Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The PPS Debate and Societal Norms

The below thoughtful email was sent to Dr. Walter Block and me by Napster some time ago. 

Since US markets are closed today as we "mourn" the evil murderer George H.W. Bush, it provides me the time to respond. My responses are in blue.

I’ve read Robert’s new book and listened to the debate between the two of you, which I thoroughly enjoyed, not just in substance, but in form.  In today’s environment where aggressive, emotional interactions are the norm, it’s nice to see two erudite gentlemen having a calm, fruitful and intellectual conversation.

It seems to me that you’re both arguing for a societal norm.Walter is arguing for the primacy of body ownership (from which all other property rights flow), and Robert is arguing for the primacy of land ownership. 

This is misleading. I am not arguing for the "primacy" of land in the same way Walter is arguing for the primacy of body ownership.

Walter is making some kind of deductive argument that "body ownership" leads to NAP as a "natural right." I reject the idea of natural rights (Chapter 4) and I don't think the idea of body ownership is very insightful at a foundational level (ask a slave).

My argument is simply, I control some land so it makes sense for me to approach a neighbor and say, "Look I will leave you alone on your land, if you leave me alone on my land." So that we don't waste time battling each other.

 Either way, to bring about a more peaceful society, you’d have to convince sufficient people around you to accept one of these norms 

Well, you would have to do tha kind of convincing for of any kind of society (See Chapter 15)

(I don’t know what to make of Walter’s phrase that we should “impose the NAP on others”).

That's because you fail to understand that he views the NAP as a natural right that should be forced on everyone. 

 In Walter’s case, you’d have to get sufficient of your neighbors to agree to keep their hands off others’ bodies, provided those bodies are not themselves violating this norm, and in Robert’s case, you’d have to get sufficient of your neighbors to agree to not interfere in what occurs on others’ land.  

Again, see Chapter 15.

Some of your discussion revolved around which is a better norm.  I can see the arguments for both sides, but in the end all philosophical matters can only be put into practice through persuasion and cogency of reasoning.  So the real question is, which norm is more likely to persuade more people? 

This is a strange leap. Nationalism, racism, fascism and socialism have all at one time persuaded many people. If this the principle by which a philosophy should be promoted, you can end up in some pretty dark holes. 

If it is about reason, then the problem is that there is no way via reason to get to natural rights. Mises and Hazlitt both made this point very clear.

Further, the PPS is essentially "live and let live" that is not a very complicated principle to get across. (Once again, see Chapter 15)

Personally, I am more sympathetic to Walter’s arguments that put body ownership ahead of land ownership.  I don’t see how you can convince someone that your land is off limits if you first can’t convince them that the land is yours, nor can I see why I should agree that someone’s else land is off limits unless I am convinced that the land belongs to them, and to resolve the question of land ownership seems, in the end, to come down to who owns bodies and then what those bodies can legitimately do or agree to.

I devote an entire chapter to the land question: Chapter 14. It is not that complicated. It is only so for someone who is thinking in terms of government setting the property rules, in the same way that government supporters think mail can't be delivered without the government.

Per Hoppe, how can two people agree to a land-ownership convention if they don’t first agree to a body-ownership convention, because they must be implicitly agreeing that each body is free to agree or not to the land-ownership convention. 

So what if two people have "body ownership" and agree on it? Where is the leap that NAP necessarily follows from "body ownership"? Because of "body ownership" are you now free of government? If not, then there isn't much "natural" about "body ownership" combined with the NAP in the natural world. Hitler probably would have agreed that he owned his body and that the Jews owned their bodies which he decided to exterminate.

"Body ownership" is not at the core of the way the world works, recognizing choices and values of others, that is, subjectivism is at the core (See Chapter:6) 

Moreover, a land-based system of norms is less appealing to me because a land owner could always change his rules even after someone has come onto the property, and if you have no body-oriented conventions of justice then a visitor to that land who is violated after a rule change cannot complain.  

Again you are thinking within the mental limits of how governments operate. (See Chapter 12 for an explanation of how these types of situations would be avoided.) 

 (Note: I disagree with Walter’s point about anyone having the right to storm someone’s property to prevent a NAP violation.  I believe that since negative rights with respect to one’s body are personal, only the victim or his agent can respond to a violation; a stranger cannot do so without potential liability, although a good Samaritan may decide to take that risk.)

That's because, again, you fail to understand that he views the NAP as a natural right that should be forced on everyone. 

However, it doesn’t really matter what I believe.  I think that a society governed by either norm would be vastly superior to the norm we have today.  Thanks to both of you for excellent contributions to moving us to a better place.

Believing in natural rights is very dangerous (See Chapter 4)

No comments:

Post a Comment