Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Libertarian: Left, Center, and Right

From a most wonderful comment to the post Borders, Culture, and Decentralization:

Nomad Soul April 11, 2016 at 1:40 PM

I really like this line of inquiry you have been pursuing lately. The evolution of the argument beyond theory is a very important and long-neglected aspect of realizing the NAP.

Attempting to apply libertarian theory in today’s world (which is, at minimum, complicated on the issue of open borders and immigration) without recognizing that the world is populated by humans is rather pointless.  But this isn’t the most wonderful part of the comment; I just wanted to take the pat on the back. 

This is:

If not shared culture, then how shall people organize themselves?

Forgive the generalizations, but I have addressed in the past (sometimes more than once) each of the following types:

Left-libertarians, at least of the left-anarchist type, believe no means of organization is necessary – the world will consist of 7 billion equally sovereign individuals; under the authority of no one, in any sense.  Not only involuntarily (the monopoly state) but voluntarily – no boss, no customers, no landlord.  Even the role of the family has come into question.  Further, culture is not merely ignored – it is gleefully mocked.

Never, anywhere on earth, has this fantasy come to reality (maybe a hermit on a mountaintop, if you like that sort of thing).

Center (or thin) libertarians believe nothing is necessary for a peaceful world beyond the NAP; culture doesn’t matter, governance – even voluntarily chosen – is not necessary.  To introduce culture is to introduce some form of statism.  But if not cultural norms, then what (or who) will govern?  Don’t you wonder why the state works so hard to destroy culture – an alternative (and reasonably voluntary) governance mechanism? 

Returning to the comment:

Forcing the anti-culture people to answer this will reveal the underpinnings of their argument, which is Statism (top down control) and force without consent dictated by a ruling class.

Without a generally accepted culture, how will people organize themselves?  For the left, absent governance via hierarchy of some sort…well, there is no such thing and never has such a thing been demonstrated; family and kin is a far preferred method to any alternative since devised.  For the center, the NAP does not apply itself and cannot answer every question between and amongst humans. 

People will demand that something fills the voids left by lack of hierarchy and lack of clearly defined and accepted terms.  That something is statism – not liberty.

What of the remaining “right” libertarians?  Let the leftists have whatever “culture” they choose – as long as they stay in their own sandbox.  They will kill themselves off soon enough.  The “anything goes” libertine lifestyle – while presenting no violation of the NAP – has never sustained, let alone advanced, civilization.  That they cannot understand this demonstrates the futility of their future: they have none.

The only concern (and it is not a small one) is that they drag the rest of society down with them.  The other concern is that they destroy interest in libertarianism.

As to a future for center – or so-called “thin” – libertarians?  There is none.  The non-aggression principle is not the answer to every question.

The libertarian right understands that culture matters, and a certain culture. 


Libertarian theory is thin – it is the non-aggression principle.  Thin leaves the most room in the tent, making room for the most people to join.  When it comes to writing about and defending libertarian theory, I will put my “thin” credentials next to anyone.  But libertarian theory is not everything.

Application of libertarian theory in this world requires taking into account human realities.  Achieving and then sustaining a libertarian future (or even moving in that direction) requires the same.


  1. In thinking about the NAP not being enough and that there must be the right culture in place, I keep coming back to early Greek culture. Edith Hamilton's "The Greek Way" is a must-read on this subject. A few things to note:

    1) They were arguably the first culture to understand and value true liberty:

    "Abject submission to the power on the throne which had been the rule of life in the ancient world since kings began, and was to be the rule of life in Asia for centuries to come, was cast off by the Greeks so easily, so lightly, hardly more than an echo of the contest has come down to us."

    2) They valued and shared a common religion, but this religion was never political or involuntary:

    "It is an extraordinary fact that by the time we have actual, documentary knowledge of the Greeks there is not a trace to be found of that domination over the mind by the priests which played such a decisive part in the ancient world.”

    3) They tirelessly pursued reason and knowledge, and thereby, truth:

    "'Egypt and Phœnicia love money,' Plato remarks in a discussion on how nations differ. 'The special characteristic of our part of the world is the love of knowledge.'"

    “The Greeks not only face facts. They have no desire to escape from them.”

    4) While they loved liberty, they also understood the necessity of voluntary self-restraint:

    “Liberty depends on self-restraint. Freedom is freedom only when controlled and limited.”

    5) They were compassionate individualists:

    "Here the Greek tragedians speak to us with no uncertain voice. Deep down, when we search out the reason for our conviction of the transcendent worth of each human being, we know that it is because of the possibility that each can suffer so terribly... Suffering is the most individualizing thing on earth.”

    1. "Abject submission to the power on the throne which had been the rule of life in the ancient world since kings began, and was to be the rule of life in Asia for centuries to come, was cast off by the Greeks so easily, so lightly, hardly more than an echo of the contest has come down to us."

      LOL a greek booster...

      Son, there's always been opposition to power. Dontcha know that greek idea of a Citizen was someone involved not in any dirty business, but politics?

      Greeks invented democockracy. Who's bigger now?

    2. Greek term of an idiot derives from a private person, one not participating in politics, where all the brightest and the best gather in a brainstorm on how to improve the world.

      Go do your ancient boosting somewhere else, moron (greek for a fool).

    3. LOL, please remain polite. It will better serve your arguments.

    4. LOL, for all of his belligerence, is essentially correct. Go read Plato's Republic. The Greeks came up with the "philosopher king" idea. Leo Straus and his "Neoconservatives" are Plato's children. Look at the Spartans. These were collectivism writ large, they were "Marxian" before Marx was born.

  2. "As to a future for center – or so-called “thin” – libertarians? There is none. The non-aggression principle is not the answer to every question."

    Gerard Casey made several very good points in his book "Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State" regarding libertarianism as filling a limited void of what constitutes a complete moral theory.

    Few select quotes:

    "It is important to realize that libertarianism is not, nor is it intended to be, a complete moral theory. Much confusion will be prevented and many possible objections can be summarily deflected if this point is appreciated."

    "A society built solely on libertarian principles would be just but there can be few libertarians who would see the libertarian principle as the end of a complete human life and not just as the minimal preconditions for such a life."

    Ignoring everything else relevant to the context of a situation besides the NAP is what many of our critics refer to as a "libertarian autism."

    1. Thank you for the quotes from Mr. Casey. Very good.

  3. I can only echo much of what's been said: Talking about the importance of culture is the next leg of the Libertarian conversation. Milo's critique of Libertarianism was pretty spot on, for no other reason than Cato, Reason, and Gary Johnson have claimed the authority behind the label. They weren't able to convince other libertarians of their brand of libertarianism - why would anyone else bother?

    The day after the election, there was an article by Jeff Deist that addressed this. While I agree with him, I'm a bit faithless. The current mouthpieces of beltway Libertarianism seem content with keeping the conversation very simple.

    1. "The current mouthpieces of beltway Libertarianism seem content with keeping the conversation very simple."

      Perhaps one reason none of the beltway types were listed as Russian actors....

  4. Anonimo lombardo - Libertarian theory is thin, but in this world - and this means everytime everywhere - we must add something to it, something cultural. Thi is the exact reasoning of tucker when he wrote that article: against libertarian brutalism. The difference is in the fculture you want to add to the nap. But the ricolous thing is that right libertarians, or realistic libertarians, only by saying "the theory is thin, but everytime we use it we have to add this" feel they are different. If you say that libertarianism requires X and doesen't exists without it, you have de facto included X in libertarian theory. Rothbard, Hoppe, Tucker, have done this before. They distinguished in theory... but in practice... so when someone says for example "libertarianism requires tolerance or not to be a racist or not to be omophobic or not to be a white suprematist" you can di sagre all you want, but you cannot blames that they are adding to the nap their personal culturale preferences and convictions, because that is exactly what you, hoppe, right and realistic libertarian are doing.

  5. Apologies in advance for the length of this post.

    The problem with left libertarians of the Reason ilk is that they do not understand the nature of either libertarianism or culture. I think they do realize that libertarianism is not sufficient to address all the issues that arise in a society or for that matter what drives and shapes us as human beings. However, they go wrong in two ways in trying to overcome this.

    1. While I am not the most versed when it comes to defining culture, it seems to me that they attempt to elevate social practices (like smoking pot and listening to rock music) to the level of a cultural value.

    2. They then incorporate those values into libertarianism and portray them as morally and objectively right (just like Progressives). "Don't support homosexuality or smoking pot? You are not a libertarian!" Libertarianism does not recommend a particular set of cultural values or advocate for specific social activities and practices. It is indifferent (although it can be argued that certain cultural values are required for a successful libertarian society).

    Libertarianism only deals in absolutes when it comes to the NAP and private property. This is why being anti-war is the only position acceptable under libertarianism. In my view one can be a homosexual libertarian but one can also be a libertarian who is completely against homosexuality. Libertarianism only cares about these issues in relation to whether or not one seeks to violate the NAP while going about one's business and interacting with others.

    Left libertarians have it backwards. Libertarianism (and Austrian economics) must be incorporated into a broader philosophy that will also address culture. This philosophy also does not need to be accepted by the masses initially. It is those whose stock in trade is ideas that need be on board. The sheep will follow the shepherds. The despotic Pol Pot was a teacher not just a simple thug with a taste for violence.

  6. weak points:

    1. To assume that because something has not been observed, or is not the norm for human societies, it cannot be observed and cannot become the norm (or a norm in some limited context) is a fundamental error. (The same could be said of most any practical application of "libertarianism," even your own. So just give up then. There's no need to have a blog, discuss any alternative to the currently observed situation etc.)

    2. To label all alternatives to your own narrow view as "statism" and then assume this is some sort of reasonable justification for your point of view is an even worse error.

    3. The worst is the assumption that human civilization has been observed and therefore current observed "culture" is desirable and is the norm---which you are worried will be "dragged down." It (civilization as a norm) has never been observed. This fact suggests that "culture" should be subject to evaluation rather than blind embrace.

    1. I know you!

      Human nature is observable. Communists, progressives, left-libertarians all want to create human beings in their definition of perfect.

      I hold no such delusions of grandeur.

    2. Yet you cry out for "culture." But culture is a label. I think you miss the point. The NAP IS definition by omission, by negatives. It is entirely doughnut-hole. So here you come, with your essay today, to decry this phenomenon and you are precisely engaging in the very practice you want to condemn. If you have a culture, go make it. Identify it. Say what it IS. Just complaining about the other guy's theory advances nothing. Where's YOUR culture? Where's YOUR doughnut? There is the problem. The "left," "right," and "center" libertarians have defined themselves collectively by what they despise about the other strains. The anonymous anonymous author of the comment above is essentially correct.

    3. Count

      Hoppe has defined the necessary culture pretty well. I have probably written 10-15 posts referencing his work. Forgive me that I don't repeat myself over and over and over and over and over and over.....

    4. If someone is going to make a point though, that "they" have no culture, then it would be worth the time to at least mention that there is such a beast (culture) on offer somewhere, and point to it, or perhaps summarize its nature in a few words.

      I have this problem with Hoppe: he reduces his fundamental ethical premise to respect for "property." I assert that "property" is not the essential fundamental here. "Ownership" does not exist outside of a social context. "Association" is the fundamental concept, within which "property" can be defined. The fundamental distinction is whether one believes that association is consensual or may be coerced or manipulated. I would say that there is plenty of evidence that the fundamental problem of libertarianism is that most people, including self-professed libertarians and Objectivists, do not understand this problem. The idea of "property" and "self-ownership" blind even libertarians that most human beings on earth accept a fundamental subconscious premise taught to them by their initial caregivers, almost from birth. That erroneous premise is that love can be coerced or manipulated, that some associations need not be consensual, or are not, by nature. That it is human and natural, even ethical, to force belonging on the unwilling, for a variety of reasons: family, culture, religion, politics, etc. It's why Rand and the Objectivists cannot shed the idea of the monopoly State. Regardless of what they consciously accept about the "non-initiation of force" almost ALL of them believe, even if subconsciously, that children MUST be "forced" to "belong" or forced to reason. This, despite the fact that the idea fundamentally contradicts the Objectivist epistemology, which states that Man is a rational being by nature. The thing that people do not wish to admit is that "forced association" is a delusion. Despite the "success" of the institution of slavery for much of human history, it is still the case that all association is ultimately voluntary, by nature. We can try to force the delusion on the universe, but ultimately there will be and are consequences.

    5. I think you have some very good points. In particular, your critique of Hoppe seems to me to be 100%: Association must precede property. In addition Hoppe's "forcing others to reason" is aggression. It is very possible that the "others" are so far superior to you (by whatever measure---in particular that they have no conflict with you) that there is no justification for them to engage you in argument or for you to engage them in argument. Nevertheless, it might be possible to engage another on a different foundation---one of mutual agreement---for discussion (rather than argument). Hoppe's approach is entirely based on genuine conflict. And the "emergent norm" for property is conflict. In a certain sense, Hoppe (and a person who follows his ideas) has decided that conflict is always the basis for association and then he has dignified this error by calling it human nature. The question is: Is it possible to find a foundation for association that is different from conflict? Is there a divergent norm, rather than the emergent one?

      I think, perhaps, a good place to look is (in contrast to Hobbe's "state of nature") the birth of a human and the attending association. Indeed it may be said that there is an initial aggression here. The newborn did not request or consent to be faced with life. It is perhaps reasonable that he is justified in retaliating against this aggression, but generally he is too weak to do so. At least because of this (or perhaps because of this) the parents have time to influence the perception of the child. And they usually do this with reasonably benevolent intentions. Most parents wish for their child to embrace life. They wish for him to even appreciate their actions in providing for his existence and maintenance. They wish for him a long and happy life. They wish for him to have property---not through conflict but with mutual consent. And that can turn out to be the case. So much for nasty, brutish, and short.

      Nevertheless, the gnat has a point, I think, in that the nonaggression principle is insufficient. Where he seems to go off the rails is in assuming that "culture" (and especially a culture that is specifically founded on aggression---like the human culture which is the emergent norm) is the place to look for what else is needed.

  7. Would not a shared belief in the NAP be considered a "common culture", regardless of language, lifestyle or heritage?

    This is an interesting article and discussion. Thank you!

    1. Yes, necessary but insufficient.

      The NAP does not define itself. Underlying it are many subjective terms: "aggression," "property," and "punishment" all come to mind quickly.

      How will these terms be defined? By whom? A common understanding within a community and general acceptance of this common understanding (call this "common culture") will go a long way toward ensuring a society remains peaceful.

      Hence, a common culture goes a long way toward avoiding the demand for some authority to lord over us, to "protect" us.

    2. I certainly agree about having definitions of all the terms in the NAP. Has one been done?

      I have even had some misunderstanding with the word "aggression" as used. I believe it should only be defined as "physical " aggression while I have had others define it as both vocal and physical. I suppose different communities could have their own version of definitions while keeping the spirit of the Principle intact but differently structured but regardless they should be defined. One tribe, different clans.

      "Hence, a common culture goes a long way toward avoiding the demand for some authority to lord over us, to "protect" us."


    3. I think it is a fruitless exercise to try to turn these subjective terms into objective terms. Seven billion people will never agree, and as you point out, even libertarians cannot agree amongst themselves.

      It is enough to accept the "what goes on around here" definition. If it is of minor annoyance to me, I will live with it. If it is a significant issue, I may decide to leave or work to change it.

    4. The doughnut you seem unable to define is "governance." Without this concept, you are complaining essentially of too much doughnut hole while doing nothing to explain what a doughnut IS. You're definition rests on negatives, on non-existents.

      Every society needs (and has, whether we accept it or not) "governance." I think you would agree, intuitively, but I point out that neither you, nor I, to this point, is working with a good definition for what that is. Ayn Rand suffered from the same sloppiness of thinking in this category. Without the fundamental definitions we are working with a nebulous mysticism, an intuitive understanding which includes unspoken particulars upon which we may or may not agree.

      Let's start with three fundamental definitions, so you can see what I mean:

      Association: an interaction between or among individuals for the purpose of producing, transferring, and consuming goods or services.

      Society: a set of individuals associating according to a common framework of agreements or understandings regarding the nature, purposes, and terms of association.

      Governance: a label for the framework of understandings or agreements regarding the nature, purposes, and terms of association defining a society, and the process by which these agreements and understandings are carried out.

      Freedom: The rule of governance which holds that an individual’s association with others in a society is ultimately dependent upon the individual’s consent, obtained through connection. The degree of an individual’s freedom is the degree to which the societies in which he participates are governed by this rule.

    5. Yes. This is exactly where you want to go. Define your concepts in terms of things that actually exists, NOT in terms of what they are not.

      An interesting thinker by the name of Michael Miller expressed this concept as "Focus On Existence." He wrote an essay on it at this URL:

    6. ...governance...yes, I have written often about this as well.

      Lecturing isn't helpful.

    7. Hmmm. It isn't? I'll entertain the idea that this may be essentially true. Is that what I was doing? How do you characterize "lecturing" in such a way that it would encompass the substance or style of the comments I have written here, but NOT fit as a label for the original essay?

    8. Montecristo,

      I disagree with your definition of freedom---at least mine is different. Freedom doesn't come with degrees. Liberty comes with degrees, but liberty turned out to be a scam by the enlightenment intellectual class which was ultimately, as most intellectual classes, a class dedicated to being apologists for the ruling class. And you may observe that these ideas have led to the most authoritarian societies in human history---where a farmer can't even milk his cow and sell the milk without having storm troopers break down his door...unless he has permission according to the "governing framework."

      If we wish to have a common understanding, then I think your last definition should be "liberty," the collection of freedoms in a society one has "left over" after giving up some of his freedoms to get along with the arbitrary authoritarian demands of certain special people in that society (i.e., the rulers).

      Of course, having a society in which arbitrary authoritarian demands are allowed is not a civilized society. But I guess that's what you want.

    9. I think that I can define "vocal aggression": them's fightin' words.

      In brief response to Sonja above (below): nobody said nuthin' 'bout specific culture. Appreciation of an argument and a body of work does not imply tacit agreement with every idea espoused by an author. I see this type of argument: X agrees with this proposition of Y; X must also agree with every specific sub-proposition of Y. A counter-example: I would be highly critical of Rothbard with someone familiar with his work; on the other hand, I would praise Rothbard as an illuminary thinker to somebody unaware of his work.

      A culture is whatever people say that it is. In the same way that money is typically the most marketable commodity. An extension of the invisible hand, a concept that most people concede but grudgingly, is an understanding of faith: the social sciences - by lack of observable first causes, and by dint of the intangibility of human cognition - are Prometheus: the giver of knowledge forever bound to suffer for his hubris.

      What becomes of Man once he harnesses fire? I don't think that I read the ending of the myth but, I'm pretty sure the author never mentioned hybrid cars or GMOs.

      It is perhaps a tragedy...the nature of human cognition and by extension, human action. We simply don't know what makes people tick; highly concentrated cognitionists (if I can coin a term) agree that it is hard enough to understand oneself.

      However, while fashions come and go like recurring dreams, the laws of economics (i.e. the effects of exchange) are simple facts of basic physics: the allocation of scarce resources. Allocation is the tricky word. It implies intent. What is scarce is even subject to debate. People keep making a big deal about the availability of gasoline; but, I live in the United States of Driving Everywhere Anyway. Creating capital and trading it is a hallmark of advanced civilization. You simply can't have this without that first.

      The NAP is at first inherent in exchange. First a man exchanges his time - his (scarce) present; then, man rewarded for his acceptance of risk and allocation of initial capital reaps a harvest in greater bounty than he and his family can consume. Somewhere else, Mr. Ford assembles many vehicles. And so on. If we, at first, define the survival - the necessary prerequisites of living - of man as an act of aggression; then, it follows that man can define any obstacle to his immediate satisfaction an aggression. And an actable aggression or an acceptable initiation of counterforce.

      Necessary requisites need to be conceded in a definition of aggression for human exchange. What are those requisites? While subject to interpretation, most consist of the 10 commandment stuff that no one really argues against. Nobody says that "thou shalt not murder" is debatable because the logical leap, while considerable, is ingrained in civilized man. Why? One could argue: that man may be someone who is producing something that you would like to trade for. Or perhaps he produces something that a trading partner of yours likes. Or, maybe, because the Lord's written word says not to. Why doesn't violence and modern capital accumulation seem to go hand in hand like it did for 10,00 years of recorded plunder and general capital stasis?

      Economics requires people to concede that non-aggression and capital accumulation makes everybody better off. If you don't build an argument of human interaction from here; then, I don't know what the point of all this discussion is.

  8. I remember posting here about hoppes chapter on why libertarians must be 'rightists', understood in the oldschool sense.

    IF you havn't read it yet (its in the democracy that is definitely not a god anthology), give it a go, since you're scraping the surface here (and before).

  9. Those of us who understand the position of libertarianism on Marshall Fritz's Diamond chart know that it is neither left, center, or right, but at the top. It is not on the left-right political spectrum which is entirely socialistic from communism on the left end to fascism on the right end.

  10. I think that what BM is driving at is that there could be a variety of libertarian societies practicing what to each is the NAP but would not be perceived as the NAP to some other libertarian society. We're not talking about the tolerance by some of obvious violations of the NAP such as theft, murder, rape, fraud and the like. We're talking about differences pertaining to gray areas such as custom which can encompass much subjective things that people could be passionate about such as the age of consent or the earliest age at which alcohol should be consumed, or the earliest age at which adulthood is recognized, or which sound levels are to be regarded as objectionable noise or what constitutes trespass.

    I think that mixing together people who otherwise agree on the major details of the NAP but disagree vehemently on the gray areas will lead to calls for statist solutions to conflicts arising from differences in custom: culture.

    That's why it's best that even libertarians who differ widely in custom (culture) should not mix because, at best, they will get on each others' nerves, and at worst, they may come to blows. As for which cultural values will produce a peaceful and happy NAP libertarian society, the answer may be any which are freely accepted by its members and which allows cultural deviates to secede. That said, a particular culture could, for example, be better at providing a high material standard of living, but at the expense of a satisfying family and community life.

    1. You have stated my view very succinctly. Thank you.

      I might even go a step further: one might prefer a reasonably libertarian community with traditional family values (marriage between one man and one woman, stable families, etc.) over a more completely libertarian - yet libertine - community.

      In such a case, the issue is not so much libertarian purity as it is common culture.

    2. In my view, what you're really saying is that you reject the non-aggression principle.

      I don't believe in the "gray areas" theory. A human should be able to live his life *entirely unaffected* by other humans and unaware of their existence, should he desire to do so (period). That, for me, is the non-aggression principle. It is a principle---and as such is meant to be applied in principle. Age of consent? Nope. Noise levels? Nope. Vocal is physical---it's sound waves after all. If I decide I don't want to hear your voice, I would like a place to freely go to not hear it. If you don't want to hear my voice, I want you to have a place you can freely go to not hear it.

      What's the problem with that? The problem is that very few people accept the non-aggression principle. Most people, like yourself, want to govern others or want to have some mechanism through which they feel they have control over others and can impose themselves on others. Why do you think you should be able to govern me? (And at the same time most people don't want others to boss them around.) No one wants to be a slave, but most everyone wants to be a master.

      I don't. I don't want to be a slave or a master. That is the emergent norm I suggest. I'll agree that it is not sufficient for a human society. It is necessary for a *civilized* human society. Several other things are necessary too. A culture of governance is not one of them.

    3. "A human should be able to live his life *entirely unaffected* by other humans and unaware of their existence, should he desire to do so (period)."

      Feel free. You need no political theory in such a circumstance, therefore this entire dialogue would be of no concern to you. You need not take into account the reality of human nature in such a circumstance - other than the reality of self-sufficiently providing food, shelter, and clothing.

      There are many mountaintops where you can come quite close to living this dream.

    4. Sonja, I would like to hear how we can get to the libertarian society you wish for, given current reality on the ground. I cannot find a path without the NAP being violated on way or another.

    5. Sonja,
      NAP gray areas are real. They deal with magnitudes. We all agree that noise, pollution and noxious odors violate the NAP. The question is at what levels and for whom?

      Someone moving to the city from the country will find urban noise insufferable and demand that something be done about sounds that urban dwellers find perfectly tolerable. Who should prevail? A city person moving to the country may very well find that the odor of manure fertilized fields to be intolerable, yet his rural neighbors have no objection to this. Whose preference should prevail? Pollution violates the NAP because it will destroy health, but reducing pollution to zero can destroy the economy. Should we nevertheless demand that pollution be reduced to zero?

      It seems to me that for each of these three particular examples the prevailing culture - subjective community values - will set the threshold for violation of the NAP even in a libertarian society. To minimize potential conflict over gray areas, secession and decentralized power must be possible.

    6. I seem to be having trouble with word length limits in replying. Let me try several submissions in small bites. I apologize in advance to Bionic Mosquito.

    7. I would like to offer some reply to JaimeinTexas and MetaCynic. The answer, unfortunately, is not short. It is, in fact, too long for this space. Nevertheless, let me try to outline an answer, with at least the suggestion that there is one.

      1. There is a way to get there. There are many factors (aspects to the description of the way) and it is certainly not easy. At least I have not found it easy. But I am convinced it is not impossible. At least I am not yet convinced it is impossible as BM and MC seem to be, as Eric Peters might say, "because human nature." I'll admit that maybe they are right. I'll admit that there is something which can be called human nature. But I think too much is called human nature. Example: Before it was known that tiny living organisms on the skin and other places cause sickness in humans, the level of hygiene in humans was lower. It could have been said that it was human nature for people to eat with dirty hands (and to suffer the consequence of getting sick). It turns out it was possible for many people to internalize the understanding that being more careful about hygiene would lead to not getting sick. In short people started washing their hands. Did human nature change? Certainly the norm for hygiene changed. There was a divergent norm. I hope the point of what I'm trying to say is clear. I know people who have internalized the non-aggression principle as I have stated it. The first thing to realize is that it is theoretically irrelevant if most people have not. Yes, it is practically relevant at the moment, but it is an error to call this "human nature" and resolve that nothing can be done.

      What to do: First realize that the framework for action is between two individuals. Stop thinking collectively about "society changing." What is really needed is the recognition that the emergent norm for human society has been a society resting at a very deep level on slavery. Thus, we do not need to hope for a preservation of this uncivilized society. We need to create a civilized society on a different foundation. This starts with two people agreeing on principles on which such a society can be based. I have what I think is a pretty good attempt at a list of those principles. There are not so many of them. They are all, at least in my opinion, not unreasonable. I know a small number of people who have internalized them. Here's going to be the hard part for you to swallow (but if you think about it, it is not unreasonable): I am not going to list them for you. You need to come up with your own list. Then we, as two individuals, can honestly compare our lists, and determine if we have the foundation upon which to proceed. Much more could be said, but I will leave it at that for now. I will say to Bionic Mosquito et al that to continue to assert that common agreement on such a list (including a framework for property ownership different from "whatever goes on around here") is impossible is counterproductive. One must start the work of determining what he, as an individual, thinks is reasonable. One other comment: At least Montecristo above came up with some kind of list. It is incompatible with my list. I suggested my objections. He can either change or remain outside my "circle of agreement."

    8. (continued)

      2. Next subject: What about the gray areas? How can it be that the NAP
      can be applied so absolutely...on the ground? Property is the key. You
      must include in your list a foundation for property ownership. (You must
      realize that this problem is not solved satisfactorily either by Rand,
      Rothbard, Mises, and other libertarian mouthpieces---you must realize that
      the emergent norm of title ownership on our society enforced by a ruling
      class is not acceptable. You must decide if you want to own property.
      Proudhon decided property ownership was a bad idea. The emergent norm for
      human society is that the rulers---illegitimately---own all property.)
      What is a reasonable divergent norm for property---what is the framework
      for finding such a thing? I can answer that question. Can you?

      When you can, I think you will find that the "gray areas" arise largely from
      the fact that humans have been essentially dispossessed of property.
      Just like people before van Leeuwenhoek couldn't imagine invisible creatures
      getting into their mouths and making them sick, it is difficult for people
      who are so used to being dispossessed to contemplate property ownership.
      It is not impossible. There are people who can help if you're willing.
      But at some level, partially because I'm not going to tell you and you
      need to individually internalize your understanding of property, you need
      to do this work, at least to some extent, yourself. At least if you deny
      there is a question, I will not---in some sense, I cannot---help you. You're
      stuck like BM. To harp on this a little: saying "libertarians can't agree"
      is a cop out. Don't think collectively. Think in terms of you and one other
      person, say me. We don't need the world to agree; we don't need all
      libertarians to agree.

    9. (continued)

      3. Here is an important point: When two of us agree on a notion of property.
      When we can say with mutual consent, "This is mine. I want to own it.
      You want me to own it, and you will help me to defend it. This is yours.
      You want to own it. I want you to own it, and I will help you defend it."
      When we can say those things, then we will have property. What property?
      Answer: Whatever property the two of us can defend.

      The way (in short): When our circle of understanding includes enough people
      to defend enough and *the right kind* of property, then the non-aggression
      principle can be practiced freely---in absolute form, without gray areas.
      You will have a place to go. I will have a place to go.

      This place need not be an isolated mountain top, though obviously some level
      of "isolation" (which I prefer to think of as "shelter") is obviously
      necessary/implied. But, in short, when we are able to own property---when
      the (or at least a) divergent norm of property ownership is the norm among
      us and is practicable at a critical level---then we will be free to determine
      the level of our association and interaction. Note that I've said above
      that "association precedes property." Have I just contradicted myself?
      Actually, no. I'm using the word "association" in two different ways.
      The first usage refers to the list and a foundation of consent and agreement
      for building a civilized society. That comes first...and that (perhaps)
      on some, possibly not shared, foundation of morality. The latter use
      of "association" is interaction within civilized society. If we agree that
      I should have the option to be free of your existence---and I grant you the
      same option with regard to my existence---at least in principle---then we
      have the hope, and option, to participate in civilized interaction, to
      *choose* the second kind of association.

    10. (continued)

      4. Now, what about "the economy?" What about MetaCynic's worries about
      killing the economy. What he is expressing, I think, is that he benefits
      too much from the current society based on slavery to contemplate allowing
      others to be free. He embraces the enslavement of others because of the
      perceived benefits he receives from the rulers and their livestock management
      principles. This is the clear way to see his "subjective community values."

      There are no "community values." There is no collective stomach.
      There is no collective action. There is only individual action and
      aggregate effect. If you are committed to the current paradigm based on
      the aggregate effect of having personal wealth from "the economy" and
      have no individual values that incline you toward an opposition toward
      the enslavement of others, I can't help you.

      The question, for me, is not "what levels and for whom?" The question
      is "aggression or nonaggression?" (the economy be damned).

      In fact, I don't think there is the slightest reason to live in total
      isolation or with great discomfort for lack of wealth. Of course, it's
      worth thinking about how to define wealth. Having control of lots of
      federal reserve notes might be one definition, but it's one I reject on
      moral grounds due to the attendant undesirable consequences---a ruling
      class, widespread enslavement etc. But that's what we've got for an
      emergent norm. I'm interested in something different. That something
      is not "poverty" or "isolation" by any definition. But it certainly
      remains to be seen the level of wealth which will be produced in a civilized
      society. We do know a lot of wealth can be produced under the livestock
      management practices of Austrian economics or some bastardized "free market"
      Keynesian version of it---whatever you want to call what we've got. At some
      level, for those of us who have figured out how to game the system, we have
      been sheltered from a shortage of "wealth." We do not have a crisis of
      supply in that regard. We (at least some of us as individuals) have a
      moral crisis. We have a shortage of knowledge in using the "wealth"
      available to us.

    11. P.S. To Jaime in Texas: Don't blow my cover, but I think we met at Porcfest '16. I'm guessing you were at the very back of the family section of the campground. If that's you---here's sending a wave and a hug.

    12. One more comment for the bionic bug:

      > You need no political theory in such
      > a circumstance, therefore this entire
      > dialogue would be of no concern to you.

      This assertion may be essentially correct, but not for the reasons you think. Politics is a catch-all phrase for efforts to extract something from some other individual or impose yourself on some other individual (under the illusion of legitimacy) in a way that would otherwise be considered clearly immoral---and, in particular, without his consent. You're right that I have no interest in and no time for politics. Perhaps you view immoral actions as integral to "human nature." Maybe you are correct. Perhaps that is why you embrace such action, e.g., politics, yourself.

      > There are many mountaintops where you can
      > come quite close to living this dream.

      Here you very much misinterpret the implication(s) of what I'm saying. I have no interest in isolation. Actually, it is very much my objective to live within a community of known and trusted individuals. In particular, it is my objective to surround myself with individuals who reject politics. These would be individuals who, at some minimal level and by some means, have rejected immoral behavior as a standard and foundation for interaction with others. Believe it or not, there are such people.

    13. To summarize Sonja: "I know the answers, but I will not tell you. Once you think you have the answers, you tell me."

      Sonja, I suspect you could have just put your "answers" out there for us to discuss in far fewer words than it took for you to write all of the above.

    14. Sonya, your secret identity is safe. I do not know what is Porcfest '16?

    15. Sonya,that was a long response that, in short, manages to miss the obvious in whole of human recorded history. The few exceptions that we find fit in the category of martyrs and gave birth to the phrase, the blood of the martyrs are the seed of the church.
      And, yet, here we are.
      Wishfull thinking is not a plan.

    16. Sonja, in thinking about your comments, I will offer: you seem to be after creating a framework of property ownership - also stating that this has not been satisfactorily offered by any leading thinkers from libertarian or objectivist viewpoints.

      I find this unnecessary. There is a well-understood framework of "what is mine" in most, if not all, societies. My clothes, my car, my home, etc. That these are "mine" is well recognized. I am satisfied with this framework.

      The issue is: who has the right of deciding control, use, and disposition of "what is mine"? This is where the argument lies, and on this point both libertarians and objectivists have very well-developed viewpoints and justifications.

    17. Yes, so you have said...

      ...and yet if you stop paying tribute on "your" home in the form of taxation, it will be taken from you. And if your masters decide to take your car or your life, they will take them too. And you are *satisfied*. I guess that says it all.

      Oh yes, and one shouldn't leave out that you also consistently advocate institutionalized aggression against others for no other reason than maintaining your benefits under the current "cultural" arrangement.

      It's all very nice for you, and there is no issue. So, obviously you need no "answers," because you are *satisfied* and have no problems. It's all very nice.

    18. I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but it should have been "institutionalized systematic aggression against others." For someone who advocates that, it's hardly worth talking about "answers" or a plan for living in a civilized manner.

    19. Sonja, you clearly have difficulty with reading comprehension, as nothing I have written is supportive of taxation of me or my property; in fact, I wrote exactly the opposite.

      I need no theory of "property." What is required is a defense of control, use and disposition of my property. On this, libertarian theorists are quite good.

    20. You just don't get it do you? You own nothing, not even your life. You exercise *temporary* control over some things, including some aspects of your life as long as you comply with the arbitrary authoritarian demands of certain individuals. Oh, and these individuals get to independently decide when your compliance and deference is adequate. You own nothing. The only thing that matters is your compliance---and maybe when you are productive enough toward the ends of your own enslavement. And, as you said, they have the big guns. But you don't get it. And you think it matters that you "don't support" taxation?

      There is no taxation "of your property." You have no property.

    21. > What is required is a defense of control,
      > use and disposition of my property. On
      > this, libertarian theorists are quite good.

      This is really really hilarious. They're "quite good," eh. Do I have "defense of control?" Well, no, but they're quite good. Do I have "defense of use?" Well, no, but they're quite good. Do I have "defense of disposition?" Well...

      Very funny. You are a real crack up.

    22. You really cannot read, can you. It was true in the previous conversation - where I dedicated an entire post in reply - and it is true in this thread.

    23. No. Clearly you are the one with the reading comprehension problem. Case in point: I never ever said anywhere that you were supportive of taxation. (And yes, *you* had the same problem in our last conversation.)

      You may not be supportive of taxation, but you comply with it. Therefore you do not own any real property. You can call it taxation or paying tribute or whatever you like. But you admit that you have no defense of what you like to call yours (except compliance). And the point is that no reasonable person can call something his own if he has no defense in regard to use, control, or any other aspect that might be imagined to be ownership. And this (defending your property) you admit you don't have; it is something which is foreign to you. That is because property ownership is foreign to you. You have been dispossessed. And yes, if you want to own property, you'll need to understand what it means to own property. Until then, you can just make nice jokes about owning property, but having no defense of that property---oh, but the "libertarian theorists" are very good on the defense of property. Are they defending your property? Well no...

    24. Sonja, are you an uSA citizen residing within their jurisdiction?

      Do you have a driver's license?
      Have you driven a car on a public road?
      Did you attend government school?
      Did you attend a state university?
      Have you attended a city concert/event?
      etc, etc.

      I do not think that you are sinless in taking advantage of the violence due to "arbitrary authoritarian demands of certain individuals."

  11. “The NAP does not define itself. Underlying it are many subjective terms: "aggression," "property," and "punishment" all come to mind quickly.” "I think it is a fruitless exercise to try to turn these subjective terms into objective terms. Seven billion people will never agree, and as you point out, even libertarians cannot agree amongst themselves." Bionic

    I disagree…..punishment for aggression is subjectively decided by the victims, but "aggression" and "property" are objectively derived concepts. Mistakes as well as intentional damage are dealt with between victims and perpetrators to the victim’s satisfaction.

    Culture is a relationship between interacting individuals. Cultures cause nothing; they are effect of human action, and include traditions, food, manners, etc., political and religious choices.

    Cultural preservation requires generational cultural education…what is appropriate, what is not, taught to every child. This is not a relationship between unknown millions; the relationships are between people who know each other, not necessarily person to person…also, telephone, internet associations, etc. So around the world there would be many cultures, even from town to town, or withing cities, there would be cultural differences.

    The NAP is a “principle;” there is no wiggle room for subjectivity with a principle, so absolutely nothing happens in any relationship between two or more people, without the agreement of all affected by the intended actions. I would, of course, insist that “agreements” require adult decisions, no exceptions, invalidating any agreements made by children and the mentally incompetent.

    This is cooperative anarchy…the exclusion of aggression is the much desires world peace, and zero aggression frees all to reach 100% of their economic potential with innovative production of goods and services; a cumulative effect which cannot fail to produce the equally desired, always increasing prosperity.

    In such a relationship "property" is an objectively derived, easily communicable idea, exclusively referencing all material goods acquired cooperatively… salaries, inheritance, buying, trading, acceptance of charity. This is the absolute line between “sharing” and “stealing” that everyone observes, or is subject to retaliation in whatever way the interacting individuals decide…prisons, police. Protective services are paid for by those they are defending, if inadequate replaced. Unlike a government relationship in which the actions of dissatisfaction are called “treason” and invite violence.

    1. I have dealt with each of these objections before and elsewhere, but will do so again here because you offer the opportunity to touch on several objections in one succinct reply:

      “I disagree…..punishment for aggression is subjectively decided by the victims…”

      The victim decides to shoot the child as “punishment” for stealing the apple. Is this what libertarian theory condones? If you are correct in your assertion, the answer is yes. As I have suggested to the first person who made such an argument, if so, libertarian theory is a dead theory – having absolutely no future in a world occupied by humans.

      Of course, you are incorrect in this assertion.

      “…but "aggression" and "property" are objectively derived concepts.””

      Libertarians amongst themselves cannot agree if intellectual property can be property, if abortion is the initiation of aggression, or if an individual can voluntarily agree to be a slave (among dozens of other disagreements). On each of these, different conclusions can be reached by two different individuals applying the non-aggression principle. What is objective about any of this?

      “[Culture] is not a relationship between unknown millions; the relationships are between people who know each other…”

      We agree, completely. This is why I don’t spend any time trying to define the subjective terms “punishment,” “aggression,” or “property.” They will be defined by those who choose to interact with each other. If you do not like the definitions offered by one group, you are free to try to change their definition or change your relationships.

      “The NAP is a “principle;” there is no wiggle room for subjectivity with a principle…”

      Human beings are subjective actors; they are not subject to being modeled or programmed. It is the application of the principle that causes difficulty (see the examples offered above).

      “…so absolutely nothing happens in any relationship between two or more people, without the agreement of all affected by the intended actions…”

      Yes…and no. A libertarian world – the real world, not the world of utopian dreamers – will be a world of great decentralization. It will be a world of vastly more choices in terms of political relationships and structures; it will NOT be a world of perfect choices.

  12. "I must stress again that libertarianism is not a comprehensive theory of ethics. Libertarians do not claim that all non-agressive actions are moral or just, only that aggressive actions are unjust. In other words, the Non-Aggression Principle provides a minimal threshold of justice. To evaluate the morality or justness of a non-aggressive action, a libertarian must bring a complementary system of ethics - a system of ethics compatible with the Non-Agression Principle - to bear."

    - Jason Jewell in "Christian Faith and Social Justice: Five Views", p. 23.