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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6073/life-liberty-and/

Life, Liberty, and…

December 29, 2006 by

  1. Introduction
  2. Unhappiness and Enervation
    • The State’s Business
    1. Service and Servitude
    2. The New Absolutism
    3. Our Enemy, The State

    For almost a full century before the Revolution of 1776, writes Albert Jay Nock, the classic enumeration of human rights was “life, liberty, and property.” The American Whigs took over this formula from the English Whigs, who had constructed it out of the theories of their seventeenth-century political thinkers, notably John Locke. It appears in the Declaration of Rights, which was written by John Dickinson and set forth by the Stamp Act Congress. In drafting the Constitution of Massachusetts in 1779 Samuel and John Adams used the same formula. But when the Declaration of Independence was drafted Mt Jefferson wrote “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and although his colleagues on the committee, Franklin, Livingston, Sherman, and Adams, were pretty well tinctured with Whig philosophy, they let the alteration stand. It was a revolutionary change. FULL ARTICLE


    Sam December 30, 2006 at 1:21 am

    Life, Liberty and Property?

    If people don’t like the State then what does this mean to be a property owner? Is a problem with the concept of property ownership is that the owner is supposedly singular? A man living in his house on his own plot of land?

    What of the property rights of the owner of a apartment building then? As a property owner does he not have to right to makes rules to tenants such as: ‘no pets’, ‘no blacks’, ‘no women’, no Muslims’, etc.? The answer then is that people who don’t like the rules should find another apartment block? That to get aggressive and demand the property owner change his rules is an affront to the concept of property rights? If people who don’t want to leave because they don’t want to sleep under a bridge mean that the property owner has his own private rights to coercion? Or if people refuse to leave and accept the harsh rules then there is no coercion?

    Or what of the rights of a man who violently beats his wife and children in the family home? Doesn’t anyone who marches in, beats the man up and take the women and children to safety violate the sacred rule of property rights for ‘an emergency situation’, otherwise it’s just trespass and battery? Is the correct Libertarian view is to do nothing unless the women and escape to the streets then intervention is allowed? To allow intervention on ‘emergency cases’ begin the slippery slope of Statism, ‘eminent domain’ and Utilitarianism? To say that if the women and children do not ask for help do we then presume that we cannot have any right to intervene?

    After all, where are Libertarians without the sacredness of property rights?

    Saturdaynightspecial December 30, 2006 at 8:28 am

    The smart ones, the educated and smart ones can’t exist as property of the state – it’s too stifling. But the rest – the “mindless massess” they are tough enough to survive a police state, and they will, they do.

    The people who defend the state are sick and or corrupt. The state preys on the mindless masses; it knows it can empower itself from the masses with bribes.

    J D December 30, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    Nock’s “Our Enemy the State” can be read on line starting at:

    David White December 31, 2006 at 9:20 am

    It has long been said in legal circles that the perfect is the enemy of the good, yet this never stops statists like Sam from attacking libertarianism because it can’t square itself in every conceivable circumstance with the non-aggression principle. Nor can statists like him abide the notion that discrinimation is the very essence of the human intellect, no matter that it often discriminates poorly.

    Will enough whites patronize an apartment building that bars blacks for the enterprise to succeed financially? Let the market decide. And should it decide in favor of the proprietor, with the result that society becomes polarized and descends into tribalism, then let tribalism work itself out. Better that than government dictatorship. (And while one’s mind immediately leaps to Iraq and its warring factions in the aftermath of Saddam’s fall, let us remember, too, that it was the victors in WWII who divvied the spoils so as to create this “political fiction” — as well as that of Israel — for which the world is only now beginning to pay the true price.)

    As for the wife- and child-beater, though one aggresses against his property by entering it without his permission, one does so with the understanding that those who can’t defend themselves should nonetheless be defended, such that in cases like this, the protection of life supersedes the protection of property. What court of law worthy of the name would judge otherwise?

    But again, Sam’s objective is everywhere and always to poke holes, not to fill them, and thus to serve the interests of a status (as in statist) quo, the moral vacuity of which he nonetheless exposes with his every utterance.

    Sam December 31, 2006 at 9:51 am

    Wow. Gee. Interesting reply D. White. Your response seems to presume that Libertarianism is about an unqualified free markets and government hatred and that’s pretty much it. Your second paragraph seemed to presume the suspicion that if people are violent per se then so be it, but it’s violence from a faction that one could call ‘government’ then ‘oh no, shock and horror’! Unfairness in the marketplace? Touch luck chump! That’s real life! Get used to it! Perhaps?

    My previous question was one of does property rights, as per the holy grail status of Libertopia, give the owner a great deal of power over others? Does this start the transition from landowner to landlord to monarch to dictator? My concern here is also is Libertopia presumed to have a ‘horiztonal’ existence. Which is to say one where everyone has their own plot and land to work with and happily trade with other simple landowners. I was wondering about ‘vertical’ power. A landowner with much land who then rents it out to the landless folk for a fee. The landowner uses the ‘love it or leave it’ argument. And, as I have blogged before, folks tends abide by the ho-hum existence rather than takes their chances elsewhere. This could the be dreary option if all other landowners are pretty much the same and since unowned fertile land is generally rare, leaving to find a freehold piece of uncultivated fertile land are pretty slim.

    Oh dear, am I try to poke holes at Libertarianism? >:) Duh! But as Socrates once said to Euclydes(?) that if one was certain of a truth then they should have no problem with debating as truth will stand up to testing from sceptics. Indeed science is supposed to be on the notion that someone has come with a theory then it’s up to everyone else to test out the theory and if a flaw is found then it is shown to be false. Gee, D. White you are not afraid of inquiry are you? Anyone who would use threats to stop inquiry to a belief knows they are hiding lies which will discredit them when exposed. But I’m sure since this is a blog people are presuming that debate must be good if it helps sort out bad ideas from good ones. ;)

    David White December 31, 2006 at 10:22 am

    The problem, Sam, is that you haven’t read so as to intelligently inquire but, largely ignorant of the subject matter, instead take pot shots from the periphery. Either that or, as I’ve said before, you simply don’t undertand what you read.

    But as there is little indication that you’ve done any more than skim the literature, I’d have say it’s the former, rendering your inquisitiveness annoying rather than challenging.

    Take a break, Sam, and come back armed with questions that reflect a real understanding of libertarianism. It’s all right here, and were this a socialist or other statist site, I would do no less.

    Daniel M. Ryan December 31, 2006 at 10:25 am

    sam, the point remains that your two initial examples are ones that are not really the “killer counterexamples” that you might think they are.

    With regard to scenario #2: domestic-abuse cases are notorious amongst the police profession for the rescuee(s) coming to the defense of the presumed abuser, later. This phenomenon already occurs in a complaint-driven system, one where the police don’t move in at all unless a call to them has been made beforehand, or unless they can realistically confound any such abuse with another kind of crime, like (say) attempted murder or “invasion of the home,” as a way of quelling the objections of the victim to being rescued. Ask around in law-enforcement circles, and you’ll probably hear of soothe tricks – ones meant to soothe the victims(s) – that I wouldn’t even think of.

    With regard to the first scenario: such an attempt would have to tap into a pre-existing suspicion of the group in question, or else it will be seen as somewhat comical. You have to remember that the norm, in market society, is “every place of business needs everyone’s (potential) trade.” Anyone who posts an exclusionary rule, even one as inefficacious as “No Extraterrestrial Aliens Allowed To Rent Here,” is going to appear somewhat of a deviant – unless there is that pre-existing suspicion amongst the general public that the excluder has tapped into. The oddball factor in part explains why competition melts such attempts into comical stories, unless (to repeat) there is an already-existing compatible set of bigotries that such a landlord can tap into.

    And what if there are? In a State-dominated society, any government official can tap into them too. Unlike the market discriminator, though, the person who uses “the sacredness of the law” to enforce bigotries has access to users of force to back him or her up. The most egregious examples of discrimination in society, in otherwise market societies, have had State backing of them. The “Force of Law” behind these restrictions explains why.

    Sam December 31, 2006 at 7:48 pm

    If it makes you feel better D. White I made an entry to a Socialist website about the issue of inequality about a month ago. I had simply typed text to the tune that a billionaire has 1,000 the times the inequality of a millionaire, but I wouldn’t have sympathy for the millionaire wanting wealth redistribution. Instead of my entry getting posted, I got an email to the tune of ‘you know what we mean by inequality’. Perhaps if there was a Socialist equivalent of you they’d have told to go back to Socialism/Marxism 101 so I could give a more conformist reply.

    Yes, D. White I have read literature about Libertarianism and if I can’t rapt about it, it must be because I can’t get the ‘Oh! Now it’s all so obvious!’ part. And, like Marxism, I’m more interested about how the ideology is going to affect the average person on the street than (unlike Marxism) hearing about how business owners won’t have pay theft-taxes or worry about stupid government regulations. Reading about Marxism and seeing the actual results can similarly ask why should Libertarianism be any different? The Chilean experience may have done wonders to the overall economy but the average person seemed a lot worse off. But of course the standard replies would say either ‘yes they were better off you’re just using a Socialist benchmark hence your misjudgement, dopey’ or ‘Pinochet did his part but the workers weren’t doing theirs, they wanted to go straight back a Socialist-protected society instead using the wonderful gift of the free market they have just been given’.

    Similarly I have a similar kerfuffle about the way Libertarians seem to flit between inequality and equality depending on the nature of the particular argument. One moment they like inequality: ‘Of course, inequality is good, it’s what defines us as the human race and, shucks, if we were all equal wouldn’t life be boring?! I mean the problems of inequality are what drive innovation and a better life. If we were all clones living successfully as hunters/gatherers we’d never need to invent anything since our existence is already adequate. We’d probably be like animals living to support our basic functions and nothing else’. On the other hand, the notion of happy tradings and relations and perfectly magical elastic markets require equality. How on earth can anyone believe the employer/employee, buyer/seller, renter/leasee, owner/investor, etc., relationships can seen as a simple fair transaction unless both parties are equally capable? And is it convenient to say that if the transactions are unequal then it’s ‘government interference with the marketplace’?

    M. Seiler December 31, 2006 at 11:24 pm

    Sam asked:

    “How on earth can anyone believe the employer/employee, buyer/seller, renter/leasee, owner/investor, etc., relationships can seen as a simple fair transaction unless both parties are equally capable?”

    It’s very simple. If the transaction is voluntary, then it means all parties involved expect to benefit. Otherwise, one of the parties would opt out and the transaction would not occur. Keep in mind that the values of all goods and services are subjective and vary from person to person. That is why people trade in the first place.

    Regarding your last paragraph, it seems like you’ve been hearing/reading Neoclassical arguments for laissez-faire. Neoclassical talk of “perfect competition” and “perfect magical elastic markets” is nowhere near the strongest case for laissez-faire. Austrian economics (which is what this site is about) presents a much stronger case, showing that laissez-faire can work in the real world instead of requiring “perfect competition.”

    Sam January 1, 2007 at 7:25 am

    Oh bulldust, I’m sure most people have heard of seller’s markets and buyer’s markets. When the seller has something that heaps of other people want he can except to the crowd have an auction and sit back and watch the bids go higher and higher, this would be the Seller’s Market. However if the seller has something not particularly in demand then the seller has to sell to the first offer and grab it with both hands lest new offers get smaller and smaller, this would be the Buyer’s Market.

    Similarly is there is a shortage of workers relative to a job then an employer would have to offer a plump renumeration package lest the worker goes to another employer, this would be the Employee’s Market. However, if there is a worker surplus relative to a type of job then the employees bid down the wages of the opening and the job would go to the lowest bidder, this would be the Employer’s Market.

    But I s’pose the standard reply is one of government regulations, minimum wages, immigration barriers, fractional reserves, fiat currency, etc. . .

    David White January 1, 2007 at 8:35 am

    Sam, the incoherence of your second-to-last reply only serves to make my point, as you continue to wade into the discussion unprepared to engage in it on a level worthy of the subject matter.

    M. Seller is quite right, for instance, about your confusing neoclassical with Austrian economics, as the latter speaks not of perfect competition but merely of markets that will tend toward competitive equilibrium if allowed to function on their own — i.e., under a rule of law that is confined to the protection of life, liberty, and property.

    They rarely are, however, and, on the contrary, have been so massively distorted the world over that enormous imbalances have now built up — e.g., a buyers’ market in labor that, together with finance capital unhinged from the real economy (via the corruption of money), is resulting in a transfer of wealth (from West to East) unprecedented in human history.

    That is, so far is the world from anything like “perfect competition” that your criticisms are simply ludicrous. Dismiss “government regulations…” if you will, but this “standard reply” is simply confronting the world as it is and saying that it would be vastly better off without these never-ending impediments to the free and open exchange that is the essence of the social process.

    Daniel M. Ryan January 1, 2007 at 11:45 am

    One note, sam, with respect to making direct-eye comparisons in the lot of life of “average people”: you assumed that people who are more satisfied complain less, and people who are less satisfied complain more. This assumption is often misleading, because complaints have a functional value, and thus are dropped when there seems no means of remedying them. Thus, it is possible for a group of people to step up their complaints while their lot is improving, because the option of inurement to a bad lot is less practicable. The possibility of shucking off a previous inurement explains “deTocqueville’s paradox”: why a rise in prosperity sometimes accompanies a rise in dissastisfaction with one’s lot.

    As far as the inequality/equality “flit” is concerned, the unifying principle is incomparability. If each one of us are incomparable to any other, in terms of our capacities, desires, skills and efforts, then trade is possible. If we’re all the same, then trade is impossible, as there would be no scope for compatible differences, for mutual gains through trade. The trouble with incomparability, though, is that there’s no way to compare two or more people, without imputing a standard of comparison! Logically, assuming that people are “roughly equal” is the most realistic, because the positing of a definite inequality requires bringing in a definite standard, one which is used to compare the two, whereas “equality” only requires the assumption that all can be lumped into the same category.

    I have two undefined symbols, x and y. I don’t know what their referents are. So, I can’t compare them at all.

    But, if I put them in a premise, such as “x is a color” and “y is a color,” I can use exactly the same method to check the truth-value of either of them. With complete ignorance of what x and y refer to, I can treat them as being equal, with respect to a premise that (at least presumably) has meaning for both of them. Since it makes no difference whether I use the label ‘x’ or the label ‘y’, with respect to assessing their truth value, I can assume that the two labels are substitutable for each other, whole cloth, when used in a logical statement. If I try to compare ‘x’ and ‘y’, though, I need to know what they both refer to, else I’m flying in the dark.

    What this implies is, I can treat two unknowables as if they were functionally equal, as equal members in a common category, because I need not know anything about them to do so. In words, I can say that one ‘thing’ has a similarity to another ‘thing’ because they have something in common: they’re both ‘things’. Thus, they are equal, in the sense that they have equal membership in a common class. In order for me to posit an inequality between thing 1 and thing 2, though, I need to know something about their natures, else I’m adding an arbitrary standard. The only way not to add such a standard is to introduce incomparability: these two ‘things’ have to be different existents because they are different things. Note that proving that thing 1 and thing 2 are the same requires knowing what they both, specifically, are.

    Here’s the bridge between logic and logical economics: ‘arbitrary’, in logical terms, implies ‘non-permanent’ in economic terms. Thus, a lot of standard-imputing economics, of which econometrics is a subset, is really economic history in disguise.

    I know this is a tricky point, but understanding it will make a lot of your misunderstandings of Austrian economics disappear.

    [One postscriptual note: I don't know why you have a knack for turning a thread in this blog into one more fitting for a high-I.Q.-club discussion board, but you do. I'm using this kind of approach to show you that the argument remains the same, regardless of the argumentative mode used to explain it.]

    Daniel M. Ryan January 1, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    For all that are interested, Bill Bonner’s latest piece at LewRockwell.com describes the human costs of “comparing the incomparable,” when “the incomparable” are different people. If an arbitrary standard for comparing unique individuals is taken as true, then much misery results.


    Sam January 1, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Perhaps a great historical question is one of why has history been anything but fair? Empires come, Empires go. Civilisations come, Civilisation go. Why if the 1800s were so increasingly wealthier how on earth did Trade Unionism and Marxism get a foothold?

    My starting guess would be indeed people are indeed unequal enough thanks to their inability to defend themselves against more powerful foes. This perhaps then allow the masses to work for the Great Power that be. But why yous say that such inequality are to be ignored to some extent? In the Scrooge vs Cratchett argument yous are quite happy to say that Cratchett should stay where he is until he can become a better person through his own efforts. Hence why would the fact that some people lord over others necessarily be that a big a deal anyway? Let the downtrodden pick themselves up but until they do, don’t knock their superior officers?

    Daniel M. Ryan January 1, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    This is hard to remember sometimes, but there always was a State during those times you discuss. That influence has to be worked in, too.

    Here’s another help: the free market serves the consumers, as a class, and, individually, everyone is a consumer at some time. Thus, the free market has, as a feature, a kind of “revolving inequality” that is never permanant, only situational. This is sometimes confusing to people who think hierarchically.

    Imagine Bob Cratchit at a pub, where his patronage is valued. The pub owner courts him. Scrooge wants to lend money to the pub owner, so Scrooge acts deferentially to the fellow so as to win his borrower’s trade. If Bob is there at the time, he witnesses his own boss, who treats him with contempt, being deferential to a man who defers to Bob himself.

    If Bob is a hierarch, he’ll be confused and/or riled by this sequence. But, if he knows that the consumber is served in a free market, he’ll know that, as a suppler of labor services, he has to court Scrooge, and the places he patronizes, as a consumer, court him. If Bob knows a lot about the free market, he’ll figure out that Scrooge does a lot of courting in order to get a return from the money in his counting-house.

    In order for Bob to figure this out, though, he’d need to study his economics in some depth. :)

    Josh Lance January 1, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Wow how things have changed in the US since 1935.
    Look at this quote from Nock: “I can think of only one line of human activity — religion — which state meddling has of late years tended rather to decrease than to increase. Formerly the state was a considerable purveyor of religious opportunity, but now it does very little actively in that way, its subsidies being mostly confined to tax-exemption, as in the United States.”
    For sure, religious meddling in politics has grown exponentially since the 1930′s. Not what the Jeffersonians and others wanted. Wow if they could see us now.

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