Libertarian Fascism

The Chinese government has blocked its citizens from viewing youtube. This is not the first time China has banned a website for political reasons. Often the ban is a temporary response to politically sensitive content. After a period of time, access to the site is usually restored minus a targeted block of the offending media.

On Hacker News, a commenter writes:

The hard thing to bend my mind around is the fact that many people in China are in favour of Internet censorship. I have witnessed the same thing here in the UAE - even from young Western-educated locals.

I suppose that if you grow up in a society where heavy-handed censorship is widespread in all media and even conversation, you'd accept it as normal and perhaps necessary. Self-censorship is even more effective and omni-present. (...snipped for brevity...)

This comment gives us what we would expect from an average person in our society - implicit disapproval of China's actions and explicit wonder that anyone could approve of them. I respond:

China is less than a lifetime away from its last civil war. I can see how that would make people fearful and cautious.

Allowing populism to run a muck could lead to revolution, especially in a young and poor nation like China. Contrary to the romantic ideal of revolution we have in the West, in practice it is a bloody, miserable, and violent thing.

Call me a fascist, but I can understand the Chinese authorities' attempts to short-circuit anti-government movements. I can also understand popular support for such actions, given that the current Chinese government is more competent than all but a handful on this planet.

Also - I'm just trying to understand and explore their side here. I do enjoy living in a free society where I can support market anarchism and make frequent anti-government comments. I'm just not so much of an idealist to believe that American-style democracy is optimal for all places, times, and situations.

For example, I can understand why the Germans chose to ban Nazi publications in the wake of World War II, free speech be damned.

I grant that I sound like a bad guy. Nobody in this modern-thinking age would ever dare give a nod to censorship. I certainly do not sound like a libertarian.

But I am glad I explored this topic, as it led to some interesting results. Normally I think of libertarians as some of the most vociferous proponents of civil liberties and freedom of information. However, after mulling it over for awhile, I thought of a way that libertarians can support "oppressive" censorship, such as that undertaken by China.

Perhaps I should keep it to myself, like Godel's infamous discovery of a path to dictatorship in the US Constitution which he tried to blurt out at his citizenship hearing. But we are mature people. We can handle a little critical exploration of the philosophy that we hold a common fondness for.

It is good practice to begin our wanderings in uncontroversial territory. Most libertarians approve of newspaper owners or website proprietors censoring what articles are allowed to appear in them. In fact, libertarians would take issue with calling it "censorship", since such content filtering is not conducted by the government, but by the owners of a private means of communication.

This fits with one common conception of libertarianism - libertarianism as "propertarianism". According to this conception, libertarianism maximizes personal freedom within the constraints imposed by property ownership rules, and "freedom" means being free to dispose of your property as you wish as long as you don't violate the rights that other people have in their property.

Along the same lines, libertarians would throw a fit if a municipal government decided that the Democratic and Republican parties were allowed to solicit votes in their city, but banned the Libertarian party from doing so. In the public sphere, libertarians are fierce proponents of fairness, equal rights, and free speech. However, this is not true in the private sphere. They would not lodge an ethical complaint if a privately owned housing development were to exclude the operatives of some political groups but not others. After all, it is the owners' property, and they are allowed to do with it as they wish, even if we don't agree with them. That's what "liberty" means.

Now, thanks to the efforts of Patri Friedman, the world of private governments aboard floating seasteads is rapidly approaching. This is a good time to bring back on stage the evil, oppressive Chinese regime and its campaign of internet censorship.

Suppose you are the owner/manager of a large, prosperous seastead. One day, you discover a nascent communist conspiracy on your seastead, and its numbers are growing. Its members communicate and recruit by means of an internet forum and a physical newsletter. The conspiracy advocates overthrowing the manager (you), probably killing you in the process, and replacing you with a democracy of the proletariat.

As the CEO of FreeWaters Seastead Community, what do you do? Do you (1)play the good liberal, and resolve to beat your opponents in the "marketplace of ideas"? Or do you (2)ban their website, burn their newspapers, and keel-haul a few of them for good measure? Which option feels more libertarian?

I know which I am leaning towards. It's been centuries since the world has seen a good keel-haul. And before you ask, yes I am available for Seastead CEO positions, if the right amount of money and wenches is offered.

What is striking about this example is that libertarian thought allows option (2) for private seastead owners, but not for China. This is not entirely arbitrary. Presumably seastead residents were made to sign a contract before they moved in, a real-life Social Contract!, that detailed their rights, responsibilities, and how to avoid keel-hauling. Thus, libertarian ethics frees the manager to make the decisions that maximize customer satisfaction and return to shareholders, including the persecution of the occassional communist conspiracy.

However, libertarian ethics are much harsher on the current managers of poor old China. They had the misfortune to inherit a legacy system that installed itself through non-propertarian means. There is no signed contract. Thus, libertarians consider their regime illegitimate, and they are constrained from making decisions that they think are best for their residents, such as shutting down websites of democratic conspiracies seeking to overthrow the government.

The point of this meandering monologue is that we can start with libertarian rules and get governments that do things that most libertarians won't like.This is surprising, but there is a good reason for it.

Libertarianism is a philosophy about means. It describes a set of allowed and prohibited ways of interacting with other people. If you describe yourself as a libertarian, you believe that these means of interaction are wise and just. I tend to agree with that sentiment, so I call myself a libertarian.

Many libertarians treat the term "classical liberal" as a synonym, but that is not true at all. Liberalism is a philosophy about ends. It says that people ought to have the freedom of speech, of the press, and of organization. They ought to have fair trials when accused of a crime, and not be deprived due process before any punishment is meted out.

Modern libertarianism is a muddled mess of an ideology because its adherents don't understand this difference. They assert that libertarianism and classical liberalism are one and the same, that libertarian means necessarily result in classical liberal ends. But that is not true. I just showed one counter-example whereby libertarian means can result in very illiberal ends through the intermediate step of private governments. Like any complex set of rules, there are edge-cases, grey areas, and Godelian loop-holes.

It's okay to hold separate ethical ideas about means and about ends. But sometimes in order to achieve your ends, you will have to violate the means-constraints you have set for yourself. Conversely, following your means-constraints will sometimes lead you to sacrifice your end goals. There is no God that made a just world where good means and good ends always coincide. We live in a messy, evolved place where we must sometimes contradict ourselves and work against ourselves if we strive to be good people.

When private governments arrive, I predict that the people that live under them will be happier and more prosperous. Moreover, I believe the force of competition will make the average person happier and more prosperous even if he chooses to remain under a legacy government. However, I also believe it will slough off people from the libertarian movement. We will have to rethink what ethical constraints people ought to be bound by once private governments have met all of our criteria to get permission to act as they will.

Share this

On a related note, here's an

On a related note, here's an old post of mine from a few years back.

So libertarians support

So libertarians support personal freedom for everybody but communists?

I think it makes sense from a utilitarian perspective, but I suspect there are a few libertarian moralists on this blog that will take issue with it.

For example, there are a few people here that would support free immigration on moral libertarian grounds, even if it lead to a net decrease in utility. I suspect we will find similar battle lines drawn here.

I do think it is interesting and new to note that libertarian ethics allow private governments (such as seasteads) to do everything that they don't approve of legacy governments doing, such as restricting immigration, censoring the internet, and the like.

To you maybe

I do think it is interesting and new to note that libertarian ethics allow private governments (such as seasteads) to do everything that they don't approve of legacy governments doing

To you maybe. The logical possibility of anarcho-capitalism producing utterly oppressive law is a key element of it (I am speaking of the David Friedman variety). One needs to argue - and one does argue - that anarcho-capitalism would tend to produce libertarian law. But first, one must acknowledge that there are in principle no limits to what law might come of it. This is new to you?

This is new to you?

This is new to you?

I'm slow. Sometimes I need to work through something for myself to grasp it, I guess. Whether or not anyone else finds my fumblings interesting - I am a bad judge of that.

I started off a Randian, branched into Misesian thought. The dark corners of my philosophy are not places I'm familiar with. Nowadays, I find myself endlessly entertained by them.

I find the assertion that anarcho-capitalism will lead to libertarian law interesting. Based on the intolerance, bias, prejudice, and religious inclination of the world, it seems there would be a large market for non-libertarian law. And it seems there would be much higher demand for legal regimes that violated libertarian ethics sometimes than regimes that never did so. Many people prefer governments with a pragmatic tendency than idealistic ones. Much as libertarians have a hard time gathering up enough votes to win a municipal election today, it may be the case that pure libertarianism can not rally enough of a customer base to create many libertarian societies under anarcho-capitalism. Libertarianism may remain an endangered species as always, even if we succeed in creating our brave new world.

Actions speak louder than words - except when you vote

Based on the intolerance, bias, prejudice, and religious inclination of the world, it seems there would be a large market for non-libertarian law.

I refer you to a recent entry arguing that the market encourages tolerance. The entry is not the last word on the subject, but it's a good first word.

Many people prefer governments with a pragmatic tendency than idealistic ones.

Libertarian law is extremely pragmatic. Some examples of libertarian law: law against murder, law against robbery, law against vandalism. It is extremely pragmatic for your home not to be burned down. Do you disagree? Do you think the most practical thing is to be murdered?

Libertarians are "idealists" only in the sense that ideally, we would like never to be robbed. That's the sort of idealism shared by all libertarians. In reality, we may be robbed once or a few times. Ideally, we would like never to be robbed. In libertopia, we would never be robbed. In reality, we might sometimes be robbed. But this ideal is surely one of the most pragmatic ideals that has ever existed in all of human history. It would be extremely useful to be robbed zero times. Libertarians aim for this ideal, and in so aiming, at the very least may manage to reduce the number of actual robberies. Which is surely also extremely useful.

Much as libertarians have a hard time gathering up enough votes to win a municipal election today, it may be the case that pure libertarianism can not rally enough of a customer base to create many libertarian societies under anarcho-capitalism.

We already have a model of anarcho-capitalism, working, in practice. People already do make up and enforce rules. Don't believe me? Hit somebody. Hit him in the arm, hard. Hit him again. And again. What do you think he's going to do? Chances are good he'll get angry, probably threaten you, and maybe hit you back - not because he studied law and discovered that the law says that hitting is illegal. He'll hit you back because, all by himself, he has decided to draw the line. This is natural law. Assault is officially illegal because everyone makes and enforces this same rule, spontaneously, by himself, without asking anybody else. The official illegality of assault is obedience by the state to natural law. It is the state recognizing natural law.

You are your own first line judge and your own first line security. You, as yourself, carry out private law creation and enforcement all the time.

Out of 300 million people, how many private individuals personally create and enforce the law against assault? Every one, without exception. Maybe with extremely, extremely rare exceptions (such as people in comas).

Out of 300 million people, how many private individuals personally create and enforce the law against drug use? So, for example, you live in one house, and your next door neighbor does drugs. How many individuals personally go next door and beat up their neighbor for the crime of doing drugs?

About zero.

So it's about 300 million people enforcing the law against assault, and about zero people enforcing the law against drug use. This should give you a sense of what anarcho-capitalist law would be like.

But you might point out, the drug war happens. Yes, it happens, but it happens only thanks to the state. It is one thing to vote for something, and quite another to provide it for yourself, or to pay for its provision by yourself. Voting for something is very different from purchasing it, and it leads to very different decisions. There are many differences - look up "Public Choice Theory" to read about some of these. A biggie is rational ignorance. Another important one is the advantage that concentrated special interests have.

Another difference is that the government can provide public goods which the market in practice can't. You know what a public good is, right? Benefits are spread over usually a large group. So if you pay some amount, say $100 to supply a public good, then you share the benefit with a lot of other people. This encourages free riding. And the free rider problem makes it really hard to get people to pay for public goods. Governments can overcome the free rider problem, by taxing everyone - forcing everyone to pay - and then providing the good.

The bad stuff that you say a lot of people want tends to be a public good. For example, a lot of the oppressiveness of the government can be characterized (and has been characterized) as laws against victimless crimes. Look it up. The idea of the "victimless crime" is especially useful for us now, because it makes it fairly easy to see why it would be especially hard in anarcho-capitalism for such laws to be enforced. Every particular enforcement of a law such as the law against assault or robbery or vandalism primarily benefits the victim or would-be victim of the crime. The benefit is concentrated in that one person, making it the provision of that enforcement in that one case a private good. People like to characterize law as a "public good" but in fact economically it is very much a private good - so long as the crime has a victim.

But victimless crimes don't have a victim. These laws are thus not private goods, and so will tend to be under-provided in a market.

To a certain kind of person,

To a certain kind of person, having a neighbor living an openly gay lifestyle is very much like getting hit in the face. I think those people would be willing to pay for illiberal societies.

Others would be willing to pay for the suppression of communists. Large groups are dangerous and small ones are unaesthetic.

You are probably right, however, that under a private law regime, such laws would be less common than they are under public law regimes. There would be marginally fewer people willing to pay for the prosecution of such criminals. I buy that.

It still doesn't wind up close to libertopia. Closer, though.

I repeat my challenge

To a certain kind of person, having a neighbor living an openly gay lifestyle is very much like getting hit in the face. I think those people would be willing to pay for illiberal societies.

Show me these people. Show me someone who hits every gay person who comes near him. It is one thing to grumble about homosexuality, quite another to act. If you only know what people are saying (or how they are voting) then you don't know enough. You need to know what people are doing.

If you tried to use force to separate a married couple, you might die. Using force against someone is very serious (and honest people protecting themselves against criminals are also putting their own lives on the line - they do it because they are defending something very important to their lives). Supporting proposition 8 is a silly game, an entertainment (insofar as it affects the supporter - I am not claiming that the targets are entertained), in comparison to the life-and-death business of protecting yourself against criminals.

Coincidentally I saw a TV show, one of those reality shows where they mix up people who are incompatible. In the episode I saw, it was a woman who was against gay adoption, who spent some days living with a gay couple who had adopted multiple kids. There were no shootouts. Nobody coerced anybody. People spoke their minds and feelings were hurt, and they went away angry and hurt and wishing the other party would accept them. (Yes, the woman complained about not being accepted.)

That's the level of problem that homosexuality poses. Now I suggest putting together someone who owns property, with someone who loves to destroy property, such as a pyromaniac. Or bring a many-times convicted criminal, such as a house thief, into the home of a rich person. See what happens. Or put a violent serial rapist together with some girls. It's a whole different level of conflict.

I grant you that the level

I grant you that the level of disutility suffered by an anti-gay person witnessing an openly gay couple is significantly less than the disutility suffered from a punch in the face. I take it that is the point.

I don't know that it is so much less that they are not willing to express those preferences in the marketplace. I suppose there is only one way to find out.

Agree

I don't know that it is so much less that they are not willing to express those preferences in the marketplace. I suppose there is only one way to find out.

There's no substitute for experience.

However, just to add one more thing. In David Friedman's model, people agree on what laws (that is, what private courts - each court has its laws) will govern conflicts between them. In order that this make some sense (if you don't already know it) I feel I need briefly to describe it. In principle, people choose laws to govern them in pairs. But that can take a while - if a community has 1000 people, then there are 1000-choose-2 pairs, which is a lot. There is a way to streamline this: there are likely fewer security companies than people, and the companies choose the courts in pairs. When you hire a security company, then if a conflict arises between you and someone else, the laws governing that conflict will have been decided ahead of time by your respective security companies, who will have selected a court to govern conflicts between their respective clients. What's interesting about David's model is that it's fully contractual: every pair of individuals has already ahead of time in effect signed a contract with each other agreeing that their disputes will be decided by some particular court.

So if somebody wants to punch gay people in the face and get away with it in David's model, then the gay people will in effect have to have agreed to this ahead of time by voluntarily signing up with a security agency that allowed them to be punched.

And this is unlikely to happen, unless there is absolutely no choice, and it is unlikely that there is absolutely no choice.

I understand and agree with

I understand and agree with what you are saying that "without exception" people defend themselves. However, this is in history, an example where someone did not defend themselves. Jesus who was the Christ offered no defense of himself when accused of various crimes before Herod and Pilate. He also, as far as we can tell, did no physically defend himself when they physically abused Him though He could have called the host of heaven to aid Him.

So libertarians support

So libertarians support personal freedom for everybody but communists?

As I said in that post, persecution of communists would really only be justified in cases where there's a real danger of them seizing power. Especially in the aftermath of a revolution.

In principle, though, I don't see a problem with persecution of active communists. I don't think anyone would object to the government arresting people actively conspiring to commit murder or rob a bank. Why would it be wrong, then, to arrest people for conspiring to commit the much greater crime of establishing a communist regime?

The idea that people should never be persecuted for political activity is a practical one: We don't want the government doing that because it's as likely to suppress good ideas as bad ones. But communism is, by its nature, criminal, and there's nothing wrong in principle with arresting people for conspiring to commit a crime.

Not just for political opinion

Someone who openly advocates communism and seeks to persuade his listeners is not, on account of that, conspiring to actually commit communism. In the case of Chile, there's a case to be made that many communists were actively attempting to take over, but political opinion is not itself any act at all.

You don't arrest every random loser who wants to commit a crime but does not himself do so out of fear of being caught. The whole point of policing is that the threat of being caught for actually committing a crime deters a lot of would-be criminals who are stopped out of fear of the law. If you start arresting even them, then they may as well commit actual crimes - which renders policing pointless. Similarly, you don't arrest every random loser who tells everybody who will listen that Marx was right and the proletariat need to take over but who himself never takes it any farther than this. If you do that, then he may as well join a communist underground right away, shut the hell up, and plot the overthrow.

If you arrest people who have political opinions which, if implemented, would violate rights, then you'll have to arrest 90%+ of the population.

Familiar territory

In a nutshell:

A private owner is the absolute ruler of his own property, so just imagine a very large piece of private property in which the owner does exactly the same thing as the US government does. Property taxes are rent owed to the landlord, and so on. Voila, it's honky dory according to libertarian principles.

Twenty years ago or so when I first imagined this possibility (along with, I imagine, pretty much every other libertarian at a similar very early stage of education) I suppose this realization bothered me.

Many libertarians treat the term "classical liberal" as a synonym, but that is not true at all. Liberalism is a philosophy about ends. It says that people ought to have the freedom of speech, of the press, and of organization. They ought to have fair trials when accused of a crime, and not be deprived due process before any punishment is meted out.

I'm not sure that your contrast is a product of anything more than your own decision to characterize classical liberalism one way and libertarianism another. I think you could just as easily have described libertarianism both ways. Recall James Donald's catalog of different definitions of natural law:

  • The medieval/legal definition: [...]
  • The historical state of nature definition: [...]
  • The medieval / philosophical definition: [...]
  • The scientific/ sociobiological/ game theoretic/ evolutionary definition: [...]

None of these are, strictly speaking, the same. You can imagine cases where they diverge. But as he points out:

The opponents of natural rights often complain that the advocates of natural rights are not logically consistent, because we continually shift between inequivalent definitions of natural law. They gleefully manufacture long lists of “logical contradictions”. Indeed, the definitions we use are not logically equivalent, but because of the nature of man and the nature of the world, they are substantially equivalent in practice. These complaints by the opponents of natural rights are trivial hair splitting, and pointless legalistic logic chopping. It is easy to imagine in principle a world where these definitions were not equivalent. If humans were intelligent bees, rather than intelligent apes, these definitions would not be equivalent, and the concept of natural law would be trivial or meaningless, but we are what we are and the world is what it is, and these definitions, the definitions of natural law, are equivalent, not by some proof of pure reason, but by history, experience, economics, and observation.

The same can be said of different conceptions of libertarianism. Strictly speaking they are not the same, but, as James says of the definitions of natural law, "they are substantially equivalent in practice."

Set all that aside, I will also make the minor point that:

They ought to have fair trials when accused of a crime, and not be deprived due process before any punishment is meted out.

is in fact a means, which has as its end the trial's outcome. It is also, as you point out, an end. My point is, civilization is not divided into means and ends. Pretty much everything is an end and pretty much everything is also a means. Civilization is no different from biology in this regard. The heart that pumps blood in your body is the end - the end result and the biological goal the processes that shape the heart. And the heart is also a means (to the end of pumping blood).

By the way I recall arguing that private owners are not, in fact, absolute rulers of their property, and that, strictly speaking, they are limited in what they can rightly do to people on their property, so they cannot, in fact, rightly do everything actual governments do, though admittedly they can approximate it in many ways. In a similar vein, I've argued against the enforceability of a contract selling one party to the contract into slavery from which he cannot escape. However, I'm not sure what my position would be today on these questions if I thought about it again. And anyway, none of this would apply to David Friedman's model, because he makes no assumptions about what is or is not permissible, but only considers what would arise.

I admit the means/ends

I admit the means/ends dichotomy is fuzzy. My point is only that the widespread adoption of libertarian means does not necessarily get you the kind of society envisioned in, say, the bill of rights. In fact, based on the political preferences of people today, I would venture that libertarian means might even be antagonistic to it. That is, libertarianism can be illiberal. The demand for seasteads under Sharia law might outstrip the demand for seasteads under libertarian law.

Your counter-argument seems to be that this simply isn't so. That, in practice, libertarianism and the kind of society envisioned in the bill of rights support each other. I'm just not convinced.

For libertarian means to create the kind of open, tolerant society that we associate with the philosophy, that kind of society would have to be so beneficial as to override the social preferences of customers in the marketplace. I don't have enough faith in liberal society to make that case. Rather, I support it because it is the kind of society that I would like to live in. Unfortunately my tastes are usually shared by only a small minority of the population.

Landless People in Anarchist Heaven

So what do you imagine becomes of a person who owns no land and is evicted from every private landholders property? Does he just go off in to the wilderness to starve?

I don't see how the landowners are limited in this case. Each can claim the person is trespassing and use, eventually, deadly force.

I know how I handle this (with regards to my belief there are natural rights beyond purely negative ones). I'm wondering how libertarians/anarcho-capitalists handle it.

What if no grocer will sell you food?

So what do you imagine becomes of a person who owns no land and is evicted from every private landholders property?

You are imagining universal rejection. But we can imagine this with anything essential, not just land. For example, what if no grocer, no restaurant - no one with food will sell a person food? You might squeeze out of this by pointing out that a person can go dumpster diving for food, but what I would like to point out is the extreme improbability of no grocer, no restaurant owner, no one with food agreeing to sell a person food. And if he has no money, agreeing to give him food. Charity exists and is not going away.

But we can go even further. It does not matter what political structure you devise, there is always the logical possibility that everyone simply decides to reject a person. For example, suppose you devise a welfare state which by law provides everyone with food. Nevertheless, every single individual may simply decide, on his own, to make an exception in the case of one person and refuse to provide him food. True, the law says otherwise, but as long as every individual decides to disobey it with respect to our unfortunate individual and decides not to enforce the law against those who decide to disobey it with respect to him, then he will starve.

So the logical possibility of universal rejection affects every possible political arrangement, since any such arrangement can be subverted by a universal decision.

Logical possibility pokes holes in everything. What matters in the real world is probability.

Grocers Don't Usually Shun but Others Do

Your rebuttal question already assumes that I don't have any land to grow my own crops, so you are in fact confronting me with the question I confronted you with.

There are actually two unlikely assumptions in play here. 1) That all land is owned. After all who wants to own and protect undeveloped desert. 2) That everyone on the planet rejects you. However neither is required for the scenario to substantially play out.

All you need is enough people in a locality to reject you to cause problems, or an overabundance of people. Especially if you are on a island like Britain during the enclosure act. Which was essentially and example of this type of lord/owner kicking people off his personal property when technological conditions changed, or a crop disease swept through an area.

Shunning of individuals isn't as unlikely as you seem to think. Often it was and is done on religious grounds. This is one of the reasons why I am of the opinion that anarcho-capitalist society would truly be less free than current society. Also shunning of the retarded, the sick, the deformed, is not so hard to see. Those who do wish to help or are willing to take in those who have been shunned might just be overwhelmed.

I've never heard of a grocer shunning customers. I have heard of other kinds of shunning. Like the shunning of black people from certain neighborhoods.

As an atheist I'm kinda sensitive this issue and I don't buy your argument. The only examples of anarchistic societies I'm aware of like Somalia don't like strangers, and certainly don't like open criticism of their religion.

Quick responses

1) You did not address my point that the shunning problem can affect any setup. It is insufficient to point out that it can happen in one setup and then conclude from this that alternative setups are preferable, along the lines of, "in anarcho-capitalism, eating a lot of doughnuts makes you fat. Therefore anarcho-capitalism sucks." Some of the worst cases of the shunning - ostracism, separation from the rest of society - of groups occur thanks to the state. In Nazi Germany it was the state that rounded up the Jews, separating them from the rest of the population. In the United States it was that state that rounded up the Japanese.

2) Somalia is not the alpha and omega of anarchy. There are other historically real examples of anarchy. If something happens in Somalia, that doesn't mean that it is necessarily or even probably going to happen in anarchy. If I were to argue that North Korea sucks and therefore the state sucks, would you take my argument seriously, or would you, instead, begin to wonder whether I was even worth having a serious discussion with? Well....

3) Economic ties are acid to shunning; a reduction of economic ties allows shunning to resurface. We tend to find outbreaks of inter-group conflict during hard economic times or in backwards areas of the world. It has been argued that group-based troublemakers are often on welfare - i.e., they are separated from the larger economy. Idle hands are the devil's playground - not just idle hands but isolated hands.

As long someone is selling to you or buying from you, you have that much reason to wish them well. If they die, then you lose a customer or a supplier. But once economic ties break down, then you have less to lose from the demise of that person.

I think, therefore, that whether inter-group conflict is likely to occur in anarchy will depend in part on whether the economy is shitty.

Donuts for Anarchists

Yes, but the same reply can be made to the anarchist. The misuse of force doesn't magically disappear with the elimination of the state. We see the same misuse of force in examples of anarchist societies that have and do exist, and furthermore anarchist societies have historically been easily overrun by foreigners. Often the existence of the anarchist period is dependent on isolation, unusual climate changes, or threatened force by a state actor.

For example, the Pennsylvania anarchist period was extremely short lived, depended on Iroquois collusion with the British, happened in the vacuum produced by native populations being decimated by disease, and with the implicit threat of British retaliation for intrusion into a British mandate. Sure the local governor was having trouble collecting his tribute but it didn't last very long. Meanwhile once the British were thrown off the locals turned away from what little anarchism they had in the first place. In part, because Quaker refusal to join the military, and tolerance for immigration mean the militia became dominated by non-Quakers, and indentured servants looking for freedom from their "anarchist" bonds.

The anarchist imagines a reduction in the initiation of force and imagines an increased economic prosperity. If so, then why haven't anarchistic societies out-competed state societies? The claim is that anarchist societies are superior both economically and in protecting their citizens against the initiation of force. Yet neither situation has happened. Empirically the claims are falsified as far as I can tell. Problem is that I am a believer in science and not faith. Empirical results matter.

There have been many places that were semi-anarchist yet they all fall into either poverty or statehood by one means or another. Why should I or anyone else try to establish something that has empircally lead to both poverty and worse subjegation?

Tell us why donuts don't get us fat under anarchist societies when it's plain to see that in anarchist societies people either live malnourished on a diet of pure donuts, or are stomped out by giant donuts rolling them over and forcing them to eat nothing but donuts that way. Either way it's all donuts in anarchy.

BTW, many eras of wide economic trade were supported by having states not anarchy. Seems to me that you can have economic freedom with the state (or not).

I don't see why anarchy couldn't work in theory. I just don't see it working out in practice. Especially given peoples actual beliefs and actions. I fear that in order to operate properly anarchism requires a kind of human that doesn't exist, both from the inside and outside.

Open anarchist societies allow in individuals with different cultural backgrounds that destroy from within, while not having any organized and efficient means to protect against outside state intrusion.

Closed anarchist societies are hellholes.

I didn't address any of your other claims because it's clear to me that they can happen with or without the state. Sure the market works against shunning but anarchism is not equivalent to the market. The market itself may be dependent on the state to a large extent if the rule of law cannot be maintained in anarchist society.

Anarchies are exposed to invasion by states

The keystone of your argument seems to be:

Open anarchist societies allow in individuals with different cultural backgrounds that destroy from within, while not having any organized and efficient means to protect against outside state intrusion.

To sum up your latest comment, anarchies are exposed to invasion by states or by outsiders who will subvert anarchies once inside. The Icelandic anarchy lasted 300 years and was taken over at the end by Norway. The American "wild west" was taken over by the United States government.

That seems to be your new objection - that "open" anarchies are exposed to subversion by outsiders.

I never claimed otherwise. I never claimed that anarchies were well-protected against invasion. Look at your original objection:

So what do you imagine becomes of a person who owns no land and is evicted from every private landholders property? Does he just go off in to the wilderness to starve?

I don't see how the landowners are limited in this case. Each can claim the person is trespassing and use, eventually, deadly force.

I know how I handle this (with regards to my belief there are natural rights beyond purely negative ones). I'm wondering how libertarians/anarcho-capitalists handle it.

In this objection you are worried about an individuals being excluded from property. It's not even a worry about anarchy per se but about private property rights in land, applicable even under a propertarian state. You are not worried about foreign invasion and the end of anarchy. I have answered your question, and that you have now changed the objection to a worry about invasion and the destruction of the anarchy tells me you concede all my points.

I have long said that anarchies are not obviously well-defended against invasion because defense against invasion is a public good (if you defend your own home you defend your neighbor's home as well) and is thus under-supplied. I have proposed that technological changes may change this equation. Society used to be mainly agricultural and thus mainly tied to the land, economically speaking, and thus exposed to invasion (since unable to escape it without leaving behind everything of value). More and more, our most valuable capital is mobile. Some of our most valuable capital is data stored in computers, which can be moved from one location to another at the speed of light. If the main part of my wealth is mobile, then I am much less tied to one place than my ancestors ever were, then invasion of one place is much less a harm to me, and so the way to harm me becomes, not invasion, but direct assault on me. And direct assault is a private problem, not a public problem. In the new situation, protection against attack is no longer a public good - thus solving the problem of invasion, the problem being that protection against it was a public good and therefore under-supplied in anarchy.

This is speculative (as it speculates about the direction of technological advance) and I am only giving you a brief account here of an argument that I have worked out more fully at other times. My point here is that this is a different objection from your original objection, which was that the system of private property rights would tend to leave some people out in the cold - which objection wasn't even an objection about anarchy per se but equally applicable to libertarian minarchy.

Not a Problem for All Imagined Limited Government Societies

... and to my original question your answer is that anarchies don't handle the situation. If everyone shuns someone [without proper cause such] or some group [again without proper cause] that are already members of a society then tough luck.

You however further claim this is a problem with all societies. However that is not the case, just so long as we are imagining situations. I can imagine a society with a limited government in which the law is that one cannot reject renters merely on the basis of skin color.

Sure in a free economy the racists have to pay for their racism economically. However, if the minority is small enough and the hatred ingrained enough it is a small price to pay. I think that there is a certain critical mass to this.

Nor do anarchists properly explain why protection agencies won't be captured by such influence. Why wouldn't a pre-anabellum south that went anarchist not consist of "protection agencies" that are little better than the KKK.

... and yes I have objections to anarchy and sea steading. Some objections to libertarianism. Many many objections to socialism. Etc.

People can choose to ignore the law

Not a Problem for All Imagined Limited Government Societies

I don't know what you mean by this. It very much is a logical possibility in a strictly libertarian minarchy. As I recall, the question is, what happens if every landowner expels an individual, what then? Here is your exact question:

So what do you imagine becomes of a person who owns no land and is evicted from every private landholders property? Does he just go off in to the wilderness to starve?

And the answer is that, if all land is privately owned, then it is certainly logically possible that every owner will expel an individual. This can happen in either a libertarian minarchy or anarchy. I do not understand what distinction you are making here.

... and to my original question your answer is that anarchies don't handle the situation.

My answer is that it is so improbable in a strictly libertarian, propertarian, rights-defending setting as to be essentially impossible.

You however further claim this is a problem with all societies. However that is not the case, just so long as we are imagining situations. I can imagine a society with a limited government in which the law is that one cannot reject renters merely on the basis of skin color.

No, that is no answer, because I already covered that. I pointed out that if you're going to insist on logical possibility without taking into account probability, then I can just as easily point out that people can simply decide to disobey those laws. You said you care about reality. Well, reality is what people do, not merely what the laws say they ought to do. And just as it's logically possible that everyone might freeze out an individual from being on any property, so might everyone freeze out an individual from enjoying the protection of the law. The police could individually decide to turn a blind eye, etc.

Nor do anarchists properly explain why protection agencies won't be captured by such influence. Why wouldn't a pre-anabellum south that went anarchist not consist of "protection agencies" that are little better than the KKK.

I believe I have already answered this, but you don't appreciate the answer, which involves public goods and freeloading. The KKK was successful because they had help from the state. Things were done to the blacks by the state such as disarming them. See this for example. The state, as I have said, is able to provide public goods such as the disarming of the blacks which are not so easily achieved in anarchy. Thus in anarchy, blacks would stand a better chance against the KKK.

Not My Imagined Situation

But I don't imagine a minarchist society the way you do. In my imagined society there isn't the possibility of all landowners singling out a particular individual for banishment on arbitrary issues like skin color. It's against the law, as I said. It would require an additional scenario, like all landowners refusing to rent to anyone in order to get there.

Also I do not imagine that all land is owned by individuals. Some may indeed be owned by the state, and if it likely that individuals find themselves ejected by all landowners on valid grounds then the state would have a valid reason for providing living space, including eminent domain.

If it is found to be a likely situation that individuals are ejected from all private land then there will be a need to provide public land for them. Maybe it would never happen in which case it is not provided, but if empirically it is found to be the case (when the imagined is reified) then the situation is handled.

You recall that I had already argued that a lost hiker could confiscate property that he requires to survive, correct? Should the situation arise that "landowners" do a mass eviction, like during land closure in Britain, then I think it valid to tax landowners in order to support the people they have evicted while the emergency caused by their actions exists.

I view that act as similar to walling off a long existing public water supply. Regardless of how likely it is there is the fact that these things have happened. People have diverted most of the water in a river, mass ejected long standing tenants, etc.

To me, these boundary conditions matter, no matter how unlikely you think them to be. Boundary conditions like a mother who mistreats her child to the point of breaking the child's arm and then laughing and poking at the dangling part. Sure there aren't many mothers who would do such things but it happens. I want it handled. I want it handled even if the child has no other living relatives.

The same old double standards

What if a person who is not the head of state of any country is evicted from every government-controlled territory?

With monopoly governments, you have to convince one out of a few hundreds that you're persona grata. And it's tough -- just ask the millions of refugees and would-be refugees in the world. With private government, you have to convince one out of a few hundred millions that you're an honest person. If you can't, my guess is that you're a psychopathic serial killer baby rapist, and your starving in the wilderness will be a good riddance indeed.

Still the double-standards by which monopolists exonerate the monopoly governments they praise of their own glaring, catastrophic failure, when they invent bogus improbable problems with liberty.

It sounds like Mencius

It sounds like Mencius Moldbug has been infecting your mind, and you're on your way to becoming an authoritarian! Moldbug's "Why I am not a libertarian post" was one of the most devastating critiques of libertarianism I have read. Also check out this paper, which sealed the deal for me: http://www.usbig.net/papers.html

They had the misfortune to inherit a legacy system that installed itself through non-propertarian means. There is no signed contract. Thus, libertarians consider their regime illegitimate, and they are constrained from making decisions that they think are best for their residents, such as shutting down websites of democratic conspiracies seeking to overthrow the government.

According to the principles of Adverse Possession the illegitmacy of how an owner receives his property does not matter after certain conditions are met. I'd say that the communist party has certainly met all those conditions.

In fact the only way to actually be a consistent libertarian is to become a Georgist. You have to believe that land ownership (perhaps only above a certain size) is a special case and it must be collectively owned.

The trouble with Georgism though is it's impossible to separate the value of the land itself from the value of what people put on top of the land. And if you want people to improve the land, they must be able to profit from their labors.

The question I now ask of all libertrians, is when does property ownership and absolute control of land go from being ok ( a mall, university) to not ok ( a city)? And why is not ok for a city government to have absolute control over its land? Why can't a city be a product that is developed and sold, just like anything else?

Does not affect the economics

The economic argument for liberty remains whether or not you conceive of the territory of a government as if it were the property of the government. Government still destroys wealth in blatant ways, and laissez-faire is still preferable to socialism or to mixed economies. Laissez-faire is a critique of government intervention; if you think of government as owner then laissez-faire is a critique of the owner's policy. Either way the basis is the same (economic) and the recommendations are the same.

Size creates waste, which is one of the reasons that companies can only get so big. The bigger they get, the more wasteful they get. Some very large companies - I am speculating - can remain so large only because special government favor gives them an advantage over potential competitors which compensates for the rot that is going on within. But the rot is still rot.

Raw concentration of humanity creates wealth, since distance is time and time is money. People lose space (which they would rather not lose, thus the loss is a cost) in exchange for being closer to other people (which they may like and which they certainly can benefit economically from). The desire for space creates outward pressure, and the desire for contact creates inward pressure, and cities more or less achieve an equilibrium (as, of course, does every other part of the landscape, but I am focusing on cities).

A city government is able to take advantage of the wealth which is created by raw concentration, and this in turn sustains the government even as it rots. City government waste can be added into the equation as a cost along with the loss of space, both contributing to outward pressure. A new equilibrium is achieved, and as long as the city is not completely depopulated the rot is sustainable indefinitely. The rot is still rot, and while it is sustainable it is not optimal, and there is room for economic critique.

Humanity can be roughly divided into producers and parasites. In cities the concentration of humanity creates vast wealth which attracts parasites. Sadly cities, not being highly evolved organisms, do not have much in the way of immune systems, so the parasites remain lodged in more or less permanently.

The Marxists attempted to portray capitalists as parasites, but they were wrong in that particular case because capitalists are necessary because capital is necessary, investment is necessary, waiting for a return on investment is necessary. If one particular set of capitalists is murdered, then inevitably another will have to take its place. The Marxists were wrong to believe that capitalists are parasites who live off the proletariat producers. However, the idea that there are parasites who live off producers is not wrong.

Even if you believe that government is necessary, not every government action is necessary. Most of it is wasteful foolishness. This remains true whether you're talking about a government or an extremely large company. Foolishness is foolishness and it is beneficial to cut it out. If a government foolishly establishes an agency whose business is to harass the citizens, then that agency produces nothing. It is a parasite and it lives off the producers.

To cut this short and restate the point, the economic case for liberty remains in place however you think of government.

Furthermore, a competitive market is such that rot tends to be stripped away. So you don't actually have to worry about rot in a competitive market, and as a corollary, you don't have to worry about private entities acting like little totalitarian dictatorships.

The problems begin where competition is absent and monopoly takes root.

The larger a piece of land, the more costly it is for tenants to move off the land, and so the greater the extent to which the landowner is in effect a monopolist. A single, undivided piece of property the size of a city of millions, and located at and completely encompassing the site of a great concentration of people, is very much a monopoly, and gives rise to the problems associated with monopoly - e.g. high prices and poor service (for example, high taxes and poor road repair).

So it seems, anyway.

What anarcho-capitalist theoreticians such as David Friedman propose is that the government monopoly is not actually necessary - that it is avoidable. If you can avoid the establishment of a monopoly, then you can avoid the problems associated with monopoly. If you think of governments as if they were private entities like very large mall owners, then I think you can interpret anarcho-capitalist proposals as business proposals.

The economic argument for

The economic argument for liberty remains whether or not you conceive of the territory of a government as if it were the property of the government.

Absolutely. Indeed, this was why the Monarchies of the 18th and 19th centuries generally had more liberty than the democracies of the 20th. The monarch had little reason to infringe on liberty of his subjects, as that would not be profitable.

I disagree though, that the problem is monopoly. The problem is also governance structure. If every software company in the world was run as a consumer co-op, I think the software industry would be seen as festering sore of incompetence. It wouldn't matter if there is competition, every company would be awful.

There are many countries in the world - governance is hardly a monopoly. The problem is that they all have the same awful management structure.

Competition should improve governance

The problem is also governance structure.

I agree that that is a problem, but competition should improve governance.

If every software company in the world was run as a consumer co-op, I think the software industry would be seen as festering sore of incompetence.

That is an unrealistic "if". There is variation in governance of private companies. Companies are driven out of business all the time for various reasons, including poor governance, by companies with better governance.

There are many countries in the world - governance is hardly a monopoly.

I don't see governments being driven out of business by competing governments. For example, the United States hasn't driven Mexico out of business. I think we can take this as a fairly good indicator that whatever competition exists between governments, it is very weak.

I think we can take this as

I think we can take this as a fairly good indicator that whatever competition exists between governments, it is very weak.

Cities are very competitive with each other, but they simply are not allowed ( by state and federal laws) to be run as joint stock corporations. A lot of libertarians are anti-city government and think city government's should be entirely hands off. I think it would be more fruitful to argue that we should allow city government's to change their management structure.

Nation-states are also very competitive with each other. Unfortunately, there are only two sovereign states in the world: China and the American Empire. Both have pretty sucky government structures. So yeah, if we can figure out a way to disemble the American empire, maybe we'll finally see some competition between governments. Of course the benefit of world monopoly is that we don't have world wars anymore. Still, not sure that the benefit is worth the cost of stagnation.

Perhaps the core problem is that sovereigns do not just compete economically, they compete militarily. The reason democracy is so prevalent in the world is that is was the strongest government from a military standpoint in the 20th century. Monarchs simply could not pull off conscription like democracies could. But the best government from a military standpoint may be awful for liberty.

Moldbug

I had read Moldbug's article in the past. I find the entire post dubious to say the least.

"In my opinion, the practical problem with grounding libertarianism in the ideals of the American Revolution is that Americans no longer hold those ideals, and Europeans never did. Both, today, follow a moral code which is essentially socialist. It is true that this is the natural consequence of "education" at the hands of a government which is essentially socialist. It is also irrelevant. The consequence is the reality. You cannot explain to people that they ought to believe in, say, freedom of contract as a fundamental human right, when in fact they don't. As Hume, again, pointed out, ethical axioms are not debatable."

Yeah, well from a practical standpoint there was no reason to oppose Hitler either. Practically speaking I should move to Washington an live as a parasite on everyone else.

Besides, I think Hume is full of crap.

A city cant be a product

A city cant be a product that is developed and sold by the city government because they do not actually own it. The people in the city own the land and resources within the city. The city government has been asked to protect the city and govern over the city , but they do not actually own the city. That is the problem with governments, they think that because they are in the position of government that they own everything. They do not. They work for the people. They own nothing but the their own individual piece of the city.

The homeowners of a city own

The homeowners of a city own a limited set of property rights. Homeownership is essentially a permanent lease arrangement with some rights to alter or improve the property. But the "owner" still has obligations to pay some rent (property tax). The "owner" is also very restricted in activities that they can perform.

The city government has ownership rights over roads, parks, schools, police, etc. The city government also has the right to extract rent from all land holders.

The city government has a management form of a consumer co-op. Unfortunately, this management form is generally a disaster in practice. Rather than having the profits go back to the consumers, the employees end up directing profits back to themselves in incredibly inefficient ways.

A city government can improve it's product by improving schools, building parks, changing zoning, paving roads, etc, and hope that will make the city more attractive to businesses and residents, thus improving profits.

Unfortunately, due to the insanity of a city's management structure, it often does a very bad job at all the above. Also, because a city is nominally a consumer co-op, but in reality money gets funneled back to the employees, this creates an enormous amount of friction and discord.

Ideally, city government's would simply issue shares to all residents, and property owners, and then run themselves as join-stock corporations. I suspect if cities did this the quality of life in most cities would dramatically improve.

Censorship for thee but not for me

Most intellectuals think they should have freedom to see/read anything. They often think the 'rabble' or lower classes should be restricted.
'Dirty' books in Europe were once published in Latin so only educated men could read them.

Would that be necessary?

I'm kinda new to libertarian philosophy, so maybe I've missed something. However, in your example, wouldn't fomenting revolution be dealt with as a breach of contract and the offending parties evicted? They would still have the freedom to say / publish whatever they want, but they would have to do it elsewhere. No keel-hauling or other repressive measures necessary.

In the case of China, I doubt that there is any significant threat of violent revolution, and where resistance to the government has been seen it has often been rather peaceful (on the protesters' side anyway). In your analysis of the Chinese side of things, I think you've failed to take into account the elitism of the culture as a key factor in why the government is oppressive - that is, it is not the threat of revolution that they are responding to, it is the belief that the rulers are like parents and the ruled like children, and just as parents decide what TV programs the kids can watch, the Chinese government has the right to decide what media the people can view. The people are taught from childhood that this is the way it should be, so it should be no surprise that many agree. However, this does not take away the natural right of those who don't agree to, a, disagree openly, and b, read / view whatever media they would like to. If they propose violent revolution, I would understand if the Chinese government went after them, of course, but I don't think that's the case.

To give an example, the Falun Gong pose no physical threat and yet are oppressed. This isn't a response to a potential revolution but rather a parent not letting a child talk to, say, a Jehovah's Witness proselytizer who's come to the door. The problem is, the metaphor is wrong, from a libertarian standpoint. The people are adults, not children.

Liberalism sometimes leads

Liberalism sometimes leads to illiberal results. Film at 11.

For an amusing take on this phenomenon (which is not specific to libertarianism but to liberalism generally), see this thread at Crooked Timber. A taste:

There exists a pornographic book that might be read by one or other, or neither (but not both), of Prude and Lewd...

libertarian the opposite of fascism

Yeah right. Libertarian is fascist. Taken straight of the Joe Stalin Playbook.

Libertarianism=fascism But

Libertarianism=fascism

But only if you are a communist and hate freedom

Libertarianism is not fascism or freedom

The "F" word (fascism) is meaningless unless you are talking about Mussolini. Libertarians are not fascists or Nazis. However they believe that the tyranny committed in Stalinist regimes is okay as long as it is perpetrated by private citizens. Hence if your boss forces you to have sex with him that is his business (and yours if you want to feed your children).

Hence selling your children to a pedophile is okay according to contract propertarianism (pure capitalism). This is as morally reprehensible a philosophy as they come. Capitalism is where the government props up business. In the USSR the government ran business and in America business runs the government. The world has anarcho-capitalism, it is just hidden behind all of the flags and churches.