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Libertarian Papers: on libertarian dilemmas, and probability theory

Two new Libertarian Papers articles published this week:

41. “Why There are No Dilemmas in Widerquist’s ‘A Dilemma for Libertarians’”, by Lamont Rodgers

Abstract: Karl Widerquist has recently argued that libertarians face two dilemmas. The first dilemma arises because, contrary to what Widerquist takes libertarians to suggest, there is no conceptual link between robust property rights and the libertarian state. Private property rights can legitimately yield non-libertarian states. Libertarians must thus remain committed either to robust property rights or the libertarian state. I call this the “Conceptual Dilemma.”

The second dilemma is empirical in nature. Libertarians can try to undermine state property rights by showing that the means by which all present states came to have their property was unjust. However, doing so would presumably undermine almost all the property claims of private individuals. So the dilemma is that libertarians can undermine state property rights only by undermining individual property rights, on the one hand. On the other, libertarians can vindicate private property rights of individuals only by vindicating state property rights. I call this the “Empirical Dilemma.”

I attempt to diffuse both of these dilemmas here. I argue that the Conceptual Dilemma relies on a misunderstanding of the libertarian’s commitments. In particular, I show that libertarians need not think robust property rights can yield states more extensive than Nozick’s minimal state. I then argue that Widerquist ignores libertarian scholarship aimed at meeting the Empirical Dilemma. Many libertarians have attempted to demonstrate that there are legitimate private property rights which are illegitimately disregarded by current states. The upshot of this discussion is that there are no genuine dilemmas posed by Widerquist’s “A Dilemma for Libertarians.”

42. “Single Trial Probability Applications: Can Subjectivity Evade Frequency Limitations?”, by David Howden

Abstract: Frequency probability theorists define an event’s probability distribution as the limit of a repeated set of trials belonging to a homogeneous collective. The subsets of this collective are events which we have deficient knowledge about on an individual level, although for the larger collective we have knowledge its aggregate behavior. Hence, probabilities can only be achieved through repeated trials of these subsets arriving at the established frequencies that define the probabilities. Crovelli (2009) argues that this is a mistaken approach, and that a subjective assessment of individual trials should be used instead. Bifurcating between the two concepts of risk and uncertainty, Crovelli first asserts that probability is the tool used to manage uncertain situations, and then attempts to rebuild a definition of probability theory with this in mind. We show that such an attempt has little to gain, and results in an indeterminate application of entrepreneurial forecasting to uncertain decisions—a process far-removed from any application of probability theory.

[Mises cross-post]

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