Category Archives: Philosophy

Least, Sufficient Force: Libertarian Theory of Defense

reddawnwolverinesIn The Ethics of Liberty Murray Rothbard made the remark that punishment theory has been scarcely treated by libertarians. The very same thing could be said for the theory of defense. If there has been little attempt by libertarians to determine what sanctions may be taken against an invader of property of another, there have been just as few attempts to determine what means may be used to thwart such an invader.

Rothbard himself devoted a chapter of The Ethics of Liberty to each of these two questions, but then spent a number of paragraphs in the chapter on defense discussing punishment instead, and so himself treated the latter question even more briefly than the former. This brief treatment of defense in The Ethics of Liberty is inspirational, but underdeveloped and insufficient.

In his treatment of defense Rothbard first poses a question of how extensive one’s right to defense of person and property is. He then proposes a basic answer: “Up to the point at which he begins to infringe on the property rights of someone else.” This can scarcely be argued with, for it is simply the principle of non-aggression restated. To infringe upon the property rights of another is indeed impermissible in any circumstances.

Rothbard’s elementary answer is useful in that it settles the matter of how much force may, in the conduct of defense, be brought to bear against people other than the aggressor. The answer is none at all. The non-aggression principle does not permit for any amount of “collateral damage” against third parties. Any act of intimidation, fraud or violence against people other than the aggressor carried out under the veneer of repelling aggression is in fact an act of aggression in its own right, and does not fall under defense.

There is one matter Rotbard’s basic answer does not resolve, however. That is, the question of how much force may in the conduct of defense be brought to bear against the aggressor himself? If there is a right to self-defense — and Rothbard showed that for libertarians there has to be — then there can only be one answer. Against the aggressor, the aggressed-upon may use up to exactly the amount of force that is necessary to thwart the aggression.

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Nuclear Weapons in Libertarianism

What does the NAP say about ownership of nukes?

Nuclear weapons like to pop up from time to time and make the headlines. They held the national attention during the Cold War, and now Iran is allegedly close to being able to build a bomb of their own. If the Iran bit sounds like déjà vu to you, that’s because it is – Iran has been “only months away” from making a bomb for quite some time:

– “Iran Poised To Build Bombs” (Sept 2003) [1]

– “Iran Only Months Away From Making Nuclear Bombs” (Jan 2006) [2]

– “Iran could have ability to build nuclear bomb by 2010, study warns” (Jan 2009) [3]

– “Goodspeed: Iran may be two months from bomb, two new studies say” (June 2011) [4]

– “Iran just months from N-bomb” (Sept 2011) [5]

I’m not a physicist, but I’ve heard that time travel is possible, so there could be something to it – they just happen to be a time-traveling nuclear power.

The point of this article is not to make bad jokes about the nuclear weapons in Iraq Iran, however, but to answer a question posed to libertarianism from time to time: “In a libertarian society, are you allowed to own nuclear weapons?” I will first address the ethical aspect and then the practical one.

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Rights That Aren’t

Or, “why a misformulation of Constitutional rights has restricted, rather than liberated, the natural rights of man”

Rights everywhere

Initially, the Founders formulated the Constitution not to delineate the rights of the individual, but to restrict the powers of government. Soon thereafter, it was decided that the Constitution indeed needed to list some individual rights, so greedy was government for power. Hence, the Bill of Rights promised the American public a certain set of rights. Unfortunately, this was a hodge-podge solution that failed to address the fundamental reasons behind those rights – the right to your body and property [1]. Moreover, the misunderstanding of these rights has led to supposedly pro-liberty people taking on some very strange positions. I address a few of these rights here and hope the reader can apply the logic elsewhere.

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“Anarcho-Statism” or “A Critique of Leftist Anarchism”

Introduction: Radical Dramas


This is a response to a series of youtube videos made by the leftist anarchist “anarchopac”. The main video in concern can be found here. A number of responses to this user have already been made, my personal favorite being being this one by the youtube user “t3hsauce”.

Now I generally think that it’s foolish to get involved in the never-ending political debates on youtube, but this seems to be a valuable opportunity to discuss many of the flaws in leftist anarchism. Anarchopac seems to accurately represent the views of this ideology towards voluntaryism, so let’s see how his arguments stand up to scrutiny. The brunt anarchopac’s argument can be summed up in the following points:

  1. Anarcho-capitalists are statists because they promote monopoly over law in certain areas. Any piece of private property represents a state because within each area of private property the owner can dictate the laws or rules of that region (it is relevant to note that this is a common reason for leftists anarchists to deny all libertarians the title of “anarchist”).
  2. Anarcho-capitalists primarily oppose the way that a state funds certain projects, not what a state does. Anarchopac specifically points to the police and law.
  3. Anarcho-capitalists also oppose states because they represent ways that law can be controlled through democratic means. This in turn threatens the “private tyrannies” of the capitalists. Capitalists will also always be capable of obtaining greater protection (and presumably have a much greater chance of manipulating law and its enforcement) because they have more money.
  4. (Found in this video) Leftist Anarchists are incapable of being either racist or sexist because the anarchist must deem all hierarchy as negative.

We will see that all of these arguments are flawed, although this should not be taken to mean that they are entirely without merit.

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A Plea for Voluntaryism – Part 1

This is part 1 of a multi-part reproduction of Auberon Herbert’s A Plea for Voluntaryism.

Herbert calls attention to the chasm that divides a society when people pit themselves into a system of competition for the place of emperor, autocrat, conqueror – even if that system is based on majority-vote. At heart, it is a system of subjugation where today’s majority subjugates yesterday’s majority and heaps on it all the humiliation and servitude that it was just forced to endure. Though written more than a century ago, Herbert’s words ring as true today as ever. The two-party democratic systems have devolved into a winner-takes-all sweepstakes for temporary occupancy of the Emperor’s seat in the Capitol. It creates, as Herbert says, nothing but a permanent, smoldering civil war.

But an even more terrible price is paid in the violence that it does to our most basic sense of decency. Herbert calls attention to the mutually exclusive relationship of power-worship and religion, that is, “our own personal sense of right and fulfilling the commands of duty, as we each can most truly read it.” The power-worshipper, by contrast, must necessarily be willing to go to any length to protect and expand his power.

pixelfahrenheit20 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

WE, who call ourselves Voluntaryists, appeal to you to free yourselves from these many systems of State force, which are rendering impossible the true and the happy life of the nations of to-day. This ceaseless effort to compel each other, in turn for each new object that is clamoured for by this or that set of politicians, this ceaseless effort to bind chains round the hands of each other, is preventing progress of the real kind, is preventing peace and friendship and brotherhood, and is turning the men of the same nation, who ought to labour happily together for common ends, in their own groups, in their own free unfettered fashion, into enemies, who live conspiring against and dreading, often hating each other.

Look at the picture that you may see to-day in every country of Europe[1]. Nations divided into two or three parties, which are again divided into several groups, facing each other like hostile armies, each party intent on humbling and conquering its rivals, on treading them under their feet, as a conquering nation crushes and tramples on the nation it has conquered.

“Who gave you the right … just because you are more numerous or stronger than they, to treat them as if they belonged not to themselves, but to you?”

What good, what happiness, what permanent progress of the true kind can come out of that unnatural, denationalizing, miserable warfare? Why should you desire to compel others; why should you seek to have power– that evil, bitter, mocking thing, which has been from of old, as it is to-day, the sorrow and curse of the world– over your fellow men and fellow women? Why should you desire to take from any man or woman their own will and intelligence, their free choice, their own self-guidance, their inalienable rights over themselves; why should you desire to make of them mere tools and instruments for your own advantage and interest; why should you desire to compel them to serve and follow your opinions instead of their own; why should you deny in them the soul–that suffers so deeply from all constraint–and treat them as a sheet of blank paper upon which you may write your own will and desires, of whatever kind they may happen to be?

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Law Prior to Government

Narking / Foter / CC BY

This is part 1 of a multi-part series presenting a praxeological theory of the origin and character of law.

One objection to taking a frankly Epicurean approach to moral questions is that society will disintegrate if everybody starts thinking only about himself and his own highest good. In this view, the widespread conviction that public virtue entails a certain amount of self-sacrifice is an essential component of general morality because, without this conviction, society itself would disintegrate into rampant thievery, feuds and general mayhem. In answer to this objection, I will investigate the origins of law – which obviously plays an important role in the integration of social order – in order to show that simple self-regard is not antagonistic to social order.

Law touches every aspect of human behavior. It can be concerned with highly technical matters (for example, in patent disputes) or very elemental, visceral issues (such as, custody of the remains of a victim of a violent crime). It can become mired in questions of metaphysics, science and language. Law is potentially concerned with any aspect of human action and knowledge.

Not only is law unboundedly complex, the discussion of law is plagued by selfish interests. Law is like economics in the sense that Hazlitt says of it:

Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man. This is no accident. The inherent difficulties of the subject would be great enough in any case, but they are multiplied a thousandfold by a factor that is insignificant in, say, physics, mathematics or medicine-the special pleading of selfish interests. While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.

Henry HazlittEconomics in One Lesson

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TED – Matt Killington on happiness and mind-wandering

I think this is a highly important topic, particularly in the modern environment. Our displacement from the ancestral environment has had many consequences on human behavior and it is my view that mind-wandering is one of the most important to human happiness.

Clayton –

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