another cult built around a idolized conception of "science" from a man who has never spent one minute of his life doing actual science. No need to check credentials, the uninformed language is a dead giveaway. No one with any formal scientific education, let alone actual experience in doing scientific research would talk about it in such a fashion. Smacks of cult, sect, bad "religion" even and scientistic superstition.

      -Sag.

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    6. "You can be sure you are dealing with a pseudo-scientist whenever you hear phrases like “settled science”, “scientifically proven”, or “the scientific consensus”. " Harman (from the propertarian article)

      Does "the completion of the scientific method" qualify as one of the criterion above? I dare say that it does.

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    7. Yes ATL,

      Definitely. Because of its grandiose claim, it even qualifies as a "superior" criterion: the pseudo-scientist with delusions of grandeur.

      -Sag.

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    8. In another comment (somewhere at the bottom of this page), I made a joke which seemed/was in bad taste, about propertarianist logic applied to women means women = property (anything these bearded propers are willing to "defend").

      Well folks, it's really not a joke. Not if you're confronted with some of the ideas of the abovementioned Eli Harman. Here's just a few consecutive titles of blogposts by this über-scientist:

      - Y MEN RULE
      - WOMEN ARE PROPERTY - SPOILS OF VICTORY
      - THE STRONG MUST RULE

      I will spare you guys the lengthy quotes that I could pull from this fine platform for scientific reasoning and rationality, because it's really too much and I'm not a sadist.

      Okay, perhaps just a bit. Here's a good one.

      Says Eli:

      "Women are in every relevant sense property, spoils of victory, the principal object or at least one of the principal objects, over which conflicts are even fought between men in the first place.

      This is only a factual description. Property is what you are willing and able to defend."


      Holy cow! I thought I made a bad joke? Seems the joke is on me for believing you can not be serious about this sh*t. Turns out someone really can. And he's got a beard.

      Check out the articles at your own peril, for good laughs and/or shivers. The Eli Harman blog - which seems defunct at the moment - is called "Musings from the Far north".

      It's grizzly out there..

      -Sag.

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  2. I once found Propertarianism enticing as a paleo-libertarian who was looking for better explanatory power than falling back on judeo-christian tradition and bourgeois morality. Unfortunately I found the leader of it, Curt Doolittle, to be a blowhard with little in the way of evidence and much in the way of esoteric and hard to read walls of texts with lots of jargon he made up himself. Propertarians seem to spend most of their time justifying the most violent parts of populist right wing/natsoc theory with loose associations of "property" and very little time talking about decentralization or a liberal social order.

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    1. In writing this piece, I looked up Doolittle and found a video interview of him - maybe 45 - 50 minutes. I could only put up with his arrogance and aloofness for about half of the video before closing the page.

      "Am I going too fast for you?" "Do you think your audience is sophisticated enough to keep up with my brilliance?"

      Now he didn't say these things directly, but he didn't leave much to the imagination regarding his view of himself relative to anyone else on earth.

      In any case, I have decided to separate the man from the ideas. I have some more work to do on the ideas; no more work necessary regarding the man.

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    2. "... In writing this piece, I looked up Doolittle and found a video interview of him - maybe 45 - 50 minutes. I could only put up with his arrogance and aloofness for about half of the video before closing the page ..."

      Sounds like a new-age Ayn Rand ... }-)

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  3. Propertarianism, thus explained: "property is anything people will defend," is a disaster of a norm of human behavior.

    It is the complete sundering of any conception of traditional or natural rights liberty, since it may justify any and all conceptions of property rights. It is a system of chaos where might makes right, and this chaos will only be resolved when property is defined by the group with the most might and all political authority is wrapped up in a centralized state.

    If property rights are defined by notions of value then you have a recipe for the modern state. Hasn't every advance of state power been in service to the value of the supposed common good? I think this methodology of property rights is a rejection of all existing property rights, and therefore traditional morality, and is therefore no different than revolutionary Marxian socialism.

    Not only does it justify every variant of totalitarian creed, it also justifies every criminal act against real property. For if a criminal is willing to fight me for my watch, clearly he must believe he has a property right to it. How is a propertarian to dispute his claim?

    "Propertarianism is not a political program in its own right." - Harmon

    I agree because it justifies literally every political program (even those not yet existing) under the sun.

    All these problems and we've not even addressed the propertarian's crippling error of methodology, which as Harmon states, is actually the whole of the thing.

    Mises, Rothbard, and Hoppe have all shown quite effectively that you cannot apply the empirical scientific method of the physical sciences to the realm of social interaction. There are simply too many variables, no quantitative constants, and there is the fact that people have free will and do not behave in a deterministic fashion. It would be like trying to predict the weather if each of the particles in the atmosphere had free will. Positivism in the social sciences is just pseudo-science masquerading as objective reality to justify ever expanding state power.

    If you believe libertarianism and communism are bedfellows, then propertarianism is certainly the missing link between them. More likely it is an attempt to smuggle communism into the libertarian lexicon. Propertarianism would lend a communist the ammunition to claim that he is really an advocate of private property.

    Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems pretty clear what this 'anti-definition' of property rights portends, and it ain't good. Thanks for giving me an education on the meaning of propertarianism. If not for you, I may have erroneously aligned myself with it.

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    1. “Propertarianism, thus explained: "property is anything people will defend," is a disaster of a norm of human behavior.”

      Yes, but it seems to me that most humans live somewhere in-between “property as only physical” and “property as whatever one is willing to defend.” How do we get away with drawing such a bright distinction in an area that points to the mess that is human relationships? How do we label this place, this place where there is value in things that are not only physical and things that people will defend?

      We (libertarians) may choose to pretend it isn’t there, but it is there. So, “property is only your land and your body” is also a disaster of a norm of human behavior, because it does not account for human behavior.

      In other words: I get why libertarians say that anything beyond physical property and life causes a real mess. But guess what? Life *is* a real mess. People do not and will never live that way – my land and my body. So how do we take this into account without turning law into “may the biggest warlord win”?

      A man insults my wife. I punch him in the nose. Which of the two of us has demonstrated the proper norm of human behavior? A child steals a candy bar. While walking out of the store (still in the act of the crime – and who knows, the kid might grab a bag of chips on the way out), the shopkeeper shoots the child in the back. Which of the two has demonstrated the proper norm of human behavior?

      If we are stuck solely on property and person, the rude man is the norm and the shopkeeper is the norm. How do libertarians get past this?

      “Mises, Rothbard, and Hoppe have all shown quite effectively that you cannot apply the empirical scientific method of the physical sciences to the realm of social interaction.”

      I agree fully. But I want to read more from Doolittle before getting into this. I am willing to bet his method is “2+2=4,” but I want some meat before I tackle this.

      “If not for you, I may have erroneously aligned myself with it.”

      I don’t think you would have. I suspect you would have done much research on your own before jumping on this train.

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    2. BM

      "If we are stuck solely on property and person, the rude man is the norm and the shopkeeper is the norm. How do libertarians get past this?"

      I don't think this is necessarily the case: Rothbard's theory of proportionality (a criminal deprives himself of rights only insofar as he has invaded another's rights) should be the libertarian standard, not the 'maximalist' (shoot a kid candy thief) position, and challenging the man who has insulted your wife to a fight is more manly (than sucker punching) and is perfectly in accord with the NAP. If he refuses, he exposes himself, not only as a dishonorable cad, but a coward on top of it. Besides there will be cultural norms of a level of violence where it is preferred the law not get involved (like bar fights).

      "So, “property is only your land and your body” is also a disaster of a norm of human behavior, because it does not account for human behavior."

      I think it accounts for the slice of human behavior that deals with the proper use of violence, and this is all it was intended to do. I will concede that the libertarian law will need some sort of culturally (or otherwise widely agreed upon) accepted definition of property and/or its boundaries, but from this I do not believe we need to include value as a type of property to be owned in order to account for human behavior.

      I don't think that solves the problem. I think it yields much more uncertainty concerning the boundaries of property. I would even go so far as to say it would create an 'open border' property norm, where all rights against the physical invasion of property would be superseded by rights protecting the sanctity of certain values. The Civil Rights Act is largely consistent with this since it effectively protects the value of 'nondiscrimination in society' at the expense of the rights of physical property.

      Placing value in the realm of property introduces the proportionality problem (among many others) into the system of justice. For instance, a propertarian could argue that shooting a kid for stealing an apple was justified since the property owner's value of the integrity of his orchard is very high. If you remember, this is the argument Tahn was employing in his advocacy of the libertarian-ness of the maximalist position.

      I contend that subjective value is more properly maintained socially (through exchange, association, boycott, ostracism), and objective property is more properly maintained politically (through security, defense, repossession, restitution). I think this contention is well supported in the Western tradition as well as in libertarian theory.

      Note: by 'properly' I mean ethically, economically, and effectively.

      Propertarianism is actually not such a novel idea. The more I read about it the more I'm finding that it is simply the method employed by the German Historical School of Economics that Mises opposed in his days in Vienna. They preached empiricism in the social realm and rejected Misesian deductive theory. They were also socialists.

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    3. “Rothbard's theory of proportionality (a criminal deprives himself of rights only insofar as he has invaded another's rights) should be the libertarian standard…”

      I could write a few thousand words on this. Suffice it to say, “proportionality” only can take objective form via generally accepted norms. Call it culture and tradition. On what objective basis can one say that proportionality has morphed into aggression?

      I also recall reading Rothbard and Block: during the commission of a crime (which I was quite clear to describe in my example), ANY amount of force is justified. In other words, proportionality (which cannot be objectively defined) is relevant in punishment but is irrelevant in defense of self or property. Am I wrong in remembering this?

      “…and challenging the man who has insulted your wife to a fight is more manly (than sucker punching)…”

      But he DID punch him before telling him to get ready to be punched. Who has broken the law? Imagine the future of a community where insulting a man’s wife is protected by the law and defending the wife’s honor with a punch – sucker or otherwise – is a crime. I suggest such a community has no future.

      “I will concede that the libertarian law will need some sort of culturally (or otherwise widely agreed upon) accepted definition of property and/or its boundaries…”

      What if the cultural bounds include reputation, honor, defending a woman’s name? What if the cultural bounds are that if you insult my wife, I am free to punch you in the nose? What if, after a few generations of trial and error, it is discovered that such a response is the best response if one wants to limit violence, retribution, and monopoly government?

      Look, I understand the benefit of drawing a distinct line around physical property (which even this would require cultural norms to define). But people aren’t so distinct – everything about our relationships introduces gray.

      I agree with you: libertarian law needs some sort of culturally accepted definitions. What if the wisdom of the generations (“culture”) doesn’t fit neatly into this distinct libertarian line?

      I think it is the easy way out to say, “Well, if they all voluntarily agreed to it, then OK.” What if the only way something approaching “liberty” can be achieved is via accepting something beyond this simple bound around physical property?

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    4. > Propertarianism, thus explained: "property is anything people will defend," is a disaster of a norm of human behavior.

      It would be, taken on itself. But combine it with the propertarian definition of 'rights' and this issue is defused.

      It occurs to me that some of the reactions here take the libertarian view of rights and combine this with the propertarian view of property, that is of course bound to fail. Libertarianism leans heavily on the definition of property to derive rights, while propertarianism leans on its concept of rights to define property.

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    5. "If we are stuck solely on property and person, the rude man is the norm and the shopkeeper is the norm. How do libertarians get past this?"

      Well, one thing is for sure: no via the cult of "propertarianism". I submit that their scientistic method, applied to human behaviour, could result in even more "shopkeepers" than under a strict NAP-regime.

      But it is such an important question that you've posed, that I'm all ears with regard(s? what is it? regard/regards?) to your attempt to separate the man from his ideas, though I'm sceptical about it, since i.m.o. we're really dealing with a modern cult here.

      But I agree wholeheartedly that the NAP not only is not enough, but that it is indeed used to justify gross violations of the much wider and - culturally speaking - more encompassing convivial order.

      So good luck BM, and I mean it, with the separation attempt. Almost sounds like some scientific lab experiment (extraction of sound ideas out of a cult). Maybe some good will come out of it after all.

      -Sag.

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    6. Law in Anglo-Saxon society developed around already existing cultural/tribal folkways. This debate really brings me back. I raised the dispute of honor scenario in one of my very first posts here years back. My own thinking has changed somewhat since then but not on this quintessential issue. A law that punishes an honorable man and protects a dishonorable one is completely unacceptable to my, and my ancestors, understanding of justice. It's a culturally alien concept and it would never have been applied in a European culture if not for alien influence. I am not just talking about Rothbard/Block's theory. It is established law. A father whose daughter has been raped will be severely punished if he obtains justice for example (and I can provide endless examples). The recent scene where the Olympic trainer (a racial/cultural alien) sexually abused several girls comes to mind. The father made a run for him at the trial and was tackled by system lackeys as he begged the judge to give him a few minutes with the swine to administer TOTAL JUSTICE.

      I am a believer in TOTAL JUSTICE and believe my people should have a society where those that do not share our values and ways should not be afforded rights.

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    7. Sag

      “Well, one thing is for sure: not via the cult of "propertarianism".”

      I am quite sure not. But I will spend some more time on this topic in a future post, I think. Libertarians have a gaping hole here – who is regularly writing on this within the libertarian community, trying to pull it together? After Hoppe, who?

      There is something valuable and something missing in libertarian theory and libertarian writing. It should, perhaps, be addressed and not avoided.

      “So good luck BM, and I mean it, with the separation attempt.”

      Ayn Rand was earlier referenced in the comments. Works for me with her. Doesn’t work very well for me with people with whom I have a relationship (whether real or virtual).

      I suspect if I had the opportunity to meet and get to know the several people whose ideas have greatly influenced me, I probably would not enjoy a beer with too many of them. Maybe even some of the commenters at this site!

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    8. UC

      “A law that punishes an honorable man and protects a dishonorable one is completely unacceptable to my, and my ancestors, understanding of justice.”

      Precisely my point, and as you have noted elsewhere in this discussion, one that I have been dealing with for some time and for which I find no acceptable response from those who stick strictly to physical property as “property.”

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    9. UC and BM,

      Is it not more just and manly to challenge a man to a fight rather than just sucker punch him for insulting your wife?

      This is what men did in the early days of our republic, only they fought with guns. Consensual fighting is in accordance with the NAP. In this way, forget a punch in the nose, killing a man for insulting your wife would be legal under libertarian law, since the gunfight was consensual. Is this not enough leeway for the promotion of honor?

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    10. ATL, what if the husband knows he will lose in a straight-up fight? How does he defend his (and his wife's) honor in this case?

      I read something about this, during the Middle Ages. The offended party knew he would lose face to face - even kinfolk against kinfolk. So, if he fought straight-up he would die, and if he didn't fight he would be run out of town.

      He found the offender to be at home with the other perpetrators. He then proceeded to burn them alive in the house.

      Others in the community understood why he had to do it this way and understood it had to be done given the original offense. Probably something to do with their accepted traditions.

      As to "manly," I cannot derived this concept from the NAP.

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    11. "After Hoppe, who? "

      Good question. Kinsella?

      I love this southern woman, "Dissident Mama," well, only up and to the extent that my wife's honor remains intact. ;)

      I only recently discovered her. She is a self described:

      "Truth warrior, Jesus follower, wife, and boy mom. Apologetics practitioner for Christianity, the Southern tradition, homeschooling, and freedom. Recovering feminist-socialist-atheist and retired mainstream journalist turned domesticated belle and rabble-rousing rhetorician. A mama who’s adept at triggering statists, so she’s going to bang as loudly as she can."

      http://www.dissidentmama.net/

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    12. Rien,

      "It would be, taken on itself. But combine it with the propertarian definition of 'rights' and this issue is defused." - Rien

      Hmmm. I'm not so sure about that.

      "One of the central insights of propertarianism is that all rights are property rights" - Harman

      Since the propertarian's definition of rights is exclusively defined by his definition of property, I believe my criticism holds.

      A propertarian may be quasi-libertarian or conservative, but he cannot defend this position logically from his definitions of property or rights. He can only do so on grounds of empiricism, and this is very tenuous ground, since the state, and those enthralled by it, employ a great many more professors, scholars, and statisticians (the primary organs of empirical output) than do those organizations in favor of freedom.

      I agree that all rights are inherently property rights, but I disagree with Harman's (and Doolittle's) definition of property, which is so vague that it admittedly licenses "property in all of its forms, [including] everything over which people lay claim, everything over which people demonstrate ownership, everything people defend and everything over which people conflict."

      Property in toto, yields rights in toto, and this means a propertarian can coherently subscribe to any and all political doctrines (from stateless libertarianism to totalitarian socialism) so long as he can provide empirical evidence of its efficacy.

      This makes sense because according to Harman and Doolittle propertarianism is only "a scientific, rational, empirical, approach to understanding and analyzing human behavior, incentives, norms, institutions, cooperation and conflict." It's only a methodology, and its one (albeit under a different name: positivism) that has overwhelmingly promoted statism since its inception in the German Historical School of the late 19th century.

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    13. "Property is that which individuals and groups demonstrate a willingness and ability to defend."


      "Propertarianism, thus explained: "property is anything people will defend," is a disaster of a norm of human behavior."

      Yes, but it seems to me that most humans live somewhere in-between “property as only physical” and “property as whatever one is willing to defend.” How do we get away with drawing such a bright distinction in an area that points to the mess that is human relationships? How do we label this place, this place where there is value in things that are not only physical and things that people will defend?

      Dear BM and ATL,

      Perhaps the propertarian formulation could be modified to incorporate the libertarian definition of property and your concerns that actual people believe that the concept of property extends beyond the strictly material.

      Property begins in self ownership and extends to all material things that one has justly acquired and encompasses all that the majority of others in the culture believe that one has a right to defend. Thus all those intangible values that vex libertarians, honor, reputation, culture, language, etc... form a second pillar of property that could be deemed cultural property. So, a combination of personal property (the libertarian understanding) and cultural property are necessary to achieve the peaceful and free society that libertarians seek.

      I recognize that this formulation will not satisfy the pure libertarian theorists, as such would allow the slave-owner to defend his property. But it also avoids the situation described above by UC. Pure libertarian theory often seems to ignore time and place and assumes that what is just and what promotes peace are necessarily true in all circumstances. This smacks of utopianism to me.

      If we accept that cultural property is real and that people will fight to defend it, then it is absurd to assume that claiming those people are in error and that they have merely aggressed against others will lead to a peaceful society.

      As you tirelessly point out, culture matters. But, culture is not always right. Those who believe that culture must change quickly to accept the libertarian view of property are fools. Likewise, those who believe that culture is sufficient are also fools. Culture, time and place, particular circumstance, etc... must temper the pure libertarian view, likewise, the strictly limited libertarian view must temper the errors in culture. The acceptance of slavery was a cultural error, the application of the libertarian concept of self ownership and full humanity to blacks eventually corrected the cultural error because it created a conflict between cultural property and personal property. This process takes time, and it is lamentably true that both regress and progress will occur. Still, it seems to me that, if we wish to attain a relatively free and peaceful society, we must seek to integrate the concepts of personal and cultural property.

      Kind Regards,
      Jeremy

      Delete
    14. ATL, Rien,

      Guys, I really like what you're writing here, but it almost makes this propertarian cult seem legit. Look at the Harman blog I referenced above. There's so much trash there that really doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. And the propertarian big shot from Kiev, Mr Doolittle isn't any better. In his own rational words:

      "ITS TIME TO DO SOMETHING NOBLE...
      I think many of us were attracted to libertarianism under the assumption that we could do something noble with what we found there.
      But we were wrong.
      We can do something noble however.
      But we must do it at the Point of a Knife, The End of a Spear, The Barrel of a Gun, and under the Gavel of the Natural Law.
      We gave the world a chance to join the aristocracy. And they failed.
      The experiment is over. Time to rule again.
      Pick up your spear, knife, rifle and gavel.
      It's Time for us to make Law."


      Okay, back to Mr Doolittle's scientific definitions of property..

      -Sag.

      Delete
    15. "what if the husband knows he will lose in a straight-up fight?"

      He could hire someone to challenge him. What if he will lose the fight even if he sucker punches the guy? Are you suggesting that it is just to burn a man alive for insulting your wife? A private law society may adopt just such rules among its members, but I don't think you could enforce a law like this between associations.

      A more peaceful solution would be that he could gather together other guys who've been offended in a similar manner to demonstrate to the world that this man is a dishonorable cad, thus hurting his reputation and possibly his income as people begin boycotting his business.

      "I read something about this, during the Middle Ages."

      Sometimes people start to recognize those who game the system to their advantage. These individuals find the cracks in any system and begin exploiting them to accumulate wealth and power in a dishonorable manner. Sometimes when these people are killed, "others in the community understand," and the consequences for the offender are severely diminished or even nullified.

      Within any justice system there lies an undercurrent of superior or anterior justice. And sometimes the latter is used to negate the former.

      There is a perfect example of this in the Icelandic Sagas where a powerful chieftain continually presses his advantage against an inferior rival chieftain (and the farmers who rely on his protection). The former begins acquiring land and farmers from the latter in aggressive moves that aren't really preventable by their laws. What does the latter do to stop this? He makes a trip around to talk to other chieftains (those who will judge his coming actions) to acquire their consent for him to kill the aggressive chieftain. They do, because he is aggressive and dangerous, and so the inferior chieftain gathers a few of his most capable farmers and they go and assassinate the aggressive chieftain. The inferior chieftain is judged to have to provide some small restitution to the chieftain's family, but that's about it. I'll try and track it down when I get a chance. The really interesting thing is that the Icelanders had a name for these aggressive chieftains and its translation would be something like "state builder."

      "As to "manly," I cannot derived this concept from the NAP."

      Hey I never said there wasn't any room for culture in the quest for liberty. =)

      Delete
    16. Sag,

      "but it almost makes this propertarian cult seem legit."

      I think I've said all I need to say on it, and I agree with you about Doolittle. I was trying, as Bionic suggested, to separate the man and the doctrine.

      Delete
    17. Jeremy,

      "Perhaps the propertarian formulation could be modified to incorporate the libertarian definition of property and your concerns that actual people believe that the concept of property extends beyond the strictly material."

      I'm willing to accept the existence of cultural property, so long as the punishment for infringing upon it is proportional.

      If I violate a community's cultural property, but no physical property, my punishment should not be physical, since this would be disproportionate to my crime.

      Unless I have individually consented to disproportionate punishment for cultural violations (by signing up with a law association), social punishment should be appropriate here, and I would say it can be just as effective as physical punishment, especially in a culturally homogeneous community.

      Delete
    18. ATL,

      Yes, I noticed that much. Multiple separation experiments going on. Therefore, I quoted some of the doctrine (you know, "end of spear" and of course the gavel of "Natural Law") for your convenience.

      Another part of the doctrine can be found in a lengthy interview, quite possibly the one BM referred to earlier. The doctrine there is even easier to separate because it exists independently from the man. Plain unadulterated neocon propaganda, voiced at another one of these staged "alt-right" outlets.

      Delete
    19. ATL, you said above "Placing value in the realm of property introduces the proportionality problem (among many others) into the system of justice. For instance, a propertarian could argue that shooting a kid for stealing an apple was justified since the property owner's value of the integrity of his orchard is very high. If you remember, this is the argument Tahn was employing in his advocacy of the libertarian-ness of the maximalist position."


      I had hoped I was making a different argument, that the ONLY person who had a right to decide whatever punishment, whether minimalist, maximalist or somewhere in between, was the victim, i.e. the orchard owner., absent of course a voluntary decision to delegate that right to others as Rothbard suggested was the wiser and with which I concurred.

      "To me," libertarianism is a philosophy of property rights and the decision of the victim and punishment is an individual moral decision, perhaps based on culture or custom but still the victims choice to make.

      Tahn

      Delete
    20. ATL, I have been thinking about our back and forth here. Maybe I am wrong about how / why we are swinging and missing, but let me toss this out there to see if it rings true...

      I understand libertarian theory about as well as anybody, I suppose. I understand the issues on which the theory might result in conflicting applications and I understand both sides of such arguments pretty well (e.g. abortion, open borders, etc.).

      I have come to understand pretty early on that it takes more than a pure application of the NAP (even ignoring these differing interpretations) in order to achieve something approaching a libertarian society. I have come to find that the European Middle Ages offer what perhaps comes closest to a voluntary, private-law, decentralized society that had a long shelf-life - maybe even 1000 years, depending on the specific region.

      I ask myself, how, why? What made this "work"?

      I find one of the things that made it work is that man was willing to defend "honor." I think maybe it was a required feature, learned through generations, if the society wanted to maintain some sense of the relative liberty under which they lived.

      You say "yeah, but BM, it isn't pure libertarianism. After all, ‘honor’ isn’t property. Would you really condone burning a man in his house for insulting your wife?"

      But this is beside the point, at least beside MY point. What if defending honor was necessary if a given society wanted to maintain a reasonably libertarian law structure? What if playing fair with the bully only resulted in the bully growing his power? What if somewhere in the dark recesses of history, these tribes figured out that punching the bully in the nose before he got too big to control was the best (or least bad, for you) alternative?

      Perhaps it means libertarians need to work on developing the theory to incorporate practices that encourage the maintenance of a libertarian order. Because if the theory doesn’t work in practice, I suspect it will be easier for libertarians to evolve the theory than it will be for libertarians to change human nature.

      Well, except for the autistic libertarians! They will fail at both.

      Delete
    21. Hi BM,

      Consider this an aside, for it doesn't really belong in the topic at hand. But..

      'I ask myself, how, why? What made this "work"?

      You've already answered this i.m.o.: radical decentralization with potential centralizing forces (local ambitious kings) kept in check by the overarching authority of the Latin Church.

      There were at least two ways in which the medieval Christian Church "guaranteed" this decentralization me thinks:

      - As noted by Rothbard and many others, as a counterbalancing, overarching force against the aspirations of local kings, seeking to become monarchs.
      - As noted by others who've emphasized the Natural Moral Law framework (not "legal" rules!) offered by the Church and its implications for how people saw themselves as natural persons (not "individuals") in what has been called the "convivial order". The only one I can think of among libertarians who has paid real attention to (cultural) detail here, has been Frank van Dun. Alas for those who don't speak Woodenshoes, his magnum opus is written in Dutch and has not (yet) been translated.

      Rothbard paid attention to the beneficial role of the Church-as-a-countervailing-power, which already was a giant leap within a society still rife with Black legends and a centuries old culture of anti-Catholicism. But limiting the role of the medieval Church primarily to power isn't nowhere near enough.

      Even if one might briefly acknowledge the relatively beneficial role of the medieval Church in the powerplay of the time, like even some NAP-firsters occasionally do in sort of following Rothbard's historical lead, it would still be a case of "subtracting Christianity," so to speak, if the second and far more involving cultural line of inquiry was left out of the mix.

      Of course I can understand why some might associate "culture" more with tribes, even modern tribalist organizations, than with the natural moral framework of the medieval Latin Church. But it is my contention that when one subtracts the Church-as-culture (Natural Moral Order) from the tribe, then what you'll be left with is.. I don't know really. Neo-tribalism posing as extended libertarianism?

      And with that, we're right back on topic ;)

      -Sag.

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    22. Sag, the closest I have come to understanding this is perhaps here:

      http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2018/04/germanic-social-structure_9.html

      Christianity spread to many places, not just Germanic Europe. Yet it was only in Germanic Europe - Western, if you like :-) - that this specific social and political construct was formed and maintained.

      Yes, we can speak of and recognize the role of the Church, etc. But it could only be sustained for centuries via the consent of those governed. There was something in this character of these men that made this combination of these tribes and Christianity "work."

      Delete
    23. Hi BM, understood and agreed, and yet "consent" and "governed" already sounds way too.. propositional to me where culture is concerned. We've touched on this before if I'm not mistaken. The difference of looking at culture from a US vs a "non-US" perspective (culture as a set of values vs culture as unreflexive praxis), which i.m.o. underscores the difference between a propositional and a more "organic" nation.

      Anyway, my whole point is that the Church was part & parcel of the culture of "that special part" (wink-wink) of medieval Europe. Culture as second nature, as it where. Something one grows into, which is just there, and part of simply "the way we do things around here". There was a unique mix in play of Christianity and tribalism and this culture can not be conceived of as: German tribes + some beneficial "role of the Church" (almost as an interesting afterthought). That i.m.o. is way too superficial as far as the sociological and even psychological impact of the Church goes. The "role of the Church" approach so far will mostly end up (in what I've read at least) bypassing the famed "Elephant in the Medieval room" that Frank van Dun has tried for so long to draw our attention to.

      One can try and describe it as the "framework" of the Natural Moral Order, present in medieval popular culture, in literature, in art, in education, in parenting and so on.. which had a lasting impact (cultural/psychological) on a person's self-image and his place among others in the community.

      One way to perhaps take it to the next (practical) level and beyond mere historical rectification, is to first thoroughly understand the impact of the Natural Moral Order as part of Medieval Christian culture on the person's image of himself and others. After that it might be possible to search for ways to reintroduce elements of this worldview back into society, or wherever present, keep them from being destroyed.

      So far the rant. See you in the follow-up topic on propertarianism.

      -Sag.

      Delete
    24. BM,

      "I have been thinking about our back and forth here. Maybe I am wrong about how / why we are swinging and missing, but let me toss this out there to see if it rings true..."

      I believe our main (and perhaps our only) disagreement is whether or not cultural value can be maintained exclusively within the bounds of the NAP. I take the affirmative, since I believe social punishment would be effective at discouraging nonviolent violations of culture, and you take the negative, since you believe that it may require force to punish nonviolent violations of culture.

      Though I am tempted to agree with you, since I also appreciate the relative liberty and order of the Middle Ages in Western Europe, I believe it is a dangerous and slippery road that leads not only to disproportionate punishments for other crimes (utilitarian justice), but ultimately to the socialist/fascist doctrine of the 'ends justify the means.' Perhaps a strong culture can arrest this regression, but I'm not so sure in the long run. Aggression is a cancer that tends to spread.

      As with most problems of libertarian theory, Hoppe, I believe, has found the practical, real world solution: the idea of a private law society (individually consented to) which contains elements of positive law and physical punishments for crimes against the integrity of intangibles like value and culture. So long as these laws are consented to and one can separate oneself from the association at any point, so long as one does not have any outstanding violations, I believe it is consistent with the axioms of self ownership and non-aggression.

      The only question that remains between us then, if you accept the above scenario as a solution to the societal maintenance of cultural integrity, is what to do about cultural violations between members of different associations.

      Here, as I'm sure you already know, third party dispute agreements must be made to decide guilt and punishment for the offending party. I think these inter-associational laws that would form in such circumstances would approximate libertarian law and proportional punishments for violations of it. How else would we get to the existence of private law societies if at some level an underlying libertarian law was not widely held?

      Delete
    25. I've tracked down the example from the Icelandic Sagas. Here's Jesse Byock from an essay entitled, "Dispute Resolution in the Sagas:"

      "If the sagas tell of many men who succeed in negotiating and paying their way out of the repercussions that follow violent actions, the literature, as cited earlier, also gives numerous examples of individuals who fail. Such failures frequently occur when a character, especially a chieftain, is so ambitious that he refuses to negotiate a settlement. By doing so, he asserts his determination not to abide by the customary negotiation of compromise in matters of dispute."

      "When faced with a person so overbearing and socially destabilizing—often termed ójafnaðarmaðr [good luck pronouncing that] the society had a way of protecting itself. Powerful individuals, who otherwise might have opposed violent action, condoned it on the part of opponents to such persons."

      "Thus a society that functioned through balancing power among many brokers had available a means of curbing unrestrained ambition when it threatened the status quo. Influential persons, with their networks of obligations, tacitly supported the less aggressive of the rivals by allowing him to break the rules of the game and to kill a fellow leader with few or no legal reprisals."

      "In such instances, the removal of a powerful but uncontrollable man not only appealed to the self-interest of leaders but served the interest of the society as well. Violence against an overly aggressive individual was often done by a rival wishing to gain or to recoup influence and honor."

      "For example, in Vápnfirðínga saga where a feud between two chieftains has gone on for years, the thingmen of Geitir Lýtingsson present their goði with an ultimatum: unless Geitir stands up to the bullying Brodd-Helgi, they will abandon him. Brodd-Helgi has continually humiliated Geitir by rejecting Geitir's appeals for reasonable settlement, barring Geitir from the court, and stealing from or killing Geitir's thingmen. Before taking violent action against Helgi, Geitir prearranges the support of important men from neighboring regions in the event that legal repercussions might be activated by his aggressive conduct. After being assured of the backing of important brokers, Geitir moves against Helgi, ambushing and killing him."

      http://www.viking.ucla.edu/publications/articles/dispute_resolution.pdf

      So perhaps a real libertarian society will have libertarian law on the books, but every so often, when the law is broken in order to deal with one of these socially destabilizing "ójafnaðarmaðr," the consequences of such actions will be nullified, forgiven, or otherwise diminished by the community at large and its authorities.

      Delete
    26. ATL,

      Your entire post above of June 13, 8:04 AM is an out of the park Home Run, IMO. Especially this part:

      "As with most problems of libertarian theory, Hoppe, I believe, has found the practical, real world solution: the idea of a private law society (individually consented to) which contains elements of positive law and physical punishments for crimes against the integrity of intangibles like value and culture. So long as these laws are consented to and one can separate oneself from the association at any point, so long as one does not have any outstanding violations, I believe it is consistent with the axioms of self ownership and non-aggression. "

      This concept successfully separates the axioms of the NAP and private property from the morality and culture of the voluntary private societies or communities. Thank You!

      Tahn

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    27. Sag

      “…(culture as a set of values vs culture as unreflexive praxis)…”

      A picture that paints a thousand words.

      “…yet "consent" and "governed" already sounds way too…propositional to me where culture is concerned.”

      It is because my vocabulary is lacking given this is a field in which I haven’t studied. Your picture that paints a thousand words captures my intent. It isn’t so much an issue of “consent,” as in “I signed a contract”; it is no way to mean “governed” as in “rules imposed by coercion.” Yet again, I feel my vocabulary does not capture it as well as your short phrase does.

      I spent some time today reading FVD – finding work of his in English is not so easy. I did read his essay in the ode to Hoppe, but didn’t do anything with it – maybe I should have. I do recall that you linked to something of his earlier, but I could not find it. In any case, what I found today is golden.

      “See you in the follow-up topic on propertarianism.”

      It may be a while. Did I mention that I spent some time today reading FVD?

      Delete
    28. ATL

      “…you take the negative, since you believe that it may require force to punish nonviolent violations of culture.”

      I am not quite sure that this is correct, but maybe. When I describe the husband punching in the nose the man who insulted his wife, I do not consider this “force to punish.” Force to punish, in my way of thinking, is “you go to prison.” I am merely describing a punch in the nose.

      When I ask “which one of the two has committed a crime?”, my answer is “neither.”

      Now, with this clarification, maybe your statement is valid, but then I will ask for further clarification. Or, if I have written something else that has led you to this view, please point to it. There are two possibilities…well, three: 1) perhaps I did not make my point very well or properly define my terms, 2) my thinking has evolved, or 3) I am just a flake that bends with the wind.

      “…what to do about cultural violations between members of different associations.”

      In medieval law, the question was asked of the alleged perpetrator: “what is your law?” In other words, the law followed the individual and not the jurisdiction. I am not suggesting that I fully grasp the benefit of this, but it apparently was settled on as the method that best served justice and peace.

      “I think these inter-associational laws that would form in such circumstances would approximate libertarian law…”

      I don’t think so, not if “libertarian law” is strictly limited to the non-aggression principle. Most people of goodwill will not limit themselves to such conditions. Did I mention that I spent some time reading FVD today? Through this, I have found words that describe what I have been struggling with. More to come on this point.

      Regarding your second comment, “from the Icelandic Sagas,” this is very good. The Middle Ages offered every noble veto power over the king – a similar concept.

      But what was underlying this? Moral men, men of virtue. A culture and tradition that promoted moral men, men of virtue. Justice – something approaching liberty – is not possible absent this.

      “…the consequences of such actions will be nullified, forgiven, or otherwise diminished by the community at large and its authorities.”

      Yep – like the husband who punched the other guy in the nose. No moral man, no man of virtue, would punish the man.

      Delete
    29. ATL, ""One of the central insights of propertarianism is that all rights are property rights" - Harman

      Since the propertarian's definition of rights is exclusively defined by his definition of property, I believe my criticism holds."

      I think you are wrong here - quite fundamentally actually.
      propertarianism does not start with an axiom like libertarianism. And hence does not derive properties from something like 'property' or 'NAP'. That simple factum blocked my understanding of propertarianism for the first two weeks or so. (I did not understand his going on about science either, but I now assume that he was trying to say that propertarianism derives its key points from observations, not idea's)

      Propertarianism defines rights as that which society grants you and is prepared to defend in your name. (In reciprocity).

      Hence you may claim property and be willing to defend it, but society will judge wether you have the right to defend it. And as such you can only hold title to that which society allows you to hold title to.

      Delete
    30. Sag, "Guys, I really like what you're writing here, but it almost makes this propertarian cult seem legit."

      IMO it is wrong to reject idea's based on who say its. I am quite sure that Newton held some idea's that would be repulsive to me, but I am not ready to reject his scientific and mathematic accomplishments.

      Pick and choose is not only allowed, its imperative.

      Delete
    31. BM, yes you mentioned FVD, which is good because the more we mention FVD, the more chance that FVD's work might get some attention ;)
      Okay, enough with that and I don't mind coming of as kind of like a groupie here. Some good may come of it.

      Here's two pages on the LvMI, starting with the second one because of one article of particular interest (the ones against Block and Kinsella are also informative, but slightly off topic here):

      Natural Law, Liberalism, and Christianity" (3rd one)

      -Sag.

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    32. Sag, thanks for that link, I was wondering who FvD is ;-)
      So I look up his work on Natural Law. And I am a bit astonished, his job title is: "Senior lecturer Philosophy of Law".

      And then I see this: "Each one of us by nature is an element of the human world and each one us by nature is capable of doing, thinking and saying things, independently of what others are doing, thinking and saying at the same time."

      And I am thinking to myself; what why how?... when we are alone, we can indeed think independently, but when we are together (or even if we will be together) then our thinking is -more or less- dominated by this fact.
      Besides, behavioural sciences today are clearly showing that simply being together changes the way we think about many things.
      FvD's statement thus seems wrong to me, and that seems to torpedo his entire Natural Law.

      (btw I did send him an email about this, but I am not sure
      he can still be reached online. He must be about 71 by now)

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    33. Sag,

      "The difference of looking at culture from a US vs a "non-US" perspective (culture as a set of values vs culture as unreflexive praxis), which i.m.o. underscores the difference between a propositional and a more "organic" nation."

      I think the much of what we end up disagreeing on stems from a miscommunication of this. I will take full blame.

      I would much prefer an 'organic' nation that 'just does' liberty and virtue without having to analyze it. I would much rather have lived my life not thinking about economics or politics. I did for nearly the first 30 years of my life. Unfortunately, if we ever had that, we certainly no longer do.

      From our current vantage point, the twilight of the liberty born in the European Middle Ages, I believe it is necessary to set ourselves to recognizing not only the core set of cultural values and political principles which made that liberty possible and so enduring, but also, and perhaps more importantly, that which led to its undoing and the rise of the State.

      Delete
    34. Hi Rien,

      As you could have glanced from some of my posts above, I have presented accomplishments, claimed by the propertarians in question (like Eli Harman) to be the result of their scientific approach to human behaviour. I've even provided a link for you to check them yourself if you wish. So don't pretend that I'm only here to focus on the personal level. Again, I've quoted core propertarian ideas, as claimed by said propertarians themselves. Period.

      Speaking of which.. In what way exactly would you consider the propertarian view of women as "property" to be scientific and rational?

      So please go ahead, take your pick. As long as you keep in the back of your mind and allow me to remind you from time to time that those cherries are picked from sh*t instead of a tree. No offence, of course.

      Delete
    35. BM,

      Perhaps I should have said this:

      ...since you believe that force should be allowed to defend against nonphysical violations of cultural value.

      And I suppose I accept the above formulation as well, so long as this is an unwritten law. The law should stick to the NAP, but I think there will always be a measure of culturally accepted, extra legal, nonconsensual violence in a society that a decentralized court system could recognize.

      For instance, a guy gets punched in the nose for insulting another man's wife, and either he accepts this as a cultural, extra legal punishment for his dishonorable behavior, or he takes the matter to a court and they exonerate the offended husband to his dismay. Either of these I am okay with.

      What I am not willing to accept (as an end goal of liberty) is a legally defined physical punishment for nonphysical cultural violations. For instance, a man receives an insult against his wife. He takes the matter to a court, the dishonorable cad is found guilty of the infraction (via witnesses or whatever) and then the court prescribes "a punch on the nose" or a period of confinement as punishment or a confiscation of property as restitution to the victim.

      I think the latter situation is more where the propertarian argument leads.

      "There are two possibilities…well, three: 1) perhaps I did not make my point very well or properly define my terms, 2) my thinking has evolved, or 3) I am just a flake that bends with the wind." - BM

      I'm not confident selecting any of those, so I'll take the blame. It certainly isn't 3!

      "Did I mention that I spent some time reading FVD today?" - BM

      I like FVD, but I don't accept his arguments for legally superseding the NAP. See Kinsella's critique below if you like.

      https://mises-media.s3.amazonaws.com/18_2_3.pdf?file=1&type=document

      "But what was underlying this? Moral men, men of virtue."

      No doubt, but unfortunately, it also probably had a lot to do with the fact that, since Iceland was so secluded, it had no worries of invasion from an external enemy. I think a large part of the impetus for the emergence of a state is this fear of invasion from without, and it's not an unreasonable fear most of the time. I think Ireland may be a better example of a decentralized society, since they fended off the militarily superior Brits for so long, but that's another discussion altogether.

      Delete
    36. Sag / all, please keep it civil.

      Delete
    37. BM, Rien

      Sorry 'bout that one, but I'm sure Rien can take it. He's Dutch ;)

      ATL

      "I like FVD, but I don't accept his arguments for legally superseding the NAP. See Kinsella's critique below if you like."

      I also like FVD, but not all of it. Only brought him up in the context of Medieval Christianity and the Natural Moral Order, where I suspect his contribution to be of worth. Intrigued as I still am about his "critique" leveled at Rothbard for "ignoring the medieval elephant in the room," a passage you might remember from some time ago.

      My first impression was that he sounded a bit overbold perhaps. But when I looked closer, it dawned on me that this guy might really be on to something. While at times I find his scholarly prose a bit hard to follow, there is something to FVD's ideas about the medieval "convivial order" that merits further delving into in the context of libertarianism and the Church as medieval culture.

      I'm still not entirely sure though, just what he meant exactly with the "medieval elephant" statement about Rothbard and the most straightforward thing to do would be to just ask him. Which is what I plan to do. In plain Dutch ;)

      With Rien also in full contact, he'll be wondering where all these questions are coming from all of a sudden..

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    38. If A punches B because A believes B has insulted his wife, the NAP holds that A is an aggressor and that citing the purported insult as justification is frivolous.

      This is where I cannot join many here in the "NAP is not enough" narrative. Yes, in the words of Joe Walsh, "it seems like we have come a long way," is a good way to describe many of us along the libertarian spectrum who have come to understand that a hospitable culture must be in place in order for an anarchic / libertarian society to flourish.

      However, to again quote Mr. Walsh, "my, but we learn so slow" applies to a cultural preference for physical violence to be the go-to dispute resolution mechanism for defamation, insults, and other verbal offenses. Such a cultural preference does not lead to greater civility, greater peace, or greater prosperity. To the contrary, it begets more violence and a coarsening of culture.

      The lengths to which people will go to justify initiative violence never ceases to amaze me. This is where the NAP proves to be vastly superior to cultural norms which justify, or at least tolerate, initiative violence to assuage the hurt feelz of an aggressor.

      Just think about it: That a man would equate honor with initiating physical violence upon another because the latter has hurt his feelings is the quintessence of snowflakedom.


      Liberty Mike


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    39. ATL

      “What I am not willing to accept (as an end goal of liberty) is a legally defined physical punishment for nonphysical cultural violations.”

      I can think of no reason to disagree with this. Culture is maintained and developed by example, training, shunning, a private (non-court, if you will), punch in the nose! Culture is maintained and developed by the nobles (in today’s term, the elite) truly acting noble. We are so far from this.

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    40. Mike

      Nice to hear from you.

      “If A punches B because A believes B has insulted his wife, the NAP holds that A is an aggressor and that citing the purported insult as justification is frivolous.”

      You know, I use egregious examples to help expand the dialogue and make the point. Like sex orgies on the front lawn, or shooting a child as punishment for stealing an apple. Frivolous, ludicrous, ridiculous, whatever. But these have helped me – and I assume some of the readers – get to the point of understanding why the NAP is not enough – the NAP cannot grow on just any soil.

      “This is where I cannot join many here in the "NAP is not enough" narrative. Yes, in the words of Joe Walsh, "it seems like we have come a long way," is a good way to describe many of us along the libertarian spectrum who have come to understand that a hospitable culture must be in place in order for an anarchic / libertarian society to flourish.”

      Mike, either something more must be added or nothing more need be added. You can’t have it both ways, certainly not in the same paragraph.

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    41. BM, Sag, when feelings come into play, I usually withdraw from playing... ;-)

      Sag, FvD: I did get a reply from him, so he is still alive and kicking. Thanks to his reply I found that my error was an insufficient weighing of "at the same time".

      ATL, BM: “What I am not willing to accept (as an end goal of liberty) is a legally defined physical punishment for nonphysical cultural violations.”

      That is a though one. I am not ready to accept that right now. I will have to postpone that until further reflection. I think that the proper response to this will have to wait until the full interaction of individual and culture are clear. So I may never reach that point.

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    42. Hi Mike,

      Good one. Though I'm definitely one of those who contributed to the narrative you characterized so cogently:

      "This is where I cannot join many here in the "NAP is not enough" narrative."

      I do struggle with the "but then what..?", as I imagine others do as well. Not all struggle of course, it's part of the fun as well.

      Right away, I can tell you that if superseding the NAP would come to mean anything remotely resembling propertarian "scientific" neo-tribalism (resulting, at least i.m.o., in discarding the NAP altogether) then I'll gladly stick with the NAP for now.

      With regard to satisfying the "not enough"-part, I'll just have to trust to that special brand of Western culture (or what's left of it) over here in Dutchie swampland.

      So a lot depends on the particular meaning one ascribes to the "not enough" part and the direction one chooses to search for possible answers. The wider context also matters. Don't presume to know how exactly, but the kind of society where libertarian solutions are to be implemented will definitely play a role. The US differs in a number of ways from European nations (with still their own huge differences), so solutions will also be weighed differently.

      Don't know if this makes sense to you. Besides the "not enough" qualification, I believe the NAP is also problematic (as in, a challenge) as a "refined" and even synthetic principle which sounds eminently good on paper and on blogs, but may prove to be too artificial for day to day reality. Would suit/need a society with a heavy emphasis on the propositional and contractual which would place it outside organically developed culture. Or it would need a culture that supports it more "naturally", a culture (described historically here on this blog, me thinks) from which this "principle" was extracted in the first place. In other words: reconstruct (in some magical way) the culture from which the NAP was synthesized and you have NAP-as-part-of-culture, with a better chance of it having a positive and sustainable* effect in real life.

      In a way, the NAP could be taken as a symptom. The disease would be the decay of the West. The NAP is salvaged from the historical record of what is no longer there, or only in subliminal form. When all of Western culture, tradition, community has finally been stripped from a nation (thinking of a European nation here, not the US), what one is left with is the NAP on the one hand, and tribal primitivism on the other.

      Oh and if "we" don't succeed in splintering power, the third option is the most likely as the direction we're headed as we speak, which is of course the AP of a traditionless, homogenized ("multicultural") globalist order. So absent a lived Western tradition, Christian religion (in any meaningful sense), etc.. I'd definitely hang on to the NAP!

      Not the right words here, written in haste, but perhaps just enough to convey some general sense.

      -Sag.

      * There, I've finally used the ugly "s"-word!

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    43. BM and Sag, thank you for your thoughts.

      BM, perhaps I did not sufficiently convey my thoughts as I do not think my position is contradictory. To wit, one can simultaneously recognize that in order for an anarchic, libertarian society to flourish, there must be a harmonious, hospitable cultural environment in place but yet reject the proposition that such a culture should tolerate, much less encourage, the initiation of violence because one's feelings are hurt.

      Thus, my post was narrow, at least as I conceived it. Said otherwise, although I largely agree wit you on the overall question of whether the NAP is enough, we will differ as to what applications of the NAP plus are acceptable to us.

      Regarding the initiation of violence in response to defamation and insults, do you think that it is essential that the same be culturally tolerated, or even encouraged, in order for an anarchic, libertarian society to work?

      Perhaps you might think that to the extent that such a cultural norm prevails, there is a greater probability of a decentralized order carrying the day.

      Liberty Mike

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    44. Mike, Sag said it well earlier: "...culture as a set of values." I suggest that NAP-sustaining values will not be found in the NAP – the NAP cannot define itself and cannot defend itself.

      The NAP allows for all values that do not violate the NAP. Like, for example, Block's "Undefendable." Yes, none of these acts would be illegal in a libertarian society, but would a culture that lived by such a set of values be able to sustain liberty?

      Nope, that's what I say.

      Would I teach my son that it is OK to punch someone in the nose for insulting his wife? No. But, as an outside observer, I cannot deny that a) some husbands would do this, b) that it is occasionally done might aid in reinforcing a healthy set of values, and c) that it is done could very well be the pressure release valve to limit minor conflicts from growing to overly destructive proportion.

      And, yes – the punch is a violation of the NAP; and no, I would put neither the man who did the insulting nor the husband who did the punching in jail....maybe other than for the husband to cool off for an hour or two!

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  4. Okay, have to say it..

    "What is Property? Property is that which individuals and groups demonstrate a willingness and ability to defend."

    In my wilder dreams, I valiantly defend my lady..
    Propertarianistically speaking, this would make her my property?

    -Sag.

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    1. At least in dreamland it does... ;-)

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    2. LOL

      Yes this is unironically correct imo

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    3. Hi UC, Rien,

      Glad you liked it. Speaking of un-ironical.. in my other comment (somewhere above) in which I directed commenters to my comment here below (like a good old game of "pong"), there's a bloke, Eli Harman, who manages to be unintentionally funny about this.

      You have to believe me when you read the quote that I only found out about his particular views on women as property after I felt the need to post a quick joke down here.

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    4. "Propertarianistically speaking, this would make her my property?"

      It makes her property, but not necessarily your property. The later is still determined by culture.

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    5. Yes Jeff, let's talk about culture, because where I was just kiddin', you're seriously right to bring that up.

      This Eli proper https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe9iqlKaPJ8 also seems to have a problem with voting. Not with voting as such (understandable from a libertarian standpoint), but with women voting.
      Perhaps these propers also consider a woman's testimony in court of less value than that of a man, especially one with a proper beard, like Eli.

      So, speaking of cult(ure), these guys should definitely check out Sharia Law, because they do seem to consider women to be their "property," and even "spoils of war" (dixit Eli the warrior). They've got the whole beard thing going on already, and with a slight change of dress these fine propertarian gentlemen are fit for the Ummah.

      -Sag.

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    6. Sag, well I envy the guy's ability to grow a proper beard. But definitely not his apparent poor health. The constant swallowing is a strong indication of heart disease. It bugged me so much I had to cut it short, so I didn't see any comments on women and voting.

      I will just comment that given their definition of property, disallowing women the vote would be reasonable, since it would lower the value of their own male group's vote. ATL's earlier statements on properarianism justifying totalitarianism are making more and more sense.

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    7. Hi Jeff,

      Wish I could say this about my own contributions over here, but I've never read a single unsensible statement from ATL on this blog. Not one.

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  5. First of all, thank you for writing this BM. You are much more familiar with classical libertarian theory that I am and thus I truly appreciate your thoughts on this.

    The same goes for most of the people reacting on this post. Thank you all.

    I have been looking at propertarianism for two or three weeks now and find many intriguing thoughts and observations in it. But even though I do not consider myself a libertarian (I am an ex-libertarian though and still strongly associate myself with libertarianism) I cannot bridge the gap between libertarianism and porpertarianism just yet.

    The two main obstacles apart from the theory itself are Curt himself and the claim of being scientific. Others have identified these as well, so I do not need to elaborate on these.

    I have always felt that libertarianism misses the point of living in a society. It looks at everything from an individualistic standpoint and seems incapable of explaining why we would even form societies and what the advantage of societies to its members is. (While that does appeal to the autist in me, I cannot accept that as a general theory for human interactions)

    The biggest plus that propertarianism has going for it is that it looks at the social component and tries to derive rules and general principles from it.

    One thing that I like in propertarianism that BM did not mention in his post is the definition of 'rights'. Since property and rights go hand in hand, I think it is important to mention this:

    ... "In practice, you have the property and property rights that the people around you are willing to concede that you have, and willing to help you defend and uphold. ... Property and property rights are obtained in exchange. You recognize and uphold mine and I’ll do the same for yours...."

    If anything, this definition of rights appeals to me, while the libertarian "natural rights" does not fly with me at all.

    Shooting a kid for stealing a candy... NO! the society you are in (in the west) does NOT give you that right.

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    1. Rien

      “[Libertarianism] looks at everything from an individualistic standpoint and seems incapable of explaining why we would even form societies and what the advantage of societies to its members is.”

      A couple of thoughts come to mind: first, libertarianism does a wonderful job of addressing this in the market sense – the market for goods and services transferred via commercial transaction. This is why many libertarians defend things like open borders strictly from a market-exchange and efficiency standpoint, all other aspects being irrelevant to (or too complicated for) them.

      Second, to my limited reading, Mises also recognized the social / community sense (albeit, Mises would not be considered “libertarian”), and Rothbard wrote quite a bit about this in his later years. Hoppe, it seems to me, correctly took it much further. Jeff Deist gave a speech that included the phrase “blood and soil.”

      Unfortunately, too many prominent (and public) libertarian thinkers and writers quit reading or considering anything written by Rothbard after about 1972, most think Hoppe is a loon, and Deist got lambasted from many corners of the libertarian world.

      The advancement of libertarian theory and the cause of moving toward a more libertarian society are not served (in fact, are retarded) by ignoring or ridiculing the later Rothbard, all of Hoppe’s social construct, and the value people place on culture, tradition and family – and the value these bring toward achieving liberty.

      “The biggest plus that propertarianism has going for it is that it looks at the social component and tries to derive rules and general principles from it.”

      Someone in the “I want liberty” community has to do it, as absent the later Rothbard, Hoppe and Deist, we get either crickets or derision.

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  6. LOL I shilled for Doolittle and suggested propertarianism a long time back on this blog. Yeah he is a character no doubt but he has good criticisms of many trends in libertarian thinking- interestingly enough the same trends you have come to identify like the need for proportionality in retribution/punishment and the insufficiency of the NAP for a stable social order (he calls Rothbard's ethics "[jewish] ghetto ethnics."

    The most important point I think Doolittle makes is that meaningful liberty cannot function in a society with low-trust. If others have different values (or lack there of) then there will be a high demand for authoritarian intervention- what Doolittle wishes to avoid- because smaller outgroups will free ride (eliminating state owned property does not solve the free rider problem!) and parasitically feed off the wealth and trust of the larger more homogenous ingroup even without a State to help them do so.

    The classic example of this that we have seen here is people like Jacob Hornberger completely refusing to accept that a property owner importing alien populations isn't imposing costs on the rest of the community- "I brought them on to my property mannnn." Same with advocates for total drug liberalization (and yes I too oppose the current drug war but I won't go into my position here), as well as libertarian defenders of pornography, feminism, and re sexual revolution. And this is my biggest critique critique of (Rothbardian) libertarianism. If you aren't a "team player" and aren't genuinely interested in doing right for the community then there are still myriad ways you can cause serious harm, and this harm can be even more deleterious than that wrought by a tyrannical State (what we have now is the worst of both worlds where the State supports cultural subversion).

    Also to Jeff's point above about "banning" speech. It's been awhile since I have read Doolittle but I believe his position is that untruth and lies should not be tolerated. So if your wife is- *ahem* empirically speaking- a whore, then there is no issue calling a spade a spade. The most culturally alien (jewish) concept in libertarianism is the defense of libel pushed by Block. To him defaming a man is acceptable but the defamed physically retaliating is not. This is complete heresy to Anglo-Saxon liberty/culture.

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    1. UC

      “The most important point I think Doolittle makes is that meaningful liberty cannot function in a society with low-trust. If others have different values (or lack thereof) then there will be a high demand for authoritarian intervention…”

      This is why I am not prepared to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Libertarians who avoid or ridicule the value of a common culture in achieving liberty are ignoring perhaps the most important issue.

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    2. "Also to Jeff's point above about "banning" speech. It's been awhile since I have read Doolittle but I believe his position is that untruth and lies should not be tolerated. So if your wife is- *ahem* empirically speaking- a whore, then there is no issue calling a spade a spade. The most culturally alien (jewish) concept in libertarianism is the defense of libel pushed by Block. To him defaming a man is acceptable but the defamed physically retaliating is not. This is complete heresy to Anglo-Saxon liberty/culture."

      My personal libertarian adherence notwithstanding, if the need arose I might still respond physically and pay whatever restitution arbitration or the courts required. In a court governed by my peers I imagine the cost would be minimal.

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    3. Jeff,

      The point is there shouldn't be any cost at all for you if you are in the right. The cost should be paid only by the liar/dishonorable.

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    4. UC, I agree on what the costs should be. But I'm more interested in what they would be in real life. I just see a libertarian-ish culture as less likely to distort the costs in favor of the wrong side than a propertarian-ish one.

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  7. BM,
    I was curious to find where I shilled for Doolittle before and it turns out it was precisely two years ago on June 10th 2016.

    http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2016/06/freedom-of-speech.html?showComment=1465590759609&m=1#c4426042575174947978

    You wrote a reply piece that addressed my comments (and others) here

    http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2016/06/more-on-freedom-of-speech.html?m=1

    Do you find it as surreal as I do to re-read these exchanges *exactly* two years later?

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    1. Now you really have caused me embarrassment, UC. I am usually pretty good about remembering the dialogue and posts. Oh well, they say the mind is the third thing to go....

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  8. It has been my experience that it is invariably husbands who insult wives and other man who defends them.

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  9. I'm late to the party. The beauty of libertarianism (properly understood) is that is does NOT rely on systematicity to operate, it relies on private property. Not to say respect for property is easy to apply or advocate universally; obviously it is not. But that's all it takes conceptually and even legally. Again and again and again, as BM restates, customs and norms are the tools available to fill in the very large gaps beyond the minimal foundation of property. Or as we might say, "common law." No "system" gets around this.

    As for the term "libertarian," it may go the way of "liberal." Semantics & definitions are not the issue. Who cares if someone thinks you are a libertarian, or even a "libertarian." Whether we like it or not, common usage evolves just like common law does.

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