Libertarians often assume that a free society will be one in which all (or nearly all) property is private. I have previously expressed my dissent from this consensus, arguing that libertarian principles instead support a substantial role for public property. (" In Defense of Public Space ," Formulations, Vol. III, No. 3 (Spring 1996).) In this article I develop this heretical position further.
J. S. Mill's distinction between higher and lower pleasures is often thought to conflict with his commitment to psychological and ethical hedonism: if the superiority of higher pleasures is quantitative, then the higher/lower distinction is superfluous and Mill contradicts himself; if the superiority of higher pleasures is not quantitative, then Mill's hedonism is compromised.
Responsibility is often thought of as primarily a legal concept. Even when it is moral responsibility that is at issue, it is assumed that it is above all in moralities based on law-centered patterns and models that responsibility takes center stage, so that responsibility is a legal concept at its core, and is applicable to the realm of private morality only by extension and analogy.
I want to talk about some of the main objections that have been given to libertarian anarchism and my attempts to answer them. But before I start giving objections and trying to answer them, there is no point in trying to answer objections to a view unless you have given some positive reason to hold the view in the first place. So, I just want to say briefly what I think the positive case is for it before going on to (...) defend it against objections. (shrink)
Despite her admiration for the economic theories of Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand rejects Mises's central concept of "praxeology," the science of human action. Yet the features of Misesian praxeology that Rand finds most objectionable— its aprioristic methodology, its value-subjectivism, and its claims about motivational psychology— can be reinterpreted in ways that make them congenial to Rand's philosophical principles while still preserving the essential points that Mises wishes to make.
Libertarianism needs a theory of class. This claim may meet with resistance among some libertarians. A few will say: “The analysis of society in terms of classes and class struggles is a specifically Marxist approach, resting on assumptions that libertarians reject. Why should we care about class?” A greater number will say: “We recognize that class theory is important, but libertarianism doesn't need such a theory, because it already has a perfectly good one.”.
Part One of Marx's “On the Jewish Question” is a communitarian manifesto, one of the finest and subtlest ever penned. But has it anything valuable to offer defenders of liberalism? I think it does; for in “On the Jewish Question” Marx points to a potential danger into which communitarians are liable to fall, and I shall argue that his discussion sheds light on an analogous peril for liberals. Specifically, Marx distinguishes between a genuine and a spurious form of communitarianism, and (...) warns that a failure to recognize this distinction may lead communitarians to embrace liberal values in communitarian guise. Using Marx's analysis as a model, I hope to show that the same distinction may be found within the liberal tradition, posing a corresponding danger into which contemporary liberalism has in large part already fallen. (shrink)
This question presupposes a prior question: would a free nation need to defend itself from foreign aggression? Some would answer no: the rewards of cooperation outweigh the rewards of aggression, and so a nation will probably not be attacked unless it first acts aggressively itself.
A legal system is any institution or set of institutions in a given society that provides dispute resolution in a systematic and reasonably predictable way. it does so through the exercise of three functions: the judicial, the legislative, and the executive. The judicial function, the adjudication of disputes, is the core of any legal system; the other two are ancillary to this. The legislative function is to determine the rules that will govern the process of adjudication (this function may be (...) merged with the judicial function, as when case law arises through precedents, or it may be exercised separately), while the executive function is to secure submission (through a variety of means, which may or may not include violence) to the adjudicative process and compliance with its verdicts. A government or state (for present purposes i shall use these terms interchangeably) is any organisation that claims, and in large part achieves, a forcibly maintained monopoly, within a given geographical territory, of these legal functions, and in particular of the use of force in the executive function. now the market anarchist objection to government is simply a logical extension of the standard libertarian objection to coercive monopolies in general.1 First, from a moral point of view, among people regarded as equals2 it cannot be legitimate for some to claim a certain line of work as their own privileged preserve from which others are to be forcibly excluded; we no longer believe in the divine right of kings, and on no other basis could such inequality of rights be justified. Second, from an economic point of view, because monopolies are insulated from market competition and hold their customers by force, they lack both the information and the incentive to provide consumers with fair, efficient, and inexpensive service. The anarchist accepts these arguments, and merely asks why they should apply with any less force to the provision of legal services. (shrink)
JEL Classification: B41, B53, B31, B2, P48, A12 Abstract: Wittgenstein’s rule-following paradox has important implications for two aspects of Austrian theory. First, it makes it possible to reconcile the Misesian, Rothbardian, and hermeneutical approaches to methodology; second, it provides a way of defending a stateless legal order against the charge that such an order lacks, yet needs, a final arbiter.
We began with three propositions: that people have a right not to be treated as mere means to the ends of others, that a woman who voluntarily becomes pregnant nevertheless has the right to an abortion, and that a woman who voluntarily gives birth does not have a right to abandon her child until she finds a substitute caretaker. These propositions initially seemed inconsistent, for the prohibition on treating others as mere means appeared to rule out the possibility of positive (...) rights, thus making it impossible to countenance the right to abort or the right not to be abandoned . But we have seen that the prohibition on treating people as mere means to the ends of others is best understood as ruling out basic positive rights while permitting derivative ones. Since a willing mother is responsible for bringing her child into the world in the first place, she cannot abandon it without violating its negative right not to be killed, and so such a child has a derivative positive right not to be abandoned. A pregnant woman, on the other hand, has a negative right not to have her body invaded, and from this negative right derives a positive right to abort her fetus, so long as doing so is not disproportionate to the seriousness of the threat . Therefore, far from being in conflict, propositions , , and have been shown to be in harmony with one another, the latter two being plausibly grounded in the first. Insofar as we have reason to accept , then, we have reason to accept and . Moreover, we have seen that a proper understanding of allows us to embed and in a larger moral perspective in which the limits of compulsory altruism are firmly drawn: enforceable rights to the use or assistance of others may be allowed into the moral domain only if they are “sponsored” by some negative right. Every putative positive right must find such a sponsor, or perish. (shrink)
The widespread assumption among academic philosophers that no truth can be simultaneously necessary and factual, founded on the analytic-synthetic dichotomy, was challenged from outside the profession by Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff in the 1960s, and from within the profession by Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam in the 1970s. Gregory M. Browne's book Necessary Factual Truth represents a long-overdue attempt to synthesize the Rand-Peikoff and Kripke-Putnam approaches into an integrated theory. While Browne's project is partially successful, it gives up one (...) of the chief attractions of these approaches: the ability to preserve continuity of reference across radical theoretical change. (shrink)
Roderick T. Long reviews Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, the long-awaited final volume of Chris Sciabarra's "Dialectics and Liberty" trilogy. Long finds Total Freedom to be an impressive scholarly achievement that makes a compelling case for the existence of, and the need to further promote, affinities between the seemingly disparate intellectual traditions of libertarianism and dialectics. However, Long argues that Sciabarra's neglect of certain crucial distinctions vitiates to some extent his case for dialectics, his critique of Murray Rothbard's anarchism, (...) and his application of the Objectivist theory of abstraction to the problem of internal relations. (shrink)
Some writers have so confounded government with society, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government (...) even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one ... (shrink)
In particular, Miller argues persuasively for attributing to Aristotle the following theses--theses traditionally rejected by communitarians as liberal innovations antithetical to the Aristotelian point of view.
Being on a 40 city 24x7 book tour for War Against the Weak . I am writing this from an airplane, and I regret my brevity. Catching up on some email from a few weeks back I have now come across your remarks and those of your like minded friends defending Spencer.
This article begins a new series explaining the reasoning behind the various detailed provisions of my Virtual-Canton Constitution. At Disneyland the term "imagineering" is used for the creative process of designing a new Disneyland attraction. I've borrowed the term to describe the process of designing a libertarian political system.
Roderick T. Long defends his criticisms (in "The Benefits and Hazards of Dialectical Iibertarianism," Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Spring 2001) of Chris Sciabarra's theory of dialectics. Long argues, against Sciabarra and Roger Bissell, that embracing dialectics as a general methodology commits one to an internalist ontology; and he argues, against Bryan Register, that an internalist ontology is indefensible. Long concludes, however, that dialectics is still an indispensable methodological tool, so long as its scope is not exaggerated.
In reply to Seddon's charge that Long's analysis in Reason and Value rests on a mistaken reading of Plato, Long both defends his interpretation of Plato and argues that nothing in Reason and Value depends on Plato interpretation in any case.
While regarding Gregory M. Browne as mainly on target in his Rand-inspired treatment of reference and necessity, as well as in his rejection of the analyticsynthetic dichotomy, Long argues, first, that Browne is mistaken in rejecting some other vital distinctions, such as the a priori / a posteriori distinction; second, that Browne is nevertheless implicitly committed, under different terminology, to these very distinctions that he purportedly rejects; and third, that Browne's treatment of kinds and definitions leads him to misdescribe and (...) misprescribe ordinary language use, and also to embrace unnecessary semantic incommensurability. (shrink)
This collection seeks to excavate the tradition of radical liberal class analysis, which predated and inspired Marx's reflections on class. Liberal class theory is distinctive because it regards relationship with the state as constitutive rather than just indicative of social class membership. Along with an introduction that frames the discussion historically and conceptually, Social Class and State Power provides readers with easy access to provocative texts from the early modern period to the present.
Probably no intellectual has suffered more distortion and abuse than Spencer. He is continually condemned for things he never said – indeed, he is taken to task for things he explicitly denied. The target of academic criticism is usually the mythical Spencer rather than the real Spencer; and although some critics may derive immense satisfaction from their devastating refutations of a Spencer who never existed, these treatments hinder rather than advance the cause of knowledge.
While the classical Greco-Roman tradition is not ordinarily thought of as associated with radical individualism, many of the central concerns of such radical individualists as Frédéric Bastiat, Herbert Spencer, Benjamin Tucker, Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, and Ayn Rand—including their views on human sociality, spontaneous order, and the relation between self-interest and non-instrumental concern for others—are shown to be inheritances from and developments of Platonic, Aristotelian, Epicurean, and Stoic ideas. Hence those working in the classical tradition have reason to (...) explore the radical individualist tradition and vice versa. (shrink)
Many libertarians are familiar with the system of private law that prevailed in Iceland during the Free Commonwealth period (930 1262). Market mechanisms, rather than a governmental monopoly of power, provided the incentives to cooperate and maintain order.
(to table of contents of archives) This talk was delivered at the Auburn Philosophical Society’s Roundtable on Hate, 5 October 2001, convened in response to the September 11 attacks a month earlier. The events of September 11th have occasioned a wide variety of responses, ranging from calls to turn the other cheek, to calls to nuke half the Middle East—and every imaginable shade of opinion in between. At a time when emotions run high, how should we go about deciding on (...) a morally appropriate response? Should we allow ourselves to be guided by our anger, or should we put our anger aside and make an unemotional decision? (shrink)
Two years ago, at our Spring 1994 Forum on Systems of Law, I suggested that those seeking to build and maintain a Free Nation would face three problems, which I called "the three Leviathans": "Leviathan Past (that is, the dangers posed by the state presently occupying the territory within which the Free Nation is to arise), Leviathan Present (that is, the dangers posed, once the Free Nation has arisen, by the threat of other states existing outside the Free Nation's territory), (...) and Leviathan Yet to Come (that is, the dangers posed by the unwanted but all too possible emergence of a state within the Free Nation's territory — that is, the possible evolution of the ... Free Nation into a [statist régime]." 1 With regard to Leviathan Past, I noted that there are two ways of getting an existing régime to give up its power and turn libertarian: force and persuasion. Arguing that force was impractical, I suggested three possible modes of persuasion: a) convert the rulers of a country to libertarianism (a daunting prospect); b) convert the ordinary citizens to libertarianism and get them to vote in a libertarian system; and c) pay the rulers to relinquish sovereignty over some portion of their territory. (shrink)
LTS I.1 We are adversaries, and yet the goal which we both pursue is the same. What is the common goal of economists and socialists? Is it not a society where the production of all the goods necessary to the maintenance and embellishment of life shall be as abundant as possible, and where the distribution of these same goods among those who have created them through their labour shall be as just as possible? May not our common ideal, apart from (...) all distinction of schools, be summarised in these two words: abundance and justice? LTS I.2 Such, none among you can deny, is our common goal. Only we approach this goal by different paths; you proceed along the obscure and hitherto unexplored defile of the organisation of labour, while we proceed along the broad and well known highway of liberty. Each of us is attemping to lead in train a hesitating and groping society that scans the horizon seeking, but in vain, the pillar of light that formerly guided the slaves of the Pharaohs to the Promised Land. LTS I.3 Why do you refuse to follow the path of liberty alongside us? Because, you say, this liberty which we so extol is fatal to the labourers; because it has thus far produced only the oppression of the weak by the strong; because it has give birth to disastrous crises in which millions of men have lost in some cases their fortunes and in other cases their lives; because liberty unbridled, unregulated, unlimited – is anarchy! LTS I.4 Is this not the reason that you reject liberty? is this not the reason that you demand the organisation of labour? LTS I.5 Well then, if we prove to you with sufficient clarity that all the evils which you.. (shrink)
What would the constitution of a free nation look like? In trying to answer that question we immediately think in terms of a Bill of Rights, restrictions on governmental power, and so forth. And any constitution worth having would certainly include those things. But if a constitution is to be more than a wish list, it must also specify the political structure necessary to ensure that these freedoms are not eroded or ignored. Consider the old Soviet Constitution, which guaranteed all (...) sorts of fine sounding freedoms for its citizens -- but which in practice proved only an empty promise, since its interpretation and enforcement lay in the hands of an unfettered monolithic centralized state. (shrink)
In December 1851, French President Louis Bonaparte – the future Emperor Napoléon III – seized power in a coup d’état , in violation of his oath to uphold the Constitution. He arrested the legislature; imprisoned, deported, or executed his political opponents; and deterred future dissent by massacring civilians in the streets.