Tag Archives: theory

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.

Continue reading

Methodological Individualism Meets Math, Part 2

https://i0.wp.com/4.bp.blogspot.com/_Oxpii7Jc0Gc/TTBLmhdrRfI/AAAAAAAAAaM/EjgGNKLATLI/s320/Tea_coffee_cocholate.jpgIn the previous post I tried to convince the reader that Theory of Games and Economic Behavior may be of some value even to a strict follower of the Austrian school. As one reader commented (thanks, Anthony!) Morgenstern was an Austrian himself. But does it mean everything he wrote is absolutely compatible with, say, Human Action of Ludvig von Mises?

The topic of today’s post is chapter 3: The Notion of Utility. Some people think that the stance on utility can quickly separate Austrians from adherents of other schools. And no, this is not as simple as just asking whether utility is cardinal or ordinal.
Test yourself on these questions, too. Continue reading

Why I am a Voluntaryist

This is a brief outline of why I consider myself a voluntaryist. When I say voluntaryism I mean a stateless system in which private property is protected through both for-profit and non-profit organizations.

My reasons are the following:

Continue reading

Methodological Individualism Meets Math

Adherents of the Austrian school of economic thought are often accused of inability to use mathematical methods. The Austrians themselves often mistrust math applied to economic theory, if it’s anything more complicated than arithmetic or basic algebra, either on the grounds that “utility is not cardinal” or simply because “Mises never used calculus”.
Therefore, it may seem that Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, by mathematician John von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern, is incompatible with Austrian views. Or is it?
%d bloggers like this: