1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/15243/christopher-beam-takes-on-libertarianism/

Christopher Beam Takes On Libertarianism

January 6, 2011 by

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. But even though the New York author, Christopher Beam, tries to be fair to libertarians, in the end he thinks their worldview is wacko. Here is where Beam goes wrong. FULL ARTICLE by Robert P. Murphy


J. Murray January 6, 2011 at 9:36 am

I take offense in the concept that libertarians somehow believe the world will be a utopia without the influence of government. There will always be someone with more, someone with less, fraud, violence, etc. These negatives cannot be eliminated. The argument is there will be less of it and it’s the supporters of the State that are the ones promoting utopian arguments by claiming a central body with full authority can solve problems.

Jkillz January 6, 2011 at 10:13 am

When talking with friends about libertarianism, if I suggest that we can have private defense and private military, they say, “But won’t that lead to a lot of wars?” At which point I cry, incredulously, “Well, thank god for governments, then, since governments never go to war.”

It is continually frustrating to try to explain libertarianism to people when they seem to operate on the belief that if libertarianism can’t deliver utopia, then it’s not worth it. I try my best to reiterate that there is no utopia, and I don’t argue for it. I only argue that it’s better, and more moral. If their tolerance for government’s mistakes and treacheries is so high, why is tolerance for libertarian theory zilch?

Dave Albin January 6, 2011 at 10:47 am

Remember, you are fighting a steep, uphill battle. Early on, the indoctrination begins – even still in the hospital following your birth, your parents fill out a form to get a social security number. Maybe someday a tattoo artist will come around to each recovery room and give us our social security numbers that way? Of course, that would be hidden when we wore clothes, so what about a number on our shirts? All kidding (I think) aside, this is similar to what has gone on in human history. Maybe Mr. Beam would agree with my logic? After all, how would old people be taken care of without social security?

Rick January 6, 2011 at 2:55 pm

The world can be better. But heaven on earth? Not possible. “Utopia” is a subjective abstraction anyway. A lot of harm has been done in the name of utopia. I think if libertarianism is to ever be mainstream a lot of people will have to let go of utopia as an achievable goal, whatever a persons definition of it is. I’m not here to evangelize religious thought as it applies to the concept of utopia, but I understand why some libertarians might choose to be atheist or agnostic.

Peter January 6, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Not tattoos, but some people already get RFID chips inserted in their kids (and many more in their pets).

Allen Weingarten January 6, 2011 at 10:15 am

Wouldn’t it be helpful to say that our aim is to minimize crimes, by defending the innocent and punishing the culprits? “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men”, where a prerequisite is that Government not become more criminal than the culprits.

That is, government at best is a defense against aggression, where the role of culture is to enhance the self-governance of the individual. Here, one can be a libertarian, without being utopian.

Dan January 6, 2011 at 11:14 am

You are presuming that the anarchist position is utopian. It is not and need not be — any more than the minarchist or statist position need be utopian.

Daniel Hewitt January 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Good point. One thing I have noticed that anarchists, minarchists, and statists have in common – each considers the other ideologies to be “utopian”. This word gets thrown around so much that it is meaningless.

Bob Roddis January 6, 2011 at 7:21 pm

They statists also always call Austrianism a religion or religious cult. They do this without the slightest familiariy with even the basics of Austrian School concepts.

See this article by Jonathan Finegold Catalan:


Ohhh Henry January 6, 2011 at 10:16 am

After quoting libertarian comedian Penn Jillette — who before 9/11/01 had written about the overblown threat of airline terrorism in a manner that now seems naïve in retrospect

With respect to Mr. Beam and his research, who the hell cares what Penn Jillette wrote about anything? I love Jillette as an entertainer and his show Bullsh_t is fairly good, but writing about libertarianism and using people like Jillette as if they’re some kind of guiding lights or gurus of the movement is silly. It is a straw-man argument to pick a pseudo- or semi-libertarian like Jillette, Bill Maher or Glenn Beck, declare them to represent libertarianism and then ridicule them. Besides, the definitive pre-9/11 statement on airline security was by Condoleeza Rice in which she stated that Osama was determined to attack the US, most likely using aircraft against major business targets in NYC (the WTC was specifically mentioned) and government targets in DC. There is no better argument supporting the libertarian model of personal or national defense than the fact that Bush and his cronies did absolutely nothing to bolster security following this memo, but instead went on vacation for the entire month of August and – there is no denying it – let the attack happen.

More mainstream writers are acknowledging the existence of the great libertarian thinkers, but I am highly suspicious that any of these writers have actually read the works of the names they’re dropping. If they keep phoning it in like this by skimming through Wikipedia and then moving on to buffoonish entertainers for quotes and deep thoughts then their readers are going to leave them far, far behind. After all, what are journalists paid for, if not to go and actually do the reading that their public doesn’t have the time to do? Other than maybe one or two articles that have been linked from Toronto’s Globe and Mail or National Post I don’t think I’ve seen a single actual quote from Hayek, Mises or Rothbard or a knowledgeable summary of their work in any of the spate of mainstream articles in the last year that drop their names.

If Beam and his editors actually understood what he was writing about, they would know that the headline of the article could have been changed as follows, preserving its identical meaning:

The Advantages of Tyranny

Rick January 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm

With all due respect to Penn Jillette as an entertainer and advocate for liberty, I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts. I think Jillette might agree with you too. That said, in the age of mass popular culture, public relations, and media hype it’s possible that to mainstream media writers like Beam people like Jillette are the modern “leaders” of libertarianism. Of course that perception is wrong, but if “perception is reality” then it could be very real to someone like Christopher Beam.

fundamentalist January 6, 2011 at 10:48 am

Beam wants to inform, which is why most of his info on libertarians is good, but he also want to persuade. After all, he couldn’t go to the bar anymore if he had written a positive piece on libertarians. He would lose all of his socialist friends. So he uses the most effective tool of persuasion – ridicule. It’s so junior high, but so so effective for most people.

bob January 6, 2011 at 11:20 am

“The Federal Reserve doesn’t just restrict the markets; it’s an arrogant monstrosity that should be abolished and replaced by the gold standard — a policy that most economists agree would lead to economic meltdown.”

Dr. Murphy, how does this statement escape critique, especially when you quote it in your daily? It would seem easy enough – if most people believed the Earth was flat, does that mean it must be flat?

steve January 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Bob — excellent response. How about submitting it, or something based on it, to the NYT as a rebuttal?


Stephan Kinsella January 6, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Agreed. Bob, this is superb. You should submit to NYT.

JFF January 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Correction, it’s New York Magazine not the New York Times.

Denny Jackson January 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I get the impression that Murphy doesn’t quite understand the nature of money, a fiat, and the free market. Free market (private) fiat money is an oxymoron in more than one sense. When terms are thrown about loosely, misunderstanding is inevitable.

There is a distinction between money, currency, coin, and notes that is lost when all are lumped under the commonplace term “money.” Money, in the strictest sense, is a commodity with real value, not a worthless scrap of paper that someone with a gun forces you to accept in exchange for something of value. A “fiat” is a government edict, a command to the subjects of the crown. “Fiat money,” or, more accurately, “fiat currency” has value only because the state says that it must be accepted in payment of debts by all the subjects within the state’s jurisdiction, otherwise it would eventually find its true value in a free market: zero.

A note is a promise to pay money to its holder. A Federal Reserve “Note” — misnamed a “dollar” — promises to pay nothing, but rather promises to perpetrate violence on anyone who refuses to accept it.
The one and only purpose of a legal tender “law” is to force people at gunpoint to accept something they don’t want because they know it’s true value is less than what it claims to be. In short, legal tender (fiat) “money” is simply fraud.

As for Hayek’s oxymoronic “market-based fiat money” that Murphy links to in this article, even really smart Austrian economists sometimes don’t get everything quite right. It is ludicrous to imagine that private banks could issue “fiat money” that by definition would force its users to accept it. Without the state no fiats could be issued, and without the govt fiat the market would determine what would be used as money. It would certainly not be rapidly depreciating paper.

pauly January 6, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Really excellent analysis of the terms money and currency.

This analysis should be included in any criticism of the original NYT article.

Swifty January 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I think the Libertarians tend to draw the criticism upon themselves by attempting to deal in absolutes. They get trapped into defining taxes as inherently evil rather than undesirable. When they do so, they convert themselves from “minarchists” to “anarchists.” On the topic of war, they again jump into the fray with ridiculous absolutes, failing to recognize that it takes two to have a war and once a war has begun there is a matter of physical survival at issue. True, WWII bankrupt the British Empire. Do they seriously recommend that it would have been prefereable for GB to become national socialist?

Their philosophy is good. Their judgment in applying it is rather suspect. IMO

BioTube January 6, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Actually, not signing over third parties would be preferable.

Enjoy Every Sandwich January 6, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Those “ridiculous absolutes” you’re referring to are called “principles”. Without principles, how can any society–however structured–be at all workable? The mess we’re in now is due to the fact that our “major” party politicians–and those who love them–have no principles. The policies they enact are not only criminal, they’re incoherent.

Do they seriously recommend that it would have been prefereable for GB to become national socialist?

Great Britian would not have become national socialist if they had refrained from declaring war on Germany. The whole “we’d all be speaking German today” argument is shallow and ignores the facts.

J. Murray January 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Sure, defending against an actual aggression is fine. However, it’s hard to find a war that just started on its own without an aggression of some sort. The USA wasn’t innocent in Pearl Harbor, having a President and Congress that spent years waging economic war against the Axis powers before they finally were goaded into a physical one. That’s the kind of war libertarians really don’t like.

Dave Albin January 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm

And, not to open myself up to savagery, but, does our US military protect us as well as it could? Seems to me that we now engage in long term nation building rather than defense. Our soldiers try very hard, but with politicians in charge, a PC nonsense war will usually result. Private defense agencies would compete for work, and offer specific specialties (urban fighting, naval defense, etc.), and would likely work better to defend their clients. We seem to try and sanitize war and defense, which is just silly.

J. Murray January 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm

What we have in the US is not national defense. When a major portion of the military forces and power aren’t even located in the US or in any position to actually defend it, it’s ceased being defense. The logistics required to maintain military personnel all over the globe is destroying combat capability have made defense an impossible dream.

Gil January 6, 2011 at 9:44 pm

My eyes roll when I hear the “provocation” argument for World War 2. The last time I looked when someone is provoked into fighting then he’s acting in self-defence when he retaliates. If the U.S. was provoking Japan into the war then they’re responsible for war reparations to Japan regardless of winning just as a burglar cannot claim self-defence if a home owner tries to stop him. It’s the same for Sept. 11 – if the U.S. provoked the attack then the U.S. has to give reparations and Osama is guilty of nothing.

Sione January 6, 2011 at 1:35 pm


Have you been to Britain lately? It IS socialist. Got much, much worse during and after WW2.

Just thought you might like to know.


Barry Loberfeld January 6, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Hmmm, some very interesting exchanges above …

To my mind, the best way to respond to (non-totalitarian) critics of libertarianism is to put them on the defensive:

To be capitalist or to be socialist? — that is the question. Precisely what is the mix of the mixed economy? When is it capitalist and when is it socialist? When does it protect property and when does it confiscate it? When does it leave people alone and when does it coerce them? When does it adhere to the ethics of individualism and when does it obey the code of collectivism? And just which is the metaphysical primary — the individual or the collective (e.g., the nation, the race, the class)? The fundamental truth about the mixed economy is that mixed practices imply mixed principles, which in turn imply mixed premises — i.e., an incoherent grasp of reality. With socialism, the chaos was economic; with “social democracy,” it’s epistemological. Ultimately, the latter can no more generate rational policies than the former could generate rational prices. The mixed economy doesn’t present us with a mosaic portrait of the just society, but with a jigsaw of pieces taken from different puzzles.

David Roemer January 6, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I was a libertarian before I read Karl Rahner’s essay on the theology of power. Libertarianism is based on the assumption that power can be defined in terms of utility theory. Rahner gives a more general and hence more rational definition of power: We have power over one another because we can affect each other’s consciousness without their consent. Before the fall, Adam and Eve interacted freely. Not only couldn’t they harm each other physically, they could not harm each other emotionally. The way I understand it is that if Eve was nagging Adam, Adam could just tune her out. After the fall, Adam and Eve had power over each other. According to utility theory, it is okay for Eve to refuse to have anything to do with Adam, but it would not be okay for Adam to make Eve his slave. According to reason, Adam and Eve in their fallen state should follow their consciences about slavery and their relationship with one another. What they decide should depend on the circumstances.

Gil January 6, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Sure it was cool for Adam to enslave Eve especially since God commanded it:

” Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. ” -Genesis 3:16.

David Roemer January 7, 2011 at 10:25 am

Slavery would be cool too if Adam needed a beast of burden.

DrB January 6, 2011 at 2:02 pm

IT’s odd but Ayn Rand hated Libertarians. I wrote to the Libertarian Party to see if they could explain why but I was never answered. I like both Rand’s philosophy and the Austrian economic model and share many Libertarian views.

pauly January 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Ayn Rand became a rabid intellectual property advocate in her later years.

Rothbard discusses some of this in one of his essays.

MB January 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm

There are a variety of reasons for Rand’s dislike of libertarians.

Keep in mind that not all Objectivists dislike libertarians. It seems only the orthodox ones do.

Rand, for some reason, didn’t like the term ‘libertarian’, thinking it was ‘made up’.

Rand, also, felt that for one to accept her philosophy of liberty, you had to accept all the underpinings. Basically, to her if you were going to be a ‘libertarian’, you HAD to be an Objectivist. You couldn’t come to ‘libertarianism’ thru utilitarianism, or christianity or what have you. The fact that libertarianism is kind of a ‘big tent’ political philosophy was something she didn’t like.

She also seemed to feel that libertarians ‘stole’ her ideas, not realizing (or perhaps not accepting) that many of ‘her’ ideas came from other thinkers before her.

Rick January 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm

She also disliked Rothbard and thought libertarians were all “anarchists”. At the end of the day, she was a brilliant and very complex individual who eventually threw a lot of people out of her circle.

Whether or not she personally liked libertarians is irrelevant in my opinion. Some Objectivists might strongly disagree with that, but her personal dislike of Rothbard and libertarians doesn’t persuade me either way.

Trent Emberson January 6, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I read this guy’s article and couldn’t help but think of Brooks from Shawshank. He’s institutionalized, if you gave him freedom he wouldn’t know what to do with himself. If it wasn’t for his smugness I’d pity him, poor old guy is going to be completely lost when it all falls down. It’s tragic what prison can do to a person’s mind.

Eric January 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Beam argues that the choice of Airline security is an all or nothing deal. Libertarians don’t argue for no airline security, rather, private security.

I see no problem with 1000′s of different kinds of money. Today, with a computer at almost every checkout (except perhaps cash only – where gold and silver coins would suffice) everyone uses a different credit or debit card and there’s no problem there.

With all this technology, if the central bank monopoly on money were gone, the vacuum would be filled quickly by a software upgrade to the system that now takes debit cards. You’d simply be able to have your debit card be denominated in gold, silver, or whatever, and at the point of sale, the current market prices would be factored into the sale.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 7:33 am

You’d simply be able to have your debit card be denominated in gold, silver, or whatever, and at the point of sale, the current market prices would be factored into the sale.

You don’t even need to go that far, the mechanism you describe is already in place. In the current implementation, you can use a debit or credit card to pay in a different currency. The bank that issued the card uses the market prices to calculate how much to debit and sometimes also charges you a small fee. Banks could start issuing gold-denominated cards without any changes for the merchants. Maybe some even do and I just don’t know about it. I know there are already debit/credit cards available which you can charge from electronic gold-based currencies, so that’s already close enough.

Jim January 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I still don’t consider this much of a “hit piece.” The fact that it doesn’t come to a well reasoned conclusion, and isn’t adequately informed on various issues, doesn’t mean that it was badly intentioned.

I would guess that Beam spent a little bit of time on Google and Wikipedia and got the basic idea. Then he realized that he’d have to do real research work on a short deadline to answer the simple criticisms that he made. What should he do? Read Mises and Rothbard by Monday morning? He did what most journalists do: just get it done and act like you know everything about everything. He struggled, he hit a brick wall, and he copped out.

The article is maybe college newspaper type material. The thoughts were growing and developing, and then the limit of the author’s willingness to personally commit to the article came along like a lawn mower. Page 5, and … snip! You can see the point on the last page where he said “Ok, let’s just wrap this thing up so I can do something else.” The article is fairly lazy and a little less than professional quality. But who here hasn’t ever outright rejected ideas in favor of the nice, comfy, status quo – only to later realize that they were wrong? I’ve done that plenty of times. The only difference between what I did in my own head or fairly privately, and what Beam did, is that Beam published his buffoonery in a magazine. At least I didn’t do that.

Bob Roddis January 6, 2011 at 7:14 pm

People generally don’t have a problem making a living or knowing what to buy. People have a big problem with robbing, defrauding and mass murdering. That is why private property and limiting the state is so essential.

Implicit in every critique of anarcho-libertarianism is the idea the people are SO STUPID that they wouldn’t even know what fraud is without some “progressive” there to hold their hand. As Bob pointed out, people seem perfectly able to buy money orders at CVS. The implication that people would be helpless and hopeless and jump off a bridge in frustration in the face of several investment banks offering interest on gold backed time deposits is beyond preposterous.

But this is the intellectual level of our opponents, such as it is.

Matt C. January 6, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Nothing like picking on Libertarians to mitigate cognitive dissonance about the failed system Beam supports.

DrB January 6, 2011 at 8:51 pm

I as well like and respect many of Ayn Rands thoughts. I also do not let her persaude me away from many Libertarian views. She has failed to turn me into an atheist. From my readings I believe she thought Libertarians to be without values — anything goes. NAMBLA? Go for it! Please tell me that is NOT mainstream Libertarian thought.

Drugs. From my point of view that becomes a States issue since it is not an enumerated power given to the federal government. Is that a view Liberatrians would agree or disagree with?

Daniel January 6, 2011 at 10:08 pm

That’s not so much “libertarianism” as it is constitutionalism.

Who is “We, the people” and when did they all sign the constitution? And even if they did, when did you or your neighbor sign it?

“Issues” like “drugs” can be solved with a simple question: would I need to violate another person’s property or rights to enforce it?

DrB January 6, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Daniel — that was helpful. I would love to hear from others. I may be more of a constitutionalist than a libertarian.

Sione January 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm


Regarding Drugs.
If a man is putting drugs into his body then the issue is best unerstood by asking a few directed questions.

Who owns the man’s body? Does he have ownership over it or does someone or something else own him?

If the man does not initiate force, fraud or coercion over another person, is his activity (consuming his drugs) anyone else’s business (in that they should take control over him)?

Regarding NAMBLA
Definatley not libertarian. The initiation of force, fraud or coercion is a violation of libertarian principle.

Regarding Rand
She was an important writer and philosopher. Her ideas are always worth consideration and analysis. Many, many things she got correct. Her contributions remain extremely valuable.

Rand did became dogmatic and inflexible in her approach to other people and also to the ideas of others promoting liberty and personal freedom (and should have been treated with more respect and civility one would think) – more so in later life. While it is easy to appreciate and understand her frustration in having to deal with the continual sewerage outfall of socialist opposition directed at her, it is disappointing that she retreated into an intellectual rigidity and personal incivility. The bizarre goings on in her life, an over reliance on medication and some outlandish behavious (her and her “followers”) are well known. Nevertheless, despite errors or mistakes she made in some areas, her achievements shouldn’t be forgotten or thoughtlessly cast aside.

The details of the falling out between her and Rothbard I am not aware of. What I have read is that Rothbard did not like the cultish nature of her inner-circle of acolytes and the stultifying refusal of that group to openly analyse and discuss matters. Rand is said to have accused Rothbard of plagiarism, of stealing the ideas she (or a mamber of her innder group) had developed. If so, I’ve not found anything to back that accusation up, as Rothbard was writing and thinking libertarian before he had anything to do with Rand. Interestingly the accusation does appear to fit within Rand’s view of IP (which is an area where her ideas are contested by many libertarians- as you’ve probably seen on this site IP is considered non-property by leading thinkers in libertarianism).

Re the Constitution
There has been some excellent commentary about the validity of that document and its history (how it came into being) on this site. Di Lorenzo and others write about it, how it came to be, what is written in it and why, what the interests of those who pushed it into being were, why there was a political crisis manufactured in order to force a consitution it into being, its validity and most important, whether or not a document prepared and signed by a group of individuals can be justifyably shown to have authority over other non-involved, non-signatory individuals.

Investigating libertarian thought is refreshing and honest. Much better then the irrational mush of collectivist dogma that gets vomited around the show these days.


Ryan January 6, 2011 at 10:33 pm

This was a great article, really great. Like Murphy, I think I was most disappointed by Beam’s inability to comprehend the major libertarian issues.

But this is what they have been doing to libertarianism for 100 years now. If I say, “Let’s not tax imported pharmaceuticals,” they say, “You’re a libertarian – in your opinion nothing should ever be taxed at all. That wouldn’t work. You’re crazy.”

Notice how easy it is to get sucked into a debate about the merits of taxation in general when all you wanted to do was venture an opinion on one single tax. This is how they make us look crazy. They know we thrive on the philosophy of our views, so they instantly set aside a realistic goal (eliminating a single tariff) by making it an unattainable package deal (eliminating government itself).

It’s vital that none of us gets sucked into this trap.

Sione January 7, 2011 at 10:12 pm


Yeah, let’s not get sucked into the trap of applying principle consistently. Let’s abandon libertarian principles whenever they make non-libertarians uncomfortable.

Ryan, the trouble with your approach is that you grant an underserved reverence to the immoral premise of collectivists (such as Mr Bean) on the basis that you don’t want to feel the discomfort of being unpopular and possibly called naughty names (like “crazy”). As Chopper Reid would say, “Harden the fuck up!” If “they” are so intellectually stunted that they can’t discuss the topic rationally and logically, then why do you care what names they call you? They have no value. Their ideas are worth less than raw sewerage.

Moral of the story is to stick to your principles. Be honest and state fact.

Tu Ne Cid Malis.


Caley McKibbin January 6, 2011 at 10:38 pm

It clearly is a hatchet job. The fact that there are conceivable ways for it to be worse hardly exhonorates the moron’s effort to cherry pick what he thinks are unfavourable things and present them unfavourably.

Bob Roddis January 7, 2011 at 4:09 am

Because Beam is such a profoundly obtuse cement-head, the result is a hatchet job whether intended or not.

DrB January 6, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Daniel — thank-you, that was helpful. I’d love to hear from others. I may be more of a constitutionalist than libertarian.

DrB January 7, 2011 at 11:56 pm


Well stated. Your drug argument is one I struggle with and must admit I am just as unsettled as before. I don’t know if I can accept the Constitution origin argument but don’t give up — I enjoy the discussion. Additionally, not sure I accept the Liberatrian view of IP (as I am fairly new to this sit I am NOT familiar with the historical view of IP and Libertarianism).

Sione January 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm


Re the Drugs
Yes, I don’t like people using them. I consider that behaviour degenerate and immoral. I do my best keep away from users and exclude them from my life wherever possible.

This issue is an example of recognising the difference between a person’s liberty (Individual Rights) and the morality (or lack of morality) of an action they may choose to undertake. An action may well be immoral, but that does not mean that it is necessarily the business of a state to declare that action illegal and attempt to force people not to indulge in it.

Re the Constitution of the USA
The history of how it came into being is well worth chasing up. In brief, a political crisis was developed. The idea promoted was that a Constitution should be written as solution since the Articles (the previous political arrangement) was said to be deficient. The correspondence and speaches of those involved at the time (as well as commentators and reports) are good reading. They certainly identified many of the major issues and problems. What is rapidly detected is that the Constitution was flawed, in some ways deliberately. Early developments surrounding its application (regarding the Supreme Court for example) are illustrative. This is important as the political debate reveals that the Constitution is not some holy, miraculous and perfect document conceived in goodness by the love of great forefathers and prophets. It contains no higher purpose or chosen path. The politics of the time were just as dirty and contentious as they are presently.

The question of whether or not one group of men could ever claim authority over all other people living within a geographical region regardless of their consent is vital. By what right could the authors and signatories of the Constitution enjoy such a right? How was it derived? Lysander Spooner was one of the earlier writers addressing these questions. Another writer who investigates it is Albert Jay Nock. They conclude that no such right exists. If the Constitution is to be considered to validly possess authority over all residents of the USA, then the source of that authority, its derivation and justification must be shown. Can anyone be bound by document they did not grant consent to? If so, how?

There is plenty of good material available for reading and consideration (here on this site- some of it is downloadable and some can be purchased). The pursuit of the answer to the question posed is an interesting one. I enjoyed the research (as much as what I discovered) and hope you set out on the journey and end up enjoying it as much as did I.

The situation appears to be that libertarians generally held that the idea of IP was legitimate. There was not a lot of consideration directed at the topic so the status quo prevailed. Not a great deal of fundamental investigation and analysis work was undertaken until the publication of Dr Kinsella’s papers and also a book written by Levine and Boldrin. Both sources began the debate in earnest by examining the premise and application of the ideas IP is based around. The resulting debate has been, well, let’s say, impassioned. It is a contentious issue within libertarian circles although it has to be stated that over time the prevailing argument would appear to be that of anti-IP.

Anyway, the best way to get into this issue is to exploit the material freely available on this very site. You can find the Kinsella papers and a link to Levine and Boldrin (search: Against IP) and so on. The IP issue reduces down to a fundamental question: Is IP properly identified as property? Of course, the attempt to discover the answer that question will start you on a journey further into libertarian thought. For example, to make an answer to the IP question it is necessary to discover what property is, how it is recognised, from where it is derived and how that derivation can be validated etc. So soon enough you’re dealing with the likes of Prof Hoppe, contrasting him with Rand, checking Rothbard, Von Mises, Reisman etc.

Researching libertarian ideas is refreshing and honest. It is enjoyable and you come away with something valuable each time.



nate-m January 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Re the Drugs
Yes, I don’t like people using them. I consider that behaviour degenerate and immoral. I do my best keep away from users and exclude them from my life wherever possible.

This is defiantly a case were the cure is worse then the disease.

Recreational drug use is a multi-billion dollar industry in the USA and has significant effects world wide. The fact that since it is illegal then only criminals are involved in the trade and distribution of drugs. As such you have billions of dollars in the hands of people who think nothing of violating the rights of other people. Organized crime uses the money and power given to them by the USA government in the form of anti-drug laws to all sorts of nasty things to other criminals that don’t follow their directions and many innocent people get caught in the cross fire.

If you genuinely want to help people and protect them from the negative effects of drug addiction then sending armed men to their houses, destroy their careers, take away everything they own, take away everything that they love and everybody that they know, and throwing them into cages with rapists and murders is probably about the least productive way to go about doing things.

The majority of the cost of drug use to society does not come in the form of people using illegal drugs… it comes in the form of the police state developed to keep them illegal AND the industry that has developed to meet the consumer demand of Americans for these drugs.

Get rid of the police state and you’ll automatically solve 90% of the problems facing us with regards to drugs.

After all when was the last time Anheuser–Busch InBev sent in armed groups of men illegally from Belgium to carry out terroristic attacks and reprisals against Molson Coors Brewing Company?

When alcohol was illegal, like cocaine and pot is illegal now, that sort of thing was common place…. It’s just that illegal drug trade has had much more time to metastasize then the illegal alcohol one did and thus is much more of a burden and full of much more violence. The cancer has spread and it is wormed it’s way into all levels of our government. It feeds on itself and the longer it remains illegal and the worse the problem gets then the more profitable and beneficial the situation gets for both our government and the underground cartels.

DrB January 8, 2011 at 7:33 pm


I am somewhat familiar with the anti-federalist papers and their argument regarding the weakness of our Un-challenged Supreme Court. However, your arguments almost sound as if you want no societal government. Anarchy? Who keeps us safe from foriegn attack?

Sione January 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm


No government! Then everyone would be a lot safer from attack (domestic as well as foreign).

Note that all the wars of the last century were caused by governments. Do away with the causal element and the risk of attack reduces. That’s got to be a safer deal.


DrB January 10, 2011 at 7:13 pm


Yes. Wars have been a mess. Caused by those holding Progressive political beliefs. Add to that the ability to fund these wars with the Federal Reserve and we have a perfect combination for trouble (that also is bankrupting us).

P.M.Lawrence January 12, 2011 at 8:39 pm

In Beam’s case for a central bank, he is ignoring the fact that government did not invent money. Free individuals in the market settled on gold and silver as common media of exchange, in a process eloquently described by Carl Menger, the founder of the Austrian School.

Actually, government did invent money – or at any rate whoever invented money used the economic power it brought to increase and consolidate political power to the point of becoming strong rulers. We have both archaeological and historical evidence that free choices only led silver and gold, and their alloys, to have value, and then the kings of Lydia (in Asia Minor) built on that to issue the first coins, made to a primitive design out of electrum (a natural alloy of silver and gold). This greatly increased trade within, and in and out of, Lydia, also putting a premium on its bullion, and so made it and its kings very wealthy; this made bullion coins a common medium of exchange, whereas before much more trade had been barter that did not have any common media of exchange. Other rulers soon followed this precedent and issued their own coins, refining the designs as they did so; by the time of Alexander the Great they had all the modern features apart from raised, milled edges.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: