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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/3215/libertarians-against-theft-what-victorians/

Libertarians Against Theft: What Victorians!

February 24, 2005 by

In this Slate article the author discusses oral arguments over a “takings” case. What’s really ironic is that the author’s main point seems to be that libertarians are silly ideologues, when her own summary shows that there is clearly no guiding criteria in such cases except, “So long as the government is not obviously stealing someone’s property and giving it to a political crony, it’s OK.” (That’s my quote, but it’s close to one of the actual justice’s points.)

If a private developer used a few ruffians to intimidate people into selling their property for the purposes of a shopping mall, every “progressive” would tremble in horror. (I know because this was an actual episode of Knight Rider.) But when the developer gets the government to intimidate people with its thousands of armed agents for the exact same purpose, it’s all about helping depressed communities and creating jobs.


Nathan Shepperd February 24, 2005 at 6:21 am

There was also that thread of thought like “What’s good for government revenue is good for the community.” At least it sounded a bit like that.

Still, generally sad that these discussions happen at all in the courts. It’s just another one of those situations where government is attempting to “solve” a “problem” caused by many years of government intervention. It’s almost remarkable how every social “problem” is abstracted away from any influence government might have had on it.

gene berman February 24, 2005 at 6:45 am

Such occurrences might well have been what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he observed something to the effect that the “tree of liberty must be,” every now and then, “watered with the blood of tyrants.”

Curt Howland February 24, 2005 at 9:24 am

Gene, that Jefferson quote also includes the blood of patriots. That’s the hard part, of course, of which Carl Drega, Vicky Weaver and 86 people in Waco, Texas, have recently reminded us.

Brian Moore February 24, 2005 at 11:30 am

What exactly is the proper reference/footnote style for Knight Rider episodes? :)

That was an extremely confusing article. I have no idea if the author was sarcastically stating the parts about “public good.” If I had said it, it would have been mockery, but I can’t tell. Plus, the “he said,” “she said” narrative was fractured and hard to follow. Weird.

Michael A. Clem February 24, 2005 at 12:58 pm

[tongue firmly in cheek]But it CAN’T be theft if the government’s doing it![/tongue firmly in cheek] How obvious does this garbage have to be before people get it?

RPM February 24, 2005 at 1:21 pm

Part of the reason I took it to be mocking libertarians is that the Slate description for the article (from the main email page) was something like, “The Supreme Court case that has libertarians going nuts.”

zuzu February 24, 2005 at 6:40 pm

How obvious does this garbage have to be before people get it?

although curious to rational questioning individuals (such as probably most readers here), i suspect the problem lies orthogonal to obviousness: it lies with the psychology of legitimacy.

in a broadly anthropological sense, think of agrarian societies which demanded conformity and hierarchy for the sake of farm labor coordination; for example, the strong history of rice farming in japan belies its modern groupthink social structure.

in relatively modern sociology, i highly recommend an article by John W. Meyer and Brian Rowan titled ‘Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony’ in the american journal of sociology, vol.82 no.2, september 1977.

for anyone who has seen (or read?) ‘the shawshank redemption’, this can be summarized with the quote, “These walls are kind of funny. First you hate ‘em, then you get used to ‘em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized. They send you here for life, that’s exactly what they take. The part that counts, anyways.”

(oh wait, am i comparing rule of government to life in prison?)


p.s. re: idealogue; well that’s just plato’s cave all over again, no?

zuzu February 24, 2005 at 6:42 pm

er, not “belies”, um… “reveals”.

gene berman February 25, 2005 at 7:38 am


I’m not unaware of (nor overlooking) that portion–only hadn’t mentioned it because firstly, it takes more words and, secondly, it’s only their own blood spilled–or the threat of its
spilling–that impresses the tyrannical in any practical manner. Although I’m ordinarily a strict constructionist when it comes to constitutional matters, it’s been my belief (almost as long as I’ve been able to read) that the second amendment was deliberately written not only as the expression of one of the “unalienable” rights but as a clear (though veiled) perpetual threat to those placed temporarily in positions of power.

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