Abstract: Klein and Clark (2010) initiated a debate about libertarian theory to which this paper hopes to add. Starting with the old libertarian principle of “direct liberty” (adherence to the non-aggression principle) Klein and Clark introduced two new concepts to complete it: “indirect liberty,” and also direct liberty plus indirect liberty, which sums to “overall liberty.” In my critique of this article of theirs (Block, 2011A), I congratulated them for their creativity, but rejected these innovations. In Klein and Clark (2012), these authors responded to my initial criticism. The present essay hopes to fruitfully continue the discussion of these new concepts of liberty.
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.
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.
Abstract: An ethic of self-ownership combined with Lockean homesteading of external resources provides a plausible grounding both for anarchist opposition to the state and for an attractive anarchist legal order. Such an ethic can be understood as specifying that each person prima facie has the right to control his or her own body; and that Lockean homesteading, under which the owner of any scarce resource is its first user (or his contractual transferee), should provide the basis for property rights in such previously unowned goods. Given these rules, monopoly privileges like patent and copyright (intellectual property, or IP) cannot be justified, as they infringe on self-ownership-based body-rights and/or property rights in external resources. In this article, I explain why IP rights are inconsistent with the moral grounds for a stateless society’s legal order, and speculate about the practices or laws that might prevail in the absence of IP in such a system.
Download Paper: “Law and Intellectual Property in a Stateless Society”
Abstract: There is a need to develop libertarian responses to writings on race, gender, and sexual orientation. Offering such responses not only demonstrates to potential opponents of libertarian reform that libertarianism can seriously address these issues: libertarian responses can also help us confront forms of “private” oppression that are not per se un-libertarian, but which support state oppression. Drawing on thinkers such as Murray Rothbard, Roderick Long, Charles Johnson, Gene Sharp, Wendy McElroy, and bell hooks, this paper establishes historical links between the intellectual traditions of feminism, nonviolent action, and libertarianism, and explores what a nonviolent, libertarian resistance to patriarchy might look like. By demonstrating the analogies between Sharp’s and Rothbard’s theories of political power and hooks’ theory of patriarchy, this paper shows that Sharp’s techniques for resistance to state tyranny can be adapted for use against patriarchal oppression.
Download Paper: “Libertarianism, Feminism, and Nonviolent Action: A Synthesis“
Abstract: James P. Sterba postulates a conflict situation between ‘poor’ and ‘rich’ persons in order to establish the legitimacy of a welfare right superior to unlimited private property rights. Sterba does not recognize the moral options available to the non-poor in his conflict scenario, nor the generally voluntary character of enduring unemployment, or how few people would satisfy his own restrictive criteria for poverty. His definition mischaracterizes the general state of the poor as one of imminent decline when in fact, for most of human history it was one of stasis, and since comparatively free societies emerged, it has been one of general improvement. He fails to grasp that the processes by which others become non-poor in a libertarian society also make most of the poor better off. Consequently, consideration of future generations also turns out to weigh heavily against justification of a welfare right, contrary to Sterba’s claim.
Abstract: In his book The Economic Laws of Scientific Research, Terence Kealey deconstructs major misconceptions about scientific research and its relation to the state. He shows, through revisionist history and economic data, that the premises behind common defenses of government funding of science are fallacious. Even though science is related to economic growth, the state cannot boost the economy by injecting funds into scientific research. Also, the state cannot discover which scientific projects are most important because it cannot rely on market signals from the price system. Finally, the state cannot determine the right level of funding for scientific research, because it has no way of knowing which projects will have positive economic impact. Not surprisingly, after showing how the market produces science in a rational way, Kealey recommends a laissez-faire approach to scientific research.
Abstract: Kukathas’s proposed libertarian dilemma is introduced and two key criticisms of it stated. The following critical commentary then makes several main points. Kukathas’s account of libertarianism offers no theory of liberty at all, nor a coherent account of aggression. Consequently, he cannot see that his “Federation of Liberty” is not libertarian by a basic understanding of morals and non-invasive liberty, still less by a more precise theory of liberty. In trying to explain his “Union of Liberty,” Kukathas evinces considerable confusion about the nature of libertarianism. His argument that a monopoly legal system is inevitable is also neither plausible nor libertarian. He has apparently overlooked the cogent arguments against Nozickian minarchy, and in favor of anarchy. It is concluded that the neglect of libertarian theories of liberty and anarchy is the underlying problem.
Abstract: In this article, two separate aspects of Mises’ famous economic calculation argument are identified. The first concerns the fact that the profit-and-loss calculations that drive economic decisions regarding factors of production under capitalism cannot, by definition, take place under socialism since there cannot be any prices on which to base such calculations. The second concerns that idea that, owing to the nature of value, there is no alternative means of allocation, such as a calculus in terms of value. Although both of these points are well-known and frequently invoked to pass a decisive judgment against socialism, they are in fact separate arguments which have thus far been inadequately distinguished in the Austrian literature. The objective of this paper is to highlight this distinction. I further illustrate the point by emphasizing the role of monetary calculation, which nonetheless plays a real role in capitalist economies.
Download Paper: “Mises’ Calculation Argument: A Clarification”
Abstract: This essay examines several sections in Will Kymlicka’s Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (2nd ed.) that are relevant to libertarianism, making and explaining the following criticisms. First, Kymlicka’s “preface” misconstrues political philosophy’s progress, purpose, and its relation to libertarianism. Second, in his “introduction,” his “project” mistakes libertarianism as “right-wing,” justice as compromise among “existing theories,” and equality as the “ultimate value.” Third, his “a note on method” in effect takes as axioms, beyond philosophical examination, various alleged desiderata and the necessary moral role of the state. Moreover, his “ultimate test” being “our considered convictions” amounts to a conservative and illogical justificationism at odds with radical and coherent critical rationalism. Finally, Kymlicka’s chapter on “libertarianism” mistakes it as, inherently and unavoidably, free-market, anti-consequentialist, deontological, and Nozickian, and requiring “a foundational moral premiss,” without objective content, unmaximizable, indistinguishable from license, equality-based, anti-anarchist, “self-defeating,” indefensibly “unfair,” impractically “philosophical,” and without influence. A different version of libertarianism easily withstands all Kymlicka’s antipathetic criticisms.
Download Paper: “Kymlicka on Libertarianism: A Response”
Abstract: During his first decade on the national political stage (1935-1944), Robert A. Taft (R-Ohio) contributed to a lively “Old Right” conservative critique of the New Deal’s efforts to achieve economic recovery, promote sustainable growth, and convert to a postwar peacetime economy. This paper examines the senator’s market rhetoric—the ideas on the market, entrepreneurship, and the role of the state that he employed in political arguments after 1935—to understand the foundation of his libertarian brand of conservatism. The following article argues that Taft fused Gilded Age evolutionary naturalism with the Republican Party’s tradition of economic nationalism in order to refute Franklin Roosevelt’s statist liberalism. In particular, he asserted that extra-human natural laws governed the market; that, in the absence of federal interference, it operated flawlessly; that small-business entrepreneurs, not corporations or public enterprise, were the agents of progress; and that the federal government should facilitate, not hinder, entrepreneurial enterprise.
Abstract: In previous publications on probability, I have followed I.J. Good in arguing that probability must be defined subjectively if we accept that the world is causally deterministic. In this article I go significantly beyond this position, arguing that we are forced to accept a subjective definition of probability if we use any probabilistic methods at all. In other words, all probabilistic methods tacitly assume a subjective definition of probability.
Abstract: I build on Christoyannopoulous’s (2011) compendium of Christian anarchist thought to shed light on the divergence between Christian anarcho-communitarians and Christian anarcho-capitalists. The anarcho-communitarians believe the institution of private property is contrary to the Word of Christ, while the anarcho-capitalists hold it is justifiable. I show that the anarcho-communitarians misunderstand the nature of property, rendering them unable to reconcile an apparent contradiction between Christ’s command to renounce violence and His violent cleansing of the temple. The Christian anarcho-capitalists, drawing upon the philosophy of natural law, face no such difficulty. Although their position is far from unassailable, the Christian anarcho-capitalist paradigm is currently the only theoretically consistent interpretation, and will remain so unless the Christian anarcho-communitarians can discover and advance a new theoretical framework.
Download Paper: “Christian Anarchism: Communitarian or Capitalist?”
Abstract: By the 1880s it had become clear that the intellectual tide in Britain was turning against the idea of a minimal state. Under the influence of the New Idealists, the Liberal Party, once the champion of individual liberty, had changed into an organ for interventionist legislation. Challenging this movement was an assortment of anti-collectivists including Old Liberals, Tories, and radical individualists. Spearheading the defence of individualism was the 10th Earl of Wemyss, Francis Wemyss-Charteris-Douglas. Most famous for his role in the formation of the Liberty and Property Defence League, Wemyss worked tirelessly in parliament to obstruct legislation deemed inimical to liberty, as well as to organise a mass educational effort to instruct the public about the errors of collectivist philosophy and policy. This paper examines the role Wemyss played within late Victorian individualism and considers how the melding of traditionalism and individualism provided an intellectual home for libertarianism on the Right.
Abstract: This study seeks to investigate the nature of ownership of land, and how the right to its control and use can be inferred from self-ownership as a premise. Hence, the question asked is how ownership (of land) can be justified considering the nature of man from a natural rights point of view. The starting point for the argument is self-ownership as being, where man is identified as an indivisible entirety with inalienable rights to his self emanating from his complex nature. This identification is the point of departure in examining the relation between man and the world, and the concept of ownership. Man’s right to self implies the right to use externals through choice, to “focus his consciousness” in order to achieve values beneficial to his being. The discussion on ownership, as inferred from self-ownership as being, ends in a discussion of the distinct features of land, and how ownership of such can be obtained. The conclusion is that man as a rights-bearer to self can obtain natural use-rights through possession and constructive use of resources, rights which are valid throughout the value-achieving process.
Download Paper: “Man and Matter: How the Former Gains Ownership of the Latter”
Abstract: In this paper I examine Dr. Walter Block’s argument that a criminal should be forced to play Russian roulette with himself to compensate for the fear he caused his victim, with the number of bullets and chambers reflecting the fear caused. I argue that although this will yield the necessary fear that is part of the retributive justice due to the criminal, it is not libertarian justice because of the statistical expected value of the harm done to the criminal. Even if the threat of death is only used as leverage for the victim to demand a large payout to prevent it, thus preventing wealthy criminals from buying their way out of crimes, this leverage is unjust and leads to unjust exchanges.
Download Paper: “Recompense for Fear: Is Forced Russian Roulette Just?”
Abstract: There are many factors that may affect the analysis of ethical problems: the physical acts that occur, the relevant history, verbal communication, contracts, etc. One factor that can be difficult to incorporate is the role that socials norms play. This is because norms can vary widely between societies, and even within societies individuals are not usually consciously aware of the norms that they act upon. This paper examines how norms can effect ethical problems and gives one approach for investigating their effect.
Download Paper: “Norms and the NAP”
Abstract: This article offers a critical examination of theories that emphasize the importance of governmental provision of self-esteem to citizens. Self-esteem is the feeling that one’s abilities and achievements are positively appraised by the surrounding society, and in some cases the legal system. Such theories are becoming fashionable, following the influence of scholars such as Axel Honneth, Nancy Fraser, and others.
The author argues that such theories face major challenges, on two accounts. First, trying to provide universal self esteem would imply that people would be under a duty to positively appraise the achievements of any given person, and that might violate the free exercise of judgment. Second, the dominant theories of recognition also emphasize the importance of self-respect. Such theories usually understand self-respect as ‘the relation of a person to herself/himself, that concerns their intrinsic worth’. The ability to positively or negatively appraise the conducts/achievements of other people is an integral part of this ‘intrinsic worth’. The attempt to provide universal positive appraisals (and therefore self-esteem) means therefore that a simultaneous achievement of self respect and self esteem is not possible as a social goal. Recognition theories face therefore not only an external critique by libertarian and (many) liberal approaches, but also internal problems of consistency between different parts of their own theories.
Download Paper: The Internal Contradictions of Recognition Theory
Abstract: For more than two centuries in industrialized societies an inherent problem has persisted regarding the role of education and work. This is due in part to the entrenched cultural dogma of the Cartesian/Newtonian paradigm which views the world as a mechanical device and people as organic machines operating within such a world. More recently, it includes the scientific management approach of Frederick W. Taylor which defines individuals as “human capital” to be used and disposed of at will for the benefit of an organizational enterprise or national economy. In opposition to this view the progressive educational movement was born and John Dewey as one of its champions developed a holistic approach to education and work. Over the course of time Dewey’s approach became the cornerstone of holistic education and more recently the eudaimonistic philosophical school in American culture. In parallel with Dewey’s progressivism, the field of systems thinking was developing and a prevalent belief emerged, which holds that all systems, both biological and social, evolve toward greater complexity and that a linear approach to understanding complex systems is ineffective. Therefore, it is the purpose of this paper to propose 1) a eudaimonistic definition of education and work and 2) a systems thinking approach toward human resources in order to create a more humane world.
Download Paper: The Role of Work: A Eudaimonistic Perspective