In response to UnhappyConservative April 30, 2016 at 4:57 PM
I write about libertarianism as theory and also the possibilities for libertarianism in practice. I write about theory (and can sometimes be biting in my defense of theory) because without a clear focus on the target, there is never hope to come close to hitting it. I write about practice because merely chanting “NAP, NAP, NAP” will not make such a society spring forth, nor will the chanting maintain such a society if we somehow happen to find one.
I believe, generally, that you and I hold similar views on the above.
We share the same enemy, the state, but not the state in the abstract, but in the particular- The American Federal Government.
I am currently of the opinion that libertarianism in theory is decentralization in practice. I can read into your comment that we hold a similar view regarding this (and to deflate this false god, one reason I write so much about the lies and the evil perpetrated by this same American Federal Government).
There have been many examples in history of such decentralized political power; the one that I have written the most about is the European Middle Ages. Aspects of this period I find to be valuable models for libertarianism in a world populated by humans.
With this said, I will offer some thoughts on your further comments:
What I don't like is failing to recognize the need for a sovereign beyond individual property owners.
The law was sovereign (to the extent there was such a concept) during the Middle Ages. The law, generally, was relatively libertarian: it was the old and the good. It was not man-made, it was generally accepted custom. Further: what is your oath? You were bound to that which you swore an oath.
The king had one function – to uphold the law. He could not write the law – such a concept was outside the possibility of thought at that time and place. If those who swore oath to the king felt he was not properly upholding the law, any one of them could veto his decision. Of course this did not always happen without violence, but the violence was contained.
Of course, the law was only as effective as it had those to defend it. Today, we have little of the moral / ethical grounding that once made this an effective means of exercising sovereignty (this to your point, I believe). Perhaps it is most certainly true where political power is centralized and far less true where it is decentralized (this to my point).
In order to minimize the State as much a possible (as you would like) it would be necessary to have a strict process of selecting members for a society and having rules that non-members cannot own property.
Immigration and border control within a libertarian framework is almost impossible to envision in a world of state control of borders. Unfortunately, the state isn’t very good at it today. Or they are VERY good at it (getting what they want in much of Europe), which is even worse.
The best application of libertarian theory I can come up with in this world is one where the potential immigrant has some combination of a) a job offer or other means to pay his way in society, b) an offer for accommodation (rental agreement or purchase contract), and c) a letter of recommendation from one or more members of the community in good standing with an assurance that the immigrant will not be a burden to society.
This minimizes the state in the decision-making and maximizes decentralization within today’s context. This, perhaps, comes close to your requirements.
Speaking of decentralized power regarding immigration: the Swiss today offer a fine – and reasonably effective – example of this. Of course, decentralized political power has something (everything?) to do with this, I suppose. Can such a thing happen in the United States? The European Union?
We may be seeing the beginnings of decentralization – the visible signs are in societal demands for the decentralization of political power. The seeds of the centralized state’s destruction are sown – the signs are all around us.
What of people doing things on their property that should not be done at all? Molesting their children for instance. There is no way to justify an intervention into that situation without having something sovereign above property owners.
This is Wenzel’s interpretation of libertarian theory. It isn’t mine, and I am 100% certain that he is totally wrong in his application of the theory. For what it’s worth, real heavyweights on libertarian theory have weighed in against his cockamamie idea – Walter Block publicly, two others (whom anyone reading this blog will know quite well) to me privately.
While any individual is free to take the defense of the child in his own hands (and face consequences if others in the community felt his intervention unjustified), it is helpful that a society generally agrees on what is an aggression – let’s say, using your example, “molesting their children.” With this agreement, the child molester could be stopped by whatever force necessary (without legal risk) – even via trespassing on the child molester’s property. This, I find, is perfectly compatible with the NAP.
Is it because the person who has intervened is sovereign? No. It is because the community has deemed that there is a violation to the NAP. Their “customary” definition of “aggression” has been violated; it is not only the right, but the duty, for others in the community to intervene.
By the time you get to (7) it is beginning to look like a State, which is why I said above that a starting point like that would turn quickly into a minimal state serving the interests of the people.
Item 7 is not a state if I am free to take my business elsewhere (insurance companies, managers of homeowner’s associations, etc.). Fred Foldvary offers an analysis of many private applications of security and the like. We have functioning models of all of these today. If I am not free to take my business elsewhere, the agent will never stay minimal – at least not in a “state” of any size.
With all of this said, I find it difficult to imagine that libertarianism can flourish in a society without some generally accepted cultural conditions. I do not even say these cultural conditions have to be the same in all places for all people (although I do believe some cultural conditions offer better possibilities than do others); only that there is a generally accepted cultural norm within a group (community, tribe, nation…whatever you want to call it).
Which brings me to what I take away as the issue most important for you:
…the preconditions for a good society generally and what present trends we need to be aware of moving forward.
Preconditions…toward what? A more libertarian world. This is the reason I focus on libertarian theory – this is the “toward what” for me.
Maybe you are right about the necessity of such preconditions. I cannot see it as either / or. Either the NAP or proper culture is the precondition. I cannot say one must come before the other – perhaps it is the necessity of having two hands to wash the other. For this reason, I write about both.
Perhaps one way I might think about it...consider two societies: the first, libertine libertarian (in other words, anything goes – just don’t violate the NAP) with nothing to bind them to each other beyond the NAP; the second a society with common cultural ties – family and community focused – and a reasonably healthy (though not perfect) respect for private property.
In twenty years, which one is likely to remain relatively libertarian? Today, in which one would I rather live? I think the answer to both is the same.
As I have written before, events are driving toward decentralization in the West; events are driving toward a multi-polar world. Neither you nor I can control what happens next – the “preconditions,” so to speak. The “next” is coming, whatever we do. Again, perhaps this is why I write about both.
I appreciate the importance of your focus – this should be evident in the amount of writing I have devoted to culture, etc. – even before I knew you. I just cannot say that it is the only focus, or that it should be the first focus.
The virtually certain decentralization of the West can only be good for libertarianism – decentralization being the practical application of the theory.
The decentralization will offer choice. Some of these choices will be more libertarian than others. Some of these choices will have cultural norms more conducive to liberty than others.
As to libertarianism and the NAP: as I have written before, it is beautifully simple, and should not be burdened with the weight of the world. Do not initiate aggression – we need not ask more of it than this.
BM I really appreciate what you are doing here. This is by far the best place I have found to discuss these questions, I should have hopped in sooner. Thanks m8.
I have come to learn that you are someone who has given a lot of thought to these issues. I appreciate the feedback.
What a great response and articulation of your position. You should be the sovereign king of libertarian bloggers and the realm would benefit from it.
Your take down of Wenzel's garbage was excellent and I don't mean to associate his position with you. I read your debate when it came out and was firmly on your side.
I would however like to look closer at this:
"Is it because the person who has intervened is sovereign? No. It is because the community has deemed that there is a violation to the NAP. Their “customary” definition of “aggression” has been violated; it is not only the right, but the duty, for others in the community to intervene."
This was a clever response. I understand that you could in theory have an NAP based legal order in which agreements are made in advance to allow for intervention in the event of a situation like child abuse. In that case you are correct, it is not an expression of sovereignty because you are not making an exception to the rule.
However, let us say that the people doing the raping are not in the agreement but are in the general territory. It then is an expression of sovereignty to intervene because it goes against the rules (NAP).
The same would be true of preventing the importation of hostile martians by using force against a near-by by property owner. You simply have to do it, and there is no certain way to do it through agreement (though of course you can try diplomacy first but do you really want someone who you have to buy off from that behavior living near your territory?)
Another need for sovereignty comes from the fact that there are going to be other political units in the world and you need to be able to maintain your way and your territory in the event that these other political units are hostile to you. This is the friend-enemy distinction and as long as other groups or other sovereigns exist it will too (since the possibility of enmity is always there).
Which brings me to, "Item 7 is not a state if I am free to take my business elsewhere." This depends on your definition of State. It is a State from the perspective of hierarchical organization (it is the highest political unit above the household). The area where these rules are enforced might be called the State of Mosquitostan by outsiders.
Also, the kind of agreements that you are talking about would not be effective if they are easy to get out of. The whole point of signing on to something like that would be that the members know what to expect in the future and can plan accordingly.
What do you think of the idea of signing 100+ year contracts that bind all future owners of the property?
I would also like to comment on the idea of secession and opting out generally. Secession is a natural and sensible idea for breaking away from bad political unions, but there is a point when secession can be seen as conquest.
Consider a religious community in which one of the property owners dies. Lets say the deceased was a loyal and devout member of the community but tragically his no-good son is a depraved weirdo(he did his best but for some reason the son did not follow in the ways of the father). Upon the Father's death the son gains control of the estate and turns it into a transgendered satanist flop house. He declares he has succeeded but unfortunately for the community at large the property is at the center of town right next to their church.
Would you support his "secession"?
(I have to go take my car to the shop, I will comment again on other aspects of your piece later)
When you have finished your replies, I will do my best to respond.Delete
" Preconditions…toward what? A more libertarian world. This is the reason I focus on libertarian theory – this is the “toward what” for me."
The oldest political question. Obviously the ideal is a more harmonious and just world where we can get on with our lives and build new things that the opportunity costs of the present order make difficult or even impossible. Of course I think libertarianism is more or less irrelevant to the non-western world but if the West was more libertarian that would dramatically improve the rest of the world.
Framed broadly a National Socialist and a Libertarian want similar things but their understanding of how to get it differs. Put this way, libertarianism itself becomes the precondition, or the means and not the end. The end is what it has always been- The Good Thing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMCMudxTTQE).
"Either the NAP or proper culture is the precondition. I cannot say one must come before the other – perhaps it is the necessity of having two hands to wash the other"
Respectfully, I believe this is a false dichotomy or straw man on your part (I think maybe you misunderstand my position a little).
My argument works like this: first I give you the benefit of the doubt that you are right about libertarianism as the best political order (you may actually be right). The question then becomes what are the preconditions for THAT order in particular (the preconditions of the preconditions to The Good Thing). Obviously the society needs to accept libertarian law of some kind. That requires a certain kind of people and it is our task to find out what kind of people. In addition to types of people we need to have an understanding of what are the essential ideas and values that these people will have to hold. Tautologically one of those values would be respect for private property- that too comes with preconditions of its own.
My argument regarding sovereignty (or really Carl Schmitt's argument re-purposed to Hans Herman Hoppe) is that there is a political precondition beyond private property. This is the ability to act for your interests against your rules, or framed differently rules that are bound to the particular rather than the universal. One way to establish this would be that the NAP only applies to members of a society and that all outsiders are fair game (I know this doesn't sound good to libertarians and their proclivity to universal theories of rights, but there is no reason you actually have to commit much aggression against outsiders).
My view of the world and of history is Euro-centric. I believe that the west is the proverbial Mount Sumeru, the axis on which the world rotates. The goal is not to spread western political models like libertarianism around the world but to focus on decentralizing power in our own societies. If we can do that much the world will be a far better place, and on this point I can't imagine you would disagree.
I am concerned first and foremost with my own people, European people, and I want what is best for them. If we can fix what is broken in the West it is a win-win for the rest of the world as well.
If, as you argue, decentralization is the future of the West then our job is to lay the intellectual foundations for what comes next. These foundations would look more like the "preconditions" I write about than the libertarian theory that Block writes about (no disrespect to Dr.Block). If decentralization is inevitable then the focus should be on the other preconditions. I am not suggesting that is what YOU should do, but that it needs to be done. I encourage libertarians to research things like HBD (humanbiologicaldiversity.com) and evolutionary psychology.
Question: in the best case scenario of a future libertarian order what do you believe the role of "libertarian theory" will be? Will people even know the word? Do they need to?
Reply to Part 1Delete
“This was a clever response.”
I would like to take credit for it, but cannot. It comes straight out of my understanding of “law” in the Germanic Middle Ages (see the Fritz Kern links). It seemed to work pretty well for many centuries.
“…in which agreements are made in advance…”
They were, in the example offered – the old and good law. Custom.
“However, let us say that the people doing the raping are not in the agreement but are in the general territory. It then is an expression of sovereignty to intervene because it goes against the rules (NAP).”
The question was asked “what is your law?” In other words, the law followed the individual, not the territory. It would be curious to wonder why a rapist would leave a territory where rape was “legal” in order to go somewhere where he would likely be killed for it – “his” personal law be damned.
In any case, I imagine the father of the raped child would take matters into his own hands, come what may. You call that sovereign; he might call it self-defense – or justice. The good part about this? The disagreement remained small and local – family feuds.
“The same would be true of preventing the importation of hostile martians by using force against a near-by by property owner.”
No system offers perfect peace. Others in the community will live with it or do something about it. They might even commit a few NAP violations. Again, the good news? The conflict stays small, local.
“Another need for sovereignty comes from the fact that there are going to be other political units in the world and you need to be able to maintain your way and your territory in the event that these other political units are hostile to you.”
This is where this entire concept falls apart (for me): unless we agree to one world government, there will always be conflict between and amongst sovereigns. There is nothing magical about having 200 sovereigns (more or less, the number of countries today), or two thousand or two million. Once you have more than one: conflict between and amongst sovereigns.
So the issue isn’t a system of no conflict vs. a system of conflict. You keep offering examples, suggesting that because they might lead to conflict you need a sovereign. Where does this end? The answer: with the United Nations, NATO, and the World Bank / IMF.
“It is a State from the perspective of hierarchical organization…”
There are many hierarchical organizations that are voluntary to join and voluntary to leave – in other words, not states.
“The area where these rules are enforced might be called the State of Mosquitostan by outsiders.”
Employees of Wal-Mart have rules enforced as a condition of continued employment – this is no state.
“Also, the kind of agreements that you are talking about would not be effective if they are easy to get out of.”
We make such agreements regularly, and they all function quite well – every insurance contract is one example, every rental agreement another. Normally the ease of getting out of them is defined in the initial contract and is proportional to the level of complication inherent in the transaction.
“What do you think of the idea of signing 100+ year contracts that bind all future owners of the property?”
I find nothing inherently wrong about this, except why limit it to 100 years? The buyer is buying with a known condition, and adjusts the price he is willing to pay accordingly.
“Would you support his "secession"?”
Your example assumes (I assume) that there were no prior conditions on the property. In any case, there are many ways to deal with this if those in the neighborhood choose to do so. Not sell them food or gas, block their driveways so they cannot enter / exit (assuming the private owner of the streets agrees), organize weeklong revival meetings at the church next door – 24 hours a day of God’s blessings, with voices reaching high to the Heavens.
Reply to Part 2Delete
“Framed broadly a National Socialist and a Libertarian want similar things but their understanding of how to get it differs.”
It is the “different things” that each wants that define them. For example, my life. The National Socialist has an entirely different “want” on this than does a libertarian.
“Obviously the society needs to accept libertarian law of some kind.”
To accept it, it must be defined, explained, expanded. Probably a good idea for libertarian theorists to continue to theorize, don’t you think? Maybe hang on to the word?
“That requires a certain kind of people and it is our task to find out what kind of people.”
How do you find them? Is there a mailing list? What will you tell them to convince them to move from their square to yours? Isn’t it easier for them to find you?
My point is: define the kind of people by communicating the ideas, concepts, philosophies (and we have a wonderful gift of communication available to us today). Thereafter, the “kind of people” will find you. See Isaiah’s Job.
“These foundations would look more like the "preconditions" I write about than the libertarian theory that Block writes about (no disrespect to Dr. Block).”
Both have an important role – it isn’t either / or. As mentioned, I have landed in a spot (at least for today’s reality of bionic) where I find it worthwhile to write about both.
“Question: in the best case scenario of a future libertarian order what do you believe the role of "libertarian theory" will be?”
Always defining and refining. Ensuring the word keeps its meaning. How do people accept libertarian law (as is obvious to you) without understanding and exploring that law?
“Will people even know the word? Do they need to?”
How is this understanding transferred or described – even to your European neighbors – without a word for it?
We struggle today under the weight of the reality that many of the words that once described liberty having been stripped of their meaning. How to explain anything without vocabulary? How do we maintain anything that requires cooperation without a language?
I explained in my reply to Perry that there are reasons to think that in Ancapistan you would have a pseudo-feudal order, with lords owning property and serfs living on that property (I don't necessarily object to this as long as the lords are cool guys). So we could easily imagine a situation in which all property in a given territory is owned by a family (or a few families).
The lords would perform the role of a sovereign, making decisions they believe to be beneficial to the community. I think this is a more realistic than a situation in which a society of political equals works everything out through market transactions.
What do you think of a neo-fuedal order BM?
"They were, in the example offered – the old and good law. Custom."
I would argue that in order to have a society governed by custom you need ethnic homogeneity, or close to it.
BM, can you recommend any literature on the middle ages that you think I might find relevant?
There is more I could comment on but I will leave it there for now because I am sure much of this will come up in future posts.
One subject I would like to address in the future is the question of rights. Do you subscribe to a universal theory of rights? Do you agree with Rothbard's conception of Natural Rights?
“The lords would perform the role of a sovereign, making decisions they believe to be beneficial to the community.”Delete
As mentioned, during the Middle Ages the law was sovereign (to the extent anything was considered such). Decisions had to conform to this law – even decisions toward serfs (who, for much of this period and in many regions, had it better than we do).
“What do you think of a neo-fuedal order BM?”
The Germanic feudal order was about as close as I have found to a decentralized society where all men were under law – NOT equally, but ALL were UNDER the law. It would have been interesting to see how law might have developed had this path been maintained instead of reverting to Roman custom.
“BM, can you recommend any literature on the middle ages that you think I might find relevant?”
For the law, read Fritz Kern’s “Kingship and Law”:
Or see my various posts on his work (far less expensive):
Your reading will flow best from oldest post to newest.
“Do you subscribe to a universal theory of rights?”
I have never studied this significantly, so I respond based on what I understand.
I believe all men are created in God’s image. Most men don’t reflect it.
I believe in theory all men should be equal under the law. Yet some will always, naturally and deservedly (even or especially in a healthy society) rise to positions of leadership.
But the theory is one thing. Then there is application – instead of the state leaving us alone under this condition, they apply force to each of us to achieve their definition of this condition. In other words, the sweet-sounding theory becomes a tool for shaping society.
So, it sounds good on paper – equal rights, all men created equal. From what I know, this view has always resulted in a loss of rights for the vast majority. Lowest common denominator, some more equal than others, etc.
The weight of this utopian ideal is carried by the productive members of humanity.
At least, that’s what I think off of the top of my head.
“Do you agree with Rothbard's conception of Natural Rights?”
I haven’t studied this to any extent, but my guess is that some of my replies above might be applicable.
"I think you need to let go of using the term "sovereignty" to characterize actions that are either (1) self-defense, or (2) legitimate restitution based on universal principles of justice (NAP)."
I explained above that in the case of (1) and (2) sovereignty does not enter into it because these actions accord with the established rules. My argument is that you need to be able to make an exception to these rules for existential reasons.
Not all conflicts can be solved within the bounds of the NAP and through voluntary agreement. Some conflicts will be settled using force, preemptive (aggressive) force. From a colloquial view point you can call this self-defense, but if all property is sacrosanct then preemptive violence becomes a violation of the rules and the only justification for that violence lies in a conception of sovereignty.
I believe many libertarians attempt write-off politics all together and re-frame everything in terms of economics and tort law, but the way in which they do it is somewhat deceptive. You are not getting rid of the concept of sovereignty so much as trying to devise a situation in which every individual is sovereign. If these people are all political equals and they come into a conflict that jeopardizes the community at large who decides the winner and loser?
Hoppe's use of "physical removal" is no doubt a conception of sovereignty. If people are a threat to your society they need to be physically removed even if they have yet to violate the NAP. Whatever political body is responsible for this is the sovereign and it is a necessary component of a stable society.
Much of this comes down to the specifics of geography and borders. Even a highly decentralized private property based society is going to need borders and the decision of who comes and who goes will have to made. This is not pure voluntary exchange but restrictions on exchange imposed by a sovereign body and necessary ones at that.
Realistically, in the society you describe there would be a somewhat feudal arrangement where in some people will be far wealthier than others. They will own land that others rent like serfs and in that relationship the property owners will be sovereign relative to the renters. There would be normal every-day do's and don'ts but if the landlord saw fit they could evict them for whatever reason. This would be necessary to maintain the social order and it would be fulfilling the role of a sovereign.
"The need for a monopoly sovereign is a myth."
How do you respond to existential threats that are not clear cut violations of the "NAP"?
How do you determine what is a NAP violation? In the case of the child abuser and Wenzel's Private Property Society you would be the NAP violator for your trespass and intervention, not the child abuser. What about slant drilling? Walter Block says slant drilling is libertarian homesteading, but in Texas it's theft. What about IP rights? Wenzel says that IP rights are perpetual and never expire. How are you going to determine a regimen for IP rights and enforce it, if there is indeed a right to IP at all?ReplyDelete
I think that you will find that almost no one can agree on what constitutes a NAP violation.
This is why have pushed on this idea of culture (or whatever you want to call it). People "around here" kind of have an agreed upon sense about what makes for aggression.
If someone gets too far out of line - and "right" or "wrong" won't matter much (as out of line is out of line) - others will rectify the situation...if they care about their culture.