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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4801/does-the-state-resolve-or-create-conflict/

Does the State Resolve or Create Conflict?

March 16, 2006 by

Contrary to Radnitzky’s assertion, it is not difficult to imagine peaceful human cooperation without any collective decision-making. Indeed, “ordered anarchy” the very idea of such a social order. From the diversity of individual interests it does not follow that conflict is necessary. Conflict can be avoided, if only all goods are privately owned by specified individuals and it is always recognizable what belongs to whom and what not. The interests of different individuals may then be as divergent as can be, and yet no conflict arises, insofar as these interests are concerned exclusively with one’s own property. FULL ARTICLE

{ 78 comments }

Roger M March 16, 2006 at 9:01 am

“Conflict can be avoided, if only all goods are privately owned by specified individuals and it is always recognizable what belongs to whom and what not.”

That’s the $64 million questions, isn’t it? How do we convince everyone else that private property is a good thing and should be respected? Unfortunately, we Austrians are a very small minority. If Prof Hoppe is saying that a true libertarian society can exist only when the entire populace is Austrian, we’ll have a very long wait.

Ulrich Hobelmann March 16, 2006 at 9:30 am

Excellent argumentation. The idea (or rather necessity) of a property concept preceding any definition of contract, of coercion etc. is something that seems to be completely missing from most peoples’ minds, for whatever reason.

Albert Suckow March 16, 2006 at 9:35 am

If Prof Hoppe is saying that a true libertarian society can exist only when the entire populace is Austrian, we’ll have a very long wait.

I think Professor Hoppe was saying the recognizable ownership is necessary (but not sufficient) for avoiding conflict. Respect for private property need not be unanimous (else the Austrian view would be utopian), but the more widely accepted that view is, the better we can avoid conflict and violence.

Frank Z March 16, 2006 at 10:16 am

Is this the place for fundamental epistemological disputations?

gene berman March 16, 2006 at 10:17 am

I have the “gut” feeling that Dr. Hoppe is right in this matter, whether a more or less end-state of utopian anarchy is even possible or not.

As a matter of fact, although I believe all of the professor’s arguments are valid and the piece well and carefully written, in a certain sense “there is nothing new here” in that the argument is simply an extension of the original Misesian argument against all proponents of a “third way” solution. The problem for libertarians is not “where” to stand but “with whom” to stand because (as well as exactly what to stand for or against most strongly at any particular time) all steps in the desired direction (whether gradualistic or more abrupt) are essentially political, i.e., achievable only through political means (entailing compromise with those opposed, no matter whether through ignorance or deliberately self-interested).

The problem is not so much to purify doctrine among those familiar as to introduce it substantively to outsiders who already have their particular portion of intelligence, attention-span, etc. drawn in different directions by a cacaphony of competing appeals, including many deliberately and cleverly designed to confuse and obfuscate.

I don’t want to criticize Dr. Hoppe’s work as not being suitably tailored for a mass audience. I believe that it is important to address those in positions of intellectual leadership precisely because ideas are important. But what I don’t see in public discourse is any really significant inroad into widespread opinion as to the legitimacy (and supposedly, potentially beneficial role) of the apparatus of compulsion.

All that being said, I hope I’m wrong.

RH March 16, 2006 at 10:35 am

[QUOTE]
The appropriator of a previously un-appropriated good becomes its first proprietor (without conflict, because he is the first appropriator). And all property goes back, directly or indirectly, through a chain of mutually beneficial and hence likewise conflict-free property transfers to original appropriators and acts of appropriation.
[UNQUOTE]

Are we talking about a hypothetical world?

As long as I know, History of mankind is an endless sequence of examples of property conflicts, mostly land disputes, which generated uncountable wars – and still do it.

To which extent the current property “status quo” is a consequence of those historical conflicts, instead of mutual benefitial transfers?

I’d rather believe that the author’s statement is only true under “controlled” circumstances and a “perfect” free-market environment.

Any clarification on this essential subject?

Thanks,
RH (from Brazil).

Brian Drum March 16, 2006 at 10:54 am

RH,

If you reattach the first sentence of the paragraph from which the quote is taken:

Moreover, to avoid conflict from the very beginning on, it is only necessary that private property be founded by acts of original appropriation — through actions instead of mere words. The appropriator of a previously un-appropriated good becomes its first proprietor…

Dr. Hoppe is simply stating that in order to avoid conflict over scarce resources, property must be defined by acts of original appropriation and note mere words or declarations.

The current “status quo” as you say is the result of the rejection of the idea of original appropriation. So no, Hoppe is NOT stating that the current state of property in the world is the result of a chain of mutually beneficial and hence likewise conflict-free property transfers to original appropriators and acts of appropriation. In many ways it is the exact opposite.

Roger M March 16, 2006 at 10:55 am

RH, It is a hypothetical world, except for a handful of isolated incidents in history. If all that is required is consensus on private property, we have that in the US. The argument Prof Hoppe has with the US is that he thinks we should disband the gov and hire private companies to provide national defense. That might be a good idea, but itt seems to me that the improvement would be minor.

Radical Sceptic March 16, 2006 at 10:55 am

RH:

‘Are we talking about a hypothetical world?’

Well to be intellectually charitable I would assume that Hoppe is here talking about _justice_ in property acquisition and transfer. More or less the thory elaborated by Nozick in his Anarchy State and Utopia. Of course the vast majority of actual property title is strictly held unjustly according to this doctrine. Rothbard offered a solution to reconcile actual title with just title in his Ethics of Liberty.

Nevertheless there is much more to conflict than that over property. Non physical eternalities for a start for example a religious group who are not able to tolerate free speech by others. Simple propertarianism, as suggested above, is scarcely adequate to the task.

Allen Weingarten March 16, 2006 at 11:31 am

Generally, I agree with Dr. Hoppe’s views, so perhaps I fail to understand his position that there can be “peaceful human cooperation without any collective decision-making”. Consider 6 people in a lifeboat, with only room for 5. Suppose not all agree to draw straws (to throw someone overboard). One alternative is collective decision-making where say 5 decide that all draw straws; another is for everyone to fight it out, which could result in survival of the strongest, and perhaps far more deaths. It seems to me that Dr. Hoppe is opting for the latter.

The same holds for a wagon train surrounded by Indians. Given that not all members concur in an organized defense, do we forego collective action? Perhaps one would advocate having the 95%, who would defend against the Indians, do so without dealing with the 5% who do not. Yet the strategy for survival could require pushing aside the 5%, or violating their rights.

Survival is the essential justification for government (an agency of force). Given a choice between survival and upholding the rights of every individual, I choose the former, and presume that Dr. Hoppe would choose the latter. Yet once one survives he can be moral, and protect fights; otherwise he cannot do either.

The Crawling Chaos March 16, 2006 at 11:43 am

I opt for the latter.

Ulrich Hobelmann March 16, 2006 at 11:59 am

Well, if there is an attack (by Indians or whoever ;) ), then would you rather have everyone who cares fight back / defend, or would you rather spend resources on getting those who don’t care to give you money (i.e. steal from them), in hope that your defence will improve?

I don’t think anybody can learn anything useful from contrived situations like the ones you mentioned. In the lifeboat, maybe they *would* push somebody overboard, but a very short-lived, life-threatening situation isn’t something where you can afford to argue.

The core of an anarchist society is merely to make sure that coercion doesn’t happen in general (in the day-to-day state of peaceful normal life), and that it will be punished by society (maybe by outcasting the offender). And as most of us agree: there’s no halfway decent alternative, so there’s no point in discussing to death the situations where any form of society must fail, IMHO.

David J. Heinrich March 16, 2006 at 12:05 pm

Allen,

In the lifeboat scenario, there is a simple private property solution: (1) Whoever the owner of the lifeboat is, if he is on it, decides who stays or doesn’t; (2) If the owner isn’t on it, but had a policy on this kind of situation, follow that; (3) If the owner isn’t on the boat, and his policy for this situation is unknown, then places on the boat were homesteaded by the survivors. Because they could not all have gotten on the boat at the same time, the last person to have gotten on the boat is the one that doesn’t have the right to be there.

That, of course, assumes that the last person to have gotten on the boat wasn’t pushed or otherwise aggressed against by someone who got on earlier, so that they could get on before him. In the event that everyone was pushing everyone else to get on the boat, then it returns to the former case (last on has no right to be there).

Brian Drum March 16, 2006 at 12:10 pm

Radical Sceptic,

Nevertheless there is much more to conflict than that over property. Non physical eternalities for a start for example a religious group who are not able to tolerate free speech by others.

Where is the conflict? Intolerance doesn’t imply that there need be a confict. What’s wrong with some individuals choosing that they wish to have nothing to do with some other set of individuals? And yes these sort of issues are easily dealt with by what you refer to as “simple propertarianism”.

Where is the supposed conflict of intolerance occurring? It must be occuring in some physical location. Who owns the location? If the land is owned by a member of the intolerant group then why are the other individuals there in the first place? If they are there against the wishes of the owner they are trespassing which would be a violation of property right.

Or let’s say the land is owned by one of the intolerables. Surely he has every right to say what he wants on his own property. If members of the religous group come on to the property (i.e invade, trespass) and try to force him to shut his mouth, it is clear violation of property rights. It is a violation of the intolerable’s right to his land and also, if there is violence, a violation of his property right in his own person.

Where does the “simple propertarianism” fail?

Paul Edwards March 16, 2006 at 1:08 pm

Allen,

“Survival is the essential justification for government.”

I believe that Hoppe has shown via argumentation ethics that there is no such thing as justification for government (an agency of the of force).

Survival may be the essential pretext for government, but theoretically, and empirically, the opposite has been shown to be the case. Governments, much more so than private individuals, tend to kill you.

Paul Edwards March 16, 2006 at 1:09 pm

“(an agency of the of force)” should read (an agency of the _initiation_ of force).

Yancey Ward March 16, 2006 at 2:12 pm

I agree that conflict need not arise without a state, but, as others have pointed out, Hoppe’s reasoning, while impeccable, does seem to outline an entirely hypothetical world. Even if one obtains property by being the first to actually appropriate it, his/her continuance of ownership relies on the acceptance of this ownership by unaminous consent. Should one disagree and kill the original owner and his heirs and move in, then who is the rightful owner?

Brian Drum March 16, 2006 at 2:57 pm

Yancey,

I vaguely remember a discussion of this scenario (perhaps in Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty??) I think the solution offered in the case of an aggressor killing the original owner is that the original owner’s heirs would become the rightful owners. However, in your example you have also had the heirs offed. I think then one would still maintain that the aggressor is NOT the rightful owner since his claim is based on aggression. In this case the property would be unowned and title would come into existence once the property had be reappropriated by someone other than the aggressor. Note that this could in fact be the aggressor’s heirs. The heirs of the aggressor cannot be denied homesteading rights since they presumably had nothing to do with their ancestor’s initial aggression.

Brian Drum March 16, 2006 at 3:08 pm

Yancey,

For what it is worth I located the passage in Ethics of Liberty that discusses your situation. Text pages 56-58. (PDF page #s 98-100).

Full-text here.

Wild Pegasus March 16, 2006 at 3:09 pm

The several states already recognise private property and resolve conflicts among disputing claims when they arise. It doesn’t seem to have slowed the state down at all.

- Josh

steve March 16, 2006 at 3:39 pm

Collective decision making is another way to describe a criminal gang deciding on what to do with your property. Whether they are accompanied with state slogans or official uniforms is incidental.

Paul Edwards March 16, 2006 at 3:49 pm

Yancey,

“…as others have pointed out, Hoppe’s reasoning, while impeccable, does seem to outline an entirely hypothetical world.”

Good point. As Brian indicates some of the practical questions have been addressed. If any have not, they can be.

However, my further take on it is this: we must focus first on the principle, on what position is justified and consistent with nature, establish this, prove it, convince some people of it, and then, or in parallel, we can work out the practical details of how it might actually practically be implemented.

Hoppe is kind of at the stage of persuading people that “folks: theft and aggression are unjustified”. The principle is still in dispute in many people’s minds as long as they see merit in the state. When the principle is no longer so contentious, the practical consequences of obtaining its practical fruition will perhaps not seem so overwhelming either.

It’s like murder: it happens. But then, based on that fact, who’s going to advance the proposition that murder is therefore justified? What is, and what is justified must be kept distinct in an orderly fashion in our minds. If enough people get to that stage, I am convinced the details of implementation will be the relatively easy part.

tz March 16, 2006 at 5:22 pm

If there were no disagreements on what established or maintained ownership, there would be little conflict. If further there were no disagreements on who currently owned things, there would be almost no conflict. But we don’t so there is.

Also I don’t define a state as either a monopoly or an initiator of force. If force can only be legitimately used for immediate and proportional defense, the state’s realm only begins with restitution or retribution and even here it merely is the final arbiter, and only incidentally an enforcer (everyone likes vertical integration as being more efficent elsewhere). Generally this is where there is a larger amount of conflict – the squatter who claims the land was unallocated or abandoned v.s. the landowner that says he need do nothing to maintain plenary rights to what he said he allocated. In this case the “state” is the office that recognizes and approves of the claim to restitution which is binding on all parties (including third parties who might want to act on behalf of either party or simply interfere).

If something happens and someone is killed – accidentally or with intent? Is that for the survivors of the victim to decide or an independent and unbiased body? If the survivors kill the person who was responsible for the original death, can the survivors of that person kill the survivors of the original victim?

The problem seems to be that Hoppe seems to assume there will be a God instead of a government that will allow or prevent wrongful revenge, or alternately that we are all both psychic (so we always inflict the correct retribution on the correct person) and virtuous (so we don’t go farther in anger). And either will keep the barbarians away.

If we don’t have Occam’s razor available, we must hope for Solomon’s sword instead of someone else’s. And reasonable people will disagree. But someone’s version must prevail.

And we all must decide some things collectively. What is one ounce? If I give you a advoirporous ounce of gold when the price is one troy ounce will you simply pass it off to individuality? Ownership isn’t a platonic form. If you say everyone else does or must recognize your right to your property and your property, that “everyone else” is a collective all deciding unanimously. Collective decision making. But you want and hope for it in this case.

tz March 16, 2006 at 5:57 pm

But wouldn’t the title be better as, Does the state remove or resolve more conflict than it creates?

Not all individuals are rational, nor are they all good (in the moral sense). I can misuse my reason to think of ways to violate rights.

This is the same problem with the earlier treatise on taxation. Everything he says is true, but he hits STOP too early. If you describe just the problems with health-care delivery with lots of tragedies, and say you don’t want to discuss economics, you miss the point – yes such things are bad, but the market – plus charitable organizations – are better than a centrally controlled system. If you describe just the initial benefits of a credit expansion or inflation, they are all good. Then hit STOP and don’t discuss the longer term problems.

But I see the whole problem as one of good v.s. evil, and of the fallen condition of man. If you assume you will have demon possed people running around actively and stealthily trying to cause as much damage to their fellows as possible, I don’t think you can have a happy anarchy. The alternative is to have a possibility of having these same evildoers entering the governmental apparatus. Which is better, I can say I don’t know.

Generally the ancap discussion, including everything I’ve seen from Block, Hoppe, and many others (which I will admit is not comprehensive, but isn’t small) assume some automatic morality and/or a society of saints.

The founders of the US knew government was evil, yet they created one, and noted it was only for a moral people and wouldn’t work for anyone else. (Saddam or the Taliban might be an example for an immoral people). They also knew that when the people became greedy, or ambitious, or acquired any other vice, that any government would acquire and magnify that same vice.

Conversely, I haven’t seen, except for myself, that we should all move to Somalia, though Lew recently wrote a very positive piece. I don’t think it is paradise. But if it is a real anarchy, and everyone here loves liberty and thinks such things would actually work, there is your laboratory, experiment, proof you are right etc. With the internet, mises.org, lewrockwell.com and such can operate from there almost as easily. For all the talk about how everyone here loves liberty, and how there is a great example of a truly free place, I don’t understand why everyone hasn’t eloped.

Or maybe theory is much safer than the real world.

Paul Edwards March 16, 2006 at 6:43 pm

“If there were no disagreements on what established or maintained ownership, there would be little conflict. If further there were no disagreements on who currently owned things, there would be almost no conflict. But we don’t so there is.”

Private property and the libertarian ethic solve this in a practical fashion; the state necessarily exasperates this problem.

“Also I don’t define a state as either a monopoly or an initiator of force.”

As Hoppe states, we are free to form our own definitions. But why stray from the acknowledged correct definition? It just causes confusion.

“If force can only be legitimately used for immediate and proportional defense, the state’s realm only begins with restitution or retribution and even here it merely is the final arbiter, and only incidentally an enforcer (everyone likes vertical integration as being more efficent elsewhere).”

The state starts and ends with coercively enforcing its monopoly of jurisdiction over a specific territory, including a monopoly right to tax (steal) and initiate aggression against non-aggressors. It uses violence or the threat of violence to disallow competition in any market it chooses to monopolize, including the courts, protection, and defense. It does not allow secession or membership on a voluntary basis. It is the essence of the criminal organization with the one distinction that the public mistakenly grants it legitimacy.

“Generally this is where there is a larger amount of conflict – the squatter who claims the land was unallocated or abandoned v.s. the landowner that says he need do nothing to maintain plenary rights to what he said he allocated. In this case the “state” is the office that recognizes and approves of the claim to restitution which is binding on all parties (including third parties who might want to act on behalf of either party or simply interfere).”

You don’t need a state to provide adjudication in such disputes, or any other disputes. Insurance companies would likely take over that responsibility if they were free to compete in that market.

“If something happens and someone is killed – accidentally or with intent? Is that for the survivors of the victim to decide or an independent and unbiased body?”

Private insurance and judicial firms can be independent and unbiased. What inclines us to believe a criminal organization such as a state will be independent and unbiased?

“If the survivors kill the person who was responsible for the original death, can the survivors of that person kill the survivors of the original victim?”

Are you asking if a murderer’s relatives are justified in killing a victim for taking just retribution against the murderer? Nope. Can private courts figure out who the victim and who is the criminal better and execute justice better than state courts? Yup.

“The problem seems to be that Hoppe seems to assume there will be a God instead of a government that will allow or prevent wrongful revenge, or alternately that we are all both psychic (so we always inflict the correct retribution on the correct person) and virtuous (so we don’t go farther in anger). And either will keep the barbarians away.”

Nope. He has previously demonstrated that free markets can provide courts and protection better than a criminal state just as free markets demonstratably provide everything else better than the state.

“If we don’t have Occam’s razor available, we must hope for Solomon’s sword instead of someone else’s. And reasonable people will disagree. But someone’s version must prevail.”

Just as long as it isn’t the statist’s version that prevails.

“And we all must decide some things collectively. What is one ounce?”

Conventions can be decided by market activity. What is the size and shape of a credit card? Did we really need a state for businesses come up with the spec?

“If I give you a advoirporous ounce of gold when the price is one troy ounce will you simply pass it off to individuality?”

The market can figure out what the conversion factor is and apply it. Your objections to anarchy are getting very flimsy.

“Ownership isn’t a platonic form. If you say everyone else does or must recognize your right to your property and your property, that “everyone else” is a collective all deciding unanimously. Collective decision making. But you want and hope for it in this case.”

We start out arguing and proving that it is indisputably just and justifiable to recognize one’s right to property. We can do that without a consensus. If we live in a society that values justice, or even understands or is open to understanding it, we have a chance. Ideas are where it starts. We have to get used to recognizing valid propositions and presenting them to those with open minds.

Wallace Chan March 16, 2006 at 11:48 pm

Dear Sir:
As a scholar who is in favor of market oriented economy, with private property rights being well defined, I agree that government intervention should be minimized, especially in the area of income redistribution. On the other hand, government has still been quite successful in protecting private property rights in general: it helps to lower the transaction costs. While I admire the Austrian School for the insights, empirical study and history are two important pieces of evidence that should be referred to. Do we happen to have any country, successfully running, without any government existence?

Sincerely,
Wallace Chan
University of Hong Kong

Wallace Chan March 16, 2006 at 11:48 pm

As a scholar who is in favor of market oriented economy, with private property rights being well defined, I agree that government intervention should be minimized, especially in the area of income redistribution. On the other hand, government has still been quite successful in protecting private property rights in general: it helps to lower the transaction costs. While I admire the Austrian School for the insights, empirical study and history are two important pieces of evidence that should be referred to. Do we happen to have any country, successfully running, without any government existence?

Sincerely,
Wallace Chan
University of Hong Kong

Paul Edwards March 17, 2006 at 12:14 am

Wallace,

Every two weeks someone steals a percentage of my paycheck against my will. This thief gets away with my property, violating my property rights in the process. He doesn’t even have the decency to slink off into the darkness never to return, aware that he has acted criminally. Rather, each paycheck he returns, under the pretext that he is doing me a favor and repeats the crime. I have no ability to prevent this because he is part of a coercive cartel in the business of protection and justice. This is government. I think it fails to protect private property rights by violating them before it even really gets started.

I don’t know if Somalia qualifies as an answer to your question, but it is an interesting development. The key question to ask though is this: Is the nature of man such that he can avoid conflict via the institution of private property under anarchy and can free markets under anarchy provide a superior form of justice to that of the criminal state? I think the answer is necessarily yes. And I believe that is sufficient.

David Van Der Klauw March 17, 2006 at 12:41 am

When a new person is born onto the planet:

A) What portion of natural resources should he be given and how? (Note: all humans need land to live on and air to breath)

B) What portion of other people’s labour should he be given and how? (Note: all humans need care until they reach maturity)

Felix Benner March 17, 2006 at 2:59 am

Mr. Hoppe makes two assumptions for peaceful coexistence, namely the mutual agreement upon private property and the act of original appropriation. But the former is imposible without the latter. No majority of the people will respect private property if they percive the act of initial appropriation as unjust. But there can never be such an act percieved as just except for a majority vote with members of the minority against the appropriation coerced into accepting it, hence a state. If we take digging land and planting crops as initial act, then preserving the rainforest would be impossible because one can not claim onership of it without destroying it so one would have to pay 6 billion people for not claiming ownership. But as Hoppe noted simply claiming ownership and building a fence will not do.
So the complete setup stands and falls with there being or not being an act of original appropriation that is percieved as just by a vast majority of people. As long as this act has not been clearly defined the argument is in vain and anarchy is impossible.

steve March 17, 2006 at 6:09 am

“government has still been quite successful in protecting private property rights in general”

It sure has. Government has protected “its” private property right to take our property quite succesfully.

In an arnarco-cap society there will still be crime, but at least it will be honestly called crime and not the deception that passes for pro- government arguments.

Thomas Rudolf March 17, 2006 at 6:30 am

I agree with Hoppe, but nevertheless I hope that Radnitzkys work will be more often part of libertarian analysis on this website. Especially in Germany he was one of the greatest thinkers of liberalism (in the european sense).

Thomas Rudolf March 17, 2006 at 6:31 am

I agree with Hoppe, but nevertheless I hope that Radnitzkys work will be more often part of libertarian analysis on this website. Especially in Germany he was one of the greatest thinkers of liberalism (in the european sense).

Allen Weingarten March 17, 2006 at 8:17 am

Ulrich Hobelman asks ‘if there is an attack…would you rather have everyone who cares fight…or…spend resources on getting those who don’t care to give you money?’ The technical question as to how best to defend is left to the decision-makers (whom I view as the de facto government). They may insist that the gap in defense by a wagoner be closed, or that his explosives be confiscated, or that he be disregarded. *The point is not the best military tactic, but the principle for determining who should be the decision-maker.*
Next, he doubts that anything can be learned from such contrived situations. Yet simplified examples are meant to clarify the essence of an issue (and are certainly employed by economists). Here, the issue is survival versus morality. One can express this by use of actual examples, such as how America found it necessary to permit slavery, so as to ensure that the war could be fought, or how the rights of soldiers in the Continental Army were trampled. However that makes the discussion more difficult by bringing in many particulars that are in themselves problematic.
Finally, he addressed the “core of an anarchist society” which does not bear on the issue of survival versus morality.

David Heinrich writes that whoever the owner of the lifeboat is, decides who stays. OK, when a ship is sunk, and people get onto a lifeboat, who owns it? Or if they get onto a floating part of the ship, such as a masthead, who owns it? Perhaps it is the government if it is a military ship, or an industrialist if it is a civilian ship, or perhaps as Locke would put it, ownership goes to the first to acquire the property, or perhaps all boarded the object at about the same time. (As an aside, even on a ship clearly owned by an individual, were he to decide to sacrifice some passengers, he would be guilty of murder.) However, this is all irrelevant, for *at issue is given a pristine reality, on what basis does a group arrive at a decision regarding survival*. Property would not be an answer for the case of the wagon train, for if one wagoner (say Ward Churchill) decided to leave a gap that allowed entry to the Indians, the wagon would be his. Yet at issue is precisely whether to honor his property, or the lives of all.

Paul Edwards says “Hoppe has shown via argumentation ethics that there is no such thing as justification for government…” Yet in the case of the lifeboat and the wagon train, whether you call the decision-makers ‘government’ or not, the decision remains to be made. However one labels the decision-makers does not answer to the basis on which the decision should be made.
I concur that one can refer to the force of government as the power to initiate force, and that is what is done when the 6th person is forced to draw a straw, or when Ward Churchill’s wagon is confiscated. When America followed the Declaration of Independence, it initiated force against some of those who opposed it. That is the reality of government, and I presume that Paul would rather we had remained a colony of Britain.

As far as I can tell, these gentlemen take the position of ‘The Crawling Chaos’. Given a choice between survival and upholding rights, they “opt for the latter”. They will make Ward Churchill very happy.

Allen Weingarten

Paul Edwards March 17, 2006 at 10:54 am

Allen,

Defending one’s spot on a lifeboat is not the same as hoisting someone out of their spot on a lifeboat. One is defensive: you are justified in occupying the spot via the homesteading principle; you are not justified, as a late-comer in confiscating the spot by decree. Libertarian ethics merely says this: you are justified to defend your spot; you are not justified to forcefully remove someone from their spot.

Even (especially?) in such a difficult situation as this, it is plain to see that we do not need a coercive state with arbitrary legislative powers to employ coercion to obtain the correct ethical conclusion. It is the contrary. Only the consistent application of just ethics obtains the correct conclusion.

Paul Edwards March 17, 2006 at 11:35 am

Felix,

“Mr. Hoppe makes two assumptions for peaceful coexistence, namely the mutual agreement upon private property and the act of original appropriation.”

These are not mere assumptions, they are necessities. Adhering to the institution of private property and the principle of original appropriation is the _only_ possible way to avoid conflict. All other approaches necessarily lead to conflict, which especially includes the existence of a state and “public” property.

“But the former is imposible without the latter. No majority of the people will respect private property if they percive the act of initial appropriation as unjust.”

Justice is not merely a matter of perception. The outcome of collectivist greed and envy must be considered quite distinct from justice. One can completely justify an act of original appropriation of unowned land. One cannot justify, ever, a late-comer coercively appropriating land originally appropriated and already owned by another. The majority rule ethic is no ethic at all; it is a criminal fraud.

“But there can never be such an act percieved as just except for a majority vote with members of the minority against the appropriation coerced into accepting it, hence a state. If we take digging land and planting crops as initial act, then preserving the rainforest would be impossible because one can not claim onership of it without destroying it so one would have to pay 6 billion people for not claiming ownership. But as Hoppe noted simply claiming ownership and building a fence will not do.”

If the people who live over there want to plant crops and survive, we here are hardly justified to tell them they should not or cannot. People can force people to starve to death to preserve a rainforest, but they cannot ever be justified in doing so.

“So the complete setup stands and falls with there being or not being an act of original appropriation that is percieved as just by a vast majority of people. As long as this act has not been clearly defined the argument is in vain and anarchy is impossible.”

Just to emphasize, justice can be determined quite independently of any majority. I think we are all quite aware of how idiotic people can be when they form a mob or think from a collective perspective. Greed and envy and egalitarianism runs rampant and amok amongst collectivist minded people. Therefore, where there is no collective, no state, no institutionalized arm of coercion given legitimacy by the masses, there can be justice and peace.

Reactionary March 17, 2006 at 12:01 pm

“… I presume that Paul would rather we had remained a colony of Britain.”

Paradoxically, we may have ended up far freer. The abolition of hereditary monarchies has been an awful development. And you raise an interesting point: what if people are perfectly content with having a centralized state? Is it not then a violation of their rights to overthrow the government? (This also underscores the hopeless tangle that an atheistic rights-based analysis can only degenerate into.)

Also, the distinction Hoppe seeks to draw escapes me. Conflict is eternal and inevitable. To mitigate the effects of conflict, people select an arbitrator and endow him/her/it with power to enforce the award against the will of one or more of the parties. This can’t be done by competing arbitration agencies because if the decisions conflict, the sides must either go to war or one has to stand down. Either way, one agency will end up with the monopoly on arbitration and enforcement, whether it’s a Somali council of elders or a county judge.

Paul Edwards March 17, 2006 at 12:38 pm

Allen,

“When America followed the Declaration of Independence, it initiated force against some of those who opposed it.”

Do I come across as being against secession? I have not been clear at all then. Violent acts in defense against oppressive acts and coercion are quite justified. It is the coercion which is exercised by criminals and states that is not justified. To the extent that the patriots fought against invaders on their soil, they were justified. To the extent that they expropriated from or aggressed against those who had not aggressed against them, they acted just as any state does: unjustly.

Reactionary,

“…what if people are perfectly content with having a centralized state? Is it not then a violation of their rights to overthrow the government?”

You mean if ALL people are content? All is well as long it remains a voluntary, non-coercive relationship for all who submit to this state. But then it isn’t a state under this situation is it? It is a voluntary association that individual people can enter based upon the constraints of freely entered contractual and covenantal agreements.

Regarding this: “This [arbitration] can’t be done by competing arbitration agencies because if the decisions conflict, the sides must either go to war or one has to stand down. Either way, one agency will end up with the monopoly on arbitration and enforcement,”

So much has been written to address this, I’ll just say it has been answered. But note how you conclude: in the worst possible scenario, anarchy breaks down into a monopoly on arbitration and enforcement. And so you advocate what in its place? A monopoly on arbitration and enforcement?

Reactionary March 17, 2006 at 2:04 pm

Paul,

The entire course of human history appears to be people organizing themselves into communities with a single agency charged with arbitration of conflicts and maintenance of the public order. The reason for this is simple: competing arbitration/police agencies must either go to war or one has to stand down when their decisions conflict. This has been the outcome from English colonists to Iraqi clans to L.A. street gangs to Somali tribesmen. At bottom, there is really no substantive distinction between, say, a private, gated community owned and operated by Prof. Hoppe, and Franklin County, Tennessee.

The only tenable distinction which anarchists appear able to draw is that their model would allow dissenters to pick up their marbles and leave. At some point though, whether because of the scarcity of land or because of various externalities the competing groups may impose on each other, the process of secession will come to an end, with dissenters just having to resign themselves to disagreement with the majority over certain issues. The anarchist vision of a 100% consensual society is completely utopian.

Brian Drum March 17, 2006 at 2:31 pm

his [arbitration] can’t be done by competing arbitration agencies because if the decisions conflict, the sides must either go to war or one has to stand down. Either way, one agency will end up with the monopoly on arbitration and enforcement,

Why can’t the two agenices involved submit to arbitration to a 3rd party? Why wouldn’t there be specialized agencies/firms that dealt in resolving conflicts between primary arbitration agencies?

Reactionary March 17, 2006 at 2:41 pm

Brian,

The original disputants will just cut to the chase and start submitting conflicts to the third agency.

Felix Benner March 17, 2006 at 2:54 pm

To Paul Edwards:

“The majority rule ethic is no ethic at all; it is a criminal fraud.”

Ethics is not a question. The only ethics people have is their own self intrest. We have seen in Zimbabwe where the white owners of land have been robbed that private property stands and falls with the possibility to defend it. The occupants of the land wouldn’t have needed a state authority to allow them to take the land. If they are a majority they can just do what ever they want.

Let us assume the united states would give up all government leaving the defense of ones property to themselfs. The black population could now argue that since the land has been occupied by the whites by unjust means they had the right to take it by violence. If they are a majority strong enough to win a war or even if they only think they were, nobody could stop them.
Thus, very soon, their perception of justice indeed becomes your reality.

My argument is that since conflict can only be avoided by respecting private property then neccessarily private property has to be established in a way as to lead a majority of people to respect it So they can defend it against those who don’t. Otherwise conflict will arise that very moment that a large group of people realize that obtaining wealth by means of violence will be easier for them then by means of work and they find a rationalization for their crimes.

As to the argument of the rainforest. Consider a group of people that want to destroy the rainforest and live from it. Now if they would certainly die if they don’t than you are completely right. But if there are other means for them to live that are perhaps less comfortable then I am in a position to say: “I want the rainforest to exist therefore I pay you the loss you have when you go somewhere else.” But the very moment I do this I am actually paying for threating to destroy the rainforest and thus other people will come and try to receive money as well by threatening to destroy it and again and again … So this is no solution. The only solution would be for me to obtain ownership of the rainforest without destroying it. Again if there is no such possibility I will eventually gather a mob and drive out the people who threaten to destroy the rainfoest by violence because I rationalize that we have no other means to preserve nature and since nature is the basis of our lives the others are the real aggressors. Once this chain of thoughts is established again conflict becomes inevitable.

Therefore I claim that my argument still stands.

Brian Drum March 17, 2006 at 2:57 pm

How could they do that if the inter-agency arbitration firm does accept disputes directly? So are basically trying to say that conflict and war can only be prevented or the liklihood minimized if there is but one global monopoly of justice and dispute resolution?

Paul Edwards March 17, 2006 at 3:15 pm

Hi Reactionary,

Most of the history of the state prior to the advent of democracy was monarchy. Now, at any point up to and including the beginning of the rise of democracy some people could have argued and probably did, that the entire course of human history appeared to be organized into communities headed by monarchs and so democracy is not possible. But in hindsight, we can see such an argument would have been a little weak. The same applies today to the concept of libertarian anarchy.

I don’t think you are putting up any sound rebuttal to Hoppe other than the assertion that since it hasn’t been done, it can’t be done. Praxeology is an a priori science. Deductive logic in conjunction with the indisputable axioms at the base of praxeology lead to the indisputable conclusion that the institution of private property founded on the principle of homesteading is the only way to avoid conflict. We can all agree that we humans have not all yet absorbed this and taken the opportunity to benefit from this understanding, but that is no refutation of it.

The key question to ask when we want to determine if a proposition is utopian is this: for the idea to succeed, does it depend on us humans not actually being human? I think Hoppe has shown that the libertarian ethic: protection of private property does not depend on any utopian character of humans for it to succeed. It is in fact what we see every day when people cooperate with each other, form markets, and voluntary associations without coercion.

It is the state, in fact, that is unnatural, and against the nature of man. To think that handing a small group of men power to tax and coerce and monopolize will not enhance the likelihood of conflict is brutally utopian. And it is why history is so full of instances where millions have been murdered and tyrannized by the state. It’s a criminal institution; it follows naturally that it behaves criminally.

Reactionary March 17, 2006 at 3:34 pm

Paul,

I am not necessarily arguing for the state. Rather, I am arguing that it is impossible to maintain a 100% consensual society. People do not maintain competing codes of conduct because to do so is unnatural–or more accurately, inefficient–whether in the context of a country club or a country. At the end of the day, the community has to have the ability to evict or punish members in order to maintain its integrity. Inevitably, this is going to be done against somebody’s wishes.

I agree that most governments are essentially criminal enterprises. However, all other things being equal (such as the ability to opt out), I really don’t see the difference between paying taxes and paying HOA fees or insurance premiums. And with respect to “opting out,” again, the process of secession must unfortunately end at some point unless you can find some way to completely autarchic.

Brian Drum March 17, 2006 at 3:51 pm

A private property anarchy as described by Hoppe in no way implies a “100% consentual society”. Hoppe advocates a 100% contractual society. If two parties enter into a contract and one of them breaks the conditions previously agreed upon, the consent of the contract-breaker is not required to seek justice.

A 100% consensual society would imply that such absurdities such as requiring the consent of a rapist before he could be punished, etc. No one here is arguing that such consent would be necessary.

Paul Edwards March 17, 2006 at 4:12 pm

Hi Felix,

I may be taking on a point here that i’m just not following you on, but on the face of it, your comment “Ethics is not a question” strikes me as incorrect. Ethics is _the_ question. What are the justifiable norms that can eliminate conflict given the fact of scarcity? That’s our topic.

“Let us assume the united states would give up all government leaving the defense of ones property to themselfs.”

OK, let’s. But let’s also assume that the market does what it always does: fills a need. Some people will buy machine guns and RPGs to defend their homes and neighborhoods, and some will buy and sell this kind of insurance and police protection. It will be a free market and people will be free to choose their approach and to combine approaches.

“The black population could now argue that since the land has been occupied by the whites by unjust means they had the right to take it by violence.”

They could argue it, but they’d have to have some legal justification behind their argument to win their case in court, which they would need to do if they wanted the courts and police to support their cause. (I’m assuming your scenario assumes they have no such case.)

“If they are a majority strong enough to win a war or even if they only think they were, nobody could stop them.”

This does demonstrate the ethical bankruptcy of majority rule, but your point is their numbers would give them the needed advantage. Actually I dispute this though. The economic and defensive power of the combined private insurance, protection and defense industry will be overwhelming to any such attack. Aggressors will at the same time find their own insurance and legal protection will evaporate and their very existence will become a very tenuous thing. It won’t pay to aggress.

“Thus, very soon, their perception of justice indeed becomes your reality.”

You mean things get democratic? It is a scary thought I agree. But we have democracy today and reality is scary.

“My argument is that since conflict can only be avoided by respecting private property then neccessarily private property has to be established in a way as to lead a majority of people to respect it”

People will respect private property on an individual basis. It’s natural to do so. Only the criminally minded don’t. It is when you collectivize their thinking and tell them, hey you all voted to expropriate joe schmuck so we’ve got the go-ahead to do it; then people ignore ethical considerations. They do this in a democratic mob style way. Anarchy brings us back to individual ethics and away from mob rule.

“So they can defend it against those who don’t. Otherwise conflict will arise that very moment that a large group of people realize that obtaining wealth by means of violence will be easier for them then by means of work and they find a rationalization for their crimes.”

I’m not clear on this statement. It sounds like you may be describing the flaws in democracy.

“As to the argument of the rainforest. Consider a group of people that want to destroy the rainforest and live from it. Now if they would certainly die if they don’t than you are completely right. But if there are other means for them to live that are perhaps less comfortable then I am in a position to say:”

I would argue that someone over there is as justified to cut out a patch of forest and make a pleasant life for himself as you are justified to drive a gas guzzling Ford truck and live in a nice house that you paid for over here. That is: perfectly justified. That you wouldn’t die if I took your vehicle away from you and your nice house, does not justify my aggression.

“I want the rainforest to exist therefore I pay you the loss you have when you go somewhere else.” But the very moment I do this I am actually paying for threating to destroy the rainforest and thus other people will come and try to receive money as well by threatening to destroy it and again and again … So this is no solution.”

No solution, I agree.

“The only solution would be for me to obtain ownership of the rainforest without destroying it. Again if there is no such possibility I will eventually gather a mob and drive out the people who threaten to destroy the rainfoest by violence because I rationalize that we have no other means to preserve nature and since nature is the basis of our lives the others are the real aggressors.”

You will certainly be able to argue this. But you will be unable to justify it, for certainly, at least one of your premises is faulty, that people who appropriate the rainforest and cultivate it will cause direct harm to you. Perhaps first, people with such concerns should consider that they could sell their nice cars and nice houses and pool their funds with like-minded people, and buy large plots of land on their own continent and grow trees on them there. But this won’t occur to people who are disinterested in imposing their ideals on themselves, but only on others especially in far away lands. And for such undertakings, I agree, the state does come in handy.

Reactionary March 17, 2006 at 4:19 pm

Brian,

This gets back to my original point. What, really, is the distinction between Hoppeville, with its “contractual covenants,” and Auburn, Alabama, with its legal codes? In either place, you are going to have a code of conduct applicable to all residents and enforced by an agency tasked with arbitrating criminal and civil disputes and maintaining public order.

Paul Edwards March 17, 2006 at 4:38 pm

Hi Reactionary,

Between you and Felix and Brian and me, this is reminding me of the old tv tag-team wrestling! I’m exhausted. But it’s a good discussion.

“…all other things being equal (such as the ability to opt out), I really don’t see the difference between paying taxes and paying HOA fees or insurance premiums.”

I agree with you vehemently! If taxes were voluntary then the state would essentially be a private insurance company; A very corrupt and bankrupt insurance company, diversified into several fraudulent and criminal ventures, but yes definitely quite a different animal to a state. Its demise under the optional enrolment scenario would take about one hour.

I view secession from a protection/insurance/judicial supplier under anarchy as simple as it presently is to change over from one insurance company to another. One insurance company, eager for your business also helps you as much as it can to make the transition.

Felix Benner March 17, 2006 at 11:55 pm

“You mean things get democratic? It is a scary thought I agree. But we have democracy today and reality is scary.”

Yes, that is exactly the point I haven’t thought about. While in anarchy people could take things by violence in a democracy they can take it by voting and of course voting is easier than war and majorities are gathered more easily.
Therefore I rest my case. Thank you.

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