Monday, April 2, 2018

Why I Didn't Include Shaming and Shunning in My Private Property Society Book

Crazy Harry: "Do not trespass."

In a five star review of my book, Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person, a reviewer adds:
Delightful read. Too bad it won’t be used as a primer at government schools! My one slight suggestion for improving his vision is when talking about Crazy Harry shooting the accidental trespasser, Mr. Wenzel should point-out other property owners can freely choose to forbid Crazy Harry from ever coming onto their own property. That would probably keep Crazy Harry harnessed. Rules and punishment for trespass can be subjectively and independently determined—and are a two-way street.
Well, first of all, maybe it won't keep Crazy Harry harnassed so the simple rule applies that you stay away from trouble areas or areas where the degree of trouble is uncertain (The way we do now!). This solves the problem. No shaming, or forbidding to exchange with, is required.

Shaming strikes me as a way for libertarians to get around the restriction of forcing other people to act in a certain manner. "Aha, I won't coerce this person but I will advocate that no one exchange with him!"

This could certainly be a position of some in a PPS but I personally find it abhorrent. I really don't want to tell other people what to do on their property at all.

That said, there is a kind of natural selection process that we all observe. With a very few people, we exchange on many levels and with others, say a store clerk, on a very limited basis, and with the vast majority extremely limited, say, just avoiding not bumping into each other on a sidewalk.

Some libertarians call for all to shame, say, racists, homophobes, climate deniers etc. It's libertarian totalitarianism-lite. I prefer to leave people alone. I am not going to spend much time, or any, with someone who rants about race all day (or a person who wants to shoot trespassers), that's a natural selection thing on my part, but I have no desire to try and force others to adopt my views by shaming.

If a racist owns a restaurant where the tastiest barbecued ribs are made, I may frequent the place based on the limited exchange: my money for the ribs (And I may even whisper to friends I take there for the ribs, "The owner back there is a racist"). The same way I may go to a Chick-fil-A though they close on Sunday--even though I see nothing wrong with operating on Sunday. Am I supposed to boycott Chick-fil-A and shame them into opening on Sunday?

It is absolutely impossible to think we can take a full profile of everyone we deal with before we determine if we want to deal with them in a very limited exchange. It defies the economics of exchange and is busybody libertarianism. That work should be saved for missionaries.

Of course, if we are going to allow someone into our lives in a much more significant way, we will want to consider many different aspects of their lives. You just won't find me joining any shaming campaigns---or advocacy of such in any of my books.

-Robert Wenzel 


  1. So, admittedly haven’t read the book yet so maybe I’m speaking out of school, but I tend to agree with RW that shaming probably isn’t that critical assuming a PPS has already been achieved. Once the state is removed, we can be far MORE tolerant of others’ crazy political opinions because they have no vehicle for imposing them on others.

    If someone is a private racist in a PPS, I may think they’re dumb, but they can’t do anything to hurt me. But if a state exists, and they’re able to use it to enforce their fetishes on a national level, then their beliefs become a much greater concern to me.

  2. I've always found the shaming argument -- that shaming or shunning people is a way to control their behavior to be flawed.

    While shaming or shunning might be somewhat effective for one's family, it presumes the supply of friends, or individuals to interact with is very limited. It's similar to the arguments left-winger make when they say a restaurant can't be allowed to discriminate against patrons for arbitrary reasons (race, color, sexual orientation, etc.). They argue that everyone will isolate the minority and starve them out -- or force some other malady. Both arguments are false. Shunning will be no more effective than property owners' attempts to freeze out minorities.

  3. I too haven't read the book yet, but this is an issue that often comes up in other contexts, so I would make the following observations with respect to how I hear this play out in those instances.

    I think it's important to remember that libertarians are also human beings who belong to different societal groups. As a libertarian, you can advocate for not initiating force against others' private property, but as a human, you can also advocate to create a local environment more to your liking in other respects. It strikes me as being a pretty dull local village where no one discusses any societal dimensions with their neighbors other than not initiating force.

    Libertarianism is only about the proper use of force in human relationships. Everything else is outside of libertarianism. Thus I don't agree with Robert's statement that shaming is "libertarian totalitarianism-lite." As I see it, shaming is not a libertarian topic at all. It's simply a human topic.

    1. @TheNAPster

      “Libertarianism is only about the proper use of force in human relationships.”

      I know Block often makes this point but IMO it’s a bit too narrow. For one thing, it ignores the element of strategy. Libertarianism today is about more than defining the proper use of force. It’s also about mapping a strategy for achieving a more libertarian society.

      There exist a broad range of potential non-violent activities that vary in their degree of conduciveness to liberty (e.g. knowledge > ignorance; tolerance > intolerance; individualism > collectivism; reason > instinct, etc.) These are just examples and maybe I’m mistaken about some of these categorizations IMO it’s a mistake for libertarianism to simply ignore them. We need this to be an applied discipline, not just an intellectual exercise.

    2. Evan, those are fair points, and I agree that it would be odd to have an objective without also having a plan as to how to get there. That said, my sense is that Block may make this statement to argue against so-called "thick" libertarianism, as opposed to arguing against having a strategy.

      Once you're only talking about non-violent actions, I would argue that these actions are not the concern of libertarianism as a philosophy, but they may be a valuable strategic tool for libertarians to use to get a local community they prefer; but something like shaming is also a valuable tool for statists to use to get a local community they prefer, as we sometimes see with the SJWs. Thus I would classify shaming as a general human interaction tool, not a libertarian tool.

  4. Am I being shamed for suggesting closing borders to Crazy Harry is within the range of possibilities? I was just offering a slight way to cut off at the pass a major criticism of you and your thought process.