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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5408/immorality-inc/

Immorality, Inc.

July 31, 2006 by

If the Devil had an evangelist, writes Lew Rockwell, its name would be war. War promotes the view that only suckers fall for moral precepts, that human life is neither here nor there, that private property is nothing more than what you can grab and keep. The Iraqis have been fine students of the moral nihilism unleashed by the US government’s war on Iraq. FULL ARTICLE

{ 49 comments }

Ulrich Hobelmann July 31, 2006 at 7:44 am

Incredibly sad, but only too true…

And the worst of all is that the masses play the game, that they endorse (if not actively, at least passively, by endorsing Presidents that aren’t anti-war) the situation.

Reminds me a bit of ’30s Germany.

Roger M July 31, 2006 at 8:48 am

“Who or what taught the Iraqi people that crime pays, that violence is a tolerable mode of behavior, that rules of social engagement are bunk, that human life has no inherent value?”

This statement portrays the core problem with anarchism. Rockwell, and anarchists, assume that people are born innocent and will remain innocent if left alone. Only horrible oppression makes them turn to evil. This is the main assumption of Marxism, by the way, and all forms of social engineering. The only difference between anarchists and Marxists is the oppressor each chooses to blame. Marism chooses to blame the capitalist system, anarchism the state. Both are versions of determinism which says man has no free will; all of his actions are determined by society. This all seems very contradictory of the spirit of Mises and his theories of human action.

Anyone who has lived in the Middle East, as I have, knows that respect for human life is low everywhere. Crime and corruption are rampant and always have been. The freedom given the Iraqis after the US invasion merely set free hatreds and violence that had festered for centuries in the area and which Hussein kept in check with his own brutality.

This is a very shallow analysis of the situation in Iraq and is based on shameless ignorance of the history and culture of the region.

TGGP July 31, 2006 at 11:21 am

A scorpion wants to cross the Euphrates but he can’t swim. So, he asks a frog to carry him across.

The frog replies, “But you’ll sting me with your paralyzing venom and then I’ll drown.”

The scorpion replies, “But then I’d drown too, so obviously I wouldn’t do it.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Okay, hop on.”

They get to the deepest part of the Euphrates, where the scorpion stings the frog. As the frog freezes up, he croaks out, “But we’ll both drown! Why did you do it?”

The scorpion replies just before he sinks, “Because it’s Iraq.”

Paul Pennyfeather July 31, 2006 at 11:27 am

I think Mr. Rockwell is on target, for the most part. However, the assertion that Iraq learned its barbarous ways from the U.S. (or the U.S. invasion) is only partially true. Yes, bombs make people forget the rudimentary rules of civized conduct (in New Orleans as well as Bagdad), but all the ingredients for savagery were their long before we invaded.

It is not so much that property rights are threatened by the current war (though this is certainly true), but that the lack of property rights is one of the reasons that violence and savage behavior persists in these countries.

The people of Haifa, Israel have been bombarded with over a thousand bombs during this current conflict, yet there I have seen nothing in the U.S. or Israeli media to suggest rampant violence.

The best defense against what Mr. Rockwell rightly deplores — the savagery that accompanies a savage war — is property rights and the rule of law. Only one country in the Middle East has these things to any degree: Israel.

We’d be better off, I think, if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq (there are some Iraqis who would not be better off), but the barbarism of the Middle East would not be substantially different. Still, Mr. Rockwell makes many fine points in his piece, each well worth remembering as we slide to regional war in the Middle East.

Vince Daliessio July 31, 2006 at 12:15 pm

Paul Pennyfeather said;

“The best defense against…the savagery that accompanies a savage war…is property rights and the rule of law. Only one country in the Middle East has these things to any degree: Israel.”

Not to be too argumentative Paul, but the modern state of Israel was created by England and the UN by force. The government, whatever its classical liberal pretensions, is a theocratic state that does not treat Jews and Arabs equally. Property long held by Arabs and their ancestors was stolen from them without compensation.

For these reasons alone, one can discount any liberal value the government of Israel brings to the Middle East.

Nick Bradley July 31, 2006 at 12:19 pm

Mr. Rockwell,

You made the claim that the moral nihilism of Iraq

“…began with ten years of cruel trade sanctions designed to drive the whole population into sickness and grinding poverty, and then culminated in the ‘shock and awe’ war than rained mass destruction on their cities and large population centers. It was war that unleashed Hell.”

So, 40 years living under Baathist Fascism had NOTHING to do with creating the moral nihilism that we see today in Iraq? Two entire generations growing up in a socialist state, where you can be randomly executed on the street for no reason, or fed into a wood chipper, wasn’t the cause of this nihilism you speak of? I hate to throw out the Nazi analogy, but Baathist Iraq was very similar to Nazi Germany in economic and political design (it’s no coincidence that Saddam’s Uncle/father-in-law was a ringleader in the botched Nazi coup of 1941).

You see similar problems in Russia. During 80 years of Communism, the population lost their ability to make economic calculations. After communism’s collapse, we did not see the emergence of the free-market there, but rather the emergence of thievery, banditry, and violence, the hallmarks of the state. Also witness the sad moral state of Russia today (if it wasn’t for the resurgence of the Orthodox Church, it would be far worse).

Vince Daliessio July 31, 2006 at 12:23 pm

Roger M said;

“Rockwell, and anarchists, assume that people are born innocent and will remain innocent if left alone. Only horrible oppression makes them turn to evil.”

I think this is an incorrect reading of both the piece and anarchism in general.

Since it seems to have a bad resonance with some people, take the word “anarchism” out of it. Replace it with liberty. Restate the premise;

“Under liberty, everyone owns himself and his justly-aquired property. The only crime, under liberty, is to take, aggress against, or otherwise initiate force against a person’s life, liberty, or property.”

The only reason we live do not live under liberty is that government arrogates to itself the right to violate liberty. Under liberty, aggressors violate rights and are punished; without liberty, govermnent is free to aggress without consequence.

Eric July 31, 2006 at 12:27 pm

I believe the situation in Iraq is the image most Americans have of anarchy. They believe that if we had no central government, it would result in the lawlessness seen in Iraq..

I remember how quickly LA descended into chaos after the Rodney King verdict. It was nothing near the scale of what is going on in Iraq, to be sure. But it does demonstrate how thin the veneer of morality is even in America, where with the slightest absence of governmental force, we too could become like the Iraqis. Who knows what might have resulted if the situation lasted more than a few weeks.

I think this explains a good deal of why libertarianism is not taken seriously by most Americans. This problem will have to be addressed somehow or we will never see freedom in America grow. Lew has stated that politics is not the answer, rather that it is education that will set us free. Well, he and other libertarians will have to overcome beliefs shared by Ulrich and Roger before libertarianism will take root instead of merely being dismissed as some insignificant weed found hidden in some far off field.

Nick Bradley July 31, 2006 at 12:31 pm

Vince Daliessio,

First of all, how can Israel be a theocratic state when the overwhelming bloc of its polulace is secular. Israel is an ethnically-Jewish state, not necessarily a religiously-Jewish state. Furthermore, claims that Israel stole the land is complete B.S. The Brits established a Palestinian state in 1923, TRANSJORDAN. Segregation is the only peaceful way to settle the issue in an ethnically-mixed area. Arabs states now use the plight of Palestinians as a battering ram against the Jewish state.

It’s quite hypocritical for Arab states to cry about the plight of Palestinians when they have been in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia for DECADES! In Lebanon, Palestinians are barred from working in over 73 Job categories.

Ulrich Hobelmann July 31, 2006 at 1:29 pm

Eric, I’m not sure what beliefs you read in my post.

I don’t think that liberty can’t work, or that we need government. I believe that somebody needs to hold up law and order (obviously), but I believe that that someone shouldn’t be government, because we all know the bad parts of that one (and see them in Iraq too).

Education is crucial; education that there are universal rights for every human being, no matter what any (democratic, autocratic) government claims otherwise; and education, that people therefore have any right to defend themselves, and that it’s therefore immoral and wrong to put your own police force there that doesn’t know anything about the local culture, and that brings its own problems.

If anything, it’d be ok to help defend local minorities against aggressive armed groups. But mostly these armed groups are the *product* of government (see Africa and where they get many of their arms from).

Roger M July 31, 2006 at 1:43 pm

Rockwell clearly assumes that Iraqis had higher morals before the US invasion than afterwards and that the invasion made their morals worse. No libertarian that I know of clearly states their assumptions about the free will of mankind, but from reading this article and combining it with others I’ve read, I can only assume that they believe that the state corrupts innocent people and that if the state were to suddenly disappear, most people would suddenly become very moral people.

I think Mises would agree that the moral choices people make come from causes that few of us could understand, but every man chooses for himself. It’s more likely that the lack of government following the invasion gave criminals a rare opportunity to act on evil that they had been planning for a long time.

Roger M July 31, 2006 at 1:45 pm

Anyone who wants to get a feel for the morality of the Middle East should visit http://www.MEMRI.org.

Curt Howland July 31, 2006 at 2:20 pm

Eric, the chaos in Iraq is what Americans have been _taught_ is the result of an-archy.

The shop owners in Los Angeles who peacefully defended their stores and their customers while the police abandoned the city to the rioters, were islands of order. No one looted their businesses, no one hassled their customers, the rioters went elsewhere.

It requires government to create chaos, because only government can violate people with impunity. The issue is not how many bombs have been dropped, the issue is why can someone drop a bomb (or order it dropped) and not be prosecuted for murder? Because that person operates in a governmet which is immune from the rules the rest of us live by.

An-archy is not chaos. People without government coercion do not instantly revert to the Hobsian war of all against all, as the aftermath of any hurricane or power failure aught to teach you. People come together to peacefully cooperate in order to survive better than they would alone. That is called “the division of labor”, and it is the core reason for peace.

JIMB July 31, 2006 at 3:17 pm

I think the recent issues in the Middle East are going to test the “anarcho-libertarian” theories pretty harshly. I think there are severe problems with the idea “have economic axioms will travel”.

The scope of libertarian theory (not having a metaphysics) is severely inadequate, yet it presumes to be an authority in all sorts of matters, such as “interpretation of history” and the “just war theories”, and ongoing political commentary.

And of course a consistent and important issue, which is persistently ignored is the problem of human sin, and the fact that evil changes what is accepted as evidence and even what is perceived (and pride protects the new perception against conviction), so that true morality (much broader than the limited libertarian definition of morality) is as important as “economic axioms” … after all we can argue ad-infinitum about “evolution vs. creation” but if the real issue is that the professor wants to sleep with his students, we aren’t going anywhere.

Historical analysis suffers from this shortcoming – such as Rothbard’s assertion that the U.S. was the aggressor against the Soviet Union, as if the sacrifice of tens of millions of Soviet citizens isn’t enough proof enough alone and by itself that the Soviet rulership had no rightful just authority whatsoever and thus any “aggression” (even if forthcoming) by the U.S. is completely and wholly justified as long as preservation of life is really the long-term goal.

And of course there’s the moral-equivalence problem in which violence in protection of non-concrete (but morally essential) cases, such as teenage seduction – is held to be inoperable.

After all, if violence is the only evil then suddenly all sorts of avenues open up for expansion of evil by tying the hands of good people, and of course in the end – evil will commit violence with abandon. It’s like arming one’s enemies. Teach grade-school kids any sort of perversity or immorality? Hey — it’s not violent is it?

It used to be a lot different. It used to be “you talk to my daughter that way again and I’ll get my shotgun” rather than “any minor can emancipate themselves”.

And of course Hoppean social contracts are unenforceable against a determined foe, except with violence. So we come finally to “limited government conservatism” which, apart from the oxymoron of it’s current adherents, is really the only alternative. It certainly could use a different label.

JIMB July 31, 2006 at 3:20 pm

The name is anarchy, Lew.

“There is a name for a country where there is no security, freedom, or justice, and where criminality is woven into the fabric of everyday life: moral nihilism. “

Brian Drum July 31, 2006 at 3:34 pm

Hey Jim,

Did it ever cross your mind that maybe your teenage daughter wants to be a slut? When did you come to own your daughter?

Volunary sex acts = bad and human beings as property = good. Am I following you correctly?

You say that violence is required in “non-concrete(but morally essential)” cases? Would you care to define what makes something morally essential?

Manuel Lora July 31, 2006 at 3:46 pm

Anarchy means no state. It does not mean that justice or security would also be absent. If suddenly the state were to go away, would you become a moral nihilist? On the contrary, because of the ethics of non-aggression, the state must go.

Roger M July 31, 2006 at 4:55 pm

Are the numerous militias in Iraq the equivalent to the private law enforcement agencies of libertarianism?

Nick Bradley July 31, 2006 at 6:59 pm

Roger M,

“Are the numerous militias in Iraq the equivalent to the private law enforcement agencies of libertarianism?”

It depends on the militia. If they are interested in protecting the peace, providing rudimentary medical care and social services for a little profit, then yes (as some there do).

However, if the militia’s goal is to secure power within the state apparatus, such as Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, then no.

You see a similar situation in Somalia, where recently an Islamist militia seized Mogadishu and established a government. Tribal militias in Somalia, on the other hand, provide security and have no interest in establishing a govt.

Daniel M. Ryan July 31, 2006 at 7:22 pm

One point Mr. Rockwell made is that the United States has in fact stirred up a lot of street-level aggression and, by doing so, has at least failed to prevent more aggression in the Middle East whose pretext is the U.S.’s own incursions.

How many bodies went down in Iraq while Saddam Hussein was in the U.S.’s good books? I’m not trying to insinuate that the U.S. was complicit in those murders; such an attitude is the source of the “idealistic” justification for the ’03 invasion of Iraq. What I am trying to imply is that Saddam could have credibly portrayed himself as having the U.S. “on his side” while conducting State-implemented mass murders back in the early and mid-’80s. It isn’t just U.S. citizens who wrap themselves in the U.S. flag.

In answer to RogerM’s question: if those Iraqi militias were the equivalent of private law-enforcement agencies, then the LvMI would be selling a lot of copies of For A New Liberty in Iraq. Since anarcho-capitalist thought has had no discernible influence at all there, it is more plausible to assume that those militia gangs simply want to become tyrants themselves and have no interest at all in private law enforcement; they don’t even have any interest in pretending to be seen as, or in holding themselves up as, anarcho-capitalist private protection agencies. People are moved by beliefs, and both proclaim and propogate their beliefs when they are strong and/or unthreatened enough to do so; those militia gangs quite evidently have that strength as of now – and they ain’t wearing Rothbard T-shirts.

Renato Drumond August 1, 2006 at 8:18 am

No line about Islam? No line about suicidal attacks?

Roger M August 1, 2006 at 8:27 am

“One point Mr. Rockwell made is that the United States has in fact stirred up a lot of street-level aggression…”

It’s odd that if the US stirred up the anger, Iraqis are attacking each other instead of the US.

Curt Howland August 1, 2006 at 12:30 pm

Roger, not if the purpose of the fighting is, like in the Somali example above, to gain coercive power for one group over another.

Chaos follows the imposition of a government, because each gang sees an opportunity to either gain “legitimate” coercive power over others, or to pre-empt that same power grab by another group.

Without the imposed centralization of power, there is nothing to fight over. Governments create chaos.

Roger M August 1, 2006 at 12:43 pm

“Without the imposed centralization of power, there is nothing to fight over. Governments create chaos.”

Actually, without the desire to impose centralized power, there would be no fighting. But that’s the $64 million question, isn’t it? How do you persuade people to quit fighting to impose their power over others, or failing that, how do you stop those who refuse to be persuaded. Given human nature as it is, can you have a nation of say 20 million people and have no group trying to impose its rule over the rest? I don’t think so. So how do you prevent such groups from succeeding?

Nick Bradley August 1, 2006 at 12:59 pm

Roger M,

The best solution is to have a highly decentralized state, such as the US under the Articles of Confederation, the Swiss Cantonal system, etc. Once such a state is established, local units can achieve anarcho-capitalism, IMHO.

A CATO paper was written about a decade ago advocating what the author called “Reverse Revenue Sharing”. Under such a system, The Federal Government can only raise revenue by imposing a flat tax on state treasuries. This discourages revenue collection by the states and incentivizes private solution to so-called “public goods”.

For example, a state/province is much better off letting the private sector build a highway system then trying to build it with public funds after the Feds take their 20% cut, for example.

What if this model was adopted by state/provincial governments? What if they could only raise revenue by taxing county treasuries?

If a county decided to not raise any revenue, we could see the emergence of an anarchocapitalist county within a state system. Other counties would be minarchist, etc. etc.

And then what if the county treasuries could only raise revenue by taxing the cities? And then the cities could only tax the precincts, and the precincts could only tax the citizens themselves?

Quite an interesting thought experiment indeed…

JIMB August 1, 2006 at 4:57 pm

Brian – Use your imagination for non-concrete morally essential actions which don’t fit the libertarian paradigm: for instance the prohibition on building nukes in your backyard, laws against abandoning your children, etc.

As far as teenage seduction, you’re going to have to show, by reasonable argument, what nearly everyone knows is false: that younger teens are fully capable of fielding advances by older people, and have the mental capacity (even if unexercised) to make informed choices, instead of driven between the stages of independence, dependence, and temporary insanity. Good luck.

Of course the criticism of libertarian theory is far broader than this. It’s (partially) a red herring to say the state is the problem – because it’s man’s corruption, i.e. sin that is the problem. Human evil cannot be defined away by theorizing about “stateless societies”, or committing the ever-present fallacy of “unknowable things”; namely that if there was zero American intervention, things would be much better across-the-board. Clearly there are other forces at work. Many arguments simply select the evidence for the desired outcome (the problems with “have axioms will travel” when the axioms do not cover the territory of the situation).

There regrettably seems no end to the criticism of policy now and exercise of the imagination at the endpoint, but (almost?) no real work done on the practical steps to get us to this libertarian nirvana. It’s belies a cynicism that is monumental: i.e. the situation is so hopeless our time is best spent hacking up current stupid policies.

quincunx August 1, 2006 at 9:14 pm

JIMB,

It’s a good thing there are laws to prevent me from building nukes in my backyard, if it wasn’t in print, I would obviously have an easy time acquiring all the parts I need at bargain basement prices, right?

“laws against abandoning your children, etc.”

It’s a good thing that is codified in law as well, because no one would obviously come to the aid of the child, and seek restitution (punishment, etc.) on their behalf.

“As far as teenage seduction, you’re going to have to show, by reasonable argument, what nearly everyone knows is false: that younger teens are fully capable of fielding advances by older people, and have the mental capacity (even if unexercised) to make informed choices, instead of driven between the stages of independence, dependence, and temporary insanity. Good luck.”

Well certainly this applies to non-teenage girls as well, so tell me JIMB, where are you keeping these people? Are there skeletons in your closet?

“no real work done on the practical steps to get us to this libertarian nirvana.”

It’s those pesky anti-nuke laws.

“the situation is so hopeless our time is best spent hacking up current stupid policies.”

Which will just get us nothing but the same. I’m sorry, but if you can’t make the full jump to freedom, then quit wasting your time and energy on futile adventures that just perpetuate the need for other likewise intelligent people to do the same thing ad nauseum.

TGGP August 1, 2006 at 9:35 pm

Here’s a post from the Volokh Conspiracy some might find interesting, with regards to both economics and violence in the Middle East. But with regards to stolen land, who doesn’t live on that? Everyone’s great-great-so-on-grandfather killed someone else’s great-great… and took their land. Injustices done in the past are hard to find documentation of with the exception of the most recent, and rectifying them is damn near impossible. I think we should focus on how to best live our lives now. But I suppose I’m a weeny libertarian fan of non-aggression and mutually beneficial market activity in a world full of zero & negative summers that don’t wear Rothbard t-shirts, right?

A lot of libertarians like to blame everything on the state. It makes you wonder why states exist and are so universal.

JIMB August 1, 2006 at 11:36 pm

Quincunx – You’ve have no legal libertarian grounds for seeking restitution in case of rescuing a child that had been abandoned: once you discard the right of the child to care by another by the use of force, you discard any action after-the-fact as well.

You’d be hard pressed to show that most adults do not “have the mental capacity (even if unexercised) to make informed choices” — they of course DO. That is the difference between a child and an adult. An adult may choose to act stupidly, but they do so by denial of reality rather than incapacity (genuine incapacity is, or borders on, insanity). There’s a presumption of maturity and capacity as well as social pressure to arrive at such a state at a certain age, which is largely wholesome and correct. Thrusting younger people into age-inappropriate situations under the guise of “emancipation” from their parents (when in fact their parents are more likely to make good decisions for them – provided we don’t have complete traditional family disintegration) I think is ridiculous. In fact, when children are in question, the family, not the individual, is the atomic basis of society, because children have to be raised and are best raised in a free society (nix the child selling and buying as proposed by Rothbard) by those that they are related to. I find nothing whatsoever likeable in the libertarian position for children (even insofar as to legalize incest between “consenting adults” – imagine the insecurity of maturing females once that taboo is broken down) and of course to (logically) refer to the unborn as “invaders” or “cancers” which impinge on personal freedom. Just what is left if children are treated this way?

The “Full Jump to Freedom” is to realize that morality is broader than posited by libertarian theory, critically important to social function and future generations, and the Judeo-Christian approach to it is more fully consonant with continued freedom than is any other. In other words, the foundation of freedom is as much “balance of power” and “liberty for individual action” as it is “God first” and personal submission to virtuous living.

It’s a fiction that we can go down the “nonviolent” road, destroy morality outside the sphere of violent action (i.e. prevent state action against all non-violent evil), and somehow avoid the violent outcome. It would be a disaster.

Frankly, I’d suggest you not get sucked into believing 1/3 of the universe is the whole thing, no matter how attractively “consistent” it might look.

Paul Edwards August 2, 2006 at 1:12 am

“You’ve have no legal libertarian grounds for seeking restitution in case of rescuing a child that had been abandoned:”

JIMB, are you saying that the child really has no right to restitution from the abandoning parents? Or your understanding of libertarian theory is that this is the case. Or is this your understanding of the view of prominent members of the libertarian movement on this question.

Let me run past you my position based:

1. If by your action, intentional, accidental, or negligent, you put a person in a position where his life depends on you, you have put yourself in a position where you owe this person your assistance, where withholding this assistance could be criminal.

2. Examples of such situations are

a. Inviting someone on your plane implies not having the right to dump him to his death at 30,000 feet.

b. Knocking someone off a dock into the water when he cannot swim implies you must put sincere effort into saving his life.

c. Bringing a child into this world implies obligating one’s self to providing proper parenting or finding someone who will provide proper parenting.

3. In such cases, the victim has the right to seek restitution for the aggressor’s actions, or lack of actions that causes harm to the victim.

Therefore, according to my theory of justice, a child definitely does have a libertarian legal grounds for seeking damages against parents for failure to live up to legal responsibilities that they have obligated themselves to.

“once you discard the right of the child to care by another by the use of force, you discard any action after-the-fact as well.”

So I think this may be what some libertarians hold to, but I think a consistent application of libertarian and Austrian law will demonstrate the position is unjustified.

quincunx August 2, 2006 at 2:18 am

JIMB, either you make decision or others do it for you against your will. Others commanding you about to the virtues of the Judeo-Christian ideology is not freedom.

You are suggesting that a philosophy of values is more important than a moral philosophy. I do not disagree with you there, but its funny how philosophy of certain values takes YEARS to inculcate into children, where as natural law is easy even for a child to comprehend.

“once you discard the right of the child to care by another by the use of force, you discard any action after-the-fact as well.”

Discard the right? Hell even dead people don’t LOSE rights. Someone has never heard of a WILL.

Rothbard does not ‘propose’ or endorse child-selling, he merely establishes that it may happen. So what? How does that harm you? Why such a busy-body?

You are correct about the difference of children vs adults, but you have still to explain to me the acid test. How can you be sure that you are correct in assessing, for example, your daughter is a child? Or a child in that one particular aspect?

Don’t you also think that sometimes the child/adult dichotomy is not perfect? There are childish adults, and very mature children, how can you really test them?

And what if the tests’ administration is deemed childish on your part?

averros August 2, 2006 at 4:32 am

Paul – your argument WRT parental responsibility has a fatal flaw: it is impossible to determine the size of the obligation one incurs to the child by parenting him.

Is it enough to provide sufficiently to sustain his life? Or he should be made healthy? What about education? What about special needs (your child happened to have an illness which can be cured – but the cure is way more expensive than you can possibly make and there is no insurance company which covers it)?

Does providing inadequate level of parental support makes one a criminal? *Who* decides what is adequate? Does being unable to provide to somebody else’s standards makes one a criminal?

Sorry, this simply leads back to socialist liberalism.

And, no, the airplane analogy is totally false – if I invite someone to fly on my plane I and toss him out I explicitly perform an aggressive action towards that person.

2b is equally false – damaging someone’s life or property makes me liable no matter what my intentions were. So if I knock down a person to water and the person drowns I’m a murderer – so what makes me jump to the water to save the person is not any obligation created by the negligience, but obligation created by my previous aggression, and the need to make amends and demonstrate my goodwill.

Mere negligence cannot create liability – only aggression can. Fraud, theft, or initiation of violence.

If I sell a car that blows up under pretense of selling a good one – I commit fraud, there’s no need to invoke negligence in designing the lemon.

The “negligence” theory of liability always boils down to prohibition of some conduct by third parties. In other words, it entails aggression of an external groups towards the parties voluntarily conducting a transaction not involving these third parties. It is statism, pure and simple.

So, no matter how strange the conclusion looks, parents owe nothing to the child. Legally, not morally, of course.

Peter August 2, 2006 at 7:16 am

You’d be hard pressed to show that most adults do not “have the mental capacity (even if unexercised) to make informed choices” — they of course DO.

Of course, teenagers have only been “children” for a hundred years or so. A couple of centuries ago, ten year olds had this capacity. (That’s State education for you!)

Brian Drum August 2, 2006 at 8:31 am

Libertarian political/ethical theory seeks only to establish the logical implications of self-ownership and the under what circumstances the use of force against another person is justified. No other moral issues are treated by the theory, yet I fail to see why this should be such a problem.

It is a mistake to leap from “Libertarian ethics is only concerned with property rights and the critieria for justifiable use of force” to “Libertarian ethics implies there are no other moral issues / principles to be examined”. The latter does NOT follow from the former.

Other moral issues such as lying, cheating, sex with goats, adultery, drug use, etc. are simply beyond the scope of libertarian ethical theory. All libertarian ethics does is to lay down a foundational interpersonal ethic: what is and is not justification for the use of force.

However, the thoery in no way claims to be the end all of morality. It serves as a base and constraint for all other ethical/moral codes. So it is perferctly in line with libertarian ethics to hold that sleeping with goats is immoral, so long as it is not claimed that this action justifies the use of force against the perpetrator.

JIMB August 2, 2006 at 10:11 am

Paul – I argue it is false that there is no positive duty to another person in the case of children, not a general position that people can be held to a variety of positive duties.

Peter – I’d have to agree with you on that one: the absolute “age of consent” should be lowered because there should be a presumption of innocence for the participants (which there is not at present – certainly in California getting incarcerated for statutory rape if one participant is marginally under 18 and the other marginally over 18 is possible and reprehensible); if the crime is to be prima fascie it must be a crime in every reasonable conceivable case. However, if consent age is lowered, other laws can and should be added which aid parents and authorities in curbing the predatory behavior of adults soliciting younger kids (for instance a two tiered test: over the age of 18 there is no restriction yet if one participant is under the age of 18 then the age spread can’t exceed X).

[I note in passing that hormone fed beef seems to have a consistent correlation with premature puberty, a complication as some girls and boys are hitting puberty at nine causing the biological processes to get far ahead of psychological maturity].

Brian – you make my point – the libertarian position holds there is no basis for action against non-violent evil; and I suggest the endpoint of that policy is not less violence, but more violence, as it is a clear gift to those that are unconcerned about harm to others or who perpetrate non-violent harm against others. Those conditions will encourage bad behavior until it necessitates extraordinary (i.e. dictatorial and violent) measures. The case in point, of course, concerned children and their necessary support, but many others exist (such as improper drug use which confer enormous and unreasonable risk on others who drive around or come into contact with the user). Drug law restrictions should be greatly reduced in scope and all Federal drug laws repealed – A better solution might be to require “morality insurance” which could compensate victims for behavior caused by improper use (Like insurance for driving). But then again – you are getting back to “the use of force” for “non-violent” behavior. Conferrence of risk is a tough area for libertarian theory.

The idea that a father should defend his daughter’s chastity until she is of appropriate legal and mature age to make and pay for those decisions on her own, and do so with minimal violence (it used to be that telling the parents was enough), is the correct position, as the outcome is important enough to demand it.

Averros – Because there are arguments as to what a parent owes the child does not make the case that the parent owes nothing. A social group under a governing authority can decide on the most agreed upon basics: food, shelter, etc.

And you might hold a uninformed theory of negligence: a small example, construction demolition firms have absolute liability meaning any damage to surrounding people or areas are actionable – which makes sense given the circumstances, and it is certainly not “statist”.

quincunx August 2, 2006 at 10:54 am

‘the absolute “age of consent”‘

What are you talking about? What absolute?
Where is the acid test? Why the arbitrariness?

“The idea that a father should defend his daughter’s chastity until she is of appropriate legal and mature age to make and pay for those decisions on her own, and do so with minimal violence (it used to be that telling the parents was enough), is the correct position, as the outcome is important enough to demand it.”

I agree with you, no doubt, but what if she goes against your wishes despite your best efforts to mold her mind?

Does not such an act demonstrate she is wants independence?

Why should she only get it at an arbitrary age?

‘A better solution might be to require “morality insurance” which could compensate victims for behavior caused by improper use (Like insurance for driving). But then again – you are getting back to “the use of force” for “non-violent” behavior.’

If you want to be a member of a moral insurance company, to be guided by likewise moral people, then you can just do so – provided that you interfere or are interfered with by only those members.

We know such a thing is possible, because BDSM is widespread. If you can voluntarily submit yourself to sexual slavery (to be withdrawn at any time), then certainly a moral insurance organization is not farfetched. But again, you are bound by their moral code as long as you are a member.

David K. Meller August 2, 2006 at 10:56 am

Another glorious triumph of our Fearless (and brainless) leader and the American State–”the Mightiest Superpower on Earth”.

Ain’t democrazy grand??

PEACE AND FREEDOM!!
David K. Meller

Brian Drum August 2, 2006 at 11:15 am

the libertarian position holds there is no basis for action against non-violent evil

I think to be more precise one should say: the libertarian position holds that there is no justification for aggressive action against non-aggressive ‘evil’ (here we run into the problem of defining what exactly we mean by ‘evil’).

and I suggest the endpoint of that policy is not less violence, but more violence, as it is a clear gift to those that are unconcerned about harm to others or who perpetrate non-violent harm against others.

How can an increase in non-violence cause an increase in violence? Do you mean the violence that third parties will inflict on the non-violent-harmer?

Those conditions will encourage bad behavior until it necessitates extraordinary (i.e. dictatorial and violent) measures

Jim, what exactly are the conditions that you are assuming? Now I may be wrong but it seems that you are implying something like:

  1. Currently existing geographical population distribution remains the same.
  2. Liberatarian ethics becomes the ‘law’ of the land.
  3. All perverts, deviants, child seducers, crack smokers, donkey f#$##rs, etc are free to run wild, since, under libertarian ethics, it is unjustified to use violence to repress their nonagressive behavior.
  4. Society is overrun by these ‘undesirables’ and descends into chaos and savagery.

The problem with this scenario (please give yours if it differs significantly) is that it completely neglects to examine the reaction of those individuals that find such behavior disgusting, immoral, intolerable, etc. I think that one could argue that a very large segment of the population (including myself, and surely Jim too) has no desire to be around individuals that behave in such ways. So with this observation in mind one needs to ask: Why on earth are these two distinct populations still integrated??? Why are the disgusted having anything to do with the disgusting? No aggression is required! DISASSOCIATE!

In the scenario we have assumed libertarian ethics ‘ruled’ the land. So make use of it! In this scenario there are no state roads, no state discrimination laws, no ‘right to travel’, etc. If many people really do not like behvaior A then they will have nothing to do with them! Don’t sell them food, don’t let them use your roads (trespassing, of course, is aggression under libertarian law). The individuals that will not conform to the expected behavior of their neighbors will find themselves isolated and ostracised! They will either leave and join their ‘own kind’ or remain in self-sufficient isolation. Either way the problem is solved and no aggression was required.

Please explain why this solution is inferior to one where one man’s morality is forced on to another via a loaded gun.

Nelson August 2, 2006 at 12:12 pm

It seems the main benefit of this article is to point out the limitations of anarchy. There is more violence in Iraq precisely because the government has not enough force to impose law and order (or for that mater to impose a dictatorial tyrany and order).

Brett Celinski August 2, 2006 at 12:47 pm

Nelson,

Planned chaos is not anarchy. Did the Iraqis ever have a liberal tradition? They just had global democracy and it hurt pretty bad.

Paul Edwards August 2, 2006 at 12:59 pm

Averos,

“Paul – your argument WRT parental responsibility has a fatal flaw: it is impossible to determine the size of the obligation one incurs to the child by parenting him.

“Is it enough to provide sufficiently to sustain his life?”

This would be a minimum. I would think it would rule out such treatment as torture via intentionally withholding diaper changes, human interaction, nourishment, and of course, death by neglect.

“Or he should be made healthy? What about education? What about special needs (your child happened to have an illness which can be cured – but the cure is way more expensive than you can possibly make and there is no insurance company which covers it)?”

I don’t think weak parenting would be considered criminal. At least I can’t imagine it being prosecuted in a free market.

“Does providing inadequate level of parental support makes one a criminal?”

It can. Intentionally leaving one’s baby alone in an unchanged diaper, for instance, to suffer alone physically and emotionally until it dies of starvation would be a crime, yes, it would be torture and murder, I think.

“*Who* decides what is adequate? Does being unable to provide to somebody else’s standards makes one a criminal?”

The same courts that decide what is murder, accident or negligence in other crimes, would decide these.

“Sorry, this simply leads back to socialist liberalism.”

I disagree. Private courts can stipulate in advance their position on what constitutes child neglect and people can agree to it or search for another insurance provider. If I owned a court services company, I would stipulate explicitly what was criminal negligence against a child. In the unlikely event that the market thought my take on law was not right, I could change policy, or go out of business. Anyone strongly objecting to my stipulation should not do business with me anyways.

“And, no, the airplane analogy is totally false – if I invite someone to fly on my plane I and toss him out I explicitly perform an aggressive action towards that person.”

Really? Some say that if you invite someone to your home and at any time wish him gone, you can tell him to leave and if he refuses, you can force him off your property without being aggressive. Do you concur with this position? Your plane is also your property. If you want him off it, what right does he have to remain? Can you not force him off without being aggressive, just as in your own home? What is the difference? The difference is, by your previous action, you have placed him in a position of his life depending on you allowing him to remain on your property thereby obligating yourself to sustain his life until he’s safely off the plane.

“2b is equally false – damaging someone’s life or property makes me liable no matter what my intentions were. So if I knock down a person to water and the person drowns I’m a murderer – so what makes me jump to the water to save the person is not any obligation created by the negligience, but obligation created by my previous aggression, and the need to make amends and demonstrate my goodwill.”

All you did was knock him into the water by accident. If he could swim, he’d be fine, if the water was not so deep, he’d be fine, if there was something for him to grab a hold of he’d be fine. You didn’t actively hold him under the water, and it isn’t your fault nothing went his way in the water. Why are you obligated to save him? Because your action put him in a position where his life depended on your assistance.

“Mere negligence cannot create liability – only aggression can. Fraud, theft, or initiation of violence.”

Is bumping into someone by accident a crime? But it becomes one when the bumping puts him into water and he starts to drown and you don’t try to save him. What starts out as nothing at all becomes a very serious matter, not due to the initial action, but what the results of that action imply.

“If I sell a car that blows up under pretense of selling a good one – I commit fraud, there’s no need to invoke negligence in designing the lemon.
“The “negligence” theory of liability always boils down to prohibition of some conduct by third parties. In other words, it entails aggression of an external groups towards the parties voluntarily conducting a transaction not involving these third parties. It is statism, pure and simple.”

I don’t follow how this hooks into our debate, so if it’s crucial, can you restate it for me?

“So, no matter how strange the conclusion looks, parents owe nothing to the child. Legally, not morally, of course.”

I think when you accidentally bump someone off the dock into the water, and he starts drowning, ethically you owe him a hand to get out of the water. And when you bring a child into the world, ethically you owe him your help to avoid suffering a slow and painful death from neglect. I hold that these things go beyond morality. They are an ethical matter.

Nelson August 2, 2006 at 2:09 pm

Brett,

According to dictionary.com…

an·ar·chy
Pronunciation Key (nr-k)
n. pl. an·ar·chies

1. Absence of any form of political authority.
2. Political disorder and confusion.
3. Absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or purpose.

[New Latin anarchia, from Greek anarkhi, from anarkhos, without a ruler : an-, without; see a-1 + arkhos, ruler; see -arch.]

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

anarchy

n : a state of lawlessness and disorder (usually resulting from a failure of government)
Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

Is this not the correct term to apply to Iraq?

“Planned chaos is not anarchy. Did the Iraqis ever have a liberal tradition? They just had global democracy and it hurt pretty bad.”

Chaos is a result of anarchy. Liberal tradition? Global democracy? Pfft. They had a dictatorship. Dictators can impose order. Elected governments can impose order. Anarchies can not. And that is the reason that civilizations with governments surpassed civilizations without.

quincunx August 2, 2006 at 4:06 pm

“3. Absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or purpose.”

Self-contradictory. Anarchy is a cohesive principle with as much a common standard and purpose as that of States. Lack of a political standard in an arbitrary territory is itself a standard.

“a state of lawlessness and disorder (usually resulting from a failure of government)”

This definition works against you. A state of lawlessness and disorder is indeed a failure of government. Which here is called ‘Planned Chaos’.

Iraq may not have wholly effective planning, but the intention is there, and hence the resistance.

“And that is the reason that civilizations with governments surpassed civilizations without.”

And here I thought it was unlawful stealing and the employment of court historians.

Francisco Torres August 2, 2006 at 4:11 pm

I think the recent issues in the Middle East are going to test the “anarcho-libertarian” theories pretty harshly.

The issues in the Middle East have little to do with anarcho-libertarianism, JIMB. All of them are due to State actions. How does libertarianism fit here, I fail to see.


And of course a consistent and important issue, which is persistently ignored is the problem of human sin

You mean the issue of human aggression towards others. Because we can define “sin” in so many worhtless ways until the cows come home… the issue is not human “sin” but human ACTION.


Historical analysis suffers from this shortcoming – such as Rothbard’s assertion that the U.S. was the aggressor against the Soviet Union, as if the sacrifice of tens of millions of Soviet citizens isn’t enough proof enough alone and by itself that the Soviet rulership had no rightful just authority whatsoever and thus any “aggression” (even if forthcoming) by the U.S. is completely and wholly justified as long as preservation of life is really the long-term goal.

Two wrongs does not make a right. The fact that the Soviet Union acted miserably against their own people does not give justification to the violent acts commited by the US against OTHER people.


And of course there’s the moral-equivalence problem in which violence in protection of non-concrete (but morally essential) cases, such as teenage seduction – is held to be inoperable.

Indeed, the fact that under liberty, people can seduce teenagers is justification enough to live like slaves of the State . . .

Teach grade-school kids any sort of perversity or immorality? Hey — it’s not violent is it?

YES, it is violent, JIMB. If whatever you are teaching is immoral or perverse, the reason is immoral or perverse is because both the teacher and the student KNOW is immoral. By definition, something that is immoral or perverse is unsavory, unwanted or undesirable, and insisting on teaching what is undesirable is in itself violence.

If both parties, however, were convinced it was not, then it would not be violent nor immoral. After all, immorality is in the eye of the beholder.


It used to be a lot different. It used to be “you talk to my daughter that way again and I’ll get my shotgun” rather than “any minor can emancipate themselves”.

. . . You basically contradict yourself – TAKING your shotgun is an expression of liberty, the freedom to protect your own. Instead, it was precisely the STATE that emancipated teenagers, by taking away the right and freedom of parents to teach, nurture and protect their offspring as they see fit.


And of course Hoppean social contracts are unenforceable against a determined foe, except with violence.

Violence in itself is not wrong, JIMB. You commit the fallacy of extremes – libertarians are not against violence if it is for self defense, or as part of a constructive process, like blowing up a hole in the ground to mine copper.


So we come finally to “limited government conservatism” which, apart from the oxymoron of it’s current adherents, is really the only alternative. It certainly could use a different label.

Yes. Tyranny.

Nelson August 2, 2006 at 4:41 pm

“And here I thought it was unlawful stealing and the employment of court historians.”

The problem with Anarcho-Capitalist theory is the underlying assumption that everyone will abide by its rules. But anyone that knows even the smallest amount of history knows that at the end of the day only those willing and able to use violence can make the rules.

“I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they’d never expect it.” -Jack Handey

quincunx August 2, 2006 at 5:30 pm

“The problem with Anarcho-Capitalist theory is the underlying assumption that everyone will abide by its rules. But anyone that knows even the smallest amount of history knows that at the end of the day only those willing and able to use violence can make the rules.”

Again, whose history are you reading?

Anarcho-Capitalists set forth the most simple of rules: non-aggression. No Ancap denies human nature, that is the territory of the anarcho-socialists.

Most ideologies purport to follow this as well, of course only in rhetoric.

When in history has the moral and economic implications of freedom been as developed? When has collectivism been as discredited as in the 20th century?

Surely those making the ‘rules’ don’t make the same rules their ilk made before – why is that, if change is not possible?

If it takes violence to make the rules, doesn’t it logically follow that violence can be used to uphold rules? In which case the Ancap has a defensive recourse

What you are suggesting is that offense always trumps defense, but we live in the nuclear age, so where is the problem?

Nelson August 3, 2006 at 8:43 am

“Again, whose history are you reading?” Human History.

“Anarcho-Capitalists set forth the most simple of rules: non-aggression.” Tibet renounced agression too. China, however, did not.

“What you are suggesting is that offense always trumps defense, but we live in the nuclear age, so where is the problem?” What I’m suggesting is defense doesn’t always trump offense. Nuclear weapons can be used offensively and as a deterrence. If we peacefully let the Islamists build nuclear weapons, their sucicdal ways wouldn’t stop them from using them offensively to “spread Islam”, especially if they do it in such a way that the source is uncertain. Um, did the destruction of NYC come from Saudi or Iran or Osama’s privately owned and funded labs that we can’t act agressively against? If you retaliate against the wrong choice, you’ll be acting agressively. If you choose not to retaliate at all, then you’ll just be attacked again for your weakness and stupidity.

TGGP August 3, 2006 at 10:42 am

Regarding recent events testing anarcho-capitalism, that would be more Somalia than Iraq. Somalia seems about to fall to Taliban-wannabes, which makes the U.S at its most inept not seem so bad. That “anarchy” was better than the previous government Somalia had.

Laverne Powlen March 6, 2010 at 6:04 pm

That’s a great piece, usually good to learn a lot more about aviation.

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