Libertarianism—and classical liberalism generally—presupposes (or entails) a specific, but implicit, conception of liberty. Imagine two lists of property-rights: one list is all those that are libertarian; the other list is all those that are not. What determines into which list a property-right is assigned? If libertarianism is really about liberty, then the determining factor must be whether the property-right fits what liberty is in a more abstract sense. It greatly clarifies matters to have an explicit theory of this presupposed conception (...) of abstract liberty and how it relates to its practical application and morality. This can be distinguished into five stages. (shrink)
1) Introduction. 2) The key libertarian insight into property and orthodox libertarianism’s philosophical confusion. 3) Clearer distinctions for applying to what follows: abstract liberty; practical liberty; moral defences; and critical rationalism. 4) The two dominant (‘Lockean’ and ‘Hobbesian’) conceptions of interpersonal liberty. 5) A general account of libertarianism as a subset of classical liberalism and defended from a narrower view. 6) Two abstract (non-propertarian, non-normative) theories of interpersonal liberty developed and defended: ‘the absence of interpersonal proactively-imposed constraints on want-satisfaction’, abbreviated (...) to ‘no proactively imposed costs’; and ‘no imposed costs’. 7) Practical implications for both main abstract conceptions of liberty derived and compared. 8) How this positive analysis relates to morals. 9) Concluding conjectures: the main abstract theory of liberty captures the relevant interpersonal conception; the new paradigm of libertarianism solves the old one’s problems. (shrink)
This is a response to Macleod 2012's argument that the history of unjust property acquisitions requires rich libertarians to give away everything in excess of equality. At first, problematic questions are raised. How much property is usually inherited or illegitimate? Why should legitimate inheritance be affected? What of the burden of proof and court cases? A counterfactual problem is addressed. Three important cases are considered: great earned wealth; American slavery; land usurpation. All are argued to be problematic for Macleod 2012's (...) thesis. Various problems are explained concerning using the Nozickian argument to decide the alleged excess that rich libertarians own. The essay's main error is the presupposition that free markets do not help the worst-off. The majority of unjust holdings today are not the result of historical injustices but arise through continuing transfers enabled by taxation and state-regulation. More study of libertarian contributions to the social sciences and philosophy would appear to be desirable "personal behavior" among socialists. (shrink)
The general philosophical problem with most versions of social libertarianism and how this essay will proceed. The specific problem with liberty explained by a thought-experiment. The abstract (non-propertarian and non-normative) theory of interpersonal liberty-in-itself as ‘the absence of interpersonal proactively-imposed constraints on want-satisfaction’, for short ‘no (proactive) impositions’. The individualistic liberty-maximisation theory solves the problems of clashes, defences, and rectifications without entailing libertarian consequentialism. The practical implications of instantiating liberty: three rules of liberty-in-practice, 1) initial ultimate control of one’s body, (...) 2) initial ultimate control of one’s used resources, 3) consensual interpersonal interactions and resource transfers. These rules are economically efficient and maximise general want-satisfaction. Private property and legal remedies are additional practical institutional aspects, but to which ‘proactive impositions’ then apply prima facie. Libertarian law is often mistaken for complete libertarianism. Moral explanations are a separate issue. The three main moral theories imply libertarianism, but it can be morally posited independently of them. Critical rationalism and its application. No empirical or argumentative support for theories. An important ambiguity with ‘justification’. How the epistemology applies to the libertarian theory but remains separate in principle. Conclusion: there are further published explanations but this should be enough to generate useful criticism. (shrink)
This is a response to “Libertarianism without Argument”. Various misunderstandings in that text are given replies. Both critical rationalism and how it applies to libertarianism are elucidated and elaborated.
Andy Curzon replied (often quoting from the opening sections of Lester 2014, chapter 10) in an ongoing debate with Lee Waaks, which Mr Waaks forwarded (with approval) to the Libertarian Alliance Forum (27 February 2015). This response replies to the criticisms after directly quoting them (the indented text; except where Lester is occasionally quoted, as indicated). A few cuts have been made to avoid some repetition and irrelevance. However, just as Mr Curzon sometimes repeats his main points in slightly different (...) ways and contexts in the hope that some of them might prove cogent, so this reply does the same. The dialogue-like result seems to engage more directly and completely than producing a new stand-alone exposition. And some new arguments are even developed in the process. But the full nature of many of the criticisms and replies often only becomes clear as the “dialogue” proceeds. An addendum then rebuts two further brief critical responses in the same manner. (shrink)
This paper argues for a non-moral interpretation of the libertarian conception of interpersonal liberty as ‘the absence of imposed cost.’ In the event of a clash of imposed costs, observing such liberty entails ‘minimising imposed costs’. Three fundamental criticisms are examined: strictly interpreted, this would logically imply genocide in practice; it is impractically unclear and moralised; it could entail mob rule of some kind. Self-ownership and private property are then non-morally derived merely from applying this formula in a state of (...) nature. Various subsidiary issues arise throughout. (shrink)
Charles Murray describes himself as a libertarian, most notably in his short book, What it Means to be a Libertarian. He might more accurately have described himself as having libertarian tendencies. My reading of Simple Justice is that the views it espouses are far more traditionalist than libertarian. Neither traditionalist state-retribution nor modernist state-leniency is libertarian. Nor does either provide as just or efficient a response to crime as does libertarian restitution, including restitutive retribution. Here, I shall respond directly only (...) to Murray's views, rather than also deal with state-leniency. This is because I accept Murray's thesis, without endorsing his specific arguments for it, that state-leniency is disastrous as a response to crimes against persons and their justly acquired property. (shrink)
Private-property anarchy is better than the state in the enhancement of liberty and welfare. Strictly speaking, market exchange is one aspect of private-property anarchy. But I here focus on market-anarchy as that is a main source of confusion and debate. Similarly, pluralism is another aspect of private-property anarchy. I focus on pluralism as an example of a currently popular topic where private-property anarchy is misunderstood. ‘Pluralism’ here means ‘(tolerating) different ways of life’. ‘The market’ means ‘voluntary exchange’. ‘Anarchy’ means ‘no (...) rule’. Both interpersonal liberty and private property are inherently anarchic: no one is ruled to the extent that these exist. They are also naturally pluralist. The state, by contrast, coercively imposes ultimate control and is thus inherently illiberal and naturally Procrustean. Democratic prejudice obscures these facts. (shrink)
Libertarians typically object to having the state deal with law and order for several general reasons: it is inefficient; it is carried out at the expense of taxpayers; and it punishes so-called victimless crimes. Exactly what the observance of liberty implies with respect to the treatment of tortfeasors and criminals is more controversial among libertarians. A pure theory of libertarian restitution and retribution is mainly what is attempted here, without becoming involved in general moral anti-state arguments. However, the pure theory (...) alone will raise practical problems that require immediate response if the theory is to appear at all plausible. (shrink)
The political distinction between left and right remains ideologically muddled. This was not always so, but an immediate return to the pristine usage is impractical. Putting a theory of social liberty to one side, this essay defends the interpretation of left-wing as personal-choice and right-wing as property-choice. This allows an axis that is north/choice (or state-free) and south/control (or state-ruled). This Political Compass clarifies matters without being tendentious or too complicated. It shows that what is called ‘libertarianism’ is north-wing. A (...) quiz gives the reader’s Political Compass reading. (shrink)
This essay goes through Frederick 2015 (F15) in some detail, responding to the various paraphrases and criticisms therein. It is argued that in each case F15 is mistaken about what Lester 2012 (L12) says, or about what F15 presents as a sound criticism, or both. It is concluded that the philosophical theory of new-paradigm libertarianism that L12 (etc.) comprises has yet to be given adequate critical consideration, and that almost all libertarian texts still fall foul of the three fundamental errors (...) that L12 (etc.) has explained and corrected at length in response to many texts. (shrink)
This essay is intended to be a refutation of the main thesis in Against Intellectual Property, Kinsella 2008 (hereafter, K8). Points of agreement, relatively trivial disagreement, and irrelevant issues will largely be ignored, as will much repetition of errors in K8. Otherwise, the procedure is to go through K8 quoting various significantly erroneous parts as they arise and explaining the errors involved. It will not be necessary to respond at the same length as K8 itself.
1. First there is an outline of the libertarian approach taken here. 2. On the assumption of personhood, it is explained how there need be no overall inflicted harm and no proactive killing with abortion and infanticide. This starts with an attached-adult analogy and transitions to dealing directly with the issues. Various well-known criticisms are answered throughout. 3. There is then a more-abstract explanation of how it is paradoxical to assume a duty to do more than avoid inflicting overall harm (...) and, instead, positively benefit. A putative counterexample is explained away. 4. A positive theory of intellectual personhood is defended in principle, but not made precise, which is sufficient to be practical. The greater moral value of intellectual-personhood is defended. An important putative reductio of the potential-personhood argument is refuted. 5. Several further criticisms that apply to both types of defences are answered. 6. Conclusion. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
The Zwolinski 2013 "libertarianism and liberty" essays on libertarianism_org are argued to have the following problems: taking libertarianism to be a "commitment" to the view that "liberty is the highest political value" ; examining and rejecting the maximization of liberty without a libertarian theory of liberty; accepting a persuasive sense of "coercion" ; misunderstandingliberty in the work place; conflating, to varying degrees, freedom of action and freedom from aggression and justice/rights/morals; focusing on logically possible clashes instead of practically possible congruence (...) among utility, liberty, and justice – in particular, that "rule (preference-)utilitarianism" fits "rule libertarianism" ; failing to distinguish liberty from license (and power) concerning slavery, and so-called "civil and democratic liberties" (and everything else); the idea that any coherent reference to a quantity of liberty requires precise cardinality; failing to see that the quantity of liberty has an inherently qualitative aspect; misunderstanding property as about limiting freedom; mistaking clashing Hobbesian freedom for non-clashing Lockean liberty; adopting G. A. Cohen's confusion about freedom as the libertarian conception of freedom; assuming the – illogical – epistemology of justification" ; not realizing that both allowing and prohibiting pollution "aggresses" and so "aggressions" need to be minimized; the failure of all six of its reasons for rejecting the non-aggression principle. (shrink)
David Friedman posed a number of libertarian philosophical problems (Friedman 1989). This essay criticizes Walter Block’s Rothbardian responses (Block 2011) and compares them with J C Lester’s critical-rationalist, libertarian-theory responses (Lester  2012). The main issues are as follows. 1. Critical rationalism and how it applies to libertarianism. 2.1. How libertarianism is not inherently about law and is inherently about morals. 2.2. How liberty relates to property and can be maximized: carbon dioxide and radio waves. 2.3. Applying the theory to (...) flashlights. 2.4. Applying the theory to the probability of imposed risks. 2.5. “Homesteading” or initial acquisition. 2.6 What is “essential” for a “true libertarian.” 2.7. Crime and punishment. 2.8. Extent of punishment. 2.9. The libertarian response to a madman with a gun. 2.10. How contradictions in rights are possible. 2.11. The draft. 3.1. Utilitarian libertarianism and “nose counting”. 3.2. How interpersonal comparisons of utility are possible and utility monsters are not a threat. 3.3. Why it is not utilitarian in practice to kill an innocent prisoner to prevent a riot. 3.4. Why David Friedman should not be forced to give up one of his eyes. 3.5. How utilitarians can be libertarians. Conclusion: a proper theory of liberty combined with critical rationalism offers superior solutions to Friedman’s problems. Appendix: replies to two commentators. (shrink)
Why learn about libertarianism? Because politics causes or exacerbates the very problems that it purports to solve, or it misperceives voluntary behaviour and free markets as problems. Liberty is always preferable: its maximal practical observance entailing self-ownership, private property, and consensual interactions. And libertarianism will be the ideological framework of the future of humankind.
In this book Alan Haworth tends to sneer at libertarians. However, there are, I believe, a few sound criticisms. I have always held similar opinions of Murray Rothbard‟s and Friedrich Hayek‟s definitions of liberty and coercion, Robert Nozick‟s account of natural rights, and Hayek‟s spontaneous-order arguments. I urge believers of these positions to read Haworth. But I don‟t personally know many libertarians who believe them (or who regard Hayek as a libertarian).
Most self-identified libertarians unwittingly have a moral muddle without a central factual theory of liberty. They cannot yet see that they first need to sort out what liberty is, and therefore entails if instantiated, and only after that can moral questions about it be coherently raised and tackled.
Frederick 2013 (F13) offers criticisms of the Lester 2012 (L12) theory of libertarian liberty and of its compatibility with preference-utilitarian welfare and private-property anarchy. This reply to F13 first explains the underlying philosophical problem with libertarian liberty and L12’s solution. It then goes through F13 in detail showing that it does not grasp the problem or the solution and offers only misrepresentations and unsound criticisms.
As someone who wishes Escape from Leviathan (EfL) to succeed, I am grateful for a review with such high praise from a well-known classical liberal. As a critical rationalist who also wishes to learn from his mistakes, I am also grateful for Norman Barry’s criticisms. The only way that I can hope to try to repay these and appreciate their full force is by doing my best to reply to them.
This essay is part of an attempt to reconcile two extreme views in economics: the (neglected) subjective, apriorist approach and the (standard) objective, scientific (i.e., falsifiable) approach. The Austrian subjective view of value, building on Carl Menger’s theory of value, was developed into a theory of economics as being entirely an a priori theory of action. This probably finds its most extreme statement in Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action (1949). In contrast, the standard economic view has developed into making falsifiable (...) predictions about economic phenomena whereby the truth of the assumptions, especially about economic agents, is relatively unimportant: predictive fecundity is all. This finds an extreme statement in Milton Friedman’s introductory essay in his Essays in Positive Economics (1953). However, many economists fall somewhere between the two extremes, such as McKenzie and Tullock (1978). (shrink)
It is an irony to attack a more sceptical epistemology than one's own in the name of scepticism and defend, instead, an epistemology that is positively illogical. And yet that is what Martin Gardner has done in his “A Skeptical Look at Karl Popper.”.
Despite receiving high praise from Professors Barry, Narveson, Flew, and Gray (see the first page of the paperback), the Saladin Meckled-Garcia review (M-G) puts the level of Escape from Leviathan (EFL) as “undergraduate” and rates it one star. While undergraduates may profit from reading EFL, it is not mainly at their level. M-G either applies unusually high standards of philosophical argumentation or is simply philosophically perplexed.
Despite receiving high praise from Professors Barry, Narveson, Flew, and Gray (see the first page of the paperback), the review puts the level of Escape from Leviathan (EFL) as “undergraduate” and rates it one star.1 While undergraduates may profit from reading EFL, it is not mainly at their level. The review either applies unusually high standards of philosophical argumentation or is simply philosophically perplexed. .
The editors of the Journal of Applied Philosophy allowed Alan Haworth to reply to my short review of his Anti-Libertarianism. The editors would not allow me to respond to Haworth. Thanks to the openness of internet publication and the Libertarian Alliance website, this can now be rectified and Haworth's reply can no longer escape a public critical response.
The most relevant and plausible conceptions of economic rationality, interpersonal liberty, human welfare, and private-property anarchy do not conflict in theory or practice. Using philosophy and social science, Escape from Leviathan defends this bold, non-normative, thesis from contrary positions in the scholarly literature. Writers considered include David Friedman, John Gray, R. M. Hare, Robert Nozick, Karl Popper, John Rawls, Murray Rothbard, Alan Ryan, Amartya Sen, and Bernard Williams. *** The rationality assumptions of neoclassical and Austrian School economics are reconciled and (...) related to liberty and welfare. A new pre-propertarian theory of interpersonal liberty as the absence of (initiated or proactively) imposed cost is argued to be libertarian. Human welfare is defended as the satisfaction of unimposed wants. Practical anarchy is simply unconstrained private property. Related topics include free will, weakness of will, the nature of moralizing, intellectual property, and restitution and retribution. Critical-rationalist epistemology (theories can only be criticized and tested, not justified or supported) is applied throughout. This is a ground-breaking work that is also an excellent introduction to libertarianism and social thought. (shrink)
A rejoinder to “Escape from Lester: A Reply from a so-called ‘Philistine’” (Libertarian Alliance website). For clarity: Escape from Leviathan (EFL/book), the Brooks review (review), the Lester response (response), the Brooks reply to the response (reply).
Private-property anarchy is better than the state in the enhancement of liberty and welfare. Strictly speaking, market exchange is one aspect of private-property anarchy. But I here focus on market-anarchy as that is a main source of confusion and debate. Similarly, pluralism is another aspect of privateproperty anarchy. I focus on pluralism as an example of a currently popular topic where private-property anarchy is misunderstood. ‘Pluralism’ here means ‘(tolerating) different ways of life’. ‘The market’ means ‘voluntary exchange’. ‘Anarchy’ means ‘no (...) rule’. Both interpersonal liberty and private property are inherently anarchic: no one is ruled to the extent that these exist. They are also naturally pluralist. The state, by contrast, coercively imposes ultimate control and is thus inherently illiberal and naturally Procrustean. Democratic prejudice obscures these facts. (shrink)
Readers of “Falsificationism Redux” (the rejoinder) may have found it to be another waffling non-explanation of induction and the alleged falsity of falsificationism—or even self-refuting, as its title indicates (redux: brought back, revived, restored). However, it seems worth another round of replies if only because the arguments are fairly typical of the would-be ‘inductivist’ and it might help some people who have yet to see how these arguments fail.
Epistemology is often a problem for libertarianism. Many libertarian texts assume that they need to do more than explain and defend the libertarian conjecture. Instead, they try to offer epistemological support for it (whether empirically or morally); which falsificationism and, more broadly, critical rationalism explains is not possible. Moreover, they often mistake this attempt at support for an explanation of libertarianism (which ought to include an abstract theory of liberty and how it relates to liberty in practice). Therefore, when a (...) criticism of falsificationism appears on a libertarian website it seems useful to reply to it (even though no discussion of libertarianism itself is involved). (shrink)
I thank Professor Otteson for his review of Escape from Leviathan (EFL). His exposition of what I wrote is relatively accurate. I shall here do my best to correct any misunderstandings and reply to his welcome criticisms, ignoring our various points of agreement and his generous praise.
Primarily using philosophy, but also some social science, Escape from Leviathan (EFL) explains and defends what it calls an extreme version of the implicit ‘classical liberal compatibility thesis’: liberty, welfare, and anarchy are overwhelmingly complementary in normal practice (rationality is added for its intimate theoretical connections to these categories). This is done using theories, not definitions, of each concept. This important thesis is entirely positive. Therefore, somewhat unusually, all normative issues are avoided as irrelevant distractions in this context. In addition, (...) the epistemology used is also unorthodox. A justificationist, or foundationalist, approach would be literally illogical: the self-refuting trilemma faced by ‘supporting justifications’ (as regards arguments and evidence) is of entailing infinite regresses, dogmatic starting points, or circularities. Consequently, critical rationalism is assumed: conjecture and criticism are all that is possible. Thus all aspects of the conjectured thesis are explained and defended from criticism as thoroughly as the book can encompass. It is concluded that the thesis has not been refuted and so may be critically preferred. (However, this could all still be viewed as a ‘justification’ by those thus inclined.) All of this is made clear enough in the short introductory chapter and repeated where relevant throughout. Yet some reviews do not have a firm grasp of the specific project and so reject it with unsound criticisms. We now turn to one such example. (shrink)
To explain the correct libertarian approach to immigration, a thought-experiment posits a minimal-state libertarian UK and then the introduction of several relevant anti-libertarian policies with their increasingly disastrous effects. It is argued that the reverse of these imagined policies, as far as is politically possible, must be the correct way forward. This framing is intended to counter the tendency for many articles to misapply libertarian principles to the current messy situation on the mistaken assumption that a state need only stop (...) interfering without rectifying or adjusting for its previous interferences. The relevant parts of various open-border texts are then criticised in light of this and for other errors, in particular for overlooking the likely huge scale of immigration as indicated by Gallup surveys. Additional criticisms are addressed in footnotes throughout. The conclusion outlines three broad options on immigration and suggests that directionally-libertarian policies are both more libertarian and practical than having states open their borders. The readers that might be interested in this subject matter include those engaging in libertarian philosophy, economics, and political theory. (shrink)
This book has many arguments doing an excellent job of dismantling the positions of those who would have the state do considerably more than defend the national realm. Thus far, it is hard for me to fault it—which is more difficult when one is already in agreement: the ideologically opposed can often provide more useful criticisms. But, as the book‟s title indicates, it does not go all the way to anarcho-liberalism (in fact, it does not even fully embody certain basic (...) tenets of classical liberalism). And as its criticisms of anarcho-liberalism—or private-property anarchy—are those to which I am ideologically opposed, I shall mainly concentrate on those. (shrink)
This essay examines sections relevant to libertarianism in Will Kymlicka’s Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (2nd ed.), making and explaining the following criticisms. Kymlicka’s “preface” misconstrues political philosophy’s progress, purpose, and its relation to libertarianism. In his “introduction”, his “project” mistakes libertarianism as “right-wing”, justice as compromise among “existing theories”, and equality as the “ultimate value.” 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. Kymlicka’s chapter on “libertarianism” mistakes it as, inherently and unavoidably, free-marketist, anti-consequentialist, deontological, Nozickian, requiring “a foundational moral premiss, without objective content, unmaximisable, 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. (shrink)
(Revised 31-10-17) This is only one view on the topic; other views may be rather different. It starts at the more philosophical end and then becomes more empirical, and possibly easier to understand, as it proceeds.
The following essay responds to a draft article that criticises the theory of libertarian restitution in Escape from Leviathan (EFL). The article was freely available to internet search engines. Hence, it seems fair and useful to reply to these very welcome objective criticisms. It is not intellectually relevant that its author might subsequently and subjectively have thought better of them, possibly as a result of the earlier version of this reply. Generally, the article misconstrues the position on retribution in EFL. (...) Eventually, it makes apparent qualifications to its own position such that there does not seem to be any clear theoretical difference between the two on the central disputed issue. EFL’s position is to explain and defend only the non-normative theory of libertarian restitution: full restoration or compensation to the damaged (proactively imposed on) party. But it is argued that this can include a retributive aspect if that is what the victim prefers. Moreover, such restitution will tend to act as a deterrent that maximises both overall interpersonal liberty (theorised as no proactive impositions) and human welfare (theorised as preference satisfaction). (shrink)
With respect to the phenomenal distinction that is conventionally made between ‘personal’ and ‘economic’ liberty, I do accept that “there is no logical incoherence in claiming that constraint of one can lead to an increase in the other.” Though, as Cole understands, I doubt the conceptual coherence of the distinction (let us call this view the ‘identity thesis’). So I assert that though the personal/economic distinction is conceptually dubious, it can stand unproblematically as illustrating the phenomenal distinctions that people do (...) make. I cannot see how “this inherent conceptual tension at two points of the compass does threaten it with collapse” as a phenomenal illustration as well, if that is what Cole means (as his “despite Lester’s protests” indicates). (shrink)
This replies to Block 2019 (B19), which responds to Lester 2014 (L14). The main issues in the, varyingly sized, sections are as follows. 1 Further explanations of critical rationalism, the theory of liberty, and problems with the non-aggression principle. 2.1 The relationships among law, morality, and libertarianism. 2.2 The objective invasiveness of low-level radiation and that it is therefore a proactive imposition (albeit trivial) if someone inflicts it on non-consenting people. 2.3 The objective and subjective aspects of proactive impositions; and (...) how clashes can be resolved. 2.4 How liberty relates to risk and self-ownership. 2.5 Libertarian initial acquisition versus absolute property rights by labour-mixing. 2.6 Organisational note. 2.7 Libertarianism and mens rea. 2.8 Libertarian rectification versus lex-talionis doubling. 2.9 Indirectly clashing rights, self-preservation, trespasser-hiker, flagpole-grasper, and landmine-layer. 2.10 A logical point is not a moral point. 2.11 Pacifism and libertarianism. 3.1 A weak criticism of utilitarianism. 3.2 Hedonometers; approximate interpersonal comparisons of utility imply libertarianism; what a libertarian is; libertarian rankings. 4. Libertarian philosophy versus propertarian dogma. Coda: the need to take seriously the philosophical problems with propertarian-justificationist libertarianism. Readers that might be interested include those engaging in libertarian philosophy and those using the Rothbardian/Blockian theoretical approach to libertarianism. (shrink)
This is an excellent though largely uncritical introduction to, and defence of, Robert Nozick‟s Anarchy, State and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974). It is also quite a good introduction to libertarianism. It is full of good arguments. I shall confine myself to critical remarks. My responses are mainly in the order that matters arise in the book.
What is my thesis? It is not that radical experimentation by the state, rather than liberal democracy, is more in accord with the spirit and logic of Popper’s ‘revolutionary’ epistemology. It is the opposite criticism, that full anarchic libertarianism (individual liberty and the free market without any state interference) better fits Popper’s epistemology and scientific method.
Peter Singer’s famous and influential article is criticised in three main ways that can be considered libertarian, although many non-libertarians could also accept them: 1) the relevant moral principle is more plausibly about upholding an implicit contract rather than globalising a moral intuition that had local evolutionary origins; 2) its principle of the immorality of not stopping bad things is paradoxical, as it overlooks the converse aspect that would be the positive morality of not starting bad things and also thereby (...) conceptually eliminates innocence; and 3) free markets—especially international free trade—have been cogently explained to be the real solution to the global “major evils” of “poverty” and “pollution”, while “overpopulation” does not exist in free-market frameworks; hence charity is a relatively minor alleviant to the problem of insufficiently free markets. There are also various subsidiary arguments throughout. (shrink)
The review cites the “Open Society” twice in its title—and is clearly pro-Popperian—but then fails to mention the fourteen-point list, and surrounding discussion, that explicitly compares Popper’s critical rationalism with anarcho-libertarianism (strong similarities) and liberal democracy (strong dissimilarities); EfL, pp.135-142. If the review had engaged more closely with the arguments of EfL and been more informed by the relevant social scientific literature, then it would probably have found the anarcho-libertarian case to be far more robust and realistic than such a (...) cursory dismissal can hope to refute. (shrink)
Under no circumstances should the absurd "right to roam‟ be incorporated into the legislation of this country. In reality, it is clearly a mere licence to trespass. Armed with the appropriate economic and philosophical arguments, we should eventually be able to offer an effective counter-attack with a movement for the "right to own‟ privately every last one of the state-controlled commons, heaths, hills, mountains, downs, woodlands, rivers, beaches, and footpaths. As a result, there will be no imposition on legitimate landowners (...) and more access to better resources for ramblers. (shrink)
The central classical liberal insight is that private property appears both to protect personal liberty and to promote general productivity. By way of philosophically clarifying this insight, Escape from Leviathan (EfL) posits the extreme classical liberal, or libertarian, Compatibility Thesis: there is no long-term, systemic, practical conflict among economic rationality, interpersonal liberty, human welfare, and private-property anarchy (i.e., four plausible and relevant theories of these that are presupposed, or entailed, by libertarianism and consonant social science). The review (Liberty, November 2002) (...) holds that this extreme version is probably false and suggests that perhaps even EfL’s author would agree. He (still) does not, although he remains open to argument. But what anyone happens to believe at any particular moment is a piece of fleeting biography that is irrelevant to the truth of the thesis or the soundness of the arguments in EfL. (shrink)
Contra critical rationalism, the response begins by referring to “the variety of internalist and externalist versions of foundationalism” (Liberty, December 2002). But it makes no attempt to explain or defend any of them. Hence, no further criticism is due here. The response then argues that, “The critical rationalist method seems to suggest that Lester’s extreme compatibility thesis is probably false” because—quoting Escape from Leviathan (EfL)—“bold universal theories might be false, and probably are” and yet “he doesn’t think the thesis is (...) probably false”; and so this is, by implication, an inconsistent belief. But the Compatibility Thesis (CT) is not one of the “bold universal theories” of science. The review and the response appear, at times, to assume that the CT is a bold universal theory about the perfect compatibility of applying the relevant conceptions, or theories, of rationality, liberty, welfare, and anarchy; at other times they assert that it is not bold at all but merely about definitions designed to be compatible. In fact, the CT asserts both that there are no theoretical incompatibilities among relevant and plausible versions of the theories, and no actual long-term, systemic, and practical conflicts among applying them. That is still a bold theory (perhaps even many libertarians would disagree with it), but it’s not a universal thesis of perfect compatibility. And if it were good practice to reject a theory just because of its boldness, then all scientific theories would be immediately rejected without even trying to produce a falsification. In any case, as stated in the reply, anyone’s mere beliefs are irrelevant to the truth of objective theories and the soundness of objective arguments. (shrink)
The Julius Blumfeld review (the review) of Escape from Leviathan (EfL) includes various kind words and especially welcome criticisms. This reply attempts to respond to the criticisms as best as it can. There have been further replies to criticisms, additional articles, and even books clarifying and developing this overall philosophical theory of libertarianism in the time that has elapsed since the first version of this reply. Consequently, it is now possible to revise it to make it somewhat clearer.