These opinions warrantied for the lifetime of your brain.

Loading Table of Contents...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Labor Cannot Create Sites

Alex, no matter how many times you ask, Rothbard was not among the LP's 1971 founders.  Rothbard in March 1972: "any talk of a libertarian party is grossly premature, and will be for many years to come."  By June of 1973, he was changing his tune, and by Nov 1973 he was an advocate of the LP (and particularly the FLP of New York).
You can read all the gory details in his Libertarian Review newsletter, linked from the web's most comprehensive LP history resource:  The venom and personal bitterness of Rothbard c. 1980-1983 toward the Cato moderates is truly mind-boggling.  Our TPW antics are child's play compared to the knife-fighting that Rothbard indulged in.  Don't believe it for a minute when Less tells you that radicals have never pushed anybody out of the LP.  Rothbard's newsletter screamed "Never again Clark! Never again Crane!"
Democratic Republican: geolibertarianism is in fact the school that most rigorously applies the self-ownership justification for property rights in material possessions.  We say that you can own anything material, but you can't stake out a set of spatial coordinates and say you own that chunk of spacetime in quite the same way as you own the matter and energy in it.  Your labor can create and transform material resources, but your labor cannot create a site.  Sites were always there and will always be there.  The most you can do is drain, fill, excavate, or otherwise improve a site but you can't create a new square mile that wasn't already one of the Earth's square miles.  If somebody comes up to you and offers to sell you a piece of spacetime that he claims didn't exist before he recently created it, be very suspicious -- unless he has a wormhole or an inter-dimensional portal or some other fancy technology.
I'm glad you mentioned free riders; our radical friends don't like to discuss them.  For me, I lost my youthful ability to seriously entertain the notion of anarchism the first time I saw the class four-goods table in an economics textbook:
Our eager young anarchists will come around, but it will take time.  The cumulative revolution in the theory of political economy that took place in the 1950s and 1960s is very recent by historical standards. Students of biology and anatomy long ago stopped reading Aristotle's 2300-year-old treatises, with his theories that head-first birth in animals is caused by weight asymmetry around the umbilical cord, and that the brain's function is just to cool the blood. But progress in the theory of political economy has been so slow that after two millennia, Aristotle's political theories are still required reading. It was only 50 years ago that economists formulated the theoretical foundations of what is now the textbook four-goods analysis of the optimal scope of government. That analysis is profoundly libertarian, and it's just bizarre that a party calling itself "Libertarian" hasn't embraced it. The reason for this is a historical accident, in that the ideology of the LP was dictated in the 1970s by someone (Murray Rothbard) who froze his own anarcholibertarian dogma a decade or so before the cumulative revolution in the 1950s and 1960s in the areas of modern welfare economics, public choice theory, behavioral economics, and information economics.

A pioneer of string theory said in the 1970s that it is "a part of twenty-first-century physics that fell by chance into the twentieth century". Unlike physics, economics has not often had to wait on (or invent) new mathematics in order to make progress. I sometimes get the feeling that much of twentieth-century economics was in retrospect somewhat obvious and should have been already been developed before 1900. It would have been nice if the insights of modern economics had been available as the libertarian movement became self-conscious in the early decades of this century, but it was not to be. Oh well, at least we'll have front-row seats as the insights of modern economics continue to seep into our culture's political consciousness. The question of why the LP disputed those insights instead of championed them will make for an interesting footnote in future history books.