Left-libertarians and aggression: a facebook conversation

by Stephan Kinsella on February 4, 2012

in Uncategorized

From this post:

Derek: “don’t know, when you define aggression a priori”

I am not sure what this means. I am defining what libertarians are in terms of their view on aggression: they are against it. Aggression itself requires further explanation, definition, and justification. In my various articles I have attempted this.  E.g http://mises.org/daily/3660#ref18 .

Aggression is fairly obvious in terms of human bodies. But in terms of other scarce resources, you have to identify the owner first–aggression here is dependent on property rights. Thus what makes libertarianism unique is its property right assignment rule: basically the Lockean rule of appropriation of unowned property.

” you do so in a manner that objectively deems certain actions as non-aggressive and therefore non-problematic when they actually are in some reasonable sense.”

In other words, you are willing in some cases to condone the use of violence against someone who has not committed aggression against the body of, or trespassed against the owned property of, another person. We libertarians call that “criminal” or aggression.

“When recognizing social problems, aggression being one of those many problems (one of the more serious ones), you don’t engage in the tendency of deeming social problems non-problems at all because you understand you’re not aware of certain social contexts.”

We don’t “deem” anything but we are opposed to aggresion. We believe aggression is always unjustified. This does not mean we think there are no other social problems. What you are doing here is exactly what conservaives do when they say they aer against violence but it’s just one of many values, etc. — Check out this post and y’ll see wha I mean http://www.libertarianstandard.com/2012/01/17/the-disingenuous-liberty-isnt-the-only-value-attack-by-liberals-and-conservatives-on-libertarianism/

“The NAP, on the other hand, is about removing all care about context and focusing on one principle, or axiom in some cases, about aggression.”

No. You are wrong. You are squirming and evading, trying to avoid naming the truth: that you are sometimes willing to condone or commit aggression. If you are, go ahead and say it. If not, then you are identical with libertarians.

Let’s take a simpler exapmle. Presumably you oppose the torture and murder of children. Right? For whatever reason. You think that it is unjustified. It is wrong. It should not be engaged in. Saying this is not “simplistic” or “out of context”–it is just what you believe. Likewise libertarians feel the same about aggression: we basically believe that humans ought to live in society, in cooperation, as much as possible; that when there is a possibility of physically, violent conflict, this is always because of the fundmanetal fact of scarcity: their intended use of some scarce resources, whether others’ bodies or other reosurces, conflict. We believe that to avoid the problem of violent conflict people ought to abide by a set of property rules that allocate particular owners of all such contestable resources. And we believe that the owner should be the person himself, in the case of bodies; and in the case of previously unowned resources, it ought to be the first one to start using it, or someone to whom he has contractually transferred it.

Now the only way you can disagree with this is to think someone other than A ought to own his body–i.e. slavery. Or that someone other than the original homesteader of a resource should have it–that is, A homesteads property X and later on, some latecomer B gets to take X from A, to become its new owner. We call this theft.

Why would you be in favor of slavery or theft?

“Considering that libertarianism is all about people freeing themselves and taking *self-responsibility*, conveying an ethic that creates some philosophical and practical dependency of this type is a dangerous way of thinking in my opinion.”

It’s not “about” this. It’s not “about” anything–it’s not a novel with a plot. LIbertarianism is a political philosophy with a particular view of how property rights should be allocated. Every political philosophy has some view of property rights. It’s just that all the non-libertarian ones believe in some form of slavery or theft.

“I think this stems from the Austrians means of deriving ethics from a system of rights, “natural” rights usually, rather than derive a system of rights from their larger theory of ethics.”

Has nothing to do with it.

I suggest you read my What It Means to be an Anarcho-Capitalist. stephankinsella.com/publications


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Lockett February 4, 2012 at 9:10 am

“LIbertarianism is a political philosophy with a particular view of how property rights should be allocated.”

I disagree with that definition. The allocation of property rights is probably the one area where there is least agreement amongst libertarians. By definition, libertarianism is a political philosophy based on the primacy of liberty.


Alan Chapman February 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Sometimes it isn’t worth engaging with certain individuals. I’ve seen some claim that refusal to allow squatters to use an unoccupied, spare bedroom in your home is an act of aggression. The tactic is to frame the debate in such a way as to characterize any potential act to prevent your own expropriation as aggression. It’s not uncommon to see private property anarchists referred to mini-States or fiefdoms. I’ve been seeing this with increased prevalence.


Voidkom March 18, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Hi, Anarchist without adjectives here.

The problem here is that Anarcho-Capitalists, and Capitalist Minarchists are not analysing what property is. Property that is not use-based is enforced by the use of force to keep people off of it.

If you use something, then someone ELSE needs to use force to take it from you.

But if you are NOT using it, then YOU need to use force to STOP others from using it.

This is why the NAP is considered narrow and even hypocritical, because they ignore the requirement of force that is necessary non-use based property rights.

Where you go from here is simple, either you condone the use of force for your property rights and therefore don’t accept the NAP. Or you stick by the NAP and don’t condone the use of force, and change your property rights system.

Now I personally think that you shouldn’t have to offer their your room, but I what I am against is renting rooms. I think that you can’t own something and at the same time let someone else use it but deny them ownership. That creates a hierarchical systems such as landlord-tenant and employer-employee.

So in short: I think that everyone who uses something, should own it. This allows you to have property that you’re not using right now, but want to hold onto. This allows multiple people to own something if multiple people decide to share use among each other. This doesn’t allow you to exploit others by setting demands and forcing them to submit to your authority if they want to use it. So this is, in my opinion, the most fair and free of all property systems.


Gary McLean Hall March 21, 2012 at 11:28 am

“I think that you can’t own something and at the same time let someone else use it but deny them ownership. That creates a hierarchical systems such as landlord-tenant and employer-employee.”

One has to imagine sisyphus happy. By which, I mean that the tenant and employee have entered into this hierarchical system (how that’s a ‘bad’ thing, in and of itself, I don’t know) of their own volition.

“This doesn’t allow you to exploit others by setting demands and forcing them to submit to your authority if they want to use it”

Where’s the exploitation? There’s a contract set out between landlord and tenant. Where’s the force being used by the landlord to get the tenant to ‘yield’ to the demands? If the contract is reasonable, the price agreeable, etc., then the tenant will choose to rent the room/house/apartment. Same with the employee. If the contract is unreasonable with respect to the price, then they won’t and move on to find something else. If it’s really that important that the landlord’s ‘ridiculous’ demands be met, then he continues doing the same thing until someone takes it, else the property goes unrented.

” I think that everyone who uses something, should own it.”

That’s nice, but it’s got nothing to do with you what two other parties do their property when it doesn’t affect you or your property. You need to add some kind of collectivist adjective to your misleading ‘anarchism’.


Voidkom March 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I don’t argue with statists. Have fun taxing your employees and tenants.


Nathan March 28, 2012 at 10:26 am

Voidkom = Bolshevik


Voidkom March 28, 2012 at 10:29 am

No, I think you misheard I don’t condone using force to hoard property. But you capitalists do.


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