Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sheldon Richman Comments on Proportionality

His commentary is worth a read for those interested in this topic.  To summarize:

For reasons too obvious to need elaboration, a system of justice aimed at restitution makes eminently good sense, especially from a libertarian perspective. Someone is wronged, so the perpetrator should, to the extent possible, make things right.

…the principle of restitution undercuts the case for punishment, correction, and deterrence as direct objectives of the justice system. The point isn’t to make perpetrators suffer or to reform them or to make potential perpetrators think twice. What good are those to the present victim? Correction, deterrence, and even some suffering (say, shame and embarrassment) may be natural byproducts of a system of restitution, but they are not proper objectives, for where could a right to do more than require restitution come from?

He concludes that restitution is as far as the NAP allows; one of my concerns with this view is that it offers basically a free-ride to the offender – if the offender is caught, all he loses is the property he never would have otherwise had in the first place (setting aside aggressions against the physical body, which opens up a different set of issues).  Heads, I win; tails, I don’t lose.

Richman, however, deals with my concern by leaving room for dealing with repeat offenders:

…a perpetrator who presents a continuing and persistent threat to others might legitimately be confined for reasons of community self-defense, not for punishment, reform, or deterrence.

In my previous post on this topic, I offered definitions to some of these terms and others – terms that describe more than restitution when considering the proper response to violations of the NAP.  While rejecting these alternative ends, Richman offers a situation where something more than restitution is acceptable: when faced with a repeat offender, locking him up is acceptable when done for the purpose of self-defense.

It seems to me that this still leaves the interpretation and application to the standards agreed upon within a given community.  A “continuing and persistent threat” is a subjective criterion that must be put into objective form – a jail cell is completely objective, after all.

The objective form given to this subjective criterion must be one acceptable to the community, else it will not last. So, while I thank Richman for helping to sharpen my vision a bit on this topic, in the end I am at the same place where I have been almost from the beginning of this journey – ultimately the response to a violation of the NAP must be acceptable to the larger community, else the community will not thrive and may not survive.


  1. One could argue that the thief loses the property he stole when he makes restitution. However, as mentioned before, the thief suffers no diminution of rights when he makes restitution, as (by definition) he had no right to the property he stole in the first place. Yet he deprived the property owner of his rights to the property.

    In thinking about this some more, restitution means restoring the owner's rights to his property that was stolen. As a result, the theft was a temporary deprivation of rights. To permanently deprive someone of rights that he temporarily deprived another of seems disproportionate to me.

    On another note, where do you think one "community" ends and another begins?

    1. Where does one end and one begin? As I hypothesize some form of HOA, I guess it depends on the size of the HOA. I could envision terms outlined in the agreement specifying the consequences for violating the peace.

      But, this is merely speculative.

    2. And if one isn't a member of any "HOA"? What then?

    3. Live and defend yourself as you like, or are able.

    4. So then if you don't think one needs to be a member of an "HOA", then why do you appeal to "HOAs" for determining "standards" and "acceptibility"?

    5. Then go ahead and shoot a child for stealing an apple. Your neighbor's (and certainly the parents and friends of the dead child) will decide for you where one community ends and another begins.

      Perhaps you can surmise as to the forms society might take within the framework of the NAP, and how such decisions such as proportionality might be determined - and how they will be accepted / acceptable.

    6. I'm sorry but I don't think you answered my question. I'd appreciate an actual answer to it.

    7. I answered it at July 18, 2014 at 8:40 PM. Was this too direct for you? Perhaps too fast?

      One can voluntarily choose to join or not. Or one might choose to buy a property that comes with this condition or not buy one that comes with this condition.

      Just as some people today voluntarily buy a property within an HOA and some people do not.

      I "appeal" to it as a possible form of voluntary cooperation toward security and other "public" services (for lack of a better term).

      But if someone wants to buy a property unconditioned with this, and there is enough demand for such property, I expect there will be a market.

      If someone buys a property so conditioned, one cannot say he is being forced.

    8. You have not explained to me why you appeal to "HOAs" for determining "standards" and "acceptibility" when you don't think one needs to be a member of an "HOA".

      It didn't sound to me like you were appealing to "HOAs" as simply a possible form. It sounded to me like you were appealing to "HOAs" as the form.

      You said in your blog post that "It seems to me that this still leaves the interpretation and application to the standards agreed upon within a given community." Here you seem to have assumed that everyone will necessarily live in a "community", which you've clarified to mean "some form of HOA". In that case, I don't see any difference between these "communities" and states. That's the point I was getting at.

      Quite frankly, I'm disappointed by the fact that, on multiple occasions now, you've avoided answering direct questions of mine, instead preferring to go on the offensive against me. I can only surmise that you do this because you feel like I'm attacking you personally. I've stated before that that's not my intention in the slightest. Pointing out (potential) inconsistencies in someone's reasoning or advocacy is not at all the same as attacking them personally, in my book. I can't help but wonder why you (apparently) so quickly perceive my questions as personal attacks against you.

    9. Autolykos, I do not assume everyone must live in an HOA; I do not even assume that such a model is the only possible model. Where is my inconstancy - when I have made no definitive, but only speculative, statements (as I made explicitly clear in my comment at July 18, 2014 at 12:35 PM)?

      If someone chooses not to live within some form of community agreement - some combination of insurance / HOA - they are free to fend for themselves in the situation of inevitable conflict - as I commented above.

      Do you have another possibility - something other than either a) join with others (as I speculated) or b) go it alone (as I wrote in answer to your question)? I cannot think of a third, but as you feel I have not answered your question, perhaps it is only because my mind cannot grasp this third, incomprehensible-to-me, possibility.

      I await being enlightened, as in no way am I attempting to avoid or duck your question - I have demonstrated too many times with too many feed-backers my willingness to question my own views, and I have gained much in the process. I have no intent of changing my approach in this particular exchange.

  2. If someone calls a white guy a racist and he smacks him in the mouth does that break the NAP, or is it only physical violence?

    1. I can read your question in more than one way. If you are asking if physical violence is the only issue for NAP, I believe most theorists would agree.