Abstract: In his book, Defending the Undefendable, Walter Block (1976) makes the case that an individual counterfeiter of fiat notes does not commit a natural law crime, because money issued by the government is itself counterfeit. Several authors, including Murphy (2006), Machaj (2007), and Davidson (2010), have taken issue with Block’s argument. In Davidson (2010), I maintain that while the issuance and use of fiat currency by the state violates the natural law, fiat notes are not counterfeit, and their use by ordinary people is legitimate. The private counterfeiter is a thief when he exchanges his notes with these innocents, because they are rightful owners of both the fiat currency and the goods for which it is exchanged. Block (2010), in a rejoinder, disputes this on both ethical and utilitarian grounds. The present paper is a response to Block, and an elaboration of my original article. From a natural law perspective, I explore the ethical violations surrounding counterfeiting, and the legitimacy of producing and using fiat money by both the state and the individual.
Archives for March 2013
Abstract: In Escape from Leviathan, Jan Lester sets out a conception of liberty as absence of imposed cost which, he says, advances no moral claim and does not premise an assignment of property rights. He argues that, so conceived, liberty implies libertarian property rules, free-market anarchy, and the maximisation of welfare. However, analysis of Lester’s conception of liberty shows it to be inconsistent with liberty as ordinarily conceived, and further reveals that maximising liberty, as Lester conceives it, would run counter to self-ownership, private property, open markets, and improving welfare. Lester seems to arrive at his conclusions only because, in his arguments, he abandons his own account of liberty and derives his conclusions instead from familiar libertarian assumptions about property rights.
Download Paper: A Critique of Lester’s Account of Liberty.