These opinions warrantied for the lifetime of your brain.

Loading Table of Contents...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Non-Aggression Is Not So Simple

Steve LaBianca (not Newton) writes:
) Tell me how ANY existence of the state would NOT violate the initiation of force principle? [...]  If you advocate statism in any fashion, then you are attempting to move libertarianism in the direction of the other parties. (
There you have it, plain as day.  The litmus test for Platform content is its consistency with anarchism, and any deviation from anarchism is attacked as advocating the same thing that the nanny state parties advocate.  Is this Mary Ruwart's plan for uniting a "divided" LP?
Steve, there are more political philosophies in the world than just anarchism and socialism.  The world is just not as simple as your bumper sticker wants it to be.  For example:
Do you support the Sixth Amendment right of the accused to subpoena innocent third-party witnesses?  That's initiation of force, but it's for the purpose of protecting individual rights.
Do you support the arrest, detention, and compulsory trial of those accused -- but not yet convicted -- of violent crimes (e.g murder)?  That's a force-initiating policy unless you magically know that innocents will never be arrested.  (Compensation after the fact is no excuse, because that's the same argument used to justify any allegedly Kaldor-Hicks-efficient nanny state policy.  If you don't know what Kaldor-Hicks efficiency is, Wikipedia can tell you.)
Do you support enforcement of a positive obligation on parents to not let their children starve to death?  Murray Rothbard (and perhaps Mary Ruwart) calls that initiation of force, but again, it's for the purpose of protecting the individual rights of the children.
Do you support class-action tort rulings that apply a uniform default penalty to a broad category of micro-aggression (such as tailpipe pollution) without a jury-determined calibration of the penalty to the circumstances of each aggressor?  That's force initiation, but it's for protecting individual rights of Lockean access to the atmospheric commons.
Do you support copyright?  patents?  the right to blackmail?  Any answer you give can be described as force-initiating by some principled libertarian.
Do you support the taking and maintenance of a monopoly claim on a land parcel (or any other uncreated natural resource) without respecting the Lockean proviso of "leaving as much and as good" for others?   That's force initiation, and we geolibertarians say that such force initiators must compensate those they exclude from such land, typically through the community collection of ground rent (i.e. a land value tax).
The fundamental question here is: do you or do you not accept that there is a principled distinction between socialism and various kinds of minarchism (i.e. non-anarchist libertarianism)?  If you do, then why should the LP implicitly declare that anarchist principles are better than minarchist principles?  If you do not, then why aren't you trying to purge us socialists from the LP?
We need a Denver Accord that rejects your brand of bumper-sticker-sized exclusivist litmus testing, and instead builds a Big Tent LP that offers every principled libertarian -- whether anarchist or minarchist -- an equal seat at the grownups' table.
You ask "what does 'minimizing' force initiation mean"?   Entire books have been written on that subject.  If you want a Platform-sized answer, then see the proposed 2008 LP Platform, or google for my EcoLibertarian Manifesto.  If you insist on a bumper-sticker-sized answer, then the best I can offer is:
"Outlaw only fraud and force initiation. Tax only land rent and polluting/ congesting/ consuming the commons. Provide only network natural monopolies and protection of life and liberty. Do it all decentrally, democratically, with due process and without discrimination."
If your bumper sticker isn't that big, then with some lossiness I can squeeze it down to: "What you do or make is fully yours, but what you take or spoil is not."
I'm deeply sorry if you wanted this world to come packaged with an available political philosophy that fits on a bumper sticker and mechanically computes the ethical answer to every political question.  If we lived in such a world, then all libertarians -- indeed, all ethical people -- would already be Randroids by now.  But alas, the world is just not that simple.
You ask "who decides" about minimizing force initiation.  Fundamentally, we each have to decide for ourselves.  We know from Euthyphro's Dilemma that there can be no bearded man -- or Platonic realm -- beyond the clouds where all this hard thinking is pre-thought-out for us.  As we make up our individual minds, we as social mammals come together in groups (like the LP) to build social institutions (like governments, or bodies of common law, or whatever).  The process is messy, and again, I'm deeply sorry if that disappoints you.  As Morpheus told Neo: "I didn't say this would be easy. I just said it would be the truth." :-)
Thank you for admitting that you believe that the core belief of libertarianism is that "force initiation should be abstained from, regardless of the consequences".   That is indeed our fundamental disagreement, and very few radicals have the mental clarity to recognize it.  The next question is: do you believe that the LP should treat you and me each as first-class citizens, or should the LP's texts declare -- implicitly or explicitly -- that your vision of libertarianism is better than mine?
Thank you for also admitting that you consider me to be in violation of the Pledge.  Very few radicals have the intellectual courage to say that, but many try to imply it.  I believe David Nolan when he tells us that the Pledge is against revolt, not for anarchism.  But yes, to resolve this ambiguity, I favor replacing the Pledge with this one: "The Libertarian Party will always advocate increasing liberty and decreasing government on every issue. As a member of the Libertarian Party, I will not attempt to change this."  However, rewriting the Pledge is not on anybody's agenda for Denver.
Steve Newton: abstention and opposition/minimization were alternatives I offered to Steve L, not an inconsistent single principle I was offering to you.  I've never said I'm "the guarantor of the purity of Libertarian thought", and I'm arguing in detail that Steve LaBianca shouldn't be either.  However, I have been selected to serve on the LPUS Platform Committee for this cycle and the previous one, so I cannot honestly disclaim all responsibility for helping shape the LP's official thoughts.  However, I'm also a NatCon delegate, and our delegates hold ultimate and total authority to reshape the LP however they please.