Abstract: Some libertarians are impatient with philosophical discussions and even dismiss philosophy as not needed to make the case for the free society. I dispute this and indicate why. As many have found, even to dismiss philosophy, one needs a bit of it!
Archives for November 2010
Abstract: The present paper is an attempt to show that Walter Block’s defense of the ostensibly libertarian character of evictionism against my original criticisms is unsuccessful, thought certainly informative and thought-provoking. In my exploration of Block’s counter-criticisms, I focus in particular on the role played in his account by the principle of proportionality, as well as on the putative disanalogy between cases of abortion and child abandonment on the one hand and my airplane thought experiment on the other hand.
Download PDF: Rejoinder to Block’s Defense of Evictionism
Abstract: G.A. Cohen was perhaps libertarianism’s most formidable critic. In Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality he levels several strong criticisms against Robert Nozick’s theory put forth in Anarchy, State, and Utopia. In this paper, I counter several of Cohen’s criticisms. The debate operates at three stages: (1) self-ownership, (2) world-ownership, and (3) initial acquisition. At the first stage, Cohen does not attempt to refute self-ownership, but weaken its force in providing moral grounds for capitalism. Here I argue that Cohen’s attempt to overturn Nozick’s slavery argument is unsuccessful because partial-slavery, while normatively different from full-slavery, is still normatively wrong. At the second stage, Cohen argues for a joint-ownership view of the world’s resources. In particular, he claims that self-ownership is rendered merely formal in a jointly-owned world and in a capitalist world. To rebut this challenge I show that even if Cohen is right about this, libertarian self-ownership is only formal in Cohen’s peculiar case where only two people exist and one owns everything. In contrast, self-ownership in a jointly-owned world is formal in all cases. Lastly, at the third stage, Cohen argues against Nozick’s interpretation of the Lockean proviso, claiming that it is impossible to satisfy. Granting Cohen’s argument here, I go on to defend Jan Narveson’s no-proviso view of acquisition from Cohen’s thus far unanswered criticism. I show that significantly, in his critique, Cohen equivocates between positive and negative rights. Taken jointly, my responses at these three stages ground the anti-egalitarian conclusion that, in Cohen’s words, ‘[e]xtensive inequality of condition is unavoidable, or avoidable only on pain of violating people’s rights to themselves and to things.’ The sequence, then, is from self-ownership, to world-ownership, via initial acquisition.
Download PDF: Self-Ownership, World-Ownership, and Initial Acquisition
Abstract: This article presents a skeleton of a potential paradigm of human flourishing and happiness in a free society. It is an exploratory attempt to construct an understanding from various disciplines and to integrate them into a clear, consistent, coherent, and systematic whole. Holding that there are essential interconnections among objective ideas, the article specifically emphasizes the compatibility of Aristotelianism, Austrian Economics, Positive Psychology, and Ayn Rand’s Objectivism arguing that particular ideas from these areas can be integrated into a paradigm of human flourishing and happiness based on the nature of man and the world. Such a paradigm will help people to understand the world and to survive and flourish in it. It is hoped that the paradigm will grow and evolve as scholars engage, question, critique, interpret, and extend its ideas. Our goal is to have a paradigm that accords with reality and there is always more to learn from reality.
Abstract: In Block (2010) I offered a compromise between the pro choice position that fervently supports stem cell research, and the pro life philosophy which bitterly opposes it. The compromise was a contest: allow would be researchers to create as many fertilized eggs as they wished. But, also, these should be offered up to would be parents to adopt all of these “children” as they wanted. If and only if there were any unadopted fetuses remaining in the laboratories of the nation would it be licit, on libertarian grounds, for research on them to take place. In the present paper I respond to several objections to this “modest proposal.”
Download PDF: Objections to the Libertarian Stem Cell Compromise
Abstract: In the US a dismal truth exists about the citizenry’s lack of understanding of economic fundamentals whether it is amongst our political leaders or our university graduates. This then leads one to ask, “What can be done to help people become literate in economics?” Perhaps the answer lies in the area of systems thinking, which is a way of thinking about the interconnections between the parts of a system and their synthesis into a unified view of the whole system. More specifically, this means incorporating systems thinking and design in primary, secondary, and tertiary curricula. In this paper, the author gives a cursory review of General Systems Theory (GST) as developed by Ludwig von Bertalanffy and extended by others in the systems thinking field to illustrate the confluences of thought among Ludwig von Mises and systems scientists. From this the author argues the need for systems thinking and design in curricula and makes reference to non-prescriptive teaching and learning applications for the fostering of economic literacy.
Download Paper: “Systems Thinking for an Economically Literate Society“
Abstract: I have published more than just a few papers on the abortion issue. Instead of taking either the pro choice or the pro life position, I offer a third alternative: evictionism. I claim that this perspective, which, as it happens is a principled compromise between the other two positions, is the only one compatible with libertarianism. Wisniewski (2010) offers several not unreasonable challenges to my thesis. The present paper is my attempt to refute each and every one of them.
Download PDF: “Rejoinder to Wisniewski on Abortion”
Abstract: Borer (2010) launches a spirited attack on my own promulgation and defense of the non aggression principle (NAP) as the lynchpin of libertarianism, as adumbrated in several of my published papers (Block, 2009A, 2010). The two of us, Borer and me, in my opinion, achieve real disagreement, a goal not always reached in the libertarian debates. That is, Borer (2010) is succinct, on point, and offers a real challenge to those of us in the Rothbardian tradition, who see the NAP as the very basis of the libertarian philosophy. The present paper is an attempt to refute each and every one of the challenges offered by Borer (2010).
Download PDF: “Rejoinder to Borer on the NAP”
Abstract: In this paper I investigate the libertarian account of immigration. In the first section I distinguish between right-libertarianism and left-libertarianism. In the second section I analyze the arguments focused on immigration from the perspective of self-ownership focused on Nozick’s case and Steiner’s analogy. In the third section I discuss the conflict between the collective consent on the issue of immigration and the individuals’ decision. The conclusion sets the libertarian framework as being flawed in its argumentation on the issue of immigration because it fails to provide strong arguments about the fact that the individuals are free to choose to open or close the borders.
Download PDF: “Libertarianism and Immigration”
Abstract: In today’s society, a peculiar understanding of distributive justice has developed which holds that “social justice must be distributed by the coercive force of government.” However, this is a perversion of the ideal of distributive justice. The perspective of distributive justice which should be considered is one with its roots in the school of thought referred to as self-actualization ethics or eudaimonism, which holds that each person is unique and each should discover whom he or she is—to actualize his or her true potential and to live the “good life” within the congeniality and complementarity of personal excellences of his or her fellow members of community. When a eudaimonistic perspective is considered, a definition of distributive of justice could be “the allocation of goods and utilities via the voluntary ubiquitous human interaction of self-actualizing individuals who not only recognize the human dignity of the self and other and the rights which flow from and guarantee it, but also actively will goods and utilities toward the self and other so as to manifest human dignity.” Therefore, with a eudaimonistic understanding of distributive justice, one can argue that the free market is the ubiquitous interactions of self-actualizing individuals who are giving and receiving goods and utilities for one and another’s own “happiness,” i.e. the free market is the socio-economic mechanism by which distributive justice operates. In this paper I first will overview the philosophical foundations of distributive justice. Next, I will propose a eudaimonistic definition of distributive justice. Finally, I will highlight examples of distributive justice operating in a free market economy.
Download Paper: 29. “Distributive Justice and Free Market Economics: A Eudaimonistic Perspective”
I am seeking volunteer referees to review 7 draft articles submitted to Libertarian Papers. I list the titles and Abstracts of a few of them below.
If you are potentially interested in reviewing any of these, or if you have any particular referee suggestions for any of them, please contact me. I’d be happy to send blind drafts to anyone who is interested in considering reviewing any of these. (Also, if you are a scholar who is interested in being added to my email list of potential referees for future submissions, please let me know.)
1. “Government Through The Eyes of Emergence”
Abstract: Examining the legitimacy of government by using Reductionist and Emergent principals. The essay addresses issues on morality, the is – ought fallacy, and the misrepresentation of government.
2. “Choice and Language Shift”
Abstract: What is the adequate normative response to a growing trend of language shift in a given small linguistic community, either a minority or a majority community in a given liberal country? This essay attempts to answer this question. I shall analyze carefully whether the members of this small linguistic community choose to continue (or choose not to continue) to use their mother tongue. Carefully examining the ‘choice’ aspect of the decision to shift from language A to B is important for the analysis of a language shift scenario, as a proper understanding of the ‘shifting decision’ is crucial for any attempt to theorize about the proper governmental response to a language-shift scenario.
I shall analyze the decision to shift from one’s mother tongue to a different language, following three different theoretical perspectives: libertarian, left-liberal, and national/identity. Following which I shall analyze three potential governmental responses to a language shift scenario from the same three theoretical perspectives: libertarian, left-liberal and national/identity. The last part of the essay discusses arguments that may assist us in deciding among the potential governmental responses described.
3. “The Current Evidence for Hayek’s Cultural Group Selection Theory”
Abstract: In this article I summarize Friedrich Hayek’s cultural group selection theory and describe the evidence gathered by current cultural group selection theorists within the behavioral and social sciences supporting Hayek’s main assertions. Before concluding with a few comments on Hayek as a libertarian, I also describe three ways in which current cultural group selection theory has superseded Hayek’s views.
4. “Reexamining the Federal Monetary Powers”
Abstract: The present paper challenges today’s consensus that the Constitution plays no role in limiting the federal government’s exercise of its monetary powers. Noting a growing international consensus regarding the need for monetary reform and reviewing the Supreme Court decisions which led to today’s American monetary system, the author argues that unless the Constitution is returned to its proper role in limiting the federal government’s exercise of monetary powers, a legal system may emerge far beyond the control of the American people and absolutely contrary to their best interests.
5. “Praxeological implications for Belief and the case against Value Pluralism”
Abstract: In this brief essay, I outline the implications of Praxeology for a variety of kinds of Value pluralism. I attempt to show how action, logic and even belief itself, results in a self refutation of these doctrines.
6. “Mises’s Defense of Liberty: A Critique”
Abstract: What this paper attempts to demonstrate is that, in his treatise Liberalism, Mises’ defense of liberty is incomplete because his reasoning in favor of liberty for all is – not of a moral, but – exclusively of an economic kind. Without a moral justification, Mises’s defense –- once the aim of productivity has been abandoned–is forced to affirm with cold indifference that a society of slaves is no better or worse than one of free men. There exists a more comprehensive defense.
7. “Contemporary Philosophy Versus the Free Society“
(from introduction): Some would have it that we can have a philosophy of freedom without, well, a philosophy. In other words, they find it rather pointless to dwell on various philosophical topics, such as free will versus determinism, the problem of knowledge, what is the nature of right conduct and so forth. Instead they wish to focus on so called practical issues, such as how much prosperity or science or satisfaction is produced in a relatively free versus planned society. As if these considerations didn’t have some philosophical dimensions.
Without by any means implying that philosophical issues are exclusively central to a defense of a just system of human community life, it would be of some value to see what philosophy can—indeed, needs to—contribute to such a task. Let me take a brief look at some of the most important of these.
Abstract: Bryan Caplan’s 2007 book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, created some controversy by stating that voters make irrational political decisions. While it has commonly been accepted in public choice discourse that citizens are ignorant of the complexities of politics, Caplan takes the argument one step further and states that citizens hold extreme anti-economic biases that invoke certain irrational demands of politicians. Caplan also asserts that democratic failure is thoroughly a result of the these irrational biases, and that citizens deserve the primary blame for problems within the American political system. This critique analyzes several inconsistencies in Caplan’s assessment of the political condition, which include his doctrine of rational irrationality, his skepticism towards democratic failure, and his apologetic attitude towards politicians. Under closer scrutiny, one can see that Caplan’s main thesis, the concept of rational irrationality, is largely unfounded. Furthermore, the theoretical model he constructs is largely incomplete, since he focuses primarily on the failures of citizens, but does not take into account numerous other factors within the political process that can lead to democratic failure.
Download Paper: 28. “Critique of Caplan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter”
Abstract: I offer consequentialist and deontological arguments for a competitive market in human organs, from live as well as dead donors. I consider the objections that a market in organs will frustrate altruism, coerce the desperate, expose under-informed agents to unacceptable risks, exacerbate inequality, degrade those who participate in it, involve a kind of slavery, impose invidious costs, and impair third-party choice sets. I show that each of these objections is without merit and that, in consequence, the opposition to markets in organs is an untenable endorsement of death, suffering and the suppression of freedom.
Download Paper: “A Competitive Market in Human Organs”