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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13345/true-libertarianism/

True Libertarianism

July 21, 2010 by

Words fail me in my attempt to say how much I welcome this book. This is a brilliant, magnificent book. FULL ARTICLE by Walter Block

{ 59 comments }

brian July 21, 2010 at 8:21 am

“I do wish he would have distanced himself from those libertarians who think it is incompatible with their philosophy to vote at all.”

thanks for a good review, but the above statement is a little more than annoying.

bg

Barry Loberfeld July 21, 2010 at 8:55 am

I find the author’s use of inclusive language (“he or she,” “his or her”) offensive. … [W]ith this stab in the direction of political correctness, our author shoots himself in the foot with regard to sheer readability. A shame, a pity.

And a waste of time. Feminists will find “sexism” no matter what the terminology:

Is the purpose of “politically correct” Newspeak to construct a language free from bias? An intriguing answer can be found in the example of feminist “thealogian” Mary Daly. Using a sometimes-specific term in a universal sense (e.g., “the pseudo-generic ‘man’”) will earn an accusation of sexism, while using only universal terms (e.g., “human”) will draw an accusation of deliberately trying “to avoid confronting the specific problems of sexism.” No matter what language a person uses, the Left reserves the right to condemn it for bias — and to damn him as evil.

(And to exempt itself from any standard. After all, if not to “gender angle” the tragedy of violence, why speak of only a “rape culture”? What about other acts of violence against women — robbery, assault, murder? Has it anything to do with the fact that these, too obviously, are also crimes against males?)

Mike the Grouch July 21, 2010 at 10:38 am

Ditto for the Southern side of the War Between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression, or the War of Southern Secession (no Civil War took place in 1861)

Really? This sticks out like a sore thumb in this article. How ridiculous to make the assertion that the Civil War was anything but anti-libertarian on the part of the South and to suggest that they were as right to secede from the Union as the Colonies were to declare independence from Britain. I would, on the basis of this one statement, question either your own credentials for evaluating what is or is not libertarianism… or wonder aloud whether libertarianism as a philosophy is uselessly vague. My own sense is that the South was working actively to promote and spread the profoundly anti-libertarian institution of slavery, stole federal property in violation of the contract they signed (known as the Constitution), and fired on the North first.That is a not a war of Northern aggression by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed the South were the aggressors in those cases, violating individual property rights, states rights, and committing an act of outright aggression.

Allen Weingarten July 21, 2010 at 10:56 am

Although I do not justify some of the actions of the North toward the South, I submit that when the South deprived its slaves of their rights, it relinquished its own right to self-defense.

Bruce Koerber July 21, 2010 at 11:03 am

We can’t change past history but if we assume that humanity is on the path of an ever-advancing civilization then within a relatively short time span slavery would have been abolished in the South peacefully. The destructiveness, in so many ways, of the way it happened cannot be imagined as the best means to those ends!

Mike the Grouch July 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Yes, the South had many opportunities to avoid the war and promote the advance of civilization. How tragic that they did not start by simply honoring their commitment to the Union (not seceding), allowing non-slave states to join (respecting states rights), and abolishing slavery (recognizing the proper property rights of a person to his own life). Instead the South fired the first shot in a brutal war that they could have stopped at any time by laying down arms.

Bruce Koerber July 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm

But it is not true that the War between the States was about slavery. It was about the rejection of Northern hegemony.

Russ July 21, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Anyone who believes this should read the articles of secession of the several states issued prior to the war. Don’t believe the “Lost Cause” rationalization written after the war was lost.

As for the North fighting for the slaves, that is also a load of hooey come up with after the fact to justify the North’s part in invading the Southern states. They fought to maintain power, plain and simple.

@Mike the Grouch: Assuming for the sake of argument that the Constitution is a binding contract, why would the descendents of the signers also be bound by it? Aren’t normal contracts only binding to the signatories themselves, and not unto the third generation? Also, if the colonies didn’t have an obligation to not secede from the British Empire, why did the Southern states have such as obligation with respect to the Union?

Nathaniel July 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm

No state made a commitment to the the central government forbidding secession. Several states, in their ratifying documents, said the exact opposite:

“We, the delegates of the people of Virginia… do, in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known, that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them, whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression”

The constitutional way to deal with slavery would have been for the North to secede from the union, and get rid of the fugitive slave law. If that had been done, our history of slavery would have been similar to that of Brazil–3,000,000 slaves freed without significant bloodshed.

J. Murray July 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Precisely. The history that is rarely put forward is that slavery was already on a march toward abolition without any kind of legislative effort. With the expansion of mechanization in agriculture, plantation owners were finding it less and less valuable to maintain a large stable of slaves. Slaves that required 24/7 care in forms of food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. It was prohibitively expensive to keep a few thousand slaves on hand when a hundred hired workers could cultivate and harvest cotton both faster and cheaper using modern machinery. The percentage of black southerners held as property had dropped tremendously from the founding of the nation up to the beginning of the war and likely would have vanished a decade later than it did, and without many of the ill effects.

What ill effects? One of the cute little nuggets of history omitted from the official State history books is that the Jim Crow laws were a northern creation. During the reconstruction era, Southern states had zero input on the operation of their own states. All decisions were handed down to them from the Federal level.

Strangely enough, there was more respect for freed blacks in the South than in the North. I know it’s an odd dichotomy, owning slaves but having little trouble with the free variety, but that’s how it worked. The Jim Crow laws were forced on the Southern states precisely because businesses refused to discriminate in employment and segregate customers. It was bad for business. Why pass a law when:

A. Segregation and discrimination wasn’t illegal.

B. The general population was already willing to do so.

Considering segregation and discrimination was not illegal (wasn’t made so until the tortured court application of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which I agree with in letter but not application), the Jim Crow laws were passed because no one was discriminating or segregating. You’ll find that much of today’s racial animosity was not because of the slave-owner/slave relationship but because of the priority placed on racial differences by Northern politicians during the Reconstruction period.

As such, a fully integrated southern society that self-abolished slavery as market forces placed a preference on a skilled, free, employee over forced labor would have likely integrated far quicker than it did in our history and we would have little evidence of Southern racism while it would still persist as it does today in the North.

Barry Loberfeld July 21, 2010 at 3:08 pm

One of the cute little nuggets of history omitted from the official State history books is that the Jim Crow laws were a northern creation. During the reconstruction era, Southern states had zero input on the operation of their own states. … The Jim Crow laws were forced on the Southern states …

No. Jim Crow arose in the South during the Progressive Era:

http://reason.com/archives/2006/05/05/when-bigots-become-reformers

Donald Rowe July 22, 2010 at 10:23 am

“…if we assume that humanity is on the path of an ever-advancing civilization…” Do you assume that, Bruce? If so, could you tell me why? I’m always looking for reasons for enhance my supply of optimism. Some days my supply is so low I have to look up to see zero. I’d appreciate any help you can offer. Cordially, Don

mpolzkill July 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Your beloved abstraction kept their rights from them until the freaking 1960s when the gangsters were forced to make idiotc and evil seperate-but-equal laws. I’m sure you don’t think any of that was ever cause for them to relinquish anything.

Of course the CSA was evil, the second most evil organization on this continent at the time.

And Black Americans who are informed libertarians wish the South had won.

Gil July 21, 2010 at 8:50 pm

I would like to see a source for that last assertion.

Then again the blacks and Native Americans had it better under British rule, does that make the American Revolution invalid? After all, other countries have quietly left the Commonwealth and became Republics without shots being fired.

Dave Albin July 21, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Gil, try “The Real Lincoln” by Thomas DiLorenzo, especially Chapter 2 – Lincoln’s Opposition to Racial Equality, and Chapter 7 – Waging War on Civilians. You may not find this an easy read……

Gil July 22, 2010 at 12:01 am

How would thing been different if the South had won and imposed their terms for reparation on the North? The Southern writers make it clear they were for slavery therefore they would have retained it for as long as possible. So non-whites were discrimated by the North after the war but how would they have fared in the South had they won?

Daniel July 22, 2010 at 10:04 pm

By definition it wasn’t a “civil war” because there weren’t two factions vying for power over the central government. It was a war of aggression.

So:
1. reparations from the north would be reasonable, though unlikely since
2. the south would secede, and
3. slavery would end anyway, just like William Lloyd Garrison would have wanted

Nathaniel July 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm

“I submit that when the South deprived its slaves of their rights, it relinquished its own right to self-defense.”

So therefore all countries that violate property rights have no right to self-defense?

So all invasions by the US of “unfree” countries are justified?

So any invasion of the US by a country with lower tax levels (and therefore lower levels of forced labor) is justified?

Allen Weingarten July 21, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Nathaniel, there is a matter of degree. When someone steals your pencil, he loses the right to say a few cents of his property, but when he murders your family, he loses the right to his own life. *Are you suggesting that no matter what people or nations do, their rights are inviolate?*

Moreover when a country has lost its right to self-defense, that in itself does not justify an invasion. It may well be that invading the South was not the best way to go. Note that I had written “I do not justify some of the actions of the North toward the South…” Generally speaking, I do not believe that it pays to invade a country because of its internal tyranny, but it is more likely called for, when it poses a threat to one’s own country. Even here, that may not render invasion advisable, if for example, it would result in one’s own defeat.

Unlike those on this blog who believe they fully understand what should or should not have been done, my understanding of the issue in question is incomplete. I see certain faults on both sides, and certain correct positions on both sides. I do believe that States have the right to secede, but cannot find the justification for a slave State to retain its rights. Nor am I clear as to the extent to which the war was about slavery.

Inquisitor July 21, 2010 at 11:55 am

“My own sense is that the South was working actively to promote and spread the profoundly anti-libertarian institution of slavery, stole federal property in violation of the contract they signed (known as the Constitution)”

To exchange property in a contract, one needs a legitimate claim to it to begin with. What did the federal government do to make first use of the territories other than proclaim its ownership?

Mike the Grouch July 21, 2010 at 12:16 pm

So, in 1861, who had a legitimate claim to the land and property at Fort Sumter then? And on what basis does that claim achieve legitimacy?

J. Murray July 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm

South Carolina has the ownership claim. Federal land ownership is not an expressly permitted power.

Mike the Grouch July 22, 2010 at 9:26 am

So the United States federal government had no right to land… by what right did the government of South Carolina make that claim? The “state” of South Carolina was little more than a criminal enterprise conceived by a few white men in order to put a veneer of pretend legitimacy over their enslavement of black men and women (among other offenses against liberty). That libertarians so vehemently defend the idea that the South (as an entity) was somehow the victim in this whole matter is telling. Maybe y’all don’t actually believe in freedom like you say you do.

mpolzkill July 22, 2010 at 9:35 am

You are correct, South Carolina was exactly that, and a much less threatening one to us (American) Westerners, and to the rest of the world.

JD July 21, 2010 at 12:24 pm

In a ‘North’ vs ‘South’ analysis, it is impossible to empirically say that group A was just and group B was unjust because justice cannot be considered in terms of groups. If one engages in such talk, it is effectively a massive claim of guilt by association. Justice can only reasonably considered individually.

The claimers of slaves, slave traders, slave overseers, had no moral claim and were evil. However, were the tenant farmers of northern virginia evil? Was it just for their property to be destroyed by marching northern armies? How was property destruction avoidable for the poor in the south, who didn’t have slaves or political power? Was it just because they may have held slavist sentiments? Were these afflicted poor unjust in fighting for the rebels because their property (land and homes) was threatened? I speak of those who did not claim slaves. Was Abe Lincoln just in imprisoning 3000 journalists because he was on the ‘Righteous’ side?

How was it that Maryland was a slave state, but part of the ‘Just’ side? How can it be reconciled that many families became split because family members took different sides? Why were the people of the south bound to a contract that none of them signed, or few were even alive to witness? How can a state have any rights at all?

Nationalism is nonsensical. Whenever one lumps people into such large groups, no reasonable measurements of justice can be applied. Certainly, one might say anything they wish, but that doesn’t make it objectively true.

The conclusion is that many of the actors on both sides were unjust agressors, justified defenders, and neutral victims. This is relevant because if people stopped believing in the myth that America is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, then we might have a useful dialog about which americans are good, and which are bad and stop supporting evil actions that are hidden by a waving flag.

mpolzkill July 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Very nice, JD. One quibble: we divorce America from D.C. and then we can talk about bad. Bad from the start, so bad George Mason walked away.

JD July 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm

In my heart, I am divorced from D.C. Unfortunately, it’s an abusive relationship and DC is still on my bank account.

mpolzkill July 21, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Ain’t that the truth. I call Lincoln groupies, “of the Ike Turner school.”

Allen Weingarten July 22, 2010 at 4:57 am

“In a ‘North’ vs ‘South’ analysis, it is impossible to empirically say that group A was just and group B was unjust because justice cannot be considered in terms of groups.”

By that reasoning (sometimes called “methodological individualism”) one cannot say that the colonists were just and the British unjust, or that Germany was unjust in WWII. Yet von Mises writes “It is uncontested that in the sphere of human action social entities have real existence. Nobody ventures to deny that nations, states, municipalities, parties, religious communities, are real factors determining the course of human events” ‘Human Action’ p. 42.

TokyoTom July 23, 2010 at 4:48 am

Well said, Allen. It’s nice to see that Mises recognized that men act collectively, in groups.

We have a tribal nature that continually bites us.

Nathaniel July 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm

“I would, on the basis of this one statement, question either your own credentials for evaluating what is or is not libertarianism… or wonder aloud whether libertarianism as a philosophy is uselessly vague.”

Murray Rothbard, Mr. Libertarian himself, argued that there have been two just wars in American history: the American Revolution (the side of the colonists) and the so-called “Civil War” (the side of the confederates).

“My own sense is that the South was working actively to promote and spread the profoundly anti-libertarian institution of slavery, stole federal property in violation of the contract they signed (known as the Constitution), and fired on the North first.”

From the founding onward, a substantial portion of Americans considered equivalent for one state to go to war with another as for the United States to invade a foreign nation. Even hard core anti-slavery northerners (such as Atherton in the New Hampshire Constitutional Convention) equated the two things. To say that the South violated the constitution is silly; of course they did, if you accept the North’s interpretation of it–which conveniently considered secession to be not included in the 10th amendment.

mpolzkill July 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm

“if you accept the North’s interpretation of it–which conveniently considered secession to be not included in the 10th amendment.”

And that is at the root of why George Mason walked away from the Convention, and why they all would have if they weren’t crooks or fools.

Mike the Grouch July 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Murray Rothbard, Mr. Libertarian himself, argued that there have been two just wars in American history: the American Revolution (the side of the colonists) and the so-called “Civil War” (the side of the confederates).

In that case, I submit that “libertarian” is a nonsense word that is promoted because “propertarian” doesn’t have the same ring.

Todd S. July 21, 2010 at 6:40 pm

“in violation of the contract they signed (known as the Constitution)”

I highly doubt that any of those seceding actually signed it.

John B July 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Afraid I do not approve of kicking anyone in the crotch. No matter how honest and robust it might appear at the time.

Lyle July 21, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Sounds like an excellent book. I read J.H. Huebert criticism to Mark Skousen’s new path for FEE and Skousen’s response. What mystified me is how Skousen’s wife could mistake curing the sick for spreading disease. Is FEE really trying to reform Guiliani’s views? Maybe Guiliani can’t be healed and the hope is to heal the masses by exposing them to a sick Guiliani. How do you heal the sick masses by exposing them to more sickness? Get Guiliani on the right track AND THEN invite him to speak. That seems like the proper way.

Carpel Ibertatem July 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm

“Suppose, say, Vermont wishes to secede from the Union, as it has every right to do, not only under the US Constitution, but, more importantly, under libertarian law.”

‘Vermont’ is not the same as the people who live within the boundaries of Vermont. It is unclear what it means to say “Vermont wishes to secede”. Some of the residents of Vermont may wish to secede from the United States. Others, undoubtedly, would not. If the government of The State of Vermont declares itself to be the government of The Country of Vermont, even if the declaration is based on some sort of vote, then, among other things, some significant percentage of the residents of Vermont would have their United States citizenships terminated against their will.

Whether or not a Government can secede from another Government is not really a libertarian issue. The libertarian issue is whether an individual living in Vermont or the US (or any other jurisdiction) can secede from the Government.

Ohhh Henry July 21, 2010 at 8:04 pm

I do wish he would have distanced himself from those libertarians who think it is incompatible with their philosophy to vote at all.

I quibble with your quibble. It is incompatible with liberty to vote at all, if any of the candidates are advocating the violation of other people’s property – which is true 100% of time in any election I am aware of that has taken place at any level – federal, state/provincial or municipal in any country in the last 200 years at least.

Even if one of the candidates does not advocate the violation of property, by voting for this candidate you are assenting to the idea that “winner takes all”, and if the libertarian candidate loses then the non-libertarians have the moral authority to do whatever they want with other people’s property, because “they won fair and square”. To vote for the libertarian candidate is to endorse the property violations of the non-libertarian candidate should they win the election. If you don’t want the other poker players to take your money, your watch, your car and your house, then don’t cut cards with them.

An election of, say, the board of directors of a corporation such as a condominium is compatible with libertarianism because one’s association with the corporation is voluntary, and corporations do not make it their business to do anything to people’s property other than do things like allocate capital and dividends, assign parking spaces, seek contractors for roof repairs, etc. A corporation does not dictate to its shareholders where their children must be educated or use force to prevent shareholders from selling out and leaving. If a corporation starts to force itself on its shareholders it has ceased to be a corporation in the normal sense, but has become instead a government. At this moment, all participation in corporate elections must cease. The corporation is illegitimate and it conveys acquiescence in the corporation’s illegitimate functions if one voluntarily participates in its organization and direction whenever illegal actions are “on the table”.

Gil July 21, 2010 at 8:55 pm

So as soon as a private individual or organisation uses force they then become a ‘government’?

newson July 22, 2010 at 2:20 am

“a criminal”.

Michael A. Clem July 22, 2010 at 11:09 am

To comply with an armed robber’s request is hardly an endorsement of his actions, even if he gives you a limited set of choices (“your money or your life”). I see voting less as sanction, and more as just ineffective, if one wishes to make major changes to society.

mpolzkill July 22, 2010 at 11:37 am

Yes, “the ballot or the bullet”. It is a gray area for sure, Michael; but the fact that the State wants voters so desperately tips it to one side for me (among other things). And I say this as a one-time (and only time) voter, worker and alternate (the older Nazis could smell Ron Paul on me and ferreted me out….oh, I still feel so dirty) delegate for the only politician I ever knew would be a Natural Rights respecting agent. The whole experience was worth it though. I’d always suspected it was all a scam and *counter* effective; now I really, really know.

Michael A. Clem July 22, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Another point – the poker analogy isn’t very good. You don’t lose money if you’re not in the poker game. But in the electoral game, you lose whether you sit in or not. That’s a crucial difference.

Gil July 22, 2010 at 2:43 am

For many isn’t that the same thing?

Gil July 22, 2010 at 2:43 am

(in reply to newson)

Dave Albin July 22, 2010 at 7:26 am

In reply to Gil above – read the book, and I think your questions would be answered.

mpolzkill July 22, 2010 at 7:33 am

Dave, his questions will never be answered, he’s been here for years and is still asking the dumbest questions. He’s a troll.

Dave Albin July 22, 2010 at 1:23 pm

I have gathered that in my relatively short time here….

Heather July 22, 2010 at 11:55 am

You find “his or her” offensive? Hmmm that’s a bit extreme….

Personally, I might just buy this book for this reason, thanks for pointing it out. I’ve often felt a bit “left out” around this gentleman’s club of a website ;)

mpolzkill July 22, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Well please don’t go, ma’am, that’s the main problem with this place. I’m sure Dr. Block would have preferred simply “her”. I just read a “how-to” book that alternated “his” and “her” usage every chapter, that wasn’t irritating to me.

Peter July 22, 2010 at 8:28 pm

It’s damned irritating to me. It’s also bad grammar.

I’ll let you into a little secret that PC idiots don’t understand: gender — the grammatical “type” of words in language — has nothing whatsoever to do with sex. (The commonplace use of the word “gender” in reference to people being male or female is Wrong…or at least, used to be wrong; it’s usual nowadays to consider nothing “wrong” if enough people do it — hence socialism).

Dave Albin July 22, 2010 at 1:31 pm

You know what, I’ve often wondered why more women are not on here. The right and the left have constantly shut women down, treating them like they should either shut up or be the victim they know they are. You never see things like that here.

mpolzkill July 22, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Well, one reason is most women aren’t dumb enough to waste nearly as much time as so many of us do here, haha.

TokyoTom July 23, 2010 at 4:37 am

Thumbs’ up – even though you’re being sexist!

TokyoTom July 25, 2010 at 7:14 am

I haven’t settled my mind on the Civil War yet, but I have noted that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment – designed ensure that states give freed slaves and Chinamen (and other persons who were non-citizens) the equal protection of their laws – was hijacked by corporations to lift these creatures of states above the ability of states to distinguish between local corporations and out-of-state corporations, and further to hold that corporations have other Constitutional rights, even rights under the Bill of Rights to free speech (even though it was clear that the Founders hated corporations, and considered them property).

It was no accident that corporate “personhood” was achieved in a Supreme Court case involving railroads, and a chief justice and court reporter (a powerful position then) who had been railroad lawyers, and was reported in the decision, even though it had not been argued in the case.

The result of corporations slipping the bonds of effective state control has been the spiralling growth of federal government, and of fights to control government: http://bit.ly/aSs1E4

mpolzkill July 25, 2010 at 8:34 am

“Chinamen”? You just called me “sexist”? (haha)

Nice post, Tom (it *is* a toughie, like “Stalin or Hitler”?), but how about some props for their hero and the greatest railroad lawyer of all time?

Quibble: “The [inevitable] result of corporations slipping the bonds.”

I had some thoughts about a number of the individual “The Founders”, especially the one who left the Convention because he saw that judges would rule the country, but Garet Garrett just chased it all out of my head:

“Naïve trust in the power of words to command reality is found in all mass delusions.”

And Spooner, 1870:

“But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.”

TokyoTom July 26, 2010 at 3:56 am

Well, “Chinamen” was what they were called back then when the 14th Ad was drafted.

Thanks for the quotes; the power of words to deceive is something that our elites bank on. As for Spooner. I’d just say that “unfit to exist” doesn’t establish that, if government could be replaced, they next thing would be better.

mpolzkill July 26, 2010 at 8:57 am

No, but a republican form of government would be better, instead of this faux one. We could try at least 50 of those in this country and that couldn’t be worse than what this Constitution planned or allowed.

And I didn’t care about the old-timey slur, I was just giving you the business. Race humor will never die unless the D.C. lizards are able to wipe us all out (and this goes both ways, of course):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tktNZpUTMoQ

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