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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Look at the Violence Inherent in the System!

So, someone is quietly sunbathing in the corner of a field I own, but am not using at the moment. I spot him, and call in security. When they tell him to leave, he says, "Hey, I'm just having a little nap in the sun! I'm not hurting anything -- I'll be gone in a half hour."

Security goes to drag him away, and when he struggles, hit him on the head with clubs.

Now, surely, I wouldn't go so far in the "strawman" arguments against libertarianism that people keep accusing me of making as to contend that any libertarian would say that the sunbather had "initiated violence" against me and that I was just responding in "self defense," would I? No one could really hold a position that stupid, so what would motivate me to make up crap like that?

Well, I don't have to, because Geoffrey Allan Plouche did it for me:

"Throwing out trespassers who refuse to leave is not initiating physical force. It is retaliatory physical force. Defensive."

And, by the way, I think private property in land is generally speaking a good idea. But it's not some "natural right" -- it's a social invention, and governed by the norms of the societies that created it. In the UK, the sunbather would have every right to stay where he was, because the UK has "right to wander" laws. In the US, the police should remove him if asked -- because what he is doing is against the law, not because it is "initiating violence."

(Now, some idiot is going to come along and say, "So, Gene thinks it is OK to turn Jews in to the Nazis because that was the law." Just wait for it.)

34 comments:

  1. Could you then explain the meaningful difference between the law in Nazi-Germany and the law in the USA? _if_ your argument is 'it is the law' then you have to explain what clauses are there to it, else then, yes, the Nazi-Germany argument is relevant.

    So, could you explain the difference? (There are a lot, but I'm interested in yours. :))

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  2. "In the US, the police should remove him if asked "

    Are you saying it's OK for the police to club the sunbather on the head in the US? What do you mean by "should" here?

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  3. Adriaan, the question I think is most relevant is, does the law command something positively immoral? There should be a presumption in favour of obeying the law, i.e., you obey unless you have a compelling moral reason not to. That would mean, for instance, you should drive the speed limit, even if you think it is set too low, unless, say, you are rushing someone to the hospital. And you should cooperate with a police investigation, unless, say, you know they are rounding up and imprisoning people simply for being Jewish.

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  4. 'Are you saying it's OK for the police to club the sunbather on the head in the US? What do you mean by "should" here?'

    Well, if he refuses to leave when asked by the police, they will rightly escalate their use of force, gradually, to whatever level is needed to compel obedience to the law (not to them!). And note, this is not a function of "statism" or anything of the sort -- an ancap protection agency would have to do the same, or they could be ignored with impunity.

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  5. Ok, but maybe I do find something like paying taxes for a war deeply immoral. Or I find paying money to an institute that does a whole lot of things that the US government does, immoral. Can that be a legitimate reason to not pay taxes? And if they take it still, could that be a reason to call it stealing?

    Furthermore; a 'moral compelling reason' is a little bit fluid. Don't we need a set of guidelines that help us here? Maybe they don't need to be as strict as Rothbardianism, but the 'libertarian feeling' goes a long way. Even if one wants to argue from a virtue ethical - like Mc Intyre or Anscombe - point of view; I'm inclined to think that the set of moral attitudes called 'libertarian' (in political philosophy) do have a intellectual base in that tradition too. (or 'could have a base' in that tradition.)

    The argument on behalf of the sunbather on the grass: if he refuses to leave after being asked to leave and again and again, then I don't see why (proportional) force is that unjustified. People wander on to grass; no big deal. But when asked to leave by the owner and when they refuse, I don't think they are doing what a person ought to do in such a situation.

    (I'm sorry; as you can notice, I'm not a native English speaker.)

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  6. "Well, if he refuses to leave when asked by the police, they will rightly escalate their use of force, gradually, to whatever level is needed to compel obedience to the law (not to them!)."

    I can't believe you would write that.

    Are you joking?

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  7. "will rightly escalate"

    What does 'rightly' mean?

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  8. "Ok, but maybe I do find something like paying taxes for a war deeply immoral. Or I find paying money to an institute that does a whole lot of things that the US government does, immoral. Can that be a legitimate reason to not pay taxes?"

    Absolutely. I'm thinking of leaving the country because I hate that I'm contributing to the Iraq War.

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  9. "The argument on behalf of the sunbather on the grass: if he refuses to leave after being asked to leave and again and again, then I don't see why (proportional) force is that unjustified."

    No, I think it is justified!

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  10. "Are you joking?"

    No. What bit seems like a joke?

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  11. "What does 'rightly' mean?"

    With full justification.

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  12. "With full justification."

    What does full justification mean?

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  13. "What bit seems like a joke?"

    You were objecting to Plauche's position because apparently he thinks that it is OK to use violence against the sunbather.

    But you don't object when the cops use violence?

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  14. I've appreciated these posts, which have broadened my thinking. IF ideology means only what Aristotle says it means, and IF Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism and the non-aggression principle are the only forms of libertarianism, Mr. Callahan makes good points. I suppose I'm more loose with both words.

    There are (Henry George-inspired) geo-libertarians, there are libertarian-leaning Constitutional conservatives. Does Mr. Callahan reject them all, or just Rothbardian libertarianism? Does he reject libertarian ideology-as-philosophy, or does he reject libertarian policy prescriptions that at least 80-90% of libertarians agree with?

    And is there a point where moral beliefs end and ideology begins?

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  15. "You were objecting to Plauche's position because apparently he thinks that it is OK to use violence against the sunbather."

    No, you misread me. I was objecting to his claim that while others will "initiate violence," he won't. I was saying every legal regime is peaceful to those who cooperate with it, and initiates violence against those who do not.

    Even in ancapistan.

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  16. Ah, my mistake then. Though I'm not sure I see (or agree with) your overall point anyway.

    The thing is, the cops are not justified in using violence. And the agents of an hypothetical PDA are not justified either. Also, you complained about circular arguments in your previous post, but your comments about the police using force "rightly", and "rightly" meaning "justified", look a bit circular to me...

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  17. 'The thing is, the cops are not justified in using violence. And the agents of an hypothetical PDA are not justified either. Also, you complained about circular arguments in your previous post, but your comments about the police using force "rightly", and "rightly" meaning "justified", look a bit circular to me...'

    Perhaps you are a pacifist? That is certainly a coherent position. I'm just afraid it is not a practical position.

    In any case, my argument would be:

    1) Laws (whether formal or informal) are crucial to social order.

    2) Therefore, (just) laws should be enforced.

    3) Therefore, if someone resists the enforcement of a just law, it is justified to compel them into obedience.

    I don't see any circularity here.

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  18. This seems to beg the question, are those laws just? You need that to apply this argument, and they obviously don't agree that those laws are just.

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  19. "This seems to beg the question, are those laws just? You need that to apply this argument, and they obviously don't agree that those laws are just."

    Who doesn't agree? It doesn't matter one bit if the violator agrees they are just. If the law enforcements officials think the laws they are enforcing are just, they should enforce them, regardless of what the perp thinks. If they don't, they should quit. (And I don't mean "the laws are just" in the sense that they think every single provision is exactly the way it should be -- if the speed limit is 5 miles an hour to low, that should just be accepted as a part of human imperfection. It's, e.g., when the laws are rounding up Jews you are obliged to quit.)

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  20. "Perhaps you are a pacifist?"

    No I'm not. I think force used in self-defense is justified. But I see no need to use force against a peaceful sunbather.

    "I don't see any circularity here."

    You don't? Even scineram, who I doubt is on my side, says "This seems to beg the question, are those laws just?"

    So you went from "rightly" to "full justification" and now you say the cops are justified because they are enforcing "just" laws...

    I guess the laws are just because the cops are doing the right thing? Or is it the other way around =P

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  21. 'But I see no need to use force against a peaceful sunbather.'

    Are you against trespassing laws? Because if not, you have to deal with the fact that unless they can be enforced, they are pointless. Now, realize that I'm not saying you can see a trespasser and shoot them. No, you ask them to leave. If they don't, you call the cops. The cops ask them to leave. If they still won't, they try to drag the person off. The point is that the violence is not justified due to illicit sunbathing, but due to the escalating disregard for the law exhibited by the sunbather.

    'You don't? Even scineram, who I doubt is on my side, says "This seems to beg the question, are those laws just?"'

    And I answered him, sufficiently, I think. The justification flows from the law to the cops. No circle.

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  22. "The justification flows from the law to the cops."

    Regardless, you did NOT show that the law is justified.

    "you went from "rightly" to "full justification" and now you say the cops are justified because they are enforcing "just" laws..."

    But that's OK Gene. You don't have an argument and you know it.

    By the way, are you a 'christian'? And if so, shouldn't you "turn the other cheek"?

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  23. And of course, you can't use any amount of force to 'enforce' even a just law. You can't kill people because, say, they owe you $10 and won't pay. I would expect any "sensible" and decent person to understand that...

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  24. No, I had thought we were seriously discussing these ideas, but you are on the verge of entering into the "assinine poster whose posts ought to be deleted" category. Do you really want to understand my thought here, or are you just trying to score points for your pre-drawn conclusion that I "really don't have an argument."

    Because, you know, I have spent the last ten years trying to think through these issues as fully as I can, reading the best thinkers I can find who have addressed them, revising and re-revising my position, and it's a little insulting of you to dismiss all of that work based on your incomplete understanding of a couple of blog posts.

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  25. "Regardless, you did NOT show that the law is justified."

    And I did not even attempt to do so. Nor had anyone asked me to do so. All I said was that, IF a law is just, it is just to enforce it.

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  26. "And of course, you can't use any amount of force to 'enforce' even a just law. You can't kill people because, say, they owe you $10 and won't pay. I would expect any "sensible" and decent person to understand that..."

    Well, how do you propose just laws be enforced when their violator refuses to heed repeated warnings that he ought to do what is right? (And I note you are strawmanning here: who said you could kill someone for owing $10? You garnish his wages.)

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  27. I'm a little nonplussed by this one too, Gene. Is the main difference between you and, say, Stephan Kinsella, that Stephan can give a long answer to the question, "OK, how do we define a just law?" whereas your answer is, "I don't know, but I know Nazism doesn't count"?

    (Yes I'm being a bit snarky for the crowd but I'm also serious.)

    I mean, let me put it this way: The libertarians are saying that everything done by a State is unjust. What's wrong with that, per your views in this post?

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  28. The State is an immoral gang of unethical, unprincipled people who devote their lives to using violence as a means to get their way - - just like the Mafia.

    "Laws" created by agents of the State have no more moral validity than commands issued by representatives of any other criminal organization.

    It is ridiculous to contend there should be a presumption in favor of obeying the edicts of violent criminal gangsters.

    When they start obeying MY commands, I will start obeying theirs.

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  29. "Laws (whether formal or informal) are crucial to social order."

    That assertion requires proof. It seems obviously false to me.

    What's needed for social order is the widespread application of the strategy known as "tit-for-tat."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tit_for_tat

    Example: If Mr. X (of the IRS) taxes Mr. Y (a member of the productive economy), Mr. Y will retaliate by taxing Mr. X. And if evil Mr. X refuses to pay the tax that Mr. Y chooses to impose on him, Mr. Y (or his agents) will seize Mr. X at gunpoint and lock him in a cage.

    Result: Mr. X will quickly learn to cease his antisocial behavior.

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  30. I have sometimes been accussed of setting up strawman libertarians, and describing positions so stupid that no one could possibly hold them. As proof this is not so, I present... Bestquest!

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  31. "...positions so stupid that no one could possibly hold them."

    This is an example of the logical fallacy known as Argumentum ad Populum, or the Bandwagon Fallacy (if almost everyone believes X is true then X must be true.)

    If I understand your position, you are willing to reflexively obey every commandment of your rulers except those that are positively immoral. Thus, I presume you would be willing to obey an edict that commanded you to cover your face with a veil when in public.

    How does that differ from the contemptibly servile attitude of the slave Uncle Tom?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncle_tom

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  32. "This is an example of the logical fallacy known as Argumentum ad Populum, or the Bandwagon Fallacy (if almost everyone believes X is true then X must be true.)"

    IF I were making an argument here, this might make a little sense. But since I was just describing what some people have said to me, it makes no sense whatsoever.

    "If I understand your position, "

    You don't.

    "you are willing to reflexively obey every commandment of your rulers except those that are positively immoral."

    under the rule of law, the laws are not "commandments" and the legal authorities are not "rulers."

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  33. "That assertion requires proof. It seems obviously false to me.

    "What's needed for social order is the widespread application of the strategy known as "tit-for-tat.""

    This is really amazing. Thousands of years of human experience mean nothing, but a resul6t in a branch of mathematics gives bestquest the "proof" that he needs as to how to generate social order.

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  34. "Is the main difference between you and, say, Stephan Kinsella, that Stephan can give a long answer to the question, "OK, how do we define a just law?" whereas your answer is, "I don't know, but I know Nazism doesn't count"?"

    Close, but not quite. Stephan can give you a long and detailed answer because he has an ideology. The purpose of ideology is to do away with the need for practial judgment and replace it with rules. I could tell you, but not in the abstract.

    Imagine sitting between a really skilled NBA coach and some "average fan" at a bar. Your team is down 10 and falling further behind with 5 minutes to go. The fan is likely to have a rule like "They have to put in a three opint shooter!" But, if you ask the coach, "I don't know -- it would depend, depend on who I have on the bench, how much I've played them, who is on the other team, how the game is developing, the crowd, and more."

    So, now Murphy says to the coach, "If you're so smart, how come he had a ready answer and you don't?"

    Essentially, in a series of posts in which I've been criticizing ideology, you're here responding, "Well, then, what is YOUR ideology?"

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