"Libertarianism, as I see it, is an extremely limited philosophy. It’s a political philosophy, not a philosophy of life. As a political philosophy, it states that people have the right to use physical violence only in response to those who break the libertarian code and initiate violence. It’s not a philosophy of life stating how one can live the good life, setting out in fine detail how one may act in every conceivable situation.
Practically the sole concern of libertarianism is that everyone keep his mitts off everyone else, unless, of course, he has that person’s permission. The beauty of this version of libertarianism is that it allows for an amazing diversity.
Only libertarianism gathers together all who believe in this limited philosophy. We’ve all seen businessmen with suits, ties, and vests mingling with flower children. We’ve all seen teetotallers and alcohol drinkers at libertarian functions. We’ve all seen pot smokers, acid heads, drug freaks - together with Murray Rothbard, the straightest of them all.
We’ve seen priests, monogamists, family men, as the fellow libertarians of the gays, the sado-masochists, the leather freaks, and those into what they call “rational bestiality.” As Ralph Raico stated in his keynote address to the FLP state convention, only libertarianism could gather together the homosexual motorcycle gang, the acid dropper fascinated by the price of silver, and the Puerto Rican nationalist immersed in the Austrian School of economics.”
Libertarianism in One Word:
An excerpt of Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s second talk at the Mises Seminar in Sydney:
"…If one wanted to summarize in one word the decisive difference — and advantage — of a competitive security industry as compared to the current statist practice, it would be: contract.
The state operates in a legal vacuum. There exists no contract between the state and its citizens. It is not contractually fixed, what is actually owned by whom, and what, accordingly, is to be protected. It is not fixed, what service the state is to provide, what is to happen if the state fails in its duty, nor what the price is that the “customer” of such “service” must pay. Rather, the state unilaterally fixes the rules of the game and can change them, per legislation, during the game. Obviously, such behavior is inconceivable for freely financed security providers. Just imagine a security provider, whether police, insurer or arbitrator, whose offer consisted in something like this: I will not contractually guarantee you anything. I will not tell you what I oblige myself to do if, according to your opinion, I do not fulfill my service to you — but in any case, I reserve the right to unilaterally determine the price that you must pay me for such undefined service. Any such security provider would immediately disappear from the market due to a complete lack of customers.
Each private, freely financed security producer must instead offer its prospective clients a contract. And these contracts must, in order to appear acceptable to voluntarily paying consumers, contain clear property descriptions as well as clearly defined mutual services and obligations. Each party to a contract, for the duration or until the fulfillment of the contract, would be bound by its terms and conditions; and every change of terms or conditions would require the unanimous consent of all parties concerned.
Specifically, in order to appear acceptable to security buyers, these contracts must contain provisions about what will be done in the case of a conflict or dispute between the protector or insurer and his own protected or insured clients as well as in the case of a conflict between different protectors or insurers and their respective clients. And in this regard only one mutually agreeable solution exists: in these cases the conflicting parties contractually agree to arbitration by a mutually trusted but independent third party. And as for this third party: it, too, is freely financed and stands in competition with other arbitrators or arbitration agencies. Its clients, i.e., the insurers and the insured, expect of it, that it come up with a verdict that is recognized as fair and just by all sides. Only arbitrators capable of forming such judgments will succeed in the arbitration market. Arbitrators incapable of this and viewed as biased or partial will disappear from the market…”
"Let us consider a hypothetical example of the failure of the utilitarian defense of private property. Suppose that somehow government becomes persuaded of the necessity to yield to a clamor for a free-market, laissez-faire society. Before dissolving itself, however, it redistributes property titles, granting the ownership of the entire territory of New York to the Rockefeller family, of Massachusetts to the Kennedy family, etc. It then dissolves, ending taxation and all other forms of government intervention in the economy. However, while taxation has been abolished, the Rockefeller, Kennedy, etc., families proceed to dictate to all the residents in what is now "their" territory, exacting what are now called "rents" over all the inhabitants.
It seems clear that our utilitarians could have no intellectual armor with which to challenge this new dispensation; indeed, they would have to endorse the Rockefeller, Kennedy, etc., holdings as “private property” equally deserving of support as the ordinary property titles which they had endorsed only a few months previously. All this because the utilitarians have no theory of justice in property beyond endorsement of whatever status quo happens to exist.”
"…Hence, a strategy for liberty must not include any means which undercut or contradict the end itself—as gradualism-in-theory clearly does. Are we then saying that “the end justifies the means”? This is a common, but totally fallacious, charge often directed toward any group that advocates fundamental or radical social change. For what else but an end could possibly justify any means? The very concept of “means” implies that this action is merely an instrument toward arriving at an end. If someone is hungry, and eats a sandwich to alleviate his hunger, the act of eating a sandwich is merely a means to an end; its sole justification arises from its use as an end by the consumer. Why else eat the sandwich, or, further down the line, purchase it or its ingredients? Far from being a sinister doctrine, that the end justifies the means is a simple philosophic truth, implicit in the very relationship of “means” and “ends.”
What then, do the critics of the “end justifies the means” truly mean when they say that “bad means” can or will lead to “bad ends”? What they are really saying is that the means in question will violate other ends which the critics deem to be more important or more valuable than the goal of the group being criticized. Thus, suppose that Communists hold that murder is justified if it leads to a dictatorship by the vanguard party of the proletariat. The critics of such murder (or of such advocacy of murder) are really asserting, not that the “ends do not justify the means,” but rather that murder violates a more valuable end (to say the least), namely, the end of “not committing murder,” or nonaggression against persons. And, of course, from the libertarian point of view, the critics would be correct.
Hence, the libertarian goal, the victory of liberty, justifies the speediest possible means towards reaching the goal, but those means cannot be such as to contradict, and thereby undercut, the goal itself. We have already seen that gradualism-in-theory is such a contradictory means. Another contradictory means would be to commit aggression (e.g., murder or theft) against persons or just property in order to reach the libertarian goal of nonaggression. But this too would be a self-defeating and impermissible means to pursue. For the employment of such aggression would directly violate the goal of nonaggression itself.”
“Since outright grants of monopoly or quasi monopoly would usually be considered baldly injurious to the public, governments have discovered a variety of methods of granting such privileges indirectly, as well as a variety of arguments to justify these measures. But they all have the effects common to monopoly or quasi-monopoly grants and monopoly prices when these are obtained.
The important types of monopolistic grants (monopoly and quasi monopoly) are as follows:
- governmentally enforced cartels which every firm in an industry is compelled to join;
- virtual cartels imposed by the government, such as the production quotas enforced by American agricultural policy;
- licenses, which require meeting government rules before a man or a firm is permitted to enter a certain line of production, and which also require the payment of a fee—a payment that serves as a penalty tax on smaller firms with less capital, which are thereby debarred from competing with larger firms;
- “quality” standards, which prohibit competition by what the government (not the consumers) defines as “lower-quality” products;
- tariffs and other measures that levy a penalty tax on competitors outside a given geographical region;
- immigration restrictions, which prohibit the competition of laborers, as well as entrepreneurs, who would otherwise move from another geographical region of the world market;
- child labor laws, which prohibit the labor competition of workers below a certain age;
- minimum wage laws, which, by causing the unemployment of the least value-productive workers, remove their competition from the labor markets;
- maximum hour laws, which force partial unemployment on those workers who are willing to work longer hours;
- compulsory unionism, such as the Wagner-Taft-Hartley Act imposes, causing unemployment among the workers with the least seniority or the least political influence in their union;
- conscription, which forces many young men out of the labor force;
- any sort of governmental penalty on any form of industrial or market organization, such as antitrust laws, special chain store taxes, corporate income taxes, laws closing businesses at specific hours or outlawing pushcart peddlers or door-to-door salesmen;
- conservation laws, which restrict production by force;
- patents, where independent later discoverers of a process are debarred from entering a field production.”
— Murray Rothbard, Power & Market
"The libertarian seeks property assignment rules because he values or accepts various grundnorms such as justice, peace, prosperity, cooperation, conflict-avoidance, and civilization. The libertarian view is that self-ownership is the only property assignment rule compatible with these grundorms; it is implied by them.”
-  “Grundnorm” was legal philosopher Hans Kelsen’s term for the hypothetical basic norm or rule that serves as the basis or ultimate source for the legitimacy of a legal system. See Hans Kelsen, General Theory of Law and State, trans. Anders Wedberg (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1949). I employ this term to refer to the fundamental norms presupposed by civilized people, e.g., in argumentative discourse, which in turn imply libertarian norms.
That the libertarian grundnorms are, in fact, necessarily presupposed by all civilized people to the extent they are civilized — during argumentative justification, that is — is shown by Hoppe in his argumentation-ethics defense of libertarian rights.
For discussion of why people (to one extent or the other) do value these underlying norms, see Stephan Kinsella, “The Division of Labor as the Source of Grundnorms and Rights,” Mises Economics Blog (April 24, 2009), and idem, “Empathy and the Source of Rights,” Mises Economics Blog (Sept. 6, 2006). See also idem, “Punishment and Proportionality,” pp. 51 and 70:
- People who are civilized are … concerned about justifying punishment. They want to punish, but they also want to know that such punishment is justified — they want to legitimately be able to punish … Theories of punishment are concerned with justifying punishment, with offering decent men who are reluctant to act immorally a reason why they may punish others. This is useful, of course, for offering moral men guidance and assurance that they may properly deal with those who seek to harm them.
— Stephan Kinsella
"Great quote that suggests another psychological barrier that may go something like this: “If it is so ‘self-evident,’ why haven’t I seen it?” (!). Or “Why didn’t great philosopher X see it if it was self-evident?”. Or “Why not my mom and dad and Obama?” "If all these people also don’t see it, it must be wrong!"
This is harder to grasp even than that there was a time before there was an iPhone (that is, five and a half years ago). “Self-evident” only applies after you get it. Before the particular understanding has arisen in the particular mind, there is “nothing to see” in the space where a few of us have the action axiom installed.
Rand used to always say “knowledge is not automatic.” Well, here it is. The knowledge just isn’t there yet because the person doesn’t get it yet. Sort of like if you don’t know calculus. Well then…you don’t know calculus. The difference with praxeology and economics is that far fewer people go around denying the validity of calculus because THEY don’t happen to understand it. They understand that it is there for the learning, but to learn it, they would have to engage in a particular process: study, think.
Notice also that all of these learning injunctions are also themselves… actions, whether in sensory or mental realms:
- "In order to see the moons of Jupiter, you need a telescope. In order to understand Hamlet, you need to learn to read. In order to see the truth of the Pythagorean theorem, you must learn geometry. If you want to know if a cell has a nucleus, you must learn to take histological sections, learn to stain cells, learn to use a microscope, and then look. In other words, all of those forms of knowing have, as one of their significant components, an injunction: If you want to know this, you must do this.”
— Ken Wilber, The Marriage of Sense and Soul (1998, 156)
It’s a rare few who read, understand and fully appreciate ESAM. For those who already have a solid grasp of the literature I cannot recommend it enough. Those that do accept the challenge often cannot help but marvel at just how important and cutting edge this body of knowledge — praxeology — really is.
Essentially your comment touches upon what this blog is partially about — planting seeds. Further to this will follow several recent remarks and quotes that expand upon the above over the next few days.
Ron Paul: How to Sell Liberty
In this video Dr. Paul speaks to a crowd in San Francisco in 1990 at an International Society for Individual Liberty conference. Having run for office under the Libertarian Party’s banner two years prior, Dr. Paul shares his experience on how to sell libertarianism to make it palatable to both liberals and conservatives.
Nations by Consent: Decomposing the Nation-State by Murray Rothbard
However, on rethinking immigration on the basis of the anarcho-capitalist model, it became clear to me that a totally privatized country would not have “open borders” at all. If every piece of land in a country were owned by some person, group, or corporation, this would mean that no immigrant could enter there unless invited to enter and allowed to rent, or purchase, property. A totally privatized country would be as “closed” as the particular inhabitants and property owners desire. It seems clear, then, that the regime of open borders that exists de facto in the U.S. really amounts to a compulsory opening by the central state, the state in charge of all streets and public land areas, and does not genuinely reflect the wishes of the proprietors.
Under total privatization, many local conflicts and “externality” problems—not merely the immigration problem—would be neatly settled. With every locale and neighborhood owned by private firms, corporations, or contractual communities, true diversity would reign, in accordance with the preferences of each community. Some neighborhoods would be ethnically or economically diverse, while others would be ethnically or economically homogeneous. Some localities would permit pornography or prostitution or drugs or abortions, others would prohibit any or all of them. The prohibitions would not be state imposed, but would simply be requirements for residence or use of some person’s or community’s land area. While statists who have the itch to impose their values on everyone else would be disappointed, every group or interest would at least have the satisfaction of living in neighborhoods of people who share its values and preferences. While neighborhood ownership would not provide Utopia or a panacea for all conflicts, it would at least provide a “second-best” solution that most people might be willing to live with.
To clarify Rothbard’s point it goes without saying there would obviously still be individual ownership of housing and property but those arrangements would not generally solve the ‘externality problem’ posited. Hans-Hermann Hoppe goes on to make essentially the same argument here.
In such a world what would immigration look like? How do the immigrants get there, wherever there is?
- Stephan Kinsella: I agree with David Gordon. I disagree with pro-voluntary slavery libertarians, like Walter Block (Thomas L. Knapp is another, though he pettifogs on the use of the term "voluntary slavery").
- Jeremiah Dyke: I too think it's insane not to have the ability to contract any percentage of your labor for any duration of time. [Sarcasm]
- Stephan Kinsella: This is not an argument. Abilities don't come from opinions. Let's be clear: to justify voluntary slavery means you have to justify the use of force by a would-be "master" against a would-be "slave", if the slave tries to run away or changes his mind or disobeys an order. The libertarian thinks use of violence against another person's body is unjustified aggression, unless it is (a) consented to, or (b) in response to aggression.
- But the slave has not committed aggression, so (b) is not a possible justification. Some alienabilists disingenuously argue that it IS "aggression" since the master owns the slave's body, so it's trespass (aggression) for the slave to use the master's property (the slave's body) in ways the owner (master) does not consent to. This argument is disingenuous because it is question-begging; it presupposes the legitimacy of body-alienability, in order to prove it. So this does not fly. I will say that I get very tired of people who engage in question-begging arguments. They do this all the time in IP -- where they label an act of copying "stealing" in order to show that what was "stolen" must have been ownable property. Horrible reasoning. I hope you don't engage in this kind of dishonest trick.
- As for (a); clearly the slave who tries to run away does NOT consent to the force the master wants to apply to him. The only way the alienabilist can get around this is to say that the PREVIOUS consent the slave gave (say, a week before) is still somehow applicable, i.e. that the slave cannot change his mind. Why not? because ... well ... because ... well ... because the slavery contract was binding! So we see, yet again, the sneaky and dishonest resort to question-begging; slavery contracts are binding because they are binding. Neat trick, that!
- The reason people can change their minds is that it does not commit aggression. And the reason a previous statement of intent is relevant is simply that it provides evidence of what the current consent is. It's a standing order, but one that can be overridden with better, more recent, evidence. If a girl tells her boyfriend he may kiss her now, and any time he feels like it in the future, then when tomorrow comes he is reasonable in assuming that she is still actually consenting NOW to another kiss, even if she says nothing, because she set up that presumption earlier. Her previous statement was not a binding contract, but just a way of establishing a standing presumption about what her ongoing consent IS. But if he goes to kiss her and she says NO, then we know that the previous statement about what her future consent WOULD be, was a bad prediction and has been undermined by the better, present/current evidence she is giving.
- It is no different in all the voluntary slavery situations.