>

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Private Property Society and the Killing of Baby Alfie

Baby Alfie and her parents.
By Robert Wenzel

Perhaps the most controversial argument in my book, Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person, is that no overarching rule should be made that prevents a Crazy Harry from shooting on his own property a child trespasser.

Some have chosen to distort my view by stating that
I am in favor of shooting trespassers when I clearly state in the book that such an act would be "most horrifying" (p. 65).

My point is not advocacy of such a horrific act but how to deal with it. I argue that the best way to deal with Crazy Harry nuts is just to keep away and keep children away from areas where such nuts live, just as we keep children away from dangerous areas now (p.65).

I argue that demanding overarching rules as a solution leads to more deaths since an overriding central power will make decisions rather than leaving decisions to individuals on their own properties. Central powers have great incentive to kill and oppress. That is why we have seen hundreds of millions killed by various governments and billions oppressed.

It is easy to avoid dangerous areas. It is not so easy to avoid central powers who deem that their rules apply to everyone and are always the best solutions--always. How authoritarian and evil! Giving up control over your own property to a central power on any point is always a very dangerous idea. It is naive to think that once the idea is adopted that there should be overarching rules that rules are going to begin and end just where you want them to.

As I write in my book (p.60):
The worst thing that can happen to a government advocate is to have his country ruled by government officials who are not his friends.
This is what happened in the case of Baby Alfie and her parents.

Baby Alfie was killed by the British government on the government order that her life support be removed.

What's more shocking is that the British government ruled that Baby Alfie could not even be transported to Rome for free treatment that the Vatican was willing to provide.

The desires of the parents were not taken into consideration. Government rules had been set in place, to prevent such treatment for a child like Alfie. According to the British government, the killing was in the child's "best interests".

What a horror.

Consider what would have occurred under a Private Property Society. The parents certainly could have flown to the Vatican from their own house. If a hospital tried to prevent such a move, one would think that in a PPS in a civilized area that would have been considered kidnapping.

In other words, the parents would have been able to take their child for last-ditch free treatment (perhaps for a miracle) to the Vatican.

But, they do not live in a PPS, they live in a region controlled by a government and where "best interests" rules for children are made by the government. So Baby Alfie is dead.

It is easy to say, "Well. these aren't the kind of 'best interest' rules we should have." But how is this to be decided? Isn't it better to simply have your own rules on your own property and that you only go to hospitals who think in a similar fashion?

You just never know where others are going to come down on overarching rules.

Indeed, a libertarian at the Cato Institute apparently believes that the government action in the killing of Baby Alfie might have been justified

Michael F. Cannon, director of health care policy at the Cato Institute, writes:
As hostile as libertarians are to government, even we believe government can legitimately order the withdrawal of life support, and prohibit parents from moving a child to obtain further treatment, when that treatment would fruitlessly prolong a child’s suffering – i.e., when further treatment would be akin to torture.
Note: The baby was unconscious so there was no indication keeping the baby alive would have been torture. But the British court did not rule on the torture basis anyway.

Cannon continues:
In such cases, the government intervenes to protect the child’s rights. (British law frames the decision in terms of the “best interests” of the child, but it seems to me that language clouds the issue and thereby unnecessarily inflames passions.) 
There is no objectively right place to draw the line between cases in which the government should and should not intervene. But I don’t know anyone who thinks it never should. If anyone does make that argument, they’re just wrong. 
Well, I for one object to government intervention always. Based on a fundamental premise there are people like Cannon who think they can overrule my wishes and desires on my own property. I'll take a PPS any day.

 You can orderFoundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person, from Amazon by clicking here.

Alternatively, Barnes & Noble  has copies here.

The book is also available from Lulu.


8 comments:

  1. Unless I'm misunderstanding your argument, I don't see how having generally understood "overarching rules" in a society requires a government.

    The overarching rule that libertarians should believe in is the non-aggression principle.

    Imagine two scenarios. My neighbor is a crazy person and I have a 5 year old son playing in my yard. Then suppose my neighbor came onto my property and killed my son. Surely he'd be a considered a murderer.

    Second, imagine my son wanders out of my sight onto his front lawn and my neighbor kills him on his property. I'd argue that there is very little moral difference between this scenario and the first. He'd still be a murderer.

    Wouldn't a libertarian non-State legal system be justified in punishing this man? I'd argue that they would.

    In fact, private legal decisions in an anarchist society would almost certainly overwhelmingly consider the killing of another human being without their permission to be an act of murder, regardless of which property the act was committed on.

    So we could see a general consensus emerge, some "overarching rules" that society generally accepts, without a government. So it would be reasonable to say that "murder is illegal" throughout society.

    Consider another example. What if I invited someone onto my hot air balloon?

    Could I force them to jump out in the middle of the air? Maybe they said something insulting to me and I just wanted them off of my property as soon as possible.

    The only way I could see such a thing being justified is if I had an explicit contract that stipulated that I could force them to jump to their death at any time at my discretion. But then nobody would ever step foot into my hot air balloon.

    It seems to me that if you have rules on your property that wildly differ from societal conventions and generally-accepted morality, you'd have to explicitly explain them to every single person that steps foot onto your property. But then you'd invite a ton of conflict as courts would have to grapple with questions about whether you made your rules reasonably clear enough to justify your actions.

    I think the non-aggression principle is a universal rule that would be widely accepted throughout a libertarian society, and would apply to all property. A general acceptance of an overarching rule in society doesn't require a government to enforce it. It could be an "overarching rule" simply because the vast majority of all small, privately-funded courts and defense agencies accept it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are correct, you don't understand PPS.

      Delete
    2. Maybe I don't. I'll admit I haven't read your book yet (but I intend to). However, I did watch all three of your debates with Walter Block and I read Target Liberty every day.

      You said: "Perhaps the most controversial argument in my book...is that no overarching rule should be made that prevents a Crazy Harry from shooting on his own property a child trespasser.

      Some have chosen to distort my view by stating that
      I am in favor of shooting trespassers when I clearly state in the book that such an act would be "most horrifying" (p. 65).

      My point is not advocacy of such a horrific act but how to deal with it. I argue that the best way to deal with Crazy Harry nuts is just to keep away and keep children away from areas where such nuts live, just as we keep children away from dangerous areas now (p.65).

      I argue that demanding overarching rules as a solution leads to more deaths since an overriding central power will make decisions rather than leaving decisions to individuals on their own properties. Central powers have great incentive to kill and oppress. That is why we have seen hundreds of millions killed by various governments and billions oppressed."

      But isn't there no necessary logical connection between having a generally-accepted "rule" or law throughout society, and having a government to enforce it?

      I think you'd agree that in a libertarian society, we'd have privately funded defense agencies and private courts to resolve disputes.

      If someone in my family was killed on another person's property, why couldn't I take my case to the local private court and accuse that person of murder? And, if a judge or jury (however a private court would look in an anarcho-capitalist, or PPS society) decided in my favor, couldn't that court, private police force or the community at large administer a punishment to the killer or force him to pay restitution?

      I'm just not understanding what difference it makes that the private property owner murdered someone on his own property instead of mine.

      I agree that private property owners can have different rules on their own property. But how explicit do they have to be in letting others know what those rules are?

      Isn't it your contention that in a Private Property Society, a private property owner could have a rule on their property that violates the non-aggression principle? Hence, the claim that the NAP is not really a universal overarching rule for society.

      You can of course ask anyone to leave your property at any time (unless you are in a Hot Air Balloon where you'd have to first return them to safety). But you can't, in my view, commit aggression against people just because they are on your property.

      By the way I am a big fan of yours. I read Target Liberty every day. And, most importantly, you were (and still continue to be) highly critical of Donald Trump when a lot of other libertarians were sympathetic to him. You've been vindicated and I really admire people who judge historical events clearly early on.

      Delete
    3. Listen to Part 3 of my debate with Walter Block:

      http://bit.ly/2FQyAFV

      Delete
    4. I think too many individuals think of the NAP as a static black and white static construct that belies the dynamic nature of the application of it in every moment of our daily life.

      When understanding PPS and the influence of NAP over all of it is when it is apparent there is a natural equilibrium.

      Delete
  2. I agree that in a PPS we would avoid harm and death by "crazy Harry" by staying off his property. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago in the 70's through the 90's. There were neighborhoods that I wouldn't go into because they were simply too dangerous - too many "crazy Harrys." Government intervention in the form of overarching gun control rules to ostensibly "protect" citizens of Chicago led, in many respects, to the very violence I avoided by staying out of certain neighborhoods. In turn, those gun control rules - the ones meant to protect citizens - led Chicago to rank as one of the most violent cities during the 70's to the 90's. No doubt, government intervention led to a great many deaths in Chicago during my time there. I wish the government wouldn't help us so much. Maybe baby Alfie would be alive if the government didn't try to "help" so much.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Robert:

    What if Baby Alfie were on a private hospital's property and the private hospital made this same decision? Perhaps they hadn't specified the terms that apply on their property in advance, so the parents were not to know they would do this. Sure, this may be the last patient they ever get, or they may instantly change their policy, but does that mean these parents or Alfie's representatives could not take any action against the hospital?

    More generally, what if someone wanders onto unowned land and is killed by Harry? What rules would determine whether that is an actionable wrong or not?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I discuss the hospital situation and Baby Alfie in Part 4 of my debate with Dr. Block. Should be posted on Wednesday.

      Well, if property is not owned, it is no man's land and it should be treated with caution like in every decent Western.

      Delete