Thursday, February 4, 2016

Response to Comments on a Private Property Society

There are a number of comments to my previous posts on a Private Property Society that I want to respond to and I will do so here. (Note: I have also published a longer comment by Dr. Walter Block. I will respond to Dr. Block's comment in a separate post.).

WagsJanuary 20, 2016 at 8:28 PMYou need authority to make private property the law and overwhelming force to back it up. I don't know what's so hard to understand about this. A private court has no authority over anyone.

I am acknowledging  in my definition of a Private Property Society that a general respect for private property is required. But nothing beyond that. A property owner simply must protect his own property in any manner he chooses---no further "authority" is required.

Why is this so difficult to understand? If you bring in any over-ruling body, you have left the anarcho-capitalist world and entered, at a minimum, the world of limited government.

Perry MasonJanuary 21, 2016 at 3:57 PM"This necessity of governance is a great myth. Life mainly goes on with people protecting their own property without the help of governance."
This statement is just wrong and shows an unfamiliarity with culture and informal governance. Do people refrain from stealing and trespassing solely because property is 'protected' by the owner? No. Most people believe in the morality of property and the immorality of stealing.
Do people refrain from killing others solely because the victim may engage in self-defense or because they may end up in jail? No. Otherwise a lot of defenseless old people may be stuffed in the bushes on a daily basis.
So people behave according to their moral compasses and cultural norms...
Culture and informal governance are the guiding bedrock of all societies. Societies disintegrate when those two things disintegrate. It's not as simple as saying, each is an absolute king on his private property.
You still first have to use objective norms to determine the scope of homesteading and first use. This will involve some qualitative and subjective decision making. By RW's logic, this means it is not part of the NAP, because he argues proportionality is not part of the NAP for the same reason
You miss my point, It is not that most people do not respect property but that, even now, people protect their own property more so than government. If it was government laws that protected us, we would never need locks on our doors, against the few that don't respect private property, and we wouldn't fear going into "bad neighborhoods" at 3:00 AM. My argument is not that most people are bad, it is that protection from the outliers is mostly our own doing and that government as the major protector is a myth,

I don't know what "informal governance" means. Does it mean it can be ignored? Then it is not governance. If it can not be ignored, it is  governance.

My view on private property homesteading is somewhat different from the land-labor mix, but that will require a response much greater than a reply here. It's coming. 
sonepatchworthJanuary 21, 2016 at 5:27 PM
RW's respect for private property apparently only means land. RW apparently thinks any persons or things crossing the border of private land without previous agreement can be killed or destroyed by the land owner at will.
My view is private property includes our bodies and possessions regardless of what land we occupy. Nothing in the NAP addresses remedies for aggression. A trespasser violating the border of a land owner with his body has indeed aggressed upon the land owner, but if the trespasser can’t or won't compensate the land owner to an extent that satisfies him, then the matter falls back to force as necessary, including all the associated consequences, without blame befalling one or the other. Same eventuality as if the trespasser were a statist that didn’t believe in the NAP or private property...
. Anarcho-capitalist principle only lays out the basis for determining right-and-wrong, private property and respect for agreements. It does not proscribe remedies absent agreements, nor demand either victim or aggressor be sacrificed wholesale to the other. Allowing matters to fall back to force is also highly realistic, as force is what people tend to resort to anyway when punishments not fitting crimes in their eyes are imposed upon them without their consent.

" My view is private property includes our bodies and possessions regardless of what land we occupy."

I don't understand this. If a trespasser steals my laptop when he is on my property and I demand $1,000 in compensation and penalties, he is justified in not turning it over because the thousand dollars is his possession?

"A trespasser violating the border of a land owner with his body has indeed aggressed upon the land owner, but if the trespasser can’t or won't compensate the land owner to an extent that satisfies him, then the matter falls back to force as necessary, including all the associated consequences, without blame befalling one or the other....This approach resolves the conflic...over the stolen apple."

I don't know how "blame befalling one or the other" applies in this context. The blame falls on the NAP violator. 

Ancap308 SoloJanuary 25, 2016 at 7:05 PMWhy would this situation not be dealt with by a system of competing arbitrators ? We would have common law and a growing body of case law to deal with situations like this. Private property does not allow you to ignore the laws of decency.
Unjustified homicide cannot be allowed to turn into a blood-feud

If someone is required to respect "common law" or use arbitrators, you have left the anarcho-capitalist world  and moved into the realm of limited government. Note: This does not mean that a type of common law wouldn't develop or that arbitrators would not be used in a PPS, but that requiring such is government.

JackJanuary 26, 2016 at 6:58 AM"If there is a heckler at a Donald Trump campaign stop,"
This whole debate began with the implication Trump owned the building or land where his campaign rally took place, the Flynn Center of the Performing Arts in Vermont. He doesn’t. How often does a candidate for office use his/her own property for a campaign rally?
Even assuming your PPS ideal, those who said Trump was advocating theft of the hecklers coat were right, and what he did should be cited as an example of his despotic tendencies. 
No I did not. I stated that a property owner could transfer  limited temporary rights to a renter of the hall, in this case Trump.

WagsJanuary 26, 2016 at 9:48 AMCalling for private property laws makes you not an anarchist. You can't just DECLARE private property will be the law of the land without authority over others Robert. When will you Ancaps learn that MISES WAS RIGHT?
I am not declaring private property rights, My point is that when most respect private property, you can have a Private Property Society. This is the essence of my argument--no one declares a PPS. Further my argument is that we now live in a PPS in many ways, though, most believe in the myth that it is government that is protecting our property. In fact, governmenty is simply a harasser in the PPS.

Nick BadalamentiJanuary 26, 2016 at 3:13 PMRW- I'm curious, if you had a child and the scenario played out that your child for whatever reason was guilty of stealing an apple from a farmer(let's set aside for a moment that you would ever allow that to happen, let's just say it did and was out of your control)- would you let the farmer kill your child out of respect for a PPS?
I'll also add the notion that there is a specific understanding in the above scenario among all members in your PPS that the victim of a NAP violation always gets to decide the punishment.(which I think you've already argued for)
Would you allow the farmer to kill your child in such a scenario?
Nice try, buy your question really is "Would you advocate for a PPS even if it meant the death of your child? That is, is PPS your highest value?"

The answer is of course not. I am against US government intervention of any kind overseas, but if I had a child captured by ISIS, I would be doing all I could to get the government to send a military team to get the child out.

The reality is there is no reason for me to favor overseas special operations teams on the extremely unlikely chance that a child of mine would be captured by ISIS, same thing with a child being shot by a  farmer as punishment.

The more significant question is what am I advocating now and think best for my children, and that is a PPS, since government always and everywhere tends to expand and result in oppression and death for hundreds of millions. The planting of the seed of central power in my view is always dangerous. That is what I fear. That is why I don't want to see even a millimeter of central power.



  1. Dear Bob,
    I believe a key point for you to explain about your PPS is the method of dispute resolution. For example, in the example of the child killed by the land owner, the facts appear to be agreed to by all. This is very often not the case. What if the family of the child believes the body was only placed on the owners land after being killed like in a whodunit? Now there is a dispute.

    In another example, what if two owners of apartments live one over the other. One plays loud music late at night that disturbs the other. Whose property rights prevail. See Rothbard on this point

    pg182, footnote 48
    Noise is also an invasive act against another, a transmission of sound waves assaulting the eardrums of others. On “external diseconomies,” the only good discussion by an economist is the excellent one in Mises, Human Action, pp. 650–53. For an appreciation of the distinction between judicial and administrative action in a free society, as well as a fine grasp of property rights and governmental enforcement, see the classic discussion of adulteration in Donisthorpe, Law in A Free State, pp. 132–58.

    I have not found the reference in Donisthorpe myself.

    What many of the objectors are basically saying is how are disputes settled in the Wenzel PPS short of violence.

    Ira Katz

  2. Sorry, never going to happen. There is no way that I am going to accept that a libertarian that has killed my child is justified just because an assertion has been made that my child violated the NAP. In your PPS there will be people walking around making assertions that the NAP had been violated and delivering summary "justice". Your PPS is self contradictory because people will be begging for a state to take over.

    1. No one is saying it is justified. The point is that if you do not accept PPS and you believe an over-ruling body is required, you are not an anarcho-capitalist but an advocate of limited government---and government is a system that has never stayed "limited" and is responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths.

    2. You still haven't explained why the mere assertion of an NAP violation is sufficient to exact retribution. Due process doesn't exist in your PPS.

  3. "Nice try, buy your question really is "Would you advocate for a PPS even if it meant the death of your child? That is, is PPS your highest value?"

    The answer is of course not."

    Look RW, this isn't a "gotcha moment", it was a real question born out of real curiosity.

    Now there's a performative contradiction to some extent, beyond that though- my biggest concern is "begging the question".

    In our IP debate years ago, in which you and I argued for IP rights, though from different perspectives, the issue of enforcement came up(brought up by those against IP).

    That issue rears its head in this case too:

    Those against IP claimed that it was only enforceable via government, completely ignoring the work of Dr. Block, Rothbard, etc. et al on private courts, arbitration, etc.

    I submit you are doing the same by claiming government would be the only arbiter on the matter of a farmer shooting a child in a PPS.

    I know of no prominent libertarian writer that has ever claimed a private property type society would arise with no court system or recourse for situations like these.(regardless of whether the farmer killed the child during the theft or waited and demanded later to kill him as punishment)

    This simply no way I can see this situation would ever escape a private court system.

    So instead of claiming that government would be the adjudicating power, let's instead focus on how a private court system would handle the matter.

    I will grant in a Middle Eastern society they might cut a childs hand off in response, and culture might deem that acceptable but still yet there would be a system of private courts to decided that as well.(that probably would reflect the culture/values of the society in which any particular NAP violation occurred)

    In American society/culture, it's not acceptable to cut off a kids hand in response to the theft of an apple, let alone kill him. Both of those culturally in America would be a considered a NAP violation, per Rothbard's argument on gum I cited in my original question to you.

    1. edit:

      "This simply no way" should be corrected to say "There is simply no way"

  4. ─WagsJanuary 20, 2016 at 8:28 PM You need authority to make private property the law and overwhelming force to back it up.─

    I never understood the rationale behind this argument from those who think only government guarantees private property. Why would it be necessary to have overwhelming force to protect private property when everyone is a private property owner?

    I argue that the biggest threat to civil society and private property rights is precisely the government. I can give you a clear example of how government undermines the respect for private property in society: in Mexico there is an institution not unlike the National Labor Relations Board, called the Conciliation and Arbitration Tribunal. This agency was created to settle disputes between laborers and employers [which means: it is not really needed] but it is often used by subcontracted laborers to sue homeowners for unpaid wages - presumably. If the homeowners do not show up for the hearings after being summoned (and many times the homeowners do not receive the summons) the tribunal can rule in favor of the plaintiff from which it orders that the house be confiscated and given to the plaintiff! It later becomes a nightmare for the homeowners to get their homes back.

    This has happened many times throughout the history of the tribunal. Sometimes plaintiffs are later found dead in a ditch somewhere, only because it becomes less costly for the homeowner to hire a hitman than to fight the case in the corrupt courts. This assault on private property is unfortunately very pernicious in places like Mexico and other countries because it is either condoned or promoted by the government. Even if one was able to muster "overwhelming force" to defend your property, the government possesses an even greater overwhelming force with which to stymie any private effort to protect property, helped by a complicit mass media which is populated with people hostile to private property rights.

    As Bastiat said: "When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law."

  5. "a general respect for private property is required."
    Well what if you get a rich aggressor or a large faction that doesn't respect private property? You as an individual can't stop them.

    1. If we look to how car accidents are currently handled(setting aside the mandatory car insurance laws for a moment, which is a different discussion)- there is a level of respect and a somewhat legal leveling between large and small insurance companies & their clients that is inherent in the justice system. (which is no argument for a gov't monopolized system, just sayin')

      I can't remember if it was Block or Rothbard(both?) that explains how the "cost of war" dissuades most sane people/organizations from starting them in the first place. (obviously, when the people starting them have no profit motive, like government, there is no concern of "cost")

      Even further, there is a great difference between the income levels of subscribers of the same insurance companies as well.

      These are all indications to me that a free market system of justice is attainable(and preferable).

      Would it be perfect? No. But nothing would be and if you view the source of corrupted power a monopoly of any kind(outside of property rights that is) then that would be addressed by the free market itself.

    2. Many people could and would use violence to get their way. You have no authority over them and you couldn't stop them. Crime can be very profitable.

    3. "Many people could and would use violence to get their way. You have no authority over them and you couldn't stop them. Crime can be very profitable."

      The state today is the supreme force/purveyor of said violence, we have no authority over it(voting is obviously not effective, etc.)- so we are already to some degree in the situation you describe.

      If I'm looking for improvement, I'm looking to be able to hire my own firm for violence if necessary to protect myself instead of having one forced upon me with no say or control over it.

      If you believe that monopoly is a source of corruption and abuse, it would seem to be in everyone's interest to have options/free markets in place- even when it comes to justice.

      The issue of "who I have authority over" isn't germane. In a voluntary society no one has authority over anyone else involuntarily. I don't need authority over someone to protect myself, I only need firepower/defense.

      As I argued previously, insurance companies represent clients of all financial means regularly with success when dealing with each other, even without government courts much of the time. I can't see why this model wouldn't translate to private defense & courts.

  6. In a PPS, are you allowed to delegate your right to protecting your property to another person?

  7. I disagree with your reply to my comment above. Thanks for replying though ! You seem to believe that governance is government. Where is the power? If you kill someone there has to be recourse on some level. If you commit a lesser crime and refuse arbitration, you would be a social outcast with damaged insurance rating making it difficult to be employed at a competitive wage or people would refuse to buy your products if self employed. Your potion reminds me of my Marxist neighbor who claims all employment is exploitation. There as to be some system established for people to resolve issues. Voluntary arbitration it that: voluntary. No force is applied for failure to comply.

  8. We do live in a "private property society." What do you think governments are protecting? A group of private citizen's property, which includes your person which is domiciled in the District of Columbia. So if you have a birth certificate, any kind of license, are not the people. You are a U.S. citizen. So, you better have a good damn reason to be on somebody else's land (State). That reason is commerce. Get it?

  9. Why can't dispute resolution and law be services that are provided on a free market level in a PPS?

  10. Thanks for the response and clarification RW. I agree with your point on government "protection" being a myth, with most protection being de facto handled by property owners.

    But I think we may have been talking past one another on governance. I don't mean it in the sense you do, that is, some kind of coercive monopoly for a given territory or group.

    Instead, I mean the indirect NAP-compliant forces of non-consent and dissociation in culture, as exercised by other people in response to anti-social behavior. And I also mean, separately, the authorities that we voluntarily submit to, such as Church or community authorities, or business associations. Each are a type of 'governance' on our lives.

    For example, if you killed a kid for a minor NAP violation (leave aside proportionality concerns for a moment), then in my view, I could see you being shunned by neighbors and banned from their stores and places of business, effectively trapping you or influencing you to leave (indirect banishment). Your life could be quite miserable when they put your face on publicly available databases and websites among other criminals and miscreants, leaving other peoples less likely to welcome you into their community. Since you see PPS as largely contractarian (as do I), I think you can appreciate these sorts of things happening.

    This would be 'governance'. Other forms would be the rules of the community (Church, civic, etc) that you voluntarily submit to, in order to do business in that community.

  11. "No I did not. I stated that a property owner could transfer limited temporary rights to a renter of the hall, in this case Trump."

    Ok, but you gave no evidence or reason to assume such a transfer of limited temporary rights for use of the hall was given to Trump by the owner. There’s also, I should had, no evidence the tickets sold for the rally stated on them that Trump could have the clothing of hecklers taken from them.

  12. "Against individuals or groups of individuals who are resorting to violence or are not complying with their obligations resulting from contracts nothing avails but the recourse to violent action. The market system of voluntary agreements cannot work if not backed up by an apparatus of compulsion and coercion ready to resort to violence against individuals who are not strictly abiding by the terms and rules of mutual agreement. The market needs the support of the state."
    -Ludwig von Mises (Market and the State)

  13. "I don't understand this. If a trespasser steals my laptop when he is on my property and I demand $1,000 in compensation and penalties, he is justified in not turning it over because the thousand dollars is his possession?...I don't know how 'blame befalling one or the other' applies in this context. The blame falls on the NAP violator."

    Property theory says you can use force to evict him from your land to regain exclusive use and control of it. You can use force to get your laptop back to regain exclusive use and control of it. But I know of no libertarian standard as to what constitutes inadequate vs. fair vs. excessive compensation and penalties for aggression. The NAP says nothing about that. Walter Block makes a case for what he thinks is fair "libertarian restitution" but that’s his opinion according to his personal values and others have different opinions. Libertarianism tolerates all manner of possible personal value schemes of what suffices for “justified” restitution.

    “Justified” is in the eye of the beholder. If Muslims in a community each agree justified restitution for theft is chopping off a hand, then when one Muslim who is a signatory to that agreement steals from another hand chopping and nothing else is justified. Justified entirely depends on the terms of a pre-existing contractual agreement, which when exists applies in full force.

    Sure, according to the NAP the blame for the theft goes all to the thief. But fault and remedy are two different issues.

    You presume as a victim, absent any pre-existing agreement, you get unilateral say in what constitutes just restitution and penalty amounts. If so, then you in effect assume de-facto ownership of the entirety of aggressor’s person and property, by right. I don’t see on what basis you can claim such a right. Nowhere in property theory have I seen an argument for such a right. Historically, common law has been applied in such cases but libertarianism cannot favor common law versus any other set of values for settling property owner disputes.

    Thus absent agreements you would be forced to try to negotiate a settlement both parties considered acceptable as property owners in conflict, mindful of reputational consequences in society. Failing that you’d have no choice but to resort to force to settle the matter of what constituted just restitution. So while he might admit guilt over the trespass and theft, if he removed himself from your property and returned the laptop to you, the ensuing war between the two of you would not be over his aggression, but over what constitutes just restitution. The NAP says nothing about that issue or blames either of you for having different standards. You might both see yourselves as using force in self-defense – you in response to inadequate compensation for the initial aggression, him in defense of excessive compensation extraction constituting aggression in its own right. Such war is dispute resolution done the hard way.

    The unsavoriness and costliness of this is why no one would ever let himself end up in that position by ensuring he were protected by pre-negotiated agreements with standards of what constitutes justified restitution. Probably including “uninsured motorist” type coverage with a defense agency capping and providing for payments in such cases, with the agency then deciding if the matter was worth going to war over with the transgressing individual/agency.