Geolibertarianism, Private Property & Rights

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Lord Hysteria
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I have been having a lot of discussion lately on private property in the Libertarian forum, and outside, with geolibertarians. I have also been reading some strange posts by people whose views on rights seem murky. Thus, I have decided to make a thread detailing rights (in the descriptive sense) and private property. All the while debunking collectivist myths.

You may want to read these, since I refer to them:

What is Geolibertarianism?

I think the best way to understand geolibertarianism is by defining what they think. I have formulated below a set of fundamental assertions that all geolibertarians would nod their heads to:

  • Geolibertarians consider "land" to be the common property of all mankind.
  • Private property is derived from an individual's right to the fruits of their labour.
  • Land is not property since it was not created by anyone's labour.
  • A person can privately possess land on the condition that rent is paid

Land as Property

To an extent there is a misperception in the way we think of 'land'. There is no such thing as 'land'. Land is a block of three-dimensional space (which there is plenty around us). Private property is the material which we see around us – from trees, swimming pools, pebbles and boulders. What was once a leisure centre is now a cinema, and what was once a tree plantation is now a farm.

What makes the land underneath my feet different to the laptop I am using? It so happens that gravitational forces have created a circular planet and it's because of gravity that we are bound to it. But does that circular planet have anything different to my laptop? No, of course not.

One cannot own land, as such – any more than one can own 'space'. We happen to talk about 'land' because it is a convenient unit of resources. So a person doesn't own land - but the resources. So, you own a flat, farm, swimming pool or whatever ...

Myth 1: Earth was Left in Common to Mankind

Libertarians (and their geolibertarian neighbours) today derive their understanding of what "makes" private property from the works of John Locke. John Locke was struggling to solve the earlier Grotius-Pufendorf problem of how property could be justified, if God gave Earth to mankind in common. Grotius and Pufendorf postulated that consent justified private property. However, John Locke advanced that appropriation of those goods is justified by labouring on them. The Earth belongs to all, John Locke asserts (by appealing to natural law which he argues is knowable by reason).

Underlining all these notions is a communist assertion that people have "rights" by simply existing – and not through human action (a point I will return to later).

People have these entitlements to scarce goods out-of-nothing other than existing! Geolibertarians proudly claim that people have "equal rights of access". But this presupposes that all people already have a positive claim to everything. You can only "access" that which you own. It is a necessary condition of ownership. This creates a positive obligation on every human on the planet to ensure they are not breaching the entitlements of others.

A "collective" is made up of individual people (it can be six people on the planet or even six-billion people). The collective entitlements are derived from the rights of its individual members. Thus, if one man cannot claim land – nor can the collective. If it is the case that man cannot claim ownership of land, then nor can any collection of any number of individuals.

The very definition of "ownership" is exclusive control over the use of a scarce good. The concepts of "ownership" and "common" are incompatible. A person does not have the 'right' to free speech any more than the 'right' to access sidewalks. I have come across the spurious so-called "distinction" between common and collective ownership. The difference hinges on the common ownership being "equal rights" whereas a collective ownership may vary in proportion. But the fundamental point is that in each case everyone has a prior entitlement to that resource.

One can't help but noticed that geolibertarians (or commonists) also invoke the "… when there was only one man on earth …" state of nature to explain that "we would have a right to the use of the whole earth." Anyone, with even the vaguest concept of evolution, should dismiss this nonsense. But even if you are the only man on Earth, you don't have any more entitlement to resources – than sheep or horses. You're free to do as you please. But you have no entitlements. Indeed, planet Earth has been in existence for billions-of-years. What about all the animals and our primate ancestors? Do they not have an equal 'entitlement' to resources? Should chimpanzees, therefore, be locked-up in zoos? When did homo sapiens decide that they have a unique positive entitlement to everything on the planet. Notice the sophistry when the say that the first human (Adam from the bible, of course) would have been able to go anywhere and do anything. But this is obviously not true. He couldn't, for instance, march into a lion's den to snatch a cub – not for long. With a big gasp, geolibertarians should be asserting that the lions are preventing Adam's "right" to access! Further, they would say, shouldn't the lions compensate Adam's 'right'? Perhaps the pride ought to give Adam one of their cubs as payment. But, for some strange reason, this hysteria is directed at homo sapiens and their activity. Geolibertarianism suffers from a grand confusion of positive entitlements (or 'right') to land and the freedom to act. (Not forgetting the notion that Earth was given to mankind)

Further, the problem with so-called "collective rights" only begins by asking who determined what they are? Who proposed these rights? And who is bound by them? Geolibertarianism assumes land is owned in common as the beginning point. How did such ownership exist? It is entirely question-begging with no real answers. Hence, one really does need a God to support this foundationless sculpture.

Myth 2: Private Property is the Product of Human Labour

This is my favourite part of the geolibertarian Lockean mantra, because it doesn't take a lot to shoot-down.

Geolibertarians assert that since man did not create land (i.e. it is not the result of human labour), man is not entitled to own land. But there are no resources on the planet that have been created by humans. The First Law of Thermodynamics asserts that matter (or its energy equivalent) can be neither created nor destroyed. It can only change forms. Fundamentally, nobody "creates" anything. Land, like everything else, is a "product of labor" to the extent that it is initially transformed. According to the Lockean proviso, man is no more entitled to a house than a mountain. He happens to have taken some wood of the floor, and re-arranged it. But the wood is not the product of his labour. Thus, the "man didn't create land" is an utter strawman.

We must depart from this Lockean notion and refine the arguments about rights and property. Labour does not establish private ownership. Scarcity establishes private ownership. According to geolibertarians and Lockeans, private property derives from applying (or mixing) labour with resources. But this is not true. Private property is a result of a natural phenomenon – scarcity. Humans act as a means to an end. Those means involve scarce goods, and since they are scarce, they must become private owned (i.e. exclusive). Two people cannot consume the same apple.

A new argument, a by-product of the previous one, states that man must not be entitled to the value of that which he did not create. But the value of something arises out of its demand – which is determined subjectively. Moreover, how on Earth (excuse the pun!) does someone separate the "original" value from the value added by human labour? It's time we moved on from the Labour theory of value!

There is another argument that needs to be addressed here. Private property is sometimes involves the production of security (risk-taking) and information. In other words, land has to be discovered. Christopher Columbus was sent by the King of Spain to find new lands. This was a carefully planned & operated and financially-backed venture that wasn't even sure to produce any results! Shouldn't the King of Spain be entitled to claim the Americas as being under his dominion? If not, there are no incentives to discover new resources.

Lastly, how can individuals claim that they have ownership over themselves if they didn't create themselves? Since the geolibertarian position is that one can only claim private property over that which one labours. By that account, man doesn't 'own' himself. I hardly think any libertarian would assert we're not entitled to our own bodies, since we didn't create them.

Myth 3: Private Ownership is Harmful

In many ways, John Locke paved the way to the Marxist trap that ownership is harmful (and thus, bad). But appropriation and private property is NOT a zero-sum-game.

When we imagine first appropriation, we imagine a race in which first-come-first-serve are the lucky ones. The unpalatable reality is that life was very harsh for those first appropriators. Consider the first settlers to England. If given a choice, would you rather live in primitive bronze-age England or today? The most we have to wake-up to in the night is a wet dream. They didn't have long-distance travel done in the matter of hours, or a microwave to cook food, or a Sainsbury's to do one's shopping. Original appropriation benefits latecomers infinitely more than the appropriators. The poorest in today's society enjoy life-expectancy several decades above the original appropriators. This is a fact. The state of the commons before appropriation is a negative-sum-game. It is only when private property comes into fruition that economic standards improve and human existence is extended to more favourable circumstances.

People tend to place the highest value on things that they own. They have an individual responsibility to maintain and increase its value. Equally, they have the least incentive to maintain resources they can get for nothing. Why else was the bison almost exterminated, whereas cattle are never in danger of extinction?

The geolibertarian-Lockean position that one is free to act as long as one doesn't infringe on another's right is the source of the problem. My taking X, means that someone else cannot. That is a simple fact of scarcity, which I deal with above and below.

Myth 4: Freedom is Dependent on Land

It is said that freedom is dependent on the availability of land! This is what someone said on TSR:
This stops the choice of 'work or die', for many, which isn't really freedom at all.
I don't own land. Lots of people I know don't own land. What is wrong with working and saving (other than the fact I am a capitalist)? Human labour is necessary for survival – not land. Wealth is created by the productive efforts of man in the division of labour – simply owning goods is no guarantee to anything.

Even if one is designated a certain space, you can't live long without trade or working the land. By all accounts, therefore, one still isn't free since one has to work.

Therefore, we need to revise what freedom really means. People act as a means to an end. There is always something that would make us more satisfactory. Freedom is not about the limitations of choice people must make (which is qualm against the nature of reality) – but being free from coercion to make one's own choices. The real non-freedom is when someone denies another person the option to work, in the example above.

Myth 5: A Difference Between the State and the Community

If it is true that humans need land to survive (which it is not), then surely – to geolibertarians – taxing land is tantamount to taxing existence. There are two ways to tax. You either tax humans for action, or you tax humans for the resources by which they act. It is perceived that there is a difference between the two. Resources are scarce, and man needs resources to act. Either way, man is being taxed for acting. It is not his fault that he lives with scarcity. But, geolibertarians claim that private property is unjust and that man must pay to rectify the unjustness. This is the basis of the LVT (and, thus, it is dealt with above).

Some choose to call it a rent or tax. The question becomes how does one pay it? How does the assessment, calculation, collection and distribution take place without an institution with the monopoly on the use of force that cannot be retaliated against? What happens if I decide I don't want to pay this tax, and that may land is indeed justly acquired. You need such an institution that has the monopoly on the use force without being retaliated against. This seems so obvious, I don't think I need to spend much time explaining any further.

But how is the LVT 'calculated'? The fact that the quasi-government would have to be involved in this process makes that government inherently political. And the nature of government (or the seductiveness of the monopoly on force) is such that it can only expand. But the LVT can only be calculated by either: (1) an arbitrary figure and/or (2) whenever the lease on a given land is up, the new one is auctioned off to the highest bidder with government approval.

The reality is that the people in the market determine the value of a given stretch of land. Land is still scarce as it was 100 years ago. And if the market-place is the most efficient way to ensure an optimal supply of a scarce good (elastic or inelastic), then it holds that land – on the free-market – would tend to an optimal supply too.

Purchasing land does not reduce the supply of land. If land starts to actually become really scarce, economic incentives would induce resources to be spent on building more land — either by building skyscrapper, or digging deeper into the earth — or to discover land on different planets (if things got really serious!).

Some declare that the LVT has no economic effects. This is bewildering! The LVT has about the same effects as the income tax.
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arsene-f
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I thought you said morality doesn't exist? By claiming to be a libertarian, you are stating that you think freedom is morally good.
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Lord Hysteria
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I thought you said morality doesn't exist? By claiming to be a libertarian, you are stating that you think freedom is morally good.
You made this up. I am a consequentialist.
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Lord Hysteria
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Liam, seriously. How can private property simply be? It's not as if it is coded into the universe's structure, it is a concept that human being create out of necessity. I don't understand why you keep talking of rights or law, because, like private property, they don't exist without the explicit stipulation of a social contract. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours type of deal.
It is coded into the universe. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. It simply is. Man acts on property as a means to an end. Property is by defintion exclusive since it is scarce. We can't both consume the same apple. If you wish to challenge those premises, then go ahead. But even in a socialist haven, resources are excluded against other animals, for instance.

I see no inherent stipulation to any "social contract" - much less one that induces government to tax people. The only contracts that exist are ones that people voluntarily undertake to exchange scarce goods and services.

"You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" is how rights are respected. But this says nothing about what rights are descriptively.

I'm going to repeat myself here:

no one is saying anything about rights or common ownership. Merely capabilities. In the state of nature, you are free to do and go wherever you like, but one of the prices of living in a civilised society is giving up that capability and recognising other people's ownership of otherwise 'unownable' resources such as land - because it benefits you and them.

If we were to enter a Year 0 scenario, you would have certain capabilities, go wherever, do whatever, or as Hobbes put it:
Man didn't evolve over night, and evolutionary scientists estimate homo sapiens came to exist around 100,000 years ago. At that time, you were no more free than you are today. You couldn't wander into the sea, or march into a lion's den ... Man was competing over resources with every other species on the planet. Clearly, he couldn't "go wherever he liked". He could but he might die. And thus, his value-system would force him not to, for instance, steal a lion's cub. Similarly today, you could walk into my house. But I'll call the police. You're as free today, as you are then. Competition over resources didn't suddenly happen over-night. Private property wasn't created this morning. Man was competing over private property rights with even plants & bacteria! Man and animals have been competing over space, plants to eat, safe habitat and endless difficultes they had to endure!

Part of the problem is the Biblical "state of nature" people have been programmed into thinking. It assumes that Adam popped out of nowhere. And he had nothing to compete over, walked the Earth and smoked cigars! In fact, as legend goes, he couldn't even die - until he became horny and Eve came over.

But you're equivocating between two different definitions of freedom. There is the freedom to literally do whatever comes into your head (or as you put it "free to do and go wherever you like") and then there is freedom to make one's choices free from coercion. I notice you do this later on below too (I underlined it). I think this distinction warrants a future blog post itself.

As a libertarian, I advocate the latter which is that freedom means one is free to choose between various choices for himself.

This essentially what you're advocating by eschewing social contract theory, and this doesn't sound like liberty to me. As for the Irish Famine, you seem to ignore the fact that England has been invading Ireland since the Tudors, conquering it fully around 1651, that's a hundred and fifty years before the famine where, thanks to absentee landlords, Irish people were toiling and starving. The Corn Laws were one catalyst for the actual famine, and the land issue was the underlying problem with the system.

As your link to the Mises Institute says:

These landowners in turn hired farmers to manage their holdings. The managers then rented small plots to the local population in return for labor and cash crops. Competition for land resulted in high rents and smaller plots, thereby squeezing the Irish to subsistence and providing a large financial drain on the economy.

Rents and land prices were inflating way before the famine. You could even apply the same system to Britain today, why do you think house prices were/are going up so much?
Yes, and what does this have to do with the free-market, or private property and voluntary transactions? Since when is my position a kin to imperialism & feudalism which are NOT based on voluntary transactions!

And I have to repeat myself again: scarcity necessitates private property, it does not create it.
You're simply begging the question. What "creates" private property then - if not scarcity?

You should know basic philosophical logic, scarcity is a descriptive fact, so is the fact that private property is a more efficient distribution of resources than collective ownership, but you should know that simply because of this fact does not mean it is automatically prescriptive and objectively acceptable.

X is good -> We should do X is not a complete given is it?

And I don't get how you came to that conclusion, I was merely repeating what the crux of your argument. Adam can't rightfully own the tree because the only thing justifying or backing up is claim is force. What if Eve wanted to own it instead?
I don't understand your point here. Do you want to know my views on consequentialism?

I'm not entirely sure how the native Americans passage is relevant, we all know that as population grows and there is a greater demand for food and other resources, nomadic lifestyles become impossible. And anyway, if you believed in this type of appropriation so much, surely when they said 'we own this land' it became theirs and therefore any action taken by the other Americans was unjust?
It is very important - if not the most important point about private property.

The nomadic lifestyle became impossible because of scarcity. This is the point I was making above. That private property is a direct phenomonon of scracity.

But secondly, and equally important, people fail to realise why private property became necessary. People paint a picture as if there were two men on the planet and suddenly they divided-up everything for the fun-of-it. This isn't about you, but just a general observation.

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Tbh, I don't know where this is going. I feel like we're debating over semanitcs. There are much bigger geolibertarian foundations above that need to be addressed.
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Melancholy
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(Original post by Lord Hysteria)
It is coded into the universe. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. It simply is. Man acts on property as a means to an end. Property is by defintion exclusive since it is scarce. We can't both consume the same apple. If you wish to challenge those premises, then go ahead. But even in a socialist haven, resources are excluded against other animals, for instance.

I see no inherent stipulation to any "social contract" - much less one that induces government to tax people. The only contracts that exist are ones that people voluntarily undertake to exchange scarce goods and services.

"You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" is how rights are respected. But this says nothing about what rights are descriptively.
I think what DRE means is that rules of entitlement are man-made normative laws. Entitlements, property and scarcity necessarily exist, but it entails no normative assumptions about, say, theft, murder or coercion (whatever coercion is argued to consist of).

If your project is ultimately a society without normative rules about property, then you're not really a conventional Libertarian and are advocating (and valuing) a rather sinister society that not many would desire. Even a system of voluntarism within a system of private property requires normative rules to be enforced.

Part of the problem is the Biblical "state of nature" people have been programmed into thinking. It assumes that Adam popped out of nowhere. And he had nothing to compete over, walked the Earth and smoked cigars! In fact, as legend goes, he couldn't even die - until he became horny and Eve came over.
Hmm.

As a libertarian, I advocate the latter which is that freedom means one is free to choose between various choices for himself.
I don't think this is the normal Libertarian conception of negative liberty that Libertarians usually support (even if they say they do). Libertarians usually consider, at some point, the fairness of the choices offered. People should not be free to murder or thieve, which is a restriction of the pure definition of negative liberty (which collapses into a meaningless term the more one thinks about it - because it entails certain positive rights to enforcement, which is itself a restriction of negative liberty).

You're simply begging the question. What "creates" private property then - if not scarcity?
Scarcity, humans, human desires and human force. All of which exist. All of which 'create' private property, but I think the cause of confusion between you and DRE is that one of you is talking about private property in descriptive terms and the other is talking about private property in terms of its normative rules surrounding entitlement. Both discussions are required in order to articulate an ideological stance.
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member520746
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You are eminently boring, property is theft, go away.

/thread
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arsene-f
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As a libertarian, I believe that anything that stems from my own mind, being, or action is my own property. This could be a written piece, a piece of furniture, a newly built computer, etc. If the freedom of the individual is primary in human affairs, then it only logically follows.
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D.R.E
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Have to wait a bit for my response, exams are piling up a bit!
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D.R.E
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(Original post by jesusandtequila)
...

(Original post by Lord Hysteria)
...
I'm done with exams now, and we can resume this debate now. Although, I have been reading Rothbard's critique of Geo-libertarianism, and he puts forward some decent arguments. I'm not necessarily convinced that by his arguments, but they are interesting and thought-provoking.

And regardless, my central criticism of this idea that private property is the highest moral idea seems to have been left unanswered by that essay. It strikes me that LH and Rothbard are coming from distinctly anarcho-capitalist positions, which I don't agree with as such, but I digress.

Rothbard does raise some pertinent practical questions about how the land taxes would be raised, but I don't think that this would be a necessarily insurmountable hurdle. Anyway, do you still want to continue this discussion? I can respond to the previous post if you want, and you can use some of Rothbard's points too if you, it would help me rationalise the whole thing anyway.

J&T - I thought you might be interested in Rothbard's essay, check it out.
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Lord Hysteria
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(Original post by Melancholy)
I think what DRE means is that rules of entitlement are man-made normative laws. Entitlements, property and scarcity necessarily exist, but it entails no normative assumptions about, say, theft, murder or coercion (whatever coercion is argued to consist of).

If your project is ultimately a society without normative rules about property, then you're not really a conventional Libertarian and are advocating (and valuing) a rather sinister society that not many would desire. Even a system of voluntarism within a system of private property requires normative rules to be enforced.
Part of the problem with discussing "rights" (in the usual sense) is that it comprises of almost entirely normative consensual centralised elements. I would assert that coercion (since you mentioned it) is whatever a person considers it to be. In other words, as people in the market place determine what they want and what they don't want. They should be able to seek compensation for a tort. And, no, this doesn't mean people will go crazy and demand compensation for loud noise externalities - although, they can claim it if they want.

Any given community - libertarian or communist, will have normative rules about property. Private property exists for trade. Just as we have normative rules for business transactions, there will be normative rules about how economic agents deal with private property. The question is whether government sets those rules, or private individuals in transactions. I am not sure how it is "sinister", and of course private property would be enforced.


Hmm.
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I don't think this is the normal Libertarian conception of negative liberty that Libertarians usually support (even if they say they do). Libertarians usually consider, at some point, the fairness of the choices offered. People should not be free to murder or thieve, which is a restriction of the pure definition of negative liberty (which collapses into a meaningless term the more one thinks about it - because it entails certain positive rights to enforcement, which is itself a restriction of negative liberty).
The "fairness" - what could be more subjective? And, no, any consistent libertarian would assert that it is not the number of options - but rather that one is free to make his own choices vis-a-vis those options (and that is important). Yes, some of those options may be harsh or difficult to make - but that is a moan and complaint about reality.

"People should not be free to murder or thieve" - People should be free to choose between options.

Myth of Negative and Positive Rights

One often hears the distinction between negative and positive rights. But this distinction fails to take into account the resources required for the prohibition of action that negative rights entail - in the same sense as the production of rights that positive rights entail. If a state proclaims the right to life, then it has a duty of preventing threats to your life.

Thus, the state is made to centrally plan the supply of certain goods - namely; police, armies, courts and jails and so forth. The law of marginal utility allows more and more resources to be invested to produce even more police and to further secure "rights". Out of which, police powers are increased. At some stage, though, the state will have to decide to use resources to protect rights, or a different material good.

Therefore, "rights" are ultimately subject to supply and demand, as any other economic good. They must be economized, in terms of their relative scarcity.
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Melancholy
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LH, I think you've deviated from my initial point. The central question is whether you allow a system of normative rights (e.g. right not to be murdered) and ensure that the rights are enforced, or you have no such normative rules and allow the principle of "might is right". You can't speak of "rights" or "property rights" or "rights to certain liberties" if you don't ensure a system of enforcement. If you're advocating anarchy, then fine - that is where you disagree with DRE. If you're arguing for certain Libertarian rights, then you're advocating an explicitly normative philosophy. In fact, even if you were arguing for anarchy, you would still be making a normative statement about how society ought to be run (or "not run at all", to be more precise), but that's not the point. Normative statements necessarily exist in most forms of philosophy of politics or philosophy of action. Talk of 'rights' and 'laws' come from normative statements (which are often, but not always, derived from social contract theories that intuitively click with some people - much like the intuition that murder is wrong [because you yourself would not like to be murdered]). Private property rights (placed in a system composed of rules regarding property entitlement) exist only because of human belief-systems (although you are right in saying that private property naturally exists because of scarcity).

If you advocate a system where a murderer is not met with a monopoly of force (where State's are defined as a monopoly of force, using Weber's definition), then you advocate a system where no rules exist and it's left to the whims of the people. You'd be advocating anarchy, where might is right, where entitlement to property can be settled over fights to the death, where talk of self-ownership and 'own labour' and 'justice' are utterly voiceless whimpers in the face of chaos. I'd be reluctant to call Hobbe's State of Nature "libertarianism", because "libertarianism" is usually a normative philosophy that believes in normative rights (e.g. self-ownership) that can be enforced, ranging in extremity from anarcho-capitalists to minimal statists.

(Original post by Lord Hysteria)
Part of the problem with discussing "rights" (in the usual sense) is that it comprises of almost entirely normative consensual centralised elements. I would assert that coercion (since you mentioned it) is whatever a person considers it to be. In other words, as people in the market place determine what they want and what they don't want. They should be able to seek compensation for a tort. And, no, this doesn't mean people will go crazy and demand compensation for loud noise externalities - although, they can claim it if they want.
Then your problem is with political philosophy in general. There is no non-normative political philosophy. Discussions about rights, political powers, entitlements, and so forth, involve normative discussions and require normative language. That isn't problematic in the slightest. Normative discussion necessarily must take place otherwise we just talk in terms of what is happening and who has the power to commit acts against others, not who ought to be entitled to do an act.

Furthermore, to clarify, are you saying that the market (presumably a market-system already built upon a certain conception of property entitlement and property rights [read: a normative conception]) would settle the question of what ought to be deemed unjust coercion? If so, I see that as problematically circular, because you're already saying that people with more capital are able to shape the definition of coercion (since people with more capital arguably have more coercive power in markets).

Any given community - libertarian or communist, will have normative rules about property. Private property exists for trade. Just as we have normative rules for business transactions, there will be normative rules about how economic agents deal with private property. The question is whether government sets those rules, or private individuals in transactions. I am not sure how it is "sinister", and of course private property would be enforced.
These normative rules involve 'rights', and therefore I can't see how you can get away with challenging people's use of the word 'rights' whilst maintaining that your desired society is based upon those normative rule. I'll let the "private property exists for trade" comment slip by, but I don't see how you can build a coherent definition of 'rights' (or normative rules) if you're just going to leave its definition to the whims of the of private individuals involved. I wouldn't call those conventions "rights".

I said that if you're arguing for a society without set and concrete normative rules then you're advocating something quite sinister, because you're arguing for a society where individuals could potentially murder people (if they, normatively, deemed it to be morally acceptable). I would regard that as incredibly undesirable and quite sinister because, regardless of the state of mind or opinions of the person setting the normative rule, I would see murder as universally immoral and thus would want a monopoly of force to ensure that it is illegal. If you're arguing for a society where murder could potentially be legally committed (and where a right to life is not legally protected), then you're not arguing for a position which I'd deem to be intuitively, normatively, satisfying.

The "fairness" - what could be more subjective? And, no, any consistent libertarian would assert that it is not the number of options - but rather that one is free to make his own choices vis-a-vis those options (and that is important). Yes, some of those options may be harsh or difficult to make - but that is a moan and complaint about reality.
I don't see your problem with subjectivity, and, like with the hoards of Austrian libertarians who also scorn the subjectivity of, say, welfare economists, I think you're also operating a double standards. This is because your own political philosophy is subjective, since you're offering a way in which you think that society 'ought' to be run. The purpose of political philosophy is to clarify people's stances and find out their foundational moral axioms. If people jar on one moral axiom, there's not much that one can do, but any statement about how societies ought to be run will be a subjective, normative statement. That isn't a problem. Subjective normative statements necessarily exist. In that [small] sense, like Simon Blackburn, I am a moral realist whilst still remaining sceptical about anyone who declares "fairness" to be an objectively good thing. I do believe (nay, know), however, that many share my intuitive definition of fairness, which is largely taken from Rawls.

More specifically, dealing with your objection here, Libertarians DO accept a certain conception of fairness. Nozick's entitlement theory of justice involves a certain (imo, flawed) conception of fairness (which, imo, necessitates a Rawlsian conception of fairness if Nozick wants to stay true to his word). A typical Libertarian would never see any action that denies an agent's self-ownership to be a fair act.

Further, I think you're just flat-out wrong! To complain that some choices are harsh or difficult to make is not just a moan or complaint about reality. It's also a way in which to ask others to shape the circumstances under which one has to make a choice.

"People should not be free to murder or thieve" - People should be free to choose between options.
I suspect many other Libertarians would disagree with the statement that it's right to allow people to murder or thieve. If you think that people should be allowed to murder or thieve, then we just have a fundamental jarring in our moral intuitions. I'll leave others to see which political stance they see as more desirable.


Myth of Negative and Positive Rights

One often hears the distinction between negative and positive rights. But this distinction fails to take into account the resources required for the prohibition of action that negative rights entail - in the same sense as the production of rights that positive rights entail. If a state proclaims the right to life, then it has a duty of preventing threats to your life.

Thus, the state is made to centrally plan the supply of certain goods - namely; police, armies, courts and jails and so forth. The law of marginal utility allows more and more resources to be invested to produce even more police and to further secure "rights". Out of which, police powers are increased. At some stage, though, the state will have to decide to use resources to protect rights, or a different material good.

Therefore, "rights" are ultimately subject to supply and demand, as any other economic good. They must be economized, in terms of their relative scarcity.
I think it was me who belittled the distinction between negative and positive rights?

Anyway, I don't see how the above is relevant. My use of 'negative liberty' was supposed to communicate the sorts of actions typically enveloped by people who use the term. Suffice it to say, when I say "negative liberty" people know sorts of liberties I mean, even if they disagree with the distinction.

For this purpose, the objection to the distinction between negative and positive liberty misses the point, because the Libertarian would judge the negative liberty that is preserved (e.g. to be free to roam without being murdered) to be superior to any other negative consequence that results.

As for rights - of course they require 'force' in order to enforce them, and the ability to manage labour to enforce the law necessarily exists within our economic system - so of course the State justice system is subject to trade-offs, scarcity, efficiency-concerns and economic reality. Yet the State is best-placed to organise a police force to fulfil its limited brief (namely, the prosecution of criminals) - demonstrably so, in fact! And if you start saying that a central, concrete and universal set of rights cannot exist for each citizen (because it can't be centrally enforced), then you're allowing anarchy to obtain (which means that a right not to be murdered is not guaranteed). If you think that's acceptable, then it's not me who needs to consider what realm of reality we're living on.
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py0alb
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(Original post by Lord Hysteria)
I Libertarians (and their geolibertarian neighbours) today derive their understanding of what "makes" private property from the works of John Locke. .

Michael Sandel, 2010 (and on numerous other occasions): "John Locke is no friend of the libertarians".

Curious how you could have come to such a startlingly different conclusion to such a distinguished thinker.

Either you have misread the works of Locke, or the eminent philosophy professor has.

Hmmm.. who should I believe, the distinguished professor, or the 21 year old student....


Jus' sayin'
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Lord Hysteria
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(Original post by py0alb)
Michael Sandel, 2010 (and on numerous other occasions): "John Locke is no friend of the libertarians".

Curious how you could have come to such a startlingly different conclusion to such a distinguished thinker.

Either you have misread the works of Locke, or the eminent philosophy professor has.

Hmmm.. who should I believe, the distinguished professor, or the 21 year old student....


Jus' sayin'
What? Start again ...

What does my age have to do with anything? Or is that an ad hom?
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py0alb
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(Original post by Lord Hysteria)
What? Start again ...

What does my age have to do with anything? Or is that an ad hom?
You claimed above that the libertarian theories you espouse are based on the work of John Locke. I am claiming that in that case, you have misunderstood the work of John Locke. Michael Sandel agrees with me.

You are free to continue to express your libertarian views as you please and I will continue to roll my eyes. But to claim that it has a rigorous philosophical underpinning is disingenuous.
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Lord Hysteria
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(Original post by Melancholy)
LH, I think you've deviated from my initial point. The central question is whether you allow a system of normative rights (e.g. right not to be murdered) and ensure that the rights are enforced, or you have no such normative rules and allow the principle of "might is right".
There is no my allowing a "a system of normative rights" ... there will be a normative system as long as there is ethics. Don't you understand that I am not saying there are no ethics? I don't understand why you're posting this (see below). The question, however, is do I decide in voluntary transactions, or do you force a centralised system on everyone?

You can't speak of "rights" or "property rights" or "rights to certain liberties" if you don't ensure a system of enforcement.
Rights must be enforceable - or they don't exist. I don't think I have spoken of "rights" outside that context?!

If you're advocating anarchy, then fine - that is where you disagree with DRE.
No, I am not advocating anarchy. I am arguing against geolibertarianism.

If you're arguing for certain Libertarian rights, then you're advocating an explicitly normative philosophy.
No. Libertarianism is a normative philosophy whereby all transactions should be voluntary. That says absolutely nothing about rights.

In fact, even if you were arguing for anarchy, you would still be making a normative statement about how society ought to be run (or "not run at all", to be more precise), but that's not the point.
Obviousllllllly. I don't know if you're trying to insult my intelligence here ...

Normative statements necessarily exist in most forms of philosophy of politics or philosophy of action. Talk of 'rights' and 'laws' come from normative statements (which are often, but not always, derived from social contract theories that intuitively click with some people - much like the intuition that murder is wrong [because you yourself would not like to be murdered]). Private property rights (placed in a system composed of rules regarding property entitlement) exist only because of human belief-systems (although you are right in saying that private property naturally exists because of scarcity).
No. I disagree entirely.

I am not saying - as I am beginning to suspect you may think - that I have anything against normative philosophy. I am simply making the distinction between what what rights actually are, and what they are (in the usual sense we talk about them - i.e. what they ought to be).

Are you really going to tell me that if there is a bunch with a "human belief-system" involved in never having private property, they would exist? Of course NOT. The dinner I ate was excluive to me. We couldn't both eat the same dinner simultaneously. Thus, private property - which exists in communism too - derives from scarcity. I would like to share my dinner with the rest of the world. I don't deliberately try to exclude resources from others for the-fun-of-it. Anyone would, I have no reason to doubt, be only too happy to share everything. BUT I must act, and action requires the use of goods which are scarce. Thus, if humans are to act, they must have private property. But, notice I am speaking of what rights actually are. When we speak of rights, we speak of goods that people in society think they ought to have. That is your "human belief-system".

The social contract is one of the strangest political theories. But I don't see how anything I have said can be traced to any social contract. And I don't committ murder because of a social contract. But, rather, because it is not in my interest.

If you advocate a system where a murderer is not met with a monopoly of force (where State's are defined as a monopoly of force, using Weber's definition), then you advocate a system where no rules exist and it's left to the whims of the people. You'd be advocating anarchy, where might is right, where entitlement to property can be settled over fights to the death, where talk of self-ownership and 'own labour' and 'justice' are utterly voiceless whimpers in the face of chaos. I'd be reluctant to call Hobbe's State of Nature "libertarianism", because "libertarianism" is usually a normative philosophy that believes in normative rights (e.g. self-ownership) that can be enforced, ranging in extremity from anarcho-capitalists to minimal statists.
No, I see no reason at all to suspect this as being true. We could debate it in the anarchist thread ... This has nothing to do with the thread, but people murder each other already in our system. Murder occurrs at the "whims of the people" already. And guess what, we already have a "monopoly of force".

Do you seriously think that entitlements to property would be settled to death? Really? You think people would go around killing each other over disputes - because, "hey, we don't have government"? You think government is the source of "rules" without which we'd all shoot one-another?

I think you have a very thin grasp of how humans act. Every human action is a cost-benefit analysis. That, alone, would render much of what you said as being fiction.

And libertarianism simply says that transactions ought to be voluntary. That is all. It says nothing about self-ownership. I don't why people insist with that piece of dogma.

But, again, let's stick to geolibertarianism.

Then your problem is with political philosophy in general. There is no non-normative political philosophy. Discussions about rights, political powers, entitlements, and so forth, involve normative discussions and require normative language. That isn't problematic in the slightest. Normative discussion necessarily must take place otherwise we just talk in terms of what is happening and who has the power to commit acts against others, not who ought to be entitled to do an act.
Lol!

In case you haven't noticed, I advocate that transactions OUGHT to be voluntary. I am also a consequentalist. But because I am defining and discussing property and rights in the descriptive context (which I have been doing for some time now), doesn't mean I have a problem with "political philosophy in general" or that I am asserting a "non-normative political philosophy". This thread is about geolibertarianism and its flaws - which I am dismantling by pointing out its errors from a descriptive POV. So, I don't what you're talking about ...

Furthermore, to clarify, are you saying that the market (presumably a market-system already built upon a certain conception of property entitlement and property rights [read: a normative conception]) would settle the question of what ought to be deemed unjust coercion? If so, I see that as problematically circular, because you're already saying that people with more capital are able to shape the definition of coercion (since people with more capital arguably have more coercive power in markets).
This is out of the scope of this thread - but, the market place is not a place of coercion. Would I be advocating the laissez-faire, if it was coercive? Lassiez-faire Capitalism is the only political "philosophy" I know in which all people are equal. Equal under the law - under non-aggression. The anarchist thread would clear this up. =]

These normative rules involve 'rights', and therefore I can't see how you can get away with challenging people's use of the word 'rights' whilst maintaining that your desired society is based upon those normative rule. I'll let the "private property exists for trade" comment slip by, but I don't see how you can build a coherent definition of 'rights' (or normative rules) if you're just going to leave its definition to the whims of the of private individuals involved. I wouldn't call those conventions "rights".
I have already defined rights as being the goods we acquire. And you're defining it as "these normative rules".

We're obviously not going to go far, if you keep on saying "obviously, this is what rights are ... ergo, Liam, it is all normative ..."

I am more than happy to defend the premise that "private property exists for trade" ...

And what is wrong with leaving things "to the whims of the of private individuals involved" ... or do you think you know better, or more qualified to tell people what to do? I do't understand this - but it sounds detestable.

I said that if you're arguing for a society without set and concrete normative rules then you're advocating something quite sinister, because you're arguing for a society where individuals could potentially murder people (if they, normatively, deemed it to be morally acceptable). I would regard that as incredibly undesirable and quite sinister because, regardless of the state of mind or opinions of the person setting the normative rule, I would see murder as universally immoral and thus would want a monopoly of force to ensure that it is illegal. If you're arguing for a society where murder could potentially be legally committed (and where a right to life is not legally protected), then you're not arguing for a position which I'd deem to be intuitively, normatively, satisfying.
Individuals today in the UK "could potentially murder people" and we have a centralised legal system which outlaws murder. Surely, therefore, our system is sinister too?

In AC, there will be a set of normative laws in society governing human transactions ... but they'd be voluntary. Again, the anarchist thread ...

I don't see your problem with subjectivity, and, like with the hoards of Austrian libertarians who also scorn the subjectivity of, say, welfare economists, I think you're also operating a double standards. This is because your own political philosophy is subjective, since you're offering a way in which you think that society 'ought' to be run. The purpose of political philosophy is to clarify people's stances and find out their foundational moral axioms. If people jar on one moral axiom, there's not much that one can do, but any statement about how societies ought to be run will be a subjective, normative statement. That isn't a problem. Subjective normative statements necessarily exist. In that [small] sense, like Simon Blackburn, I am a moral realist whilst still remaining sceptical about anyone who declares "fairness" to be an objectively good thing. I do believe (nay, know), however, that many share my intuitive definition of fairness, which is largely taken from Rawls.

More specifically, dealing with your objection here, Libertarians DO accept a certain conception of fairness. Nozick's entitlement theory of justice involves a certain (imo, flawed) conception of fairness (which, imo, necessitates a Rawlsian conception of fairness if Nozick wants to stay true to his word). A typical Libertarian would never see any action that denies an agent's self-ownership to be a fair act.
I meant fairness as in "justice" - in the individual level. In other words, what they think is fair ...

Further, I think you're just flat-out wrong! To complain that some choices are harsh or difficult to make is not just a moan or complaint about reality. It's also a way in which to ask others to shape the circumstances under which one has to make a choice.
Yeah, if they "ask" (which, implies an element of voluntariness) then that is fine. But freedom is being at liberty to choose between options.

I suspect many other Libertarians would disagree with the statement that it's right to allow people to murder or thieve. If you think that people should be allowed to murder or thieve, then we just have a fundamental jarring in our moral intuitions. I'll leave others to see which political stance they see as more desirable.
Yeah, if they "ask" (which, implies an element of voluntariness) then that is fine. But freedom is being at liberty to choose between options.

I think it was me who belittled the distinction between negative and positive rights?

Anyway, I don't see how the above is relevant. My use of 'negative liberty' was supposed to communicate the sorts of actions typically enveloped by people who use the term. Suffice it to say, when I say "negative liberty" people know sorts of liberties I mean, even if they disagree with the distinction.

For this purpose, the objection to the distinction between negative and positive liberty misses the point, because the Libertarian would judge the negative liberty that is preserved (e.g. to be free to roam without being murdered) to be superior to any other negative consequence that results.

As for rights - of course they require 'force' in order to enforce them, and the ability to manage labour to enforce the law necessarily exists within our economic system - so of course the State justice system is subject to trade-offs, scarcity, efficiency-concerns and economic reality. Yet the State is best-placed to organise a police force to fulfil its limited brief (namely, the prosecution of criminals) - demonstrably so, in fact! And if you start saying that a central, concrete and universal set of rights cannot exist for each citizen (because it can't be centrally enforced), then you're allowing anarchy to obtain (which means that a right not to be murdered is not guaranteed). If you think that's acceptable, then it's not me who needs to consider what realm of reality we're living on.
"A right not to be murdered is not guaranteed" in your system! Why is that?

I don't see why the government is poor at providing food for people, should be any better at providing a different economic good (namely, police). It's very strange thinking.
In any case, this would be an interesting conversation in a different thread.
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Lord Hysteria
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(Original post by py0alb)
You claimed above that the libertarian theories you espouse are based on the work of John Locke. I am claiming that in that case, you have misunderstood the work of John Locke. Michael Sandel agrees with me.

You are free to continue to express your libertarian views as you please and I will continue to roll my eyes. But to claim that it has a rigorous philosophical underpinning is disingenuous.
No. My whole thread is an utter criticism of John Locke. See here.
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(Original post by Lord Hysteria)
No. My whole thread is an utter criticism of John Locke. See here.
Well then you have completely contradicted yourself. Oops.
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Lord Hysteria
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(Original post by py0alb)
Well then you have completely contradicted yourself. Oops.
I contradiction myself? Explain ....
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py0alb
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(Original post by Lord Hysteria)
I contradiction myself? Explain ....
You are a libertarian, or at least espouse libertarian opinions.
You (incorrectly) claimed that the libertarian philosophy of private property is based on the work of John Locke.
You now claim that you are an utter critic of John Locke.

So you are a critic of the person you claim is the founder of the very philosophy you subscribe to.

This is a self-contradiction. Don't make me go through the tiresome hassle of quoting an example of each from this thread. It would be best if you simply admitted defeat and left TSR and all other forms of debating with immediate effect. jk.
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Lord Hysteria
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(Original post by py0alb)
You are a libertarian, or at least espouse libertarian opinions.
You (incorrectly) claimed that the libertarian philosophy of private property is based on the work of John Locke.
You now claim that you are an utter critic of John Locke.

So you are a critic of the person you claim is the founder of the very philosophy you subscribe to.

This is a self-contradiction. Don't make me go through the tiresome hassle of quoting an example of each from this thread. It would be best if you simply admitted defeat and left TSR and all other forms of debating with immediate effect. jk.
  1. Libertarianism is the normative philosophy of voluntary transaction;
  2. Libertarianism =/= John Locke (Locke is not, as I have never claimed, the "founder" of libertarianism)
  3. Geolibertarianism is based on the Lockean Proviso (Lockean Proviso being devised by Locke in his second treatise)
  4. I am criticising the Lockean Proviso

And I'm still waiting for you to actually explain the contradiction ... or are we not allowed to criticise the so-called "founder" now ...
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