Saturday, January 16, 2016

Additional Comments on Penalties for Violators of the Non-Aggression Principle

By Robert Wenzel

My post, From a Libertarian Perspective Was Donald Trump Justified in Demanding That a Protester's Coat Be Taken Away From Him?, where I state my view that it should be the victim (via the rules of the property owner where he finds himself) that determines the penalty when he experiences/suffers because of a violation of the non-aggression principle, has drawn a number of comments that I want to address here.

Francisco TorresJanuary 11, 2016 at 11:42 AM─In a libertarian society, the default rules of the owner of the property[...]─
Is it really that much trouble to just throw the guy out, coat and all? The rules of the owner of the property do not necessarily include the taking of property unless stipulated in a mutually-agreed contract ("Hecklers shall have pieces of clothing removed from their persons before being escorted out. Initials here X")

sonepatchworthJanuary 11, 2016 at 1:01 PMAgreed. Not having an advance agreement is a profound problem exactly because of all the different possibilities RW sketched.
Both parties may genuinely have different interpretations. Did the heckler sign a clearly outlined no-heckling agreement? Maybe to him his catcalls were just lively participation. Did the heckler agree to stake his coat to bond his performance? Did he agree to assign Trump as the sole arbiter of whether a violation occurred? Without all this in black and white, we can't arbitrarily decide that Trump taking his coat is justifiable. Eviction is the only remedy needing no agreements.

As I stated in my initial post, if there are no previously stipulated penalties, the property owner should determine penalties on his property (which he can assign to a sub-lessee or anyone else on his property). On what basis should you be overruling a property owner on his own property?
You guys sound like a couple of central planners determining penalties. This violates the fundamental Austrian principle of subjective value, It is impossible for an outsider to say what is a sufficient penalty. 
Nick BadalamentiJanuary 11, 2016 at 12:43 PMI've really never seen you explain your viewpoints on punishment for a crime(or in this case, a property rights violation) quite to this degree.
Going way back to your example a year or two ago, where argue a farmer should be able to shoot a child over stealing an apple from his orchard- I still have problems with how this would be considered "justice" if allowed to happen.(at least in our culture)
The acknowledgement that some crazy farmer might hold the value of an apple equal to that of a child doesn't violate the "subjective value theory", nor does stopping said farmer from executing the child.
You can acknowledge the fact the farmer values the apple higher than the child's life and still not allow him to kill the child.
The question is, is that itself a crime or re-victimization?
Bionic Mosquito has touched on "culture" (custom?) recently as a part of libertarian society over at his blog. I think this plays a role to some extent as it doesn't seem possible to codify all actions in society from a practical standpoint.
In your previous example of the apple, even if the farmer posted a sign saying "those stealing my apples will be killed if caught"- it would probably be hard in American society to do so given the culture here even if there wasn't a central government.
Now I'm not so sure in other cultures-some Muslim/Sharia law types for example(but I'm not an expert in that area), that type of justice might be welcomed.
I think of the old times or in some of those cultures in modern day where thieves get their arms cut off(which still isn't death), and it might be acceptable in their general society/culture(and I don't now what age the thief would start receiving such punishment in that culture).

I have to think on the whole topic some more. I always liked Lila Rajiva's answer back when you touched on this before in regard to "proportionality of justice" which I believe in some ways can be objectively answered even though you are correct that everyone has different values for different things-
But, to your point...said proportionality still has a subjective element and varies from both person to person and culture to culture.
I have to think on the topic more.

Rick FitzJanuary 11, 2016 at 9:03 PMI agree with BM- no culture would ever condone a property owner killing a child for stealing an apple.
The shooter would be ostracized and isolated. Unless he had massive wealth he would become an exile subsisting on his precious apples. Even if he possessed enormous wealth he would soon be relegated to small libertine and dangerous "towns" or confined to his own property. Few people are going to allow someone like that free passage, especially transport companies.
He would become the equivalent of El Chapo, a wealthy man fearing the bounty that would be placed on his head by the family via KickStarter. I would certainly donate a few bucks to fund the mercenaries that wanted to kill him, and I'm sure millions more would feel the same.
So, the guy that (rightly, under strict private property law) murdered the kid that stole his apple, would soon be the target of people who stood to benefit (since the person/s who killed him would claim all the money) and his "life insurance company" would radically raise his rates, eventually bankrupting him, and at least isolating him so throughly that he fears for his life daily.
Or so I've theorized.
In truth no culture would ever evolve to accept child murder as acceptable, even a purely private property Anarcho-Libertarian-Capitalist dyspeptic utopia like Rothbardia.
RW is just pushing buttons.

Nick writes: "The acknowledgement that some crazy farmer might hold the value of an apple equal to that of a child doesn't violate the 'subjective value theory.You can acknowledge the fact the farmer values the apple higher than the child's life and still not allow him to kill the child. '"...

But based on what theory? There is just no way to determine another person's value scale. That is fundamental.  Others may view the farmer's value scale as wrong from some perspective  but it can not be said that he doesn't hold it. On what basis can you override the rules on his property? When not recognizing the primacy of the rule of a property owner (and those to whom he assigns rights to) on his property, you are openning up the claims to rule people on their property for all sorts of reasons.

I think one of the problems here is that just because something is allowed on the basis of principle , it is being viewed as something that would occur in world of private property.

Consider: I think it is perfectly fine for anyone to demand to be paid a million dollars an hour for his work. I also believe it is perfectly legitimate for a businessman to offer to pay employees only one cent per day. In a world where there would be no controls on wage settings, this doesn't mean that these absurd wages would exist. 

My view is that in society reasonableness will win out becasue pepople won't enter into, from their perspective, unreasonable exchanges. It is just that neither I nor anyone else can  say, as an outsider, what reasonableness is for everyone in every case. Thus, any wage goes. Though, obviously, not all wages will emerge on the market.

In the same manner, when I say that an outsider can not determine the penalty for a violation of NAP, I do not expect a society where farmers start shooting little kids for stealing apples. 

There is no responsible parent who is going to let a child near a situation where penalties are not disclosed (and reasonable), in the same way that no parent now lets a 3-year-old girl wander alone on the streets of the bad section of town at 3:00 AM. 

Trust free markets on this. People are not going to expose themselves to crazy situations.

As far as "proportionality" in punishment. What exactly does this mean?  Walter Block has proposed two eyes for one eye. But take my initial example of the Donald Trump heckler. What would two eyes for  one mean in this case? That Trump gets to go on the hecklers lawn and yell on two seperate occasions?

And speaking of two eyes for an eye. what happens if Stevie Wonder pokes someone's eye out, does that only mean that the victim gets to poke the eyes out of the blind Stevie Wonder?

There is simply no way that anyone outside of the victim can tell us when the victim feels sufficient compensation for a violation of NAP and a victim demonstarates his parameters for compensation based on the rules of the property he is on, be it his own property or the property of another that he chooses to be on.

Trump may be bothered by hecklers to a sufficient degree that he will only be satisfied when the heckler is punished to a degree that he thinks it will be a deterrent to other hecklers. On the other hand, he may not be truly bothered by hecklers or feels that too harsh a punishment will reflect poorly on him while he seeks the presidency. Who can possibly tell us what his value scale is here other than Trump himself?

Macy's is not going to have a policy of torturing someone who drops a prodcut on the floor. Who would go to Macy's under those conditions? Reasonableness will develop in a private property society but free exchange driven reasonableness. Not decrees from on high.

As for culture, it could very well play a role in a Private Property Society, but not in the manner most would expect. In a true PPS, cultural values wouldn't act as a blanket on all members of society, because this wouldn't recognize the superiority of property ownership over other rules, that is, it would place the cultural rules above the sanctity of private property,  That doesn't mean, however, that a large group of people may declare that certain cultural rules, religious rules, whatever, are the rules that are respected on their properties.

limelemonJanuary 11, 2016 at 12:45 PM
The property owner gets to make the rules for people who want to be guests. But when the guests break the rules, they become trespassers. The owner doesn't get to decide what the penalty is for trespassing.
The owner gets to eject the trespasser, but doesn't get to decide what law is regarding the penalty for trespassing. The penalty/law is decided by the market.
The owner can lie about what his subjective value is and therefore can justify $100,000 compensation, because the guest broke the rule of "no wearing red hats allowed", for example.

This is clever but really just confuses: "The penalty/law is decided by the market." 

The market is about simply allowing each person to set his own rules on his own property. Somehow magically determining the penalty from above is not the market, it is central planning,
And as far as this:"The owner can lie about what his subjective value is and therefore can justify $100,000 compensation, because the guest broke the rule of 'no wearing red hats allowed', for example."
This is my point above about asking for a million dollars an hour, who the hell would go on a property where the penalties aren't outlined in advance?  Freedom doesn't mean people, for the most part, will put themselves in insane situations, though you might get the occasional thrill seeker who wants to, say, send reports from ISIS held territory---and he should be allowed. . 

Perry MasonJanuary 11, 2016 at 1:13 PMDeath penalty rules, except in cases of self-defense, seem to me to be never justified as they will be grossly disproportionate.

Which proves my point about penalties being subjective since there are people who are in favor of the death penalty.
Ad LibertatiJanuary 11, 2016 at 2:40 PMThe key point here is how any justice is actually administered. Absent the threat of physical violence, there is no justification for the use of physical violence by the property owner. 

Another comment that proves my point. There are many people that believe physical violence is a justifiable penalty for a violation of NAP. Why do you get to say what is justified? If you don't like someone's rules stay off their property and don't deal with them. Some see the situation differently. Consider a guy who borrows money from a loan shark who is known to break the legs of those who don't pay the money back. How, as a libertarian, can you possibly get in the middle of such an exchange when a man borrowing knows the penalty of not paying the borrowed funds back? He's taking the risk, what is the libertarian justification for your saying he can't deal with someone who breaks legs for broken promises?
In short, my view on penalties for violations of NAP, as being determined in a libertarian society by the owner of the property on which the violation occurs, rests on the fundamental principle of subjective value and a respect for private property ownership. To advocate any penalty/punishment based on any criteria that does not recognize this as the ultimate foundation is a move away from principled libertarianism. This foundation is the begining and end of consistent libertarian penalty theory for NAP violations. Cultural rules, religious rules, two eyes for one eye rules can be made on any given property but they are not the foundation of libertarian penalty theory. They can exist on top of foundational libertarian theory but are not necessary for it.


  1. To start: I will set aside the situation where the property owner has clearly specified rules and penalties for violations regarding his property. I will also set aside the implication of this to the child taking the apple – libertarian theory is very incomplete when it comes to many questions about children.

    From everything I gather, I believe it is correct that libertarian theory does not answer the question: what is the proper punishment / restitution / whatever for violation X?

    It is possible that this means that libertarian theory offers that the victim is allowed to determine the punishment. I imagine it is also possible that this is not a logical conclusion. If libertarian theory doesn’t answer the question, the logical conclusion might just be that it doesn’t answer the question – and that the answer must be found elsewhere.

    Subjective value is a truism for humans – in economics and in all human action. I don’t know that this suggests subjective value is a libertarian concept. It is subjective value on which Robert rests. This might be one way to answer the question: “what is the proper punishment for violation X?” But it isn’t the only way, and I don’t know that it is inherently the libertarian way.

    There are many issues of human action and human interactions that are not addressed by libertarian theory and the NAP – which only address the issue of initiating violence (of course, against property or person). Punishment (after the cessation of the initial violent act) is not an initiation of violence.

    How does a theory that addresses the initiation of violence address something that isn’t the initiation of violence?

    Robert might be right, however I remain in the box that this question can only be answered by what is acceptable in a given culture. Fortunately or unfortunately this leaves a somewhat wide path for “acceptable” punishment – but, I would argue, not as wide a path as the one offered by Robert’s position.

    Whatever might be correct in libertarian theory (and again, I do not believe libertarian theory offers an answer), communities want to avoid blood feuds (I have a post that will be published tomorrow that touches just on this point, an example from today’s world).

    The decision of punishment will not be left solely to the victim to decide. And I do not see this as contradictory to libertarian theory.

  2. To my mind penalties for crimes (NAP violations) must be culturally determined, not determined at the whim of some Shylock demanding a pound of flesh.

    Libertarianism is not a complete way of life. There are many things that the NAP does not provide an answer for. Furthermore the vast majority of the population is not biologically selected for libertarianism and thus a libertarian society is impossible without strict standards of who to let in and who to keep out. This standard would need to be stricter than just admitting people that claim to be libertarian today.

  3. "...if there are no previously stipulated penalties, the property owner should determine penalties on his property"

    Unilaterally? This is deeply problematic. A religious extremist could insist on beheading or enslavement for merely glancing at a married woman while on his property. To him, legitimate. To the guest, unacceptable and insane. But would a libertarian have to side with the religious property owner just because the guest was occupying his land even though the guest may have been unaware or unconsenting to this rule and penalty for any number of reasons? I don’t think so. Unless surrendered via contract, by default one retains full ownership of one’s body and personal property even while occupying the land of another.

    "On what basis should you be overruling a property owner on his own property? You guys sound like a couple of central planners...This violates the fundamental Austrian principle of subjective value..."

    Perhaps you misunderstood our positions. I am arguing that a guest and a property owner must first come to mutual agreement on all terms or else the guest cannot enter the property. This dictates nothing to anyone. It allows for the subjective values of both host and guest to find common ground between them (or not) so all parameters are explicitly agreed to in advance. Surely this conveys a legitimacy to rules and penalties that unilateral imposition by either party cannot.

  4. Robert, would a child who steals and eats an apple be subject to the death penalty, if the farmer who owned the apple desires it? The child is not on his property anymore, but he did steal and irretrievably damage the farmer's property. After all, subjective value means the farmer could have valued that apple immensely - who is anyone else to judge the value?

    If that's true, wouldn't any crime, from trespassing, to physical altercation, to theft, to fraud, be potentially punishable by death, since the victim's restitution could only be evaluated subjectively, i.e. according to the victim's wishes?

    1. Exactly. Yet the reverse is true as well. That is, the offender should not be able to unilaterally determine what constitutes fair compensation to the victim. Nor should some meddling outside group of people claiming they possess an "objective view" of what penalties are just. RW very insightfully points out this is impossible according to the subjective theory of value. [Would love to hear Walter Block weigh in.]

      That is why conflicts not covered by pre-agreements are so deeply problematic. They fall back on, escalating as necessary:

      1. After-the-fact negotiation of mutually agreeable settlement terms (awkward and difficult)

      2. Ostracism and non-violent vendettas to settle scores ("I will ruin your reputation! I’ll pay to make sure you never enter the private property of my fellow defense agency members again!")

      3. Physical violence / private war (outrageously costly in direct and indirect terms; likely to escalate to incur far worse losses than the original transgression)

      All parties can see in advance how exquisitely painful and egregiously costly these settlement methods are. So the cost/benefit equation of pre-negotiating terms becomes a no-brainer. Including selecting mutually agreeable 3rd-party dispute resolution services contractually granted authority by both parties to conclusively settle disputes. Granted authority by both parties to rule and select punishments according to certain processes and standards within broad frameworks covering even unspecified matters. These types of provisions in advance agreements leave nothing to fall through the cracks to the ugly methods of settlement.

  5. "You guys sound like a couple of central planners determining penalties. This violates the fundamental Austrian principle of subjective value..."

    And so does the legal concept of "property." How is property defined in civil society if not by some universal, uniform, objective legal standard? Or is property determined by subjective value? Where does that lead? Not to a civil society I think.

    What about IP? Summary justice based on subjective value for IP too? Eeee... and this contributes to a civil society? A libertarian society? I don't see how.

    "In short, my view on penalties for violations of NAP, as being determined in a libertarian society by the owner of the property on which the violation occurs, rests on the fundamental principle of subjective value and a respect for private property ownership."

    No due process? No day in court?

    And if someone is wrongly accused by the property owner? So if a property owner *believes* someone has violated his terms of entry to his property, he can simply administer summary justice on the spot? What if he's wrong or just doesn't like the person? Or what if there is shared blame?

    Your issue of subjective value to me pertains to remedy AFTER guilt has been established (for a criminal offense) which should be by an impartial jury of peers.

    There's no reason why a court can't be somehow required to base their remedy on the plaintiff's subjective value of the harm done. In ancient Athens (as the case at the trial of Socrates), the accuser and the convicted each proposed a remedy/punishment which the jury voted on. The logic of this explained by Aristotle was that if either party demanded too much they'd likely lose so both parties tended to moderate their proposal.

    1. I really like your response, thank you for it.

  6. Why would there not be private, impartial businesses that judge disputes? Private police that communities pay to enforce laws. Jails/work camps to punish aggressors based on the victims preference (so far as he is a consumer of the service).

    It's almost as if you guys are thinking bounty hunters, police, courts, judges, lawyers and jails would not exist in a free society. There would no doubt be wild west areas as there are still today but the vast majority of us would gladly be a member of some protection service. With all the extra income we would have protection services would thrive and these wild west NAP justice theories would be a tiny afterthought.

  7. "But based on what theory? There is just no way to determine another person's value scale. That is fundamental. Others may view the farmer's value scale as wrong from some perspective but it can not be said that he doesn't hold it. On what basis can you override the rules on his property?"

    Well, you touched on it- "proportionality". Setting aside Block's example only because I don't understand the context, let me explain further since you have mentioned the "subjective" nature of such:

    It would seem to me in the case of a stolen apple, if the apple is replaced(all things being the same) then the farmer has be compensated for his loss.

    That, in an of itself is proportional. On the surface I can think of nothing "subjective" surrounding the proportionality of an "apple for an apple."

    Now, the question of what is to be done for a boy that habitually steals apples to dissuade him from further behavior(other than just replacing them when his is caught) is a whole separate subject. (punitive, etc.)

    Again, culture may have something to say there.

    It also doesn't speak to an example you made previously about a man who's leg is taken, who values walking above almost everything else in life. He can't be fully restituted under today's technology.

    So that is a case where proportionality is impossible in your defense, but there does seem to be times it can be applied. (like the apple)

    1. Proportionality advocates don't mean a return to an earlier state. That is, if A is stolen then return A. They mean a "proportional" penalty plus A. Taking a candy away from a child in addition to returning an apple would be viewed be many as proportional as opposed to killing the child. But there is no objective measure of proportionality and that is the problem.

    2. No, there isn't a problem. What you have here is a solution looking for a problem. Various cultures over centuries have reached a cultural consensus about what kinds of crimes receive what punishment. For the crime of theft, the middle eastern Muslims remove the hand. We handle it differently but both are culturally appropriate and have the consent of the people living under these norms.

      Usually this system works well unless you introduce an element that goes against cultural expectations, what might be described as a lunatic element. An example of this in a statist society might be a state judge that refuses to jail murderers or serious criminals. In a libertarian society the lunatic element could be a farmer that burns someone to death as a penalty for stealing an apple.

      Once again pie in the sky libertarianism with no attempt to gauge the acceptability of this to actual people living. This line of thinking makes libertarianism intolerable to normal people.

    3. "But there is no objective measure of proportionality and that is the problem. "

      Well, I'm offering that replacing the apple is objectively proportional.

      I didn't realize "proportionality" was thought out to the degree you just mentioned as a philosophy, I was speaking generically using the them.

      Writing extemporaneously, I suppose any NAP violation remedy could be characterized in a couple of stages:

      1. The restitution stage(is it possible, in the case of an apple I would say yes(this reminds me of the GMO orange discussions, and what "is" an orange?) and I'm making the case that the apple can objectively constitute restitution. (because the farmer values apples obviously)

      2. The punishment stage

      This is where subjectivity is a huge issue...I offer no argument on it at this time but to simply say that culture has been the main driver of this in man's history/practice.

      To that degree, it's important to note that cutting off a thief's hand in response to stealing an apple(or similar) has been embraced in past(and maybe current) cultures.

      I will note though that at the restitution stage, there is a simple recognition of the victims property rights.

      I'm not sure at the time if the "punishment stage" is required per se for recognition of property rights. (and in practice, sometimes the restitution itself can impact the degree of punishment...I only mention it from a cultural standpoint and again offer nothing at this time on the subjectivity in punishment or cases when it's not an "a priori" type restitution, and I do believe replacing an apple with the equivalent apple is clearly an objective issue.

  8. As I think about this more, I keep returning to a couple of thoughts:

    1) When does "penalty" cross the line into "initiation of aggression"? Libertarian theory does not hold an answer to this question, to my understanding; we even cannot settle on a definitive line regarding what "aggression" is in the first place (not that I find it necessary to do so).

    2) Subjective value is not a concept that flows from libertarian theory, at least not in any way that I see. Therefore, one could presumably justify a penalty code based on subjective value, but I do not see how it can be built on the foundation offered by the NAP.

    Any light / links on either matter would be appreciated.

    Separately,this idea put into practice is seen in gang wars and the relationship of Israel / Palestine, among other places where blood feuds are normal). If it is valid in libertarian theory (which, so far, I do not see) it is not conducive to a civil society and would certainly result in the welcoming of a monopoly fixer of all grievances.

    A libertarian society could not survive this practice.

  9. The inevitable result would be the destruction of civil society. The reasons for this are simple enough. If someone doles out a punishment that others deem disproportionate, then there are two likely outcomes. Either

    1) They will take the property owner to court. The judge or jury will, having thought that the punishment was disproportionate, ignore the evidence and convict the property owner of a crime (ie a child steals an apple, and the property owner kills the child. The court will determine that there was no evidence that the apple was stolen, even if there was, and will rule that the property owner murdered the child).


    2) The family of the punished person (or friends or just the community in general) will go outside of the law and retaliate through violence against the property owner (ie mob justice).

    So, while RW is right that there is no objective way to determine harm, allowing for immediate unilateral determination of punishment is far worse for the rule of law than allowing private courts to determine that punishment (where the property owner argues how much he has been subjectively harmed).

    It's a neat thought experiment, but that's about it. Saying that just because a property owner could do something doesn't mean anyone would strikes me as utopian thinking. The future libertarian man will have overcome his base nature to live in harmony with his fellows, and will only make reasonable punishments for aggressions against him.

    Some people would (if allowed) carry out extreme punishments (some far worse than simply killing), and that is the reason that punishment could not be unilaterally determined by the property owner.

    Or maybe RW thinks that if enough property owners are killed by angry mobs then other property owners would be deterred from extreme punishments.

  10. So a farmer can kill a child for stealing an apple under libertarianism. What if the farmer would rather have sex with the child? In principle that is fine because under libertarianism the victim would determine the penalty, right?

    I am starting to think that a lot of libertarians are my enemies. Worse than statists in many instances.

    1. You are entirely missing the point. Parents are not going to let their children near such a farmer anymore than they would let a child wander the streets of Tijuana alone or in any major city.

      Do you see three year olds wandering the streets alone anywhere? Can't you think two steps into the way things will develop instead of distorting what I am trying to point out?

    2. I am not trying to distort anything you are saying. You are saying that people will have to be alert at all times, and probably be armed to the teeth as well. Also you are engaging in the 'perfect information' fallacy. The activities of this farmer might well be unknown to others. Parents wouldn't know and the default position would have to be trust no one and perhaps shoot first ask questions later.

      Can't you see why things like this are intolerable to a normal person? In a society that permits the libertarian slavery as extolled by Professor Block do you think that the general trend would be towards liberty or towards the opposite of liberty?

      This theoretical libertarianism is mere LARPing and is why people are calling libertarians 'autistic'.

      Anyway, I asked a direct question about the libertarian farmer having sex with the child as punishment for stealing an apple and you have not given a reply to that. Presumably because you know that this horrifies normal, non-degenerate people.

    3. @Matt - I think on this issue, RW is going "full Rothbard." And you NEVER want to go full Rothbard! ;)

      >> So a farmer can kill a child for stealing an apple under libertarianism.

      No. Because in the libertarian state, there are police, courts and system of justice that uphold libertarian principles like the NAP. Right of property in Libertopia would be under civil law while murder under criminal. Criminal trumps civil thus the NAP trumps a property owner's claims in the libertarian... STATE!! (There, I said it. State, state state! ;))


      The distortion comes in when you attempt to suggest that child molestation would occur in a private property society, when you fail to acknowledge that I make perfectly clear in my post that absurd outcomes wouldn't develop not even businessmen paying workers one cent a day, never mind child molestation.

      The point is that in a Private Property Society child molestation wouldn't occur becasue parents wouldn't expose their kids to child molesters anymore than they do now.

      What are you talking about "perfect information fallacy"? That "The activities of this farmer may not be known to others"?

      Isn't that the world we live in today, where parents have to be aware of where children go and that they don't leave kids with strangers?

      Quite frankly, your position is that of the typical interventionist, to take the concept of freedom and suggest freedom advocates want something that we don't.

      It isn't by accident that I recently put up the Tom DiLorenzo quote of Bastiat (Every Socialist’s Dishonest Rhetorical Gimmick:

      I am not advocating a society where child molesters run a muck but a society where reasonableness develops (as I stated in my original post) within a private property society--where no central body needs to develop for such reasonableness to occur. It would develop as naturally as parents not letting their 3 year old kids wander the streets an 3:00 am now.

      To attempt to bring in through the backdoor the charge that child molestation would occur in a PPS and that therefore we need government is evil and horrific. It is no different than charging that there must be a government to police against businessmen not paying workers one cent an hour.

      Well, there is no libertarian sound libertarian who wants minimum wage laws but, at the same time, every libertarian understands that the structure he advocates would not result in one cent per day pay for workers. He simply understands that natural exchange would not result in the scenarios that pimps for the state suggest and that allowing state in through any door is the real evil.

      We don't need a state making laws to prevent one cent per day pay or child molestation. These horrors wouldn't develop in a private property society, but they would keep out the great horror that has resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths and that is the horror of the state.

      The state should never be let in through any door. It is the ultimate evil.

    5. RW, the PPS assumes the state begging the question "how are land claims adjudicated?" At this point, Rothbardians respond basically with "it'll just work out in the wash" accompanied by a lot of hand-waving.

      Property in land requires a standardized universal system of title (deeds with meets and bounds) and there has to be some system of courts to resolve disputes. This is one place (among many) where the "no state" proposition simply goes off the logic rails.

      It would be far more productive if Rothbardian libertarians would accept that the state is inevitable and focus more on how the libertarian state should be arranged. The "no state" proposition is a dead end.

      Yes, the state has always been evil but it doesn't have to be. Correlation isn't causation. The state must be reformulated with libertarian law. That has yet to be done. But the "no state" proposition is wishful thinking.

    6. @Matt,

      I agree with you RW is wrong about the legitimacy of a land owner in appointing himself judge, jury, and executioner of guests. Mutually agreed to terms of visitation must be negotiated in advance between both land owners and body owners. But I think RW is 100% right on all the rest. There is zero way to try to justify a state here.

      Not only parents, but their defense agencies as well would be paranoid about the possibility of a child straying onto nearby property with no pre-negotiated agreements. Just like today parents would never let kids play right along an unfenced border between the U.S. and Mexico, for obvious reasons. Everyone would be painfully aware in a worst case of trespass and unresolvable conflict, matters could devolve into violence.

      Defense agencies charged with defending their members’ property and paying the associated costs of a violent conflict would pro-actively erect tall, secure border fences surrounding the farmer’s land, put up warning signs, and set alarm systems to prevent crossings. Parents wouldn't let kids get anywhere near the zone. Defense agencies would certainly require ostracism and banning of the farmer from entering all private property they protect or conducting any transactions with their members.

      Realistically, such extreme protective measures would never be necessary, because the mere threat of them would ensure no farmer tried to live anywhere he ever came into contact with other people without pre-negotiated mutual visitation agreements that a substantial number of his neighbors and trading partners found reasonable. Remember, the farmer himself would need and want these agreements just as badly as everyone else would want them from him. He needs access to other people’s land and their markets to buy seed and tools and sell his crops so he doesn’t starve.

    7. Spencer Fan, you assume the use of force is the only way to divide up land? Why does it take the use of force for people to have a judge, lawyers and police? Does you boss at work not have authority over you?

      Authority can be voluntary. Two people have a land dispute, they both agree to take their case to a company that provides arbitration services. If that company is corrupt it wont last long as there will be many dispute resolution services like there are many lawyers now. Pick one both can agree on. The independence of these services will be essential to their business model.

      Lastly, there was a govt developed with libertarian law it was called the United States in 1776. Anywhere you leave the door open for there to be a govt, like a fatal disease, that govt will expand until it kills the host. Voluntary authority is the only way to have peace and end organized, large scale warfare. Without the power to tax and print money war is a lose-lose proposition.

      You know the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist? 2 weeks.

    8. >> Spencer Fan, you assume the use of force is the only way to divide up land?

      No, I didn't say "force is required to divide up land." Force isn't needed to do anything except, if necessary, to resolve violent conflict over who has the rightful claim to the land. Wishing away the state doesn't magically make humans become peaceful, non-violent, good-faith actors.

      So in your magical "no state" society, people just inherently know what land is theirs? No need for recognized boundaries? No title to record a claim? That humans just have an innate sense of knowing what is theirs and what is not... which they honor without error because it's just human nature? Don't think so.

      >> Why does it take the use of force for people to have a judge, lawyers and police? Does you boss at work not have authority over you?

      It doesn't. But what are you trying to say? In what I like to call "the real world," people have conflicts which can and do become violent conflicts. When that occurs for society to remain civil, we rely on a rational system of conflict resolution; a system of justice.

      Your system works like this... Person A believes B has stolen from him. Person A shoots and kills B. Case closed.

      >> Authority can be voluntary.

      Yes, also true for a "voluntary state."

      >> Two people have a land dispute, they both agree...

      Stop there. And if they don't? This is where Rothbardianism takes to the air on its magic carpet ride.

      >> Lastly, there was a govt developed with libertarian law it was called the United States in 1776.

      No, it wasn't. The US was never a libertarian state. The constitutions (state and federal) of the US are based on republic. Republic is code for "oligarchy"... That's what the US has been from its inception. The lip service that the American plutocratic class gives to "freedom" and "liberty" has only ever been rhetorical. It's easier to rule serfs if they *think* they are free and have "rights."

      >> Anywhere you leave the door open for there to be a govt,

      Which I don't but you do. Like all Rothbardians, you delude yourself thinking that abolishing the state won't instantly be replaced by another state... likely far less libertarian.

      >> like a fatal disease, that govt will expand until it kills the host. Voluntary authority is the only way to have peace and end organized...

      Thanks for all the ancap talking points. ;)

      But I believe there can be a "voluntary state" so for me the issue is moot.

      >> You know the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist? 2 weeks.

      Hmmm, I'm going on 25 years. Maybe there's hope for me if I'd just stop being such a rational realist...

    9. This stateless society thing is just LARPing. Most people are biological statists. Libertarianism will always be a minority persuasion because of that. Even the "defense agencies" and "private arbitrators" described here are mere state stand-ins, pseudo state entities with the mere fig leaf that it is a private entity operating with the consent of the people under its jurisdiction.

      Back to the subject at hand. According to RW somehow child molestation could not occur in a Private Property Society because libertarianism, even though presumably it is legal if it occurs in the context of retribution for some sort of trespass or crime. I would suggest that libertarianism doesn't change human nature (how could it?) and some of these libertarian farmers are going to do whatever is allowable under the law.

      Now if you want to say no, a libertarian farmer cannot molest a child in response to a stolen apple, fine. Just abandon your universal principal that the victim is the one to determine the punishment then. Don't say that legal things would never occur because libertarianism. That's just autistic.

    10. Great thread. Having been around and around the hamster wheel with Rothbardian anarchism and found it lacking vs. Ron Paul style minarchism, the following were the highlights for me:

      Matt@ "This theoretical libertarianism is mere LARPing and is why people are calling libertarians 'autistic'." I had to look that acronym up. Live Action Role Playing, as in playing something like dungeons and dragons. I have actually used the D&D metaphor to describe my experiences with an-cap theoretical libertarian utopian scenario masters. Now I have a shorthand. Thanks.

      Spencer Fan: "I think on this issue, RW is going "full Rothbard." And you NEVER want to go full Rothbard!" The hand waving and magic carpet ride metaphors were apt as well.

      I'm calling this one for the minarchists. Well played, sirs.

  11. Contrary to what some have suggested, Rothbard supported proportionality:

  12. When your theory starts producing absurd results, it's time to adjust the theory or at least accept its current limitations, instead of redefining basic morality to fit the theory.

    Robert has ignored some basic critiques in this thread, and asserts, without justification, that some things "just wouldn't happen". Well, it happens all the time. People are not perfect, don't have perfect information or education. Some people are downright evil or economically independent so as not to worry about their reputation.

    A system of private property is itself "central planning", so that objection makes no sense. Robert hasn't shown why, if value is subjective, the farmer's property right is absolute. Unless the farmer defends his property by constant war, his property right rests on an objective value, accepted by the society around him, whether economic, historical, etc. It's then strange to say that society has no say in the delineation of that property right, that only his will is law.

    Basically, I don't see what the harm is in the farmer being required to warn the child, ask the child to leave, or use the force necessary to make him leave, without killing him outright on whim alone. The system of property is already central planning, so why not specify these reasonable rules?

  13. This is good stuff. Very few prominent thinkers are advancing libertarian theory at its core fundamentals.

    In my reading, I find that these issues can only be resolved at the intersection of libertarian theory, philosophy/religion, and logic / argumentation ethics. It is a very complicated area and I think even David Gordon has not fully formed his views on these matters.

    I lean heavily on the natural law theory of John Finnis and Aquinas as the bedrock, with Hoppe's argumentation ethics being an indicator of the truth of the natural law. However, I side with critics that would argue that "contradictions" in argumentation ethics do not completely resolve the problem of the bad man or fully justify the full extent of private property society.

    At its core, you need a moral recognition of the primacy of life. From there, you can make deductions from what we know about life and basic human needs, as demonstrated by the Scholastics, Hoppe, Rothbard, all over.

    In a way, I go back to the original libertarian thinkers, the Scholastics of Salamanca. They held beliefs consistent with a PPS, but only to the point of death or extreme need. They reasoned, properly I think, that a PPS is valid because it elevates life. But where life is treated disproportionately as cheap by a property owner, the PPS loses its moral validity.

    From this I can conclude that proportionality is part of the natural law and therefore must be an adjunct to libertarian theory or a theory on justice.