On Libertarianism and Conquest

The institution of private property is a fundamental aspect of economics and social interactions. It serves the practical purpose of avoiding conflicts over scarce resources so that efforts may be put toward better purposes. Theories concerning the creation, acquisition, trade, inheritance, and defense of private property form much of libertarian philosophy. What has gone largely unexplored in libertarian theory thus far is the role of conquest in the determination of property rights. Almost all inhabited land on Earth has been conquered by one group of people or another at some time in the past, so as long as this remains unexplored, libertarianism will be left open to attacks from all manner of enemies of private property rights. Thus, it is necessary to examine conquest from a libertarian perspective.

Man vs. Nature

The starting point for all of libertarian philosophy is self-ownership; each person has a right to exclusive control of one’s physical body and full responsibility for actions committed with said control. Note that in order to argue against self-ownership, one must exercise exclusive control of one’s physical body for the purpose of communication. This results in a performative contradiction because the content of the argument is at odds with the act of making the argument. By the laws of excluded middle and non-contradiction, self-ownership must be true because it must be either true or false, and any argument that self-ownership is false leads to a contradiction.

Because each person has a right to exclusive control of one’s physical body, it is wrong for one person to initiate interference with another person’s exclusive control of their physical body without their consent. This is how the non-aggression principle is derived from self-ownership. Because each person has full responsibility for the actions that one commits with one’s physical body, one may gain property rights in external objects by laboring upon unowned natural resources. This works because one is responsible for the improvements that one has made upon the natural resources, and it is impossible to own the improvements without owning the resources themselves.

In a sense, all property rights are based on conquest, in that property rights are created when man conquers nature by appropriating part of nature for his exclusive control and use. This is a powerful antidote to the contention of many opponents of private property that property titles are somehow invalidated by a history of conquest, of people taking by force what is not rightfully theirs. But we can do even better than this, as the next sections will show.

Man vs. Man

As stated earlier, property rights are useful in practice because they minimize conflicts over scarce resources by establishing who rightfully controls what territory. This results in a significant amount of loss prevention, which allows the people who would have died and the property that would have been damaged in such conflicts to instead survive and prosper.

But what happens when such norms are not respected? Let us consider the simplest possible example and extrapolate from there. For our first case, consider a planet which has only two sentient beings. Let us call them Archer and Bob. Archer has mixed his labor with some land and thus acquired private property rights over that area. Bob wants the land that belongs to Archer. That Archer has a right to defend himself and his property from the aggressions of Bob by any means necessary, and that Archer has the right to retake anything that Bob takes is not disputed by any reputable libertarian theorist. But what if Bob kills Archer? In that case, the property does not rightfully pass from Archer to Bob in theory. But Bob now has exclusive control over the property and there is no other sentient being present to challenge him. Thus, Bob becomes the de facto owner, even though this is illegitimate de jure.

The above case is interesting but trivial because social norms are irrelevant if there is neither a community to observe them nor a mechanism to enforce them. As such, we will spend the rest of this essay adding complexity to the first case to arrive at meaningful results. For our second case, suppose that there were another person present to challenge Bob. Let us call him Calvin. Because libertarian theory is a logical construct, it is subject to logic in the form of rationality and consistency. To violate the rights of another person while claiming the same rights for oneself is not consistent. Hypocrisy of this kind cannot be rationally advanced in argument; it has the same effect at the subjective level that a performative contradiction has at the objective level. In other words, all people do not lose the right to life because someone somewhere somewhen commits a murder, but the murderer does. This means that Bob cannot claim a right to his own life or to the property he occupies because he murdered Archer and stole his property. Thus, there is no moral prohibition on Calvin killing Bob and taking the property from him. With Archer and Bob both dead and Calvin the last sentient being on the planet, Calvin is now the de facto owner of the property. But unlike Bob in the first case, Calvin is also the de jure property owner because he has exerted effort to remove property from the control of a thief and the rightful owner died without an heir.

Another level of complexity may be added by giving Archer a rightful heir, whom we may call Delia. Let our third case proceed as the second case; Bob murders Archer and steals his land, then Calvin kills Bob to eliminate a murderer and take stolen property away from a thief. But with Archer dead, Delia is now the rightful owner of Archer’s land. However, without Calvin’s labor in killing Bob, Bob would still be occupying Delia’s territory. Thus, both Calvin and Delia have legitimate property claims. They may resolve this issue by one of the two methods available to anyone: reason or force. With reason, they may negotiate a fair settlement in which Calvin is compensated for his efforts and Delia reclaims her property minus the compensation. With force, they may fight, which will end in the first case if one kills the other. Short of this, fighting will only alter the particulars of a fair settlement or lead to the fourth case described below.

Family vs. Family

Because the moral limitations of groups are no different from the moral limitations of individuals, we may now extend these results to consider conflicts between small groups. For our fourth case, let us modify the third case by giving spouses to Calvin and Delia. Let there also be other people somewhere who can procreate with the aforementioned people, but do not otherwise involve themselves with the property concerns at hand. Suppose that Calvin and Delia do not resolve their issue, and Calvin continually occupies the property. Calvin and Delia each have offspring, then several generations pass such that Calvin and Delia are long dead. The descendants of Delia wish to reclaim their ancestral homeland from the descendants of Calvin. But do they have the right to do so? Calvin and his descendants have spent generations occupying and laboring upon the land, thus continually demonstrating and renewing their property rights. Delia and her descendants have not. One might argue that an injustice was done to Delia by Calvin, but the responsibility for crimes dies with the people who commit the crimes, and debts do not rightfully pass from one generation to another. This is because the descendants were not involved in the disputes between their ancestors, being as yet unborn. Therefore, they are not responsible for any wrongdoing that may have occurred, being non-actors in the disputes of their ancestors. The answer, then, is that the descendants of Calvin are now the rightful owners and the descendants of Delia have lost through abandonment the claim that Delia once had.

Man vs. Society and Family vs. Society

Next, let us consider issues that may arise when a single person has a property conflict with a large group of people. Though it is not a priori true that a single person will always be overpowered by a group, this is the historical norm, and it has occurred with sufficient frequency to take this as a given for our analysis. For our fifth case, let us reconsider the first case, only now Bob is replaced by a society. Let us call them the Bobarians. The morality of the situation does not change; if the Bobarians physically remove Archer and occupy his land, then the Bobarians who occupy the land are guilty of robbery and possessing stolen property while those who willfully aid them in doing so are accessories to these crimes. If the Bobarians demand that Archer obey their commands and pay them tribute, then they are guilty of extortion. Archer has a right to use any means necessary to reclaim his liberty and property, however unlikely to succeed these efforts may be. If the Bobarians kill Archer either during their conquest or afterward, then those who kill him are guilty of murder and robbery. But if Archer is dead without an heir, and there exists no other group of people capable of holding the Bobarians accountable for their crimes, then the Bobarian conquest of Archer’s property is valid de facto even though it is illegitimate de jure.

For our sixth case, suppose that Archer does have surviving heirs who wish to take back the property which has been stolen from them by the Bobarians. All of these Archerians have been wronged by the Bobarians, and thus have a right to reclaim the stolen property. But just as before, this needs to occur within the lifetimes of the conquerors and their supporters because descendants are not responsible for the crimes of their ancestors. Note if the Archerians had a timeless right to return to their ancestral lands or collect reparations from the Bobarians, it would encourage the Bobarians to finish exterminating them in order to prevent an effort to retake the land in future. A standard which encourages mass murder is questionable, to say the least.

Society vs. Society

The last set of issues to consider concern conflicts between societies. For our seventh case, let us consider what role might be played by another group who wish to hold conquerors responsible for their murder and thievery. Let us call them the Calvinites, after the role of Calvin discussed earlier. Suppose they witness the Bobarians kill Archer and all of his relatives to take their lands, as in the fifth case. What may the Calvinites rightly do? Of course, they may denounce the conquest and engage in social and economic ostracism of the Bobarians. But this is hardly sufficient punishment for the Bobarian aggression, nor does it do anything to deprive criminals of their ill-gotten gains. As per the second case, there is no moral prohibition on the Calvinites physically removing the Bobarians from the former Archerian lands by any means necessary. All Bobarians who took part in the conquest or aided the effort are fair targets for defensive force, and any innocent shields killed in the process are acceptable losses. Should the Calvinites succeed in removing the Bobarians, they become both the factual and rightful owners through their labors of justice.

For our eighth case, let us modify the seventh case by having some Archerians survive the Bobarian assault. With many Archerians dead and the rest in exile, the Calvinites intervene. The Calvinites succeed in removing the Bobarians from the Archerian homeland. The Archerians seek to return to their land. As in the third case, the surviving Archerians can come to terms with the Calvinites to resettle their lands and compensate them for their efforts in removing the Bobarians, try to remove the Calvinites by force, or let the Calvinites have the land and go somewhere else. A war between the Archerians and Calvinites will only result in alternate terms of negotiation or the Archerians leaving unless one side completely exterminates the other. If the Archerians leave and the Calvinites stay for several generations such that the original disputants die off, then as per the fourth case, the Archerians lose the right to return because the Calvinites now have the legitimate property claim.

The ninth and most important case to consider in terms of real-world occurrence is that of incomplete conquest, in which a conqueror does not exile or exterminate a native population, but instead conquers them for the purpose of ruling over them. Suppose the Bobarians seek not after an Archerian genocide, but only to annex them into the Bobarian empire. Of course, the Archerians have every right to resist their new rulers; there is not even the illusion of consent of the governed in such a case. But unlike the cases discussed above, a state apparatus initiates the use of force for as long as it operates. Whereas a forced exile or extermination is a crime typically done by one generation of people, a long-term occupation for the purpose of collecting taxes and/or breeding out the natives over the course of generations is a continuing criminal activity. In such a case, the Bobarian occupation will never become just and the Archerians will always have the right to declare independence and remove them. This only becomes difficult to resolve to the extent that Bobarians intermarry with Archerians and produce mixed offspring, but the historical norm is that cultural and genetic vestiges of an occupation remain with a people long after they declare independence from and remove an occupier. After all, the individuals born of such conditions cannot help their lot, the actions of particular individuals are not necessarily representative of the state apparatus, and carefully excising such a cultural and genetic legacy is generally impossible without committing more acts of aggression.

Conclusions

Through application of these nine cases to real-world circumstances, one can theoretically resolve most of the property disputes between population groups, however unlikely the disputants may be to accept these results. What cannot be justified through these examples, however, are the interventions of the state concerning instances of conquest. Any good that a state may do by punishing conquerors is fruit of a poisoned tree, for the state acts as a conqueror over its own people, extorting them for resources and demanding obedience to its edicts. Instead, this is an appropriate role for individuals and private defense agencies who may free oppressed peoples and take payment either in monetary terms or through property claims over territory that has been conquered and liberated from occupation. The libertarian must be wary of state efforts to imitate the market by hiring private contractors or issuing letters of marque and reprisal for the purpose of bringing conquerors to justice.

There is a legal maxim that justice delayed is justice denied, and the libertarian analysis of conquest shows that this is doubly true; not only does a delay in the provision of justice allow injustice to persist, but given enough time, it renders the plaintiff’s grievances invalid. This amounts to a natural statute of limitations and statute of repose, meaning that the arbitrary and capricious statutes of limitations and repose imposed by statist legal systems is generally unnecessary, at least with regard to the property crimes and crimes against the person involved in conquest. In this sense, the libertarian theory of conquest naturally stresses the urgency of seeking justice in a way that statist legal systems can only attempt to simulate.

Another legal expression reinforced by this analysis is that possession is nine-tenths of the law. The idea is that the current possessor or occupant of physical property is assumed to be the owner unless a stronger ownership claim by someone else is proven. This must be the case because the only other consistent position would be to assume that the current possessor or occupant of physical property is not the owner, which quickly leads to absurdity as claims rush in from people who wish to take all manner of property and continually redistribute it ad infinitum.

Finally, one might misconstrue the above analysis to say that libertarian theory defends the idea that might makes right. But in order to believe this, one must ignore all of the arguments in favor of defensive force to separate conquerors from the spoils they have taken. Rather, the libertarian theory regarding conquest recognizes and respects the fact that might makes outcomes. This is a fact which will never change; the only thing that changes throughout space and time is who will have might and how much power disparity will exist between opponents.

Book Review: The Age of Jihad

The Age of Jihad is a book about political unrest in the Middle East by Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn. The book is a compilation of his notes and articles over a 20-year period (1996-2016) while traveling throughout the Middle East. Cockburn did direct reporting where possible, and relied upon first-hand accounts when venturing into certain places was too dangerous.

Cockburn begins with his reporting from Afghanistan in late 2001 as the United States began its intervention to remove the Taliban from power. Next, he shares his experiences of Iraq under sanctions from 1996, 1998, and 2001, followed by his experiences there during the American occupation from 2003 to 2010. This is followed by his next forays into Afghanistan from 2009 to 2012.

The next part of the book focuses on the Arab Spring and the events that followed, with particular emphasis on countries in which the rulers were not quickly deposed. Cockburn begins with the Libyan Civil War of 2011 that removed Muammar Gaddafi from power, along with the difficulties that followed. Sectarian violence in Yemen from 2009 to 2015 and the failed uprising in Bahrain in 2011 each get a chapter.

The last part of the book covers recent developments in Syria and Iraq. First, the Arab Spring in Syria and its development into the Syrian Civil War from 2011 to 2014 is discussed in two chapters. Another two chapters are devoted to the contemporaneous destabilization of Iraq. This culminates in the rise of ISIS and the establishment of the Caliphate, in and near which the final four chapters take place.

The book gives important insight into just how terrible daily life is for people in war-torn lands, including the near-absence of basic utilities, shortages of essential items, rampant unemployment, and fear of mistreatment both from rebel groups and one’s own government. The book is filled with anecdotes of behavior which have not been seen since the Renaissance in the West, and knowledge of this behavior helps to explain animosity toward migrants from that region. The reader may be familiar with some of the events described, but almost anyone would find new information somewhere in the book.

One comes away from the book with a sense that both Western and regional powers had to be trying to perform so poorly. Western powers sought to punish Saddam Hussein without regard for the Iraqi people who bore the brunt of sanctions. They ignored cultural attitudes and sectarian divisions while turning a blind eye to mass corruption that greatly weakened the nation-building projects in Afghanistan and Iraq. They removed dictators who were stabilizing forces, thus creating power vacuums which were filled by al-Qa’ida and its affiliates. It is difficult to be so maliciously incompetent without intending to do so.

Overall, Cockburn does an excellent job of conveying the reality on the ground in most of the conflicts in the War on Terrorism and the Arab Spring. The only real improvement would be to add sections on recent events in Egypt and Tunisia, which only get passing mentions as sources for jihadists in other places. The Age of Jihad belongs on the bookshelf of any serious student of recent history, the Middle East, revolutions, war, and/or the effects of foreign intervention.

Rating: 5/5

How The Left Can Still Win The 2016 Election

So, dear leftist, it is 2017. The current year, as it were. Donald J. Trump occupies the Oval Office, and the “her” you were with does not. All of the accusations of bigotry and threats of violence you could muster were simply not enough to sway people who were hurting economically and were tired of being talked down to by the likes of you. Your massive street demonstrations against the election result after many of you never made it to the polls only earned you derision and scorn. Your plan to throw the Electoral College to the House of Representatives by convincing electors to vote against the results of democratic elections in their states actually cost the Democratic candidate more electoral votes than her opponent. Your protests at the certification and the cabinet hearings have only gotten you physically removed from the Capitol building. Your actions at the inauguration have resulted in many of you facing significant prison time for felony rioting. I know it must be difficult to lose one dream (socialism) after another (the first female president), but all hope is not lost. You still have options, and believe it or not, this libertarian reactionary is here to help.

If you wish to live in a world in which Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or some other left-wing candidate won the 2016 election, your only options now are to go back in time and alter the results or to go to an alternate universe in which the person of your choice is President. These could very well be equivalent, for reasons we will discuss later. Of course, this amounts to election tampering and voter fraud, but when has that ever bothered the left? Everyone knows that you only really believe in democracy when it gives results that you like. Although no one has yet accomplished backward time travel or inter-universal travel, general relativity does appear to allow for it. You are going to need far more knowledge of mathematics and science than your major in gender studies and minor in queer literature gave you, but why let this stop you? You are a special snowflake, and you can do anything if you just believe in yourself.

You may encounter difficulties in obtaining funding, as Trump and Congressional Republicans would never appropriate funds for their own retroactive removal from power. Being out of political power, you will have to subject yourself to market forces by funding your project through voluntary means and providing investors with a reasonable return. Being a productive capitalist will go against your beliefs, but consistency is of no concern for a leftist, especially when serving the greater purpose of removing “Literally Hitler” from power.

There are four ways to accomplish time travel into the past, go to another universe, or both: faster-than-light travel under certain conditions, use of cosmic strings, use of black holes, and use of traversable wormholes. Each of these methods requires a form of exotic matter with negative energy density to avoid infinities and imaginary numbers in the calculations, but it may be that the insanity of leftist thought is caused by the presence of such substances in the brain. Additionally, the Casimir effect might be able to produce the negative energy density needed to power a time machine or traversable wormhole. If finding what you need becomes a problem, just demand that the exotic matter check its privilege. I am sure that it will do as you ask, since reality is just a social construct for you.

On second thought, the time travel idea might not work. If you go back in time and make a Democrat win the election, you will remove the reason for time traveling, along with the knowledge that there ever was a reason. This means that you will not time travel because you will have no motivation for creating your time machine, thus undoing all of your work. Another possible mechanism for the avoidance of temporal paradoxes is the many-worlds interpretation. In this view, you would not be preventing Trump’s election in this universe, but in another parallel universe that is branched off from this universe by your interference.

We are left with the idea of using a traversable wormhole to go to another universe where you can live under your leftist ruler of choice. Alternate reality may seem like a stretch, but you already live there in your mind; we are just making it official. I know, I know, you want to stay and fight. But given that the most radical elements of your coalition are going to keep escalating their violence until most non-leftists cheer a brutal crackdown on all of you, and none of you seem willing to rein them in, you are not safe here.

I ask only one thing in return. In whatever alternate universe you choose or create, there will likely be people there who disagree with you. Please let them travel in the opposite direction through whatever portal you open. You are getting your own universe; at least give us this one (or whatever new one is formed by their exodus here) in return. You say you believe in fairness and justice, and what could be more fair and just than a one-for-one trade? And should not an open border work both ways?

But let us be realistic. The technology required to do this is decades away at the earliest, and may turn out to be impossible. So sit back and enjoy the Trumpenführer’s time in office. There are many reasons to oppose him, but that is true of every President. Perhaps the institution itself is the real problem, but you are a leftist, so that is a bridge too far.

The Not-So-Current Year: 2016 In Review

Though the specific demarcation of the passage from one year into another is a rather arbitrary social construct, it does provide a useful annual period for self-examination and remembrance. Now that 2016 has entered the history books, let us take a look back at a year’s worth of essays and review the not-so-current year.

We begin, of course, with last year’s article of the same kind. Some articles in this list are sequels to articles in that list. Aside from that, we may move on.

My first article proper of 2016 was A Case Against the Nineteenth Amendment. It was intended to come out before the New Year, but I was not satisfied with it until January 3. If I were to rewrite this article, I would say more about biological differences between the sexes and why these make the entrance of women into democratic politics a danger to the stability and sustainability of a society. I took down the First Amendment later in the year.

The Bundy standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve began. I made nine observations on the event. Their later acquittal on several felony charges after the standoff ended in what was essentially an instance of jury nullification was cause for celebration.

As usual, leftists called for more gun restrictions and an end to gun violence without seeing that the former would both cause and be enforced by gun violence or the threat thereof. Rather than take the usual path of reductio ad absurdum, I argued the sharper point that gun deaths can be a good thing. This did not sit well with the editors at Examiner.com, who pulled the article. Given a long and contentious history with the site, I decided to part ways with them and start my own site. This proved to be a wise choice, as Examiner gave up the ghost less than six months later, with all content disappearing into the aether. My next task was to choose a name for the site and explain its meaning.

Christopher Cantwell argued the libertarian case for Donald Trump, and I gave him some pushback. Shortly afterward, Rand Paul suspended his campaign, and I wrote a list of observations on the event.

‘No victim means no crime’ is a common saying among libertarians, but an altogether too reductionist one. I explained why.

A Russian film crew flew a drone over the city of Homs and recorded the aftermath of Assad’s forces besieging the city. I rarely get emotional, but seeing the wanton destruction was quite triggering for me. Aleppo was conquered later in the year, and I wrote a list of observations on the event.

I decided to take an educated guess at whether Ron Paul could have defeated Barack Obama if he had been the Republican nominee in 2012. I believe he would have done so easily.

Twitter decided to give in to government and social justice warrior requests to censor their enemies. Unsurprisingly, this tanked their stock prices. I proposed several remedies for the situation, and Twitter has of course used none of them.

Jason Brennan published an article arguing that arguments made by libertarians against open borders have disturbing implications that said libertarians almost never address, so I addressed them and showed on a point-by-point basis that some such implications are not only not so scary, but are actually vitally important to the maintenance of a libertarian social order.

Charlotte City Council approved an expansion of its anti-discrimination ordinance to include transgender people, which I denounced as a violation of private property, freedom of association, public safety, and freedom of religion. Governor Pat McCrory and the state legislature responded with House Bill 2, and the controversy has brewed for almost a year.

An author known as Mr. Underhill published an article arguing that violent revolution is not the appropriate method for achieving liberty. I took the opposite view, which led to a lengthy exchange of four more articles on my part and four more on his part. Following this exchange, I decided to write about how I choose who to debate and for how long, which made me realize that I had entertained Mr. Underhill for far too long. Later in the year, I covered political violence more generally to argue that we need more of it as well.

When examining the intellectual foundation for private property rights, I noticed an unexplored quirk which turned into an original proviso. A critique in the comments section led to another article defending the proviso.

Islamic terrorists attacked the airport and a subway station in Brussels, killing 31 people and injuring 300 others. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Social justice warriors seem to have their own language which is distinct from both the dictionary definitions and the common understanding of words by most of the general population. I created a glossary to help normal people better understand SJW rhetoric.

Donald Trump suggested that women could be punished for getting an abortion, which outraged both sides of the mainstream abortion debate. I weighed in with a view which did the same.

Having addressed water ownership and pollution in two articles in 2015, I decided to lay out a libertarian theory on air ownership and pollution.

Puerto Rico reached new lows of fiscal irresponsibility, and I explained why it is best to cut them loose from the United States to become an independent country.

The rise of neoreaction and the alt-right has brought reactionary thought back to the forefront. I deemed my first attempt at examining its relationship to libertarianism to be inadequate, so I took a second stab at it. A Jeffrey Tucker article prompted a third effort, and I made a fourth effort later in the year in response to a pro-Trump neoreactionary article by Michael Perilloux.

Peter Weber published an opinion piece arguing that the institution of the American Presidency is being delegitimized, and that this is a dangerous direction. I argued that this is actually a welcome and even glorious development.

Having already explained my decisions about debating other authors, I wrote two more articles explaining my lack of profanity and lack of satirical content.

Many incorrect arguments concerning libertarianism and punishment began to appear, so I laid out a theory of libertarianism and punishment which utilized heavy doses of Rothbard.

The Libertarian Party held its nominating convention, and it was a disaster from beginning to end. The Republican convention was not much better in terms of substance.

Many people have noticed a correlation between weightlifting and libertarianism. I explored this correlation and found many reasons for it.

A terrorist who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. I wrote a list of observations on the event, but missed a major point in doing so. Democracy is partly responsible for terrorism because it gives the common person a political voice, which makes them viable targets in a way that absolute monarchies or stateless societies would not.

When the Supreme Court ruled against Abigail Fisher in her anti-white racism case, the Internet cheered. I did not, realizing that the decision was a rejection of pure meritocracy.

Against all predictions, the vote to remove the United Kingdom from the European Union succeeded. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

In my most controversial article to date, I argued the most extreme position in the gun control debate: a private individual has a right to own nuclear weapons, and this would be beneficial for liberty. The troll brigades were out in force making typical leftist non-arguments, and I thank them for granting me a then-record in daily page views (and thus advertising money). A few did raise legitimate criticisms which will require an addendum to be written in the future.

As the major-party presidential nominations were secured, the establishment media wasted an inordinate amount of time engaging in speculation about who would be the running mate of each candidate. When discussing the potential benefits that each potential vice presidential pick could have, they neglected the aspect of assassination insurance.

Several recent problems with the criminal justice system demonstrated that government will not hold government accountable, and that a market alternative is required.

Five police officers were killed by a sniper in Dallas. I used the event to argue that those who kill government agents now are not cowardly murderers perpetrating senseless violence, but neither are they heroic or helpful to the cause of liberty.

A certain type of policy analysis exhibits many symptoms which are also found in high-functioning autistic people. This is more common among libertarians than among people of other political persuasions, so I decided to address the phenomenon.

A significant portion of the media coverage leading up to the Republican convention focused on the possibility of violence on the streets involving leftist protesters and rightist counter-protesters. This possibility went unrealized for reasons which were covered up by the establishment media.

Hillary Clinton said that she was “adamantly opposed to anyone bringing religion into our political process” and that it is “just absolutely wrong and unacceptable.” I argued the opposite case.

Gardening is an enjoyable hobby and a useful metaphor for many things, a libertarian social order included.

Trump hinted at the assassination of Clinton should she win and threaten gun rights. Predictably, every element of the establishment went apoplectic. I argued that political assassinations are ethically acceptable, though not usually the wisest practical move.

Since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, libertarians have had strong differences concerning how to engage with it. I explained the differences between their intentions and libertarian goals.

The 2016 Summer Olympics took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Whenever disasters impact an area in modern times, governments play a large role in the cleanup and recovery efforts. But this causes a behavioral problem in the population, not unlike that caused by the Pax Romana.

The Commission on Presidential Debates decided to exclude third-party candidates yet again. I made cases for peaceful and violent protest of this policy, and longed for a future candidate who might actually motivate people to engage in meaningful resistance.

Liberty Mutual created more advertisements that contain economic fallacies, so I did another round of debunking.

The establishment media tells us that every election is the most important of our lifetime. I proved that this cannot be the case, then psychoanalyzed the establishment media to explain why they keep repeating this, as if to convince themselves.

Argumentation ethics has been controversial since its introduction, but Roderick Long’s criticisms of it had gone unanswered. I remedied this state of affairs.

Rioters plagued Charlotte for three nights in response to a police shooting, which happened to involve a black officer and a black suspect. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Congress voted to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that allows relatives of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot. Though some libertarians argued against the bill, I celebrated it for chipping away at the anti-libertarian idea of sovereign immunity, giving victims of American foreign policy a peaceful means of addressing their grievances, and possibly revealing clandestine activities to the American people about which they have a need to know.

Having heard libertarians argue in favor of every presidential candidate except Hillary Clinton, I decided to give it a shot. Only a bootlegger’s case was possible, and it was rather grim.

The idea of market failure is a widely believed misconception which has found widespread use in statist propaganda for the purpose of justifying government intervention in the private sector. I gave the idea perhaps its most thorough debunking to date.

In the last quarter of the year, I began reading more books, which resulted in several book reviews. I can strongly recommend The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing and Our Sister Republics; The West Point History of the Civil War somewhat less so. Good Guys With Guns, on the other hand, is a disaster.

The month before the election presented several opportunities for rebuttals. Milo Yiannopoulos demonstrated both a misunderstanding of and an enmity toward libertarianism, and I rebutted his assertions, which gained a surprising amount of attention. Jeffrey Tucker tried to defend democracy as a superior alternative to monarchy or political violence, and I showed why this is misguided. Penn Jillette argued in favor of vote swapping, and I argued against it.

Finally, the 2016 election came and went, which presented many observations to be made.

Black Friday is revered by most libertarians as a celebration of free-market capitalism. I updated my explanation of why this reverence is somewhat misplaced.

Finally, Otto Warmbier spent all of 2016 detained in North Korea. I made the unpopular case that he should be left there.

All in all, it was an interesting year full of occasions to make sharp libertarian arguments. May 2017 bring more of the same. Happy New Year!

Book Review: Our Sister Republics

Our Sister Republics is a book about the history of the United States and its relations with Central and South America in the early 19th century by history professor Caitlin Fitz. The book discusses the popular sentiment in favor of revolutions against Spanish and Portuguese control in Latin America following the War of 1812, which turned sour after 1826 as the new republics suffered civil unrest and incompetent governance while the United States turned toward racialist nationalism.

Fitz first presents a map of the Americas as they were in 1825, to which the reader should continually refer while reading through the book in order to have a better sense of the involved geography. In the introduction, she explains her terminology, briefly covers American history from the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812, and gives a short overview of what she covers at length in the rest of the book.

The opening chapter explains the context in which Americans first came to look fondly upon South America. Early references to Christopher Columbus would lead to the concept of a liberty-loving Columbia. Spain’s distractions with European wars resulted in less trade restrictions between the US and Spanish America. These factors led to affinities for Spanish America once they began to revolt against their colonial masters. Even then, there were some reservations about the ability of South Americans to form republican governments. From 1810 until the mid-1820s, these reservations came to be expressed only when revolutionaries faltered. It helped that the US fought a second war for independence while the South Americans were fighting their first.

The second chapter discusses the agents of revolution who came to the US to foster support for South American rebels. Occasionally exceeding neutrality laws and frequently using American presses for propaganda purposes, they helped provide revolutionaries with the materiel they needed to secure independence. Fitz shows that this was a colorful cast of characters in more ways than one, and illustrates the undercurrent of race which would eventually come to the forefront.

The third chapter gives an overview of the activities of the press in the 1810s, showing how they affected (and sometimes manipulated) public opinion in favor of the revolutionaries. There were occasional dissenters, but they would be marginalized and rebutted until some years into the 1820s. Fitz demonstrates that then as now, there is no such thing as objective journalism because editors are more likely to publish and treat favorably that which they support.

The fourth chapter is about Simon Bolivar and the perception of him in the US. Fitz shows through toasts and baby names that Bolivar gained much admiration in the US, even as Bolivar did not respond in kind. Both whites and blacks found something to like in Bolivar, even though these aspects were quite different. Whites saw republican unity; blacks saw an abolitionist leader.

In the fifth chapter, Fitz discusses the US government’s actions toward South America at the time. Some black and white pictures augment the chapter, and would have improved the book elsewhere had they been included in other chapters. The role of merchants in financing and supplying revolutionaries is examined, along with the activities of privateers and filibusterers. Many Americans today would be surprised to know how many in those days volunteered to serve in foreign militaries. The second half of the chapter focuses on the important American political personalities of the time: Henry Clay, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams, but finally the rise of William Smith and those like him who eagerly defended racism and slavery.

The sixth chapter begins with the election of 1824 and the “corrupt bargain” that awarded the Presidency to John Quincy Adams instead of electoral vote leader Andrew Jackson. This event set the stage not only for the Whig versus Democrat party system, but for the turning of the tide in relations with South America. Fitz explains how the passivity of the egalitarian sentiments of the time left them vulnerable to growing slavery in the southern US and the arguments in favor of it. The controversy over the Panama Congress of 1826 furthered the shift in American views toward their southern neighbors. Though Clay, Adams, and Bolivar had high hopes, the congress was a disaster. It is interesting to note that some themes have been constant throughout American history; the Democrats’ antebellum platform of limited government, nationalism, racism, opposition to social reform, and economic populism has much in common with the views of the alt-right. And as always, when rhetoric and reality depart from one another, reality always wins in the long run.

The conclusion looks forward to the 1830s and beyond, showing how the sentiment of the 1810s and its reversal in the 1820s manifested going forward. Fitz ends the book by wondering how America could have turned out differently and for the better had the sentiments of the 1810s not been overthrown. The second half of the book shows how American exceptionalism originated as a pro-slavery, white supremacist idea, and how the US came to be a foe of anti-colonial movements in the 20th century.

Fitz’s appendix and notes demonstrate that she certainly did an appropriate amount of research for the project. Overall, this is an excellent book that covers an oft-neglected aspect of early US history in a manner which engages the reader much better than the average history book.

Rating: 5/5

Ten Observations on the Fall of Aleppo

On December 13, Syrian government forces defeated rebels in the city of Aleppo after four years of fighting. A ceasefire was announced to allow civilians and rebels to evacuate, but the Syrian government resumed bombardment of eastern Aleppo on December 14. The death toll in the siege of Aleppo has risen over 30,000, many more have fled as refugees, and pro-government forces have deliberately targeted civilians with barrel bombs and cluster munitions. Ten observations on these events follow.

1. The international system under the United Nations has failed yet again. Just as it has in many other instances of democide, the UN Security Council failed to condemn the actions of the Assad regime. Once again, the ostensible purpose of international law, to protect civilians from atrocities that “shock the conscience of humanity,” was ignored. This is because Russia is involved on Assad’s side and has veto power in the UNSC, which it has used to block all resolutions against the situation in Syria.

2. There is an irreducible anarchy between sovereigns. The logical proof of this is rather simple. Suppose that there is not an irreducible anarchy between sovereigns. This means that there is a law governing sovereigns. This requires that someone be able to enforce this law against the sovereigns. But a sovereign is defined as having supreme power or authority, which means that no one is able to enforce a law against a sovereign. This is a contradiction, so the supposition is false. Therefore there is an irreducible anarchy between sovereigns.

Practically, this means that the UN fails because it must; it is logically impossible for it to succeed, as it is not a sovereign entity. The UN is incapable of imposing anything upon a state without the help of other states. Another important point is that there is no such thing as international law because there is no international enforcer of law. (That being said, the alternative is likely worse, in that a global government would be even less accountable than the nation-states of today.)

3. The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must. This will be true regardless of the system of governance in use, but the current system empowers far more abuses than would any system other than a centralized global omnipotent state. The only answer to this problem is the elimination of weakness, which will either be achieved by the weak strengthening themselves by acquiring and maintaining means of force sufficient to deter the strong or by the strong exterminating the weak. So far, we have seen far too much of the latter and not nearly enough of the former.

4. There was nothing that America could have done to prevent this. Many Americans are left wondering if there was any intervention that could have been successful. Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ A no-fly zone would not have stopped Assad’s ground forces, as they know that defeat means death at the hands of opposition forces. Enforcing such a policy with Russian aircraft involved could have escalated tensions with the Kremlin up to the sort of nuclear exchange feared during the days of the Soviet Union. Arming moderate factions has a terrible track record, as more radical factions defeat them and take the arms for themselves. Invasion also has a terrible track record, as shown by the failed efforts to nation-build in Iraq and Afghanistan. UN sanctions were vetoed by Russia, but sanctions are not very effective anyway. This leaves no good options for intervening.

5. When there is no one worthy of support, support no one. The atrocities of the Assad regime and their allies are well known. But those who would take over in the wake of his defeat are no better. There are a multitude of small groups involved in the war, but the only forces with enough might to govern all of Syria are Islamists of various types, such as ISIS and the al-Nusra Front. ISIS is well-known for human rights abuses, and the Syrian opposition has also committed its fair share. With this and the previous point in mind, the best course of action for Westerners is to sit back and watch enemies of liberty kill each other.

6. There is no such thing as non-lethal aid. Military intervention in Syria beyond limited airstrikes or special operations has never been popular with the American people, but non-lethal, humanitarian aid is viewed more favorably. But there is an economic fallacy being advanced by both sides of mainstream politics which applies to this case. Any organization has a total operating cost, which we may call C, and a total income, which we may call I. At issue here is the income from a particular source, which we may call S. Regardless of how S itself is allocated, the very presence of S means that the remainder of the total income, equal to I minus S, will be allocated differently than it would be in the absence of S. In other words, taxpayer funding for a non-controversial portion of an organization means that the organization can spend less of its non-taxpayer funding on that portion, thereby freeing up resources that the organization can now use for a more controversial activity.

In the case of Syrian opposition forces, money that they do not have to spend on food, medicine, etc. is money that they are now able to spend on armaments. The practical upshot is that there is no such thing as non-lethal aid to an organization that conducts lethal operations, and that economic and political commentators should take this into account.

7. President Obama’s red line was a mistake, no matter what he would have done afterward. In August 2012, Obama warned that Assad should not move or use biological or chemical weapons, and that doing so would “change his calculus” on whether to intervene. As terrible as the use of such weapons is, there was and is no effective method of intervention beyond limited strikes on the chemical weapons themselves. But drawing the red line and watching indifferently as it was crossed was worse than doing nothing, as it sent a message that American leaders are untrustworthy and do not need to be taken seriously.

8. This issue likely sealed the fate of the Gary Johnson presidential campaign. In a September 8 interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Mike Barnicle asked Johnson about Aleppo. Johnson completely blanked out on the issue. At the time, he was hovering around 9 percent in the polls and needed to reach 15 percent to gain access to the debates. This gaffe marked the beginning of his gradual decline from 8.8 percent on September 7 to the 3.3 percent of the vote he received on November 8. Attempts were made to defend his gaffe by claiming that Johnson could not bomb other countries like major-party presidents do if he did not know about them, but these rightly rang hollow. It is one thing to withdraw from foreign entanglements, but quite another to have no idea what is happening.

9. This problem is the result of Western meddling. Syria was a colony of France from 1920 to 1946. At the beginning of this time, Mandatory Syria was divided into six states: Greater Lebanon (now Lebanon), Sanjak of Alexandretta (now part of Turkey), the State of Aleppo, the State of Damascus, the Alawite State, and the Jabal al-Druze State. This arrangement kept opposing factions in their own territories, but France had combined the latter four by the end of 1936. These factions fought for control, resulting in a large number of military coups and attempted coups from 1945 to 1970, ending only when Hafez al-Assad was able to rule strongly enough to suppress dissent. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar succeeded him. In the Arab Spring protests of 2011, Assad’s rule was challenged by various factions which sought to remove him from power, leading to the Syrian Civil War. But if France had not tried to combine disparate peoples under one state and had instead left the four Syrian states separate, this bloody conflict could have been prevented. Bashar al-Assad, if he had come to power at all in this alternate timeline, would only be the ruler of a small part of western Syria. The rest of the country would have been ruled more locally and probably less oppressively by governments of their own people.

10. What we are witnessing in Syria is the true nature of the state. Governments do not maintain rule by divine right or popular consent; they do it by murdering anyone who dares to challenge their power, and even some who do not. Governments murdered 262 million of their own citizens in the 20th century, and if Aleppo is anything to go by, the 21st century is not off to a good start. One may object that not all governments have done such things to their own people in time memorial, or even ever, but that is not the point. The point is that all of them would if faced with a sufficiently powerful popular insurgency. The effect of power upon a ruler is intoxicating and addicting, much like substance abuse. Those who enjoy the power, wealth, and fame of being part of the ruling class will react with the utmost hostility toward any threat to their means of rule. The fear of reprisals by the people against the rulers should the regime fall coupled with the potential of having to produce rather than plunder for a living provides them all the motivation they need to violently crush rebellions. The tragedy of Aleppo, Homs, and other Syrian rebel strongholds is just the latest in a long line of murderous rampages by the ruling classes.

On Libertarianism and the Alt-Right

On August 26, Jeffrey Tucker published an article highlighting what he perceives to be five important differences between the alt-right and libertarianism. Throughout the piece, he misunderstands various aspects of the alt-right, along with their connection to libertarianism. As such, let us examine Tucker’s article and what libertarians can learn from the alt-right.

Introduction

We begin with Tucker’s introduction, in which he writes,

Let’s leave aside the question of whether we are talking about an emergent brown-shirted takeover of American political culture, or perhaps merely a few thousand sock-puppet social media accounts adept at mischievous trolling on Twitter.

Here, he both sets up a false dilemma and decides to ignore its resolution. The alt-right, as explained in an article that Tucker links to, is an umbrella term for everyone on the right who is opposed to establishment conservatism. This includes American nationalists, anti-egalitarians, fascists, men’s rights activists, monarchists, neo-Nazis, paleoconservatives, racial separatists, reactionaries, right-libertarians, and white identitarians. But many of these groups are at cross purposes with one another. The danger of such a broad term is twofold; that which describes everything really describes nothing, and this vacuum of imprecision may then be filled by anyone who wishes to denigrate everyone included within the broad brushstroke. Tucker spends the rest of his article doing the latter, as we will see. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on a (neo)reactionary, right-libertarian take on the alt-right that includes some aspects of men’s rights and anti-egalitarianism.

1. The Driving Force of History

The first difference Tucker notes is the theory of history that each movement has. His presentation of the libertarian view as one of liberty versus power, or market versus state, is essentially correct but lacking in detail. It is this detail that the alt-right can provide, but Tucker decries this as “long and dreary.” To the contrary, the “meta-struggle that concerns impersonal collectives of tribe, race, community, great men, and so on” describes the individual historical events that decide the victor between liberty and power, between market and state. To ignore this is to see a forest and have no concept of a tree.

While libertarianism does speak of individual choice and the alt-right does speak of collective action, these two are not mutually exclusive. The belief that libertarians must reject any concept of a group identity or a collective action just because they are individualists is the height of political autism. While a collective does not exist in the sense of having a particular form in physical reality, it is a useful mental abstraction and grammatical shorthand to describe many individuals acting in concert toward a common purpose. Contrary to Tucker, the alt-right does not claim that we “default in our thinking back to some more fundamental instinct about our identity as a people”; the claim is that while people have this instinct which is genetically hard-wired into us, some people embrace it while others reject it. Those who embrace this instinct have an advantage in forming a strong social unit, which is the basis of a strong society. To criticize this as racist is generally inaccurate, as there are many population groups within each race, some of which may be more different from one another than from a population group of a different race. Thedism, tribalism, or in-group preference would all be more accurate terms for this phenomenon.

The overarching theme here is that while an individual person has the ability to make minor course corrections to the general trend of a society, the arc of history is generally not subject to the whims of an ordinary person. This is because an ordinary person lacks the means to defend against nation-states or even large groups of opposing ordinary people, and many libertarians oppose the idea of them acquiring such means. Thus, something more powerful than an ordinary person is needed to “make a dent in history’s narrative,” as Tucker says. Where the alt-right goes wrong is to believe that this requires a Carlylian Great Man. Libertarians correctly recognize that a large number of ordinary people can make such a change directly, without acting through a Great Man or any other method of centralization.

2. Harmony vs. Conflict

The second difference Tucker discusses is the view of harmony versus conflict. He compares Frédéric Bastiat’s view of a “harmony of interests” with the alt-right view of societal conflict. What Tucker fails to realize is that these views are not mutually exclusive. People find value in each other and divide labor among one another in order to build a society, and this works best in the absence of central planning. Tucker correctly says that libertarians believe in a “brotherhood of man,” but then fails to understand that the alt-right does as well to some extent. The nnerbund (league of men) is a central element of neoreactionary thought, being the organ that defends a society from external threats, maintains the traditions of the society, and enforces social norms within the society. The decay of this organ due to various aspects of modernity (which are frequently misidentified as capitalism rather than communo-fascism) is lamented by the alt-right as a contributing factor to much of the moral degeneracy currently present in the West.

Voluntary cooperation and free markets are wonderful and liberating, but some people do not want us to be liberated, preferring instead to violently victimize the innocent and exist parasitically upon productive members of a society. Those people must be physically repelled and removed, and someone must do the repelling and removing. This deterrent must exist in order to keep the state eliminated as well as repel common criminals and foreign invaders. The subset of libertarians who think that we will all peacefully evolve into a utopia where no one initiates the use of force suffer from incredible naïveté concerning matters of violence as well as an ignorance of history. The history of mankind has been one of deep-rooted conflict, based on whatever happens to be convenient at the moment.

Tucker closes this section by noting a parallel in Marxist ideology about a conflict between labor and capital. He quotes Ludwig von Mises, who wrote, “Nationalist ideology divides society vertically; the socialist ideology divides society horizontally.” This is true but incomplete, as it puts the cart before the horse in terms of how human interaction actually occurs. Society is already divided horizontally and vertically by the inherent biases and prejudices that people have. Nationalism and socialism simply give people an intellectual basis to explain and amplify what they already believe.

3. Designed vs. Spontaneous Order

Third, Tucker looks at the nature of social order. Tucker describes the libertarian position thusly:

The libertarian believes that the best and most wonderful social outcomes are not those planned, structured, and anticipated, but rather the opposite. Society is the result of millions and billions of small acts of rational self-interest that are channeled into an undesigned, unplanned, and unanticipated order that cannot be conceived by a single mind. The knowledge that is required to put together a functioning social order is conveyed through institutions: prices, manners, mores, habits, and traditions that no one can consciously will into existence. There must be a process in place, and stable rules governing that process, that permit such institutions to evolve, always in deference to the immutable laws of economics.

This is an accurate description of the libertarian position, as well as how society should operate. The alt-right mind, on the other hand, has a better understanding of how the current system operates, and this is an understanding that libertarians must have. After all, one cannot get from point A to point B without knowing about point A. Statist societies are built through central planning, by “the will of great thinkers and great leaders with unconstrained visions of what can be,” as Tucker writes. However, what we see is not necessarily the result of someone’s intentional and conscious planning from the top down, as there are unintended consequences and bootlegger motivations that must be accounted for.

What Tucker alleges to be an obsession with conspiracy theories by the alt-right is actually something else; a realization that some consequences that people routinely claim to be unintended should not be assumed to be such. When there is an ample body of history and economics to suggest that a particular result will follow from a particular policy, it is reasonable to assume that someone wanted that outcome, or at least should have expected it. But Tucker does understand the desire to seize the controls, if only by accident. Some libertarians have proposed that the controls must be destroyed, this author included. But since there appears to be almost no popular support for this idea, we are left with a situation in which someone will use those controls, and far better that it is libertarians than anyone else. It could be the case that like the One Ring, someone must hold state power in order to eliminate it. We cannot use state power to create a stateless society, but we can set one enemy of liberty against other enemies of liberty in the hopes that they weaken or destroy each other, after which we can mop up what remains of them.

Finally, Tucker correctly criticizes Carlyle about economics, but then fails to provide the correct answer. Economics is not “the dismal science” for not being dismal, but for not being science. Economics, properly understood, is an a priori, rational discipline like logic and mathematics.

4. Trade and Migration

Tucker’s fourth point concerns trade and migration. He is correct to laud the positive changes that have occurred since the Middle Ages with respect to human rights, economic mobility, and free association. He is also correct to view protectionism as a tax on consumers and an unnecessary source of international conflict. But again, Tucker fails to appreciate the context of the situation. We do not live in a world in which tearing down our barriers makes everyone better off. The reality is that doing this would only impoverish and endanger the domestic population while empowering foreign governments and external organized crime. If we open our borders, they will be magnetic to those who would come here to take handouts from the state at our expense. And once those people are here, we will not only be forced to associate with them, but any opposition to them or the government programs that bring them here will be condemned as racist. Since a libertarian solution is not on the table and no one seems to be willing to do what would be necessary to put it on the table, we are left with a choice between forced integration and forced segregation. The latter is both less threatening to the liberty of the domestic population and easier to evade through illegal means.

Tucker also misunderstands the alt-right view of this issue. A community must be strong enough to thrive as an independent unit not because international trade is “inherently bad or fraudulent or regrettable in some sense,” but because entrusting the survival of one’s community to outsiders is a precarious position. Trade is generally good to engage in, but not to depend upon to such an extent as to lose the ability to provide for one’s own basic needs. The potential danger comes when trade causes a society to evolve too fast, which can bring destruction as delicately balanced social structures are swiftly toppled without a clear replacement ready to prevent chaos.

The reasons that migration is seen as a profound threat to the identity of a community are that assimilation occurs slowly (if at all), and the resulting multiculturalism weakens the männerbund of a society, which compromises the security and values of the society. A massive influx of migrants into a community will cause the culture of that community to change in their direction. It is amazing that so many libertarians fail to understand this, given that the Free State Project has this very objective for the state of New Hampshire. But the FSP is an exception to the rule; generally, migrants come from societies whose cultures do not value libertarian principles, which will weaken the culture of liberty.

5. Emancipation and Progress

Tucker’s final point is about human progress. He writes,

Slavery was ended. Women were emancipated, as marriage evolved from conquest and dominance into a free relationship of partnership and consent. This is all a wonderful thing, because rights are universal, which is to say, they rightly belong to everyone equally.

This much is true, but then he continues,

Anything that interferes with people’s choices holds them back and hobbles the progress of prosperity, peace, and human flourishing. This perspective necessarily makes the libertarian optimistic about humanity’s potential.

This is not always true. For example, laws against trespassing interfere with people’s choices to go wherever they choose. Laws against theft interfere with people’s choices to take whatever they choose from whomever they choose. Laws against rape interfere with people’s choices to have sex with whomever they choose. Need we go on? People’s choices must be tempered against the rights of other people as well as the social norms of the community in which they find themselves. To be fair, Tucker would be unlikely to dispute this, but avoiding poor wording prevents many problems.

The alt-right view is not that the libertarian view is incorrect, but that it is incomplete and devoid of context. Without the state, an overall increase in liberty would have occurred by freeing slaves and emancipating women, not that slavery or treating women as property could have been maintained in its absence for as long as they were in its presence. But with the state in place, empowering women and former slaves has not resulted in an overall increase in liberty, but in a struggle between races and genders. The result of that struggle thus far has been a decrease in liberty for men and for white people, as it is at their expense that women and the descendants of slaves have made many unjust gains. The corrupting and perverse incentives inherent in democracy only make this worse, as expanding suffrage to include more people has allowed them to use the state to attack elite men. The end result has been the expansion of a political view once found only in brothels to ensnare the society as a whole. This is why, as Tucker writes, “What appears to be progress is actually loss: loss of culture, identity, and mission,” at least for white males. The proper libertarian answer is not to expand suffrage to everyone, but to abolish it for everyone. It is for this reason that a libertarian with alt-right sympathies can “look back to what they imagine to be a golden age when elites ruled and peons obeyed” and “long for authoritarian political rule.” Traditional monarchies were far from perfect by libertarian standards, but the shift to hyper-inclusive mass democracy failed to solve the problems of traditional monarchy while introducing new problems of its own. The authoritarian political rule of a king or dictator more closely resembles that of a private property owner than the popular rule of the masses in a democracy, at least in terms of the incentives that apply to the participants. If a decentralized violent revolution to end the state is not forthcoming, and technological advances that push back against centralization are insufficient, then an intermediate step against the leftist Leviathan in the form of a right-wing dictator is the remaining option, risky though it is.

Contrary to the view of left-libertarians, libertarianism does not expressly forbid authoritarianism, but rather confines it within the boundaries of private property. The critics of libertarianism who say that we wish to replace the tyranny of the state with the tyranny of the private property owner are correct, in that libertarianism allows a private property owner, in terms Tucker uses elsewhere, “to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes, to work out their biases in action, to ostracize people based on politically incorrect standards, to hate to their heart’s content so long as no violence is used as a means, to shout down people based on their demographics or political opinions, to be openly racist and sexist, to exclude and isolate and be generally malcontented with modernity, and to reject civil standards of values and etiquette in favor of anti-social norms.” This should be welcomed, as a society in which private property owners may freely express their preferences and prejudices is far more likely to confront and successfully deal with bigotry than a society in which the state either promotes or prohibits bigotry across its entire territory.

While libertarianism has an a priori true position on universal rights in theory, the alt-right once again excels in describing how the world actually works at present. That “rights are granted by political communities and are completely contingent on culture” and “some were born to serve and some to rule” is true in current practice, and the latter would be the natural result of the sort of Darwinian meritocracy that is the logical conclusion of libertarian theory. One has many sorts of rights in theory; property rights, freedom of association, freedom of communication, and so on. But if one cannot make use of them and defend them against those who would violate them, they are meaningless in the real world. And unless a person has a reliable means of self-defense against an entire community while being able to survive without said community, that person’s expression of rights are granted by political communities and are completely contingent on culture.

Tucker’s Conclusion

The alt-right knows who its enemies are, and while some libertarians are among them, others are not. The alt-right generally shows hostility only to left-libertarians, social justice warriors, moral degenerates, and other such subsets of the libertarian community. Many other libertarians are able to have peaceful, honest, and productive conversations with members of the alt-right, with some even identifying as both libertarian and alt-right with no apparent contradictions. Even so, one can make temporary common cause with a lesser enemy (unsavory elements of the alt-right) in order to defeat a greater enemy (the democratic state).

Tucker finishes by commenting on the common opposition to democracy among libertarians and the alt-right. He writes,

This was not always the case. In the 19th century, the classical liberals generally had a favorable view of democracy, believing it to be the political analogy to choice in the marketplace. But here they imagined states that were local, rules that were fixed and clear, and democracy as a check on power. As states became huge, as power became total, and as rules became subject to pressure-group politics, libertarianism’s attitude toward democracy shifted.

In contrast, the alt-right’s opposition to democracy traces to its loathing of the masses generally and its overarching suspicion of anything that smacks of equality. In other words, they tend to hate democracy for all the wrong reasons. This similarity is historically contingent and largely superficial given the vast differences that separate the two worldviews. Does society contain within itself the capacity for self management or not? That is the question.

These views are not mutually exclusive. One can loathe people, conclude that a state will not solve anything because it is composed of people, and therefore support abolition of the state in favor of an anarcho-capitalist society because it is the best that we can do. Furthermore, the 19th century classical liberals should have known better. As Hans-Hermann Hoppe explains,

Free entry is not always good. Free entry and competition in the production of goods is good, but free competition in the production of bads is not. Free entry into the business of torturing and killing innocents, or free competition in counterfeiting or swindling, for instance, is not good; it is worse than bad. So what sort of “business” is government? Answer: it is not a customary producer of goods sold to voluntary consumers. Rather, it is a “business” engaged in theft and expropriation — by means of taxes and counterfeiting — and the fencing of stolen goods. Hence, free entry into government does not improve something good. Indeed, it makes matters worse than bad, i.e., it improves evil.

What Libertarians Can Learn

With Tucker’s piece examined, let us conclude by considering some lessons that libertarians should learn (or re-learn, in some cases) from the alt-right. First, the alt-right has a better understanding of how to get media attention. The alt-right is most famous for using the Internet to troll and create memes to attack those whom they oppose. This gets them media attention to a degree that many libertarians only dream of, and libertarians can learn their skills in order to create better memes as well as troll enemies of liberty.

Second, the alt-right has found a way to deal with the nearly constant accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. that spew from the left. They either ignore, dismiss, or embrace such accusations. To the surprise of many on the left, though it should surprise no one, this technique is effective. Throwing labels at one’s political opponents in response to their reasoned arguments is not a counter-argument; if anything, it is an admission of defeat and ignorance, as a person who is capable of making counter-arguments has no need for name-calling. Libertarians would do well to respond to such accusations in this way rather than accusing leftists of being the real bigots or backing down for fear of being accused of bigotry. As for embracing the accusations, it is better to have bigots within libertarianism than outside of it, for if bigots truly become libertarians, then they must start adhering to the non-aggression principle. This means that they would have to stop initiating the use of force in pursuit of their bigotry, as well as stop asking the state to do so on their behalf. The presence of openly bigoted people also has the welcome side effect of driving out social justice warrior entryists.

Third, the alt-right is better at avoiding political autism. Political autism is the manifestation of symptoms similar to those which are present in high-functioning autistic people, such as using reason and evidence exclusively while being unable to process that a listener is operating emotionally rather than rationally, an inability to identify or think about groups or shared interests, preoccupation with particular topics to an unusual extent, focusing on details while missing the big picture, and repetitive use of set phrases. It is important to learn to identify when one is engaging in such behaviors so that one may correct oneself and avoid incorrect conclusions. This is not a new problem; Rothbard identified an example of political autism at work without naming it in a 1967 essay called War Guilt in the Middle East. Rothbard writes,

The libertarian, in particular, knows that states, without exception, aggress against their citizens, and knows also that in all wars each state aggresses against innocent civilians “belonging” to the other state.

Now this kind of insight into the root cause of war and aggression, and into the nature of the state itself, is all well and good, and vitally necessary for insight into the world condition. But the trouble is that the libertarian tends to stop there, and evading the responsibility of knowing what is going on in any specific war or international conflict, he tends to leap unjustifiably to the conclusion that, in any war, all states are equally guilty, and then to go about his business without giving the matter a second thought. In short, the libertarian (and the Marxist, and the world-government partisan) tends to dig himself into a comfortable “Third Camp” position, putting equal blame on all sides to any conflict, and letting it go at that. This is a comfortable position to take because it doesn’t really alienate the partisans of either side. Both sides in any war will write this man off as a hopelessly “idealistic” and out-of-it sectarian, a man who is even rather lovable because he simply parrots his “pure” position without informing himself or taking sides on whatever war is raging in the world. In short, both sides will tolerate the sectarian precisely because he is irrelevant, and because his irrelevancy guarantees that he makes no impact on the course of events or on public opinion about these events.

No: Libertarians must come to realize that parroting ultimate principles is not enough for coping with the real world. Just because all sides share in the ultimate state-guilt does not mean that all sides are equally guilty. On the contrary, in virtually every war, one side is far more guilty than the other, and on one side must be pinned the basic responsibility for aggression, for a drive for conquest, etc. But in order to find out which side to any war is the more guilty, we have to inform ourselves in depth about the history of that conflict, and that takes time and thought – and it also takes the ultimate willingness to become relevant by taking sides through pinning a greater degree of guilt on one side or the other.

Fourth, the alt-right understands role of society in judging individual behavior and opposing degeneracy. Many libertarians believe that private actors should not be criticized because they have the freedom to do as they wish with their bodies and resources. While this is true in the sense that no one has the right to initiate the use of force to stop them, this does not mean that libertarians cannot condemn hedonistic behavior that is capable of collapsing a society if it becomes sufficiently prominent. It could even be said that there is a tragedy of the commons at work, in that everyone pursuing their own carnal pleasures without regard for the well-being of others results in less liberty and prosperity for everyone. Libertarians must learn to use non-violent means, such as shaming, ridicule, and ostracism, to peacefully promote beneficial social norms if the goal of a functional stateless society is to be created and maintained.

Fifth, the alt-right recognizes that blank-slate egalitarianism is false. This is because individuals vary in ability and populations groups adapt to their environments. These adaptations can give members of a particular population group an advantage in a particular activity. While these adaptations can be noticed in people who move to another place and live as the locals do, the extent of the adaptations which are present in a population group that has inhabited a place for many generations cannot be replicated in one human lifetime. The result is that there are both individual and demographic disparities in intelligence and athleticism, which cause disparities in socioeconomic outcomes. While these differences are not large enough at present to categorize humans into different species or subspecies, libertarians would do well to learn about gender dimorphism and human biodiversity, as their implications will alter the strategy for reaching a functional stateless society.

Conclusion

In Tucker’s foray into the alt-right, he seems to deliberately look for the worst that anyone in the movement has to offer while ignoring the positive lessons which may be learned. As a result, he sees what he wants to see; a separate and distinct movement from libertarianism with no legitimate overlap, an enemy to be fought rather than a potential ally. But as shown above, this is a thoroughly misguided approach. There is much common cause to be made with the alt-right and much to be learned from them, especially in defeating our common enemies.

Seven observations on Brexit

On June 23, the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether it should stay in the European Union or become independent from it. The people voted to leave by a margin of 17,410,742 (51.89%) to 16,141,241 (48.11%). Seven observations on this event follow.

1. Neither polls nor bets are reliable means of predicting elections. Leading up to the vote, almost all polls indicated a Remain vote. Bettors, who frequently predict election results better than polls do, were even more in favor of a Remain result. Yet Leave was victorious. This, along with other polling mishaps both recently and historically, calls into question the usefulness of polls for measuring public support for issues and candidates.

2. Leftists favor democracy until people vote against leftist goals. Following the Brexit vote, a petition to hold a re-vote was started, which has since gained over 2.5 million signatures. This is par for the course for leftist elites, who pay lip service to democracy while trying to undermine it for their own ends. Whether they put their thumbs on the scales through election fraud, demographic displacement, or simply re-voting until they get their desired result and then stopping re-voting, democracy is only a means to an end for the left. The impact is best summarized by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and only rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else.”

3. When one side of a debate uses facts and the other side uses fear, the side with facts is correct. The Leave campaign consisted primarily of a reasoned case for why the UK would be better off independent from the European Union, while the Remain campaign consisted mostly of fear-mongering. The use of scare tactics in an argument is a sign that the user has no rational case to make, otherwise one should be expected to use logic and evidence. We may therefore conclude that the Leave campaign made a superior case.

4. This is only the beginning of a long process. The referendum was advisory, meaning that it is not legally binding. In theory, the British Parliament could choose not to implement Brexit and deal with the wrath of voters in response. It is also possible that a two-thirds majority of MPs could call for a general election in which a party campaigns against Brexit. If that party wins, then they could claim that their election result counters the referendum.

If Brexit goes forward, the UK must invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which specifies how member states may leave the European Union. The UK will then have two years to negotiate its withdrawal, at which point it will be removed from the EU regardless of whether said negotiations are concluded. During this process, the UK will be subject to EU treaties and laws but will have no say in its decisions.

5. This is likely to be only the first secession of many more to come. While England and Wales both voted for Leave, Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted for Remain. In response, there are calls for another vote for Scotland to leave the UK in order to stay in the EU. (One such vote was held in 2014; Scots voted 55.3% in favor of remaining in the UK.) There is also talk of Irish reunification (Northern Ireland leaving the UK) for the same purpose.

The successful vote in the UK has resulted in calls for similar referendums in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden. It is quite possible that one or more of these nations will also leave, throwing the very survival of the EU into question. There is also a recent history of secessionist movements within European nations gaining traction, such as the Catalan independence movement.

6. This is an excellent buying opportunity for investors. Upon news of the Brexit vote, world financial markets tumbled. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 610.32 points (-3.39%), the NASDAQ lost 202.06 points (-4.12%), the S&P 500 lost 75.91 points (-3.59%), and the Russell 2000 lost 44.68 points (-3.81%). British and Chinese markets fell slightly less, while German and Japanese markets lost a larger percentage. Gold gained $59.30 per ounce (4.69%) as investors fled to safety, while the British pound fell to $1.35, its lowest exchange rate since 1985. But nothing has really changed to warrant such a selloff. Business will continue as usual for at least the next few months, and the UK will not be fully independent until late 2018 at the earliest. The downturn is more emotional than substantial, and therefore presents an excellent buying opportunity for anyone sitting on the sidelines holding capital.

7. Leftist cries of racism and xenophobia will backfire. Predictably, leftist elites have yet again failed to engage in any self-reflection concerning their policies, which have enriched themselves at the expense of the common person for at least a generation. Their immigration policies have depressed wages, endangered safety, and eroded cultural identities. Their foreign policies have contributed to terrorism. Their domestic policies have led to increasing police statism. But rather than acknowledge that they have done wrong, the leftist elites have decided to deride the voting public as racists and xenophobes. Not only does this misunderstand what motivates most people to vote against the establishment, it will only serve to throw gasoline onto the fire. There is a proverb in the Deep South of the United States, “If you knock on the devil’s door long enough, someone will answer you.” At some point, the common people will conclude that if they will be accused of racism and xenophobia, then they might as well embrace those ideas. To some extent, this has already happened with the rise of the alt-right, but that movement has plenty of room to grow and newly fertile ground in which to do so. A reaction of openly racist people is coming, and matters will get ugly.

Eleven observations on the Orlando shooting

At 2:00 a.m. on June 12, a terrorist who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. Police later killed the shooter during a hostage standoff. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history, and the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Eleven observations on this incident follow.

1. A gun-free zone is a victim disarmament zone. The Pulse nightclub was a gun-free zone. But criminals are defined by the fact that they disregard laws as well as the wishes of private property owners. As such, the only people who would have a gun in a gun-free zone would be government agents and criminals (but I repeat myself). Mass shooters usually choose gun-free zones to attack, as they know that they will almost certainly not be facing citizens who can shoot back.

2. Politicians will never let a crisis go to waste. Before the dead bodies were even cold, leftists predictably began calling for tougher gun control measures. To politicize a tragedy and use it to put emotion above reason and evidence is par from the course for those who seek to expand the power of the state and curtail individual rights. Like other mass shooters before him, this gunman was undeterred by the background checks which are in place, as he had no felony convictions, no domestic violence convictions, no restraining orders against him, no dishonorable discharge from the military, was not a fugitive from justice, was never committed to a mental institution, and was not denied a firearm purchase by mistake. No measures that have been proposed would have disarmed the shooter without also disarming many innocent people.

3. Internal conflicts that are irreconcilable predictably lead to violence. The shooter was both gay and Muslim. The Quran condemns homosexuality, and some schools of Islamic jurisprudence support capital punishment for it, especially those linked to terrorism. As such, the shooter had a belief that an aspect of his being that he could not change made him worthy of death or other severe punishment. Those who think so lowly of themselves are unlikely to think highly of others, especially others who share that aspect of one’s being. Those who think lowly of themselves and others are far more likely to commit violent crimes than those who have a healthy sense of self-respect and respect for others.

4. Government has not solved this problem because it cannot. Governments are effective at destroying other centralized entities. If there is a physical target that can be bombed or a living person that can be exterminated, states are usually able to carry out those acts. (Of course, they frequently go overboard with their bombings and killings, which motivates more people to become terrorists, but statists rarely care about this, as prolonged war is prolonged health of the state.) The regimes of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein quickly fell after the U.S. military invaded their respective lands. But in their wake came decentralized enemies in the form of anti-occupation insurgents, online jihadist recruitment, and home-grown lone-wolf terrorists. These have proven impossible for governments to stop. After all, governments, with their bureaucratic red tape and intrinsic inefficiencies, must be correct every time in order to prevent all terrorist attacks. Islamic jihadists, with their ability to remotely recruit and train new terrorists anywhere in the world, need only be correct once to carry out each attack. When governments do catch such terrorists, they must do so either through a legally dubious entrapment scheme or by catching the terrorist after an attack has been carried out. Even these arrests sometimes occur after private citizens find terrorists who evade government agents.

5. Even if governments could stop terrorism, it would not be in their interest to do so. If the War on Terrorism were won, then the rationale for police statism and massive military spending would vanish. If the War on Terrorism were lost, then the state would fail at the one job that it is supposedly solely capable of performing, namely keeping its people safe. The ideology of Islamic terrorists disallows a draw, so the only other option is an endless war.

6. Part of the solution is division, not unification. People cannot peacefully coexist with people who want to kill them. If people cannot peacefully coexist, then they need to separate. It makes perfect sense for an LGBT establishment to ban known adherents of a religion that considers LGBT people to be fair targets for killing. But governments interfere with the private property rights and freedom of association of their citizens by enforcing laws against discrimination, thus preventing people from taking necessary and proper measures to ensure their safety.

7. Some religions are more dangerous than others. There are many religions which call for violence against non-believers as well as violence against people who engage in certain sexual practices, even if those practices do no harm to anyone who is not a willing participant. But in the contemporary world, Islam has a disproportionate percentage of followers who believe that such violence is legitimate.

8. In the digital age, dead men can still tell tales. The shooter was radicalized in part by videos made by Anwar al-Awlaki, a pro-terrorism imam. Although Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in September 2011, his videos live on at various locations on the Internet. As such, killing recruiters for terrorism is no longer sufficient to stop them.

9. A backlash is likely to follow. Just as far-right anti-immigrant movements gained ground following the Paris attacks and the Brussels attacks, they are likely to do so again, especially with the rise of Donald Trump. Although the shooter was born in New York and raised in Florida, his parents immigrated from Afghanistan. His father is a well-known Taliban sympathizer who holds anti-American and anti-LGBT views. In a sense, it is worse for a person born and raised in a country to commit a terrorist attack there than for an immigrant to do so, as it suggests a fundamental incompatibility between cultures.

10. The terrorist has blood on his hands, but so does the American government. The American government allowed the shooter’s parents to enter the country despite their own radicalism, banned discrimination, conducted an interventionist foreign policy that motivated terrorists like this one to retaliate, and failed to stop him despite knowing that he was a threat. While the ultimate responsibility for evil acts falls upon those who commit the acts, there is a vicarious responsibility upon the American government for taking actions which made the attacks possible and likely.

11. Terrorism cannot be solved by more terrorism. Merriam-Webster defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” Oxford defines terrorism as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” A government is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on the initiation of force within a geographical area. In other words, a government uses violence and intimidation to keep its population obedient and manage external threats to its operation. This leads to an important truth that few wish to speak: every government is a terrorist organization. For decades, Western nations have attempted to defeat Islamic terrorism with more terrorism in the form of military interventions, to build Western democracies among populations whose cultures are incompatible with such an apparatus, and to arm one faction against another even though such weapons frequently fall into the hands of the most evil and destructive groups. What Western leaders fail to realize is that in the irrational game of Middle East politics, the only winning moves for them are to withdraw from the game or to knock over the board.

Defending the Reecean Proviso

On March 7, I published an article which discusses a libertarian theory of property rights as well as a proviso thereto which covers the case of a conflict between one person’s self-ownership and another person’s private property rights in external objects. This invited a lengthy criticism by Coralyn Herenschrict in the comments section which bears addressing in the form of a point-by-point rebuttal.

Another in a long historical line of strenuous but unsuccessful attempts to undermine property rights by exception. …Attempting to turn property ownership from a fundamental human right of an individual by virtue of his interactions with the natural world into a privilege conditionally granted by other men by virtue of their state of being.

The Reecean proviso is not an effort to undermine property rights; it is an effort to examine what happens when one person’s property rights in one’s body comes into conflict with another person’s property rights in external objects. That property ownership is a fundamental right of an individual by virtue of one’s interactions with the natural world is not being questioned.

Thus, private property rights over external objects are dependent upon the property right over one’s physical body. That which is dependent cannot overrule that upon which it is dependent. Therefore, self-ownership stands above private property rights in external objects.

This conclusion makes two errors. It confuses states that must coexist both with states that must remain true and with states that have hierarchical precedence. It also confuses negative rights with positive rights.

This is not so, as we shall see.

For example, I must own myself to homestead land for that act to be valid. But once valid, it is forever valid. Regardless of if I die, sell myself into slavery, or otherwise subsequently lose ownership of myself. The dependency on my self-ownership is scoped temporally to the period in time of the act of homesteading. The dependency does not extend into the past before that period nor into the future beyond that period.

This is not entirely true. A person who loses self-ownership loses all corollaries thereof a fortiori, and private property is one such corollary. This happens if a person dies or commits murder while having no heirs or will and testament. Death is the cessation of the biological processes which produce self-ownership. Committing a murder negates one’s self-ownership through the violation of another person’s self-ownership because the moral hypocrisy of claiming one’s own rights while having irreparably violated another person’s rights cannot be rationally advanced in argument. One cannot sell oneself into slavery; as Murray Rothbard explains[1],

“A man can alienate his labor service, but he cannot sell the capitalized future value of that service. In short, he cannot, in nature, sell himself into slavery and have this sale enforced—for this would mean that his future will over his own person was being surrendered in advance. In short, a man can naturally expend his labor currently for someone else’s benefit, but he cannot transfer himself, even if he wished, into another man’s permanent capital good. For he cannot rid himself of his own will, which may change in future years and repudiate the current arrangement. The concept of “voluntary slavery” is indeed a contradictory one, for so long as a laborer remains totally subservient to his master’s will voluntarily, he is not yet a slave since his submission is voluntary; whereas, if he later changed his mind and the master enforced his slavery by violence, the slavery would not then be voluntary.”

Herenschrict continues:

I must simultaneously have various rights in order to blast a watermelon with a shotgun for fun. I must have the right to be on the land. I must have the right to use the shotgun. I must have the right to destroy the watermelon. But none of these rights requirements takes philosophical priority over the others by virtue of the need they coincide. In case of conflict between these rights, philosophy does not supply any basis to grant dominance to any one of them.

None of these rights are dependent upon any other of these rights, so it is correct to conclude that philosophy does not supply any basis to grant dominance to any one of them.

Your claim that a property right in one’s own body is not actually a property right but is a different kind of right taking precedence over property rights is not established.

This is a straw man; I did not claim that a property right in one’s physical body is not actually a property right. I made the case that the property right in one’s physical body is logically stronger than a property right in an external object. This is established by the fact that the property right in one’s physical body arises through direct appropriation and inhabitation, while property rights in external objects can only be established through exercising the property right in one’s physical body. There is a clear relationship of dependence here, so the precedence of the property right in one’s physical body over property rights in external objects is established.

Self-ownership does not convey a positive right obligating others to action to keep me alive. I will not repeat the extensive argumentation elsewhere demonstrating the invalidity to the notion of positive rights except to mention its conclusion that positive rights necessarily contravene property rights.

This is another straw man, as a positive right obligating others to action to keep someone alive is not being defended. In fact, the Reecean proviso does not even call for obligating others to inaction to allow a person to keep oneself alive, as a property owner could prevent the proviso from being used simply by making the life-saving property unreachable or by defending it in such a way that it cannot be taken without posing a threat to the property owner.

First, the person’s life must be in jeopardy due to the aggressions of another person and not due to the person’s own action or inaction. Otherwise, a person could make a series of poor choices so as to engineer a situation in which the person is reduced to a stark choice between using another person’s private property or dying and then take advantage of this situation to take private property from another person by underhanded means. Because one inherently consents to what one does to oneself, one cannot commit acts of aggression against oneself. Thus, the threat to one’s life that would allow the Reecean proviso to be used cannot be of one’s own making.

This is an impossible standard to set up as existing philosophically above respect for private property. It is indistinguishable from arbitrary behavioral standards which necessarily must be subordinate to respect for private property. Various degrees of action or inaction may make encountering various types of aggression more or less likely. What constitutes “of one’s own making?”:
– If I fail to save money or work hard enough to feed myself or defend myself
– If I fail to read enough books and develop my negotiating skills enough to optimally manage my interpersonal relationships with potential aggressors and/or allies
– If I fail to make wise choices of career or neighborhood to live in

Can any or all of this be mixed in a pot and out pops a determination that a particular act of aggression upon me was “of my own making” or not due to various particular actions or inactions on my part? That’s an impossible determination to make on any basis other than completely arbitrary.

This is not impossible or arbitrary; in fact it is quite simple. A situation is of one’s own making if it was not forced upon oneself against one’s will by an external agent. As such, all of the above examples would be of one’s own making and not sufficient cause to apply the Reecean proviso.

How would a property owner be able to make this determination on the fly when he detects someone claiming qualification under the Reecean proviso trying to take his stuff? How would a victim himself be able to make such a determination on the fly to know whether he may morally take someone else’s stuff? To think the integrity of one man’s property rights would be philosophically dependent on some other men’s personal views on such matters makes a mockery of the notion of property rights.

This may well be impossible in practice. However, a property owner may be unaware of such a taking until it has already occurred, which would remove the need for the property owner to make such a determination. A person who is in such a position to use the Reecean proviso will know it, as it requires one to be near death and without any other means of preserving one’s life besides appropriating owned property. The objection that the integrity of one person’s property rights would be philosophically dependent on some other person’s views on such matters confuses theory with practice.

Second, the person must not knowingly endanger the life of the property owner.

How in the world can the person know what endangers the life of the property owner?

It is simple to know that some takings would endanger the life of the property owner. If a person is kidnapped and taken to a desert area where only one cactus is within reach, and that cactus bears fruit which is being used by its owner as his sole source of sustenance, then taking some of it after witnessing the owner do this would endanger the life of the property owner and thus be outside of the Reecean proviso.

How in the world can the person know the financial situation of the property owner, his health care needs currently and in the future, his quality/quantity of life trade-off equation, not only for himself but for spouse, his children, his heirs, or other beneficiaries of his property?

This is unnecessary because a person cannot be responsible for knowledge that he does not have and lacks the means to get, as a person in position to use the Reecean proviso would.

Since the sole philosophical role of property is the support of human life, and limits to life directly correspond to limits of property used to support and extend it, any deprivation of property is inherently life threatening by nature. The larger the deprivation, the larger the threat to life.

Does a solitary person who owns thousands of apple trees suddenly suffer a life-threatening circumstance because a desperate person picks one apple? Of course not.

Third, the person must not appropriate any more privately owned resources than are required for survival in the moment. Going above and beyond the bare minimum is an act of theft, as it is not required for survival in the moment. Even taking some extra “for the road” is not allowed, as it cannot be proven that doing so will be the only possible method for survival. Fourth, a person may only travel through territory in which the person is unwelcome if survival requires that one do so. Doing so when there is another path available, or when survival is not in jeopardy, constitutes trespassing. Fifth, a person who is traveling through territory in which the person is unwelcome must traverse the territory as quickly as possible. Taking more time than is reasonably required constitutes loitering and trespassing.

Herenschrict objects to all of these by asking who would determine what is required, what the bare minimum is, what constitutes survival, and what constitutes as quickly as possible. The theoretical answer is that there are objectively true answers to all of these questions, therefore no one determines them. The practical answer is that the property owner, proviso user, and any dispute resolution services they retain will come to some agreement after the fact, as is the case for any other civil dispute.

Survival is an odds game. It is a continuum.

Survival is a binary function; either one lives or one dies. There is no state of being in between the two.

The more resources and easier journey, the higher my chances of survival. If I can slowly trespass on 100 miles of private land in a valley with lush fruit for me to eat, or quickly trespass on 1 mile of private land across high mountains with dangerous arctic snowblasts, am I morally justified to trespass on one but not the other?

One would have to take the shorter, more treacherous path because it minimizes the appropriation of private property belonging to other people.

If I can avoid land trespass entirely by commandeering a car at gunpoint to maximize speed of property violation and maximize my survival prospects, is that the only morally justifiable path?

Herenschrict demonstrates a level of misunderstanding here that can only be intentional. Commandeering a car at gunpoint threatens the life of a property owner, therefore it is not permitted under the Reecean proviso.

If you think transferring private property from some parties to others under certain conditions leads to a more prosperous, happy society, then by all means make voluntary relinquishing of those property rights a condition of membership in your private defense organization so such rules apply among mutually consenting parties. But don’t act as if your vision of a society that disregards property rights for the greater good just some of the time has any philosophical basis and binds even those who do not agree.

This is yet another straw man, as no such things are argued by the Reecean proviso.

Sixth, a person who deprives a property owner of value in order to survive must make restitution for that value if and when this becomes possible.

You know your philosophical reasoning has gone completely off the reservation when you must solve the socialist calculation problem in order to employ your principles. What constitutes “fair” restitution, below which one violates the Reecean proviso and cannot morally seize another’s private property but above which one fulfills it and can morally seize another’s private property?

This would be a devastating criticism if there were any truth to it, but there is none. There is no need to solve an economic calculation problem because the property owner, proviso user, and any dispute resolution services they retain can come to an agreement on what restitution, if any, should be made without making such a rigorous calculation. “Seize” is not the most accurate term for what the Reecean proviso allows, as it does not allow for force that threatens the property owner.

Ask any eminent domain victim how well involuntarily imposed determinations of “fair” compensation for seizures of their property work. Since values are subjective, “fair” prices for goods are settable only by their owners. And such individual prices can vary wildly from item to item from moment to moment, depending on the owners personal circumstances, state of mind, and decisions, including may items owners rightfully regard as “not for sale at any price.”

The field of straw men keeps growing, as the compensation is to be determined voluntarily between the property owner, proviso user, and any dispute resolution services they retain, not involuntarily imposed. The only exception to this would occur if the proviso user refused to make any restitution for the property that was used, in which case force could be used against the proviso user to get said restitution. An item rightfully regarded by its owner as “not for sale at any price” will either be something that has high sentimental value or something that the owner requires to survive. The former is not needed by the proviso user for survival (and probably cannot be obtained without threatening the property owner), while taking the latter would threaten the property owner. In both cases, the item cannot be appropriated within the Reecean proviso.

Passively owning property is not interfering with the self-ownership rights of another.

In the vast majority of cases, this is true. The Reecean proviso exclusively addresses so-called “lifeboat scenarios” in which it is false.

If a property owner put a sturdy, impenetrable fence around his property he would be guilty of aggression because this would thwart the attempts of Reecean-proviso-qualifying individuals to seize his property. By your reasoning to remain moral he must provide his private property to them on demand, because if they demand it, it’s not his property any more, it’s theirs by right.

The Reecean proviso allows people who are in extreme circumstances a negative right to keep themselves alive. This is not a positive obligation upon the property owner to assist in such an act. In fact, as mentioned earlier, the property owner may thwart the Reecean proviso by making the life-saving property unreachable or by defending it in such a way that it cannot be taken without posing a threat to the property owner. The property is not theirs by right; they may simply use it if and only if they can and they must.

One may, in spite of the above limitations, try to equate the Reecean proviso with a form of socialism or forced redistribution. But if there is to be forced redistribution, then there must be someone who will do the forcing. Such a person would be acting as the jeopardized person’s agent, and would therefore be subject to the same restrictions on conduct that apply to the jeopardized person.

Enter the ambulance-chasing attorney eager to become the agent of anyone and everyone around the planet who fulfills the conditions of the Reecean proviso (for a cut of the loot he can obtain for them, of course). If there is an impoverished rice farmer in rural India whose life becomes imperiled by aggression but could be saved by his seizure of private property, the attorney will be there in a flash offering to become his agent.

As explained in the original article immediately following the quoted section, if one is able to get someone to forcibly redistribute wealth to keep one alive, then one will have other, less aggressive options available, such as arranging survival aid and evacuation from the desperate scenario to be carried out by the person who would act to forcibly redistribute wealth. The arrival of the attorney gives the imperiled person an alternative to appropriating another person’s private property, as the attorney should be able to make a return trip with the imperiled person, thus removing the person from the imperiling condition. Note also that by inserting himself into the situation, the attorney makes the vehicle in which he arrives as well as his personal possessions prime targets for appropriation, which disincentivizes ambulance-chasing attorneys from seeking such cases.

Then, armed with the full moral authority of Reecean proviso, the attorney can appropriate the private property of anyone. Of course if the Indian farmer suffered severe, traumatic injuries from the aggression requiring an immediate helicopter flight to a major city and immediate extensive reconstructive surgery in order for him to survive, his medical bills could be substantial. Fortunately for him, by the Reecean proviso every private property owner in existence is obligated to pay these bills to make sure this man does not immediately die and the attorney will gleefully make sure they do.

This is completely false, due to the defenses that private property owners may make against the Reecean proviso, such as making such property unreachable or by defending it in such a way that it cannot be taken without posing a threat to the property owner.

The Reecean proviso amends Rothbard’s response to say that the encirclers may not keep the encircled in a situation where survival is impossible.

You may not amend Rothbard’s response. Rothbard’s response was what it was for a reason. Your amendment contradicts it.

I may do whatever I wish with Rothbard’s response. However, my readers will be the judge of whether such an action is legitimate by voting with their donations and page views.

References:

  1. Rothbard, Murray (1982). The Ethics of Liberty. p. 40-41