Monday, November 2, 2015

David Gordon Takes Out Bleeding Heart "Libertarian" Matt Zwolinski

David "The Assassin" Gordon 
David's follow-up to the Tom Woods slice and dice: In four paragraphs he shoots down the entire intellectual structure of bleeding heart theory.

Read this carefully in its entirety it is devastating, though, I particularly like David's clarification of Nozick's thinking  (David, btw, was a close personal friend of Nozick's and they spoke regularly on the phone.)
Last week, Matt Zwolinski, a philosopher from the University of San Diego, argued on the Tom Woods show that libertarians ought to support a basic income guarantee. Woods, genial but sharp and relentless in his questions, brought out the full extent to which Zwolinski’s proposal differs from libertarianism as commonly understood. Zwolinski thinks the basic income guarantee should in ideal circumstances be extended worldwide: if the taxes needed to do this reduced the American standard of living, so be it. Further, a global agency might be needed to carry out this program.

To those libertarians who appeal to property rights in order to block the basic income guarantee, Zwolinski responded with the Georgist point that people did not create natural resources. How then can people claim absolute property rights to these resources? I wonder why Zwolinski thinks that this question may be asked of individual claimants to property, but not to the people in a society taken collectively, “Society” did not create natural resources either. Why then does “society” get to decide what the proper distribution of these resources ought to be?

Zwolinski also appealed to the Lockean proviso, a limit to property rights supported by Robert Nozick. As Nozick took the proviso, though, it would almost never act to limit property rights. It would come into effect only if people are made worse off by the existence of a system of property rights. In fact, of course, people are much better off because there are rights to private property, and Nozick suggests that only in catastrophes could one envision the proviso having any practical importance. (Zwolinski wrongly suggests that David Schmidtz first suggested this way of understanding the proviso, but Nozick advanced it, long before Schmidtz, in Anarchy, State, and Utopia.) How Zwolinski gets from the proviso, thus taken, to a basic income guarantee is not immediately apparent.

Zwolinski’s best argument points to the fact that some people have acquired property unjustly. One cannot then rule out property taxes for a basic income guarantee as taking from people what is justly their own. Woods responded that one must deal with claims of injustice on an individual basis. There is no justification for a tax on all property on the grounds that unjust property titles exist “somewhere.” Zwolinski answered that Woods’ approach permits a great deal of injustice to exist. I take it that he means by this the unjust property titles that have not yet been investigated and overturned. Zwolinski, then, would allow taking away someone’s property through taxes, without showing that his claim to the property was defective. This strikes me as antithetical to libertarianism, but listeners to this broadcast should judge for themselves


  1. I really liked David Gordon's take-down of Zwolinski's arguments.

    About the time the show was ending, Zwolinski made the argument that property rights imply a degree of coercion and thus some coercion was needed or necessary. Tom did not respond to this right away precisely because it was the end of the show (I am guessing).

    That statement made my jaw fall off (figuratively speaking). The concept of Private Property is rooted in the mutual acceptance by the possessor and the non-possessor that the property belongs to the possessor. Where is the coercion in that tacit agreement? Is Zwolinski's argument that the mere fact a person engages in such agreements means the person is being coerced into an agreement?

    If the non-possessor decides to renege on this tacit agreement, then he becomes a TRESPASSER, which implies aggression and coercion. But by Zwolinski's own argument, reneging on this tacit agreement is not coercion ─at least, it cannot be, if one accepts his crazy definition!

    Why would the mere existence of property be a symbol of the possessor's coercion towards others? I think Zwolinski simply made things up.

    (I am thinking that Zwolinski is merely equivocating by confusing possession with defense, because indeed the ACTIVE defense of property requires force or at least the threat of retaliation, but that does not mean Property means Defense for it would mean all we non-possessors are attackers in perpetuity regardless of our actions!)

  2. That last argument of Zwolinski's, that taxation was justified because some property claims are unjust, is to replace a minor injustice with a far greater one.