Don't you realize, that is handled in the literature?

On pointing out some logical flaw in libertarianism, a typical response is "Aren't you even aware that has already been handled in the literature?"

Of course, if it is a logical flaw, you already know it cannot be "handled" by writing more about it. So naturally these "handlings" are always patches. But they do serve the purpose of keeping any critic foolish enough to try to address every one of them busy forever. I will show you two examples of how logical problems in libertarianism are "handled," and henceforth stop posting comments like this.

1) I point out that the ancap notion that "the market should decide the law" is viciously circular, since we first need law to determine who owns what before they can enter the market. I am told, "Criminy, don't you know that is handled in the literature!" And I am pointed to this passage:

"A sophisticated critic may charge that my proposal rests upon a circular argument: How can people use contracts to define property rights, when a system of property rights is necessary to determine which contracts are valid? After all, Smith can’t sell Jones a car for a certain sum of money, unless it is established beforehand that Smith is the just owner of the car (and Jones the owner of the sum of money.)"

So how, without knowing who owns what, are we going to decide who in the world can contract for what with whom? There is a bit of talk about "insurance companies" in operation, which is curious, because we haven't yet worked out who owns the office building the insurance company will operate from, or the phones or computers or desks it will be making use of. The insurance companies are offering standard contract forms, but we haven't yet figured out if there are intellectual property rights to worry about here. And how do we get to the point where we have some clue who owns what, if IP exists, and so on? Will the author please tell us how we know if the so-called insurance company really owns the phone it calls me on, or the gold it is supposedly using to insure me? And he does: "The answer is simple: I don’t have such a theory."

So this passage "handles" this objection by admitting the author really has no idea how we will solve this problem, but he swears, it will be better than under the state, for sure!

Man, do I feel foolish for not having dealt with that riposte!

2) I note that it is perfectly permissible to blockade someone from leaving their property under anarcho-capitalism. "Ah, Gene, that has been handled in the literature!" And I am shown this passage, from Rothbard's For a New Liberty:

"The answer is that everyone, in purchasing homes or street service in a libertarian society, would make sure that the purchase or lease contract provides full access for whatever term of years is specified. With this sort of 'easement' provided in advance by contract, no such sudden blockade would be allowed, since it would be an invasion of the property right of the landowner."

To note here:
1) Just like I said, blockades are perfectly permissible in ancap, unless one has specifically purchased a right to not be blockaded by buying an easement.
2) Rothbard assumes no one ever signs a foolish contract. Now that's a pretty realistic assumption, isn't it?
3) An easement to where? What if you simply find yourself blockaded at the end of the easement you have purchased? Presumably no one can afford an easement that encircles the globe: at some point, the possibility of a blockade arises again. (This point is so simple that you can tell Rothbard was just doing patchwork: you can buy all the finite amount of easement you want, and still find yourself blockaded wherever it ends.)
3) This does not deal with the scenario I outlined at all if Jeb was living in, say, the town of Weston, which then goes ancap. Jeb had no reason to buy an easement, as he lived on a town road. But suddenly the road is private, and owned by the wealthy landowners who surround Jeb. Oops!

Every instance I have found of these problems being "handled in the literature" turns out to be like the above. Sorry, I don't have time for more snark hunts.

UPDATE: I just took the time to read all of his discussions of blockades in Block's private roads book, and it turns out, again, I was totally correct: blockades are perfectly permissible in Block's system. He only argues that as a practical matter, they won't occur, because people will make sure they have an easement.

35 comments:

  1. I point out that the ancap notion that "the market should decide the law" is viciously circular…

    It's nonsensical, but how is it circular?

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    1. Because to have a market implies that everyone knows who owns what, but who owns what is a legal question.

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    2. I don't think that's circularity. It's obviously nonsense to say that markets can "provide law" because law isn't something that's provided.

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  2. Bob shouldn't have used that quote because Rothbard and your starting points are too different.

    The town "just going ancap" isn't the same as purchasing a home within an ancap society. The most applicable work I can think of that Rothbard did write about would be his homesteading stuff. In which he endorses the legal idea of "prescription". (easements) for owners who were there first.

    However, it might just be easier (and/or correct) to take the same route as on IP "and say, Rothbard was wrong, and libertarianism has come a long way since."

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    1. Just check the literature.

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    2. Love the expression, I might have to steal it. You don't want to have a cartoon like understanding of something after all.

      http://gene-callahan.blogspot.com/2014/10/what-is-my-opinion-of-herbert-spencer.html?m=1

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    3. But of course, as someone who WAS a prominent libertarian for a number of years, who co-authored with Block, Murphy, and others, and who read LOTS of this literature, I could Hardly be accused of having a "cartoon-like" understanding of libertarianism. I am more like someone who spent a decade as an astrologer and realized all of the "literature" was hand-waving.

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    4. Of course Gene, I assume YOU generally know what you're talking about, and rarely have much to disagree with. Just some errors here and there.

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    5. Addressing Gene:
      And they've never forgiven you since. Well, not many I don't think. I know Bob's a close friend of yours, but what about, say, Rockwell and Machan?

      Addressing Kurt Parker:
      Just want to make sure, but you're K.P., correct?

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    6. @Kurt: "Just some errors here and there."

      I took Block's name off of the other post because you wouldn't let up about it and I had no time to look him up at that moment. But I just read all of his discussions of blockades in his private roads book, and it turns out, again, I was totally correct: blockades are perfectly permissible in Block's system. He only argues that as a *practical* matter, they won't occur, because people will make sure they have an easement.

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    7. Bob shouldn't have used that quote...

      Et tu, K.P.?

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    8. Check *more* literature then Gene. Specificially his paper on children and "forstalling". He says point blank that for a property owner cannot encircle property without granting an easement. (That is legitimately not just practically). I haven't read his book on roads though, so if he contradicts himself, then well... he contradicts himself.

      "Addressing Kurt Parker:
      Just want to make sure, but you're K.P., correct?"

      Yes, Samson, one and the same.

      "Et tu, K.P.?"

      Yes, Bob, you should have known better. For God's sake, it's a *slightly* different scenario, how else could it be viewed but utter failure of Rothbard and libertarianism in general?

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    9. KP, the last remark to Bob above is really assinine and has nothing to do with my post. Similarly with your remark about a "cartoon-like view." That's two strikes.

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    10. Wow, KP, I just read that paper, and it has nothing to do with this problem! It is about "encircling" a piece of empty, unused land! You were just BSing, weren't you?!

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    11. By the way, KP, I put Block back in to the original post, since it turned out you were full of it.

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    12. I emailed Block just to make sure, and yes he *seems to* agree with me. He definitely agree with this (Hoppe's) take at the very least.

      "How is it possible that formerly unowned common streets can be privatized without thereby generating conflict with others? The short answer is that this can be done provided only that the appropriation of the street does not infringe on the previously established rights — the easements — of private-property owners to use such streets "for free." Everyone must remain free to walk the street from house to house, through the woods, and onto the lake, just as before. Everyone retains a right-of-way, and hence no one can claim to be made worse off by the privatization of the street."

      And if the quoted scenario above is yet still too different from your own then I'll defer to you and say I goofed big time.

      You're correct though Gene, Block only spoke of uncontractual easements being due by property owners in the case of unowned property. I really didn't (and don't) think it's that much of stretch but fair enough. I (jokingly) attacked Bob for doing the same thing so I get what I deserve. My apologies to both of you.

      (If he permits me to reproduce the exchange, I shall do that too)

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    13. Goofed is kind. Per Block here there is no *right* to an easement just for pesky trivialities like being able to eat, drink, breathe. If an easement is already "owned" -- to use ancap speak -- that is a wildly different thing; that is just "oh we recognize ownership as of now", like saying I get to keep ugly face coffee mug and my beat up Farah Fawcett poster..

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    14. "formerly unowned common streets"

      public roads are all owned, in the US they are mainly owned by the individual States or the United States.

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    15. as such, all citizens of the US have 'previously established' rights to use those roads.

      "the previously established rights — the easements — of private-property owners to use such streets "for free."

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    16. Right, And this is what makes the juxtaposition of this view and the idea of "privatizing" the roads so bizarre: since everyone (per this notion) must have their previous free usage guaranteed, how in the world can these private owners pay to maintain them?

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    17. "as such, all citizens of the US have 'previously established' rights to use those roads."

      Yes! He says exactly that.

      "Accordingly, streets should be regarded as these taxpayers' property."

      "Right, And this is what makes the juxtaposition of this view and the idea of "privatizing" the roads so bizarre: since everyone (per this notion) must have their previous free usage guaranteed, how in the world can these private owners pay to maintain them?"

      Let it them go to crap and build a better road next door? I have no imagination.

      From the little I've read about the turnpike businesses in the US, they didn't perform very well. It'd be interesting to see something like this attempted at a small level in, say, New Zealand though.

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    18. ""How is it possible that formerly unowned common streets can be privatized without thereby generating conflict with others? The short answer is that this can be done provided only that the appropriation of the street does not infringe on the previously established rights…"

      Huh? How does that "prevent conflict"? Conflict seems totally irrelevant here.

      "…hence no one can claim to be made worse off by the privatization of the street."

      Huh? It certainly can make some people worse off, but even then that doesn't necessarily matter.

      Addressing Gene:
      "…the idea of 'privatizing' the roads…"

      Not sure I understand this. Can you explain why you're putting "privatization" in quotes?

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    19. Sure: if everyone who could previously used route six by my house for free can still use it for free, who the hell would want to own it? It hasn't been privatized: it has been turned into an unregulated commons.

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  3. K.P.'s objection is off point as usual. If the theory cannot handle "going ancap" then it cannot handle ANYTHING. The claim is that since markets are free and voluntary (ancaps assert) that the outcomes are just. But if the initial state is unjust the argument collapses even on its own terms.

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  4. The Rothbard passage reminds me of a well put objection to Libertarianism I saw. Libertarians ignore the fact people are finite. That means no-one can negotiate every conceivable easement or safety measure or restriction or fall back that might be needed, or assumed. Somewhere you need enforceable "defaults" or practices *even if they are not explictly agreed.*

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    1. To which Rothbard agrees! Check the literature, my friend.

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  5. Gene point out the logical flaw with the abolition of slavery in your next post. If nobody voluntarily chooses to pick crops, we will all starve.

    It's going to be hilarious to see all the knee-jerk abolitionists arguing that incentives would lead people to choose to pick crops, so in practice this isn't a big deal. Way to duck the logical flaw in your system, morons!

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    1. Bob, my post was a discussion of RIGHTS, not what would work out in practice.

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    2. Right, I got that Gene.

      So by the same token, I have discovered a flaw with the abolition of slavery. In the type of "free labor" society you envision, people actually don't have a right to food (or shelter). Nobody can literally be forced to grow food or to build houses. If every single person in society chooses not to grow food or build houses, then everybody starves to death and has no shelter.

      So do you like my discovery? Or do you think it would be a perfectly adequate response for someone to say, "OK sure, but give me a break, that's not really going to be an issue."

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    3. I think it is very odd to see a libertarian deliberately muddling rights talk and talk a practicalities in this way. Once again, my post was discussing rights.

      And the fact that it might be necessary to enslave people to guarantee a right to food is a good argument for there being no such right.

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    4. It is not necessary to enslave people to guarantee a right to food. You simply have to give people the right to access sources of food, and not use force against them to deny them access.

      If there was some sort of massive humanitarian or environmental disaster, and you needed to make people produce food or other things so as to avoid catastrophe, and you used the power of the state to compel people to do that, then that would be like conscription, rather than slavery.

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    5. regarding my second point.

      1. it is possible to imagine a hypothetical extreme situation in which the government might have to compel people to produce food in order to avoid a humanitarian disaster. This would be like conscription rather than slavery. Here's the Supreme Court on the issue of conscription vs slavery:

      "Finally, as we are unable to conceive upon what theory the exaction by government from the citizen of the performance of his supreme and noble duty of contributing to the defense of the rights and honor of the nation as the result of a war declared by the great representative body of the people can be said to be the imposition of involuntary servitude in violation of the prohibitions of the Thirteenth Amendment, we are constrained to the conclusion that the contention to that effect is refuted by its mere statement."

      http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=245&invol=366

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  6. Are there already laws against encirclement on the books?

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    1. At least in Civil law there are, unless you do it to yourself apparently.

      http://law.justia.com/codes/louisiana/2011/cc/cc689

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  7. They alway bring up slavery as an analogy. If you can abolish slavery you can abolish the state. Although wasn't it the state that abolished slavery? Who will abolish the state?

    P.S. Non-slaves were picking crops when slavery was legal.

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