There is quite a debate in the comment section of the post, The Moral Foundations of a Free Market Society, as to whether fraud is "inherently wrong."
First, I don't think anything is "inherently wrong."
I am with Henry Hazlitt on this and don't believe there are such things as "natural rights."
That said, there are plenty of reasons not to lie, cheat and steal and plenty of reasons to protect oneself in exchanges from those who lie, cheat and steal. One may not lie, cheat or steal because one believes in a certain religious code. One may not lie, cheat or steal because one realizes that this is the best way to gain the most in exchanges in the long-run.
According to Dictionary.com the definition of fraud is:
deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage.Basically, fraud is
a case of lying, cheating or stealing in a transaction.
This would not be a difficult problem to solve in a Private Property Society. There would certainly be plenty of property owners who would say, "lying, cheating or stealing via a transaction is not allowed here."
Indeed, it would be difficult to think of a mall or retail store that wouldn't operate under these terms.
Who would shop at a store where lying about products is an allowable practice?
This eliminates completely the debate at the above-referenced post where comments were made such as:
Fraud is not per se aggressive whereas murder and theft are. Fraud is merely deception. Is there to be a positive obligation on all to be “honest”?A libertarian society, or as I call it a Private Property Society, would not be a form of the wild west where anything would go almost everywhere. Just because there is no "government law" or "natural right" to protect someone doesn't mean that most people are going to allow aberrant behavior on their property.
There is no reason to divine what is "inherently wrong" or debate "positive obligations" in a PPS. The owner sets the rules for his property---any way he wants
To be sure, there could be areas where all kinds of nutjobs roam but sane people are just going to stay out of "bad areas" just like they do now.
This is not complicated stuff where all kinds of determinations must be made as to what is a "violation" of some abstract guideline and what is not. Each property owner gets to set his own rules, which I suspect will result in some degree of rough uniformity over time.
The key difference between a PPS and a government set of laws is that in a PPS each property owner gets to set his own rules and this means that if he so chooses he can base his rules on what he thinks is "inherently" right or wrong, on "positive obligations" or phases of the moon for that matter. The key being that no other property owner is required on one's own property to honor such laws.
And I want to emphasize there may be some yahoos who have some pretty insane laws for their properties, The thing would be to stay away from such properties, Again, not complicated. But to think government or some cultural values must have a ruling power over private property is the first step away from freedom. And once a step is taken in that direction, it is very difficult to reverse because most have a pet law or cultural value that they want to be instituted on all property. And then the battles begin: Which rules, which laws, which cultural values should be imposed on everyone.
Freedom is always about moving toward PPS.
Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics, on LinkedIn and Facebook. The Robert Wenzel podcast is on iphone and stitcher.