Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire

Make it easy on yourself
There's nothing more you can do
You're so full of what is right
You can't see what is true

-        Rush, The Color of Right

UPDATE: Before you read further, please see this note.

I live in a neighborhood of about 40 homes.  Other than these neighbors, we are pretty isolated.  Most of the families have been here for years, some for generations.  We all speak pretty openly about all kinds of things: war, politics, the government.  Fortunately for me, for the most part they hold similar views to mine.  Stunning, I know.  I call it heaven on earth!

As I mentioned, we are pretty isolated – a few miles down the road is a service station with a small convenience store.  If one really wants to stock up, he has to go to the county seat of the next county – about 55 miles each way.  No one goes in more than once a month; if anyone has an urgent need, they just check around – someone is bound to be going within the next day or so.

Being isolated, we have to fend for ourselves.  Everyone learns to handle firearms at an early age.  If you want to live here, you have to be able to contribute to the protection and safety of the group.  It also helps to deal with the occasional wild animal…most four-legged.

Many of the residents read Lew Rockwell; a few support the Mises Institute.  Some prefer Cato or FEE – we tease them often for their milquetoast ways, but we accept them anyway.  Generally speaking, we see eye to eye on the general direction of things.  A few are a bit more nationalistic, but we get along OK with them because they really hate the foreign intervention stuff.  This is enough for most of us.

We all meet once a month just to talk about such things…and drink a few beers…and later some Jack and Coke….you get the idea.  While we offer help whenever anyone is in need, we also know when to stay out of other people’s business. 

In those rough edges of the NAP, the spaces in between – where the lines aren’t so clear or the infractions could be considered de minimis – we have figured out what works for us and pretty much everyone just decides it is better to go along with the program.  Sure, it isn’t pure, but for living in this world it is about as NAP as one can hope to get.

We have what you might call a court (we call it The Hall of the Elders – kind of pretentious, I know; but that’s what it is) for those issues that for some reason can’t get resolved amongst and between the effected parties.  It is made up of three people from the ten families that have been here the longest – families in terms of generations, not in terms of current residency. 

This system ensures we have some continuity in law (not really law, but I am at a loss to find a term that works in this world).  We rotate the three every year, by drawing lots amongst the eldest male member from each of the next seven families.  I know the word “male” hurts some of you snowflakes out there…that’s your problem, not ours.

We don’t write many rules down – we have found that the more delineated the rules (e.g. like in a Constitution or some kind of Great Charter of the Liberties) the more likely someone will try to weasel his way around these.  It has happened too often in history (like every time) to believe otherwise.

Anyway, most of the “rules” are pretty easy to understand: don’t steal, don’t damage someone else’s property, etc.  Pretty close to the non-aggression principle, for those of you who understand this term.

Like I said, some of the families have been here for generations – we have developed a real trust with each other; we don’t want to be the generation that destroys what our ancestors have left us.  It sounds corny, I know.  But it works.

Those who have not been here very long come to learn pretty quickly how easy life can be the sooner they figure out how things are done around here regarding those de minimis gray areas – what we would call custom or culture, but to some of you, maybe the “rules.”

 You know, some of our customs aren’t even gray areas – we know they aren’t pure NAP, but we also know how we want to live and the environment we want for our children.  The children learn from the elders – it helps to further ensure this continuity.

Once in a while a new family will move in; we throw a big party.  They get to know us, we get to know them.  The children all play together; they teach the new kids how to fish, shoot a bow and arrow, that kind of stuff.  The new family will generally figure out our ways and learn to go along.  Until recently….

I need to give a little background.  Pretty much every family here enjoys things involving smoke: grill-outs, a smoker, a roaring fireplace, a backyard fire pit – none of it with gas, all real wood.  I don’t think a day goes by without at least half the families having fired something up (yes, even those if they want – what they put in their own body is their own business).  On weekends?  Let’s just say any family that wasn’t grilling or smoking some meat…we would think that the entire family died.

So a new family moved in.  Within a couple of days the complaints started: “I can’t stand the smoke…I am allergic to the smell of cooking meat…you are getting my windows dirty…think about the children…”  Stuff like that.

A few of us talked to them; it didn’t do any good – they were up in arms and wanted the “court” to hear their case.  I mean, I guess it’s OK, but this isn’t a good sign – two days in and already causing a problem.

You should have heard their arguments in front of the court; from an NAP standpoint they were perfect.  I will summarize it here, because even I cannot do justice to the NAP-bearing logic that these new owners were spouting.  Let’s just say if you were to build an NAP automaton (some of my neighbors refer to this type as “autistic libertarians”), it couldn’t have done any better.

To make a long story short, smoke blowing into their yard is a violation of the non-aggression principle.  They breathe it; it gets in their eyes; they have to clean their windows more often.

Technically, they are correct.

One of our elders (again, I wish I had a better sounding term) argued the other side: we have been living this way for generations; it is a big part of our lives; it is one of the things that keeps us attached to this community, to each other.  Further, if it even is a violation of the non-aggression principle, it is de minimis. 

Technically, he is correct.

The new couple stood up again: if it was so important, why didn’t you tell us before we moved in?  We signed a half-page contract; it said nothing about fireplaces and smokers.  How is it right that we lose some portion of our property rights for something that we never agreed to?

Technically, they are correct.

The elder stood up: why would we bother putting something in the contract that merely states how we have lived around here for hundreds of years?

Technically, he is correct.

One thing we all decided: from now on, the only “new” families we would let in would be a family recommended by one of the ten long-time families.  The other thirty families didn’t get a vote on this, although the majority agreed.  You see, we don’t believe in equal rights; it is a road to hell disguised as a path of good intentions.

Anyway, in the current case with this family and the smoke, it was too late for that.


A quality of justice
A quantity of light
A particle of mercy
Makes the color of right

Who wins?  Why? 

Which verdict is more just? 

Which verdict is more likely to keep the community in peace?  Does this even matter?  Why or why not?


  1. My understanding of Rothbard is that y'all homesteaded smoking and grilling, and so their case shouldn't win. But I don't pretend to always understand Rothbard perfectly, nor do I pretend that he is right in all things.

    1. Obviously, newcomers can't and don't make the rules, and culture should always win over abstract theories....

  2. Sounds like a great place to live. I would complain if you were smoking some beef and I was not invited. Well, more whinning as poor street puppy.
    On the more serious side, I am now curious how hood developed, evolved, into an elder/ephors system. Does not sound like an HOA. There is an interesting history in there.

    1. Jamie, for you we will cook up a big pot of shrimp, crab meat and Andouille sausage gumbo.

      As to your more serious side, as best as our elders tell us, it was always this way. It's just that most people over time decided that they wanted a king or a parliament, or a president. I think the better question is for them!

  3. Who the %$#! makes a major social and financial decision to move to a community without first spending enough time there to make sure your making the right decision?! WOTDERFOK

    1. You know, we are starting to think that this new family was a plant, sponsored by some nefarious characters who really don't like our independent lifestyle and governance. They figure that anything they can do to cause conflict will contribute to changing the voluntary governance methods within our community.

      Am I just being irrationally paranoid?

    2. If it is worth defending, it is worth to think contingencies.
      If a plant:
      1) The family that sold the property was in the plan because: (a) Did not like how the hood is run or (b) grew to dislike how the place is run. Either way they kept quite and conspired to sell to proper party.
      2) The "plants" were watching out (part of a group watching) for the opportunity to buy in.

      What is the probability for (1)?
      Is your hood is that well known and significant for (2)?

    3. Well known and significant? I don't know. Who would have thought back around 1915 that a speck of desert then known as Palestine would become such a significant zone of conflict.

    4. Well known, say, by the town/city pols. City grown and land is desired by connected developers? That kind of well known and significant.
      Btw, is that Palestine the one near Elkhart?

    5. No, Jamie. If I meant that I would have said Palesteeeen!


    6. Bwahahaha. But you know how to pronounce it!

  4. Anything theory really should go through the bullsh*t test.

    There is a somewhat prominent libertarian blogger (he who shall not be named) that refused to rule out rape of children as punishment (the choice of punishment being chosen by those being trespassed against) in his "Private Property Society", his name for libertarian anarchy.

    Nor did he rule out a pedophile farm, in which pedophiles bred children in order to sexually abuse. All of that would be totally legal.

    If that was going on in my area, I would form a militia and lay down rules prohibiting that. I don't care if it is statist. And I am a libertarian, but there is only so much I can tolerate, and if a libertarian society leads to these outcomes, then libertarianism be damned.

    1. "...if a libertarian society leads to these outcomes, then libertarianism be damned."

      I know you know this, but I think I would offer: If a libertarian society leads to these outcomes, then I think you won't have to damn it. It won't last long as a society.

  5. Howdy!

    I'm fairly new to libertarian philosophy, so please excuse me if my thoughts are a bit muddled. So far, I wholeheartedly agree that a common culture, and most likely a particular kind of culture at that, is required to move libertarian theory into practice.

    I have found that using the NAP as an arbiter, so to speak, has been helpful for me as I become unbound from my previously unrecognized conservative/statist tendencies. It has helped me make certain grey areas about aggressive violence more black and white.

    In your example here, though, the grey areas seem to come back in. I can honestly see both sides here, and don't know enough to muddle through it yet. So, I found myself doing some thought experiments.

    One area that I particularly like about the NAP is that it seems to be more helpful in matters relating to pollution or the environment. There are several articles on mises.org that I found helpful which basically make the case that in a libertarian society, someone who pollutes or does environmental damage to someone else's property is much less likely to get a "free" pass as they are in our current crony-connected gov't regulated society.

    Why is that relevant? I'm not 100% sure, other than it seems like your example, just scaled up a bit. If, instead of a grilling and smoking, it was a factory polluting, does the game change and it is then aggression? If so, why? Would a factory get a pass if it had been there long enough?

    I'm assuming the answer ultimately comes down to something like you describe with your community elders. A system of elders/judges who help provide governance to navigate through the grey areas. As long as it is voluntary, it seems like it still comports with the NAP and decentralizing.

    In your case, it seems like the issue would have been avoided if the new family had done a little more homework prior to moving, but in a long established community there are likely to be far too many cultural idiosyncrasies to realistically ferret out prior to living there. Which means there will always be a need for some method of working through all the grey areas, including defining what is aggression. Or, just close the community to new folks, I suppose.

    Any thoughts, particularly on why this would be different in my factory example would be helpful to me as I learn these things.

    1. Much more complicated a problem with dozens of tangential considerations.

      So, instead of this, why not just deal with my questions at the end of the post?

      Let's see if we can get some consensus on these questions within a context of an activity that perhaps billions of people in the world have engaged in - the back yard grill, the wood-burning fireplace for the family room.

      Simple stuff like this.

    2. In my own way, I was trying to get to your questions. The reason for my example is that it would help me know where the line is drawn when it comes to aggression. I don’t know how it would be possible to offer a reasonable answer to the questions without knowing this.

      You asked, "Which verdict is more likely to keep the community in peace? Does this even matter?" I think it does matter to a point, but at what point is a line crossed so that the individual's right to be left alone is being usurped for the greater community? It seems that is the crux of the issue, the age-old balancing act between the individual/family and the community at large. Hence, my leap to the factory example as one that seems to intuitively be over the line, but I can't put my finger on why.

      "Which verdict is more just?" In this example, I don't know that there is a just verdict possible. It seems there were unclear expectations on what constituted property and aggression between sides, so each side is going to look at any resolution as a compromise at best. At least it seems that way to me.

      If keeping the peace is of paramount concern in the community (as well it should be, IMO), then whatever contract or HOA is signed should make an attempt at defining property, aggression and the process to arbitrate when those things are perceived to be violated.

    3. “…it would help me know where the line is drawn when it comes to aggression.”

      There is no line when it comes to gray; that’s why it’s gray.

      It is easy to agree on the two extremes; everything in between is muddled. I am certain that the only way a line can be drawn through the gray is based on what is considered acceptable “around here.”

      In other words, the line gets drawn by either custom or by dictate – I find no workable third choice, at least not for people who plan to live among other people. Therefore am left to choose between these two for the least-coercive alternative.

      I used to think my thought experiment regarding sex orgies on the front lawn was a slam dunk winner; it seems I greatly overestimated my abilities of exposition. So I offered what I believe to be a much more commonplace scene – the backyard grill. Everyone can understand this scene; everyone can internalize it. I developed this thought experiment with significant background information – even giving the residents long-standing – over multiple generations.

      I can say buying a candy bar at the mini-mart is not aggression; I can say travelling 5000 miles away to put a bullet in the head of someone who was never a threat to me or my friends and neighbors is aggression. But in between?

      The extremes are easy. If you are looking for me to draw a line through the gray, I will not because I cannot. No one can.

      So I come back to my questions at the end of the post: The NAP purists – those who choose to ignore human nature when discussing application – will not answer these because their folly will be exposed; the NAP leftist will not answer these because they will demonstrate that their views will destroy society.

      There may be others, presumably like you, who just do not feel comfortable to jump in. Too bad some of the loudmouths of the libertarian community don’t share the wisdom of your discretion.

    4. Thanks for the dialogue. It has helped as I try to clarify my thoughts.

      I agree that there can be no line drawn in the grey, there will be subjectivity involved with real world humans. Ultimately, isn’t that the answer to your end of post questions?:

      “Who wins? Why?” - If by “wins” you mean who gets the outcome they want, I would say it is the community, as I assume the elders would likely come down in favor of their community’s traditions. Either way is likely to leave hard feelings, though, so I don’t know if the idea of “winning” is really applicable.

      “Which verdict is more just?” - Neither. Isn’t this is the nature of the grey area? If it was purely a matter of justice, and the restoration of a pre-violation state, I don’t think the question would even need to be asked. Both sides make legitimate claims that their property rights were violated, and there does not seem to be a way for each side to both “win.” You said, “The extremes are easy. If you are looking for me to draw a line through the gray, I will not because I cannot. No one can.” I think this supports what I am saying here. If no one can draw the line, then ultimately “justice” in a grey area case is going to result in compromise at best, or one side “losing.”

      “Which verdict is more likely to keep the community in peace?” – The verdict for the community and its long-standing traditions will keep the community at peace that at least seems clear (though if the new family stays and creates further issues, who knows).

      “Does this even matter?” - I think it does matter, but I go back to what I said earlier, if peace is the long term goal, the community either has to seek clarity on definitions of things like property and aggression (and set up a vehicle for arbitration), or close itself off to new members. New people makes conflict inevitable, so there has to be a method of addressing it if you are going to continue to accept them.

      “Why or why not?” – I think the why it matters is tied in with why should we even care about the NAP at all. The goal should be to live at peace with as many people as possible, and outcomes that allow cooperative peace amongst the most members of the community should be pursued. Note, that in this, I do not include coercive violence by the state as a means to achieve some oxymoronic forced “peace” for “society.”

      Ultimately, my conclusions are currently, and tentatively, these: 1) You will always have a subjective grey area in the real world with real people. 2) Each individual community will have some sort of culture or custom held in common. 3) Disputes will necessitate some path of resolution based upon that common culture, 4) which would likely need to be arbitrated by something similar to your specific community’s elders, 5) whose end goal should be to preserve the peace as much as possible. 6) This would likely take the form of trying to preserve that common culture through their decisions.

    5. I agree with your tentative conclusions. I will only add (and I think this is inherent in your comments, but just to make clear my view): common cultural ties will predispose the vast majority of residents to come to similar conclusions on subjective issues.

      Peace, achieved in a manner as I have outlined in this thought experiment, is a key objective if one desires to maintain a relatively libertarian community framework.

      The absence of peace will lead to calls for someone to do something about it - in other words, a government.

    6. Anonymous, instead of pollution, how about an even more unclear area - the issue of slant drilling. I bring this up because libertarian theorist Walter Block says that slant drilling for oil is not a violation of the non-aggression principle.

      Yet in Texas it considered theft (thus an NAP violation) and would likely get you shot, and slant drilling was a major contributing factor to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

      So how can you have Walter Block say its OK, when you have other people saying it's theft? Obviously this means that the NAP is just a general guideline for obvious things, and not something to determine a course of action in every circumstance. In a situation where the NAP cannot provide guidance, something else has to guide us.


    7. Hey bionic mosquito! Great article, and you raise a truly fundamental question. Above, in comment, you say,
      "It is easy to agree on the two extremes; everything in between is muddled. I am certain that the only way a line can be drawn through the gray is based on what is considered acceptable “around here.” In other words, the line gets drawn by either custom or by dictate – I find no workable third choice, at least not for people who plan to live among other people. Therefore am left to choose between these two for the least-coercive alternative."

      You must be brilliant, because that is pretty much the same conclusion which I have come to. The practice of "trial by a jury of your peers" is a reflection of that principle. Life is far too complex to allow a complete rule book of acceptable behavior. The purpose of law (even such "law" as the NAP) is only to provide the basic principles of right behavior -- not an exhaustive injunction for every possible situation. An analogy: Math text books give us axioms and common implications of those axioms; they do not give us the solutions for every possible equation. When situations are grey, when there is nuance involved, when the principles of law threaten to dispense injustice instead of justice, those are the times when the living judgment of peers or elders must over rule the law. Is that judgment perfect? No, but neither is a judgment based strictly on words on paper.

    8. I will suggest that you are the brilliant one for coming to MY conclusion!


  6. It's really a matter of values, not ethics here. People in the community enjoy, and thus value, activities that involve smoke and fire. The new family does not share the same values there. It's more of a lesson learned in updating contracts to allow a probationary period for any new families entering the community to leave without penalty.

    1. That's all fine and dandy, but in the meantime the joy I hold in my neighborhood is hanging in the balance. There is a judgement to be passed, a verdict to be read.

      What sayest thou?

    2. The couple is right in that the half-page contract should list out the values and preferences of the community. Having said that, the new family has to go. They don't belong there. It's no different than a non-smoker sharing a dorm room with five other smokers and then complaining about his right to clean air is being infringed. The non-smoker has to go but it's the smokers' fault for allowing "anyone" to move in.

    3. "The couple is right in that the half-page contract should list out the values and preferences of the community."

      This may be so. As this has never been an issue before, we never had to deal with it.

      But to put it in a contract is tough. It's just that we have had a difficult time defining "smoke." We know that once we start listing things: grills, smokers, fire-pits, etc., we are bound to forget something. We open ourselves up for some malcontent to find a loophole.

      To say nothing of the dozens of other customary activities that we wish to protect. And to say nothing about the things we don't want done. For example, do we really need to write in the contract that boys use the boys room and girls use the girls room? Yet, we wouldn't have even thought about this two or three years ago. Who knows what cockamamie idea tomorrow will bring?

      The contract will go from half a page to about 100 pages. It gives me a headache to think about it.

      Anyway, we think the idea that a newcomer must be vouched for by one of the ten families is the way to go…for now.

    4. Banabooey:

      I consider values to be a synonym of principle/ethics/ethical. The way you seem to use it instead of mores/moral.
      The issue at hand is one of ethics and how they are applied/reflected in the commonly accepted behavior of a group.
      The "plants" are indeed acting immorally.

    5. Firstly, there is no perfect contract and therefore there will always be areas up for interpretation. But there should be some form of catch-all that acts a bit like the 10th Amendment but in this case, the rights are reserved going up the hierarchy (e.g. the elders) instead of down like it is in the Constitution. And that any grey areas disputes will be resolved by the discretion of the council and that really should be the end of it. There's nothing really wrong with that since community membership is voluntary. The point being, contract law will always supercede general-principle property rights.

    6. Jaime: I do make a distinction between values and morality. They are not one and the same. For me, morality deals specifically about property rights in that you own the effects of your actions which is merely an extension of self-ownership. Basically it's the 'Don't Hit, Don't Steal' moral code. That's it. Values, on the other hand, is more of an adoption of Mises' concept of what drives praxeology. They are personal and subjective and the basis on which economic behavior is derived from.

    7. You are not using the wrods properly. You be the judge.

      Per Merriam-Webster.

      Definition of mores
      1: the fixed morally binding customs of a particular group
      have tended to withdraw and develop a self-sufficient society of their own,
      with distinct and rigid mores — James Stirling
      2: moral attitudes
      the evershifting mores of the moment — Havelock Ellis
      3: habits, manners
      organized dancing developed a whole set of mores and practices of its own
      — R. L. Taylor

      Definition of ethic
      1 ethics plural in form but singular or plural in construction : the discipline
      dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
      2 a: a set of moral principles :  a theory or system of moral values the
      present-day materialistic ethic an old-fashioned work ethic — often used
      in plural but singular or plural in construction an elaborate ethics Christian
      b: ethics plural in form but singular or plural in construction :  the principles
      of conduct governing an individual or a group professional ethics
      c: a guiding philosophy
      d: a consciousness of moral importance forge a conservation ethic
      3 ethics plural :  a set of moral issues or aspects (such as rightness) debated the
      ethics of human cloning

      Definition of value
      1: the monetary worth of something :  market price
      2: a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged
      3: relative worth, utility, or importance a good value at the price the value of base
      stealing in baseball had nothing of value to say
      4: something (such as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable
      sought material values instead of human values
      — W. H. Jones
      5: a numerical quantity that is assigned or is determined by calculation or
      measurement let x take on positive values a value for the age of the earth
      6: the relative duration of a musical note
      7 a: relative lightness or darkness of a color :  luminosity
      b: the relation of one part in a picture to another with respect to lightness and
      8: denomination 2
      valuelessplay \ˈval-(ˌ)yü-ləs, -yə-\ adjective
      valuelessness noun

  7. I usually read your articles on Lew. This is, in MHO, one of your best. It exposes a major weakness in the NAP( Narcissistic Aggression Program). The weakness is that almost any human behavior can be interpreted by some one to be aggression(micro-aggression anyone) Your community seems to be one that lives daily in harmony with basic human nature and is now confronted with a negative aspect. When I was young, people would congregate in my apartment to listen to music and other activities. One day, in pops this guy, invited by some one, and he starts complaining about the music selection and then takes it upon himself to change the record to what he wants. Hell no we says and 3 fellows grab him and one holds the door open and out he goes with the promise that he will get his ass beaten if he ever comes back. It seems that you guys allowed the snake in your house; you need to find a way to chase that snake away. I also don't believe in 'equal rights' or any rights for that matter, nor do I believe that your community needs any 'rules' like don't steal. I think everyone already knows basic right and wrong and the children will be taught. Hope everything works out for your community without outside law getting involved. And make sure another snake does not get in. Ps. Your communities judging system seems very good as it keeps everything in house. Paul, in the Bible, when criticizing believers for going to the secular courts to settle disputes, suggested that the weakest believer be appointed judge or that it was better to just suffer loss that to go to outsiders. Good advice( which is what Scripture is) I think.

    1. Thank you for the note.

      My intent is not to tear down the NAP but to recognize what it is and what it isn't.

      The NAP offers a wonderful basis for law: do not initiate aggression. It cannot, however, define subjective terms in an objective manner for everyone (or anyone). This must be done by some other means - as I mentioned in a comment above, of the two feasible options, I choose custom over dictate as the least objectionable.

      The NAP is harmed when people expect more from it than it is designed to deliver. I prefer to not see the NAP harmed.

  8. BM -

    The neighborhood, to some extent, bears responsibility for the problem by means of its deliberate decision to eschew memorializing a Charter of Liberties.

    Compounding the problem is the reason you proffered as to why the neighborhood has refused to put the rights and responsibilities of families in writing:

    "We don't write many rules down-we have found that the more delineated the rules (e.g. like in a Constitution or some Great Charter of Liberties) the more likely someone will try to weasel his way around these. It has happened too often in history (like every time) to believe otherwise."

    Here, as a practical matter, had the neighborhood put in writing that cook-outs, grilling, smokers, and fire pits are part of the cultural zeitgeist and that the same are explicitly permitted, and that no complaints regarding the same would be heard and that if a family complained of the same, they would be aggressing against the custom of the community, the new family would have been warned of the custom and if they had decided to move into the neighborhood, they would have been exposed as hypocrites with no contractual basis upon which to whine.

    You and I differ on the broader context of the neighborhood's basis for refusing to reduce terms to a writing. It is precisely because of human nature, and that alone, that one is well advised to memorialize terms and conditions.

    Your neighborhood caused the gray, not the NAP.

    You, and even UC and others like him (no, I am not saying that you are in the same camp as he although I respect how you have acknowledged his contributions to your thought process)have had a significant influence upon my views with regard to the necessity of having a certain culture in place in order for a free society to work, never mind flourish.

    However, I think libertarians like me are more grounded in reality (read: human nature) when it comes to putting things in writing.

    Liberty Mike

    P.S. Don't take my post as being insensitive to your neighborhood's plight - I care - because of you and wish you well in resolving the matter.

    1. "The neighborhood, to some extent, bears responsibility for the problem by means of its deliberate decision to eschew memorializing a Charter of Liberties."

      Mike, you have made my reply somewhat easy, as I will copy something I wrote to another comment – and I know you would not have seen this before now).


      This may be so. As this has never been an issue before, we never had to deal with it.

      But to put it in a contract is tough. It's just that we have had a difficult time defining "smoke." We know that once we start listing things: grills, smokers, fire-pits, etc., we are bound to forget something. We open ourselves up for some malcontent to find a loophole.

      To say nothing of the dozens of other customary activities that we wish to protect. And to say nothing about the things we don't want done. For example, do we really need to write in the contract that boys use the boys room and girls use the girls room? Yet, we wouldn't have even thought about this two or three years ago. Who knows what cockamamie idea tomorrow will bring?

      The contract will go from half a page to about 100 pages. It gives me a headache to think about it.

      Anyway, we think the idea that a newcomer must be vouched for by one of the ten families is the way to go…for now.


      OK, enough of the old comment, I will move on to one other response:

      “However, I think libertarians like me are more grounded in reality (read: human nature) when it comes to putting things in writing.”

      Mike, virtually everything I do every day is governed by custom, not by written contract. Some of it is not pure NAP, yet it also works very well. This is my reality – and I bet it is yours as well.

      Can you imagine if it all had to be reduced to writing? And to get agreement from everyone before I did anything? It’s like suggesting that every time I walk into a room I have to confirm with each individual which gender pronoun – traditional or newfangled – that he / she / shem / zamboola would like to be referred to as? And I have to do this even if I already know them all, because they might have changed their mind since the last time we met? And I even have to check during the meeting because they might change their mind every few seconds?

      Oh, wait, we have that now.

      Look, I know my example isn’t perfect, but I offer it as a demonstration of the stumbling block regarding written contract vs. custom.

      And don’t take my reply as negative or antagonistic. I appreciate your contributions here and always welcome your feedback.

    2. Thanks BM.

      Of course, my reality is just as you thought: most things I do or am involved with are governed by custom, practice, etc.

      Nevertheless, if I was part of your neighborhood, I would VOLUNTEER to draft the contracts and yes, given our world, I would probably be inclined to include the bathroom usage rules.

      Liberty Mike

  9. Where is this community? What state is it in? Country or City? Hard to evaluate the article without context info.

    Until they closed the program, I had a certified Libertarian eco-home/community of the Libertarian International Organization. The LP Platform is a version of their manual. An updated version for world users of the LIO is expected in a few years. I learned some things that might be helpful:

    1) The NAP isn't the basis of Libertarianism (as Nolan and Rothbard pointed out), but non-libertarian libertarian-directionism, a society starting towards libertarianism. The Gilson Pledge is the basis.

    2)Libertarians have eco-homes and build condos from there as platforms for dialogue. Libertarianism is non-punitive so some of the crazy 'libertarian' communities mentioned by commenters have no basis.

    3) The Pledge (natural right) is carried out in common law namely agreements, customs, statutes (in that order) which is always local. So a condo has policies. In Florida the LIO Libertarians wrote the condo law, so it is up to the buyer to know the customs and the condos (which include HOA's) have great autonomy. Many have arbitration groups. All may have reserves to take care of any function they desire e.g. their own insurance or welfare system.

    You have a nice thing going but like many articles here you try and reinvent the flat tire.

    1. I do a search for the term “The Gilson Pledge” and come up with exactly zero hits. Not very visible for what is supposed to be “the basis” of libertarianism.

      “You have a nice thing going but like many articles here you try and reinvent the flat tire.”

      “The Gilson Pledge” doesn’t exist online and somehow this is my problem? In any case, as it is rare to find a large group of libertarians in agreement on many subjects, I will suggest the flat tire still needs reinventing.

    2. I tried to find the Gilson Pledge and ended up at the Libertarian International Organization website. BM, if you read their About, you will have to reuse that funny pic of the wide eyed guyhttp://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2017/05/because-i-am-libertarian.html?m=1#comment-form

  10. The new folks do not fit in. I doubt they will change their professed aversion to smoke. So, to me, the question becomes, what is the cheapest, easiest way to get rid of them? Would shunning work? Is it palatable to the others in the community for The Elders to say, 'Hey, we made a mistake in letting these folks in. We will ask them to put their house on the market, and we, the community, will make them whole for 50% of any loss on the sale of their home. We will amend our 1/2 contract with a list of practices that families currently engage in, so that other potential newcomers have a better understanding of the flavor here.'

    P.S. -- Miles Mathis (www.milesmathis.com/writings) has fascinating papers laying out that The Cabal has hoaxed us for centuries, e.g., The Salem Witch Trial, Linbergh's crossing of the Atlantic, Sharon Tate murders were all hoaxes. So, it is not beyond the pale that the new family is a plant to cause your community irritation and pain.

    1. “So, to me, the question becomes, what is the cheapest, easiest way to get rid of them?”

      I think the elders are just going to tell them to pound sand – the smoke continues, like it or not. The problem is, we know where this leads. The new folks will then bring in the county sheriff, hire a lawyer, etc. So I don’t know; your way might be better.

      It goes to show, common culture (and of a certain type) is the necessary foundation if one wants any chance to maintain liberty. As mentioned, we have now learned – with our idea that from now on one of the ten elders will have to vouch for any newcomers.

    2. Build a chicken coop, or a hog pen, up wind the trouble makers.

  11. Suggest that the community secure an accurate appraisal of the property, check the record of the sale price where the deed is registered and then approach owners offering to buy them out, plus a modest profit. I assume that if at least 75% of the existing home owners could put in enough $$$ to equal a down payment of at least 50%, they could get a mortgage. Then when the people have moved, clean it up (if needed), and list it as a "LEASE WITH OPTION TO BUY". In the Recession of 80-82, people who wanted to own but did not have enough for down payment sometimes could RENT with a portion of the RENT going towards a buy. If they decided NOT to buy, they did NOT receive that money back. Then advertise the property telling the EXPERIENCED REALTOR the "rules of the road" in your community, and that he/she only show the property to someone who could accept the rule. By renting it, you are "trying" out this family, and they are "trying" out your community. It might be good idea to all agree that any future sales, the community is to approve the "applicant". That way you almost eliminate another situation like this. I am NOT a believer in HOA's though I understand WHY to exist. However, your community sounds unique and as the older folks pass on, move on, the others need to have some AGREED UPON way to insure that new owners "fit in". With the internet, and certain folks looking to get away from cities, and the ability to work from home, the community should be able to find a family that fits in.

  12. BM - thanks for the article and great work on your blog. When reading this my first reaction was - where can I find a community like this? Now I'm not expecting you to publish this here, but any advice on how to find communities like your own, what part of the country you can find them in (Northwest vs New Hampshire, etc..), would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Unknown, I think I made a mistake. I thought it would be recognized that I was offering an intellectual exercise, something that might work better than my sex-orgy thing. So I didn't write any type of disclaimer or notice.

      From some of the comments here and emails that I have received, it is now obvious to me that I should have offered a loud "NB" with this post.

      I wish I lived in such a place or knew of such a place. Alas, I do not.

    2. I thought it was real too. I was jealous.

      If they are ever going to get anywhere, these are the kinds of places that libertarians need to get busy creating. Libertarians will never take over the US. But they might take over chunks of it, a few hundred acres at a time.

  13. I think the confusion is the belief the new family is automatically the only ones with rights to "their" property. The "smokers" have been using that property long before they moved in - generations for some according the the story. If there is a conflict, the smoker's rights precede the new family's rights. The seller had no claim on those rights, so could not transfer them to the new family.

    So, the new family made a poor choice for a new home given their peculiar dislikes. They should have learned more about their neighbors before they moved so close to them. If they want to stay, they should seek a solution that doesn't violate their neighbor's property rights.

  14. Whoever drafts such a half-page contract should include therein a clause - 'Customs in this neighbourhood meaningfully differ from and will prevail over what is considered normal common sense / property rights in other places. Disputes subject to the jurisdiction of the court of elders. Please look before you leap'

  15. What a great story and wonderful controversy.

    Your community sounds delightful (for the most part).

    I apologize in advance for being long-winded. This is me trying to be brief.

    The concept of "government" embraces the possibility of voluntarily submitting yourself to an authority outside yourself; not unlike buying a condo with the knowledge you will be subject to the HOA.

    A HOA is actually a pretty good conceptual archetype for "government." In an HOA, the ultimate penalty is usually having ones property taken by the HOA and being expelled from membership. A prudent condo buyer should insure that he is comfortable with the conditions under which that can happen before he buys the condo. When he does buy the condo, he is purchasing a package of "property rights" which include accepting the rules of the HOA. Therefore, if and when his property is confiscated and he is expelled, this is not a violation of the NAP, because it is the other property owners, acting through the HOA, who are defending their just property rights.

    After thinking about it for many years, I believe the best policy would merely be to make it possible to expel someone from the HOA upon a super-majority vote (probably in the range of 2/3 to 3/4) for any reason whatsoever. On the other hand, their property should be seized only to the extent necessary to compensate the HOA for any legitimate amounts owed to the HOA. Ideally, the HOA will stand ready to buy the property of any member so expelled at fair market value, less deductions for any amounts owed.

    The ability to "blackball" someone acknowledges that there are an infinite amount of ways for people to get on each other's nerves, and that if someone is so odious to the community that they get on almost everybody's nerves, then there should be a way to get rid of them. In some sense, this respects the "freedom of association" of the people being driven crazy. For example, in a community context, this neatly solves the problem of the guy who wants to stand on his front lawn naked pissing on a statue of Jesus right next to the church on Sunday morning, while avoiding the necessity of having a collection of various "laws" prohibiting that particular behavior.

    Perhaps an even better example or paradigm for "government" and "governance" are the various "peace religions" of Anabaptist extraction. Their most dire weapon is "shunning" or refusing to associate with someone who does not adhere to community standards. That is completely and obviously NAP compatible, to an even greater degree than the HOA example. These groups (Amish, Mennonites, etc.) are the ultimate example of communities which are the polar opposite of permissive and libertine, but are nonetheless almost purely libertarian in a political sense. It amazes me that more is not written about them in the libertarian literature.

    Finally, the importance of scale is paramount. IMO, the only way that these ideas work is on a "human scale" among communities around the size of the average stone age tribe, or in rough correspondence to Dunbar's number (perhaps a few hundred souls). This is because the temporal limits of objective reality constrain the number of people who can have relatively in depth knowledge of one another, and who can interact politically in a way where all members have the opportunity to directly participate in a meaningful way.


  16. This community is fictional, so you say, but this is EXACTLY the community I enjoyed for many years in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The folks there talk lefty, but live libertarian. I learned to ease up on the politics and just groove on the freedom.

  17. BM,

    Please excuse this brief question. Would it not be much, much easier to quantify and write down the definition of “aggression” than to quantify and write down the definitions of “culture”? Should not the simplest and most easily quantified, be the superior law?

    Could they both not vary from community to community?

    Thank you for your blog.
    “Lost Soul”

  18. All this reminds me of some people complaining about airplane noise after purchasing a house, in a new subdivision, under the flight take off path of the airport.

  19. Respect for culture and tradition is very pagan. Yearning for perfect NAP is like monotheism. They map nicely to "The Old and the Good" as well.

    The latter without the former is "autistic" and knocks out the platform from beneath it's own feet. The former without the latter is blind and degenerate, quickly loses any reason for being. Your writing is some of the best examples of their integration.

  20. Actually allergic? Then let's see if we can work out a solution. Invite your doctor around to sit in with us and offer advice.

    You do have a doctor that knows about your condition, right?

    Dirty windows? Those of us who make smoke will send a delegation of children around to clean your windows every week...

    ...until you get tired of being special.

  21. A real-life smoke and fire situation:

    We moved out to “the country” about 15 years ago. We were the new family. There is no HOA. This is a rural neighborhood where people can and do grow a vegetable garden in their *front* yard if they please.

    I have asthma. Much to our annoyance, many neighbors burn their excess leaves in the Fall. They have been doing that for generations. When they do this, I am unable to go outdoors. My wife and I grouse about this fact, but only among ourselves. I recognize the fact that I have no right to move to their neighborhood and commence to telling them how they should live.

    My closest neighbor used to dispose of his leaves by dumping them over his back fence into “the woods.” Then he passed away. Then his son started taking care of the lawn.

    One day the son began burning leaves in the backyard. Their house is close to ours, and the smoke was thick and easily penetrated *inside* our house. Our house doesn’t seal completely, so there was no escaping the smoke, even inside.

    I was suffering from this, and needed to find a solution. We value our neighbors, and we value our good relations with our neighbors. But I needed to affect a change. Here’s what I did.

    I thought to myself, how much is it worth to me, for my neighbor to not burn those leaves? I realized it was an awful lot. So I grabbed up $100 cash, walked next door, waved the $100 at my neighbor’s son and told him: I’ll pay you $100 to stop burning those leaves. I explained that I had asthma (just like his Dad also had). I mean I was fully prepared to give him the money.

    He recognized my situation. He is good people. I offered him to dump his leaves into an unused dog pen on our property, that butts up against his fence.

    He agreed, and he did not even accept the money. Though I would have happily given it.

    I like 2 things about this story. 1) I did not assume that my neighbor owed me anything and I made no attempt to coerce or threaten him in any way. 2) I found a positive way to approach him and show him how much this issue meant to me.

    Meh, it could have turned out differently.