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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/17001/libertarianism-and-contemporary-philosophy/

Libertarianism and Contemporary Philosophy

May 18, 2011 by

This course will consider some of the leading arguments advanced against libertarianism. Do these criticisms have any validity? FULL ARTICLE by David Gordon

{ 26 comments }

Tony Fernandez May 18, 2011 at 11:22 am

Most of these arguments rely on either empiricism (a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy) or the claim that libertarianism does not take into account human psychology (they have never read Human Action). Of course these arguments have no merit.

fundamentalist May 18, 2011 at 11:33 am

The problem with this approach is your assumption that the opposition to libertarian philosophy is based on reason. It’s not. McCauley explains it best in this critique:

“Mr. Southey brings to the task two faculties which were never, we believe, vouchsafed in measure so copious to any human being, the faculty of believing without a reason, and the faculty of hating without a provocation.

“Now in the mind of Mr. Southey reason has no place at all, as either leader or follower, as either sovereign or slave. He does not seem to know what an argument is. He never uses arguments himself. He never troubles himself to answer the arguments of his opponents. It has never occurred to him, that a man ought to be able to give some better account of the way in which he has arrived at his opinions than merely that it is his will and pleasure to hold them. It has never occurred to him that there is a difference between assertion and demonstration, that a rumour does not always prove a fact, that a single fact, when proved, is hardly foundation enough for a theory, that two contradictory propositions cannot be undeniable truths, that to beg the question is not the way to settle it, or that when an objection is raised, it ought to be met with something more convincing than ‘scoundrel’ and ‘blockhead.’” This is from a post by Henderson at econlib.org.

Zorg May 19, 2011 at 11:06 am

You gotta love how “egalitarianism” literally requires the abolition of equal rights in order to equalize outcomes.

Nathaniel Branden,Jr. May 25, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Silly waste of a course. We have long had a philosophy and its name is Objectivism.
We don’t have to agree with Rand’s heirs like Peikoff and ARI on foreign policy and civil liberties
but hers is the only comprehensive philosophy around.

Zorg May 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Why is studying philosophy a waste? Sorry, but “We” are not objectivists. There are other people in the world, for your information. Rand does not have “the only comprehensive philosophy around.”

Nathaniel Branden,Jr. May 25, 2011 at 5:33 pm

A few more points. Rothbard was never a philosopher qua philosopher, he merely stood on Rand’s shoulders. His cold war revisionism was a rehash of DF Fleming’s Soviet apologetics and the competing agencies, which mean competing governments in the real world, were simply a terrible idea. He was a great economist overlooking blackmail, patents & copyrights and a few other indefensible stands.
Hospers and Nozick were never even libertarians and later both repudiated libertarianism.Rothbard’s defense of abortion in The Ethics Of Liberty was the best ever penned on the subject.
Ignore the faux Objectivists at Rebirth of Reason and SOLO Passion.

Zorg May 25, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Whose shoulders did Rand stand on? Patents and copyrights are state monopoly privileges, not natural rights. Apparently only Randians use the expression “competing governments.” It is confusing, as “government” is often conflated with “state.” Libertarians oppose the state, not government per se. For non-coercive (they don’t *initate* force) governments to compete would mean that there is no monopolist and that people are free to support those agencies that are just and economical. When Rand used that term, it seemed that she wanted to create the image of civil war – gangs fighting over control of a territory. That is not what libertarians mean.

I don’t think Rand ever dealt with the contradiction of a rights-violating rights protector. I think the whole question of anarchism escaped her. She did go as far as advocating that the state be funded voluntarily, but never seriously considered the monopoly aspect. That seems a bit strange to me since that kind of a state would likely be too weak to prevent secession, and hopefully unwilling to (though I have serious doubts). In that case, her weak state is in a state of de facto anarchy. All statists are fundamentally collectivists, and that can be seen clearly when they are willing to take up arms against peaceful people who secede in order to be self-governing. If they acknowledge the right of secession and self-government, than they have already opened the door to anarchy. Mises did not call himself an anarchist but did acknowledge the full right of secession at every level. I don’t remember if Rand ever spelled out her view on secession, but obviously that is the dividing line between statists and anarchists.

Rothbard never defended abortion to my knowledge. Abortion is the intentional killing of a fellow human being, which is murder. Only the immoral will defend the murder of innocents. You may be thinking of the legal aspect and Rothbard’s musings on whether it was possible or correct for society to intervene.

Nathaniel Branden, Jr. May 25, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Rothbard strongly defended both the morality and legality of abortion on pages 98-100 of The Ethics Of Liberty. He wrote that no human being has the right to remain inside the body of another human being against that person’s will. There is no right to birth and there is no right of an embroyo, zygote or fetus to any sustenance if the woman whose body they lay in does not want to provide it for any reason whatsoever or no reason. Abortion has never been legally regarded as murder and every woman has the right to have an abortion whenever they so choose.
Men have no rights in the issue at all nor does the government, in fact Rothbard exposed the phony ‘pro-life’ nonsense in even stronger terms than Rand did.
That you are so totally unaware of his actual views is shocking and it’s a good indication of the extent to which LRC has misrepresented Rothbard’s actual views.
Patents and copyrights are no more state granted than your right to defend your home. What they
do is recognize those inherent natural rights. The guiltiest person in Atlas Shrugged was the cretin who said, ‘Why should only Rearden be allowed to manufacture Rearden Metal ?’
Rand stood on no one’s shoulder, only had a partial debt to Aristotle.
See Objectivism:The Philosophy Of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff and his extensive audio series
in two massive parts, A History Of Western Philosophy.
Rand did indeed deal with rights-violating defenders in The Nature Of Government essay which
was reprinted in The Virtue Of Selfishness wherein she thoroughly refuted Rothbard’s competing defense agencies concept. The question of anarchism never escaped her and she had no trouble refuting the idea. Secession can or cannot be legitimate depending on the circumstances but a limited government would still have to exist in any new country.
There is no valid distinction between the state and the government, it is always the entity that holds a monpoly on physical force in a given geographical area. If there are two such entities that is a state of civil war.
Rand has the only consistent comprehensive philosophy that makes the full case for individual rights.

Zorg May 26, 2011 at 10:33 am

“Rothbard strongly defended both the morality and legality of abortion on pages 98-100 of The Ethics Of Liberty.”

No, he did not. Here is the footnote from page 98. “What we are trying to establish here is NOT THE MORALITY of abortion (which may or MAY NOT be moral ON OTHER GROUNDS), but its LEGALITY…”

This is just as I had said and had remembered from my reading.

“That you are so totally unaware of his actual views is shocking and it’s a good indication of the extent to which LRC has misrepresented Rothbard’s actual views.”

Make sure you get your facts straight before you start pontificating and feign being “shocked”
by people who actually know what they are talking about.

Rothbard was following the legal logic of self-ownership. As I have stated previously right here on this page, libertarianism is NOT a moral code. It is a socio-political ethic with a narrow application. It does not purport to be a complete moral code or a complete philosophy. Rothbard ran into the limits of the thing right there with the discussion of parents and children. This I have also stated previously in other posts on this page. Rothbard acknowledged that abortion may be immoral “on other grounds,” yet he nevertheless pushed into that territory with the self-ownership principle trying to make a legal case for non-intervention.

The language becomes very stilted and alien at that point, talking about children as potential-this and potential-that. The concept of self-ownership breaks down right there as it a concept that envisions adults interacting with their peers for their own self-interest. In that context, it is pretty clear when boundaries are crossed between people. For an adult of sound mind there is no question who has the superior claim of “ownership” of the person’s life. It is the person himself. But a child is a ward of their parents or other adult who has a moral responsibility for their care and upbringing. It is a stage of life which is unavoidably defined by dependency. This is just the nature of things, and trying to force a concept which fits interacting adults into the realm of parent and child just does not work. The concept is TOO NARROW for the application.

Rothbard’s dismissal of right-to-life language there is also very weak and stilted. He tries to fold the right to life into property rights. Again, that may be fine for adults, but obviously not for children. Trying to argue that a parent “owns” a child and that the child does not “own” themselves YET is just ridiculous. The term ownership simply does not describe the relationship and cannot even begin to address the morality of the situation. Thank God he put that footnote in there, otherwise he’d come off looking even worse than he does with that bizarre ownership language. This is what happens from pushing a concept too far beyond its boundaries. It comes time to modify the concept and the language, but people are too caught up in it to come to terms with its limits.

Copyright and patents are state privileges. That is the history of so-called “intellectual property.” No amount of grandstanding can change that. It is not a natural right to control published information. It enters the public domain and cannot be controlled without controlling other people and other people’s property. Property rights refer to scarce goods. Ideas are not scarce economic goods once published. They are infinitely reproducible, basically at zero cost. They are not part of the world of economic goods which due to their scarcity must be controlled by one or another with the superior claim. IP is on its way out right now. It requires a police state and endless litigation to enforce. It stifles innovation and competition and makes us all poorer. It is riddled with contradictions and arbitrariness, even apart from the horrible enforcement policies which socialize the costs in order to benefit a select favorites of the state. It creates an environment of fervent rent-seeking and gives the state more and more intrusive power into people’s lives, homes, documents. It’s a real perversion of property rights.

I’ve read all of Rand’s books including The Virtue of Selfishness, and she did not adequately address anarchism in The Nature of Government. Like many other things, she simply waved her hand and dismissed it in a brief essay. She displays the same mysticism regarding the state that every other statist displays. She sees it as being prior to society and therefore as a precondition to it. This is simply false since no state can possibly exist without a pre-existing society as the state is clearly a parasite to the process. There must be wealth to loot and a society to control else a state can never get traction. And none of the statist rhetoric regarding social contract theory can possibly work either unless there is a pre-existing group of people CAPABLE of making and enforcing contracts. If you are unable to make or enforce a contract, how can you be said to be contracting with others in order to protect your right to contract? And where is that contract, by the way? And who enforces against the state? Where is the monopoly that judges between states? As always, any cart-before-the-horse argument is going to fail under closer examination, and so is any argument for men having some innate right to establish monopolies of rule over other men. Rand simply read from the statist script there and really showed no interest in exploring the issue. Perhaps it was an issue of credibility for her and wanting to appear to be within the scope of the mainstream. It’s funny how conventional radicals can be sometimes. : )

If people have the right to self-government, then the monopoly argument doesn’t even fit. One would have to advocate for a one world government if monopoly was the essential quality of government. Thankfully, it isn’t, and we can have the two hundred or so countries we have now after centuries of centralization, or we can push to have 10,000 countries of smaller dimension and scope. Where would the genius Rand draw the line? And why? At what point do you take up arms and start killing your fellow man because they exercise their right to peaceful secession and self-government? To my knowledge, Rand never answered that and similar questions. Now if you ask me, any philosopher or theorist worth their salt is going to happily engage ALL aspects of the topic on which they represent themselves publicly as being an authority.

Nathaniel Branden, Jr. May 27, 2011 at 2:45 am

Obviously Rothbard was defending the morality of abortion in the very pages that you quote from when he stated that no human being as the right to remain inside the body of another human being against that person’s (the carrier) will. That is not merely a legal opinion but a profoundly moral one so you totally mistated Rothbard’s position. You were not even familiar with Rothbard’s views on abortion until I referenced that book to you.
Obviously libertarianism has to advocate a moral code as the base of its philosophy, if it doesn’t then it absolutely validates Rand’s criticism of it.
Obviously birth is the demarcation metaphysically of the beginning of a human being’s life.
It is the most objective and least arbitrary starting point.
The rest of Rothbard’s views as to ownership of children are wrong but totally irrelevant to the concept of self-ownership. You are committing a nonsequitur here.

All economic things are scarce including inventions of the pen (copyrights) or inventions in industry (patents) as the state is not conferring any monopoly privilege but recognizing that each individual is a monopoly in his/her inventions and new ideas.
The public domain is a meaningless collectivist concept like public accomodations laws and all your
near unreadable verbiage amounts to is a pathetic defense of the alleged right to steal the fruits
of another’s mind.
IP doesn’t stifle innovation, it stifles THIEVES.

You have obviously either never read or never comprehended Rand’s arguments against the horrendous civil war statism of anarchy. It was not superficial but anarchism is a fallacy which is easy to rebut as Isabel Paterson showed in The God Of The Machine.

You can’t document ANYTHING that Rand dismissed without argument much less “many” things as you falsely claimed. The US Constitution is the contract governing us and you can either amend it
or seek to abolish it but some constitution will govern you regardless of if a few dissent.
Rothbard never answered the decisive objections that Ayn Rand made against his crackpot competing governments. I doubt that you have read any of Rand’s works.

Peter Surda May 27, 2011 at 3:34 am

Dear Nathaniel Branden Jr.,

The public domain is a meaningless collectivist concept…

Well, since you object to “public domain”, the how about you stop using language? Or would you prefer to contradict yourself?

nate-m May 27, 2011 at 5:15 am

Obviously birth is the demarcation metaphysically of the beginning of a human being’s life. It is the most objective and least arbitrary starting point.

If you think that then you do not understand the subject. Either that or your confusing the phrase ‘most objective’ with ‘most convenient’.

Zorg May 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm

“Obviously Rothbard was defending the morality of abortion”

Obviously, he was not. I just quoted Rothbard saying the following:

“What we are trying to establish here is NOT THE MORALITY of abortion (which may or MAY NOT be moral ON OTHER GROUNDS), but its LEGALITY…”

Which part of “not the morality…but its legality” do you not understand?

Do you deny that there is a distinction between morality and legality? Even if you do, do you acknowledge that other people do make a distinction? Do you understand that Rothbard is one of those people, according to his own words? Do you understand English?

You really have a lot of nerve to come back at me with a blatant contradiction like this. Why don’t you look up “A is A” and “the law of identity” in Rand. Maybe she can help you to avoid contradicting yourself so stupidly and looking like an ass.

“You were not even familiar with Rothbard’s views on abortion until I referenced that book to you.”

You mean the fictitious view that you made up? No, I was not familiar with that. Am I supposed to keep arguing with your delusion? I’ll pass.

“I doubt that you have read any of Rand’s works.”

I’ve read all of them, probably before you were even born. Obviously you have nothing to
offer here but lies and contradictions and stupid baseless ad hominem attacks. Why don’t you go on YouTube where you can argue with teenagers who share your infantile approach to argument. You can just keep posting, “YOU SUCK” to people you disagree with. That’s more your speed, isn’t it, pal?

Nathaniel Branden, Jr. May 27, 2011 at 11:57 am

Peter, your comment makes no sense whatsoever. People can discuss anything, they can’t reprint
anything without permission. People can discuss a new industrial product, they can’t make it without the owner’s permission.
Nate-M, since you have offered no reasoning whatsoever to counter my entirely reasonable demarcation of the physical separation of one body from another I find your comment to be a meaningless wordsalad. Do you celebrate your birthday or your moment of conception ?
As a male you have no say in the matter. Your choices are to support the woman in her decision to shut up. If you think a spermatozoon, zygote or fetus is equivalent to a baby after birth then you have never taken a biology course. The beauty of Rothbard’s argument is that he goes far beyond Rand and states that no human being would have the right to remain inside the woman’s body if she didn’t want it. These laws would never have existed if men could become pregnant and we all know it.
Since anti-abortion laws are the worst possible violations of individual rights the fact there are only
anti-choice posters are here on the so-called libertarian side proves libertarianism has nothing to do with individual rights. Thank Allah that Ron Paul will not be getting elected.
My philosopher is Ayn Rand, yours is an intellectually tenth rate fetus fetisher in the libertoonian ranks whom I will leave unnamed. It’s initials are DG.

Peter Surda May 27, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Dear Nathaniel Branden, Jr.

Peter, your comment makes no sense whatsoever.

In that case you are probably unaware of the full consequence of your claims.

Language was obviously created by people, i.e. individuals. It does not grow in nature. It has economic effects, for example in the reduction of transaction costs. From these two perspectives, it matches the requirements of the “creationim+value approach” (i.e. the one that Objectivits usually take). Consequently, these individuals, creators of language, have a property right to it. If you want to remain true to your proclaimed ethics, you would refrain from using language before making sure that the creators of said language approve of it. If you deny this, you are advocating a creation that is “public domain”, but you rejected that notion as well.

So, which is it? Unless you want to contradict yourself, you either need to accept the notion of “public domain” and that creation+value is insufficient for the justification of property rights, or refrain from using language.

Zorg May 27, 2011 at 1:16 pm

“Thank Allah that Ron Paul will not be getting elected. My philosopher is Ayn Rand, yours is an intellectually tenth rate fetus fetisher in the libertoonian ranks whom I will leave unnamed. It’s initials are DG.”

That’s lovely. You’re a real treasure.

Like I said, I recommend that you troll on YouTube instead. You can get a lot more mileage out of “fetus fetisher” and “libertoonian” there among the intellectual elite of the internet.

nate-m May 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Nate-M, since you have offered no reasoning whatsoever to counter my entirely reasonable demarcation of the physical separation of one body from another I find your comment to be a meaningless wordsalad.

I was making a comment.I you want further clarification all you have to do is to ask. But since you choose to make dickish comments instead I find my lack of explanation justified. Pearls before swine.

Do you celebrate your birthday or your moment of conception

That’s very irrelevant. The fact that you bring up something like that at all just goes to show how little you think about the subject.

As a male you have no say in the matter. Your choices are to support the woman in her decision to shut up.

Your jumping to unwarranted conclusions. You’ve already made up you mind about what I am going to say and who I am without the slightest clue about what I was talking about, as you admitted above. Your arguing against a imaged character.. a figment of your imagination. A mental sock puppet. Not me.

Nathaniel Branden, Jr. May 27, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Language as such goes back to the mists of antiquity and language as such can no more be copyrighted than fire or air or water. Specific creations of specific individuals in both ideas
and material goods can be.
Public domain is no valid than public accomodations laws. It’s a statist-collectivist term.
We do not need a special term or concept to describe language. People just speak, that’s all.
Sometimes the more creative write down ideas for which they are properly given a copyright
for x numbers of years or a patent for a new invention, etc.
After that unless the copyright or patent is renewed it is open. It’s still not a public domain in the sense that libertarian thieves who advocate the stealing of their betters’ ideas or inventions insinuate.
Peter, your pedantic little rant fails.

Nate-M, again you are shown up to be a total ignoramus in biology, not to mention morality.
I repeat, do you celebrate your birthday or your moment of conception ?
There is nothing to ask of you since your dimwitted premise abolishes itself. From your nonsensical rants I know all I care or need to know about you. I have read the anti-abortion literature many times over and used to hold that view but I saw through it a long time ago.

Zorg, I demolished you on the first go around. Thanks for admitting your a troll.

Zorg May 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm

“Zorg, I demolished you on the first go around.”

You’re delusional. You claimed Rothbard defended the morality of abortion on those pages when he clearly said he was not! He said it in plain English in a freaking footnote for heaven’s sake! This goes beyond you twisting his words. You’re even twisting his own inserted sidebar clarification of his own words in his own book! He says, “not the morality…but the legality,” and you say, like an absolute idiot, that you “demolished” me? I simply quoted the man himself in order to refute you. To not accept what someone says in plain English but insist that they meant the opposite of what they said is just sick and perverted. Clearly you have issues in relating to people and engaging in rational argument. Please go away.

Peter Surda May 27, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Dear Nathaniel Branden, Jr.

Language as such goes back to the mists of antiquity…

First of all, that does not negate the fact that it was created by individuals. Second of all, language changes all the time, again, due to actions of individuals.

… and language as such can no more be copyrighted than fire or air or water.

I’ll skip over the problem that government decree “copyrights” rather than the author’s actions. The bigger problem is that fire, air and water are natural phenomena rather than human creations. Language is not a natural phenomenon, it’s a human creation.

Specific creations of specific individuals in both ideas and material goods can be.

So, the specific words you are using were not created by specific individuals? They occurred in nature and you just took them and moved them onto this blog? Or rather would you like to say that it was at some stage a creation, but since has become, heavens forbid, public domain?

Public domain is no valid than public accomodations laws.

Public domain, just like copyright, is a statist term. From the point of view or property rights, it does not have a coherent meaning.

It’s a statist-collectivist term.

I agree that it is a statist term, necessitated by the impossibility of drawing copyright to infinity.

We do not need a special term or concept to describe language. People just speak, that’s all.

So how come you defend the copyright then? Or is speech not protected by copyright? Or does writing not require the use of language?

Sometimes the more creative write down ideas for which they are properly given a copyright for x numbers of years or a patent for a new invention, etc.

Yes, the government redistributes property and presents it as a new property right. People who do not analyse the situation fully are fooled by the metaphors.

After that unless the copyright or patent is renewed it is open. It’s still not a public domain in the sense that libertarian thieves who advocate the stealing of their betters’ ideas or inventions insinuate.

You are fooled by metaphors into a contradiction. If you support rights in physical objects, then copyright is theft. If you support copyright, then ownership of physical objects is theft.

Peter, your pedantic little rant fails.

I am merely pointing out that you are contradicting yourself. How you plan to fix the contradictions is up to you.

nate-m May 28, 2011 at 12:08 am

I repeat, do you celebrate your birthday or your moment of conception ?

I repeat:

It’s irrelevant. I don’t know why you even bring it up in the first place and the fact that you’ve repeated yourself is mystifying. It’s insanity.

When I celebrate a wedding anniversary is that the date when I first met my wife?

I have read the anti-abortion literature many times over and used to hold that view but I saw through it a long time ago.

Like I said before. You don’t know my arguments because you don’t bother asking. Instead you just attack and insult. I have faith that your capable of having a constructive discussion. It’s just going to take time to learn.

Pay attention to Zorg. Maybe you’ll learn something. BTW, I am effectively a anarchist. Maybe that will help.

Zorg May 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm

“His proforma disclaimer is totally contradicted by his profound moral argument.”

He said very clearly and purposefully that it was not a moral argument! You simply ignore his own words and then claim that you are right and he is wrong regarding his own points! You’re a freaking nut. Just because you are unable to make a distinction between morality and legality doesn’t mean that others suffer from that same gap in reason. And you calling him a liar doesn’t change his words to mean what you want them to mean just because you want it. Unbelievable.

Who cares what laws he attacked? It’s irrelevant precisely because of the distinction! Not that logic should matter to you, though. I attack laws against drug prohibition. That doesn’t mean I think its “moral” for people to abuse their bodies and minds and mess up their family lives with insane drug use! Does that cause a crisis for you, Einstein? Are you not able to grasp why that is? Let Google be your friend. Look up the word “distinction.” Maybe even read an article or two on morality vs legality. This may be new to you, having just discovered that distinctions exist and all, but I can assure you that people have been making use of distinctions for a long time in philosophy. It’s sort of what the whole thing is about. Strange, huh? Distinguishing one thing from another. I know it’s tough, but hang in there and perhaps you’ll one day be able to have a normal conversation with the humans.

Zorg May 27, 2011 at 10:16 pm

How the hell would I know if she had an abortion? How the hell do you? Oh, that’s right, some dead guy told you 40 years ago!

Daniel May 28, 2011 at 12:00 am

Zorg, let it go

Just accept the hilarity of a legal positivist objectivist =D

Sione May 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Gentlemen

Wow! That was a vigorous slap down! Why don’t you guys say what you are really thinking?

Seriously though, the rebuttal of Nathaniel was well made and worth reading. Solid points, economically and accurately delivered. I learned something new reading this. Thanks for clarifying some matters I’ve been thinking about lately.

Sione

Peter Surda June 1, 2011 at 8:26 am

I think some Nathaniel Branden Jr.’s posts made after my last post were deleted. Also, I regrettably do not have sufficient time to address them in detail. Therefore I will make it short: I believe his reactions did not address the points that I brought up, and he did not provide a coherent explanation of his position.

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