Thought Experiment II

IN THE FUTURE: Nantucket has seceded from the US and established "Nancapistan" on the island. The US is sending a few ships out with a bunch of marines to handle this "little rebellion." If they land, they will surely re-take the island. But the residents have gotten together and have a plan: There is a hill overlooking the certain landing spot from which they could shell and sink the boats before they land. This victory will gain them international support, and the US will back down.

They go to set their guns in position, but the owner of the hill in question stops them. "I really don't like guns," he says. "You can't use my hill."

If they listen to him, the landing will take place and Nancapistan will be conquered.

What to do?


  1. Surrender.

    Nancapistanians should have invested in air power.

    They must pay for their mal-investment.

  2. Surrender.

    Nancapistanians should have invested in air power.

    They will now pay for their mal-investment.

  3. The thing is that the ancap defenders don't know the outcome for taking the hill (successful defense, international support, and the US backing off) for certain ex ante.

    They should do their best to bargain with the owner. If everyone believes the hill to be that critical, there will realistically be some price the owner will agree to for use of the hill.

    If not, then the ancap defenders might set their guns up anyway and choose to be subject to make restitution by whatever ancap judge the owner and defenders choose.

    It's a bit like a man who is dying of thirst (but also believes that theft is wrong) who breaks into a store and steals a bottle of water.

    He's willing to suffer the punishment of restitution plus damages as a consequence of his actions.

    Of course if the store was open and the owner saw he was in desperate straits and they negotiated something voluntarily, that would be best.

  4. Air power would have been an even worse investment. There's a reason why Afghan insurgents aren't pooling their money to buy fighter planes.

  5. If they listen to the owner, they would be the most libertarian society of all times. But in this case they should be practical and rent the hill (if necessary with force) from the owner.
    Of course they should try every way to persuade the owner first; by bargaining, by explaining the possible outcomes.

  6. Hey Gene,

    I thoroughly enjoy reading these thought experiment posts. I think what traumerei said is pretty much spot on. Especially the part about the man dying of thirst stealing water.

    I mean technically this is stealing (just as it is today) but that does not mean there is no discretion within a libertarian society, both to prosecute and enforce the law.

    So in this hill example supposing the owner of the hill just refused any type of compensation, the private defense agencies would mostly likely take the hill by force. The owner of the hill could then sue them for violation of his rights, the defense agencies should be found guilty but I would imagine most judges would not penalize them as harshly as other instances of private property violations.

    Similarly to today's legal system where we have a basic rule that murder is a criminal act, yet there are varying degrees with proportional punishments of types of murder, so would this remain in a libertarian society.

    Another example could be something like shoving someone out of the way of a moving car. Now shoving someone onto the ground is clearly a crime and considered assault. However if the "victim" is so ungrateful for you saving their life, or more realistically suffers an injury from your fall and is just trying to be greedy, than he could techincally sue the "assailant". The assailant techinically would be guilty but it seems unlikely he would be punished as severely as say someone who mugs an old lady. Furthermore, as judges are private and thus depend on their reputation for fair rulings, it would seem entirely plausible a judge could find the defendant not guilty or guilty and order him to only pay 1 dollar in damages.

    Technically they are both crimes of the same nature, but the circumstances surrounding could not be more opposite. I would imagine the penalties would be similarly structured. Just as first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter are.

    I think one of the biggest advantages in the libertarian society is not that the NAP is ruthlessly applied absolutely in all scenarios, but rather it seems to be the best basis for a legal system imagineable, and that legal system is a voluntary one that allows for experts in law to act in a discretionary manner as opposed to having to imprison someone who is techinically guilty of a crime because the state law has a minimum sentence of 5 years etc.


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