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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6013/why-im-a-libertarian-or-why-libertarianism-is-beautiful/

Why I’m a Libertarian — or, Why Libertarianism is Beautiful

December 12, 2006 by

In a recent email, Walter Block wrote, responding some pessimistic comments I had about our libertarian movement:

“Dear Stephan: I never feel like dropping out. Never. No matter what. To me, libertarianism is a most beautiful thing, right up there with Mozart and Bach. Illegitimi non carborundum.

I replied with some comments, and Walter encouraged me to post them, so here they are, lightly edited:

Walter’s email got me to thinking about why I’m a libertarian–why libertarians are libertarian. What is it about us that drives us, that makes us passionate advocates of it, and intensely interested in it? Some of us have been self-indulgent enough to write up how we became libertarians (e.g., my How I Became A Libertarian); but I don’t mean exactly that. I mean what is it about it that you love; that drives you; that attracts you?

Walter’s comment that libertarianism is beautiful struck a chord with me; I think I’d never thought of it that way before. It seemed just, and fair, and right, but beautiful–? but then, justice, and rightness, and fairness, and goodness are beautiful.

I think I’m a libertarian because for some reason I hate injustice; I hate bullies; I hate inconsistency; I love fairness and logical consistency and treating people correctly. I like answering the question asked, and not dodging issues: if someone asks how should this person be treated, I try to answer that question, rather than advert to some Marxian notion of utopia.

I like the ruthless logic of libertarianism and its unflinching honesty: how we are unafraid to say that people have a right to be greedy, or selfish, or rich, or not to hire people because of their race–because it is their property. I like the in-your-faceness of it … when it is simply a matter of venting or justice to hurl in the face of a soma-ridden mainstreamer the solid, bracing truth about things, even if it will do no good. I like libertarianism–I love libertarianism–because I think it is the outcome of goodness applied to human interaction. I do agree that libertarianism is beautiful. It is refreshing and cleansing to know that I am willing to respect the rights of all who will respect mine; and to take the responsibility to earn my own way, and to pay for my own mistakes–and the right to profit from my successes. I am a libertarian because it is obviously good, and I would rather be good than evil; and the more good, the better.

***

Thoughts of others on your reasons for why you’re a libertarian are welcome in the comments.

{ 118 comments }

RogerM December 15, 2006 at 12:08 pm

George:”A. It’s not arbitrary.”

Hoppe uses the implications of argumentation to derive self-ownership. So far so good. From that he derives the right to property. (Actually, I think he says that self-ownership implies pre-existing right to property.) Next he builds a code of conduct on property. However, self-ownership can imply other things in addition to property, such as the right to survival and rights of association.

Hoppe and Rothbard use natural law in a different way than it was used for over a thousand years and this underscores the problem of delibarately changing definitions to words; it causes a lot of confusion and destroys the purpose of language, which is communication. Until Rothbard, natural law meant that body of thought that began with Thomas Aquinas and ended with Locke, though some same Adam Smith. It had specific premises/presuppositions based on the existence of God and mankind as God’s creation and children, used reason, and had the goal of determining what principles caused mankind to survive and prosper, the same as Mises’s utilitarianism. Rothbard/Hoppe use the term “natural law” to refer to law developed by reason based on their own premise–the absolute inviolability of property.

Original natural law (now I have to add the word “original” in order to distinguish it from Rothbard/Hoppe’s version) tried to use reason derive those principles that cause mankind to survive and prosper. Rothbard/Hoppe’s natural law has the goal of preserving the absolute inviolability of property. Original natural law saw the state as necessary to survival and prospering, as did Mises. Rothbard/Hoppe’s version makes the state morally evil because of the absolute inviolability of property.

“Here are a few historical topics that are explained by Austrian principles of economic liberty:”

You should distinguish between Austrian history and anarchist history. Austrian history is real history, i.e., what actually happened. Anarchist history tends to be very selective and sometimes just plain wrong, possibly because anarchists see history as just decoration.

Björn Lundahl December 15, 2006 at 12:15 pm

RogerM “What distinguishes moral systems is the starting points, the premises and assumptions. Both Rothbard/Hoppe arrive at many of the conclusions already reached by natural law because natural law emphasized property. But natural law didn’t make property an absolute; it made the welfare of mankind the absolute, so it had room for the formation of governments.”

“It made the welfare of mankind the absolute, so it had room for the formation of governments.”

Björn Above statement is not a premise and an assumption because it doesn’t really say much. Anything can be derived from this “premise” and “assumption.” It is extremely vague and subjective and it cannot, therefore, be used to prove anything. Anything could be “concluded” as it is not derived from a fact.

My above example of Hitler’s murdering of Jews or Rothbard’s example of murdering of redheads could be justified in the name that “it promoted the welfare of the people.”

http://blog.mises.org/archives/005970.asp

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl December 15, 2006 at 1:14 pm

RogerM “Hoppe uses the implications of argumentation to derive self-ownership. So far so good. From that he derives the right to property. (Actually, I think he says that self-ownership implies pre-existing right to property.) Next he builds a code of conduct on property. However, self-ownership can imply other things in addition to property, such as the right to survival and rights of association.”

Björn Without self-ownership, no debate could be made as we would not own ourselves and would not have the right to debate. But we are debating and this presupposes self-ownership. I want to add, that man and human life would not exist without any self-ownership; since any action would not be allowed.

Without self-ownership, property rights does not exist either.

A quote from Hoppe´s book The Ethics and Economics of Private Property:

“Furthermore, it would be equally impossible to engage in argumentation and rely on the propositional force of one’s arguments if one were not allowed to own (exclusively control) other scarce means (besides one’s body and its standing room). If one did not have such a right, then we would all immediately perish and the problem of
justifying rules – as well as any other human problem – would simply not exist. Hence, by virtue of the fact of being alive property rights to other things must be presupposed as valid, too. No one who is alive can possibly argue otherwise.”

http://mises.org/etexts/hoppe5.pdf

In other words, self-ownership and property rights are the very condition for life just as, for example, oxygen is.

By being alive we cannot argue against the existence of oxygen.

Analogically, by being alive, we cannot argue against self-ownership and property rights.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl December 16, 2006 at 5:35 am

The principle of utilitarianism is destructive.

Utilitarianism means that all action should be directed toward achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Intellectually the principle lets the door stand wide open for the use of physical violence and theft against people which happens to belong to the lesser number. If we grasp a state of things where the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people exists in using physical violence and theft everywhere and in all human situations and places (i.e. in the classroom, shop, street, airport, forest etc) against all those people that happened to belong to the lesser numbers, the human race would quickly perish.

As we have seen, the principle of utilitarianism if followed by all groups of people in all places would lead to human destruction and this, therefore, proves that the principle is destructive. Any crime could be done in the name of utilitarianism such as murder, theft, rape, slavery etc. The lesser number of people would always be at the mercy of the greatest number.

Private groups of people in society are therefore, naturally, not allowed to commit crimes in the name of utilitarianism.

The state has a “legal right” to commit crimes and the state nearly, always does it in the name of utilitarianism.

In the name of utilitarianism Hitler could have justified all the murdering of the Jews that he made. He probably, also, thought that he by doing those crimes achieved the greatest happiness for the greatest number of Germans.

Let us not forget:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-309490343652240839&q=hitler+jews

Or, alternatively, as Rothbard wrote in his book For a New Liberty:

“Let us consider a stark example: Suppose a society which fervently considers all redheads to be agents of the Devil and therefore to be executed whenever found. Let us further assume that only a small number of redheads exist in any generation-so few as to be statistically insignificant. The utilitarian-libertarian might well reason: “While the murder of isolated redheads is deplorable, the executions are small in number; the vast majority of the public, as non-redheads, achieves enormous psychic satisfaction from the public execution of redheads. The social cost is negligible, the social, psychic benefit to the rest of society is great; therefore, it is right and proper for society to execute the redheads.” The natural-rights libertarian, overwhelmingly concerned as he is for the justice of the act, will react in horror and staunchly and unequivocally oppose the executions as totally unjustified murder and aggression upon nonaggressive persons. The consequence of stopping the murders—depriving the bulk of society of great psychic pleasure—would not influence such a libertarian, the “absolutist” libertarian, in the slightest. Dedicated to justice and to logical consistency, the natural-rights libertarian cheerfully admits to being “doctrinaire,” to being, in short, an unabashed follower of his own doctrines.”

http://mises.org/rothbard/newliberty2.asp

The right path to follow is instead:

The Ethics of Liberty:

Hesselberg continues:

“But a social order is not possible unless man is able to conceive what it is, and what its advantages are, and also conceive those norms of conduct which are necessary to its establishment and preservation, namely, respect for another’s person and for his rightful possessions, which is the substance of justice. . . . But justice is the product of reason, not the passions. And justice is the necessary support of the social order; and the social order is necessary to man’s well-being and happiness. If this is so, the norms of justice must control and regulate the passions, and not vice versa.”

http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/two.asp

Or in other words and in a more rigid form: “that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else”.

I have written an essay about normative principles. Please go to:

http://normativeprinciples.blogspot.com/2006/12/normative-principles-pure-free-market_10.html

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Sam December 16, 2006 at 6:46 am

I sticking with the Liberal notion of rights, that is, rights are only valid if they are capable of being enforced. Ideally and ethically the enforcement is consensus, every one peacefully agrees and all is well. But of course in a violent, choatic existence the back up enforcement is quite frankly, well, force.

RogerM December 16, 2006 at 7:15 am

Bjorn:”My above example of Hitler’s murdering of Jews or Rothbard’s example of murdering of redheads could be justified in the name that “it promoted the welfare of the people.”

Yes, it could, if original natural law didn’t have survival and the right to life as the foundations upon which to build welfare. On the other hand, Mises demonstrated that respect for life, law and order are necessary for prosperity.

“In other words, self-ownership and property rights are the very condition for life just as, for example, oxygen is.”

I agree. Property is a foundation of liberty. As Locke said, life, liberty and property!
I think Hoppe’s defense of property is weak and easily dismissed by most people. Original natural law offers a much stronger foundation.

“Utilitarianism means that all action should be directed toward achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.”

That’s the definition I had always accepted, so that taking from the rich, for whom the marginal utility of a dollar is low, and giving to the poor, for whom the marginal utility is high, is the “ethical” thing to do, which is why I couldn’t believe Mises was utilitarian. But he seems to use the word in a different way. Today, I think Mises might say he was being practical instead of utilitarian, because he limited himself to showing what causes mankind to prosper, and that is life, liberty, and property.

You might say Mises worked backwards from original natural law. He started with prosperity and derived the rights to life, liberty and property as necessary to prosperity. Original natural law begins with life, liberty and property and derives the principles necessary for prosperity within those limits.

“Or in other words and in a more rigid form: “that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else”.

This is the only place where I part company with Rothbard and Hoppe. If, as Mises argued, the state is necessary to maintain order, then the anarchist principle of absolute property rights can’t hold. That doesn’t mean that Mises and original natural law destroyed property. No one defends property more. But Rothbard and Hoppe weren’t satisfied with original natural law’s respect for property, they had to make property absolute, and in order to do so, they had to fabricate an entirely new ethical system with property, and only property, as the absolute. I can’t accept that and I don’t think many people will.

adi December 16, 2006 at 9:05 am

RogerM, Mises wouldn’t support view that Utilitarianism means “greatest happiness for greatest number” since he and economist Franz Cuhel demonstrated that utility is not measurable: it’s relation of preferences or actions. So any welfare proposition which somehow makes us to compare wellfare of different agents is obviously flawed. It’s our view about wellfare of different agents not necessarily their own and in a way very arbitrary.

It think that Mises thought that only liberal order can achieve survival of humanity in the future. Like he said that socialism would mean starvation for many and impoverishment for more.

Björn Lundahl December 16, 2006 at 9:53 am

RogerM

Björn: My above example of Hitler’s murdering of Jews or Rothbard’s example of murdering of redheads could be justified in the name that “it promoted the welfare of the people.”

RogerM “Yes, it could, if original natural law didn’t have survival and the right to life as the foundations upon which to build welfare. On the other hand, Mises demonstrated that respect for life, law and order are necessary for prosperity.”

Björn You should understand that it is not a logical necessity for a government to have the goal to increase prosperity to a maximum. It can, as I have shown, have different goals that violate individual rights. Utilitarianism is a logical fallacy.

Björn In other words, self-ownership and property rights are the very condition for life just as, for example, oxygen is.

RogerM “I agree. Property is a foundation of liberty. As Locke said, life, liberty and property!
I think Hoppe’s defense of property is weak and easily dismissed by most people. Original natural law offers a much stronger foundation.”

Björn I cannot think of a stronger foundation of ethics than the statement that “self-ownership and property rights are the very condition for life just as, for example, oxygen is.” It seems that Hoppe is brighter than those you are refereeing to (joke).

I will post this again:

RogerM “What distinguishes moral systems is the starting points, the premises and assumptions. Both Rothbard/Hoppe arrive at many of the conclusions already reached by natural law because natural law emphasized property. But natural law didn’t make property an absolute; it made the welfare of mankind the absolute, so it had room for the formation of governments.”

“It made the welfare of mankind the absolute.”

Björn Above statement is not a premise and an assumption because it doesn’t really say much. Anything can be derived from this “premise” and “assumption.” It is extremely vague and subjective and it cannot, therefore, be used to prove anything. Anything could be “concluded” as it is not derived from a fact.

My above example of Hitler’s murdering of Jews or Rothbard’s example of murdering of redheads could be justified in the name that “it promoted the welfare of the people.”

In other words, your statement that “It made the welfare of mankind the absolute” is, I am sorry to say, rather naive and a logical fallacy.

I do not think you have analyzed Hoppe´s and Rothbard’s propositions at all. I will give you examples of that from your earlier posts:

RogerM “Rothbard and Hoppe start with property as the absolute and build upon it.”

Björn No, they start with the concept of self-ownership. That is the starting point. That is not arbitrary as self-ownership is presupposed in an argumentation like this and also, I want to add, in spelling out any ethical norms whatsoever. I can not think of anything more rational.

RogerM “This is where Rothbard goes wrong. Morality/ethics, like natural law, cannot be created by mankind, it must be discovered. Otherwise, like positive law, it becomes just another opinion.”

Björn Who said that an objective ethics can be created? Not Rothbard. The word “establish” is not the same as the word “create”. Don’t you think that Rothbard was very aware of the fact that an objective ethics must be discovered and not created?

Well, I will post Rothbard´s quote again:

The Ethics of Liberty:

“IF, THEN, THE NATURAL law is discovered by reason from “the basic inclinations of human nature . . . absolute, immutable, and of universal validity for all times and places,” it follows that the natural law provides an objective set of ethical norms by which to gauge human actions at any time or place”.

Please, notice the word “discovered”.

http://blog.mises.org/archives/005970.asp

Please, at least try to be honest.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

RogerM December 16, 2006 at 11:38 am

Björn “No, they start with the concept of self-ownership. That is the starting point. That is not arbitrary as self-ownership is presupposed in an argumentation like this and also, I want to add, in spelling out any ethical norms whatsoever. I can not think of anything more rational.”

Yes, I agree, both Mises, and original natural law agree with Hoppe on this. I focus on the next step in Hoppe’s reasoning because that’s where origional natural law and Hoppe diverge. The next step in Hoppe’s “ethics” is founded on property as an absolute, even though property is founded on self-ownership.

So while self-ownership in not arbitrary, Hoppe’s decision to focus on property as if it were the only possible implication of self-ownership is the arbitrary part. While self-ownership does imply property, it also implies other things, such as survival, or the right to life.

Rothbard saw the weakness in Mises practical approach to economics as the lack of a moral argument. I tend to agree because socialists often responded to the practical argument (capitalism works better than socialism) by taking what they considered to be the moral high ground. So Rothbard decided to attack that argument with another moral argument. But instead of reviving the sound principles of original natural law, he and Hoppe decided to create their own version and base it on property.

“IF, THEN, THE NATURAL law is discovered by reason from “the basic inclinations of human nature . . . absolute, immutable, and of universal validity for all times and places,” it follows that the natural law provides an objective set of ethical norms by which to gauge human actions at any time or place”.

However, as I’ve written before, if the use of reason is all that’s required to have natural law, then all ethical systems from socialism, to radical Islam are natural law, too, because they all use reason to establish their principles. What distinguishes the systems is not the use of reason, but the starting points, the premises. Rothbard and Hoppe think that the use of reason makes their system natural law, but it doesn’t, because by changing their starting point from property alone to property plus survival, the same reasoning process arrives at different conclusions, one allowing for the state, the other opposing it.

Original natural law was discovered by reason from the basic inclinations of human nature (absolute, immutable, and of universal validity for all times and places),too, just as Hoppe claims for his ethics. As a result, original natural law “provides an objective set of ethical norms by which to gauge human actions at any time or place”, too, as Hoppe claims for his system.

So if Rothbard and Hoppe’s claims for their “ethics” is strong, those for original natural are even stronger. The only difference between the two is the insistence on Hoppe’s part that property is the only right that can be derived from self-ownership, while original natural law adds survival and prosperity. Original natural law allows for the existence of the state as well as for anarchy, the choice being determined by which causes mankind to prosper best. Rothbard/Hoppe allow only for anarchy and make the state evil, even if it could be shown, as Mises does, that mankind will prosper more under a proper state than under anarchy.

I am trying to be honest. The problem in our communcations lies in the different definitions for words. That’s why I hammer on the idea of using words in the commonly accepted meaning. It enhances communications significantly. It’s also why I get angry with anarchists when I think they’re inventing a new definition for a word. For example, this conversation would be considerably easier if Rothbard and Hoppe hadn’t labeled their system as natural law, which it isn’t.

When I wrote that natural law must be discovered, not created, I meant that it must be discovered using reason and starting from a sound foundation. Original natural law did that by beginning with God and assuming that God intended his creation to survive and prosper. Original natural law saw God as the necessary starting point because only God has authority over mankind.

I claimed that Rothbard/Hoppe’s system was fabricated because they didn’t begin with God, but with man, who has no authority over mankind. They created, or fabricated a new system because they changed the starting point. A false starting point caused them to arrive at false conclusions about the state. That’s what is fabricated.

Björn Lundahl December 16, 2006 at 1:43 pm

RogerM

RogerM “However, as I’ve written before, if the use of reason is all that’s required to have natural law, then all ethical systems from socialism, to radical Islam are natural law, too.”

Björn.

Ethics of liberty:

IF, THEN, THE NATURAL law is discovered by reason from “the basic inclinations of human nature . . . absolute, immutable, and of universal validity for all times and places,” it follows that the natural law provides an objective set of ethical norms by which to gauge human actions at any time or place”.

Another misinterpretation, because reason is only one of the requirements.

Notice: “from the basic inclinations of Human nature… absolute, immutable, and of universal validity for all times and places”.

Socialism, radical Islam etc does not fulfil the requirements of being natural law.

RogerM “I claimed that Rothbard/Hoppe’s system was fabricated because they didn’t begin with God.”

Björn If you want to defend a rational ethic and to be “scientific”, you should not mix that purpose with religion.

It is nothing wrong in being religious, but to have “God” as a starting point as a defence of a rational ethic is irrational. You must understand that God’s existence is not at all rationally proved.

It would really be a fabrication to have “God” as a starting point in a rational ethical system.

Why not leave out all the “arguments” and instead only refer to the bible?

So here we can reach a conclusion. What, really bothers you is that Rothbard and Hoppe left out “God” as the starting point in their ethical system.

Well, you should accept that as religion is not the topic, rational ethics is (between you and me).

As I have said, the foundation of a rational ethic cannot either be satisfied with a starting point such as “the welfare of mankind”.
It is vague, subjective and completely nonsense. Anything could be “derived from that nonsense.” Nothing could be proved! That is the point!

To argue that Rothbard and Hoppe are wrong because their starting point in their ethical system started with the concept of self-ownership and not with “God” or “the welfare of mankind” is really too much. Is this a joke or what?

When this sort of situation occurs, I will tell you this. If you want to have fun, try incrediMail, it is really funny. When you receive a mail, an old-fashioned butler will appear on your desktop screen and inform you that “you have a mail sir”. It is also free!

http://www.incredimail.com/english/splash/splash.asp

You can combine IncrediMail with a free anti spam filter named “Cactus Spam Filter”, because spam is not that funny:

http://www.download.com/Cactus-Spam-Filter/3000-2382_4-10545523.html?tag=lst-0-1

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl December 16, 2006 at 3:52 pm

Adi

“Mises wouldn’t support view that Utilitarianism means “greatest happiness for greatest number” since he and economist Franz Cuhel demonstrated that utility is not measurable: it’s relation of preferences or actions. So any welfare proposition which somehow makes us to compare wellfare of different agents is obviously flawed. It’s our view about wellfare of different agents not necessarily their own and in a way very arbitrary.
It think that Mises thought that only liberal order can achieve survival of humanity in the future. Like he said that socialism would mean starvation for many and impoverishment for more”.

Björn Actually he did support the view that utilitarianism means “greatest happiness for greatest number” and your point is, therefore, well grounded. Rothbard criticized him for the same thing.

Human Action:

“But the teachings of utilitarian philosophy and classical economics have nothing at all to do with the doctrine of natural right. With them the only point that matters is social utility. They recommend popular government, private property, tolerance, and freedom not because they are natural and just, but because they are beneficial. The core of Ricardo’s philosophy is the demonstration that social cooperation and division of labor between men who are in every regard superior and more efficient and men who are in every regard inferior and less efficient is beneficial to both groups. Bentham, the radical, shouted: “Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense.” [10] With him “the sole object of government ought to be the greatest happiness of the greatest possible number of the community.” [11] Accordingly, in investigating what ought to be right he does not care about preconceived ideas concerning God’s or nature’s plans and intentions, forever hidden to mortal men; he is intent upon discovering what best serves the promotion of human welfare and happiness. Malthus showed that nature in limiting the means of subsistence does not accord to any living being a right of existence, and that by indulging heedlessly in the natural impulse of proliferation man would never have risen above the verge of starvation. He contended that human civilization and well-being could develop only to the extent that man learned to rein his sexual appetites by moral restraint. The Utilitarians do not combat arbitrary government and privileges because they are against natural law but because they are detrimental to prosperity. They recommend equality under the civil law not because men are equal but because such a policy is beneficial to the commonweal. In rejecting the illusory notions of natural law and human equality modern biology only repeated what the utilitarian champions of liberalism and democracy long before had taught in a much more persuasive way. It is obvious that no biological doctrine can ever invalidate what utilitarian philosophy says about the social utility of democratic government, private property, freedom, and equality under the law.”

http://mises.org/humanaction/chap8sec8.asp#p175

The Ethics of Liberty:

“for the economist is supposed to be only a praxeologist, a technician, pointing out to his readers or listeners that they will all consider a policy “bad” once he reveals its full consequences. But ingenious as it is, the attempt completely fails. For how does Mises know what the advocates of the particular policy consider desirable? How does he know what their value-scales are now or what they will be when the consequences of the measure appear? One of the great contributions of praxeologic economics is that the economist realizes that he doesn’t know what anyone’s value scales are except as those value preferences are demonstrated by a person’s concrete action. Mises himself emphasized that:

“one must not forget that the scale of values or wants manifests itself only in the reality of action. These scales have no independent existence apart from the actual behavior of individuals. The only source from which our knowledge concerning these scales is derived is the observation of a man’s actions. Every action is always in perfect agreement with the scale of values or wants because these scales are nothing but an instrument for the interpretation of a man’s acting.”

Given Mises’s own analysis, then, how can the economist know what the motives for advocating various policies really are, or how people will regard the consequences of these policies?”

http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/twentysix.asp

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Michael A. Clem December 16, 2006 at 4:16 pm

I sticking with the Liberal notion of rights, that is, rights are only valid if they are capable of being enforced. Ideally and ethically the enforcement is consensus, every one peacefully agrees and all is well. But of course in a violent, choatic existence the back up enforcement is quite frankly, well, force.

Lots of rules can be “enforced”, whether they coincide with individual rights or not. Naturally, rights need to be protected to have a reasonable, worthwhile society. However, a reasonable conception of rights helps to create the consensus you ask for, so that law-enforcement actually does coincide with rights.
Furthermore, the appropriate use of defensive and retaliatory force doesn’t require a monopoly on the use of force. And enforcement that coincides with rights will be easier and more cost-effective than enforcement of privileges.
And last, but not least, we’ve tried to make it clear that anarchism does not equal chaos. Given the above points, there’s little reason to assume that an anarchist society would be violent and chaotic. You’re the one who keeps making that assumption.

I’m all for trying to limit government to “merely” rights protection. By all means, let’s try to keep Dubya and his ilk (most politicians) in line. But then let’s go beyond that and understand why it’s so difficult to keep them in line (it’s because they have a monopoly on the use of force) and what it *really* takes to have law-enforcement that coincides with rights (remove the monopoly). A “privileged” system will never adequately protect rights.

RogerM December 16, 2006 at 4:18 pm

Bjorn:”but to have “God” as a starting point as a defence of a rational ethic is irrational. You must understand that God’s existence is not at all rationally proved.”

Nietche, Camus, Sartre and many other great philosphers have concluded that without God, real morals can’t exist, because only God has authority over mankind. I object to Rothbard and Hoppe claiming to have created an ethical system without God because that’s impossible. Even Locke held to that view. I suppose you think they were all irrational, too.

How do modern “ethicists” get around the problem of morals without God? They don’t. They just ignore it, as Rothbard and Hoppe do.

Besides, belief in God is not irrational; atheism is irrational and unscientific. Read the recent book “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief” By Francis S. Collins, the head of the human genome project, who is a devout believer. Check out the writings of C.S. Lewis and Francis Schafer you’ll see why atheism is irrational.

But the main reason I object to Hoppe and Rothbard’s pretend ethics is their arbitrary choice of property as the absolute when other rights can be derived from self-ownership that are just as important as property.

“Socialism, radical Islam etc does not fulfil the requirements of being natural law.”

They certainly do, if the only requirement is to use reason, as Hoppe and Rothbard seem to think.

“As I have said, the foundation of a rational ethic cannot either be satisfied with a starting point such as “the welfare of mankind”.
It is vague, subjective and completely nonsense. Anything could be “derived from that nonsense.” Nothing could be proved! That is the point!”

That’s odd! Everyone from St. Thomas to Locke thought they could do it. So do C.S. Lewis, Francis Schafer and many other contemporary philosophers. Besides, I never claimed that “the welfare of mankind” was the only starting point. Re-read my posts and you’ll find others.

Peter December 16, 2006 at 7:18 pm

Roger: so how do you respond to Grotius’s idea that natural law would be the same even if no god existed, if natural law requires a god as a starting point? In any case, this whole “no morality without god” thing you keep harping about is utter, and patent, nonsense.

http://www.atheists.org/Atheism/cohen.html

http://falcon.tamucc.edu/~sencerz/Morality_Without_God.htm

Besides, belief in God is not irrational; atheism is irrational and unscientific. Read the recent book “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief” By Francis S. Collins, the head of the human genome project, who is a devout believer. Check out the writings of C.S. Lewis and Francis Schafer you’ll see why atheism is irrational.

There are any number of books about what theism is irrational nonsense, too. Or why Christianity is wrong and Hinduism is right. Or whatever. So what? Merely writing a book doesn’t make the content correct.

RogerM December 16, 2006 at 7:49 pm

Peter:”so how do you respond to Grotius’s idea that natural law would be the same even if no god existed, if natural law requires a god as a starting point?”

Almost all natural law writers after Grotius disagreed, for the reason that without God, no authority over man exists. You can derive ideas from human nature all day long, but none of them have any authority. They’re just musings.

“There are any number of books about what theism is irrational nonsense, too.”

Yes, there are quite a few. But I’ve found that Christians read both sides of the issue and can discuss them well. I’ve never read, nor met, an atheist who has read any of the great Christian books in favor of God.

Have you read Dostoevsky, Nietche, Sartre or Camus? What do you think of their arguments that real morals can’t exist without God? I’m not saying that people won’t act morally; atheists usually act morally. The argument of the great philosphers above is that atheists are acting irrationally when they behave morally.

Björn Lundahl December 16, 2006 at 7:51 pm

RogerM

Björn “Socialism, radical Islam etc does not fulfil the requirements of being natural law.”

RogerM. They certainly do, if the only requirement is to use reason, as Hoppe and Rothbard seem to think.

Björn I have pointed out for you before that Hoppe does not defend natural law. It is Rothbard that does that. Well, how can you assume that a great man as Rothbard thought that the only requirement that exist in defining natural law is the use of reason? It is really absurd to believe that. It also proves that you have not studied The Ethics of Liberty.

You seem to never learn. I will try again. I have posted several times this:

The Ethics of Liberty:

“IF, THEN, THE NATURAL law is discovered by reason from “the basic inclinations of human nature . . . absolute, immutable, and of universal validity for all times and places,” it follows that the natural law provides an objective set of ethical norms by which to gauge human actions at any time or place”.

Please notice that Rothbard wrote: “the basic inclinations of human nature . . . absolute, immutable, and of universal validity for all times and places.”

This is meant to inform the reader that the use of reason is not enough in discovering natural law. The requirement is also that natural law is founded on “the basic inclinations of human nature, absolute, immutable, and of universal validity for all times and places.”

When you read a sentence you must read the whole sentence and not only a part of it. Are you able to grasp this or are you going to write again “that Rothbard only thought that the use of reason was enough to discover natural law”. Are you going to be dishonest again? Because it is you that are dishonest and not Rothbard and Hoppe.

In the book Ethics of Liberty, Rothbard explains in several chapters the criteria for natural law:

PART I: INTRODUCTION: NATURAL LAW

1. Natural Law and Reason (p. 3)
2. Natural Law as “Science” (p. 9)
3. Natural Law versus Positive Law (p. 17)
4. Natural Law and Natural Rights (p. 21)
5. The Task of Political Philosophy (p. 25)

You should really study those before you criticise. You will probably write that you already have, but then, study the chapters again as you obviously have done a lot of misinterpretations.

I will not argue with you about the existence of a God or not. I am not against religion, but I do not think that, for example, the police try to stop murders and thieves because they believe in the existence of a God. The reason for that murdering and thievery are battled against is because of the fact that those acts are destructive actions i.e. they are antisocial actions. That is also the reason for the fact that they are being condemned by society.

The Ethics of Liberty:

The Jesuit Suarez pointed out that many Scholastics had taken the position that the natural law of ethics, the law of what is good and bad for man, does not depend upon God’s will. Indeed, some of the Scholastics had gone so far as to say that: even though God did not exist, or did not make use of His reason, or did not judge rightly of things, if there is in man such a dictate of right reason to guide him, it would have had the same nature of law as it now has.[5]

Or, as a modem Thomist philosopher declares:

If the word “natural” means anything at all, it refers to the nature of a man, and when used with “law,” “natural” must refer to an ordering that is manifested in the inclinations of a man’s nature and to nothing else. Hence, taken in itself, there is nothing religious or theological in the “Natural Law” of Aquinas.[6]

Dutch Protestant jurist Hugo Grotius declared, in his De Iure Belli ac Pacis (1625):

What we have been saying would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God.

And again:

Measureless as is the power of God, nevertheless it can be said that there are certain things over which that power does not extend. . . . Just as even God cannot cause that two times two should not make four, so He cannot cause that which is intrinsically evil be not evil.[7]

D’Entrèves concludes that:

[Grotius's] definition of natural law has nothing revolutionary. When he maintains that natural law is that body of rules which Man is able to discover by the use of his reason, he does nothing but restate the Scholastic notion of a rational foundation of ethics. Indeed, his aim is rather to restore that notion which had been shaken by the extreme Augustinianism of certain Protestant currents of thought. When he declares that these rules are valid in themselves, independently of the fact that God willed them, he repeats an assertion which had already been made by some of the schoolmen.[8]

Grotius’s aim, d’Entrèves adds, “was to construct a system of laws which would carry conviction in an age in which theological controversy was gradually losing the power to do so.” Grotius and his juristic successors—Pufendorf, Burlamaqui, and Vattel—proceeded to elaborate this independent body of natural laws in a purely secular context, in accordance with their own particular interests, which were not, in contrast to the Schoolmen, primarily theological.[9] Indeed, even the eighteenth-century rationalists, in many ways dedicated enemies of the Scholastics, were profoundly influenced in their very rationalism by the Scholastic tradition.[10]

Thus, let there be no mistake: in the Thomistic tradition, natural law is ethical as well as physical law; and the instrument by which man apprehends such law is his reason-not faith, or intuition, or grace, revelation, or anything else.[11] In the contemporary atmosphere of sharp dichotomy between natural law and reason—and especially amid the irrationalist sentiments of “conservative” thought—this cannot be underscored too often. Hence, St. Thomas Aquinas, in the words of the eminent historian of philosophy Father Copleston, “emphasized the place and function of reason in moral conduct. He [Aquinas] shared with Aristotle the view that it is the possession of reason which distinguished man from the animals” and which “enables him to act deliberately in view of the consciously apprehended end and raises him above the level of purely instinctive behavior.”[12]

Aquinas, then, realized that men always act purposively, but also went beyond this to argue that ends can also be apprehended by reason as either objectively good or bad for man. For Aquinas, then, in the words of Copleston, “there is therefore room for the concept of ‘right reason,’ reason directing man’s acts to the attainment of the objective good for man.” Moral conduct is therefore conduct in accord with right reason: “If it is said that moral conduct is rational conduct, what is meant is that it is conduct in accordance with right reason, reason apprehending the objective good for man and dictating the means to its attainment.”[13]

http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/one.asp

I think that you should study the works of Rothbard and Hoppe before you criticise them. The only thing you have proved is that your ideas are based on logical fallacies and misinterpretations. I have written all this so the honest reader can have a choice in deciding which ideas are objective and true. You have, actually, only answered in a way that I have expected from you in the very beginning of our debate when I wrote:

“I think that both Rothbard and Hoppe have rationally justified a libertarian ethic and I do not want to start a debate why this is so and why that statement you have made is wrong etc. Actually it would be a waste of time as you would not accept their justifications anyway and as I would still claim that they are true. If you, for example, “argue” that you do not exist and I would claim that you do etc, and you still go on “arguing” that you do not, it would also be a waste of time. That is how I would feel about debating already proved true ethical principles. I have also referred to valid writings in my above post”.

http://blog.mises.org/archives/005970.asp

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

RogerM December 16, 2006 at 8:17 pm

Bjorn:”Are you able to grasp this or are you going to write again “that Rothbard only thought that the use of reason was enough to discover natural law”. Are you going to be dishonest again? Because it is you that are dishonest and not Rothbard and Hoppe.”

You’re so typical of anarchists. When you can’t defend your arguments with calm reason, you resort to insults.

The essential issue is whether the state is a legit institution. When Rothbard determines it is not, he has departed from the original body of natural law. It’s that simple. Original natural law determined that the state was necessary, as did Mises. So whatever Rothbard calls his musings about the state, they’re not natural law!

Yes, Grotius did not think belief in God was necessary for the development of natural law, even though he was a devout believer, a great theologian, and wrote commentaries on the Bible. Natural law writers after him disagreed for reasons I’ve given above.

Rothbard and Hoppe clearly disagree with all true natural law writers and most libertarian writers, even Mises, on the legitimacy of the state. Why do you think that reasonable men disagree on such issues?

Björn Lundahl December 16, 2006 at 8:32 pm

Peter

Well said! RogerM is not aware of all the fallacies he has written. Take, for instance, “that without God, no authority over man exists”.
What authority is he referring to? If God rules the world and we are only helpless subjects, why argue and defend Christianity. There would be no need for it. If he, alternatively, mean that what is needed is that humans follow a Christian ethic for it being a powerful one, well, what about the authority of God? It seems that any ethic, rational as well as irrational, must be obeyed by a great number of people to have a powerful influence in society.

A libertarian ethic has “the authority” that it condemns destructive actions and is the very foundation of civilizations. It actually delivers a lot of “goodies”.

Björn Lundahl

RogerM December 16, 2006 at 9:47 pm

Bjorn: “RogerM is not aware of all the fallacies he has written.”

Had you pointed some out, I would have addressed them. So far I’ve seen little but insults, distortions and misunderstandings.

Bjorn:”If God rules the world and we are only helpless subjects, why argue and defend Christianity. There would be no need for it. If he, alternatively, mean that what is needed is that humans follow a Christian ethic for it being a powerful one, well, what about the authority of God?”

What’s so hard to understand about authority? I’ll try to make it as simple as possible for you. Take the example of a family. The children instinctively understand that they have no authority over each other. Only the parents can tell the children what to do. In natural law, God is the parent; mankind are the children. No man has the authority to tell another one what to do.

Without God, mankind can, and has, used reason to discover a wide variety of so-called moral arguments. Just notice the many arguements among anarchists over the minutae of an anarchist society. But no matter how well reasoned, all ethical systems developed without God are nothing more than one man’s opinion over another’s. And reasonable people can disagree. So if someone violates a man-made (excuse me, man-discovered) rule, all anyone can claim is that such a person is unreasonable under that particular system. No one has the authority to punish a violator. Godless systems of ethics are no more than housing covenants in which violators must move.

Sam December 16, 2006 at 10:45 pm

After reading Rothbard’s view about natural rights, freedoms, Statism, etc. (from the link Björn Lundahl provided), only reinforces my view that for anyone to have any rights, possessions or freedoms they must be able to defend them from the thieves of the world.

The very fact that Libertarians thinkers are for pro-weapon ownership means they fully understand that with greater self-rule requires greater personal self-defence.

Dewaine December 16, 2006 at 11:56 pm

The very fact that Libertarians thinkers are for pro-weapon ownership means they fully understand that with greater self-rule requires greater personal self-defence.
Posted by: Sam at December 16, 2006 10:45 PM

We would do well to resist the urge to group all libertarians together or assume them all to hold the same worldview and philosophical outlook. Some libertarians are averse to violence even in self defense.

http://www.voluntaryist.com/action/vol_resistance.php

http://www.voluntaryist.com/articles/027b.php

Björn Lundahl December 17, 2006 at 2:55 am

The Austrian Economics Newsletter

Austrians and the Private-Property Society
An Interview with Hans-Hermann Hoppe

AEN: In applying this a priori approach to ethics, were you attempting to supplant natural rights.

HOPPE: No, not at all. I was attempting to make the first two chapters of Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty stronger than they were*. That in turn would provide more weight to everything that followed. I had some dissatisfaction with rigor with which the initial ethical assumptions of libertarian political theory had been arrived at. Intuitively, they seemed plausible. But I could see that a slightly different approach might be stronger. Murray never considered my revisions to be a threat. His only concern was: does this ultimately make the case? Ultimately, he agreed that it did.

AEN: Yet Mises attacks anarchism in no uncertain terms.

HOPPE: His targets here are left-utopians. He attacks their theory that man is good enough not to need an organized defense against the enemies of civilization. But this is not what the private-property anarchist believes. Of course, murderers and thieves exist. There needs to be an institution that keeps these people at bay. Mises calls this institution government, while people who want no state at all point out that all essential defensive services can be better performed by firms in the market. We can call these firms government if we want to.

AEN: What do you say to the critique that the private-property society as you describe it appears quite authoritarian?

HOPPE: This is a left-egalitarian critique. They claim that authority should play no role in social life and that there should be no rank or position. But of course, there can be no society without structures of authority. In the family, there is always a hierarchy. In communities, there are always leaders. In firms, there are always managers.

But in a market, none of these authorities have taxing power. Their rule depends entirely on voluntary consent and contact. But the state attempts to break down these competitive centers of authorities and establish a single authority overriding all others. If you don’t comply, the state cracks down.

It is a ridiculous idea that we need the state to tell social authorities that they need to adhere to a uniform set of rules and obey a single master. Society does not need uniform modes of association. Market exchange makes social harmony possible even within the framework of radical diversity.

Today’s so-called multiculturalists don’t see that there is a difference between having a globe with many different cultures and imposing that diversity on each point on the globe.

It is a difference between a regime of private property and a statist regime where the rest of us merely obey. Ultimately, those are the only two systems from which we have to choose.

http://mises.org/journals/aen/aen198.asp

*Now I know Hoppe’s motive, before I guessed it.
He has confirmed my speculation. Hoppe is really something!

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Peter December 17, 2006 at 3:14 am

But no matter how well reasoned, all ethical systems developed without God are nothing more than one man’s opinion over another’s.

Well, the same thing holds for all ethical systems developed with God, then! False premises.

Björn Lundahl December 17, 2006 at 6:16 am

Peter

Very true indeed, If Roger’s “opinion” (man made) was correct any ethical system, Christian or not, logically true or not, would only be an illustration of “some people’s opinions”. The same “principle” “could” also be used to abandon all rational thoughts and sciences whatsoever. Every opinion is only derived from flesh and blood so to speak, so why should we listen to that? This would also mean that it is the nihilistic faith which is the true one. But nihilism is a contradiction in terms, but that doesn’t matter at all, since it is only my opinion.

Björn Lundahl

David White December 17, 2006 at 10:42 am

I believe in natural law insofar as law is natural man and is established insofar as it is commonly agreed upon (shared opinion). True, this is a function of reason, but reason must be viewed, as E.O. Wilson viewed it, in a sociological context, wherein “ethical precepts . . . are more likely to be products of the brain and the culture. From the consilient perspective of the natural sciences, they are no more than principles of the social contract hardened into rules and dictates — the behavioral codes that members of a society fervently wish others to follow and are themselves will to accept for the common good. Precepts are the extreme on a scale of agreements that range from casual assent, to public sentiment, to law, to that part of the canon considered sacred and unalterable.”

Thus did virtually every culture the world over — including Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — come to embrace the “Ethic of Reciprocity,” otherwise known as the Golden Rule — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethic_of_reciprocity.

And as the Golden Rule, especially in its negative formulation, is fully in keeping with the non-aggression principle and thus the self-ownership from which liberty and property are derived, this is really the only law that human society has ever needed, never mind that the state has utterly corrupted the law via legal positivism — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_positivism — run amok. For to disengage law from morality is to turn law on its head, all the more so as one positive law is heaped upon another and another until there is no law at all. (Think the US tax code.)

Thus, the only way to return to moral law is to return to the libertarian ethic, empowering the individual so as to reduce positive law, and thus the state, to the vanishing point.

And how interesting, by the way, that Time’s Person of the Year is any person engaged in the “digital democracy” of using or creating content on the World Wide Web, as this is individual empowerment on a truly global scale.

And no wonder, then, that the state is so afraid of it — http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/garris3.html

Michael A. Clem December 17, 2006 at 10:46 am

Whoops! Someone had to go and bring God into it. As a libertarian, I certainly believe that people can believe whatever they want as long as they are not initiating force or fraud against others. However, resorting to belief in an ultimate irrationality as an argument against men holding authority over other men not only seems illogical and unpersuasive, it rather misses the point.
I’ve said this before, but it’s been quite a while. The difference between a conservative and a libertarian is that a conservative believes that someone, somewhere, *must* be the final authority on men’s actions. Libertarians, on the other hand, believe that there is no such final authority, although there may be plenty of not-so-final authorities.
Any argument about the existence of God would only be relevant here if one can show that the existence of God has an impact whether one believes in it or not, that is, an impact beyond one’s belief or disbelief.

Skye Stewart December 17, 2006 at 10:54 am

Objective law seems to be a myth. There is no magic solution that we can just give to government and they will somehow efficiently enforce it.

Common Law which the american system use to be based upon is case-generated law. It is a decentralized, and depoliticized system in which those involved meet and negotiate. It was more horizontal, rather than vertical, or top down in nature. It evolved and worked well for hundreds of years until the modern state politicized, and monopolized it.

Short, concise essays that deal with this subject nicely, are

The Obviousness of Anarchy. by John Hasnas,
http://mises.org/journals/scholar/hasnas.pdf

The Myth of the Rule of Law, 1995 Wisconsin Law Review 199 (1995)
http://faculty.msb.edu/hasnasj/GTWebSite/MythFinalDraft.pdf

Also, listen to “Combining Objectiveness of Property Rights with Differentiation in Law” Simasius, Prague Conference on Political Economy, University of Economics, Prague and the Liberalni Institut

Björn Lundahl December 17, 2006 at 11:10 am

David White and Michael A. Clem

In Liberty We Trust.

You are true freedom fighters. Good points!

Björn Lundahl

David White December 17, 2006 at 1:06 pm

Thanks, Bjorn, and right back at you. Same for Michael, for if God exists (specifically, the all-powerful, all-knowing God of traditional theism), then as as the ultimate authority, it alone can be free, with all other beings subservient to it.

One only has to imagine that one of us had such powers to know that this is true.

Michael A. Clem December 17, 2006 at 1:10 pm

Actually, Skye, I believe that a common or customary legal system would tend to converge with “natural rights” or objective law over time, although I don’t think I can adequately argue the point. But I agree that, even assuming that Objective law could be completely derived and written down, it would never work to simply pass the Objective Law book to government and expect them to enforce it properly.
A common libertarian argument is that the means is not justified by the ends; an immoral means, in fact, makes it impossible to achieve a moral end. Thus, common or customary law is a moral means to achieve a moral end: objective law and the protection of natural rights.
You might say that objective law is like an evenly-rotating economy (ERE): an ideal that the proper system (or means) is constantly trying to reach, and thus is always in flux to accommodate the constant change of circumstances.

Sione Vatu December 17, 2006 at 2:42 pm

The trouble with taking the line that God exists and is the authority on ethics/morality is that the assertion “God exists” is arbitary. There is no proof or verification. One may as well begin a philosophic system by alleging the existence of pixies at the bottom of the garden and proceed from there. Fundamentally religion is an evil in and of itself. It is anti-reason and hence anti-Man. The whole horror show of religion is an uncivilised barabarity. An insult to Man’s faculty of reason, hence unethical.

It was for reasons of self-consistency and correspondence to reality I originally started to study the Libertarian schools of thought. A great strength of such is that one is able to derive and validate the arguments or principles independently of an authority. Nothing needs to be taken on faith. In the case of religion this is not allowed, hence must be evaded.

When it comes down to it I prefer individualism to any form of coercive collectivism. Hence my interest in Libertarianism.

Sione

David White December 17, 2006 at 3:18 pm

Sione:

” Nothing needs to be taken on faith.”

Granted, the irony being that libertarianism is so intellectually satisfying that despite all the offenses against it, one gains a faith in the social enterprise, and thus in humanity itself, that is all but unshakable.

At least it is for me, especially as I exercise my “Person of the Year” status via this powerful, freedom-fighting forum.

RogerM December 18, 2006 at 9:32 am

One last thought before I bow out of this discussion: In my first post I wrote that Libertarianism is beautiful because it’s true and Truth is beautiful. But to discover Truth, one must become obsessed with Truth, and Truth alone. If one allows anything else, whether property or liberty, to take higher priority than Truth, then Truth suffers terribly.

Obviously, a lot of libertarians have supplanted the love of Truth with a worship of property and/or liberty, and as a result have blinded themselves to the Truth.

I didn’t invent the idea that morality is irrational without God. I learned it from the true natural rights writers, from Dostoevsky, and from great atheist philosophers such as Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus, and Christian writers like C.S. Lewis, Francis Schafer, and Mortimer Adler.

I can’t do justice to their works with short posts like this, but those who continue to think they can develop moral systems without God should read the atheist philosophers mentioned above and try to understand why they came to the conclusion that morals without God are irrational. That conclusion wasn’t easy for them and they struggled with it for years. But at least with regard to the question of morals, they loved Truth more than anything.

rtr December 18, 2006 at 10:03 am

Talking about God like it’s one’s pocket watch again? From the opening paragraph of Ch.3 in Human Action:

Chapter III. Economics and the Revolt Against Reason
1. The Revolt Against Reason

“It is true that some philosophers were ready to overrate the power of human reason. They believed that man can discover by ratiocination the final causes of cosmic events, the inherent ends the prime mover aims at in creating the universe and determining the course of its evolution. They expatiated on the “Absolute” as if it were their pocket watch. They did not shrink from announcing eternal absolute values and from establishing moral codes unconditionally binding on all men.”

David White December 18, 2006 at 11:50 am

RoberM:

If morals are a product of reason as reflected in common experience over time — i.e., if they are sociological in nature, as E. O. Wilson surmises and as the evolutionary process as a whole would tend to support — then there would be nothing irrational about them.

What, after all, is irrational about the most universal of all moral principles, the Golden Rule, and why is it not just as likely that it arose sociololgically rather than being embedded a priori in nature by an outside agent?

Reactionary December 18, 2006 at 12:27 pm

“What, after all, is irrational about the most universal of all moral principles, the Golden Rule,…?”

Rationally, if you’re in a position to shield yourself from the reactions, then the Golden Rule is an unnecessary constraint on acquiring the objects of your desires.

George Gaskell December 18, 2006 at 1:05 pm

Obviously, a lot of libertarians have supplanted the love of Truth with a worship of property and/or liberty, and as a result have blinded themselves to the Truth.

Oh, yes, please, do tell us what the Truth-with-a-capital-T is.

I get this sort of thing all the time from the vile Left — that free-market proponents have made the market their God. Usually, they capitalize “market,” just as you have capitalized “truth,” just to emphasize the point, I guess, that it’s somehow different from regular markets and regular truth.

What a colossal waste of time.

David White December 18, 2006 at 1:16 pm

Reactionary:

Are you saying that if you can get away with doing unto others as you see fit that it would be rational to make it a universal norm of behavior? But of course, no society could function under such a premise, as it would be impossible for everyone to get away with doing unto others as they see fit.

As the exact opposite is the case with the Golden Rule — i.e., everyone can function under it — it would be perfectly rational to make it a universal norm of behavior, which is why virtually every society worthy of the name has done so.

Reactionary December 18, 2006 at 2:12 pm

David,

“Are you saying that if you can get away with doing unto others as you see fit that it would be rational to make it a universal norm of behavior?”

No. I’m saying that rationally, if you can get away with violating the Golden Rule, then it’s nothing more than an unnecessary obstacle to achieving your desired ends.

adi December 18, 2006 at 2:51 pm

One can very well believe that respecting others rights is proper thing to do when they interact with you but be aggressive when one is in the position to take advantage of others without respecting their rights. This kind of man/woman is just a hypocrite, not necessarily one who has inconsistent theory of justice.

Why I as an individual have to take some kind of norm as my greatest guiding principle if in sometime I’m in the position to (unfairly) take advantage. One may well believe that this Kantian principle is generally true but why bind yourself this way?

David White December 18, 2006 at 2:53 pm

Reactionary,

Never mind that there’s no real difference between the above two statements, the point is that stealing from or otherwise doing unto others as you would not have them do unto you (which of course you wouldn’t) is utterly irrational so far as making this a universal norm of behavior, i.e., as the moral basis of society.

Surely you aren’t arguing otherwise.

Reactionary December 18, 2006 at 3:21 pm

David,

It is not “utterly irrational” because in fact, I can think of sufficient reasons to violate the Golden Rule, such as when I am in a position to shield myself from the consequences. Powerful and wealthy sectors of society in the US and elsewhere are based on these exceptions. You are trying to elevate reason into morality by its own bootstraps and it cannot be done.

David White December 18, 2006 at 3:44 pm

Reacionary:

OK, so you’ve figureed out a way to literally get away with murder. What does this have to do with rational morality?

As for “trying to elevate reason into morality by its own bootstraps,” I am doing no such thing. All I’m just saying is that the rationality of the Golden Rule (no matter how much the institutionalized aggression of the state has compromised it) is self-evident in that virtually all cultures the world over have embraced it. Why? Because it makes so much sense, which is just another way of saying it’s rational.

Larry N. Martin December 18, 2006 at 4:14 pm

Reactionary: it is rational for an individual, IF they can get away with it. Big if, there. However, it wouldn’t be rational at all to arrange all of society on such an idea. A thief wants most people to *not* be thieves, so that he can steal from others and not worry about others stealing from him. It’s a double standard that would never work on a society-wide scale, and only dubiuosly works at the individual level.

Björn Lundahl December 18, 2006 at 5:40 pm

Human Action:

“Within the frame of social cooperation there can emerge between members of society feelings of sympathy and friendship and a sense of belonging together. These feelings are the source of man’s most delightful and most sublime experiences. They are the most precious adornment of life; they lift the animal species man to the heights of a really human existence. However, they are not, as some have asserted, the agents that have brought about social relationships. They are fruits of social cooperation, they thrive only within its frame; they did not precede the establishment of social relations and are not the seed from which they spring.

The fundamental facts that brought about cooperation, society, and civilization and transformed the animal man into a human being are the facts that work performed under the division of labor is more productive than isolated work and that man’s reason is capable of recognizing this truth. But for these facts men would have forever remained deadly foes of one another, irreconcilable rivals in their endeavors to secure a portion of the scarce supply of means of sustenance provided by nature. Each man would have been forced to view all other men as his enemies; his craving for the satisfaction of his own appetites would have brought him into an implacable conflict with all his neighbors. No sympathy could possibly develop under such a state of affairs.”

http://mises.org/humanaction/chap8sec1.asp#p143

“Man cannot have both the advantages derived from peaceful cooperation under the principle of the division of labor within society and the license of embarking upon conduct that is bound to disintegrate society. He must choose between the observance of certain rules that make life within society possible and the poverty and insecurity of the “dangerous life” in a state of perpetual warfare among independent individuals. This is no less rigid a law determining the outcome of all human action than are the laws of physics.”

http://mises.org/humanaction/chap15sec6.asp#p280

Ethics of Liberty:

“For the assertion of human rights is not properly a simple emotive one; individuals possess rights not because we “feel” that they should, but because of a rational inquiry into the nature of man and the universe. In short, man has rights because they are natural rights. They are grounded in the nature of man: the individual man’s capacity for conscious choice, the necessity for him to use his mind and energy to adopt goals and values, to find out about the world, to pursue his ends in order to survive and prosper, his capacity and need to communicate and interact with other human beings and to participate in the division of labor. In short, man is a rational and social animal. No other animals or beings possess this ability to reason, to make conscious choices, to transform their environment in order to prosper, or to collaborate consciously in society and the division of labor.

Thus, while natural rights, as we have been emphasizing, are absolute, there is one sense in which they are relative: they are relative to the species man. A rights-ethic for mankind is precisely that: for all men, regardless of race, creed, color or sex, but for the species man alone”

http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/twentyone.asp

All organizations have a “code of conduct”. Even the mafia has it. It is the very foundation on which they last. It is an illusion to believe that this is not so.

In a society there must, also, be a “code of conduct” i.e. a legal code. A society cannot function without those norms. As Mises and Rothbard have pointed out, without a society we loose, so the great question is not a lawless society as it cannot exist and is therefore an illusion, but rather the question which we are, therefore, bound to answer; which legal norms or principles are Just and true?

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl December 18, 2006 at 6:21 pm

The Ethics of Liberty:

Hesselberg continues:

“But a social order is not possible unless man is able to conceive what it is, and what its advantages are, and also conceive those norms of conduct which are necessary to its establishment and preservation, namely, respect for another’s person and for his rightful possessions, which is the substance of justice. . . . But justice is the product of reason, not the passions. And justice is the necessary support of the social order; and the social order is necessary to man’s well-being and happiness. If this is so, the norms of justice must control and regulate the passions, and not vice versa.”

http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/two.asp

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

David White December 18, 2006 at 6:40 pm

Bjorn,

What can I possibly add, other than to say that libertarianism is as just as it is true, as true as it is good, as good as it is beautiful, and thus as close to ideal as the human species can aspire, with faith in the process, wherever it takes us.

Björn Lundahl December 18, 2006 at 7:01 pm

David

Yes true, very true and that is a very nice way to say it! But just now I am angry at myself! I wrote “loose” when it should be “lose”. Well, I am a foreigner.

Björn Lundahl

George Gaskell December 18, 2006 at 7:53 pm

Reactionary, you have confused praxeological reasoning with moral/ethical reasoning.

To say that finding a practical way to get away with murder, or any other violation of another person’s rights, is praxeological. It may be rational, in the sense that you find a way to get what you want without some retributional behavior to follow.

But it could never represent a form of moral or ethical reasoning (except, maybe, in a whacked-out system of ethical reasoning that no one’s ever heard of), and certainly not one grounded in reason.

David White December 18, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Bjorn,

Whatever you are, you are not a foreigner to the freedom upon which the human endeavor depends. For it is the loss of freedom that makes us “loose.”

And what I would give to speak your language as you speak mine (though I guess it’s about time I learned Spanish).

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