Friday, May 18, 2018

Would You Pull the Plug?

I would like to explore something, actually a couple of things that have been raised on and off in the libertarian world.  The two topics:

A private law society will be right-libertarian.  I have heard this view more than once from libertarians.

If you could pull the plug on the state, or push a button to end it, would you do it?  Several libertarians have asked and answered this question.  The answer comes back affirmative.

I do believe the first of these to be true: a private law society will be right-libertarian, or certainly conservative.  The idea and possibility is completely consistent with my view of medieval law as being about as close to libertarian law as the west has experienced.  The idea is also consistent with my view that a society organized on left principles will self-destruct.

I should somewhat modify: I believe the first to be true in the long run – if we can get to the long run.  Which is why I incorporate the two topics together – the second topic does not contemplate a transition, the reality today, etc.

Perhaps underlying this call to pull the plug there is a contemplation of a transition given the reality today – that the transition after pulling the plug has been explored.  If it is explored, I would welcome a link.  In the meantime, I will do a little of my own exploring.  Mostly, just questions.

Now…I know there will be readers out there who will read the following and conclude something like: “that bionic, I knew he was trending statist, he is no longer libertarian.”  You are free to conclude that, but you would be wrong – and wrong for at least two reasons:

1)      If libertarians don’t have good answers for the many questions that come up about the transition, talk of pulling the plug just adds to the belief that libertarians have a utopian theory without practical application. 
2)      The issue comes right into the intersection of libertarianism and culture.  Libertarians that don’t contemplate this just add to the belief that libertarians have a utopian theory without practical application.

I personally do not believe that libertarianism is a utopian theory without practical application. 

Again – I do not say that these things have not been contemplated, and I welcome any references.  But in the shorthand of this discussion, I haven’t seen or heard any of it.  Finally, because I feel that it needs to be said: my intention here is not to criticize, but to explore the topic and to advance the discussion.

So, let’s begin.

If the plug was pulled today, on what basis would we expect that a private law society would result? 

Because if we end up with more of the same (or worse), then pulling the plug might not be a good idea.

Imagine the picture.  The plug gets pulled.  Tens of millions of government employees are unemployed; tens of millions of social security recipients and other beneficiaries of government programs are left in poverty; tens of millions of individuals who work in fields dependent on government contracting; a few million released from prison and hospitals; universities and public schools emptied or drastically reduced; all banking transactions cease.

These are just a few thoughts off the top.  Yes, I can envision as well as any libertarian theorist how this might play out over the course of time, but we are talking of pulling the plug and we are talking of a right-libertarian society emerging.

In any case, we aren’t talking about “over the course of time.”  What happens on day two to these tens of millions (maybe 100 million or more) whose lives have been existentially affected?  Do we expect that they will quietly accept their condition and respect a private property order?  When they are starving, dying on the streets, etc.?

I know you can fend them off…well, only if you and enough of your neighbors (community, town, county?) are on the same page and are unaffected by the plug being pulled.  Do you know that this is the case?  Half of your neighbors may be pretty upset about the plug being pulled – they are part of the 100 million or more that are negatively affected.  How many of the people in your surrounding area will sit quietly with the plug pulled?

Oh, I forgot to mention.  There are a few million people with access to the most sophisticated weaponry in the world – military, police, various spook agencies – who are all suddenly unemployed and without hope for pension.  Will they stand idly by, waiting for a right-libertarian society to emerge?

Will a private law society emerge from this?  Or will these 100 million or more of your very well armed and now starving neighbors impose something along the lines of the thing that just had its plug pulled…or worse?


Libertarians and culture.  Which comes first, pulling the plug or a society supportive of (truly) conservative principles?  I have been exploring this question for several years now.  The more that I explore it the more it seems to me that the culture comes first.

So…let’s advance the discussion.  If it is so that a right-libertarian society will emerge in a future libertarian order – exactly what conditions are necessary for this to be the case?  Because, when I consider today’s conditions, pulling the plug won’t get us there.

I do believe a transition will get us there – but what steps will make this transition effective?  In other words: which comes first, libertarianism or culture and tradition (of a specific type)?

Or is there a different question?


“Bionic wouldn’t pull the plug!”

I didn’t say that.  I am asking libertarians to help me get there. 

Or advance the discussion.  I am OK with either.


  1. "“Bionic wouldn’t pull the plug!”

    I didn’t say that. I am asking libertarians to help me get there. Or advance the discussion. "

    Something I rarely hear within the libertarian community, but I think needs to be said to those outside of it is akin to this:

    "The NAP taken to it's ultimate implementation yields conclusions that suggest things like private armies, no welfare(gov't mandated), private courts, etc.

    While the concept of "non-aggression"/voluntaryism is in and of itself a clear and moral concept, it's application is not. I don't know how a free market/NAP/voluntaryism develops some of these things down the road(and some of what I mentioned isn't a "given"), because that is nature of free market/NAP/voluntary operates. It is the major premise behind great thinkers that promote liberty, that voluntary actions between billions of people are better than the knowledge of a few at top that force their mandates upon the rest.

    Free markets usually produce a multitude of options for consumers to choose from and even if your vision of what liberty like differs from mine, we can both coexist peacefully within a decentralized society based on property rights by having as many options/communities to to choose from as possible if we can just agree to voluntarily chosen communities alone."

    Even in the above statement, there are problems- because, for example- if a child in my chosen community is shot over trespassing against another community's orchard for example, in OUR society there is most likely going to be retribution.

    However, I go back to something I've mentioned before- it is culturally "ok" in some communities to cut off the hand of a child that steals. It's a reprehensible act, yet there aren't any wars over it(maybe personal feuds though).

    I don't think we get to a place where conflict is eliminated, it's the nature of man in general. So the question in my mind is how we reduce it and promote liberty.

    We as libertarians rarely acknowledge that there are many unanswered questions as to how we get to private armies, or a return to "welfare" without mandates/property abrogation, etc.

    Instead, libertarian's write thick books that few of the general populace read that go to extreme lengths to show how "libertarian" concepts can come to fruition.

    But when those arguments are presented by 2nd hand dealers they sound unrealistic to the mass public, because in many ways they are in today's world as it's structured.

    "What do you mean no public roads?"
    "How are you going to protect us with no national army/police?"
    "If you get rid of welfare how do people who are uncapable feed themselves?"

    I could go on forever, but the simple fact is the "common sense" of the average man says you can't pull the plug on all this and when the average libertarian cites mind numbing examples of times at which roads and armies were privatized the "average man" says "bollocks" and walks away. (or pretends to listen)

    There has to be a transition. It will come, the question is will it be in the direction of liberty or towards authoritarianism. I don't know when the transition in the US comes, I think less than 100 years from now, my gut tells me less than 50 really.

    But, rather than convince everyone as to the merits of private armies, private roads, no welfare, or defending prostitution- I think we'd be more effective to simply talk about the mandates coming out of DC as eliminating the free choice of everyone to form voluntary communities that better represent local viewpoints, customs, morality, etc.

    A simple acknowledgement of the "NAP"/private property/Voluntaryism" as an IDEAL(both literally and figuratively) instead of having an "answer" for every scenario acknowledges uncertainty without defeating the concept itself.

  2. cont.(sorry for length)

    The United States used to be praised as a "cultural melting pot". Can we say that's the case anymore? The group of people that want us to be "one big happy (communist) family" are the ones that are pushing the cultural uniformity(in the name of "diversity" none the less!). I have to say though, so are the "alt-right" in their own way.(uniformity via fascism)

    Respect for private property and decentralization solves a lot of this(but not all).

    Who hasn't gone to "Little Italy" in/near some major metropolis? If they aren't Italian, they visit, eat some food, take in the culture and then go home. Same as "German town", or "China town", etc. et al

    That, to me, is an example of cultural bindings and decentralization in action. Sure, right now mandates from DC apply to all of them, but that wasn't how it was for some time.

    You can turn this old notion of the strength of America being it's diversity on it's head and use it against those pushing for a super state that reflects their viewpoints on us all.

    For example, a SJW homosexual says "I'm going to use the government to force you to accept me and bake me a cake!" and that is his notion of "diversity" even though it's the direct opposite. A response might be "Ok, what if the Alt-Right gets into power in DC and decides that San Francisco is a center of immorality and bans homosexuality?"

    The only way "diversity" truly occurs is when the structure of governance is decentralized/localized,and there's a respect for property rights/NAP between communities.

    A simple acknowledgement of the problem of a massive centralized state instead of arguing libertarian minutia and presupposing an "answer" to privatized everything that flies in the face of the common sense of the average man might be the better tack.(even if privatized everything is the ideal)

    Look, Californian's are seeing the merits of decentralization now and that is surely saying something.

    I'm tired of trying to convince commie's that their model is faulty, let them repeat history, just give me someplace to go where I don't have to suffer for their decisions!

    1. Nick

      Your post describes well why one of the best practical applications of libertarian theory in the real world is for libertarians to support every move toward decentralization - even if individual libertarians may have a disagreement about the internal politics of the newly separate state.

      Throughout the world, there are dozens of calls for decentralization - many in the population are longing for exactly what libertarianism would look like if applied.

      Yet too many libertarians (from what I have read, I would describe these as "left" libertarians) cannot see this reality.

  3. As has been said before many times, I think a good a place as any to start in the transformation would be a reestablishment of the law. An agreed upon law (good and old). And a mediation/enforcement/court system that actually applies to each and every person the same (no favoritism, no cronyism). A law that is established and set and agreed upon that doesn't change at every whim and be added to at 3000 pages a year. A law that applies to the country, the president and the legislators as it does to lowly old me and even the mosquito. A law that is understood by all in such a way that ordinary people may know the law and how they obey/disobey it. One where rights are agreed upon and set and cannot be taken away either incrementally or in whole. There is a lot more to be said, but you are asking for steps and how to get there. Is there something else that would be more fundamental than a reestablishment of the law?


    1. Will good law spring forward from corrupt people? I don't hold my breath.

    2. Nor do I. If we are completely honest, though, who of us is not corrupt in some/many way(s)?


    3. Perhaps the best reason to rely on custom grounded in the best traditions of Western Civilization.

    4. Agreed. But why stop there and not go back even further to the Source? Paging Ted Weiland. :)


    5. I look to medieval history as it offers real evidence with real humans of a decentralized society, governed via law that is not "man-made" (as we understand the term today).

      I haven't seen examples of the Beatitudes turned into a real-world basis for law.

      Germanic law is not straight Scripture, just as Catholicism is not straight Scripture.

      The medieval Germans, it seems, found a way to take some version of Christ's message and turn it into a functioning, decentralized political system.

      Man is not perfect; when it comes to law on earth, I lean toward reasonably libertarian examples that have demonstrated lasting power.

    6. Yes, the eternal question: Is Man Good Enough to Govern Himself?
      From long ago until the recent past, survival was the primary issue. Tribes were small; Dunbar's number ( You personally knew everyone that mattered in your tribe, and you had at least a modicum of acquaintance with everyone else. To be reasonably fit, strong, of competent IQ and agreeable personality was the norm; otherwise you were dead. Mutual trust and respect developed naturally within your small social ecosystem, as well as a strong cultural conformity... all of this because survival depended on it.
      Not the case today. Our turbo-charged, hyper-stimulating and grossly-unnatural choice-filled reality. My take is that our current reality is too fast, too disconnected, and far beyond human-agreeable scale. Our human world has side-stepped nature in innumerable ways; it is far less obedient or constrained to Nature across the board. For example, diet and health: in a nature-constrained world, most common chronic diseases don't exist because you cannot find Oreos on trees, fried pig ears under a rock, nor mega-gulp frosties flowing out of natural springs.
      In all ways, a nature-dominated and constraining reality was the crucible for Homo Sapiens. Of course this is and has always been true for all animals, all Life. Within Nature, our biochemistry and neurology, our cognitive capabilities, social conditioning and overall world-view had fairly distinct boundaries in place we were required to work within. Optimizing our individual and group lives within those boundaries resulted in what might be called a Human Organic Reality that demanded the same degree of orderliness and acceptable behaviour as it did for all other animals on the planet. Survival depended on it. Stray too far from Organic Reality and you were deselected; gone.
      Now, of course it is true that the fantastic newly emergent attributes in H. Sapiens – self-awareness and creative abilities - unveiled all manner of new possibilities. The larger question is, “Do we have the wisdom to intelligently and carefully build upon that which actually works for us: Nature and Natural Laws? Can we maintain our species integrity, mind and body, while also maintaining the integrity of the natural world around us, as we simultaneously explore and create with our wondrous new abilities? Or do we vaingloriously cast them aside in favor of spurious, fragmented, unsustainable ideas that humans have generated, and will tire of soon enough?
      Whereas Bionic nicely tackles the issue of workable, sustainable human culture as the basis and bulwark of any future sustainable libertarian society, I add the issues of mind/body health and ecological health as equally fundamental requirements. After all, every Old & Good Law coupled with Old & Good Culture was birthed, tested and matured in an era undergirded with far greater Organic Reality than we have today. Every Old Tribe and Society was of manageable population size, its inhabitants largely required to maintain a sturdy body and sound mind, and the local environment was essentially intact and life-supportive. I suspect that Bionic implicitly or subconsciously understands this, but I have not seen it mentioned.
      Summary: If you want a Small and sustainable libertarian society, it’s gotta be based on NAP and an ethical cultural base. That base needs healthy, high-caliber people of strong mind and body. Such people only come from a base of healthful, intelligent lifestyles surrounded by a healthfully functioning environment. Undermine any of these base structures, and you are doomed to degenerate people demonstrating degenerate behaviour inside a degenerate society.
      If you want a Large, nation-state-sized libertarian society, it ain’t gonna happen.

    7. BDev, thank you for this.

      "If you want a Large, nation-state-sized libertarian society, it ain’t gonna happen."

      I think this is right. Perhaps one more reason to consider that libertarianism in theory in decentralization in practice.

    8. Bionic - Definitely agree: Decentralize and Downsize. It's the only way to keep everyone accountable. CHS nails it here:
      "Once we grasp the critical role played by scale, we conclude that centralized hierarchies cannot function effectively because their scale makes it too easy and too rewarding for those at the top of the wealth-power pyramid to cheat and evade consequences.
      "Only small-scale markets and structures of governance can succeed in the long run because only these small scale systems can sustainably impose "skin in the game"-- consequences, accountability and oversight."

    9. Along these lines, I'll use this moment to again applaud a guy whom I consider a most brilliant libertarian thinker and writer:
      Jakub Bozydar Wisniewski
      His tagline: Civilization is the Process of Substituting Liberty for Power

      Re: Downsize & Decentralize -

      Inevitability -

      Ideas -

      Click on some of the 'Labels' at the bottom of these posts for more.

  4. I would pull the plug, IF I could pull it on all states everywhere. A FreeAmerica might have a hard time surviving in a world of aggressive states, who might have a reason for vengeance.

    I personally believe, that while utopia is not possible, a free and independent population is, IF the Non Aggression Principle is the Supreme Commandment of all.


    “No one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another, nor to delegate or authorize its use.”

    In accordance:

    Each person has the individual right to self defense and the defense of their property.

    Each individual person owns their own body and no other.

    Private property represents our investment.

    No one has more "rights" than any other, except over their own body or on their own property.

    (You don’t have to agree with them, just don’t violate them. You have been warned!)

    It's a start Bionic. You are asking and answering some wonderful and important questions. Thanks!


    1. >I would pull the plug, IF I could pull it on all states everywhere.

      Ah the ol' world revolutionary impulse again. I guess you take it as a given that every Nation in the world would be better off with its State gone tomorrow, or you just believe it's a price worth paying for your own freedom even if it leads to wholesale slaughter elsewhere.

      I respect the later more than the former.

    2. Tahn

      "IF the Non Aggression Principle is the Supreme Commandment of all."

      This is the point, isn't it? And not just because other states continue to exist, but because your out-of-work and starving neighbors now also exist.

      It seems I can assume from your response that you would not, therefore, pull the plug if you could.


    3. Bionic and UC,

      My reason, which I thought to have given in my second sentence, was that pulling the plug only in America or any one country, would put us/them at a disadvantage with foreign mobilized state tyrannies. If the plug could be pulled worldwide and on all organized state offensive armies and their govrnments, only then would we have a chance to survive. That was my sole argument.

      I do not agree that the absence of a state would reduce anyone to poverty, except possibly bureaucrats unable to do useful work. In fact it may very well raise the overall level of economic prosperity. To believe otherwise is to believe in Statism, rather than the free market.

      UC, I DO believe that all the PEOPLE of the world would be better off without the state, except maybe the parasites that live off of the work of others.

      If we can have a magic plug to pull to bring down the state, can we not have a magic switch to throw declaring. “The NAP is The Supreme Command Of Mankind.”

      Could either of you live in a community with only “The Law” as I outlined it?


  5. >If you could pull the plug on the state, or push a button to end it, would you do it?

    Well this is a libertarian fantasy that needs some clarification.
    Push a bottom to physically exterminate the US Government, its financiers, NGOs, and academics?- Yes of course. Who wouldn't push the "kill all your enemies" the button? My (your?) enemies would do it.

    Push a button to deligitmize D.C in the minds of the subjects?- Yes I would do it but would it be *all* subjects or just enough to kick of a long and violent road war (that D.C. could still win with enough key support)? Honestly I would do it either way.

    >If the plug was pulled today, on what basis would we expect a private law society to emerge?

    Oh we wouldn't. Different groups will lay claim to different territories and State-formation would begin. Society cannot be governed by law it can only be governed by power. The iron law of Oligarchy holds true always, the political question is *who will be the ruling class, what will their ideals be, and who will be king?." The libertarian preoccupation with designing an (impossible) society with no ruling class is a distraction from the question of how to get and wield power effectively in order maximize freedom (the potential of a ppl).

    BM, I highly recommend you check out James Burnham's "The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom."

    I will email you a copy.

    1. "...the political question is *who will be the ruling class, what will their ideals be, and who will be king?.""

      Gary North says something similar: people will always ask who is in charge here and what are the rules (I am paraphrasing; something like this and he has a list of five items. Max, can you find this for me?)

      I used to rebel against this back in my days of "thin NAP applied." Obviously, you and others here know the journey I have taken in the last years.

  6. For this binary choice, status quo to continue as we are or pull the plug ... I say pull the plug.

  7. "Would You Pull the Plug?"

    system is based on inbuilt destruction mechanism

    The Great Default Is Inevitable: The Bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare.

    government checks will bounce or will not buy much

    people who believe in liberty,small government, peaceful cooperation...

    just need to be patient and wait.

    also need to be ready to explain why is going to happen and what need to be done.

    we are basically remnant -- probably less than 5% of population in any state.


all his websites are doing all they can to spread word :


it is something like prophet bringing messages.

    In my Publisher's Preface, I offered five questions to help you remember this model and apply it to every institution:
    1. Who's in charge here?
    2. To whom do I report?
    3. What are the rules?
    4. What do I get if I obey (disobey)?
    5. Does this outfit have a future?


    1. Max, thank you for the list. As I mentioned, I used to rebel against this. I no longer do.

  8. "Would you pull the plug?" The question had earlier applications. Differences in opinion on that matter had something to do with bringing about the Late Unpleasantness (though I'd argue Lincoln's War had more to do with tariffs).

    Immediate or gradual emancipation of chattel slaves? How about tax slaves? Same or different answer? Why?

    I'd say pull the plug on the empire. End the wars. Bring all U.S. troops home first thing in the morning if it's too late to do it tonight. Pay them one month of severance for each year of service to a maximum of 24. That'll give them ample time and resources to land on their feet.

    Lay off 90 percent of federal and state employees, too. Leave most of the municipal governments intact, at least in the short term. Extend tax breaks to those who contract with private schools, security agencies, and dispute resolution organizations.

    Privatization will happen. Freedom will grow.

    1. "Immediate or gradual emancipation of chattel slaves? How about tax slaves? Same or different answer? Why?"

      Immediate for both - (regarding tax slaves) certainly regarding the income tax.

      "That'll give them ample time and resources to land on their feet....Lay off 90 percent of federal and state employees, too."

      That's not pulling the plug.

  9. Pulling the plug without a replacement system IN PLACE will result in the death of billions, possibly all of mankind.

    The big kick is the uncontrolled "shutdown" of nuclear reactors. Once these begin to spew plutonium, its over. Goodbye mankind!

    For better or worse, we have too many systems in place that are not "walk away safe". Nuclear reactors being the worst, but there are many more that would inflict horrible tragedies.

    The problem is of course that we may face an uncontrolled pulling of the plug regardless. Either due to a solar flare or through a self inflicted societal collapse.

    As far as switching to a NAP state is concerned: That is not possible imo with an average IQ of 100. A democracy needs an average IQ of 90, but a libertarian society will need a much higher average IQ than that. If I have to make an estimate, I would say at least a standard deviation higher than the average today... say 115.

  10. Under the political model, WAR is the means by which sovereignty and autonomy is gained over a piece of land. Under the libertarian model, sovereignty and autonomy are simply PURCHASED from the government currently in possession of them.


  11. "pull the plug" sounds like a euphemism for revolution. No, I wouldn't. I've seen how those turn out. The state has to fail in full view of the people. Killing the state will not end the state, but produce one or more new states, likely worse than we have now.

  12. Well then, would ANYONE reading this, choose to live in a world, where the only law was the NAP?


    “No one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force (violence) against another, nor to delegate or authorize its use.”

    In accordance:

    Each person has the individual right to self defense and the defense of their property.

    Each individual person owns their own body and no other.

    Private property represents our investment.

    No one has more "rights" than any other, except over their own body or their own property.

    (You don’t have to agree with them, just don’t violate them. You have been warned!)

    Just wondering. Tahn

  13. As an addendum, I would answer the above excellent questions.

    1. Who's in charge here? The property owner.

    2. To whom do I report? The property owner.

    3. What are the rules? The NAP, as specified above.

    4. What do I get if I obey (disobey)? If you obey, you get freedom. If you disobey, the victim will decide.

    5. Does this outfit have a future? That is my question above.


    1. An excellent set of replies if one chooses to live a self-sustaining solitary life on top of a mountain.

      Otherwise, what do you think happens when the property owner - who is in charge, with no one or nothing above him other than the NAP - decides to shoot a kid for picking an apple?

    2. Bionic,

      I am not sure if you are objecting to “The Supreme Law of the Community” and its accords or my statement below that the victim has the right to choose the penalty, which is really a different discussion.

      I could write a sci-fi story about the last producing apple tree on the planet or a case where a person had worked their entire life to produce a certain rare apple, where the property owner would be totally justified in shooting the thief. What if the thief was stealing an entire tree or orchard?

      There can always be an “argumentum ad absurdum” question (or answer) for every rule or law imagined or the consequences of breaking them, including the NAP or “The Golden Rule”. If we listened to such absurdness, we can never agree on anything and perhaps that has been a weakness of libertarian thought and discussion. There is no utopia, there can only be a common rule of conduct which can help guide us.

      I very much doubt that in the real world, such a travesty would happen. Still, we are all responsible for our actions and have to suffer any consequences.

      Remember, you could have such rules or laws in effect on your own property as you wish (including free apples to boys), as could UC (no minorities) or others (Muslim only) , as long as they did not violate the NAP. I believe my synopsis to be merely a slight clarification of the NAP and the definition of property rights and I am certainly not claiming any originality.

      It's an important topic and question Bionic. I hope that libertarians can reach a conclusion that will work for all, regardless of their particular beliefs.

      I do have a response to “the victim decides the penalty” if that was your objection but do not wish to clutter your most interesting thread if it was not.

      If your response was to the Supreme Law and its accords, do you have an alternative?


    3. Tahn, there is a rather well-known libertarian who suggests just such a punishment for a child taking an apple - whatever the property owner decides, because he is sovereign (or, as you say, he is in charge).

      "I do have a response to “the victim decides the penalty” if that was your objection but do not wish to clutter your most interesting thread if it was not."

      Yes, this was my point and I am curious as to who decides this if not the property owner - who is the one "in charge" as you say.

    4. Bionic,

      Again, my language has failed to properly communicate my thoughts. I meant to say that I had a response as to why the victim was the ONLY person who had the right to decide the consequences of a violation of the NAP. While a property owner may assign that right, either prior by voluntary consent to community standards or afterward by agreeing to arbitration, jury trial or other, the owner can only do so voluntarily. The right to decide the penalty cannot be taken from him without his consent, in my opinion.

      I have read of the theoretical response of using deadly force for such a trivial act and in a normal world, can see no justification for such barbarity, although as I mentioned above, there could be extenuating circumstances which could drive the apple owner to such extremes, such as a lifetime of genetic breeding being ruined. Or perhaps it's not an apple but a family Bible of little monetary value but with 20 generations of ancestry records. Who can make such a decision of value except the owner, whose heritage is being stolen away.

      Again, while such an extreme act might be theoretically correct and in keeping with the NAP, it would be hard to justify morally to oneself and certainly difficult to justify politically to the community.

      Whoever made such a decision would have to accept the consequences, just as we have to accept the consequences of all of our actions.

      Here is a copy of a post from a private forum that is among one of the arguments that convinced me of this:

      “I think that when a person commits a violation of NAP against another they have chosen a course of action that leaves them essentially at the mercy of the victim's choice of response.   

      I can't tell someone else how much they value something, I can only tell you how much I value it.
      If I own or possess something that you want, you need to pay me the value I set upon it, not a value set upon it by the community or any other entity. The value I set may be viewed as reasonable by the community, or it might be viewed as makes no difference, I can not ethically be forced to part with that thing unless the value, the price, I set for it is met to my satisfaction.

      So when you violate the NAP against me to take from me my peace, perhaps even my health or my property, it is up to I alone to decide what I price I will charge for that and in what coin I wish to be paid. 
      You failed to negotiate the terms of your purchase prior to taking possession and in doing so have  given me a blank check drawn on your most personal  account. Don't like those terms?  You shouldn't have made the choice to do "business" with me.  It was your choice, after all.”

      Bionic, I may be arguing for something that you already agree with, due to my poor phrasing in my previous post. If so I apologize. While punishment and the proportionality of it is an important aspect of a community and neighborly relations, I am of the belief that establishing the Supreme Law of the Community, through the Non Aggression Principle (or as I believe, The Supreme Commandment) is even more so and should be decided first, which is why I enjoy your forum and fine family of philosophers.

      I would still like to know if you or others could accept it as I previously outlined it. Thank you,


    5. > You failed to negotiate the terms of your purchase prior to taking possession and in doing so have given me a blank check drawn on your most personal account. Don't like those terms? You shouldn't have made the choice to do "business" with me. It was your choice, after all.” <

      That is a very principled answer. Its also wrong (imo of course).
      I come along and shoot the owner of the apple tree, then I take the apple. Who has the blank check?

      Who "owned" the owner? His wife and children? Society? Who can lay "claim" of ownership?

      I know that the usual answer given is the wife (children & their family), but when we do that we also establish a non-ownership rule to be applied to the situation. And that opens up a can of worms that can no longer be answered by NAP and property based law. The only way out of this dilemma is to fully codify every single aspect of life, no implicit assumptions allowed. Or you get into the swaps of implied "rights".

    6. Rien,

      I thank you for your opinion. It's what makes this site so wonderful, the opinions and insight of knowledgeable people.

      You asked “I come along and shoot the owner of the apple tree, then I take the apple. Who has the blank check?”

      The answer has to be, in my humble opinion, “The heirs or assigned” of the victim. Usually, as in today's world, it is family but it may not be. The victim may have left the property to family but assigned the rights of restitution or justice to an assigned party, via private terms. Maybe it is a local “tough guy”, maybe the community via jury trial or maybe it's the “Crips or Bloods” or maybe the militia. That would be up to the owner to have previously determined, just as a will is determined today.

      I believe that N. Stephan Kinsella reached a similar conclusion in his “A Libertarian Theory of Punishment and Rights”. The victim (heirs or assigns) is the one to decide. There may be some sellers of land that require that right to be assigned to a community or certain process as a condition of purchase. The varieties are endless but the base philosophy is solid. The victim, their heirs or assigns, is the only one to decide.

      It is easy (and interesting) to get sidetracked into the minutia of community structure and relations. Some here may want a system based on historical precepts and they have that right, on their own property.

      However, the overriding Law of the community/country/world, has to be a simple one, based on the NAP, in my opinion and is my primary goal.

      Could you abide by the Supreme Law, as I outlined above Rien?


    7. Tahn

      “Again, while such an extreme act might be theoretically correct and in keeping with the NAP, it would be hard to justify morally to oneself and certainly difficult to justify politically to the community.”

      Tahn, you can’t have it both ways. Is the punishment to be determined solely by the property owner – who also happens to be the victim in this example – or is it to be determined / influenced “morally”?

      It is interesting that you used the term “morally.” As I have recently learned and written about, the word has its roots in the word “custom.” Which was my point all along when I had this discussion (to put it politely) with the well-known libertarian who said the victim could decide the punishment – even shooting a child for picking an apple (and please stop complicating this simple example – it is not a solid gold apple nor is it the apple of my eye). If the punishment is not in accord with custom (“morally”), libertarian purity will not long survive.

      As to the lengthy passage that you offer, it is the same justification offered by the well-known libertarian, and I reject it for many reasons. One of which is: what happens to the community if the victim solely decides on punishment (with whatever bounds he chooses) – as you suggest – and the community (or the father of the child) decides that the punishment exceeds “morally” reasonable bounds?

      “While punishment and the proportionality of it is an important aspect of a community and neighborly relations, I am of the belief that establishing the Supreme Law of the Community, through the Non Aggression Principle (or as I believe, The Supreme Commandment) is even more so…”

      Tahn, how long do you think the “Supreme Law of the Community” will survive if punishment is not consistent with custom?

      Quit considering the issue like a purist and instead consider it like someone who wants to live in a free society.

    8. Bionic, I certainly do not have all the answers, especially to the various consequences of theft in a community ruled by the NAP and I am most certainly NOT arguing for shooting a child stealing an apple, even if you might be shooting them in the behind with rock salt to prevent the theft. Most certainly not afterward as punishment for such a minor crime. Wiki says that the concept of justice varies in different cultures. Some parts of the Islamic world chop off a hand as punishment for theft and their custom considers that “just”. I would not of course and I doubt none here would. Still, it is an ancient custom and the law.

      I cannot envision that anyone has more of a right to determine the consequences of a breach of the NAP, than the victim, unless the victim has transferred those rights to a third party. Perhaps a community will detail the proportionality of punishment and then those that voluntarily join the community would be subject to that agreement. Perhaps they will mandate a jury trial or arbitration. Some property owners who do not agree and exceed the community standards of decency may be ostracized and fail.

      I do believe that the Non Aggression Principle, private property and voluntary contracts between free people, are the answers but it is my “belief”. Is it purist to attempt to establish the broad outlines of a peaceful society, rather than every detail of every possible circumstance? All I believe we can do, is establish the outline of a workable philosophy that might bring peace, eliminate tyranny and promote individual freedom. Individual attempts and various methods of applying it will lead to successes and failures. The overall attempt cannot be worse than the world we find ourselves in today.

      I'm sorry my answer to the 5 questions, which are excellent questions, derailed my attempt to ascertain if other libertarians could live within the broad framework I outlined. Again, personal responsibility and accepting the consequences of one's action , is the only answer I really have to the apple question, except I would give him a hard swat on the rear, maybe in front of his friends, for future deterrence. There are those who would decry even that “violent” action.

      Bionic, would you choose to live in a community/world where the Supreme law was as I have outlined? On your own property or with others who agreed, you could establish such old and good customs and laws as you see fit and detail the proportionality of every transgression, as long as they did not violate the NAP and its accords. Do you believe that such a broad outline of a principle and its accords would help bring peace and the free society we both desire?


    9. Tahn, you did not really address the problem I raised. And I believe that is also the central point of the answer I will give you on your question "can you abide by the supreme law"

      My answer is this: I could, but society cannot.
      Imo we need a dual role model to structure society. In this model people must abide by the NAP rule, but officials don't have to. They would most of the time, but there are exceptions. Those exceptions are defined by the rule of law, and that is also the answer (imo) to the problem I pointed out.

    10. Rien,

      Ah, Kings and Serfs or is it rulers and subjects. Sorry, I am not into a society where “some”, using the "law” dominate others. I prefer a society where all are equal in “inalienable” rights and have no “rights” beyond the equal rights of others, except over their own bodies or their own property.

      Using the myth of “The Rule Of Law” and substituting “mala prohibita” rules of conduct for actual “mala in se” laws that protect us all equally, is, in my opinion the main method of control in today's world and has led to the modern police state.

      “All animals are equal but some are more equal that others” is not for me.

      I'm glad you could live in a free world, ruled by the NAP, though.


    11. Tahn, that is a straw man argument, you are not attacking not what I said. I am talking of separating function and people. (Not people ruling people).

      I am pretty sure even you would love to live in that society!

    12. “Wiki says that the concept of justice varies in different cultures.”

      Please internalize the meaning of this within the context of our discussion.

      “I cannot envision that anyone has more of a right to determine the consequences of a breach of the NAP, than the victim…”

      You are avoiding dealing with the issue directly, and I have covered this ground only a million times. Let’s say you live in a society where people swear: I will abide by the NAP. What does this even mean? First of all, the NAP does not make objective definitions of “aggression”; culture does. The NAP does not define specific punishment for specific violations; culture does. The NAP does not objectively identify when punishment crosses the line into aggression; culture does.

      Libertarians can’t even agree on the act of abortion. Imagine: a “non-aggression principle” that justifies murdering the most vulnerable and innocent among us. Some non-aggression principle.

      “Again, personal responsibility and accepting the consequences of one's action, is the only answer I really have to the apple question…”

      Yes, exactly right. Of course, an individual is free to come up with his own objective definition of each of these, contrary to the culture. In individual is also free to take a bullet in the head from the father whose child you just shot for stealing an apple.

      But at least you can die a martyr, knowing you will have eternal life because you lived in purity to YOUR definition of punishment.

      Now, I know I am being harsh. It is because you continue without addressing any of these points, despite this being discussed numerous times.

    13. Bionic, You are not being harsh if I fail to address important points. I appreciate your perseverance.

      First, while the title says “non aggression” the principle states that no one has the right to initiate force against another. Force has many different definitions but to me it means 'compulsion through violence'. Even trespass may be deemed as force. I agree with you that a more exact definition would clarify and many communities may want to do so.

      I personally believe that abortion is morally wrong but that it has to be a woman's choice, as developing a police state to control women every time they conceive is also morally wrong. The evil of controlling ALL women, to me, outweighs the evil choice that an individual woman might make. However, in your kingdom (on your own property) you could certainly prohibit it or expel those who believe differently.

      Having said that, IMO, abortion (and shooting apple thieves) are two cases that are ALWAYS guaranteed to disrupt any debate on rights as they relate to the NAP. Let each individual or community make such choices as they wish, as long as those who agree, do so voluntarily.

      If people agree to abide by the NAP, the same contract that binds them to this agreement would also have to provide the penalties for violating it and the process for resolution. Free choices among a free people or as you suggest, let their culture determine the process, on their own property. Some may decide that expulsion from the property is the harshest penalty for any transgression.

      Bionic, While I don't remember you describing 'exactly' what your culture is (link?), except that it is based on old and good and I presume Christian principles, you would be more than correct to enact such rules on your own property and join with others who feel the same.

      As I envision it, under the NAP and its accords, everyone's home is his castle and his real property is his kingdom. The owner has complete control, except he cannot violate the NAP, which is the Supreme Law of the Land. The owner can establish whatever rules or customs he desires in response to a violation of NAP (and what the definition of force is) but only in response to aggression (his definition), he cannot initiate it. Exceptions to his desired response, would be a previous agreement with a community, private agency (or other) to agree to their customs, definitions or rules concerning said response.

      We agree that utopia is not possible but over time (or sooner among the more rational among us) people and communities will discover that either a previously agree upon response to a violation of the NAP or a decent response afterward, is the more peaceful solution but this has to be voluntarily agreed upon. We cannot set up such agreements for others concerning their own property, although we can certainly offer recommendations. Some communities of pacifists may require absolutely no response to a violation (their custom), even a fatal one. Those that voluntarily join would be subject to such an agreement. (Although I respect such people, I do not feel it is a viable lifestyle for continued survival, just as I feel that shooting an apple thief is not a viable lifestyle for continuing survival).

      I think of it as a sliding scale between no reaction and lethal force, to the problem of apple stealing (or any other violation). Where people and communities stand in this scale is a voluntary choice.

      All we can do IMHO, is establish a basic parameter within the principles of non aggression, property rights and voluntary contracts and let each community or individual work it out. Some will succeed and some will fail. As you have said and I agree, we must each be responsible for our actions and there is no utopia but there can be a general framework established to allow free choice and let a free people and the Darwinian effect, separate the wheat from the chaff. I propose the NAP, property rights and voluntary contracts.

      Thank you for your tolerance and your forum.


    14. Tahn, in my opinion you have hitched your wagon to an unworkable system.

    15. Bionic,

      Thank you for your conclusion which I respect. To me, it combines the NAP, equal rights, property rights and voluntary contracts and actions, while allowing tribes, families or other kindred groups to cluster, without a state. It also allows the various “wings” of libertarianism to be neighbors, hopefully peacefully.

      If you ever get the time and inclination, I would love to know your reasons. Regardless, I enjoy your blog and your writing Bionic. Thank you for the information you provide and the stimulation of thought.


      ps. From my youth, I actually know how to hitch up a six horse team to a wagon and drive it. ; )

    16. Tahn, you can write this essay. Do you see a group larger than a few deranged individuals living under such a regime?

      Think about it. It really isn't that complicated. How long will your society remain libertarian when a child can be shot for picking an apple?

      I am not asking you about the world you prefer, I am asking you about reality.

      What if it was your six year old son? Would you sit back and take it?

    17. Bionic,

      I think it would be very rare in a libertarian world. A hypothetical extreme does not mean a commonality. If it did, it would certainly have consequences , even lethal ones but community would continue.

      Just do a web search about “children shot by police” in today's world. Please! Bad stuff can happen but community can continue. A libertarian world as I described cannot be worse than today's world with a government controlling all aspects of our lives, from health care and self medication through property control, regulation and seizure plus shooting or kidnapping of children by the state, mass incarceration and on and on.

      I am working on an essay Bionic and your forum has been a benefit. Thank you.

      Either we believe in non aggression, property rights, free association, voluntary contracts and freedom, along with personal responsibility or we don't.

      I do.

      I would love to read a better plan for providing these things.


    18. It follows from the nonaggression principle that just violence in response to aggression becomes aggression itself if it goes above and beyond the initial aggressive act.

      Even if this implicit law of proportionality were not understood, and the legal authorities allowed shooting kids for minor theft, private justice would still be free to hold murderous deviants to account. For instance, if someone killed my child for such an offense, I would just kill the murderer of my child and pay the consequences for my act of retribution. No system is perfect in practice.

    19. "It follows from the nonaggression principle that just violence in response to aggression becomes aggression itself if it goes above and beyond the initial aggressive act."

      I agree with this fully. It would help if all prominent libertarians understood this.

    20. ATL and Bionic

      You both agreed that “It follows from the nonaggression principle that just violence in response to aggression becomes aggression itself if it goes above and beyond the initial aggressive act.”

      How does it follow and where is the argument for such a concept? PLEASE?

      An unarmed 250 lb mugger attacks an elderly woman and she can't shoot him with her .38, because he is unarmed? I can't shoot some big guy who is threatening me and kicking in my door because he is unarmed. I can't arm myself , gather 3 neighbors and retrieve my stolen horse because the guy that stole it is unarmed and was alone when he sneaked into my property?

      I live in a state with both the “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground” laws in place, thank goodness. I really do not understand this concept above and hope that one of you will explain or show me to links that explain. Perhaps I am misunderstanding, which of course, is entirely possible.


    21. I am speaking of punishment. Without going back and checking every word I have written in this thread, I think my context has been clear.

      Yes, I stand by this. It is aggression if a farmer shoots a child as punishment for picking an apple.

    22. Tahn,

      I agree there are two concepts here, as Bionic has suggested: defense and punishment.

      Mr. Libertarian addresses both in "The Ethics of Liberty." Have you read this yet? I feel as though so many questions could be answered if everyone would simply read Murray's great philosophical treatise on liberty.

      For our purposes here we can treat them equally. Here is Rothbard on defense, formulating his theory of proportionality, which, in his next chapter, also governs his theory of punishment.

      "How extensive is a man's right of self defense of person and property? The basic answer must be: up to the point at which he begins to infringe upon the property rights of someone else." p 77

      "Violent defense must then be confined to violent invasion - either actually, implicitly, or by direct and overt threat. But given this principle, how far does the right of violent defense go?" p 80

      Rothbard then talks about the necessity of a clear and present danger concerning the validity of defensive violence and why what he terms the maximalist position (shooting a kid bubble gum thief) suffers from a "grotesque lack of proportion."

      "On what basis must we hold that a minuscule invasion of another's property lays one forfeit to the total loss of one's own? I propose another fundamental rule regarding crime: the criminal, or invader, loses his own right to the extent that he has deprived another man of his." p 80

      The theory of proportionality does not take into account the means of invasion, only the ends, therefore an elderly woman may shoot her 250 lb attacker even if he is unarmed, since he is physically capable of ending her life without a gun. The attack in this case is sufficient to justify lethal defense, since the threat of lethal invasion is credible and imminent.

      The point I believe you are missing is that the credible and imminent threat of invasion is equivalent to the invasion itself, and defensive violence may be employed proportionally against either.

    23. Bionic and ATL,

      Thank you both for the clarification! I knew I had to be missing something as common sense is generally predominate from both of you, even on points that we may disagree.

      ATL, I agree we are dealing with at least two different concepts. The “proportionality of punishment”, after an invasive act of aggression and “proportional response” as it relates to self defense, possibly combined with “disparity of force”.

      ATL, no I have not read “The Ethics of Liberty” as a whole, although different excerpts have indeed come up in various libertarian discussions. Thank you so much for the link, which I will be reading and a special thanks to The Mises Institute for providing it!

      Some of the questions I will be looking for answers to, is who can make such a decision (without prior agreement) and what to do about a hypothetical invasion of 100 or 1000 “peaceful” apple thieves?

      As I have previously stated, I do not believe in and would not personally shoot an apple thief. My entire position has to do with property rights and the rights of a victim to determine the degree of punishment and the rights of a property owner to determine the degree of self defense.

      Again, thank you both. I am off to do some reading and hopefully, learning.


    24. Professor Rothbard has answered one of my questions quite specifically . Who else but the victim has the right to decide the punishment?

      “Many people, when confronted with the libertarian legal system, are concerned with this problem: would somebody be allowed to “take the law into his own hands”? Would the victim, or a friend of the victim, be allowed to exact justice personally on the criminal? The answer is, of course, Yes, since all rights of punishment derive from the victim’s right of self-defense. In the libertarian, purely free-market society, however, the victim will generally find it more convenient to entrust the task to the police and court agencies."

      The Ethics of Liberty” (chapter 13)

      I will continue.

    25. 13. Punishment and Proportionality

      “Few aspects of libertarian political theory are in a less satisfactory state than the theory of punishment.” states Professor Rothbard at the beginning of this chapter from “The Ethics of Liberty” ( a most excellent book).

      In the preceding chapter he made the following observation:
      “Secondly, we may ask: must we go along with those libertarians who claim that a storekeeper has the right to kill a lad as punishment for snatching a piece of his bubble gum? What we might call the “maximalist” position goes as follows: by stealing the bubble gum, the urchin puts himself outside the law. He demonstrates by his action that he does not hold or respect the correct theory of property rights. Therefore, he loses all of his rights, and the storekeeper is within his rights to kill the lad in retaliation.”

      He continues:
      “I propose that this position suffers from a grotesque lack of proportion. By concentrating on the storekeeper’s right to his bubble gum, it totally ignores another highly precious property-right: every man’s—including the urchin’s—right of self-ownership. On what basis must we hold that a minuscule invasion of another’s property lays one forfeit to the total loss of one’s own? I propose another fundamental rule regarding crime: the criminal, or invader, loses his own right to the extent that he has deprived another man of his. If a man deprives another man of some of his self-ownership or its extension in physical property, to that extent does he lose his own rights. From this principle immediately derives the proportionality theory of punishment—best summed up in the old adage: “let the punishment fit the crime.”

      First, Professor Rothbard states that this position of shooting a bubblegum thief (Bionics apple thief) is a “maximalist” position of libertarian law. He also later states that a “pacifist” would not be required to prosecute, even if another type of assault was lethal. Let us call that a “minimalist” position of libertarian law. This is very similar to what I described as a “sliding scale” of retribution in a previous post. Both are extremes.

      I have previously stated that I did not believe in anything except a spanking for the apple thief, certainly not deadly force. Professor Rothbard calls lethal force for such a minor crime as a “grotesque lack of proportion”. I agree. Anyone who did such a thing would be “morally wrong” in my opinion and certainly subject to community actions as a result, most particularly a reaction, perhaps violently, from the thief's family.

      Please excuse the length: Continued below:


    26. Continued from above:

      Every person and community certainly has the right to prohibit such extreme actions (even the pacifistic actions) , as long as they do so voluntarily on their own property or by voluntary contract with others. I personally do not believe that they have a “right” to override such a decision by the victim, absent such prior contract. Of course, consequences may result from either over reacting or under reacting, but this is life, not utopia and everyone is responsible for their own actions. I accept the sliding scale of retribution or punishment.

      What I cannot accept, UNLESS by prior voluntary agreement, is having a mandated limit ( to either extreme) to the owners response on their own property (or kingdom). Maximalist or minimalist, it is the victims right to decide. Again, I cannot imagine such a violent reaction to such a minor infraction but as a libertarian, I must respect property rights and the victims right to decide, using that sliding scale. Following is what persuaded me to disagree (with great trepidation) with Professor Rothbard on limits .

      Professor Rothbard in the chapter “Proportionality and Punishment” concluded that “ it should be quite clear that, under libertarian law, capital punishment would have to be confined strictly to the crime of murder. For a criminal would only lose his right to life if he had first deprived some victim of that same right.”

      I agree in a theoretical concept, especially concerning minor crimes (although damages need to be considered) but let us imagine a horrific crime which did not result in death. The savage beating and rape of a young girl. Professor Rothbard has injected his own morality in ascertaining that the death penalty should only be used in cases of murder. Perhaps he did not imagine such a horrendous life changing event as I described but let me say this. If it was positively ascertained that the attacker/rapist was guilty, involving my family, I can most certainly guarantee that the criminal WILL die.

      While Professor Rothbard agreed that the victim had the right to respond (previous posts) and even seemed to indicate that “friends” had that right, I believe that only the victim has the right of extracting justice (unless voluntarily surrendered or assigned) and that there is a “sliding scale” of possible reactions.

      Where we seem to disagree is in our particular reaction to particular crimes. Professor Rothbard has used his own moral standards to determine what they should be and I believe that only the victim, their heirs or assigns, has the right to use their own moral standards to determine their own reactions. It is a difference of opinion on “proportionality”, where in my opinion, the victim has to be the decision maker.

      I know that I have probably not explained this satisfactorily and I would certainly not harm an apple thief but the victim has to be the one to decide by their own values and suffer the consequences of their actions. May God help the fool that shoots an apple thief and may The Lord help us all in establishing a free society.

      My conclusion, in trying to imagine a libertarian community that all could join:

      No one has the right to initiate force against another. Every one owns their own body. Every person is King of their own castle and over their own Kingdom (property). Everyone has the right to self defense. The victim has the right to determine the proportionality of punishment within the sliding scale of justice. Prior voluntary contracts are valid in determining who decides or what such punishment shall be. We are all responsible for our own actions.


    27. Tahn,

      I'm glad you are reading this book! This was a game changer for me. It was around the time I was reading this one, "For a New Liberty," and "Anatomy of the State" that I finally gave up the ghost of my advocacy of limited state libertarianism and became an avowed libertarian anarchist. Rothbard was definitely my catalyst in this regard, so I owe him a great debt.

      There are some challenging chapters in here that I don't fully agree with (such as kid lib and abortion), but overall it is a great work, a master work. It's a book you may end up buying multiple copies of because you might find yourself giving yours away to people thinking: if they would just read this book, they'd get it!

    28. Tahn,

      The problem with the 'sliding scale of justice' concept is that the justice offered by what you term the minimalist position, pacifism, violates no one's rights; it is rather a sort of voluntary relinquishment of one's own right of retribution against a prior aggressor. This is consistent with the nonaggression principle.

      Conversely, the maximalist position, or the advocacy of capital punishment for bubble gum theft, as Rothbard points out, does violate the rights of the bubble gum thief, which were only relinquished to the extent of the prior committed aggression. Therefore the maximalist becomes an aggressor himself in the course of his version of utilitarian justice. This is not consistent with the nonaggression principle.

      I understand your position and I appreciate your stance: you are not advocating killing kids for stealing bubble gum, you are simply striving to understand what is the correct libertarian theory of punishment regardless of your own personal morals. Above was my attempt to dispute your favored theory (the victim decides nature of punishment since his valuation of an aggressor's action is subjective) on these grounds.

      If we stop thinking in terms of what is 'libertarian law' (since we are mostly treading an already paved road here, and since this may only be properly discovered through generations of real world cases) and start thinking about how differing private law associations would handle disputes of this nature between their members, I believe we will arrive at a more realistic scenario for our thought experiment.

    29. My conception of what a realistic libertarian nation would look like is not a sovereign territory governed by one 'libertarian law' but rather a network of overlapping private law associations providing all manner of consensual laws with numerous third party dispute resolution and mutual defense agreements. Those who join an association would agree to live by certain laws or pay certain consequences for breaking them. Over time, as Hoppe contends, these laws would become more and more uniform as more and more disputes are peacefully resolved between members of the associations and as non-libertarian associations begin to recognize the benefits of libertarian law, but at least at the beginning, there would be considerable diversity.

      Under these conditions of diversity (especially of punishment), associations would most likely discourage or prohibit members from seeking justice on their own when a member of a different association commits a crime against them, since this would tend to promote violent conflict between associations. The two associations would consult the services of a third to resolve the dispute in a manner which was acceptable to both.

      Now there would also be those who choose to live by their own law on their own property, and these "sovereigns," regardless of whether they've committed aggression against others, would have to be termed 'outlaws,' since they do not live by (nor are they protected by) any law above their own. It is among these 'sovereign individuals' that I would expect to find adherents of maximalist defense and punishment.

      But this situation would be extremely precarious and disadvantageous, since many would not do business with a person so unconnected from society, and since there'd probably be no defense firm or private police willing to offer their services to such a client. This 'sovereign' would quickly find that he is king of an autarchy, and economic self-sufficiency, especially on such a small scale, is a recipe for impoverishment and insecurity.

      In short, I cannot see private law associations advocating the maximalist position, since this form of justice does not seem to engender peace, but rather its opposite (we all contend we'd kill the bastard who shoots our child for minor theft), and the opposite of peace is expensive when you don't have a monopoly of taxation and currency production.

      In sum, not only is the maximalist position inconsistent with abstract libertarian law, it is, and perhaps more importantly, not likely to survive long in the more realistic Hoppean confederation of private law societies due to its provocative, conflict-multiplying nature.

    30. I agree ATL that it is a classic and monumental treatise on "Ethics and Property" and I thank you very much for supplying the link and also for the link to Kinsella's treatise on Libertarian Crime and Punishment, also an excellent read. I realized that I had previously read many excerpts and quotes from'"Ethics and Liberty" several times over the years but I am very glad to have direct access to it. I would love to have hardbound copies of this and many others published by The Mises Institute and maybe I can, someday.

      Again, Thanks!


      PS, Any thoughts you would care to share on my conclusions, concerning a victims right to decide the punishment of a violation of property rights?

    31. ATL,

      Yours is the most articulate and reasoned response of any I have heard, from many sources and very difficult to disagree with, which in fact I "generally" do not. I certainly concur that child shooting societies will probably not long endure, although I believe it still has to be on the sliding scale of potential reactions, because "it has to be the victims moral choice", although as we also agree, there will be consequences for such a drastic reaction to such a minor "crime".

      One minor point concerning your statement that "the justice offered by what you term the minimalist position, pacifism, violates no one's rights"... .A future victim of a crime, especially by the same perp, may consider that the pacifist's refusal to prosecute may have encouraged the perp's further aggression against them.

      I also agree that most libertarian communities will want to voluntarily further refine/define such responses to crime, (preferably including 'damages") and the various "proper" responses will also hopefully, as you say, "over time" cause those communities to prosper.

      Your two comprehensive posts preceded my request for a response and again, I am indebted to you for your time and consideration.


    32. Tahn

      “Professor Rothbard has answered one of my questions quite specifically.”

      No, he has not; you have cited enough of this passage to demonstrate that even Rothbard could not bring himself to state that ONLY the victim can decide.

      “What I cannot accept, UNLESS by prior voluntary agreement, is having a mandated limit (to either extreme) to the owners response on their own property (or kingdom). Maximalist or minimalist, it is the victims right to decide.”

      You will have little choice but to accept the bullet placed in your head by the father. And then what? The girl’s entire family killed by your brother? Then your brother’s children hung in the town square?

      You avoid the ability to derive application in a world made up of humans. Your application is pure; humans are not. Your application is (in the eyes of some) perfectly libertarian yet would result in the loss of liberty by every member of the community.

      “…I believe that only the victim, their heirs or assigns, has the right to use their own moral standards to determine their own reactions.”

      You will recall from earlier posts, the word “moral” is derived from “custom.” No single individual is a “custom” to himself – “custom” is derived only in a community. Therefore, moral standards come only from a community that generally accepts a common custom.

      You know, like we don’t shoot children for stealing apples.

      “No one has the right to initiate force against another.”

      Shooting a child for stealing an apple is the initiation of force – initiation by the shooter.

      Separately…what is your objective with this line of reasoning? Do you expect civilized people will be drawn to your mal-formed libertarian world? Or is your objective merely to be pure?

      There is no libertarian possibility without generally accepted customs on things like punishment (and other things, like sex orgies on the front lawn). Generally accepted common custom is a necessary, but certainly not sufficient, requirement for liberty.

    33. ATL, I like your post. One thought:

      “Those who join an association would agree to live by certain laws or pay certain consequences for breaking them.”

      I wonder…on what basis would those who join such an association decide which certain laws to abide?

    34. Bionic,

      You do realize, I hope, that I am NOT advocating or defending shooting a child for stealing an apple or for much of anything. Of course there will be consequences for such an action. As I mentioned, there may even be consequences for a pacifist for not taking any action at all for a truly violent assault. On any point of the sliding scale there may be consequences, even my spanking of a small apple thief. We all must accept the possible consequences for any action we take, even the pacifist. Heck, even if I just threw an apple back at the little miscreant or cursed at him, there might be repercussions.

      I contend that if a victim has the right to not prosecute in any manner, even for a violent assault and I agree they do have that right, then they must also have the maximum right to protection of their property. I am not advocating either position, in fact I believe that both would be an error for different reasons but the victim has the right to choose and of course suffer the repercussions of their decision.

      My entire point is that only the victim, their heirs or assigns, ( and not a friend) has the right, absent prior agreement, to pronounce the penalty for a violation of property rights. As Professor Rothbard stated and I agree, "all rights of punishment derive from the victim’s right of self-defense." In all cases, common sense must prevail or the consequences will eliminate from the gene pool all such aberrant behavior. He further states and I agree: "In the libertarian, purely free-market society, however, the victim will generally find it more convenient to entrust the task to the police and court agencies."

      Your extended scenario of killing the innocent children of violators, contradicts every aspect of libertarian law and every moral principle known and approaches that of modern war. It is not to be considered and those that practiced it need to be eliminated post haste.

      I guess we we will have to agree to disagree that shooting a thief, regardless of the triviality of the crime, is the "initiation" of force. That it is an improper and non proportional response to the initiation I certainly agree but again, it is the moral decision of the victim, in my humble opinion. As I stated earlier, may God help the fool that shoots an apple thief.

      You stated that " moral standards come only from a community that generally accepts a common custom." Do you believe that chopping off a finger or hand for stealing is a moral act? I know you don't Bionic but it is a long tradition and custom for some cultures and even the law of the land. While my sliding scale may allow such a travesty for a libertarian fundamentalist community, it also would not long be tolerated in our western world but it has a tradition in the culture of some for over a thousand years now. I hope you don't believe for a second that I am recommending this horrible practice because I am not. although I have heard that some criminals prefer losing a finger to rotting in a jail cell for years, the current "custom" in our country.

      My objective in trying to determine exactly "what" the possible sliding scale of punishment might be, is to give every person and every community the ability to predetermine "where" they wish to be on that scale. Most, myself included, would not want to be on either extreme. Nor would I want to be in a fundamentalist community where they chopped off fingers or attacked others on private property for unseemly actions.

      The decisions of individuals and communities will result in success or failure. All we can hope to do is establish guidelines for their use and to me, a basic guideline is "The victim has the right to decide the penalty for a violation of property rights." Hopefully it will be a proportionate, caring and forgiving one for minor crimes and a swift and just penalty for violent acts. We are all responsible for our actions.

      With respect,


    35. Tahn

      “My objective in trying to determine exactly "what" the possible sliding scale of punishment might be, is to give every person and every community the ability to predetermine "where" they wish to be on that scale.”

      With this single sentence you have fully captured the futility of the many libertarians who attempt to work out to the nth degree the application of libertarian theories of “aggression,” “property,” “punishment,” “proportionality,” “self-defense,” etc.

      Even Rothbard, who gave birth to many of these ideas, has demonstrated that the applications are unsolvable by theorists tapping away at their keyboards – and, in any case, need not be solved. Society – and by “society” I mean the best traditions of western civilization; old and good law (which many of us follow in our daily lives already) – has already solved these things.

      “You do realize, I hope, that I am NOT advocating or defending shooting a child for stealing an apple…”

      You do realize, I hope, that you are destroying any sane person’s desire to consider libertarian thought by saying that the victim has sole discretion to determine punishment – AND THAT THIS IS PROTECTED BY THE LAW. It isn’t just that it is ignored by the law, like, for example, pot-smoking should be; it is PROTECTED BY THE LAW.

      A law that protects tyrants. This is your version of libertarian law.

      In any case, it isn’t even good libertarian theory, no matter how many libertarians seem to think otherwise. Libertarians who advocate this view are destroying a theory that I hold dear. I find them to be enemies of liberty.

    36. Bionic,

      Thank you for the compliment. To think that I have condensed into a single sentence, the frustrations of a myriad of libertarian philosophers, working out the intricacies of such various applications of libertarian theory such as “aggression,” “property,” “punishment,” “proportionality,” “self-defense,” etc., is quite stunning, especially as that is my goal. I am truly humbled by your recognition of this Bionic.

      Sir, I have no doubt at all that you follow, in your daily life, your personal faith and the best traditions of western civilization, nor do I doubt that the application of your old and good law, will allow you peace and comfort when you apply those traditions on your own private property or voluntarily joining with others who feel the same.

      I believe that the Non Aggression Principle is a universal principle, applicable to all cultures, not just the western world. If it is a solid principle and I believe that it is, it has to be universal for all of mankind, not just western cultures, although anywhere it is applied, I believe it would benefit. I believe it is a gift from the Creator that could allow peace on earth and goodwill towards all men, just as The Golden Rule was a gift which many have chosen to ignore or are unaware of.

      You stated that I am proposing a law that protects tyrants. Perhaps it will allow each person to be a tyrant on their own property, as long as they do not violate the NAP. I would phrase it as proposing a law that protects property rights. Those that abuse those rights, will not long endure.

      We disagree on exactly who is the aggressor when a thief enters private property to steal. I accept that but we probably agree on what our own personal reaction to such trespass would be but in my humble opinion, I do not believe we can make such a decision for others on their own private property, although we can certainly encourage others to be forgiving and tolerant.

      I do not attempt to discern the applications of private property, non aggression and voluntary contracts as a public relations program, although with all due respect, if more people could realize that their own, old and good customs were applicable to their own private property, with the caveat that they could not violate the NAP or others property, I believe that more people seeking true peace and harmony, would be drawn to it, regardless of their culture.

      Bionic, those who I feel are enemies of liberty are those who wish to dictate to others, what their culture should be and how they should control their own private property. All we can do is attempt to establish a few basic guidelines such as Non Aggression, property rights, voluntary contracts and self defense and encourage and hope that many will also adopt forgiveness, tolerance and respect for others and their property.

      If libertarianism is not about property rights, what is it about?

      As always, I appreciate yours and others comments and am very thankful that you tolerate mine, even when we disagree. Your research, inquires, community and writing are, in my opinion, a great benefit to mankind.

      Thank you,


    37. Tahn, your sarcasm and condescension in your opening paragraph do not conform with your sentiment in the closing paragraph - a sentiment that you have shared often.

      I am glad to see that your true colors are finally shining through; my suspicions have now been confirmed.

      As to your universal libertarianism, you might consider the state necessary to bring this to fruition. At least one of your brethren recognizes that universal libertarianism requires world government.

      You can have it.

    38. Bionic,

      I apologize if my response to your assertion seemed sarcastic. I was truly honored by your statement. I am not great with words and often convey a meaning I did not intend, except in this case I took your statement as a compliment. Abbreviating so many concepts into one sentence seemed, to me, to be an accomplishment.

      I most certainly stand by my ending paragraph. Yours and your contributors understanding of the history of philosophy, libertarianism and world history are a true library of knowledge and information, of which I am thrilled and honored to read and attempt to comprehend.

      I have no idea of where you got the understanding that I am in any way, shape or form in favor of any government, much less a world one. God Forbid.

      I do believe the Non Aggression Principle and the concept of private property and individual rights is one that could be/should be shared and utilized by the whole planet and by all of mankind. I believe in the NAP as a world wide, universal principle, given to us by the Creator but certainly not at the expense of a world wide government and don't even see how the two are related and most certainly not compatible.

      Regardless, I have expressed my opinions and thoughts on this subject and see no need to further expound on them. With that, I sincerely thank you for the opportunity to participate and look forward to reading many more of your posts and the responses of your community.

      With all due respect,


    39. Hi Tahn,

      Sorry about being such a late "after-party" guest, but without any undue disrespect, I'd like to revisit a quote, where you summarize your position rather tellingly (and thank you for your clarity here).


      “While punishment and the proportionality of it is an important aspect of a community and neighborly relations, I am of the belief that establishing the Supreme Law of the Community, through the Non Aggression Principle (or as I believe, The Supreme Commandment) is even more so…”

      This, is what I'd call: from NAP to NAD. From principle to dogma.

      How did it get to this? How did you arrive at such a position? Not that hard. Simply by not taking into account what Rothbard did NOT write about in his Ethics of.., but just presupposed and took for granted (like he wrote himself).

      That is the Natural Moral Order (of humans-as-persons in this world) which goes above and beyond the small and decontextualized NAP-part, distilled out of it by Rothbard (and placed back in the artificial context of "individuals" in a PPS).

      There's the territory for you to explore and possibly save yourself from becoming a NAP fundamentalist ;)


    40. SAG,

      I will research "Natural Moral Order " and thank you for the concept, another new idea I have learned here.

      A long time ago, in a forum, far, far away, I had barely learned about the NAP, via Smiths quotation of what a libertarian was. I had never heard of Rothbard or much else that I can remember and did some raggedy cut and paste (my highest computer skill) on its corollary's in history and this is what I got.

      I agree with Bionic that our beliefs are not really debatable and not to be debated here, so I will leave you with this. I believe that a long history of great men and women, inspired by the Creator, have tried to impart this one simple concept into our hard heads, including the one I was brought up to believe was/is his Son.

      The term "fundamentalist" may be appropriate. I certainly do not take offense at it.

      Thank you for your input,


  14. Rien,

    I apologize if I misinterpreted your statement. I don't understand this part.

    "Imo we need a dual role model to structure society. In this model people must abide by the NAP rule, but officials don't have to."

    That to me is the definition of "tyranny" of a minority. I believe in equal rights, the NAP, property rights and voluntary contracts.

    Perhaps you could explain.


    1. Tahn, Oh, there are a lot of ways to separate function from person.
      Elections are just one (not very good) way of doing this.
      Other ways include assigning decisions to a person at random, pipelining decisions (i.e. more than 1 person), very quick succession etc.

      Key is that no person should be allowed permanence in the job so that it becomes near to impossible to "grow or plan into misuse".

      As a society we have not even begun to explore the possibilities, especially now with the internet (blockchain?) there are many new possibilities.

      Btw, I do NOT believe in 'equal rights'. I don't even believe in 'rights'. They do not exist in nature and as such they can only exist when they are enforced. And that kind of enforcement will always -without exception- end in tyranny.

      "Equal rights" is the gateway drug of socialists.

    2. Rien,

      Whether some ruler (government) is elected, appointed, has a limited term or any other means of promotion, they are still “rulers” over others. The only place where I consider a “ruler” to be proper is on their own property. Every mans home is his castle and his real property is his kingdom, with the proviso that the Non Aggression Principle applies universally. Certainly arbitrators, judges or even juries are acceptable if they are voluntary choices of both parties.

      Concerning equal rights, I am a libertarian, not an egalitarian. Jefferson called them inalienable rights, those which are natural to all, not those bestowed by a state. I mean this. “.. the only rights that can be inalienable for all must be consistent with the equal rights of others. Every citizen can enjoy negative rights against …... abuse without infringing on anyone else's equal rights, because they impose on others only the obligation to not interfere.”

      I agree, that a more exact definition would benefit and thank you for bringing up the question.

      I tend towards Rothbard's use of “rights” as it relates to property, especially our most important property, our own body. “Liberals generally wish to preserve the concept of "rights" for such "human" rights as freedom of speech, while denying the concept to private property. And yet, on the contrary the concept of "rights" only makes sense as property rights. For not only are there no human rights which are not also property rights, but the former rights lose their absoluteness and clarity and become fuzzy and vulnerable when property rights are not used as the standard. “

      Certainly Bionic and the vast majority of his community are better versed on this subject than I am but I hope I conveyed my meaning.


    3. Well, I am going to let go of this as its gets off-topic.

      My concluding remark on the topic of 'rights' is that when we need to contort ourselves in order to 'make fit' to a definition, then in all likelihood that definition is wrong.

  15. "If the plug was pulled today, on what basis would we expect that a private law society would result?"

    One would certainly not arise from a plug pull in today's world. Most people have not even heard of a private law society. A plug pull in today's world would be a disaster. This is incidentally the same reason I am opposed to a new constitutional convention. No doubt we'd end up with something worse (more democratic) given the political inclinations of today's population.

    "I personally do not believe that libertarianism is a utopian theory without practical application"

    Good to hear! Though I never got the impression you did.

    I don't feel it is necessary for a libertarian anarchist like myself to believe in pulling the plug on the current regime. I don't think it is a crime to recognize the need for a well thought out strategy for rolling back or distancing one's self and community from the state, since so many have become dependent upon it for their survival.

    If I were to pull the plug on the current sociopolitical bathtub, how can I be sure that it wouldn't be my libertarian principles and my conservative mores that wind up down the drain? That's an awful big gamble.

    Furthermore, if I were a plug puller, I'd be okay with imposing liberty on those who had no say in the matter. I would be a universalist libertarian. I would know it's for their own good (in the long run), and since I know best, it wouldn't matter what they think. This wouldn't be a recipe for a successful stateless order.

    Since liberty is all about consent, it wouldn't be very consistent to impose it on others without theirs. Centralization of power and authority is the original sickness, therefore it should be clear that decentralization (consensually as possible) is the cure.

    1. " should be clear that decentralization (consensually as possible) is the cure."

      It seems today is the day where I will agree with you fully!

    2. Feels good!

      I recently finished T.H. White's classic Arthurian novel "The Once and Future King." I very much recommend the book. There are many discussions that piqued the interest of my libertarian side. King Arthur, trained in ethics as a boy by Merlyn, made it his goal to destroy the concept of "might makes right" and it was for this reason he created the concept of the prestigious round table. There are interesting discussions on aggression and war. I couldn't help but notice that a libertarian theory of justice and proportional punishment would have robbed the story of much of its tragedy.

      The conclusion Arthur reaches (spoiler alert!) after all his attempts to rein in might to serve the side of right fail was perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the book:

      "Nations did not need to have the same kind of civilization, nor the same kind of leader, any more than the puffins and the guillemots did. They could keep their own civilizations, like Esquimaux and Hottentots, if they would give each other freedom of trade and free passage and access to the world. Countries would have to become counties—but counties which could keep their own culture and local laws."

      and as far as King Arthur's vision of a free world where might serves right goes:

      "The hope of making it would lie in culture."

      Unfortunately there's some notion of an open borders world thrown in there, which seems contradictory to his advocacy of decentralized nations. But perhaps if these nations were monarchical, with kings enforcing established laws of local custom, rather than democratic, with elected officials ever legislating new laws, it wouldn't be such an issue.