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Property and Justice: An OLL Book Discussion

Interesting discussion re a new book from Billy Christmas, whom I also published in Libertarian Papers: “The Possibility of Thick Libertarianism” (2016), the abstract of which is:

Abstract: The scope of libertarian law is normally limited to the application of the non-aggression principle (NAP), nothing more and nothing less. However, judging when the NAP has been violated requires not only a conception of praxeological notions such as aggression, but also interpretive understanding of what synthetic events count as the relevant praxeological types. Interpretive understanding—or verstehen—can be extremely heterogeneous between agents. The particular verständnis taken by a judge has considerable moral and political implications. Since selecting a verständnis is pre-requisite to applying the NAP, the NAP itself cannot tell us which one we ought morally to choose. Therefore the application of the NAP calls on moral and political considerations outside of the NAP itself. Since some of these are more consistent with an endorsement of the NAP than others, libertarianism is not a “thin” commitment to the NAP alone, but a “thick” commitment to the NAP and other supporting moral and political considerations.”

Property and Justice: An OLL Book Discussion


by Sarah SkwireI recently had the chance to sit down with Jacob Levy and Aeon Skoble to talk about Billy Christmas’s new book Property and Justice: A Liberal Theory of Natural Rights. Its carefully drawn argument about the connections among property rights, justice, and natural rights make for complex reading, but Property and Justice is a book that comes alive in the discussion.

Central to its concerns are questions of how we, as humans, can protect ourselves from being encroached upon, but do so in such a way that we can live socially and pleasantly with others. In other words, how and what kinds of stiles can we build in the fences we create around the rights that protect us?
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  • GD March 30, 2022, 12:23 pm

    Probably based on a wrong premise. (Thin) libertarianism isn’t just the NAP. It’s the NAP + property theory (and contracts theory). If there is any room for interpretation, it may be in how much work you need for it to count as homesteading, or whether emitting photons into my body is an aggression worth punishing. That’s a range of possibilities that thin libertarians are willing to accept. (And the solution is probably David Friedman’s poly-legalism. Let the market figure it out; these are all solutions consistent with libertarianism.) But thick libertarianism isn’t within these bounds. It’s Hoppe or Rand, for example. It’s justification of state borders (Hoppe), or the condemnation of self-sacrifice as if it was the same as sacrifice (Rand). It’s saying that taxpayers (out of all the victims of the State) are entitled to the mountains and the seas that governments occupy. It’s about social conservatism and cultural biases. Similarly, thick libertarianism can be left-libertarianism, where people don’t think you can own land or think that big companies are one and the same with the governments that regulate them. These are definitely beyond thin libertarianism, and they’re not needed for (thin) libertarianism to function. Thin libertarianism has all it needs. It doesn’t have only the NAP, it has NAP + definitions.

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