Category Archives: Libertarians

“Common Sense” Legislation to Curb Gun Violence?

Like most people who value individual liberty, I listened to President Obama’s speech about reducing gun violence with a great deal of trepidation. He presented several ideas such as limiting the size of magazines to 10 rounds, banning “military-style assault weapons” (i.e. any gun that looks scary to progressives who know almost nothing about firearms), and “universal” background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun just to name a few “common sense” reforms. In so many words he basically said that anyone who doesn’t favor these proposals is getting in the way of preventing future gun violence (Why even St. Ronald Reagan was even in favor of some of these proposals!)

One point of particular irritation for me is this notion being promoted by the Left that AK-47’s and other “weapons of war” should not be made available to “civilians.” President Obama rightly pointed out that these weapons with these magazines “ha[ve] one purpose: to pump out as many bullets as possible, to do as much damage using bullets often designed to inflict maximum damage.”

Well if we civilians do not “need” these weapons, why should the police have them? Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the local police also considered “civilian”? (i.e. civilian law enforcement). Why do the police “need” these awful “weapons of war” which “inflict maximum damage” to serve a warrant for a late night drug bust?* If everyone else should be limited to certain weapons with magazines containing 10 rounds or less, they too should be limited to what weapons are permissible (or at the very least, what situations these weapons should be used). To suggest otherwise would be to suggest that the police are “at war” with the “civilians” since war is all these weapons are good for.

As some who are critical of the president’s approach have correctly pointed out, these reforms would not have prevented the killing at Sandy Hook Elementary. Obama and his allies like to say “if these proposals save only one life…” but they fail to recognize that these reforms might save one life in one situation but might cost a life in another situation (such as a home invasion; the homeowner runs out of rounds due to smaller magazine capacity etc.). Most, if not all of these reforms are meaningless measures to prevent guns from falling into “the wrong hands” (at best) so that the president can say he’s “doing something” to prevent mass shootings.

Some of these proposals do seem reasonable based only on the broad outlines (as always, the devil is in the details). I don’t have a problem with person-to-person background checks** in the abstract. Why shouldn’t an individual be subjected to the same background check as when buying from a gun dealer when s/he is buying from someone who posted his firearm on Craig’s List? I would think that the seller would want to have the peace of mind and/or limit any exposure to liability for any misuse of the firearm.

There are many proposals that are being floated that need to be thought through rather than rushed through to score cheap political points. These proposals go well beyond the 2nd Amendment into areas such as free speech (i.e. censorship), doctor/client privilege (privacy), state’s rights, and more. I do think that we supporters of the right to bear arms need to try to offer up some “common sense” solutions of our own to reduce illegitimate force that either enhance liberty or at the very least, do not tread on the liberties of others.***

» Read more

More Than One Class of Parasite

The welfare state is a problem in America, there’s no question about it. When you have a country were nearly 49 million people are dependent on food stamps as of this writing, that is a problem. We libertarians as well as conservatives lament the growing welfare state because of what it is doing to the economic health of this country and the negative incentives (i.e. the moral hazard) to discourage people from working when it’s easier to get a check from the government. That being said, I think we libertarians could do a better job with the messaging on this particular issue.

Today’s episode of the Neal Boortz show is a perfect example of what I’m referring to. Boortz’s personality is that of a curmudgeon. Over the years he has referred to himself as the “High Priest of the Church of the Painful Truth.” I usually enjoy his blunt, non-P.C. style but sometimes I think he goes a little overboard when he calls people who are on one type of welfare or another “parasites” regardless of their individual circumstances. I missed the first part of his show (which is normal) but I tuned in about the time a caller who said the only government assistance he was receiving was food stamps called in. He went on to explain that he worked 3 minimum wage jobs at about 120 hours a week to support his 5 kids (I think that was the right number). After explaining his circumstances, he asked Boortz: “Do you think that I am a parasite?” Boortz responded “yes.” Boortz went on to criticize the man for having children he couldn’t afford to support and told him that perhaps since he still couldn’t support his children on his three jobs that perhaps he should give them up.

Taking the caller’s word at face value that he works 120 hours a week, I have to disagree somewhat on Boortz’s characterization that the man is a parasite. I also think that telling someone who really is trying to support his children but still coming up short and supplementing his income with food stamps to give up his kids is an unreasonable suggestion. How much would it cost taxpayers if every person who struggled with supporting their children put their children in the foster care system or an orphanage? We hear all the time from conservatives – especially social conservatives* that the ideal situation for raising children is a household with a mother and a father. I have heard some social conservatives say that the reason the state shouldn’t recognize gay marriage or civil unions is that the purpose of marriage is procreation. They also argue for the child tax credit and favorable tax treatment for married couples to encourage more people to have families**.

I don’t know to what extent Boortz agrees with these notions as he doesn’t seem to talk about these issues much. I do think there is something to say about children growing up in a stable environment, however. I haven’t done much research at all about the foster care system but from what I understand, it’s far from ideal. How many children in the foster care system find themselves in the criminal justice system whether on probation or incarceration versus those who are raised by at least one loving biological parent? I don’t happen to know the answer but I suspect that there are more of the former than the latter. Again I ask, how much would this man giving up his children possibly cost the taxpayers? I suspect it would be more than whatever he is getting in food stamps.

To some degree***, this man is a parasite but certainly not to the extent some people I have met are. There are the single dads who have too many children to too many baby mamas who don’t take responsibility for their children and have no shame about going on the dole. There are also far too many single moms out there who have made some very bad choices who basically marry the government. If anything, the caller is probably receiving less government support because he is working so many hours. Slacking is rewarded while trying to better oneself is punished – this in of itself is a major part of the problem, I think.

While I agree with Boortz in principle that one man’s need does not mean he has a claim on another’s money, there are more classes of parasites I think are even more offensive than poor people on welfare. I am much more offended by the corporate welfare and the welfare for the rich. I’m not talking about tax cuts or anything like that but subsidies. I’m talking about billionaire sports franchise owners who have their stadiums built by taxpayer dollars so they can pay millions more to their millionaire athletes. I’m talking about TARP, the auto bailouts, QE 1, QE2, QE 3 and other policies the Federal Reserve has used to make our dollars worth less and less every day. I’m talking about corporate lobbyists who write regulations in their favor to make it difficult for competitors to enter the market place. I’m talking about lawyers.

Yes there are more than one class of parasite bringing our economy down. When it comes to going after those who are using taxpayer money for their benefit, I think it’s high time we libertarians say women and children last.

Point of Clarification: It wasn’t fair to lump all lawyers together as parasites. Lawyers are necessary in our system to take out some of the parasites I mentioned above (the white blood cells, if you will). Like any profession, there are bad apples. When I think of parasitic lawyers, I think of the likes of John Edwards and the ambulance chasers on late night TV. There are plenty of heroic lawyers who truly fight for liberty and justice such as those at the Institute for Justice and The Innocence Project. I’m sure we can count fellow Liberty Papers contributor Doug Mataconis among them as well (though I know nothing about his work as an attorney, he’s a good person and I’m sure that’s reflected in his profession as well).

» Read more

History, Moral Philosophy, and Libertarianism

I’ve written fairly extensively about the philosophy behind my particularly type of libertarianism… and how there are a LOT of different schools of libertarian thought… and a lot of pointless, anal, wonky, yet often completely epically vicious… argument and disagreement between them.

A selective overview of these pieces can be found here: A Refresher on Philosophy

Being a libertarian, I do love to argue philosophy… and I do so on several other blogs, and libertarian subforums of various other web sites not dedicated to politics or libertarianism (most actual libertarian forums are… impossible to tolerate… unless you ENJOY drinking bilious idiocy from a firehose ).

In a “neverending thread that will not die”™  about the oxymoronic concept of “libertarian socialism” (in actuality a deliberate socialist linguistic distortion to further a fraudulent concept), a commenter asserted:

Libertarianism is the belief in the non-aggression principle. That’s it. Everything else follows from that. 
–IgnorantCommenter

Now, I disagree entirely with such a blanket statement… It’s simply untrue, and in fact ignorant.

I mean that literally by the way, not as a characterizing statement. Someone who believes such a thing must be ignorant of the much larger sphere of libertarian history and philosophy.

My response:

Actually the non-agression principle is only one school (actually several related schools) of libertarianism. There are others that are not based on non-agression/non-initiation. 
–AnarchAngel

Our correspondent countered with:

If there were a form of libertarianism not based on the non-aggression principle, wouldn’t you have been able to name it? 
In fact, since the founding of the Libertarian Party in the 1970s–which was the start of the modern libertarian movement– until recently they required all members to sign a pledge promising to uphold the non-aggression principle. 
In my experience, those who say they are libertarians but don’t support the NAP, are usually not libertarians at all, and are simply trying to coopt the word… but hey, please feel free to show me some examples of genuine libertarians who don’t support the NAP. 
–IgnorantCommenter

Well now…

Again, I have to say that this viewpoint, while not uncommon, is incorrect; and in some very significant ways, ignorant of history and philosophy.

While the Libertarian Party was founded as a non-aggressionist organization; non-aggression is neither necessary, nor sufficient, for a libertarian philosophy.

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea; it’s not… in fact it’s generally a very good idea. But the concept that libertarian philosophies MUST, ALL, ALWAYS, be predicated on non-aggression; and that anything which isn’t, is not actually libertarian…

…That’s just plain wrong.

…As for that matter, is the suggestion that the Libertarian Party is the authority, or even a reasonable exemplar, of what libertarianism is.

The LP is simply a collective of theoretically libertarian individuals who have been able to agree sufficiently on goals and process to form an organization (sometimes… barely… ).

Again, I don’t think the libertarian party is a bad idea, or that they aren’t actually libertarian; just that they are not an organization encompassing all libertarian philosophy, or systematology.

…or that there even COULD be such an organization…

Now…

The reason I didn’t name specifics in my initial response to our correspondent, was because to do so would require a HUGE, long, detailed, and wonky explanation of the history and moral philosophy of libertarianism, and the nature of rights.

Several thousand words worth, and several hours writing, at a minimum

I wasn’t going to bother… and then I decided that if I didn’t the pointless tangenital arguments and arguing around each other would just go on and on…

Basically, it would become more irritating to me, than actually writing this damn piece.

So I wrote the damn piece… all… 3000 or so words I guess?

note: I’ve expanded and clarified somewhat here from the reply I posted in the other thread

Let’s start with the historical question

since the founding of the Libertarian Party in the 1970s–which was the start of the modern libertarian movement– until recently they required all members to sign a pledge promising to uphold the non-aggression principle. 
–IgnorantCommenter

Libertarianism, *including the modern libertarian movement*, has been around a lot longer than either the libertarian party (1971), or the formal codification of the non-aggression/non-initiation principle as a foundational libertarian principle by Murray Rothbard (1963).

There is no clear date for the modern libertarian movements “founding”, but it was clearly in existence by the time of Nock’s “Our Enemy, the State” (1935), Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” (1943), Von Mises “Omnipotent Government” (1944) and “Human Action” (1949), etc…

Hayek and Von Mises were clearly libertarian in their philosophy, though primarily (but not entirely) of the consequentialist/utilitarian school (as is typical of economic philosophers).

Then there’s the objectivists, both pre and post Randian; including both those that self identify as libertarian objectivists, and those who claim to be opposed to libertarianism (but who mostly are opposed to Rothbardianism, and strict non-aggressionism; as reducing maximum utility).

There was a pre-Rand objectivist/utilitiarian movement, primarily based in the rule utilitiarianism school, proceeding from John Stuart Mills book “Utilitarianism” (1861), Henry Sidgwicks “The Methods of Ethics” (1876), and the various works of David Hume (published 1734-1779). This movement was well established in moral philosophy by the interwar period.

Randian objectivism (which you may or may not call libertarian) has existed in an organized way since the late 1950s.

There was a reasonably coherent self identified libertarian movement by the time of Rothbard, Tullock, Block et al (the late ’50s and early ’60s)

Clearly, the “Modern Libertarian Movement” is neither bounded, nor defined, by the Libertarian Party.

Now, the question of moral and political philosophy

Libertarianism is the believe in the non-aggression principle. That’s it. Everything else follows from that. 
…snip… 
In my experience, those who say they are libertarians but don’t support the NAP, are usually not libertarians at all, and are simply trying to coopt the word… but hey, please feel free to show me some examples of genuine libertarians who don’t support the NAP. 
–IgnorantCommenter

This comes down to the question, what exactly IS libertarianism?

That is, what would be a single, entirely inclusive definition of all things which may be reasonably and properly considered libertarianism?

Frankly, I don’t believe that there IS such a single definition; nor CAN there be.

There are schools of libertarian thought that have conflicting… in fact mutually exclusive… core principles, which cannot be reconciled philosophically (though they may be reconcilable practically or pragmatically; focusing on outcome not rationale for example).

Using the non-aggression principle as a sole determinator… Libertarianism’s John 3:16, or Shibboleth as it were…

… It’s simply insufficient.

The non-aggression principle is neither necessary, nor sufficient, for libertarianism.

Libertarianism is a set of moral, political, and ethical philosophies intended to preserve, promote, and expand, human liberty (under whatever rationale). The non-aggression principle is a moral concept that is generally associated with those philosophies.

In fact, simply declaring it as the “non-aggression” principle is incorrect. There are five closely related principles, which serve the same essential function but which are different in detail (which differences can have important consequences):

  • Non-Aggression
  • Non-Initiation
  • Non-Intervention
  • Non-Interference
  • Anti-Coercion

Going into the differences between those principles can (and has) take its own book(s), never mind a (comparatively) short piece here. Even within the specifics of each term, there are disagreements as to their definition and meaning (both semantic and philosophical).

For convenience and a (nearly futile) attempt at clarity, I will refer to these various principles as “non-agression” for the remainder of this piece

Normally I don’t like using wikipedia as an authoritative source, but I don’t happen to have a copy of the “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy” handy, and wikipedia cites it directly:

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines libertarianism as the moral view that agents initially fully own themselves and have certain moral powers to acquire property rights in external things. 
–Wikipedia

That isn’t actually an inclusive definition of libertarian philosophies, because it  describes the root of propertarian principles; and there are schools of liberty which do not include the propertarian principle as a first principle (for example, “endowed rights” based philosophies).

That said, in general, much of the wikpedia page on libertarianism is decent. For example, it includes discussion of propertarian vs. non-propertarian, and consequentialism vs. natural rights.

These are all fundamental or primary principles on which a libertarian philosophy may be based.

So, “the” fundamental principle of libertarianism is NOT non-aggression.

The non-aggression principle IS fundamental to many schools of libertarianism; but not to all of them.

What our correspondent is declaring to be the only “true” libertarian philosophy (arguing from both a “no true scotsman” fallacy, and an “appeal to authority” fallacy in the process) is essentially Rothbardian libertarianism.

Rothbard and Block argue textually, that non-aggression/non-initiation/non-coercion is an irreducible first principle; but contextually (even in their own writings) it is clearly a derived principle (it is reducible). Essentially, they declare it irreducible as a fundamental moral precept a priori. Therefore it should be taken as a primary principle (for those schools of libertarianism which subscribe to it), but not a first principle (which are irreducible).

I am not a Rothbardian, but I am very definitely a libertarian.

I am a propertarian, natural rights, minarchist, libertarian (and to an extent non-aggressionist, but not strictly so… depending on definitions).

This is a combination of moral and ethical philosophies, and a school of government (though not a specific system of government).

Rothbardian libertarianism is itself a propertarian, natural rights (depending on your definitions), essentially minarchist (depending on your definitions), non-aggressionist, libertarian school; and in part a specific system of government…

..It’s just a slightly different one from that which I subscribe to.

Minarchism is a pragmatic, utilititarian, and consequentialist school of government (NOT a political or moral philosophy) with a few basic principles (all of which are derived principles, proceeding both from political and moral philosophy, AND from the practical and pragmatic reality of human society):

  • The only legitimate purpose and function of government, is to provide for organized collective action to maximize human liberty; by resolving disputes between individuals as a disinterested arbiter, and by protecting the rights, liberties, and physical persons and property, of a polity
  • Government, by its nature, must have a monopoly of initiation of legitimate collective coercive force. All else is tyranny or anarchy.
  • Therefore all government must engage in the coercive restraint of human liberty as part of its function.
  • Therefore, all government is an evil (greater or lesser)
  • Anarchy however is not a stable order respecting of liberty. All anarchy will eventually result in the tyranny of the strong over the weak, and the many over the few.
  • Therefore, although all government is an evil; government is necessary to protect the rights of the few and the weak against the will of the many and the strong, and must exist
  • Given that government must exist, but is an evil; human liberty must be protected from that evil to the greatest extent that is practical
  • Given that liberty must be protected from the inherent evil of government; the optimal government, is the smallest, least intrusive, least pervasive, most limited government; that is practical, functional, effective’ and can protect the rights, principles, and physical persons and property, of a polity.

In propertarian/natural rights libertarianism, the first principles are that of private property and of natural rights (both of which are irreducible); the synthesis of which is the principle of self ownership.

The natural rights principle is that sentient beings have certain rights, which are not contingent on any other individual or collective (except where they are limited by conflict with the natural rights of others); and which are those principles or components of the state of being, which cannot be limited or abrogated but by force, fraud, or willing consent (exact lists and definitions thereof vary and conflict widely)

The propertarian principle is that the right to private property exists, and that you have the rights of exclusion, protection, determination, and product; for your own legitimately held private property.

The intersection of these principles is the principle of Self Ownership. You own yourself, in the entirety, including all rights of property.

Essentially, the first principle of this moral philosophy, is that the right of private property is the ultimate fundamental right, from which all other rights are derived; and beginning with the ownership of self.

This is also called the principle of “the sovereign man” (though technically, there are multiple interpretations of what that means as well).

In this interpretation of moral and ethical philosophy, non-aggression isn’t even a first principle; it is one of a set of derived principles, which are internally justified and consistent (without endowment, appeal to authority, or a priori assertion of second order principle).

This set of principles can be described thusly:

  • You own your entire self (body, mind, and soul).
  • Because you own yourself in the entire, you have the absolute right to:
  1.  Self determination
  2.  Freedom of conscience
  3.  Your own property legitimately acquired and held (which includes your entire self)
  4.  The efforts, products, outputs, and rights inherent to or proceeding from all the above
  • You have the absolute right to defend those things, and the product or output of them; up to and including lethal force (except where limited by conflict with the rights of others).
  • There are no other rights. All other privileges, powers, and immunities, are less than rights; and are either derived from, or in opposition to them.
  • You may not initiate force or fraud against any other to abrogate their rights; or for any reason other than the defense of those rights; but including defending those rights for others who either cannot defend themselves, or those who delegate that defense to you.
  • None may initiate force or fraud against you to abrogate those rights, or for any reason other than the defense of those rights; including defending others rights from you.
  • There are no rights, privileges, powers, or immunities which are not derived from the rights of the individual.
  • A collective cannot arrogate rights, privileges, powers, or immunities on itself which are not delegated to it by individuals; therefore no collective may exercise more or different rights, privileges, powers, or immunities than any individual, nor may it exercise those things which have not been explicitly delegated to it.
  • You have absolute responsibility for all of the above. All consequences are yours, good or bad.

Only ONE of those core principles (expressed as two entries in this list, describing the principle and its reciprocal) is non-aggression.

There are many other schools of libertarian moral and political philosophy, some of which don’t include the non-aggression principle at all (or do so in a significantly different, or  nearly unrecognizable form).

I make no judgement here as to what the “best” form of libertarian moral, ethical, or political philosophy, or school of government, might be.

I have a system which is internally consistent, and works for me. You may disagree with it; in fact, your beliefs may directly conflict with or contradict mine. They may even be mutually exclusive.

So long as I don’t attempt to use coercive force on you to make you believe in or follow my system, and you don’t attempt use coercive force on me likewise; we may both be “true” libertarians (or maybe not, depending on what else we may believe).

On first glance, you might say “well, that’s just the non-aggression principle again”… but if you think about it for a minute you should realize that it isnt.

The statement is not exclusionary or deterministic. In either of our belief systems, there may be circumstances under which the initiation of coercive force on another is acceptable, or even required. Or, both of our belief systems may allow for a disinterested arbiter to resolve disputes (mine certainly does).

So… Non-aggression is a generally good principle… but it isn’t absolute, it isn’t deterministic, and it isn’t universal.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Open Thread Question: Did FDR Know the Pearl Harbor Attack Was Coming?

I’m not normally one who takes conspiracy theories seriously but I have a very open mind about the question: what did FDR know about the Pearl Harbor attack and when did he know it? When people I respect like Judge Andrew Napolitano say he believes that FDR “knew goddamn well” the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor and he stood by and did nothing, that gets my attention.

This conspiracy theory, I think, is very different from what the 9/11 Truthers say about 9/11 or those who believe the government faked the moon landing. I’ll readily admit that I have a strong anti FDR bias so my judgment might be compromised. I do think that foreknowledge on FDR’s part is entirely plausible because from what I know about the man, he seems to have been a “the ends justify the means” kind of guy. Also consider that U.S. history has several examples of presidents and/or other high ranking officials lied in order to draw the nation into war (the Gulf of Tonkin incident comes to mind).

On this 71st anniversary of the attack, I’m wondering what you think. Is this a nutty conspiracy theory or does it have merit? Does anyone have anything in the way of proof one way or another? The floor is yours.

Former Liberty Papers Contributor Jason Pye to be a Panelist in Cato Discussion

Former Liberty Papers contributor and current editor at United Liberty Jason Pye is going to do something I have only dreamed of doing: being a panelist in a Cato Institute discussion.

If you want to know more and possibly attend this event, here’s a link to Jason’s post at United Liberty.

As for me, I will be watching the pod cast and sharing it here once Cato makes it available.

1 3 4 5 6 7 29