Confessions Of A Bleeding-Heart Libertarian

A guest post from a self-described left-libertarian…have fun! 🙂

I’ve been going back and forth trying to think of an interesting “left-libertarian” post for Thoughts on Freedom. I describe my new blog, Civil Tongues Australia, as being in part dedicated to Left Libertarian political thought – but really, I’m no expert in this area.

Recently, on this blog, John Humphries wrote an interesting post about what might draw people to left-libertarian visions, and I thought in responding to that post, rather than taking a “foundational” approach and trying to define a left-libertarian theory I would instead write about what has drawn me, pragmatically, to “left” libertarian ideals.

Noam Chomsky, in a paper in the collection “Chomsky on Anarchism”, makes the distinction between ‘goals’ and ‘visions’.

Most people who identify with libertarianism share a fairly similar “vision”: that in order to flourish people must be free to pursue their life in a way that they see fit. No other person, or group of persons, has the right – or the ability – to tell them how to pursue their life or what their goals should be.

If we were omniscient beings who were planning communities, or revolutionaries who believed in wiping the slate clean, we may come up with fairly similar ways* of arranging society.

However, this is generally not our concern – instead, we seek to apply our libertarian principals within complex pre-existing societies. It is in these pragmatic goals that we tend to differ greatly.

In my case, although I would certainly fall on the “illegitimate authority ought to be eliminated if possible, whether it be corporate or government” side of the libertarian scale, I believe that libertarian ideals in the context of Australian/global society today also give a moral imperative to “left” rather than “right” libertarianism.

Can the libertarian in a modern society take as their highest goal the protection of property rights and the minimisation of government when so many of the resources and so much of our success in society is attached to historical (and in some cases continuing) repression of the rights and freedoms of others?

And when the success of a state is based on repression does not the state bear some obligation to redress the balance?

In my opinion, the libertarian cannot ignore the claims of those who have been repressed and continue to bear the burden of that repression. Furthermore, the libertarian cannot simply refuse to accept that the state should have a role in rectifying the problems that is has caused. To do so would undermine the very principles they seek to protect.

As I have said before on my blog, I’ve never really understood why libertarianism automatically leads to a desire for free-market capitalism above all else. For me, the desire should be for everyone to have free and fair opportunities to pursue their lives in the manner they see fit and have as much freedom from the domination of others as possible.

The left-libertarian, then, does not have an obligation to argue against all state intervention full stop, but to argue for a state that, when it does intervene, does so in a way that gives the power back to communities and individuals and allows multiple, flexible approaches that foster the creativity and problem-solving skills of the people they are affecting rather than simply imposing solutions from on high.

While our overall vision of the way society (or perhaps I should say ‘societies’) would certainly not include a big federal government down in Canberra running welfare programs, we cannot move forward without addressing the inequalities in liberty that are the legacy of our past. In order to be useful as well as just theoretically interesting libertarians must deal with the realities of the society they find themselves in.

*well, actually, when it comes to the various evils of power there would probably be quite a bit of disagreement about whether it is only state power that should be eliminated or whether power from corporations is an equal evil… but that’s another post.

236 thoughts on “Confessions Of A Bleeding-Heart Libertarian

  1. Libertarianism essentially results in strong civil liberties and free enterprise as goals or outcomes.

    Libertarianism is neither right or left wing.

  2. If righting past wrongs means giving back some land or paying one off compensation then I’m sympathetic. I agree with the Mabo decision and I think it got the balance right. However if righting past wrongs really just means a high taxing government that takes endlessly from those in society that are productive on some vague basis that they are living high on the proceeds of crime then I want none of it.

  3. There’s no such thing as left libertarian. It’s just another set of values that someone wants to impose.

    Libertarianism is about removing and preventing coercion, even when things are not “fair”. That’s all coercion, not just the bits you disagree with.

    And who, specifically, has been repressed and continue to bear the burden of that repression?

    And what makes you so sure you know what the right response should be?

  4. “While our overall vision of the way society (or perhaps I should say ‘societies’) would certainly not include a big federal government down in Canberra running welfare programs, we cannot move forward without addressing the inequalities in liberty that are the legacy of our past. In order to be useful as well as just theoretically interesting libertarians must deal with the realities of the society they find themselves in.”

    To the contrary, if you believe that the realities of society require libertarians to abandon libertarian theory (or classical liberal theory, anarchist theory etc)then you aren’t a real libertarian.

    It is precisely the issues most pressing in Australian politics and greater society that indicate how important it is that we look for solutions outside of government. It is the REALITY that the Australian government has consistently failed to mitigate the dire consequences of “inequalities in liberty that are the legacy of our past”. It is not in spite of freeing ourselves from the state that these inequalities can begin to be solved, we are perfectly capable of doing it ourselves without the intrinsically coercive band of bureaucrats calling the shots.

    Our government will always be a failure. There isn’t going to come a day any time soon when their MO- recycling and funnelling away the money that could actually be used to assist those truly in need- becomes effective.

  5. And to put that in context, I’m very sympathetic towards left-libertarianism generally. There’s just a huge difference between ‘left-libertarianism’ and ‘not libertarianism’.

    For an excellent example of the latter, read up on the social contract.

  6. Am I the only one who sees the irony in perpetuating the government under the notion that we must perpetuate it to right the wrongs that it has consistently enabled or even conducted? Governments have proven themselves consistently unable to perform in any moral fashion, why continue to buy into the pipe dream that we can solve problems only with other people’s money and livelihoods?

    If you have an issue with fundamental fairness in situations then do something about it with your own time, money and energy.

    Free market capitalism is supported because it has proven to be consistently the best method for allocating resources as well as providing the greatest degree of autonomy to individuals, that of ownership of their own property. All capitalism is is the ownership of one’s property and the right to do what one pleases with that property.

    There is nothing wrong with collective action on certain problems as long as individuals are participating voluntarily. This piece reads more as trite hand-wringing from a ‘social libertarian’ than anything really under the left-libertarian banner.

  7. Can the libertarian in a modern society take as their highest goal the protection of property rights and the minimisation of government when so many of the resources and so much of our success in society is attached to historical (and in some cases continuing) repression of the rights and freedoms of others?

    Well sorry, if you believe that then you really don’t believe in libertarianism and should stop using that belief system to suggest it somehow describes your own.

    The repression business is a leftist thing and you ought to simply accept the fact that you’re a leftist instead of pretending otherwise.

  8. Large populations of biologically self interested individual human beings can only exist collectively on a basis of voluntary implicit cooperation and clearly defined/understood/stable relationships/borders between physical stuff and individuals.

    Coexisting individual life is not possible mentally and physically without solid, predictable spheres of individual social autonomy coupled to the physical environment. This is how coexisting individuals can mentally plan and navigate the time continuum.

    “the desire should be for everyone to have free and fair opportunities”

    “Everyone” is an abstract word concept. The signifier that the sign “everyone” refers to is non present as an entity in reality. This word concept is in actuality referring to various billions of socially non-homogeneous self interested individuals in all manner of situations, interpersonal conflicts etc., experiencing and co experiencing their own social time continuum’s.

    “Free and fair opportunity” is a totally arbitrary, subjective emotional mental concept, therefore devoid of relevance to political norms self interested individuals use to orient their behavior with in coexistence with other self interested individuals in the time continuum.

    “Free market capitalism” is just an overall name we give to the social processes that we interpret as unfolding from the nature of individual self interest/ownership, an individuals specific orientation/connection with real world things visa vi other individuals (property rights), abstaining from coercive relations and attempting to interact voluntarily/contractually.

    Capitalism is not a present or future ‘thing’ or ideal state of material affairs, it’s just a name slapped on processes individuals seem to instinctively want to do un-coerced.

  9. When I’m not busy pretending to be a libertarian on the internet, I’m the founding member of an NGO dedicated to the cause of ensuring every Australian has their own speedboat. We’re gaining ground in our fight for the government to take action against the oppressive agenda that has caused the current restrictive social climate in the area of motorised water travel.

    We are tireless in our efforts because it’s common sense that real freedom means guaranteeing that ALL individuals are free to swiftly explore the expansive bodies of water that make Australia the truly “lucky country”.

  10. Stephen – just so you’re aware I have not received my speed boat yet. Could you hurry things along a little.

  11. Good points, Dan.

    I agree with Mark that libertarianism is neither right nor left wing. My views on property rights and the free market make some see me as of the right, but my anti-establishment and civil rights views tend not to go down well with law and order conservatives.

    While clearly there are differences among libertarians as to how their beliefs translate into real policies, and how the goal of a society founded on libertarian principles might be achieved, just as socialists and marxists disagree, I don’t see that you can be a libertarian if you wish to water down it’s most fundamental beliefs.

    “Most people who identify with libertarianism share a fairly similar “vision”: that in order to flourish people must be free to pursue their life in a way that they see fit. No other person, or group of persons, has the right – or the ability – to tell them how to pursue their life or what their goals should be.” My only quibble here is that it should read “all people” not “most people”.

    “although I would certainly fall on the “illegitimate authority ought to be eliminated if possible, whether it be corporate or government” side of the libertarian scale”

    I’d quibble with the “if possible” and then as: “what is at the other end of the scale? This, to me, is a core libertarian belief.

    “when it comes to the various evils of power there would probably be quite a bit of disagreement about whether it is only state power that should be eliminated or whether power from corporations is an equal evil”

    This point is fully covered by: “in order to flourish people must be free to pursue their life in a way that they see fit. No other person, or group of persons, has the right – or the ability – to tell them how to pursue their life or what their goals should be.”

    What the article does not tell me, is what it is “left libertarians” actually believe in, a list of core principles would be helpful.

  12. Apologies to the pedants for my atrocious use of an apostrophe in “it’s”. My only excuse is trying to type fast so that I can make my point before having to earn a crust, half of which kevvie will take off me to waste on whatever he sees fit. Now I’ve wasted another couple of minutes.

  13. “Can the libertarian in a modern society take as their highest goal the protection of property rights and the minimisation of government when so many of the resources and so much of our success in society is attached to historical (and in some cases continuing) repression of the rights and freedoms of others?”

    The utilitarian can’t. http://mises.org/books/egalitarianism.pdf “Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature”

    Ahh, forget the title for a second and skip to pg 89, Justice and Property Rights. Or you could also read some of the other chapters :p

  14. I have always embraced decentralism, and libertarianism is a direction towards this goal. Thus it is not left or right, but less government of any type.
    Whilst owning a speedboat would be nice, shouldn’t you be concentrating on making speedboats so cheap that people just want to buy them? The Ford approach, not the government habdout approach? And what would all those bush-dwellers do with their speedboats? Even the IPCC isn’t suggesting that Ayer’s Rock will become an island!

  15. Whoa, ok, a lot of comments here so I cant really respond to them all.

    For all the people who have said something along the lines of no the government is terrible and shouldn’t be allowed to do anything… that’s kind of not my point. That’s why i tried to make the point of pragmatism versus ideology. I agree that our government, and governments in general have done a very bad job of righting past wrongs- but, unless we are planning on a revolution any time soon then I think pragmatically we have to try and impose liberty-protecting principles on what we have right here and now. Particularly in a country like australia where libertarian ideas are not really in the mainstream like they are in the US.
    I’m not arguing that there SHOULD be big government, I’m saying “As we HAVE big government and we DON’T live in a libertarian society, or a society that was founded in a liberty-protecting way, what shall we do about it?”.
    The reality is that even the purest libertarians will compromise some elements of their theory to the practicalities of society.
    I mean, that’s kind of a big concern of libertarianism: reconciling some kind of society with individual rights, and best protecting those rights with the least imposition from laws and illegitimate authority. It has that conflict at its heart.
    I agree with mark hill though – libertarianism is neither left nor right wing essentially.

  16. Decentralism is the movement of some government to the regions. While this may be a good thing, it says nothing about the size of government. The trough could stay the same size, its just that you may personally know more of the people with their snouts in it.

    Libertarianism would take away the trough.

  17. Oh and “DavidLeyonhjelm”. I think Indigenous Australians are an example of a people whose basic liberties and right have been and continue to be repressed, and, at least that initial repression has been for the great benefit of the rest of the country. We are talking about a people who are only one generation out from being removed from their families, many of whom lived in missions with no control over their own lives and communities as recently as the 1980s. Our state imprisons Aboriginal people at a rate that is a terrible shame to our nation (they make up about 25% of the prison system but only 2.3% of the population http://www.hreoc.gov.au/Social_Justice/statistics/index.html#Heading34 ) now unless you believe that indigenous people are somehow inherently more criminal you have to admit that something is going terribly wrong there.

    And in response to your comment “And what makes you so sure you know what the right response should be?”. I would never presume to be sure that I know what the right response should be – all I’m saying is, that, if we are to live in THIS CURRENT society and we also value libertarian principles we must address this terrible and tragic clash in values and reality.

    My post was not intended to be something that had all the answers, merely to pose some questions.

    Also @DocBud: my “end of the scale” refers to the fact that many so-called “right-libertarians” have no real problem with corporate power over the individual.

  18. I reckon the role of libertarians is not to get involved in politics, but to call out all the bullshit they see around them. It’s the ultimate non-partisan stance in my opinion

  19. I like to see people explore these ideas, so I mean no disrespect when I say that this post was poorly reasoned.

    To start with, it repeats the old mistake that libertarians want to defend property rights. Wrong. Property rights will always exist in any system. The only question is whether they are transferred voluntarily or involuntarily.

    But more to the point, the author seems to endorse perpetual big government in the name of fixing previous big government mistakes. That either shows a freaky faith in government totally out of step with reality, or a belief that the best solution to poison is taking more poison.

    The reference to illegitimate business authority also raises questions. If I enter into a voluntary agreement to trade my labour for money… is that allowed? Or would the author prefer than an arbitrary and involuntary authority figure ban me from my voluntary choices? If I enter into a voluntary agreement to buy something from a business… is that allowed? Or would the author prefer an authority figure come and control my decisions?

    If both of those are allowed, then what’s the problem with business?

    (Oh… and you spelt my name wrong)

  20. @DocBud: “What the article does not tell me, is what it is “left libertarians” actually believe in, a list of core principles would be helpful.”

    Actually, I think the article makes that quite clear. The point of the article is that left-libertarians share the same principles but disagree in a number of pragmatic matters: how best to implement those principles and how to approximate them in the mean time.

  21. Amy said: I’m not arguing that there SHOULD be big government, I’m saying “As we HAVE big government and we DON’T live in a libertarian society, or a society that was founded in a liberty-protecting way, what shall we do about it?”.

    Well, for starters, Amy. One should ask of each policy, as Rothbard suggested, “does this policy increase or decrease liberty?” Libertarians would only support policies that increase liberty.

    Realistically the entire government is not going to be swept into the ocean overnight (except in my dreams, but in the morning it’s back again), but libertarians can still keep asking “do we need this many representatives?” Whether a country the size of Australia needs federal, state and local politicians is a legitimate debate. I think libertarians should be putting the idea of losing a tier of government, with cost savings, more into the public domain. “Do you want Anna or Nathan or an extra $5000 in your pocket” might make people sit up and listen.

  22. I have to disagree, Michael. Although Amy claims that “It is in these pragmatic goals that we tend to differ greatly”, the statement “I believe that libertarian ideals in the context of Australian/global society today also give a moral imperative to “left” rather than “right” libertarianism” with its talk of moral imperatives implies a far more fundamental division.

  23. Ok. Just to be quick – If I was setting up the ideal “left-libertarian” society it would be small, decentralised communities that have a variety of businesses that there are no structural impediments to people being involved with them. There would be some worker-run collectives, some sole traders etc etc. There wouldn’t be say, one big company that controlled all the water and natural resources, for example, because then those running that company would have illegitimate power over the people. There would be safegaurds in place to try to protect pure competition and stop big corporations from having too much control.

    When I set up this wonderful society people would all start on an even keel financially and have all the same access to various education etc opportunities. I imagine that, because they are relatively small, self-governing communities, people would be willing to co-operate and so there would likely be a safety net for, say, any disabled people who are born into those communities unable to support themselves.

    (Please note: the reason that I didn’t set out to write a “this is my ideal society” piece is because I knew it would be flooded with “what makes you so sure you know what’s best” comments… but it appears that I’m going to get that anyway.)

    My good left-libertarian community would have a “right of exit” and would co-exist near other communities that weren’t neccessarily libertarian so that if people decided that they didn’t want to live in a libertarian community they could leave.

    And yes, this raises all sorts of questions like “what happens if the people decide to sell all the water and natural resources to the company” just the same as any libertarian will have to deal with the question of “what happens if a libertarian decides to sell their rights to freedom to another” etc or the million other such situations like that that could arise. Personally, I’m not so worried about that because I cant see that free, informed people would chose to do that – BUT i think a libertarian has to accept the possibility that they could and that would have to be accepted.

    In response to John Humphrey’s comment about fixing past wrongs (I’m sorry I spelt your name wrong) – it’s not fair to equate my response to the CURRENT problems with society with what I think an IDEAL society would be.

    OF COURSE I don’t think drinking poison is the BEST way to cure poison, but I also dont think that doing NOTHING is the best way to cure poison, and I think as libertarians who ALL participate in and comment on current australian politics we have to acknowledge that.

    It’s really easy to sit around in our reasonably paid jobs, supported by our government funded education and health care and unbringings that involved parents who also had jobs and government-funded education and say “well I’d be fine if we just abolished taxes now and stopped the government intervening in anything ever”. Of course WE would be fine, but it’s hardly a libertarian playing field that we are on.

    LOOK, it was a 500 word piece so it’s not going to have all the answers to all your criticisms. I hope I wasn’t just asked to post here in order to be a fun punching bag for the day.

  24. Amy,

    Anyone who has “no real problem with corporate power over the individual” would, in my book, not be a libertarian by definition. But we have to be talking about real power, e.g. the right to confiscate an individual’s land, not imagined power, e.g. the power of advertising which presumes people are idiots unable to make free choices.

  25. @DocBud
    What about, say, when a corporation buys all of a country’s natural water resources? Should they have the right to do that? I’m talking about that kind of stuff – of course I agree with you that things like banning advertising are a different kettle of fish all together and assume that people have no free minds…
    Ok, I really need to do some work now

  26. DocBud, I call my current political beliefs, Xcentralism, and I see no reason to stop downsizing governments. The “X” can stand for any swearword you want, or it can mean exterminate. The first rank of power in my system would be owners of property, then local governments, then conferences of local governments for non-local matters, etc.

  27. “What about, say, when a corporation buys all of a country’s natural water resources? Should they have the right to do that?”

    Should the Government have rights to compulsory acquisition and to sell off such resources?

  28. Amy, you can’t actually buy ALL the water resources, because rain can fall anywhere, even in desert countries. I know that Bolivia had some trouble along these lines, and it was incorporated into a Bond movie (Quantum of Solace), but wasn’t the government originally at fault, for selling those ‘rights’?

  29. Amy – I don’t know who asked you to post here but please don’t assume that disagreement is intended as a personal insult. The questions you pose are questions that many people have. Answering them effectively is a healthy challenge. I’d happily have polite communists and socialists posting here as long as it was on the topic of freedom.

    In terms of poison I wouldn’t dismiss the drinking of poison as a concept too quickly. We use fire to fight fire all the time. We use vaccines to fight viruses, and vaccines are weak forms of the virus. And some poisons in low quantity are medicinal. Personally I think small government is better than no government. Government is in my view a necessary evil.

    In the modern world I think having a government is a good way to keep out foreign governments. Yes it is a big problem that the game keeper so quickly turns poacher but every solution has it’s challenges. There are many mechanisms that can be institutionalised to constrain the growth of small governments. We have not yet found a proven institutional mechanism to shrink big governments back down again (kind of like a computer reboot mechanism) but I suspect we could think of a few (as opposed to easily implementing them). In terms of shrinking the relative size of government Colorado has had good success in recent years with TABOR.

  30. @TerjeP
    Hi yes sorry to be defensive it was just a bit of a shock to get to the site and see a heap of personal attacks (trite hand wringing etc) as I wasn’t really expecting that.
    It’s an interesting point you make about poison, i hadn’t really thought of it like that before.
    You are right that the problem of shrinking government back down is difficult – two guiding things for me are when you first implement a law/policy that needs government intervention the first thing to do would be to ask “do we need to do it this way (ie through the government)?” and then “how can we transition OUT of this government intervention when our need for it is over?” Sometimes people/governments have a tendency to just keep adding new layers of government to solve problems but have no “escape plan” to get rid of the layers that have become unnecessary.

  31. Amy – I’d suggest that any legislation that lacks a sunset clause (say 25 years or less) ought to require a parliamentary supermajority (say 75%) whilst laws with such a sunset clause could be passed on simple majority (51%). The LDP have such a constitutional reform as a policy.

    The EU isn’t the most popular of institutions amoungst libertarians due in no small part to it’s obsession with standards for everything from beer to socks, but it is a good example of institutionalised super majority voting. For instance under the EU constitution to be (Lisborn treaty) the EU can’t pass laws that levy taxes on the people unless every single EU nation agrees.

    Another rest option is offered by the concept of charter cities. The Californian constitution allows cities to charter and escape dumb state laws. Although I’d argue for a stronger form of the concept.

  32. Yes I think “escape clauses” are a really important way of starting to shift the balance of power towards smaller communities and small governments – there’s a tendency in australia at the moment for people to suggest that we have “too much” government and so we should abolish councils etc. I would argue that that is the wrong way to go about limiting government power (although councils need to be massively reformed and need to have all those corrupt Labor party counsellors weeded out)!
    I like the supermajority idea. I’d be interested to hear your ideas about constitutional limits?

  33. John, I think your idea regarding the voluntary/ involuntary transfer of ownership rights is on the money in theory. But there is always involuntary transfer in real life. So in effect there will always be an aspect of protecting your property rights.

    Also what exactly defines coercion? Take the example of the duopoly in supermarkets who used their positions to exclude other entrants. They have freely entered (well that’s up for debate) with the mall operators. But does that not mean there is coercion against the smaller newer IGA who are being involuntarily prevented from transferring ownership.
    http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/893478

    First time poster long time listener so be gentle 😉

  34. Borris – Craig Emerson is part blaming local government zoning laws for enabling the duopoly in supermarkets. I think this may contain a grain of truth.

    Where I live we have loads of cheap vegtable, bread, fish and meat outlets. Multiple numbers of each all within a 100 metre radius. The prices are fantastic. A slab of steak can be had for half the price of Woolies. We also have a Franklins and a Woolworths and they seem to struggle. Target closed down because the competition from small retailers was fierce.

    I suspect that in our case there may also be a cultural aspect. Most of the clients and most of the shop keepers are asian.

  35. Considering IGA has been operating since 1926, and has over 4,000 supermarkets in 45 countries, I don’t think we can really refer to it as smaller and newer…

  36. DocBud, I don’t see why talk of imperatives implies talk of principles. The imperatives amy was discussing were pragmatic ones. In other words they are what *ought* to be done given that we find ourselves in this particular situation.

    A theory of what the perfect world would be is one thing but it does not trivially imply how to achieve that world.

    Amy is arguing that left libertarians think that in order to institute libertarian principles, we must do a bunch of things first. My understanding is that her argument means that the difference between left and right libertarianism is in how we think we should achieve a libertarian world.

  37. “Amy is arguing that left libertarians think that in order to institute libertarian principles, we must do a bunch of things first”

    Persuasion through persistent rational demonstration of moral and economic logic in theory and historical practice is the beginning and end. There is no other way then rationally debunking the twisted irrational ‘logic’ deluding people into belief in authoritarian manipulation of society.

  38. I see a degree of sanity in the idea that some form of compensation should be given before the establishment of true libertarianism. I suspect that a lot of this could be done through the courts (although I don’t know how much this would achieve – suing to recoup losses incurred by taxation would be an interesting, but fruitless experiment to say the least!).

    So, there’s a case for that. However, the slow march of libertarian reforms would surely be a better way to do this, allowing adjustment to occur gradually without causing any major dislocations.

    Allowing governments to decide who is oppressed and therefore who needs compensation and also the value of that compensation, well, no libertarian, left or right, could ever want that.

  39. Persuasion through persistent rational demonstration of moral and economic logic in theory and historical practice is the beginning and end.

    Sure, human history is replete with the story of how rational demonstration of moral and economic logic will prevail. After all, look at economics, despite hundreds of years of “rational demonstration” they are still arguing like a bunch of drunk gallahs. Good luck with that strategy.

  40. JohnH

    The US Constitution is an example of rational demonstration. The breakdown of the Berlin wall is an example of rational demonstration. There’s lots of examples.

  41. In relation to “economic logic” JC? Where has that won the day when so many libertarians cry themselves to sleep at night over the prevalence of Keynes’ ideas?

    As for a rational demonstration of morals, there are so many difficulties there I just don’t even want to think about it.

  42. Amy… I’m sorry about the personal abuse. I try to edit out the nasty stuff, but don’t always have time. Let me know if there’s something in particular that worries you.

    You still spelt my name wrong. 🙂

  43. “After all, look at economics, despite hundreds of years of “rational demonstration” they are still arguing like a bunch of drunk gallahs. Good luck with that strategy.”

    Oh well, one can’t know if and when the Berlin Wall of statist/interventionist establishment academia will fall. That’s something exiting to look forward to though.

  44. Sorry Damian but that bloody wall is getting bigger by the day and whose gonna say, “Tear that wall down!”

  45. Amy just FYI, Australia has a much higher rate of imprisonment of aboriginals than any other race, because aboriginals commit crimes at a much higher rate than any other race.

    Or are you arguing that we should have a different set of laws for Aboriginals?

    I don’t see why Australians should feel any shame for upholding the laws of Australia. The people who should feel ashamed are the criminals who commit violent crimes and end up in prison.

  46. Yobbo is right. However the fact that aborigines commit crimes at such a high rate is indicative of something being quite wrong unless you think it’s genetic (which I don’t). I’d suggest that some of the things that are wrong include public housing, welfare, communal home ownership, wage regulation and a lack of law and order. Discriminatory attitudes from the wider community don’t help but are pretty unavoidable given the level of criminality in some areas. Isolated communities have extra difficulties.

    Some basic reforms that would help would be to abolish the minimum wage or set it at the local or enterprise level instead (Sweden does the latter). We ought to increase the tax free threshold to at least $30,000 so that somebody working full time on the current minimum wage has a marginal tax rate of zero. And we ought to tidy up welfare to deal with the high EMTRs.

    Privatise public housing. Encourage 99 year leases on aboriginal communal lands for dwellings such as houses and schools. You could achieve the same thing without leases if the lands were not subject to inaliable title.

    These are all libertarian leaning ideas. However they are all things that a centrist government could get away with.

  47. p.s. If you want to give small enterprises a cost advantage over larger enterprises and create jobs in the process you could abolish the minimum wage for businesses that employ less than 20 people.

  48. Michael (@36),

    Amy talks about moral imperatives, not imperatives. A moral imperative is something that is arrived at by rational argument and that once established, compels the individual to act. Amy clearly implied, as is her right, that she feels morally obliged to adopt left rather than right libertarian ideas. This suggests to me a fundamental difference in the two. Minor differences can be dealt with by choosing one option over another, but Amy is saying that for her to choose right libertarianism would place her in a moral quandary.

    I personally don’t believe I think in terms of left or right libertarianism, just libertarianism, and I believe pragmatic policies can be devised from that stance. I’m fascinated by what beliefs would cause someone to describe themselves as being a left or right libertarian rather than simply a libertarian.

  49. TerjeP,

    Why would one want to give small enterprises a cost advantage? I’d rather just abolish the minimum wage. One of the silliest aspects of the minimum wage in Queensland (and possibly other states) is that it varies for age. Superficially that may make some sense, but what it means in practice is that some jobs are just not available for those over 20.

  50. DocBud,

    I’m not saying that the differences are minor but that they are ones of pragmatics and not principles. I do not disagree with your definition of moral imperatives but that does not rule out the fact that one can, as you say, be “morally obliged” to do certain things *given* the realities of the situation. ie. There are moral imperatives that are true as a result of the situation we find ourselves in. (In fact, most philosophers accept that there is no such thing as a moral imperative free of all context.)

    I suspect that the disagreement between you and Amy is merely terminological. You are using the term “imperative” to mean something roughly synonymous with “principle” where she just means it as something more like “normative constraint” – what one *ought* to do.

    Beyond that, I wouldn’t call the differences “minor” but they are pragmatic. (In fact, I think that the pragmatic questions are by far the hardest.)

  51. Michael,

    I agree with your last point. “Butt the hell out of my life and leave me alone” is simple as a principle. Putting it into practice in the modern world is complex and we can only hope for a steady increase in liberty over time. However, I still don’t understand what the differences are. Does anyone define themselves as being right libertarian or are they labeled as such?

  52. DocBud,

    My understanding of the debate is such that left-libertarianism is a critique of the pragmatics of mainstream libertarianism. So, put in your terms, I think that perhaps nobody labels themselves “right-libertarian” but it is used to distinguish the collection of views a lot of people here defend from the sort that Amy defends.

    You ask what the difference is. Well, in more concrete terms, as Amy argues, one left libertarian idea is that increasing liberty is more complicated than merely removing governmental interference. Perhaps doing so would merely exacerbate the domination experienced by many individuals.

  53. Pingback: On Left-Libertarianism « The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC

  54. I think this post could be written more objectively. The principles of left libertarianism are not well defined and are vague. I don’t really know what the point of this post is apart from that we feel bad about people that suffer.

    The author implies that theory and practise must necessarily be in conflict and implies that there are occasions for breaching property rights?
    I assume the non-initiation of force principle is out the door then? I’m certainly not convinced.

    Also, the author seems to think that there is a group of “left-libertarians”, all with the same philosophy by refering to a collective, “our”.
    This post itself shows how philosophically and ideologically varied libertarians are so why am I now to believe that “left libertarians” have a coherent set of principles or a defined philosophy.

    I’m sorry but I can’t see anything of interest to ethical theory or political theory in this post. Certainly nothing new.

    To finish on an epistemological disagreement with the author, I think principled is practical. Pragmatic despite its name isn’t practical.

    Amy I think you are ignoring the facts of the human animal and reality eg/ “even keel financially”. WTF! I didn’t read every comment but your ideal society is very scary and certinaly doesn’t represent freedom. This sounds like egalitarianism, not freedom.

    And OK, it appears Amy and the author are the same person right?

  55. @Tim R

    What do you mean objectively? My purpose in writing the post was to give an opinion/perspective.

    I also explicitly state that “I’m not an expert” and “rather than taking a “foundational” approach and trying to define a left-libertarian theory I would instead write about what has drawn me, pragmatically, to “left” libertarian ideals.”

    This is partially because I didn’t want to be attacked for trying to define what “left”-libertarianism is – as it is clear from all the responses here that libertarianism means different things to different people.

    And “WTF” yourself! What does “I think you are ignoring the facts of the human animal and reality” even mean??

    So you think that it is justified to to start a libertarian society with unfair initial distribution of resources? How could it “represent freedom” as you say if you found a society with some people already having significant economic power over others before they have even had a chance to make any choices about what they want to do with their lives.

    I see nothing “of interest to ethical theory or political theory” in your response.

  56. I do think Amy does raise an interesting point, in that if we magically wave a wand and get a minachist state tomorrow, then there will be some structural problems in the outcome, with the fact that the State has created various imbalances of power that if the state was immediately removed, would lead to outcomes that many of us might not feel appropriate. So I don’t think these concerns in and of themselves are unjustified…

  57. This ties into the post we had a few days ago about after the great libertarian revolution the Nuremburg trials for the collaborators and enablers of the state. Effectively everyone who has assets now got them by working within the statist system. Collaboration at the expense of others.

    However, short of a Year Zero solution, we’re stuck with it in some way. So to use the state to redress the wrongs or not? Personally, if redress is needed, I’d just take the shackles off from the bottom up, and give the disadvantaged a head start. And expect that our emerging civil society will do a better job at redressing the injustice then the state ever could.

  58. @Michael
    Well, for example, I think an unfair distribution of resources on which to found a libertarian “state” would be one in which one group (such as men for example) had more property than another group (women) simply by nature of the fact of an arbitrary historical power.

    I think if a group of people were to start a libertarian state then they would come up with themselves how to distribute resources (and I don’t think it would necessarily be equally – for example some people may say “I want to be a farmer and so I need more land than others who want to be bootmakers” and that may be fair enough as long as there was cooperation and negotiation) but if the majority of people said “we want more land because we are more powerful than you and we chose that if you want to survive then you can work on our land” then you couldn’t really say that was a libertarain society.

  59. “Well, for example, I think an unfair distribution of resources on which to found a libertarian “state” would be one in which one group (such as men for example) had more property than another group (women) simply by nature of the fact of an arbitrary historical power.”

    This is a can of worms. What if men work harder? What if property is left to men even tough women are legally able to acquire it?

    If you make these decisions, you’re just going to be another arbitrary historical power sooner or later.

    You’re not even talking about justice e.g., Aboriginal land rights, you’re talking about perceived unfairness, no matter the circumstances.

    ““we want more land because we are more powerful than you and we chose that if you want to survive then you can work on our land” then you couldn’t really say that was a libertarain society.”

    No, it would be feudal to industrial revolution Europe.

  60. @Mark Hill
    I said “on which to found” ei INITIAL distribution. I didn’t say “redistribution”! Of course some people are going to end up with unequal property after initial distribution.

    I think my comment was perfectly applicable to aboriginal land rights- ie you cant just come into a pre-existing society and found a libertarian society that oppresses the original owners because you have all the guns.

  61. Imbalances in wealth are inevitable and “correcting” for them would require massive government action well beyond what occurs in the most socialist of democracies today. So it seems to me that “left libertarian” entails a near totalitarian socilaist phase before shifting to the libertarian phase. I think that such a transition is so risky and unjust that it should the idea should be dismissed.

    If on the other hand “left libertarianism” just says we should consider how we sequence liberalisation then I’m sympathetic. If you want to increase the tax free threshold before cutting the top tax rate then fine by me. If you want to exempt small businesses from minimum wage laws before big businesses then okay. If you want to cut computer tariffs before car tariffs then I’ll wear it. Transition issues are relevant and fruitful areas for discussion.

  62. “I think my comment was perfectly applicable to aboriginal land rights- ie you cant just come into a pre-existing society and found a libertarian society that oppresses the original owners because you have all the guns.”

    That wouldn’t be a libertarian society, like you said before.

  63. @Terje – “So it seems to me that “left libertarian” entails a near totalitarian socilaist phase before shifting to the libertarian phase” Nail on the head, I think…

  64. I don’t think that an fair initial distribution requires totalitarian socialism – i think that people committed to establishing a society and deliberating about how it would work would agree to something along those lines – it’s not like it would be imposed by the government (or god)!

  65. Amy IMO, you still need to flesh out your theories better.

    Obviously a transition period would be required to achieve genuine capitalism and property rights in society. I can’t comment on the best way to achieve say a transition to no income tax in Australia for example. I don’t even think it’s a worthwhile discussing this type of thing in minute details considering how unpopular freedom is in our culture.
    However, noting practical problems is not the same thing as saying that two wrongs make a right which is what your ideas amount to IMO.

    You seem to be saying in a round about way that governments have historically acted badly via initating force, therefore a government must again initiate force to fix the original problem. But this doesn’t follow (non-sequitor) unless you can explain why.
    To me this is contradictory. Usually when an idea contains a contradiction, this means the idea is false, or it’s not fundamental to the topic.
    In reality a society means a whole lot of individuals, not a collective. Government force means force against certain individuals. A government cannot rectify previous injustices to certain individuals by further penalising innocent individuals and enacting more injustices that would again need fixing. This would be an infinite regress – another indication of an idea being false.

    You are talking about ideas such as moral obligations, conditions for property rights violations by the state, theory-practise dichotomies as being unavoidable in political theory. These are big complex issues and I don’t see any justification for these opinions in the post, only assertions.

    Personally, I don’t believe I have any moral obligation to strangers simply because we’re both people and happened to be alive at the same point in history. I don’t think they have any moral obligation to me either. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t help people out, afterall I value division of labour society and people generally and I’m a highly social animal, but I wouldn’t do it because I believed it was a moral duty.
    I believe property rights are almost as fundamental as you can get in political theory and exceptions are highly rare (generally involving the state response to criminal behaviour).
    I think an identification of a false theory is exactly that, not an indication that theories per se are necessarily flawed simply because they originate in the realm of conceptual thought.

    This is an example of the type of comment that I can’t get any meaning out of: “but to argue for a state that, when it does intervene, does so in a way that gives the power back to communities and individuals and allows multiple, flexible approaches that foster the creativity and problem-solving skills of the people they are affecting rather than simply imposing solutions from on high”

    In regards to my WTF exclamation mark (I apologise for coming across as being rude):
    At comment #23 you state “all people would start on an even keel financially”.
    Proper political principles should be derived by inductive methods in the same way as a proper physical sciences principles IMO. I think ideals are very useful and important because we must conceptualise and generalise – that’s how our mind’s operate. But our concepts from basic principles to higher level ideas must still be consistent to the facts of reality. When I said “I think you are ignoring the facts of reality” I was thinking thoughts such as:
    But humans often leave their inheritences to their children. Without inheritences humanity and productivity would have been severely held back. So why then should anyone be on an “even keel financially”?
    In addition, humans are born with different genetic make ups, in different locations, different parents, different cultures and they have different personal values and goals (some value material prosperity more than others). When I see someone talking about equality, alarm bells go off in my head. Equality is not freedom, it’s not based on reality and it’s impossible anyway. This indicates a false ideal – but as I said, not that ideals themselves must be false.

    I see collectivist ethics and pragmatist epistemology in this article. They are very common positions in our culture, but like Objectivists and many others I think these approaches are mistaken.

    Anyway Amy, I apologise if I was rude, but I think our ideas of freedom are probably very different and I can’t see any reason why I should bother looking into “left-libertarianism”.

  66. @Tim R

    Thank you for your more considered tone – I think part of the problem here is that you are confusing my original post with my another comment i made (the other part of the problem being that we don’t agree).

    Your comment about inheritance is not really applicable because in my comment about founding a libertarian state I was simply talking about if, say, 100 people came together to a knew land and said “ok we are going to found a libertarian society – what shall it look like?” I think that you would have to start with fair initial distribution. I am not talking about inheritance, the future of the state or anything like that.

    In regards to your other comments, if you think that transitioning from current to australian society to a libertarian society would not require any kind of fix for the problem of historical inequality that currently exists then here we have a genuine point of disagreement.

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment, in australia we 25% of the prison population is aboriginal but only 2.3% of the general population. Now unless you happen to think that indigenous people are inherently criminal (I don’t) then I presumably just transitioning to a libertarian state with only property rights and some police to enforce them is most likely only going to make that problem worse and as such is not respecting each individual’s rights to freedom because there is clearly a very serious arbitrary power imbalance that you are importing into the new society.

    Now maybe you don’t mind importing those kind of power imbalances into a libertarian society – but I don’t think that is really very libertarian (after all libertarianism is a theory of how society should be organised for to protect the liberty of all people) and I don’t see why that should be the assumption and my idea is the one needing defence. Especially since you would be the one going into that society with all the advantages of having lived a successful life in a non-libertarian society (education, middle class welfare etc).

  67. Transition to more liberty is a very long run multi-generational process. It’s a transformation of the mind to less and less authoritarian reverence, which then drives peoples actions in reality. This process can not be predicted or politically micromanaged.

    “Now maybe you don’t mind importing those kind of power imbalances into a libertarian society”

    You need to import the concept of time and reality. The snapshot material state of affairs at present(the “power imbalances”) are transitory artifact that will naturally mutate over time anyway in tandem with peoples philosophical beliefs.

    Being preoccupied in the now with a collective attempt at planning as one imagined social collective entity to redress the endless array of moral wrongs committed in the past by INDIVIDUALS manifest in the present material state of affairs is INSANITY.

  68. Left-libertarian seems to be as much about respecting autonomy of the individual as it is about respecting the freedom of the individual. Freedom is reasonably straight forward, it is about non-violence, non-coercion. Autonomy on the other-hand is about empowerment of the individual so that they have a maximally available number of rationally reasoned choices.

    In feminist theory it isn’t enough that women consent to being subservient housewives, “freedom” (read: autonomy) means empowering women to realise that situation isn’t desirable. It is about the prevention of voluntary slavery.

    Chomsky refers to wage-slavery to describe the corporate capitalist environment most of us find ourselves in. Most employees are making voluntary choices that grant excessive power to their employers. A left-libertarian isn’t just interested in abolition of STATE power, but all power imbalances. It’s about preventing individuals from ceding their autonomy to another.

    Personally I think the state’s role should be limited to protecting freedom and regulating the acceptable use of force. I think a state trying to promote autonomy would end up restricting freedom too severely. But I also think that autonomy is an important value that we need to work towards within social institutions.

    I’m a right libertarian politically, but I believe left libertarian ideals are of value socially.

    As for aboriginal incarceration do we really want to continue treating racial groups as distinct or do we want to focus on the problems individuals face? Just some food for thought, Amy. If 25% of a group of 200,000 people face a problem why don’t we instead look at the 50,000 individual cases instead of trying to make generalisations? Aren’t generalisations and “in-group”/ “out-group” distinctions what cause a lot of the problems in society in the first place?

  69. Shem,

    What is a “subservient housewife”? How does a couple deciding together how to best manage their affairs result in one of them becoming a “voluntary slave”?

    I’d have thought all libertarians (unless they are followers of Nozick) believe that you cannot cede your autonomy (i.e. your self) to another. I do not believe that most employees choose to “grant excessive power to their employers”. I think the majority of people are capable of deciding at what rate and under what conditions they are prepared to sell their labour to and employer.

  70. No I don’t mind at all, I certainly don’t think equality (except in the sense of equal legal rights) is a fundamental aim of freedom as explained previously.

    Regarding Aboriginals, I think they have a more primitive culture, I think welfare has been harmful to Aboriginals, and legislated racism both for and against Aboriginals over many years has harmed many Aboriginal people. I disagree with any collective based legislation. I think individual rights protections are the optimal approach to legislation eg/ contract law, property rights, privacy, free speech, etc.
    Why should I be subjected to government force in order to fix something I had no role in? That’s injustice. History is unfortunately full of massive injustices and destruction of human life. It’s depressing I know. However affirmative action (which I’m worried that people like you would support) is simply more injustice. It’s also usually harmful because it doesn’t address the basic requirements for human productivity and independence, and of course it is necessarily racist by applying collective legislation to individual people.

    I’m not “advantaged” in any way by living in a less free society. That’s a total fallacy, reminds me of Lenin’s demonstrably false imperialism nonsense. The poor and the rich are also disadvantaged compared to what they could achieve in a free society. For the large majority of people, more has been forcibly taken from them than they have received back and for those where this isn’t true, I still think they are disadvantaged compared to a free society.
    Under statism, everyone suffers depending on the extent of state control. Even the political leaders are not safisfied in the long term as the society they depend on fails to meet its potential. Even a megalomaniac dictator does not achieve the type of power he desires and never satisfies his neurosis.
    Another eg/ There’s a motivational: “Slavery, it gets shit done” under a picture of the pyramids. However, in reality slavery is destructive to productivity overall as you have removed so many functioning minds from the society. You can also see the poor results in high slavery societies.
    There’s no pie or finite resources. This fallacy ignores human creativity and entrepreneurship. Resources and material goods require the human mind at all levels: to be invented (science/technology), created and developed (engineering/manufacturing) and distributed (business/trade). Freedom means having the ability to act on one’s thoughts and decisions – hence the focus on property rights. As humans tend to care about their survival and because humans require resources to live, humans will therefore tend to think about how to extract and develop resources. But thinking about what you can’t do is useless. The more freedom, the more resources.
    eg/ Venuzuala’s oil production is dropping since nationalization – but resources and labour volumes didn’t change at least initially. What they lost was knowledge – the essential part of the equation. Even the simplest resources require the human mind eg/ What water can I drink? Some resources aren’t even resources until identified as such by the human mind eg/ oil was far less useful 500 years ago.

    No one has “power” over me unless they use force.
    (I get the impression that you think big business has power over you or has somehow taken resources from you).
    Only the government has the right to use force, so apart from crime gangs I am totally unconcerned about any so-called “power” from any organisation other than government.
    The sooner and faster governments can be corrected to stop initiating force the better.
    And as with my previous comment, I don’t see any need for more (or a different type of) government force to stop the force. That’s a contradiction and an infinite regress.

    The freer the market, the more likely an underperforming business will simply go away. Economists would say something like “the market seeks to nullify profits”. In more capitalist times, bankruptcies were common and inheritances were lost more easily than today.

    No one here is arguing that a transition period to less government is most likely necessary. But that doesn’t imply any need for a different set of “left libertarian” principles and it doesn’t imply that it’s now OK for the government to initiate more force or different types of force. It doesn’t imply a collectivist approach to legislation. It doesn’t imply a theory-practise dichotomy.
    If someone has been wronged, stolen from, defrauded, defamed, etc by the state they could sue individually. However in reality that won’t happen much because there won’t be anything left to sue. I know I’m never going to see the money stolen from me by the government ever again because they’ve already spent it! In fact, our country is something like 14 billion in debt just from the last fiscal year of government.

    Oh, I did agree with one thing you said. If you founded a new society say on the moon, I think you’d need some controlled distribution of land.

  71. DocBud- look around you. You might feel you are entirely in control of your life and the decisions you make but do you REALLY honestly believe people around you are just as capable?

    I think the vast majority of people allow themselves to be screwed over. They are not fully autonomous. They are conditioned by peer pressure. Conditioned by social values. Conditioned by norms of “in-groups” and “out-groups”.

    Things have improved, largely thanks to leftist movements such as feminism. But are you trying to tell me that a woman pre-1960s really had a choice in how to arrange household affairs equal to the husband? Are you trying to tell me that it’s just a coincidence that men were the workers and women did the housework in pre-1960s society? There was no power imbalance that needed to be rectified?

    I already said that I don’t believe the state is a solution to such problems. But surely no right-libertarian can say such a situation is just. Women pre-1960s were not free and it had very little to do with the law. Women today have full legal freedom yet are still not as free as men. Autonomy is just as important- people need to be free not just from violence, but free to do pursue the ends of their own lives, too. Self-determination and self-directedness are every bit as important as freedom from violence.

    I’m a libertarian, but first I think I’m a philosopher. I’m not going to blindly believe in the non-violence axiom for its own sake. We need to justify WHY non-violence is so important. Rand did this in Objectivism by critiquing the entirety of collectivism. But if we accept Objectivism we also need to look at corporations and other organisations that group collectively to increase their power over individuals. The agglomeration of power into groups is dangerous for individual sovereignty- a group will always have more buying power, more brain power, more persuasive power than individuals. That is why employers- especially corporations- have so much power over their employees. Power is arranged in cartels- economic, political, social, religious. I think as libertarians we need to be skeptical of all power cartels, not just political ones and not just violent ones.

    In my opinion there’s far more to political philosophy and liberalism than just smaller government. We need to look beyond government to other social institutions. Smaller government is only the beginning.

  72. I think the vast majority of people allow themselves to be screwed over. They are not fully autonomous. They are conditioned by peer pressure. Conditioned by social values. Conditioned by norms of “in-groups” and “out-groups”.

    Well said. You’ve touched upon a fundamental issue that is very difficult to address. To some extent we are all subject to “conditioning”. The current emphasis tends to be that the locus of cause of behavior lies in the individual, with a subsequent under recognition of a host of environmental, genetic, developmental, and sociological and political issues that can impact on peoples’ behavior. While it is true we cannot measure these impacts with respect to any given individual, it is also true we can make some reasonably educated guesses regarding their impact across groups of individuals of varying sizes.

    There is an emerging body of research that can allow greater exploration of these issues. It’s rather embryonic though and difficult to study. Lots of work. I keep avoiding it. It scares me. But for those who are interested in models and ideas about society I think it is becoming increasingly imperative that they familiarize themselves with this literature.

  73. Shem,

    Various levels of capability are a fact of life, but I still believe that you have to take as your starting point that people are grown adults and respect their right to make their choices, good or bad.

    Pre-1960s is ancient history, women in modern western democracies can do whatever they choose. Non-violence is important because it involves violating another person’s rights, which libertarians are, by definition opposed to.

    Things have improved largely because of economic growth and education.

    When you talk about groups having more brain power, I assume you are excluding unions (e.g. the CFMEU which would rather stand up for its political masters’ ETS than fight for its members jobs). Noone is forced to work for anyone else, if you don’t like your employer you can resign. And if you don’t like working for someone else, then set up your own business. There is no educational impediment to setting up your own business.

  74. I still believe that you have to take as your starting point that people are grown adults and respect their right to make their choices, good or bad.

    DocBud- I believe the government needs to take that as a starting point. I don’t believe as an individual I have to. Nor do I believe non-violence community groups have to. I fully support the work gambling addiction groups, for example, do in pointing out that a lot of adults make bad, irrational choices. I fully support feminists that point out ongoing social (not legal) discrimination against women that results in lower wages.

    I agree that economic growth is great, as is education but I believe education has been made universal partially through state coercion. Dicken’s industrial age Britain was an improvement over agrarian society, but I think a lot of positive reform into the modern age was potentially the result of government intervention. The Workhouse Acts that tried to stymie child labour, etc. I think this is what Amy means when she says that government intervention has had some positive effects.

    I’m not saying that the positive effects of government justify its existence, just that one needs to consider the whole picture and look at the consequences before one pursues an ideology to its conclusion. Take non-violence and non-violation of rights. Well, most libertarians would support violence if it’s for the purpose of self-defence; few libertarians are pacifists which is what a deontological interpretation of non-violence would require. Libertarians ARE consequentialist if they believe in the right to self-defence and as such in some cases the ends DO justify the means. Which means one needs to consider when the ends justify the means, is violence only okay for self-defence or do other things matter as much as the preservation of self, too?

    The other thing right-libertarians need to consider is how strong fraud laws should be in a society without regulation. Fraud isn’t violence, but does that mean I should be able to sell poison labelled as apple juice using the branding of a well-known company? And if fraud is considering against the spirit of libertarianism how strict should fraud laws be? And if one accepts that fraud is anti-free markets (as the free market requires a free flow of information) then one DOES need to be skeptical of big corporations because their size, capital and power allows them to cover up their fraud and to abuse their power in a way that people aren’t making free and informed decisions about their products.

    I’m not suggesting solutions. I’m just pointing out that right-libertarianism is not a flawless perfect ideology. Accepting it in its entirety still leaves some questions unanswered. And those unanswered questions leave an “ick” feeling in the gut of those that turn to left-libertarianism for the answers. Left-libertarianism has its holes, too. I believe it has more holes and room for abuse. But I think one needs to keep an open mind to the holes present in right-libertarianism. It is not the flawless, internally consistent ideology that it appears on the surface. But I still think it would result in the best outcomes for the most people. So I still like it.

  75. Amy,

    We could find common ground with you if we all agreed to be utilitarian libertarians.

    i) A strong committment to civil rights and non-intervention in personal lives, including a committment to decentralisation of power.

    ii) Government spending and regulation must pass a cost-benefits test, being funded by the least inefficient taxes at the lowest rate set merely to maintain a balanced budget which must be balanced, and vertical and horizontal fiscal equity.

    You’re one of us.

  76. I don’t think it’s necessarily a right-libertarian/left-libertarian divide, but there’s a lot more to the picture then some of you here, particularly the doctrinaire libertarians, seem to be considering.

    As several people have noted, it’s pretty important to have some sort of transition from what we have now into Libertopia. Oddly to me, it seems that most of that discussion has focused on injustices, particularly against Aboriginal groups – yet there has been virtually no attention paid to the issue of current state distortions of the market in the form of guaranteed monopolies.

    I certainly don’t disagree that monopolies cannot form in a true free market, but to not account for their current degree of economic power in the reckonings of a transition seems grossly irresponsible. Perhaps I’m misreading Amy, but it seems to me this is part of what she’s getting at with her concern over the power of corporations, particularly in initial distributions in the new libertarian world.

    As for the ability of workers to seek new employment if dissatisfied with their current job, it looks like a good number of the arguments presented simply ignore the existence of exit costs. Once again, in a true free market environment this probably shouldn’t be an issue. But in light of Amy’s point – how do we deal with the world we have in our quest to get to the world we wish to see – they need to be considered. Of course, a good many of the imposed costs of exit are state manufactured (zoning laws, lack of school choice, etc.), but even so, it seems at least a tad bit irresponsible to suggest, as some of our fellow libertarians do, that government can completely get out that sphere of life without considering what must be done to rectify the imbalances already on the books.

    I think there are some significant flaws in the left-libertarian argument (in this case I’m drawing on both Amy’s piece and the recent argument for a cultural libertarianism made by Kerry Howley in Reason), but at the same time they offer some key insights into areas traditional libertarianism has paid relatively little attention to. We ought not to be dismissing it out of hand just because it seeks a slightly different route to Libertopia and perhaps envisions it a little bit differently as well.

  77. Things have improved, largely thanks to leftist movements such as feminism. But are you trying to tell me that a woman pre-1960s really had a choice in how to arrange household affairs equal to the husband?

    Are you trying to tell me that it’s just a coincidence that men were the workers and women did the housework in pre-1960s society? There was no power imbalance that needed to be rectified?

    A coincidence? No. A common arrangement indicative of physical and emotional evolutionary realities? Yes.

    Most women, even now, prefer to be the primary caregivers of children. Most men prefer not to be, and instead be the primary earner. This is not because of some grand conspiracy against women. It’s because women are genetically condition to want to do it. And men are genetically conditioned to want to do something else.

    The only difference now is that society is more accepting of the minority of women who remain childless and unmarried.

    But in light of Amy’s point – how do we deal with the world we have in our quest to get to the world we wish to see – they need to be considered.

    This is not Amy’s point at all. She calls herself a left-libertarian but her main point seems to be that the free market results in unfair things like women earning less than men and owning less land. When in fact this is primarily a result of men doing more work and creating more wealth than women.

    TLDR: Amy is not a libertarian at all, she is a socialist who doesn’t like the label, and so is attempting to find a new one for herself.

  78. Chuckle. John Humphreys says:

    “To start with, it repeats the old mistake that libertarians want to defend property rights. Wrong.”

    Here’s what the LDP- which Humphreys was instrumental in forming- says on its website:

    “The LDP believes maintaining the safety and security of the Australian people and their property must be the government’s first priority.” http://www.ldp.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1161:property-rights&catid=101:policies&Itemid=290

    Amusingly John Humphreys trips on a rake in a comment in which he accuses Amy of poor reasoning. Laugh? I almost shit me self!

  79. Yobbo, by talking about physical capacity do you think it might have something to do with male predispositions towards violence and the ability of males to coercively ensure women stayed in their place?

    I think that there is a difference in capacity between genders in hunter-gatherer societies, but I also think that the social status of women in the past is due to inequality caused my male dominance and violence.

    I think that historic inequality has perpetuated to the modern age where men still lead business, politics and households not due to merit but due to a tradition of violence. The women that do succeed are often forced to give up their femininity to fit the male “business models” that the western world is built on. And violence against women is still a profound part of society. And it’s not just about government action, freedom can still be systematically and collectively infringed upon in an anarchist society.

    The station of women in society is due to violent action in the past. The libertarian has two options- to try and fix it, or to leave it the way it is and hope it fixes itself. The former option is like making a criminal’s family pay compensation or taking compensation from a criminal’s estate. Amy’s left libertarianism is about compensatory justice. Libertarianism as non-violence works well in ideal theory, but dealing with the real world and non-ideal theory there will be violations of the non-violence axiom. How we deal with them, how far we let things escalate, whether self-defence, compensation, vengeance or deterrence are priorities are all secondary questions that libertarians can ask in respond to violations of the non-violence principle.

    Feminism isn’t just about whether women are permitted to work, but how they reached a position where that is their “station”. And feminism along with other similar ideas are represented a lot better by left-libertarianism. Though I repeat my belief is that these movements should not resort to government coercion to achieve their goals.

  80. “There’s no such thing as left libertarian.” says resident genius davidleyonhjelm

    Umm, wrong sport. The term libertarian was coined by the French anarcho-communist Joseph Déjacque in the 1850s and is derived from the French word Libertaire. The term has been used by anarcho-communists ever since, see for example George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia for discussion of libertarianism during the Spanish Civil War.

    Those who call themselves libertarians on this site are more accurately described as post-colonial bourgeois propertarians.

  81. Skull:

    The modern use of the word is well understood these days. I actually agree with David in that a left winger cannot be a libertarian in the modern context of the word.

  82. Yobbo,

    At what point did she make that assertion?

    Unless I missed it, it seems that Amy makes two points with regards to the condition of women.

    1) Historically the different levels of wealth and opportunity enjoyed by men and women are the product of oppression.
    2) In going from this world to a libertarian one, it will be necessary to rebalance the holding of wealth in order to account for these illegitimate imbalances.

    I fail to see where either suggests a hostility to the free market. She openly admits inequalities in distribution would develop from that point on and doesn’t call for coercive measures to stop them (only hedging in the hypothetical case of a corporation being able to somehow buy all the water or some other vital resource).

    If I’ve misread then please do point out where, I’d be very interested to see what I missed. If not, please explain how this is hostility to the free market.

  83. It’s the first point, Kevin. The belief that the different levels of wealth is due to oppression is completely false. There are numerous examples of women throughout history who have succeeded despite this supposed oppression.

    The fact is that men are more volatile than women. There are more male geniuses and more male pyschopaths. There are more rich males and more homeless males. People consistently bring up the dominance of males at the top end of the curve but ignore their dominance of the bottom end of the curve.

    Shem, I might give your suggestion some merit if you can name a single billionaire whose fortune can be in any way traced to violent oppression of women in any way. Apart from monarchies that have been around since the dark ages, I doubt you can.

    Do you really think people like Sam Walton or Richard Branson got where they are because of their ability to restrain and oppress women?

    They started with nothing, just like most women do. When I say the reasons are physical, I mean that testosterone drives men to *want* to build empires, whereas women’s comparative lack of it means that there are less women around with the drive and single-mindedness required to build an empire like Branson’s.

    As I said above, there are more male outliers. Most women are normal. Normal people do not build billion dollar empires. Abnormal people do, and there are far, far more abnormal men.

  84. Are you seriously trying to say that there has been no historic oppression of women or that it has had zero impact on the degree of success they have enjoyed?

    Would you try and suggest that Howard Roark didn’t operate under an unjust and repressive system just because he’s able to build Wynand Tower at the end? The simple fact that a few people succeed in spite of the blockades thrown at them doesn’t justify or vindicate the blockades.

    What exactly do you consider laws that prevented women from owning property? Or laws limiting the social activities of women (such as those in current-day Saudi Arabia )? How exactly are these not a form of oppression? And how did they not give obvious economic advantages to men?

    I wouldn’t contest that no man ever became a billionaire by oppressing women. But how many men on the margin got by in years past because the law aided him while keeping an equally competent woman at a disadvantage?

    These sort of problems are potentially diluted in the case of women (although I think there’s something to the argument that centuries of such laws have helped shape potentially oppressive cultural norms, but that’s a whole other discussion) since the high degree of heterosexuality ensures mixing of wealth between genders.

    But replace women with some other group, where these state created wealth disparities are able to continually accumulate and the problem becomes much more of an issue that needs to, at the very least, be considered.

  85. The leftist argument here seems to be that the bull has ruined the china shop so the bull ought to clean up before it leaves. I think the priority ought to be to get the damn bull out of the china shop so we can start doing repairs ourselves.

    If in fact the leftist argument is simply that the bull made a real mess of things well then I don’t see that there is any disagreement.

    Is it the case that you want the bull to clean up the china shop?

  86. What exactly do you consider laws that prevented women from owning property? Or laws limiting the social activities of women (such as those in current-day Saudi Arabia )? How exactly are these not a form of oppression? And how did they not give obvious economic advantages to men?

    I consider them laws that were eradicated many hundreds of years ago in western countries. Well before the finance and economic institutions we have come to know as capitalism were around.

    The most oppressive force against women in western countries in the last few centuries has been their own reproductive systems.

    But I don’t see how affirmative action will help solve that problem.

  87. Not sure if you’re addressing this to me or just in general.

    I don’t really think of myself as a left-libertarian, just someone with some sympathy to what *I think* their arguments are.

    In the case of your analogy, I don’t think there’s any disagreement on the damage caused by the bull. The question lies in whether or not the bull has knocked out the shop’s structural supports and the roof is resting on the bull’s shoulders. You don’t want the bull to clean up the shop, but you want to make sure even more damage won’t be caused by pulling it out of the shop.

    (Just to clarify this is more with regards to things like state-protected monopolies and whether or not action needs to be taken with regards to them before phasing out state control)

  88. And btw Kevin I havent read the fountainhead so I dont really get your Roark analogy, but Ayn Rand is a good example of a woman who despite whatever oppression she faced managed to make it in a world apparently dominated by men. Possibly because of a larger than normal amount of testosterone.

  89. The point was that by your logic no one was being oppressed and no injustices were being enacted in The Fountainhead simply because Roark was able to persevere in spite the barriers imposed upon him. That help in making it any clearer?

  90. I think skull is right that you can be a left-libertarian, but that skull is wrong in denying that the people here are also libertarians.

    It’s a simple point.

    Do you think that humans should generally interact voluntarily? If “yes”, you’re a libertarian. If “no”, you’re not a libertarian.

    I don’t think the “voluntary” principle is either “left” or “right”. Unfortunately, most people going by the left-right labels disagree with voluntary society. Consequently, I think it’s best to think of libertarians as neither left-wing or right-wing.

    Earlier, Skull repeats the mistakes that I had already explained. He suggests that libertarianism is defined by property rights. But every system has property rights. The defining feature of libertarianism is that we think the only legitimate way to deal with other humans (and transfer ownership of property) is through voluntary action.

    Of course the LDP defends property rights. But the point is that they are defending owners from involuntary transfer of property. The only alternative to voluntary behaviour is involuntary behaviour.

  91. Howard Roark didn’t operate under an “unjust and unfair system” from a legal/political perspective and he wasn’t oppressed.
    The culture he lived in was dominated by people who were either dogmatically traditionalist or subjectively modernist. But there’s no oppression here. It’s more just non-receptiveness to good work, innovation and to an individual who does things his own way.

    This book has almost nothing to do with politics as opposed to “left libertariansim” which is political theory.

    He lived in a society that wasn’t receptive to good artists and he suffered hardships. Just like we live in a society that isn’t that receptive to good artists and just like anyone who starts a business probably experiences hardships. We have ridiculous indecipherable modern art where an art critic aristocracy get to decide which piece will be worth millions of dollars, we have annoying pop songs on the radio etc. But that doesn’t mean there’s any role for the state in attempting to regulate art. Left libertarianism doen’t suggest there is I hope?

    The point is that freedom doesn’t mean things will be perfect. People should be free to do irrational and stupid things if that’s their choice. It’s still the best system because there’s no oppression.

  92. John Humphreys says:

    “Of course the LDP defends property rights. But the point is that they are defending owners from involuntary transfer of property. The only alternative to voluntary behaviour is involuntary behaviour.”

    The whole of Australia was involuntary transferred to Britain through a series of proclamations dating from 1770. A literal interpretation of your statement suggests you would return Australia to the rightful heirs of the 250 indigenous nations whose property was seized by force, yet I see no mention of such a policy in any of the 24 policy statements listed on the LDP website. Indeed, I couldn’t find one single sentence that dealt with indigenous property rights.

    As previously noted, those who call themselves libertarians on this site are in reality post-colonial bourgeois propertarians.

  93. John Humphreys again:

    “Earlier, Skull repeats the mistakes that I had already explained. He suggests that libertarianism is defined by property rights. But every system has property rights.”

    But LDP policy says:

    “The LDP supports the right of ’eminent domain’ of property owners over their property. It believes neither the State nor other members of society should be able to limit or interfere with the right to enjoy property so long as such enjoyment does not involve coercion of others.”

    No other coherent or significant political ideology places the rights of property owners above both the State and the people. This extreme position is indeed a defining characteristic of propertarianism (so called right libertarianism).

  94. Skull seems to be a pretty good example of a socialist trying to call himself a libertarian and some people think there very little airspace.

  95. Hey JC – Just because someone says something you don’t have an answer for doesn’t mean you get to just shout “Socialist!” and put your fingers in your ears…

  96. Skull – that isn’t what native title laws are about. Furthemore, the problem with native title is that it is simply not strong enough title. More later…

    “As previously noted, those who call themselves libertarians on this site are in reality post-colonial bourgeois propertarians.”

    Well I don’t know why the LDP doesn’t have a policy – those in the LDP who come here agree that Aboriginal land rights should be resolved quickly and should confer alloidal title and be transferable for each member in each tribe/language group.

    Save your anger for Peter Garrett, who disallowed Aboriginies from conducting hunting tours on their “own” land.

    “No other coherent or significant political ideology places the rights of property owners above both the State and the people. This extreme position is indeed a defining characteristic of propertarianism (so called right libertarianism).”

    No it isn’t. It is the position the US Supreme Court had before they made the dreadful and crony capitalist Kelo decision.

  97. Amy,

    I think if we all call ourselves utilitarian we end up moving to the same position – which is generally and virtually consistently for free enterprise.

    If I take a left libertarian position (as you define it) and simply apply my conditions 1. (civil rights) and 2. (utilitarian constraint on Government policy and action) then you come to a “right libertarian” position.

    You’re one of us. Otherwise, what about 1. or 2. is objectionable?

  98. I’ve already explained how libertarianism is an anarcho-communist concept dating from the 1850s.

    The fact that some American rightwingers started to use the term more than half a century later and this has been picked up by sundry sycophants elsewhere is neither here nor there.

    Libertarianism is a left wing concept.

  99. So, Amy and Skull finally admit that they want the State (and the people) to have more rights than individual owners of property! The proper name for that is Majoritarianism, where all that counts is numbers and brute strength. The trouble is, mobs don’t need laws and isms to take what they want, but individuals need rights to defend themselves from mobs! Indeed, only pro-Individualistic systems are worth anything, since anything else is just based on muscle-power, whatever the fancy name (communism, fascism, socialism) to cover up the reality.

  100. @Mark Hill yes I think that, foundationally, we probably have pretty similar ideas… I wonder though about how those ideas play out when it comes to modern day society.
    I do definitely agree that I am one of you, but still feel a bit like the only gay in the villiage 😉

  101. Mark Hill says:

    “Well I don’t know why the LDP doesn’t have a policy [on indigenous land rights] … ”

    I do. It is because “right libertarians”/ propertarians are concerned with protecting and enhancing the historical privileges enjoyed by white middle class males. I knew the LDP would have no land rights policy even before I looked- that is how ideology works old bean.

    The LDP is no more interested in giving a coon title to the land stolen from his great great grandparents than I am in medieval Morris Dancing.

  102. “I knew the LDP would have no land rights policy even before I looked- that is how ideology works old bean.”

    Clearly you don’t.

    I am a member of the LDP and the former/current exec agrees with my views which I expressed above.

    You’re just smearing a group who is economically *right* with a cliche of the *cultural right*.

    You’ve been shown to be wrong and embarrassed, now you’re resorting to gutter tactics. We’ve got nothing to hide and the ALS blog archives reflect the views I expressed above.

    You have slurred us and make no mention of the racism expressed by Garrett.

    You have nothing of substance to add to this conversation.

    “The LDP is no more interested in giving a coon title to the land stolen from his great great grandparents than I am in medieval Morris Dancing.”

    You’re a dishonest and inflammatory buffoon.

  103. Amy — you’re not the only one… 🙂

    Skull — I agree that some people were unjust towards the aboriginals. I also agree that Britain was wrong to claim domain over Australia. However, I don’t agree that it is desirable (or even possible) to rectify every mistake in history.

    There is no perfect starting point, and there never will be… but we don’t resolve previous involuntary action by perpetuating a system of ever-more involuntary action. What we need to do is stop making the same mistakes of the past, and work towards helping people (voluntarily) who need help.

    You again misunderstand the point behind the LDP policy. The policy simply says that a property owner should be allowed to pursue voluntary behaviour without somebody coming along and initiating violence/coercion/theft/fraud against them. This is simply another version of the “human right to voluntary behaviour”. If you disagree, the only alternative is involuntary behaviour.

    The libertarian preference for voluntary behaviour does not (as you suggest) place the rights of property owners above other people. It gives everybody the same right — and that is the right to pursue voluntary behaviour. If you disagree, then you seemingly want to give one group of people the right to force involuntary behaviour on another group of people… and so it is you who wants to give some people the “right” to control other people.

    You persist with the label “propertarianism”, but as I have explained several times, all systems have property (the ones who deny property have the exact same concept, but with a different name). That is not a defining feature of libertarianism.

  104. Tim, Amy sides with Skull, and Skull seems to oppose individual rights in his comments- he mentions the state and people, and seems to oppose propertarianism.
    As the world’s first Xcentralist, I oppose ‘State’ rights, and am all in favour of individual landowners! I believe in sharing- sharing power equally, so we all have the same powers as sovereign governments.

  105. Nuke — People who are from the cultural left or cultural right use a different language and have a different set of priorities… but that doesn’t mean that their underlying political philosophy is fundamentally different or un-libertarian. The only issue is whether you believe human interaction should be generally voluntary. Everything else follows from that. Amy might be more like Shem, Jarrah & Payne than Lenin, Mao or Skull.

  106. Hey Nuke – if you wouldn’t mind I would prefer if you dont put words in my mouth. I haven’t “sided” with anyone. All i was saying is that you cant just call someone a socialist and not deal with the substance of their criticism

  107. Shem Bennett wrote “Dicken’s industrial age Britain was an improvement over agrarian society…”.

    Actually, it wasn’t. It was only an improvement over rural life that had been damaged by things like the enclosures, with all their wealth transfers and so on. For overall improvement, you have to look at later periods.

  108. Sorry, Amy. I didn’t catch that- my fingers were in my ears, once I stopped putting words into your mouth. (Don’t worry- I washed the words clean first!!)
    PM, I thought the enclosures were in the 1700s, and Dickens lived in the middle of the 1800s? The mid-1800s were the time of rapid industrial growth, and visible progress, as well as smog (it was the best of times, it was the worst of times)

  109. Ron Paul’s brand of libertarianism is one that avoids tough questions about race and identity. Thus he has no problem pointing out that people who share economic interests might benefit from looting the rest of society. But don’t people who share common ethnic interests do the same? There are probably dozens of race wars for every class one.

    Murray Rothbard, one of Paul’s biggest influences, understood this. In an article written after the release of The Bell Curve he beautifully made the libertarian case for going to the rooftops and spreading the truth about race differences. He wrote that race realism is needed

    “…as a powerful defense of the results of the free market. If and when we as populists and libertarians abolish the welfare state in all of its aspects, and property rights and the free market shall be triumphant once more, many individuals and groups will predictably not like the end result. In that case, those ethnic and other groups who might be concentrated in lower-income or less prestigious occupations, guided by their socialistic mentors, will predictably raise the cry that free-market capitalism is evil and ‘discriminatory’ and that therefore collectivism is needed to redress the balance. In that case, the intelligence argument will become useful to defend the market economy and the free society from ignorant or self-serving attacks. In short; racialist science is properly not an act of aggression or a cover for oppression of one group over another, but, on the contrary, an operation in defense of private property against assaults by aggressors.”[Race! That Murray Book, December 1994. Links adds]

    http://hbdbooks.com/2009/11/libertarians-must-face-race/

  110. NG, the enclosures went on over a long period, with broad peaks in the 16th and 18th centuries. Nevertheless, they didn’t finish until the 19th century, and even if they had stopped earlier, the crucial enduring thing was that wealth transfer in the rural sector; peasants faced conditions in the 19th century that incorporated that, as a result of what had happened earlier. You can add in the effects of the Highland Clearances and Irish evictions too, if you like.

    This relates to many of the problems with reversing past history other commenters have brought out. I think someone once described how kleptocrats might fake or spoof liberalising, just by selling off “state” assets to insiders at mates’ rates before declaring reforms and then insisting that the new order had to respect property rights in place as at the date of the reforms. Indeed, things rather like that happened with the end of the USSR. It doesn’t tell us how to redress past damage, but it does tell us what to look out for in transitions, both to aim at and to avoid. E.g., you can compare and contrast how emancipation of slaves was achieved in the USA (bad) and the British Empire (good, or at least far better).

  111. I’ve already explained how libertarianism is an anarcho-communist concept dating from the 1850s.

    The fact that some American rightwingers started to use the term more than half a century later and this has been picked up by sundry sycophants elsewhere is neither here nor there.

    Libertarianism is a left wing concept.

    Skull, the American left has taken the term “Liberal” and progressive for themselves when they are anything but.

    If you want to take the term back to its historical roots then good luck.

  112. Skull:

    The world is replete with the movement of people. The suggestion that the Aboriginals have more right than we do is nonsensical.

    Good luck trying to remove the vestiges of the Saxons from the anglo lands or say the northern French from the South of France which was once part of an Italian kingdom.

  113. At least JC at #125 has come clean and admitted that right libertarian/ propertarians believe current property relations in Australia should be accepted on the basis of “right of conquest”.

    This is something the tricksy huckster John Humphreys believes but is too cowardly to admit- “oh that’s just ancient history”.

    But indigenous Australians obviously have the very same right, that is to expropriate the appropriators; as someone with koori lineage I have the right to slit the throat of those who trespass on the lands of my ancestors. Sleep tightly now white boyz.

  114. Skull, as I have explained several times, it is wrong to call libertarians “propertarians”. Property rights exist in all political systems. The only issue is how they are transferred — and the only options are voluntary or involuntary.

    Libertarians call ourselves libertarian because we believe in human liberty, meaning human freedom to interact voluntarily and without somebody else enforcing their preferences through violence/coercion/theft/fraud.

    Nobody denies that violence, coercion, theft, and fraud have existed in the past, but it is not reasonable (or possible) to correct for mistakes made by previous generations. Instead of looking backwards, we should be looking forward. We should admit that the previous preference for involuntary interaction was wrong, and try to build a world where human interaction is voluntary.

    As for threats… my address is 20/9-11 St Neot Avenue, Potts Point, Sydney.

  115. I suggest everyone stop feeding the troll. Puerile comments such as “as someone with koori lineage I have the right to slit the throat of those who trespass on the lands of my ancestors. Sleep tightly now white boyz” clearly have no place in rational discourse and I do not think that there is an open mind in operation.

  116. No threat intended, JH. It is clear to me from reading this forum that not one of you propertarians has spent any time at all tracing the history of libertarian thought since its inception.

    [JOHN: Skull, as I have explained several times, it is wrong to call libertarians “propertarians”. Property rights exist in all political systems. The only issue is how they are transferred — and the only options are voluntary or involuntary.]

  117. From Barnaby Joyce’s website:

    Barnaby was sent off to boarding school at Riverview in Sydney where he saw the other side of the coin; realising that what people don’t see, they rarely understand. This is the issue with people working in big business failing to understand the rights of people in small business or people in the cities failing to understand the life of people in the country. Barnaby believes the potential to enter into business is an essential freedom that can be lost by over regulation or over centralisation.

    Barnaby sounds like a left-libertarian. He’s concerned with the concentration of power in corporate forms and the rights of the ‘little’ people against this. Barnaby’s idea of centralisation is not just concerned with government power, but also the centralisation of big business. Don’t just go spouting off about agrarian socialism without substantiating it – he’s a left libertarian like ‘us’!

  118. Skull:

    I really don’t think anyone is worried about what you have to say. At least I haven’t seen anyone shirking from your poorly laid jabs.

    Skull, seriously though who gives a shit who coined the term in 1857 other than you. Meanings change and if you don’t like it stiff shit.

    The LDP is not about protecting any arrangement of vested interests. That’s just you ill defining what vested interests are.

  119. Some left libertarianism in the UK:

    http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/Leeds-bin-strike-New-offer.5745669.jp

    The strike, now in its seventh week, was sparked by a new pay and grading structure drawn up by the council to meet a national equal pay agreement that staff doing work of equal value should be paid the same.
    The jobs of nearly 23,000 council staff were evaluated and, while the wages of the vast majority rose or stayed the same, about 2,500 – including refuse workers – came out losers.

    The undercurrent they don’t mention here is that refuse workers tend to be men and the council staff calling for the reduction in their salaries has a disproportionately high representation of women. These British left-libertarians are fixing that extra concentration of power that these men have through a greater propensity to accept more dirty work over other council staff.

  120. the LDP is all about protecting existing arrangements of power and privilege

    So let’s say we wipe the slate clean, divide up the existing wealth equally and start again with a libertarian society. In a generation or so, if the wealth distribution looks pretty much the way it did before we went through this process, will that make everything OK?

  121. Skull thinks that it is 1788 and we can just pack up and go back to Blighty.

    We’ve had 221 years of European settlement, some of it violent, some of it not. Since the 1850s, we’ve attracted migrants from all parts of the globe.

    Pre European settlement, Northern Australia was visited by Chinese and Indonesian traders.

    Many Australians are of mixed heritage, and many people can claim part Aboriginality.

    Furthermore, pre European settlement, Aboriginal settlement had consisted of rare inter tribal wars and waves of invading migrant groups dispossessing others.

    Your “solution” just doesn’t accept the modern reality. Your characterisation of libertarians is wrong and you are ignorant of the Mabo decision etc.

    The best thing to do is to grant land rights where they may still exist and convert all native title and freehold and leasehold land in Australia to alloidal title and strongly defend the just compensation clause of the Commonwealth Constitution. Compensation may be due in some cases.

    As for the separate and disadvantaged Aborigines in general society and remote areas, the longer they are treated differently the longer they will suffer. We gave them full citizenship in 1967 but then saddled them with no land rights (now partially fixed) and a heap of poor economic policy (although well intentioned).

    Henry Reynolds comments interestingly enough in Why Weren’t We Told that Aborigines were better off in pre Federation, post 1856 Australia. They were British subjects, not wards of the State.

    In as much as Skull decries property, he affirms some form of native title (although interpreting it in a draconian, redundant and draconian manner). This goes to show as John says, property exists. We should right the wrongs of settlement but only so far as to be just to society as a whole in addition to any grievances that Aborigines may have.

    “the LDP is all about protecting existing arrangements of power and privilege”

    Absurd. We wish to extend the just compensation clause to State and Local Governments.

  122. Thank you for your question, Michael.

    Joseph Déjacque believed in the abolition of Eminent Domain private property other than personal property of a non-productive kind. Consequently it is OK for someone to have exclusive title to a home, a car and such like. However as private property of this nature still represents an alienation of the commons, local governments are entitled to use progressively tax the property as they see fit. Indeed, as this would be the primary method of raising taxes, it would be a major leveler, ironing out the kinks of fate and fortune that create the massive inequalities we see today.

    [Socialism] properly construed is a philosophy that emphasizes the full development and liberty of the individual [so long as they follow the rules I set down] and the [government] ownership of property. [Libertarianism] on the other hand is all about [allowing all voluntary interactions between people].

    [JOHN: Yes! Finally, you’re starting to understand.] 🙂

  123. Mark Hill says:

    “and I suspect that most “anarcho commies” will cling to the ridiculous mantra that free will is an illusion”

    What is free will? Has it been measured? Does a monkey have it? Can you show me the hard science?

    I deal in empirical facts not bourgeois myth making old bean.

  124. Propertarianism on the other hand is all about consolidating power and privilege in the hands of those who already have property, that is, overwhelmingly, white males.

    Interesting. So you actually believe that white males hire each other at the expense of everybody else?

    Tell me then, why is the unemployment rate higher for white males and females in the US?

  125. A few points:

    Libertarianism is essentially “ideal theory” as Rawls calls it. Act-based libertarianism cannot deal with violations of non-violence easily. Either it responds with violence or it allows violence.

    The type of response is one difference between self-acknowledging left and right libertarians. Right libertarians believe in a fairly small window of opportunity for righting violence. Left libertarians believe that you need to look at the consequences that have flowed on from initial acts of violence (white colonisation of Australia, for example) and try and rectify the current situation using violence.

    Communal ownership does complicate matters on indigenous land rights for libertarians. On the one hand you can use violence only in cases where there was a formal title to a single individual and reverse stolen land. Other approaches include considering the entire aboriginal population collectively and making restitution based on the losses the race as a whole suffered. I think a more reasonable path is the Mabo path whereby individual communities are entitled to compensation for stolen land if there is an active link between the people who desire the compensation, traditional use of the land and the original dispossession.

    The limits of restitution are not easy to resolve, but most agree there must be limits. If I buy a stolen car should I lose my car if it’s found out it was stolen (assuming that it’s impossible to get the money back). It isn’t a question with a black and white answer.

    John Humphreys says that you either believe in voluntary or involuntary action and in an ideal world I agree. But in the real world where people act violently we need to decide how to respond. Should we respond violently (imprisoning murderers? Reclaiming stolen goods? etc) and how much violence is acceptable for retribution and/ or compensation?

    [In contrast to John, I believe that it is good to initiate violence, and not allow voluntary behaviour, as long as you are good, defined by me. To defend my position, I will pretend that I can’t tell the difference between initiating violence and self-defence. Consequently, I would advise not standing next to me, as I may punch you at any time and claim it was self-defence.]

    Left libertarians are more likely to believe that a lot of violence is acceptable to compensate past violence.

    [We also believe that you should commit the violence against people who are entirely innocent. It doesn’t really matter who. So long as we support violence, then it must be a good outcome.]

    Right libertarians are less likely to do so. Left libertarians also believe that groups are more eligible for compensation. Right libertarians usually only believe individuals are.

    I think left libertarians forget the merits of the individual at times. I think right libertarians forget that discrimination and in-group/ out-group distinctions are promoted by and promote violence.

    [To clarify, if you do something peaceful and voluntary that I don’t like, I can call it “violence”, and so that justifies me reacting with violence. At the end of the day, there is no problem that can’t be solved with just a bit more violence.]

  126. I think right libertarians forget that discrimination and in-group/ out-group distinctions are promoted by and promote violence.

    What widespread violence has there been in Australia for oh … the past 100 years lets say?

  127. Left libertarians are more likely to believe that a lot of violence is acceptable to compensate past violence. Right libertarians are less likely to do so. Left libertarians also believe that groups are more eligible for compensation. Right libertarians usually only believe individuals are.

    If this is the definition of “left-libertarians”, then how exactly do they differ from socialists? They also want to use violence to right past wrongs. They also believe that pretty much everyone who isn’t a white male has been victim of some kind of wrong like this in the past.

    So please, let’s hear the difference.

  128. I don’t think it is true at all that “left” libertarians are more accepting of violence. For example – I think “right” libertarians who are willing to transition to libertarianism without rectifying historical power imblances are definitely committing themselves to a path of more violence on behalf of the state. If you are going to protect the property rights of the priveledged then you may well find yourself still imprisoning disproportionate numbers of the indigenous population, for example. This kind of state violence the “right” libertarian needs to be willing to bite the bullet on but the “left” libertarian will not be willing to accept that.

    [JOHN: Simple rule — interaction between humans should be voluntary. The only alternative is involuntary.]

  129. Hey, Amy and Skull, all this talk of rectifying makes me ask- how far backdo you go, and why?
    If I simply claim to be a victim of history- one of my ancestors might have been a convict sent here for ‘liberating’ a propertatian’s apple- does that entitle me endless compensation and rectification?
    When are you going to invent a time machine, and wipe out all evil-doers, anywhere, anytime?

  130. “If you are going to protect the property rights of the priveledged then you may well find yourself still imprisoning disproportionate numbers of the indigenous population, for example.”

    What are you referring to? This sounds more like the plot out of Zorro than anything now.

    There are dire problems in some Aboriginal communities and it is not because of white men literally stealing their land or otherwise dispossessing them in some kind of shady deal they went back on or was unconscionable from the outset.. On the other hand land rights simply don’t go far enough to rectify past wrongs and now we have some silly prick who threatened to knife us all saying that giving Aborigines full title over traditional lands is some kind of white, bourgeoisie, anti Aboriginal plot.

    I cannot take this seriously when they ignore that libertarian meant “believes in free will” from 1789 and then declares free does not exist.

    I suspect Parkos.

  131. Hi Nuke, I couldn’t give you a definitive answer, but I’m sure something that is reasonable could be figured out. For example, if someone comes from a community where the whole community has a 20 years shorter life expectancy and extremely low literacy, and has a past injustice that they would argue has been a big contributing factor to their situation, then that would probably be case.

    [JOHN: Aboriginals now have much longer life expectancy than they did before British settlement. Therefore they should pay white people. Or… perhaps we should just stop the violence. It has never solved any problem in the past, and it won’t solve any problem in the future. You don’t solve war by starting a war, and you don’t solve violence by starting more violence. Just let people interact voluntarily. If you want to help people, then help people… but please stop with the force.]

    A healthy, well-off person with a good job but a past where their anscestor was sent as a convict probably wouldn’t, for example.
    In return, how recent does the injustice have to be for it to be counted as something the state should intervene in do you think?

    [JOHN: Simple rule… if the person who committed the injustice is alive, you prosecute them. If they are dead, then they are dead. You shouldn’t punish the wrong person.

  132. Amy,

    Aborigines have been citizens since 1967. They were dispossessed of the land long before that time.

    Some have become functioning members of society and quite comfortable. Others in poverty get subsidised to live in the middle of nowhere and have a separate welfare system that creates disincentives to normalise their lives and this has engendered generational poverty.

    Maybe we should apologise for the last 42 years instead of the previous 179 years before citizenship.

  133. How about the person(s) who committed the injustice needs to be alive or a direct and clear connection to those that wrongly benefited from that injustice needs to be established? If these things aern’t possible it’s probably fair to say that other factors played a substantial part in the ‘unjust’ outcome.

  134. Mark,

    I think I may have already said this – but it bears repeating if so – many aboriginal people lived on missions where they had little to no control over their own lives up until the 1980s.
    Read a book like “the Tall Man” by Chloe Hooper (an excellent book) you will see that the justice system today still routinely discriminates against Aboriginal people – and that’s not even talking about the high rates of black deaths in custody.
    If you think the systematic repression and discrimination ended in 1967 then you simply are not well enuogh informed about the reality of state repression in this country.

  135. The deaths in custody are proportional to the number of Aborigines incarcerated. Sad but true.

    I mentioned the past 42 years being the real problem and then you bring up something that happened since 1967 as an example of my “ignorance”.

    I can’t see the missions being more problematic than subsidising remote living. They couldn’t have possibly been forced to stay on the missions could they?

  136. Amy, here is another point- how long was their lifespan before we gave them the benefits of western civilisation, whether they wanted it or not? Does anyone have facts, instead of conjecture? You are comparing Aboriginal lifespans now with non-Aboriginal lifespans. Can anyone prove that they are living shorter lives now, than they would have if we hadn’t come?
    As for your other points, I think crimes should have a living complainant who can offer specific proof of a crime or injustice committed against the complainant.

  137. Hi Mark – apologies, I thought you were being sarcastic about the post 67 thing.
    I believe they were forced to live on the missions if they wanted to live on their land.
    In terms of black deaths in custody – yes they are proportional but the rate at which they are incarcerated is not.
    Our ‘justice’ system discriminated against aboriginal people (and before everyone starts posting angry comments I’m NOT saying that is the only reason for the high rate of imprisonment) and systematically covers up cases of abuse of aboriginal people by police/prison officers.
    You need only to look at the case of Cameron Doomagee (about which the tall man is about) to see the way in which what was basically a cover-up extended all the way to the top of the queensland police force.

  138. Here’s the thing Amy…

    I have no responsibility for the aboriginals plight. My family did not come here and take away their land and I’m not about to leave my small plot to somehow satisfy your need for justice.

    Further, I also care as much about them as i do any other Australian’s plight.

  139. Nuke the point is the difference in life span – I’m sure back then their life spans were shorter but so were other peoples! THe point is that it is illustrative of a massive and ongoing power imbalance in our society.
    Furthermore, why is it up to you to say “oh well you should be gratefull we gave you the benefits of civilisation” – that is just paternalism and completely un-libertarian! Surely they have the right to chose whether they want to “benefits” of our “gift” to them… and WHAT a gift! Prison, poverty and sickness (I’m sure the thank you card is in the mail)

  140. You’re seriously not perpetuating the myth that they didn’t live a subsistence lifestyle (poverty) or that they didn’t get sick before white people came?

    As for prison, it beats a spear in the leg unless you get shivved.

  141. Amy:

    Lifespan is afforded to people that can live within close proximity to high level technology such as MRI’s CAT scans and specialist doctors.

    If you’re going to live 1000 ks away from the nearest small regional hospital and drink like a fish you will on average have a significantly small span.

  142. heres the thing JC – that’s fair enough but then you are hardly respecting the balance between having a society and protecting individual freedom.
    You are simply talking about protecting your own individual freedom – I’m tempted to say you are that bourgeois propertarian then (or whatever it is that skull was calling people) rather than a libertarian…

  143. Aborigines were citizens well before 1967. What happened in 1967 was a change to the census and an explicit affirmation of the right to vote which existed in law, if not in practice, since 1901. 1967 was a minor cultural watershed more than a legalistic one.

  144. The gap in aboriginal life span starts from infancy. We have higher rates of things like Rheumatic Fever(which leads to developing heart disease in later life) in our indigenous population than ANY country, even undeveloped ones.

    As for all your comments about how terrible life was before white colonisation I cant even believe how paternalistic you are.

    I get it, white people knew what was best for aboriginal people and they should be thankful for being invaded? You should be ashamed to call yourselves libertarians with attitudes like that.
    If you think that any problems Aboriginal people have are purely to do with their own choices and no outside influences then I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  145. You can ignore skull because he was wrong on the origins of the word libertarian (believer in free will) and then declared free will did not exist. How convenient.

    Refusing to build a hospital, university etc 1000 km away from civilisation is not a form of “repression”. The real damage that has been done is communities who are no longer traditional and cannot live off the land now are subsidised to stay 1000 km + from civilisation.

  146. Actually, and while I’m on this – JC. Why do you have a right to inherit property from your parents but, say, if an aboriginal person has their land stolen and still has a right to their land they dont have a right to pass that right onto their children. What is the difference? I don’t think it is a substantive one so if you are going to support inheritance you have to acknowledge that.

  147. “As for all your comments about how terrible life was before white colonisation I cant even believe how paternalistic you are.”

    I can’t believe you’re perpetuating the noble savage myth. I don’t think you’re intending to. I think you’ve been taught to respond to certain ideas.

    Yes sure they had trading routes, the beginnings of civilisation, a form of harvesting crops/fisheries that didn’t fit the old European definition. They traded with the Asians. I agree. It was totally wrong how they were treated as animals not capable of civilisation (there is some truth to the idea they didn’t *need* civilisation or advanced technology – [with no work animals, wheels become slightly useless where there are no roads anyway]).

    Life may have been idyllic but to say they had nothing worse than prisons, European disease or modern poverty is deluded. All humans get sick, they had a brutal justice system and although food was abundant, they had a subsistence lifestyle.

    No one can deny there are persistent, serious and embarrassing problems with general Aboriginal well being and particularly in remote communities. Ask some Aborigines that are part of mainstream society with a house, car, kids etc. As them if they want compensation or are unhappy with Western civilisation. The response you’ll usually get is that such a question is irrelevant and everyone needs to move on.

    Terje you’re legally correct but in practice, the only race that was treated specifically outside of war under “special care” was the Aborigines. I am aware that Parliament can still make laws against specific races. On a practical level they weren’t citizens until 1967.

  148. “Actually, and while I’m on this – JC. Why do you have a right to inherit property from your parents but, say, if an aboriginal person has their land stolen and still has a right to their land they dont have a right to pass that right onto their children. What is the difference? I don’t think it is a substantive one so if you are going to support inheritance you have to acknowledge that.”

    Do you actually understand how native title works? Any Aborigine with a continuous connection with the land can claim native title. They descendants get the same right. It is little different to inheritance.

    The differences lay in the definition of native title as opposed to fee simple/freehold land and land that is not subject to native title couldn’t be practically or fairly given back to any Aborigines anyway.

  149. Aboriginals were tribal and did not have property rights as we understand them. That’s not to say they have no claim over the land but a direct application of our understanding of private property (say, for example, in terms of inheritance) is not valid.

    Anyway, Amy, I want to understand what a left-libertarian advocates doing in this situation and why. What are your proposed solutions?

  150. Okay Michael,

    1. The land inherited them at birth.

    2. Native title should be converted to fee simple/freehold, notwithstanding easements etc that already exist.

    Amy,

    Please tell us your solution to land rights, Aboriginal generational poverty and failing well being indicators.

  151. JC- I was simply responding to your and other peoples statements about injustice only needs to be redressed if the person is alive. WHy do some rights last after death but not others? No one has answered that.

    Everyone else – I dont think me saying something is a problem automatically entails me being obligated to come up with a solution to it. All I’m saying is it IS a problem that needs to be dealt with – just because I dont have all the answers doesn’t make the problem any less legitimate.

    Furthermore, I’m not perpetuating the myth of the noble savage. I am saying that you have no right to claim that Aboriginal people should be thankful for the severe and terrible reduction in their freedom after colonialisation.

    Aborginal people used the land and cannot do that anymore in the vast majority of cases (both because land was stolen and their were banned from practicing and passing on their traditional hunting methods by their rulers).

    Furthermore, if you think they should all just give up and move to the city so they can be near good schools and hospitals, I’d like to know how that is supposed to happen? With what money? Whose going to pay for the nice swishy terrance near St vincents hospital?

  152. Furthermore, if you think they should all just give up and move to the city so they can be near good schools and hospitals, I’d like to know how that is supposed to happen?

    Then stop whining about the fact that they don’t have the very best first world medical system and its benefits in the middle of nowhere.

    Western lifespans can only be achieved with the best of western medicine.

  153. “Whose going to pay for the nice swishy terrance near St vincents hospital?”

    I never said that.

    They can live where they like but subsidising remote living with no services, no prospects and no connection to pre 1788 lifestyles is just dumb. Leaving them out out there on welfare isn’t a solution. It just perpetuates the problem.

    Some Aborigines are pretty happy that they live in a Western country – despite the injustices dealt out to their forebears and neighbours they are well aware of. I do have a right to repeat this point of view.

    If you can’t give me a policy that is consistent with 1. and 2. I set before then I don’t think you’ve given us a libertarian policy. Any plans for compensation/repatriation of land must be considered with respect to fairness and feasibility in the present.

  154. It seems to me that left-libertarianism is the ability to point out problems but not provide solutions. Libertarianism with the undefinable, and incompatible, ‘values’ of equality and ‘social justice’.

  155. I repeat – I don’t see why I need personally to set out a policy platform as to how to fix this problem. As I have mentioned a couple of times, I’m simply not not prepared (or clever enough) to outline and entire libertarian theory!

    All I’m saying is that it is a serious problem that needs to be addressed if you want to transition to a libertarian society as I cant see how you can have a truely libertarian society when you are starting from such large and unjustified power imbalances.

    Everytime I ask you to acknowledge this you all just hedge the issue by saying “well how would you fix it then?” (if you are polite) or insulting me “stop whinging” (if you are not *ahem* jc)

    – just as an aside Mark, I was not saying that you dont have a right to say that aboriginal should be happy about the invasion, just that it is distinctly unlibertarian….

    It’s getting boring to repeat myself and repeatedly get no answers- so I’m going to have to respectfully say that we appear to be at an impass!

    It has been a pleasure talking to (most of) you boys as you’re mainly very clever and thoughtful, and I look forward to reading the next post on this ALS blog.

  156. Amy, one reason I ask for your solution is because I think that anyone can complain, but very few people seem to provide constructive comments, to show how they’d rectify the situation. Sice you raised the problem, I think it only fair to see if you have a solution. It seems that no-one has an answer that satisfies everyone else, which doesn’t surprise me.
    Other points to consider- all Aboriginal men should apologize to all Aboriginal women for the misogyny that was and is part of Aboriginal life, which was there before we interferred, as shown by all journals of explorers before settlement.
    – All aboriginal tribes should make peace with every other tribe. A general peace ceremony to get over the tribal divisions and vendettas that plagued their past.

  157. Amy: You’re all over the place on this stuff. Like most lefties you don’t have any regular coherence to your thinking [beep]

  158. “I repeat – I don’t see why I need personally to set out a policy platform as to how to fix this problem. As I have mentioned a couple of times, I’m simply not not prepared (or clever enough) to outline and entire libertarian theory!”

    Weren’t you previously questioning “right” libertarianism, even from a utilitarian perspective, and sometimes from the less valid “propertarian” angle?

    It’s like you were promoting left libertarianism without needing to defend it from its critics.

    You fix the problem by allocating land rights were they should be allocated, giving transferable freehold rights to each member of the group and otherwise treating Aborigines the same as everyone else (including allowing them to use their resources as they please to earn an income, something Garret did [it’s their land Pete, let’s give it back]) and waiting.

    Equal treatment before the law, true legal self determination with respect to property and economic liberalism has worked elsewhere.

  159. Ahh, I cant help myself…

    JC, [beep] Why would you even bother to have a conversation with anyone who disagrees with you refuse to engage with that conversation in any intelligent or meaningful way? You may as well go and talk into a mirror.

    Mark, I should have clarified – I think this issue is a very serious problem for left-libertarianism as well as for right-libertarianism. The difference being that I am acknowledging it as such… I certainly dont think it proves that left-libertarianism will solve everything.

  160. Amy:

    If you talked to the mirror, you’d only hear back your own arguments.

    I’ll make my point again.. like any good leftie, you don’t seem to have any coherent set of ideas. It’s the equivalent of an emotional version of a shot of crack and the effects.

  161. Mark Hill says:

    “I cannot take this seriously when they ignore that libertarian meant “believes in free will” from 1789 and then declares free does not exist.”

    As I’ve already said, the term libertarian was not coined until 1857. Mark is now saying it dates back to 1789. If you have evidence for this astounding claim please show us.

    As to the existence of “free will” I’ve asked for the evidence but you haven’t been able to provide any. I’m also aware that not all [libertarians] believe in free will. Obviously you’re not which suggests you simply haven’t been paying attention to the debate.

    Re the Garrett decision, yes I do believe indigenous Australians up north should be able to make money by harvesting and shooting crocodiles. Anything that helps them escape soul destroying passive welfare is a good thing.

  162. Aboriginals living in the cities & towns perform at similar levels to non-aboriginals living in the cities & towns. This isn’t surprising, because we are all humans.

    Aboriginals living in socialist homelands have worse outcomes. This is what has happened in every socialist experiment in history.

    If you cared about aboriginals, you would be appalled at the socialist experiments done in the name of “helping aboriginals” and “righting past wrongs”. The appalling arrogance of people who want to use massive involuntary intervention to “fix” the world is shocking. This is the exact same mentality as the christian missionaries… just another version of the “white man’s burden”. I’m sure they all have the best of intentions, but poor people can’t eat good intentions.

    And the idea that you should punish one person for the sins of another is equally disgusting and immoral.

  163. Re the Garrett decision, yes I do believe indigenous Australians up north should be able to make money by harvesting and shooting crocodiles. Anything that helps them escape soul destroying passive welfare is a good thing.

    So you agree with libertarians then, Skull?

  164. Mark — I’m not convinced that humans have free will. It’s a tough question, and nearly impossible to answer. But it’s also entirely irrelevant for politics, where the only thing that matters is the perception of free will.

    Amy — If you are waiting for the government to “fix” it’s mistakes before you let people be free, you will wait forever. You do not solve the problems of force by having more force and just hoping that it will be good. That’s what every interventionist has said throughout history, including white missionaries and Mao’s red guards. You are denying everybody freedom and risking everybody’s welfare on the dream of a perfect politician.

    The world will never be perfect, but the sooner we are allowed to build a voluntary community, then the sooner we can start trying to build sustainable & just responses to the problems we face.

  165. Skull dodges the fact that he’s been defining “libertarian” incorrectly, then asserts the original definition is incorrect because he doesn’t think free will exists.

    This actually simply means he is a non-libertarian and vehemently anti libertarian.

    Yes Amy I agree it is important. Would you care to answer the questions though or not?

    “You are a post-colonial bourgeois propertarian. The difference is huge.”

    What about my friend who is part Aborigine who bought his first home with a mortgage with his fiancee? Who is he oppressing? His Grandmother who is a tribal elder?

    What a steaming load of self congratulating grandstanding.

  166. “One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation”
    –- Thomas B. Reed

  167. Mark,

    The term libertarian dates from French anarcho-communist discourse circa 1850 according to practically all sources. You now say it dates to 1789. For the second time I now ask you to provide evidence for this claim.

    I’m eager to learn.

    Don’t be scared.

  168. The term meant that free will existed – that is a libertarian believes in the doctrine of free will. It was coined by Whig writer and English clergyman William Belsham in his 1789 work, “Essays”.

    Seeing that he was a Whig and asserted that free will existed, it is fair to equate it with libertarians as mainstream libertarians use it now.

    Some sources dispute this but they also fail to mention (perhaps conveniently) that he was a Whig (also a group that cannot be associated with upholding privilege).

  169. Amy, if you put argument up here expect it to be pulled apart. That’s how we find good, solid, rational, correct positions from which we all benefit. I don’t deny that I don’t understand what left-libertarianism stands for, but that shouldn’t stop you posting your arguments. You obviously have libertarian sympathies, and if you work through your positions here you can develop them into ones that are very defendable, and if they were put into practise, quite effective.

  170. OK, this is the LAST post I am making on this topic and I ask you to respect my decision that I dont have time to keep on with this topic indefinitely.

    Mark. To describe the best way to try and transition to a libertarian society that I think would be acceptable would take a whole book, at least.

    In terms of the aboriginal issue – I would say that aboriginal people/communities themselves would be best placed to decide that. A bunch of privileged white people deciding how best to solve the problem would just be another assertion of illegitimate authority. Thats what i was getting to in my original post when i said you need to let communities figure these things for themselves.

    And thank you Michael Sutcliffe for your incredibly patronising post. As I have said THREE TIMES NOW not a single person has dealt with my basic point about how you can transition to a libertarian society that included existing illegitimate power imbalances. Im not annoyed that people are “pulling my arguments apart”- because they are not. I understand the principles of rational debate.

  171. Well, Amy, I thought I was being welcoming. Anyhoo, I suspect your definition of ‘illegitimate power imbalances’ probably differ from mine. For me, and I’d argue any rational person, the only equality that matters is equality under law. All other ‘equality’ is illusionary and only exists in the minds of starry-eyed left-wing idealists still looking for that world were it rains gumdrops chocolate bars grow on trees. I’m only interested in the practical approach that raises standards of living and doesn’t try to provide the impossible assurance to people that the values they live by don’t matter and don’t need to accord with reality. As for people not pulling your arguments apart, you’ve already stated that you don’t have any solutions at #178 and #181 above, so I don’t even know what your argument is. You just point at something you don’t feel is right and say ‘problem’. What’s that worth? Not much.

  172. “In terms of the aboriginal issue – I would say that aboriginal people/communities themselves would be best placed to decide that. A bunch of privileged white people deciding how best to solve the problem would just be another assertion of illegitimate authority. Thats what i was getting to in my original post when i said you need to let communities figure these things for themselves.’

    I would only add one thing – the corollary from my preconditions 1. and 2.

    It is also illegitimate of any group to expect to be subsidised to live in poverty very far away from civilisation.

    Welfare is only justifiable practically and ethically as to ameliorate poverty, but especially not to engender it.

  173. Can someone please explain how Amy can even dare call herself a libertarian when most of her arguments revolve around identity groups.

    That doesn’t exactly sound very libertarian to me.

  174. Michael says:

    “For me, and I’d argue any rational person, the only equality that matters is equality under law.”

    But we don’t have equality under the law.

    The law currently provides for just compensation in the event the Commonwealth steals your property unless you happen to be a coon, in which case you get nothing unless you are lucky enough to benefit from the Mabo decision.

  175. John,

    You say: “I’m not convinced that humans have free will” and then: “The world will never be perfect, but the sooner we are allowed to build a voluntary community”.

    How can humans enter into anything voluntarily if they don’t have free will?

  176. “In terms of the aboriginal issue – I would say that aboriginal people/communities themselves would be best placed to decide that. A bunch of privileged white people deciding how best to solve the problem would just be another assertion of illegitimate authority. Thats what i was getting to in my original post when i said you need to let communities figure these things for themselves.’

    That’s fine, as long as they don’t want to do it with my money.

  177. “Can someone please explain how Amy can even dare call herself a libertarian when most of her arguments revolve around identity groups.”

    Socialists are always searching for other words to describe themselves ever since people operating with their ideals killed tens of millions in the 20th century.

  178. Skull’s arguments so far.

    1. You can’t call yourselves libertarians because someone else took that term 785 years ago and it was also used as the nameplate to a London cathouse in 1835 that socialists frequented.
    2. If you not aboriginal you can’t own property in Australia and you’re here illegally so please leave.

    Skull channels Mugabe rule of law and economics and suggests that the true version of libertarianism.

  179. Bloody hell Yobbo, you had me concerned when i saw your name on this thread, not him it can’t be true, he can’t be one of them!

    After reading it; right on mate.

  180. jc,

    Skull sounds exactly like me when I was about 15 and was reading all the revolutionary and socialist books I could afford, which is, of course, the only time intelligent people should be socialists or communists.

  181. Skull still declines to answer if an Aborigine I know who has bought a house recently is oppressing his full blood grandmother who is a tribal elder, although he suggests as much (he was only kidding that he’d knife us all in our sleep).

    Really, what a steaming load of grandstanding BS.

    JC – he was also wrong, the French dude never “invented” the term *libertarian* (‘someone believing in the doctrine of free will’). Whig reformer William Belsham did in England, in 1789, in his publication “Essays”.

    Since Amy won’t come back for now, I won’t give her the “official libertarian thumbs up/down” just yet.

    Any suggestion she makes about social problems need to however in my mind need to satisfy two conditions: i) strong civil rights and ii) feasibility.

  182. Amy, whilst I am not an objectivist, some of their arguments are similar to mine, so I’ll use a sentence used by an objectivist on a TV show, when asked, “What would happen to the poor in an Objectivist society?”. He replied, and this is my answer to you, “If you want to help them, you would not be stopped.”

  183. Skull, my dictionary says that a libertarian is a person who believes in freedom of thought, behaviour, etc. Therefore, we are all libertarians here, except you, who want us to be governed by collectives, and live on communes.

  184. DocBud — for politics all that matters is the perception of free will.

    All — if your strategy for argument is to insult people, then don’t be surprised if you don’t convince many people, and that people stop even listening.

  185. I know you have some sort of irrational connection with the ‘left-libertarian’ cause, but what’s the purpose of putting up ideas if you don’t point out the obvious flaws in what people are saying? If you want this site to be nice and fluffy just say so and I’m sure most of the ‘hard heads’ will stop posting things that risk others feeling bad no matter how bad their arguments might be. I don’t really see what that will achieve but, hey, it’s your site.

  186. John,

    Surely if your free will is only perception, your voluntary community will equally be only perception. For me to voluntarily enter into a community with others,by definition, I must exercise free will.

  187. Doc — I think you’ve defined “voluntary” to mean “consequence of free will”, in which case your argument is tautologically true but not very interesting.

    I take “voluntary” to mean that all parties to an action have given consent, without a threat of violence. In that case… whether your perception of free will is real or not doesn’t matter. While metaphysical debates about the existence or otherwise of free will are interesting, all that is necessary for morals & politics is that people think they have free will and act as though they have free will.

    Michael — It’s possible to engage ideas without making people feel bad.

  188. Michael — It’s possible to engage ideas without making people feel bad.

    Making people feel bad is a very good way of making people stop listening. Obvious, perhaps the real reason people like making people feel bad is not to persuade it is ego gratification and self indulgence. That is, making people feel bad is not a rational mode of discourse because the mode inhibits communication.

    John, I and a great many people do not believe we have free will. It is paradoxical to assert the concept’s utility yet recognise it as a falsehood. I have the same problem. Trust you have better luck than me.

  189. I don’t see why we should be nice to socialists who come on a libertarian site pretending to be libertarians.

    This is a tried-and-true method of spreading socialists, it’s too generous to pretend it’s a naive mistake.

    Socialism killed tens of millions of people in the 20th century, we should be about 1/10th as nice to them as we are to nazis.

  190. JH — The concept of “free will” and “perception of free will” are metaphysically different, but make no difference for morality or politics. Even if my free will isn’t real, it’s still important to people… and irrespective of how exactly the brain works, people still respond to incentives.

    Yobbo — There are several reasons to be nice to people. The first is that it just makes life better. The second is that your opponents is more likely to listen to you. But most importantly in the context of a public discussion, it is so that interested third parties listen to you. An open and eager mind watching a debate will (quite rightly) prefer nice people, and be more willing to consider their contribution. But if the discussion is just insults, many fair-minded people will just stop reading.

    A final reason is that I edit this blog and I have asked people to be nice.

  191. John Humphreys says:

    “And the idea that you should punish one person for the sins of another is equally disgusting and immoral.”

    According to Common Law, which has a special place in Hayekian right-libertarian thought, if A steals a car from B, then A sells the car to car dealer C who then sells it to customer D, the car remains AT ALL TIMES the property of the original owner A. The fact that D had no way of knowing the car was stolen is neither here nor there.

    According to your logic, much of the Common Law is immoral and disgusting and consequently must be overruled by the State. Obviously you aren’t a big fan of Hayek 🙂

  192. Under the same common law, customer D can sue for compensation from dealer C, and dealer C can sue for compensation from stealer B.

    Though I’m not convinced that common law is right in this instance. Neither Hayek nor any other human has ever claimed that common law is perfect.

    Also under common law, if you use something for long enough, it becomes yours. Also under common law, if you have absolutely nothing to do with the crime (including not using the stolen property), then you certainly aren’t liable. So, while an interesting issue (and one that’s been debated here in the past) the common law position on trade in stolen property is not relevant to the issue of aboriginal compensation.

  193. “Also under common law, if you use something for long enough, it becomes yours.”

    Only if the original owner fails to claim his property or exercise rights to his property for a statutory period.

    Anyway, does the LDP accept Mabo or should native title be extinguished?

  194. Skull:

    That example applies to English law and it isn’t as clear cut as you make out as there is cross current throughout that law. You example doesn’t apply under American law as the last owner has property rights if s/he bought it legitimately and wasn’t aware of the fraud.

    You need to try another example, Champ. You libertarian you.

  195. “That example applies to English law and it isn’t as clear cut as you make out as there is cross current throughout that law.”

    It applies to Australian law, sweet pea. Who gives a shit about American law.

  196. The 300 million people that live there. And don’t call me sweet pea.

    Skull, face facts, this wasn’t a country when the aboriginals lived here. It was basically a land-mass populated by nomadic groups that were still in the stone age for the most part. To somehow suggest that we should confer to their multi-generational offspring certain rights they don’t deserve more than anyone (as they’re so far removed) and use that stupid argument along with your name calling is a joke.

    Aboriginals and those of partial aboriginal dissent deserve no more rights than the rest of us that were born here and those that came and allowed to take citizenship or permanent residence.

    white settlement has been a good thing for this land mass and for the world. Aboriginals have inherited a modern functioning economy and we’re able to feed and clothe 300 million people with our production.

    To try and suggest these things aren’t good things is appalling.

  197. I think Libertarians shouldn’t be drawn in to these sorts of arguments as it wrong from the very first premise.

    Skull and Amy are arguing from a group rights perspective which is in perfect keeping with leftists.

    I didn’t give a shit about group rights and if people want to identify with a group it ought to be upt to them….that’s their shtick. This means I don’t give a shit about any group calling itself aboriginal, anglo… Italian or whatever.

    The law shouldn’t be made to recognize groups rights as it invariably turns into bad law.

    Are past wrongs important? Perhaps from a historical perspective but that’s about it.

  198. “I didn’t(sic) give a shit about group rights …”

    Does that apply to a group called property owners, or are they an exception to the rule?

  199. How are group rights conferred to property owners? A sale of a house down the road has no bearing on me.

    Thanks for the spell check.

  200. Skull. If you can point out a living aboriginal that had has property illegitimately confiscated from a living white fella then we can start talking.

    In your example A has a claim to the car B stole from him, sure. But if A is dead and B is dead then I’m pretty sure not many people would quibble about D keeping possession of the car. Especially when A had no will and it is unclear what A’s great-grandchildren would even have done with it.

    I’ll admit that intergenerational property rights become murky. Especially in the absence of clear contracts. Of course the right libertarian does lead to some odd sounding conclusions.

    Eg: Person A has a car. He planned on leaving his car to his child B. Person C steals the car from person A. Person C gives the car to his child D who thinks it was taken legitimately at the time. Person C kills himself. Person D finds out that the car was actually stolen from A (though A wasn’t making very good use of it). Should he be legally bound to return it to person B? What happens if person D has added improvements to the car since being given it?

    It’s a complicated situation that somewhat resembles aboriginal land rights. I don’t think many libertarians, even jc, would say it’s okay to take communally owned land from nomads. But rather the extent to which compensation is due (if at all) is a highly convoluted question to which there is no simple answer. And compensation being given to the aboriginal “race” as a whole seems entirely racist, surely a descendant of the tribes that used to own more land should be entitled to more than the descendants of people from geographically smaller tribes.

    We can try and make up for past injustices, but we’re doomed to fail in our attempts. The right libertarian approach is to forgive past injustices and try and stop the same injustices from being perpetuated again. Sure it may allow for some inequality, but it seems a lesser evil than pursuing retribution for past wrongs generations down the line.

    The right-libertarian approach does make me wonder, however. If I’m near my death bed perhaps I should steal a whole bunch of property, give it to my children, kill the original owner and then off myself…

  201. There’s only one problem with your examples. You’re basically attaching a “modern” concept of property in those examples and then somehow suggesting they are applicable to aboriginals. They aren’t. Property rights wouldn’t be recognizable to a stone age people that lived a nomadic existence.

    This sort of thinking is a later stage development for human beings.

  202. Shem says:

    “I don’t think many libertarians, even jc, would say it’s okay to take communally owned land from nomads.”

    But that is exactly what he says at #223.

    “Should he be legally bound to return it to person B?”

    According to Australian Common Law, yes.

  203. Skull — This is what you said:

    “Does that apply to a group called property owners, or are they an exception to the rule?”

    To which i replied:

    How are group rights conferred to property owners? A sale of a house down the road has no bearing on me.

  204. Re being nice – the simple thing is, that if you’re trying to convince someone of something, it’s in your rational self-interest to be nice to them.

    “you’re an idiot because of ABCD” “oh yeah, I am an idiot. so glad you informed of that” doesn’t happen. You do not convince people by being antagonistic to them. Sure, if you tear someone down you might feel surprised and very proud of yourself, but it just doesn’t achieve the point…

  205. Skull — you are missing JC’s point because you and he use some words differently. When JC says he’s against group rights he is saying that he’s against the idea that a group has a set of rights by virtue of being in a group. He is not saying that he’s against the idea of joint ownership, or he’s against the idea of groups.

    Libertarians have no problem with joint ownership of things, so long as it is voluntary.

    Libertarians believe in the importance of civil society and voluntary community. Indeed, one of the saddest parts of the neo-socialist experiment with big government has been the destruction of many parts of voluntary society.

    If people want to come together in a voluntary commune, a voluntary church, a voluntary marriage, a voluntary friendly society or football club, or any other voluntary group, then that is great. Humans are social creatures, and most of us will form groups.

    Some people wrongly assume that the political debate is between those who believe in “individuals” and those who believe in “society”. This isn’t true. All sane people recognise that people are individuals, and that people live in society. The point of differentiation is whether those societies should be voluntary or involuntary.

    You ask about the “group rights” of property owners, but that is not a group right. That is a human right that applies equally to all people. The right is simply this, “you have the right to do what you like, so long as it’s voluntary”.

    You asked about Mabo and native title. I can’t speak for the LDP, but I can give you my preference. I think the most important thing for aboriginal land rights is that it should be upgraded to full private freehold rights where there is no competing claim. Where there is a competing claim, the current title should be respected as the time elapsed has been too great.

    Aboriginal policy depresses me. After seeing how well socialist land-rights worked in Russia, China, Nth Korea and Cambodia we decided to experiment with socialist land-rights in Australia. But not on most Australians, thank god. We just imposed socialist land-rights on the most underprivileged groups in our community… and then we are surprised when it doesn’t work.

    The sad part is that the victims are innocent, while the people who imposed the socialism continue to live in western capitalist comfort. Perhaps if Whitlam & his friends had to live in the aboriginal homelands they wouldn’t think it was such a cute anthropological curiosity and would start to care about economic development.

  206. “Anyway, does the LDP accept Mabo or should native title be extinguished?

    Comment by Skull | November 16, 2009 ”

    Hi Skull,

    Although your question was double barrled and expressed a false dichotomy based on some of your illucid ideas, re: your bigoted hatred of libertarians, misunderstanding of common law and a poorly documented, autodidacted history of libertarianism, I will clarfiy our views on native title for you.

    The LDP does not officially wish to change the status quo. In effect, it is supported.

    Several members (myself and Terje Petersen for example) believe that native title should be granted where possible, as soon as possible, to end confusion and remedy injustices. The same believe in land rights strengthened as freehold title with attached mineral rights if the rights granted under native title law would be greater than a mere easement or profit a pendre. We also believe that members of the benefited tribes/language groups should hold ordinarily transferable shares in the said claims.

    I hope this helps. If you repeat the same questions, we can conclude that you are illiterate, not inquisitive.

  207. Pingback: Social Libertarianism, & The Heart Of Freedom « Thoughts on Freedom

  208. I don’t think the author “get’s it”. Libertarianism is not about rectifying the wrongs of government. In doing so, you risk perpetuating the same wrongs but on different people. It is not even about giving power back where it has been unjustly taken. Unless it is an exit strategy to get out of the power broking business. This will lead to entitlements and dependence a la affirmative action.

  209. Si poteva certamente vedere il vostro entusiasmo nel lavoro che si scrive. Il mondo spera ancora di più gli scrittori appassionati come voi che non hanno paura di dire come si crede. Seguire sempre il tuo cuore.

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