Saturday, March 21, 2015

So BIG That You Have to Wait Six Months

Matt Zwolinski is at it again, BIGger and better than ever.  He is again peddling his notion of BIG (Basic Income Guarantee) as being fully compatible with libertarian principles. He did this before on pragmatic grounds, which I dealt with here. 

He must have read my post:

My argument here is substantially different from the argument I made at Cato Unbound last year. That argument was a pragmatic, second-best argument that aimed to show that even libertarians who opposed the welfare state altogether should endorse a BIG as better than the status quo. In my new paper, I argue for a BIG on a more principled basis, drawing on the liberation opposition to coercion and the Lockean Proviso…

So, he has given up on his faulty pragmatic argument.  No need to thank me, Matt.

Having given up on a pragmatic case (only a teaser, as it turns out it was only his “second-best argument”), he believes he can score on a principled argument.

And just what is this argument?  (Sorry, you only get a summary as it won’t be available online for six months):

Because the initial owners of land seized it, Lockean libertarian principles necessitate some form of compensation, and a government-guaranteed basic income is the alternative best suited to fill that role and can do so without violating individual property rights.

I can’t wait to find out from whom the initial owners of land did the seizing.  Deer?  Mastodons?  Tumbleweed?  God?  This last one gets my vote, but I suspect Matt isn’t making this case; in any case, for this I owe God, not man.  (And if you don’t hold to my view, I won’t stick a knife in your belly to get you to comply; that’s your business, none of mine.)  For a thorough argument on this point, see this.

There must be some new language that is beyond my ability to capture, when “initial owner” doesn’t mean “initial owner,” when something can be seized before it is owned by anyone, when that non-existent prior owner is therefore owed compensation.

I guess I will have to wait six months for Matty’s clarification.


  1. The whole bleeding heart libertarian thing reminds me of Mises at the Mont Pelerin Society, they are all a bunch of socialists. They are welcome to their views but I wish they would stop using the libertarian tag. Then again obfuscation and infiltration are key tactics of their real ideology.

  2. Zwolinski is dangerous. His stuff has been published in the latest Independent Review and debated within its pages. His arguments stink of warrenite filth. Property was stolen from "society" therefore the appropriator owes "society" rent (i.e. taxes to be redistributed for 'social justice'.) But where does "societies" claim to ownership come from? Why does "society" have more of a claim - enough to charge rent,or else - then the initial owner? Property is coercive? Zwolwinski is very much muddying the water and unfortunately some are buying into it. T.H Green comes to mind, or a later J.S. Mill before him. The door is being opened and once opened the justification for force, dressed up in colorful terms (social justice, equality, will of the people, common good, etc. ) floods in so strongly no dam can hold it back. If libertarians give this guy recognition they may find their beliefs going the way of liberalism (in the classical sense). Zwolinski needs to be called out for what he is and that is, in the words of L.T. Hobhouse , a liberal socialist aka modern liberal.

    1. "Zwolinski needs to be called out for what he is..."

      Whenever I come across a thickening of the libertarian philosophy, I do my small part.

    2. And it is very much appreciated.

  3. I appreciated your last comment, that he owes it to God. Isn't it true though, don't we all?
    Thanks for the post!