Two peas in the same loopholey pod

I just made a startling realization.

Libertarians and egalitarians seem to agree on one thing: if property is justly acquired, it can be justly traded between individuals. The major disagreements between the two ideologies tend to focus on what kinds of property can be justly acquired, and how this acquisition initially takes place. Many, if not most egalitarians agree that individuals own themselves and their own labor, but cannot lay claim on natural resources such as land. There are some exceptions, of course: G.A. Cohen, a prominent Marxist philosopher, rejects self-ownership. But for the most part, G.A. Cohen's position is a rare exception, at least among the egalitarians I have read.

Robert Nozick, in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, presents an interesting thought experiment that purportedly reveals a loophole in egalitarian theory. Suppose we live in a society with an initial wealth distribution that satisfies an egalitarian. Then along comes Wilt Chamberlain. Millions of people are willing to pay a few dollars of their initial resources to watch Wilt Chamberlain play basketball. There should be no egalitarian objections at this point, because each one of these millions of people is simply using his justly distributed resources in the way he chooses. Yet after this exchange, millions of people are a little bit poorer and Wilt Chamberlain is a whole lot richer. But this seems to conflict with egalitarian theory, because now there is vast inequality, and yet no unjust actions took place between the initial distribution and the final distribution.

Bryan Caplan takes this one step further. His thought experiment involves a society in which goods are superabundant, but in which services remain scarce. This experiment avoids all of the problems inherent in Lockean acquisition theory, and relies only on an acknowledgement or rejection of self-ownership and ownership of one's own labor. Similar to Nozick, Caplan attempts to show how, if an egalitarian accepts these premises, he must reject egalitarianism of consequences.

The surprising thing is that there is a very similar loophole in libertarianism. Suppose there is a small group of neighbors. This group of neighbors decides to form a homeowner's association in order to solve various public goods: peace and quiet, zoning, private police protection, and so on. The association's purpose, procedures, and limitations are laid out in a constitution, unanimously agreed upon by the initial owners. Whenever new owners wish to join this association, they must pledge fealty to the constitution by swearing to uphold it and abide by its authority. There are various elected officials charged with creating new legislation within the bounds of the original constitutional limitations. If they wish to change any part of the constitution, it requires support from two-thirds of the voting population.

As time passes, the small homeowner's association grows larger and larger, as new tenants wish to join. They do so not necessarily because they agree with everything the homeowner's association does, but because all of the other homeowner's associations available are even worse. This is their least-bad solution.

A few hundred years pass. This homeowner's association has now encompassed the whole of North America, minus some quirky neighbors to the north. A significant number of tenants really do not like the homeowner's association's rules and regulations, but they are in the minority and do not have the power to change the status quo. They were born into this system, or came here because they were even more oppressed elsewhere. But they never really chose this system, in the sense that they do not consent to its high taxes, burdensome regulation, and busybody paternalism. They simply have no other choice but to put up with the system, as bad as it is.

Sound familiar? This is precisely the situation we now find ourselves in, except that in our reality, the Constitution has No Authority, because it was never unanimously agreed upon by its initial constituents.

But let?s suppose that it was. Would libertarians end all criticisms of this state of affairs? It seems to me that such a society would satisfy all natural rights requirements, as it is essentially just a large private organization.

In the same way that egalitarian premises can lead to inegalitarian conclusions, so too libertarian premises can lead to illibertarian conclusions. This doesn't bother me very much as a consequentialist, but I think it may present a problem for rights-based libertarians.

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Micha Ghertner: A few

Micha Ghertner: A few hundred years pass. This homeowner's association has now encompassed the whole of North America, minus some quirky neighbors to the north. A significant number of tenants really do not like the homeowner's association's rules and regulations, but they are in the minority and do not have the power to change the status quo. They were born into this system, or came here because they were even more oppressed elsewhere. But they never really chose this system, in the sense that they do not consent to its high taxes, burdensome regulation, and busybody paternalism. They simply have no other choice but to put up with the system, as bad as it is

But let?s suppose that it was [unanimously agreed to ]. Would libertarians end all criticisms of this state of affairs? It seems to me that such a society would satisfy all natural rights requirements, as it is essentially just a large private organization.

This is EXACTLY the situation we are in now.

The fact is that Anarchy is an extremely unstable political system. It has a very short half life before it ?decays? into a more stable system.

There is nothing anti-libertarian about a Democracy. A Democracy is merely a voluntary association of individuals.

The fact is that Anarchy is

The fact is that Anarchy is an extremely unstable political system.

This is off-topic; i.e. completely unrelated to the issue I was addressing. The claim that anarchy is unstable and minarchy is therefore required is a pragmatic claim. Whether or not this is true (I don't believe it is, but it is possible I am wrong), it does nothing to address the libertarian moral criticism of government coercion, whether that coercion is used for social security or national defense.

Regardless, if you accept my argument, then libertarians have no moral claims against the government whatsoever (except perhaps the historical claims to authority I mentioned). In other words, my argument does way to much for you; it not only justifies a minimalist night-watchman state, it justifies a large welfare state, or any state, no matter how intrusive, as well.

There is nothing anti-libertarian about a Democracy. A Democracy is merely a voluntary association of individuals.

Does it matter if a minority disagrees and does not give is consent voluntarily?

Micha, I think you are

Micha, I think you are correct in saying that there is nothing in rights theory that would make the situation you describe impossible, but I think human nature makes it vanishingly improbable. After all, in a free market, it's *possible* that nobody will decide to grow and sell food and everyone would starve, but that also in vanishingly improbable.

My following points assume your example is meant to be in the context of a completely free and open society.

There could be no requirement that people must subscribe to *some* homeowner's association (HA), and so some people may choose not to join one at all. In the situation you describe, the very fact that even the "best" existing HA is not very good would spur the creation of new and different HAs which could expect to attract significant membership among the dissatisfied customers of existing HAs. The HA also could not morally prohibit secession from itself (doing so would constitute slavery), so members could pay compensation to terminate their relationship with the HA if it becomes onerous.

On a slightly unrelated note, I would *never* join an HA that required a mere 2/3 majority to enact changes to the charter, but that's just me.

What you're actually describing is a massive market failure in the market for homeowner's associations. While there's no "law of nature" that makes this impossible, it is improbable for the same reason as market failure in any other vital service. It's really the same argument as that made against a market in security, in which it is hypothesized that one security company will grow and grow until it has a de facto military dictatorship over its "customers". A free market in security makes this feat difficult, expensive, risky, and unlikely in the extreme, but not impossible. Much smarter people than I have rebutted this argument in great detail.

A few thoughts - 1) I don't

A few thoughts -

1) I don't think initial contract could encompass everything that is legal today, such as the draft. As you know, I don't think an individual can contract himself into slavery.

2) I don't think the contract can be passed on to children. You might argue that the children, if they choose to stay, implicitly agree to abide by the contract. I would disagree because the ability (and right) to carry out voluntary engagements with others supercedes any kind of contract. Property rights have to exist before contracts are made.

For example, suppose the child of a tenant who agreed to abide by the initial contract does not want to sign the contract. Yet he does not want to leave the geographical territory. Should he be denied the ability to use medical marijuana because the everyone who signed the initial contract agreed not to use it? I say no. He never gave his consent to that law.

3) Even today, when new laws and regulations are passed, many are incongruent with the Constitution.

Great response, Qiwi. And

Great response, Qiwi. And you're right, such a situation is unlikely, although there have been a number of recent stories lately about oppressive (although perfectly libertarian) homeowner's associations. A bureacracy is still a bureacracy, whether it is public or private, and bureacracies, in general, suck.

I'm still worried (and skeptical) about legacy contracts. They seem to lack much of the voluntary nature that I like about contracts, and ascribe duties to the property itself rather than the parties to the contract.

Also, I'm not sure if you can legitimately rebut a natural rights argument with a pragmatic response. While it may be true that it is highly unlikely for a system of natural rights to lead to my hypothetical situation, it does count as a flaw against natural rights, for allowing the current state of affairs to take place, under any possible scenario.

Perhaps this is just part of my sinister plot to turn all libertarians into consequentialists.

Jonathan, 1) Is the draft

Jonathan,

1) Is the draft still legal today? If it is, it isn't exercised, and I doubt it will be, barring world conquest.

2) I agree with you, which is why I am skeptical of legacy contracts. But I don't know of any proper libertarian objections to them, other than consequentialist arguments. The child would presumable be denied the use of medical marijuana by his parents, because the parents did sign the contract.

3) Replace the word "many" with "nearly all" and I think you may be on to something.

I agree with you, which is

I agree with you, which is why I am skeptical of legacy contracts. But I don't know of any proper libertarian objections to them, other than consequentialist arguments. The child would presumable be denied the use of medical marijuana by his parents, because the parents did sign the contract.

I think it's key to focus on this part of the argument.

Suppose the child is either "of age" (say > 18) or does not get permission from his parents. Ought he face punishment for breaking the law?

Or perhaps a broader question might be, should the child be compelled to sign the original contract if he wishes to stay in the geographic territory encompassed by the HA and interact with its tennants? Again, I say no because self-ownership precedes contract.

You might say that even though the child can do whatever he wants, nobody else who originally signed the contract is allowed to interact with him (allow him onto HA property, exchange HA property, etc) if he does not sign the contract. But in that situation, it sounds a lot like your objection to third party IP enforcement comes in. He never agreed to the contract. Punishment cannot extend to him.

Or perhaps a broader

Or perhaps a broader question might be, should the child be compelled to sign the original contract if he wishes to stay in the geographic territory encompassed by the HA and interact with its tennants? Again, I say no because self-ownership precedes contract.

But how is this any different than simple trespass? If I am a landlord and a tenant family has a child that I dislike for whatever reason, are you claiming that I can't evict him?

"Sound familiar? This is

"Sound familiar? This is precisely the situation we now find ourselves in, except that in our reality, the Constitution has No Authority, because it was never unanimously agreed upon by its initial constituents."

That's an awfully big excepttion to "precisely".

Jonathan, "For example,

Jonathan,

"For example, suppose the child of a tenant who agreed to abide by the initial contract does not want to sign the contract. Yet he does not want to leave the geographical territory. Should he be denied the ability to use medical marijuana because the everyone who signed the initial contract agreed not to use it? I say no. He never gave his consent to that law."

Suppose the contract says property of the original tenant can only be transfered to someone who has signed the contract. Are you saying that contract was invalid? Why?

"I'm still worried (and

"I'm still worried (and skeptical) about legacy contracts."

Isn't collective ownership of a business via the sale of stock a legacy contract? If you inherit 25% of a company from your father can you disregard the contract between owners (which you did not sign) and simply claim one of the company's four factories?

Nietzsche's argument against

Nietzsche's argument against redistribution of "unjustly acquired" property is the simplest and best, in my view.

To paraphrase, he said that if person A took property "unjustly" from person B, well how did person B acquire it? It could only have been through customary exchange or through another "unjust" taking. So how can one say that person B, who himself was the beneficiary at some point of an "unjust" taking, be entitled to the property any more or less than person A?

Further, Nietzsche said that the egalitarian ideal could never be accomplished through coerced redistribution of wealth because it increases the amount of unjust takings committed by the society. He said that the ideal could only be attained through a genuine transformation of mind rather than through the blunt instrument of the state.

But how is this any

But how is this any different than simple trespass? If I am a landlord and a tenant family has a child that I dislike for whatever reason, are you claiming that I can't evict him?

I guess you can, if that is how the rules are set up. But like Qiwi said, in a competitive free market, I doubt everyone in a HA would sign a contract that expressly stated that rule.

Suppose the contract says

Suppose the contract says property of the original tenant can only be transfered to someone who has signed the contract. Are you saying that contract was invalid? Why?

Yes, the actual signer should be held accountable for breaking the contract.

I am not sure about the third party. I know you have argued before that the third party would be some sort of "accessory" to the breach, but I am not sure about that.

Also, I'm not sure if you

Also, I'm not sure if you can legitimately rebut a natural rights argument with a pragmatic response. While it may be true that it is highly unlikely for a system of natural rights to lead to my hypothetical situation, it does count as a flaw against natural rights, for allowing the current state of affairs to take place, under any possible scenario.

I think searching for any rule or law that is going to cover any possible scenario is a fool's errand. You're certainly never going to find any law that makes it impossible for people to do stupid things, such as agree to a contract that is not in their best interest. With all of our theorizing, we are still only ever dealing in probabilities. These theories in part depend on actions of individuals; the basis of praxeology is that people act to achieve goals, and while we can't predict what those goals might be, it seems reasonable to predict that those goals will be reasonable. If we don't believe in the first place that people are reasonable, what is the point of even talking about all this? I guess another way of stating this is that the flaw in natural rights theory that it is instantiated in humans, but then again, humans are marvelous self-correcting systems.

I think natural rights theory and consequentialist or pragmatic or utilitarian arguments are inseparable. Natural rights theory posits a starting point, ideally, a starting point with the smallest possible number of assumptions, and pragmatic arguments tease out the implications of having those rights.

Micha Ghertner: it does

Micha Ghertner: it does nothing to address the libertarian moral criticism of government coercion

If government coercion is always immoral then is it also immoral for a group of Individuals (i.e. a ?Society?) to coerce individuals who believe that murder, rape and thievery are moral (okay) into believing that they are immoral (not okay)?

Can the group threaten the individual with violence, incarceration, or confiscation of property?

Suppose you burn my house down. Are you saying that I have to get your consent before I am entitled to compensation for my loss? What if you refuse to give me your consent? What if you refuse to compensate me for my loss via your actions?

In other words if coercion is always bad, then what moral justification do you have for self-defense?

Do you have the right to kill and eat animals? Who or what grants you that right?

"Yes, the actual signer

"Yes, the actual signer should be held accountable for breaking the contract."

And the contract says that upon such breach the signer forfeits the property to the group. Now what?

"I guess you can, if that is

"I guess you can, if that is how the rules are set up. But like Qiwi said, in a competitive free market, I doubt everyone in a HA would sign a contract that expressly stated that rule."

That's a completely different issue from whether they would be entitled to.

If government coercion is

If government coercion is always immoral then is it also immoral for a group of Individuals (i.e. a ?Society?) to coerce individuals who believe that murder, rape and thievery are moral (okay) into believing that they are immoral (not okay)?

No, it is not. Why? Because the murderers, rapists, and thieves have already acknowledged, through their own actions, that they do not believe there is anything wrong with these forms of coercion. For example, what possible complaint can a murderer make if his punishment is the death penalty? He had already admitted that he does not value the life of others, so why should we value his life?

Suppose you burn my house down. Are you saying that I have to get your consent before I am entitled to compensation for my loss? What if you refuse to give me your consent? What if you refuse to compensate me for my loss via your actions?

Then I can simply take compensation from you against your will. Why? Because you did the very same thing to me.

In other words if coercion is always bad, then what moral justification do you have for self-defense?

Self-defense is not coercion; by initiating force, the offending party is voluntarily accepting a response of force by his very action.

Do you have the right to kill and eat animals? Who or what grants you that right?

This is a separate question, but a very interesting one. It depends on what theory of rights one uses. Why do people have rights? Do animals share this same aspect with people? If they do, then they deserve rights as well.

I take more of a contractarian approach. Since animals aren't able to enter into a contract with me where we mutually agree to respect each other's rights, I don't feel obligated to grant them rights.

For more on Contractarianism, go here.

greetings from

greetings from thailand.

There's alot on this thread and I have limited time so I'll just say:
the wilt chaimberlain argument is bunk. It's funny that this is perhaps nozick's most famous argument and it's his worst and perhaps the same is true of Rawls "veil." In the Wilt example Nozick just says "take absolute property rights and distribute them however you want, you'll still get inequality." The missing premise is "absolute property rights", which Nozick just assumes.

For starters, this nicely demonstrates a problem with absolute property rights- i.e. it also serves as a critique. It also obscures exactly how "patterned" Nozick's theory actually is- constant intervention by an outside force to preserve property arrangements is undoubtedly "patterned" in Nozicks own terms.

I should also mention that "owning one's labor" is not tantmaount to "absolutely owning every recieved benefit of one's labor." The latter does not logically follow, in my estimation. You can absolutely "own" a magnet (totalitarian property rights for this example) yet not own every piece of gold from people's pockts that happens to accrue to it. The releveant question is what rights should supercede ancilliary rights which accrue to "body ownership." Does a starving child on the streets rights to be fed supercede Wilt's rights top blow his nose on a $100? That's a good question, one that should be argued for, not assumed.

Please note that, in the analogy, it is never assumed that you don't own the magnet, just as the Wilt example doesn't violate "self ownership."

Matt, I think Nozick's point

Matt, I think Nozick's point with the Wilt Chamberlain argument is: why shouldn't we assume absolute property rights? Once the distribution of wealth is such that any egalitarian is satisfied, what is the egalitarian argument against this transaction? Why shouldn't these people be free to trade Wilt Chamberlain a small portion of their wealth in exchange for the entertainment of watching him play basketball? Is it because egalitarians believe that these people are making a decision that goes against their own interests, and really they would be happier if they just kept their money? But how is that not paternalism? What authority do egalitarians claim to have that puts their opinion of what is in other people's interests above the claims of those people themselves?

I should also mention that "owning one's labor" is not tantmaount to "absolutely owning every recieved benefit of one's labor." The latter does not logically follow, in my estimation.

Very well, you've mentioned it, but how do you defend it? Why shouldn't one be able to trade his labor however he sees fit? I agree to work for you on the condition that you work for me. What is the egalitarian criticism of this arrangement?

Does a starving child on the streets rights to be fed supercede Wilt's rights top blow his nose on a $100?

No, unless you are willing to turn Wilt Chamberlain into a slave; you are exploiting his labor even under egalitarian premises. This is essentially Brian Caplan's point; under a pure labor economy, the choice for an egalitarian truly is a simple dichotomy: either accept inequality or accept slavery.

But as I noted, libertarianism also suffers from a similar dilemma.

Serpent (prev): If

Serpent (prev): If government coercion is always immoral then is it also immoral for a group of Individuals (i.e. a ?Society?) to coerce individuals who believe that murder, rape and thievery are moral (okay) into believing that they are immoral (not okay)?

Micha Ghertner (resp): No, it is not. Why? Because the murderers, rapists, and thieves have already acknowledged, through their own actions, that they do not believe there is anything wrong with these forms of coercion. For example, what possible complaint can a murderer make if his punishment is the death penalty? He had already admitted that he does not value the life of others, so why should we value his life?

Okay, so you are saying that if One Individual (A) determines that some Other Individual (B) is stealing from him, then (B) has already acknowledged that it is acceptable for (A) to steal from him?

So is there any communal standard? Can any individual (A) decide that some other Individual (B) has been stealing from them and then act accordingly?

What if I have reason to believe that someone wants to murder or rape someone in my family? Do I have to actually wait for the person to commit the murder or rape before I can legally/morally act, or can I take preventative action before the actual crime occurs?

And what happens if I do act before the crime occurs? What if I act preemptively based on my own irrefutable evidence that the person was planning on kidnapping and raping my wife? Since there is no overriding authority in an anarchist system, would it be ?illegal? for me to kill the kidnapper (murderer/rapist) before they actually commit the crime, based solely on the knowledge that they intended on committing the crime?

Serpent (prev): Suppose you burn my house down. Are you saying that I have to get your consent before I am entitled to compensation for my loss? What if you refuse to give me your consent? What if you refuse to compensate me for my loss via your actions?

Micha Ghertner (resp): Then I can simply take compensation from you against your will. Why? Because you did the very same thing to me.

Right, but what about people like me who like to deal with situations before they actually become problems? Suppose that you have never actually committed any crimes against me, but you have been making statements and taking actions that lead me to conclude it is inevitable that you will. Do I actually have to wait for you to commit the crime, or can I simply act on my knowledge that you inevitable will commit a crime against me? Kind of a preventative maintenance?

If you say ?NO?, I cannot act until you have committed a crime against me, then I would inquire by what right do you claim to make that determination for ME? I thought this was an anarchist system with no central authority? Why do I have to obey the same rules that you obey?

What authority makes the rule that says the ?honest man? has to wait until the ?dishonest man? harms him before he can act (retaliate)?

Micha Ghertner: Self-defense is not coercion; by initiating force, the offending party is voluntarily accepting a response of force by his very action.

Under an Anarchist system wouldn?t it be wiser to just always assume that force was acceptable? Why wait for the other to use force against you? With that logic you might be dead before you ever got the chance to retaliate. Under anarchy isn?t it just as acceptable to always assume that everyone is voluntarily accepting a response of force?

What if they don?t voluntarily accept a response of force? Does it matter under anarchy?

Who exactly does it matter to?

Serpent (prev): Do you have the right to kill and eat animals? Who or what grants you that right?

Micha Ghertner (resp): This is a separate question, but a very interesting one. It depends on what theory of rights one uses. Why do people have rights? Do animals share this same aspect with people? If they do, then they deserve rights as well.

You mean there is more than one theory on this?!?

Suppose we had an anarchist system right now. If you subscribe to one theory of rights, but the members of PETA subscribe to another, is it legal/moral for members of PETA to retaliate against you for killing and eating their little animal brethren? What authority exists to say ?NO??

You?ve been eating animals all your life. That is not an easy sin to forgive. It?s possible there may be no reasoning with those PETA Anarchist ?

BTW ? You are onto the right track with the video game universes. I don?t suppose you would care to tell me what the difference is between a video game universe and the one you exist in right now?

So is there any communal

So is there any communal standard? Can any individual (A) decide that some other Individual (B) has been stealing from them and then act accordingly?

Again, you are shifting between two different realms: the moral realm and the pragmatic realm. Your question to which I was responding concerned the moral realm: what justifies punishing a murderer or a thief? Now that I have answered that, you are switching gears and asking a pragmatic question: how will this punishment actually work out in practice? Will individuals take it upon themselves to enforce punishments, and will there be any procedural safeguards? Note that these are NOT moral questions: morally, it does not matter if the victim enacts a punishment by himself or with the help of a number of friends, nor does it matter if the proper procedural safeguards were followed, as long as the the proper person was punished.

But to answer your new question, yes, I would expect there to be a communal standard, in the sense that certain practices are more efficient than others, and a division of labor is more efficient than people being renaissance men. That is, we would expect over time that certain businesses would focus on providing defense services, and people would hire these firms to protect them. David Friedman discusses how this could work here.

What if I have reason to believe that someone wants to murder or rape someone in my family? Do I have to actually wait for the person to commit the murder or rape before I can legally/morally act, or can I take preventative action before the actual crime occurs?

This would depend on the procedural rules maintained by both your security firm and the other persons security firm. What standard of evidence do they require for pre-emptive self defense? I would expect the current statist standard (which is mostly based on common law) to be similar to the standard used under a private law system. Someone brandishing a weapon and pointing it in your direction, someone armed breaking into your property, etc.

Under an Anarchist system wouldn?t it be wiser to just always assume that force was acceptable? Why wait for the other to use force against you? With that logic you might be dead before you ever got the chance to retaliate. Under anarchy isn?t it just as acceptable to always assume that everyone is voluntarily accepting a response of force?

What if they don?t voluntarily accept a response of force? Does it matter under anarchy?

Who exactly does it matter to?

Again, you are switcing subjects here. Your original question was a moral one: what justifies self defense? Now you are asking why this question even matters. It doesn't matter much to me, but it apparently mattered to you since you asked me to answer it. It matters to anyone who is interested in the philosophical justifications for self-defense.

As for your other question: I dont even understand what your point is. No, it does not follow everyone is voluntarily accepting a response of force, anymore than it follows that this is the case for governments (which are currently in a state of anarchy, by the way).

You mean there is more than one theory on this?!?

Yes, there are many.

If you subscribe to one theory of rights, but the members of PETA subscribe to another, is it legal/moral for members of PETA to retaliate against you for killing and eating their little animal brethren?

It would certainly be legal and moral according to PETA's community and private protection firms. But until they are able to convince the rest of the world, which is primarily omnivorous, that their theory is correct, I would expect them to fail fairly quickly in their war against everyone else.

What authority exists to say ?NO??

What authority exists to say NO when two countries, like the US and Iraq, go to war?

I don?t suppose you would care to tell me what the difference is between a video game universe and the one you exist in right now?

Is this a philosophical question or a practical difference question?

Serpent (prev): Can any

Serpent (prev): Can any individual (A) decide that some other Individual (B) has been stealing from them and then act accordingly?

Micha Ghertner (resp): Again, you are shifting between two different realms: the moral realm and the pragmatic realm. Your question to which I was responding concerned the moral realm: what justifies punishing a murderer or a thief? Now that I have answered that, you are switching gears and asking a pragmatic question: how will this punishment actually work out in practice?

You are asserting that Anarchy is superior to Democracy. I am merely attempting to determine why you are making this assertion.

Micha Ghertner: Will individuals take it upon themselves to enforce punishments, and will there be any procedural safeguards? Note that these are NOT moral questions: morally, it does not matter if the victim enacts a punishment by himself or with the help of a number of friends, nor does it matter if the proper procedural safeguards were followed, as long as the proper person was punished.

So you have a theory of Individuality which totally ignores the Individual???

How can you say that the details don?t matter so long as the proper person is punished? Do you really believe that the proper person is going to be punished if you don?t pay attention to the details?

Micha Ghertner: But to answer your new question, yes, I would expect there to be a communal standard ?

How would that ?communal standard? be decided upon?

Micha Ghertner: [communal standard ?] in the sense that certain practices are more efficient than others, and a division of labor is more efficient than people being renaissance men.

Yeah, I think we figured that out a few thousand years ago actually.

Micha Ghertner: That is, we would expect over time that certain businesses would focus on providing defense services, and people would hire these firms to protect them. David Friedman discusses how this could work here.

Right, so over time larger and larger family groups and tribes would come together under a ?communal standard? and form ?City-States?, and then eventually we would reach the point where we had ?Countries?/?Nations? (i.e. ?Private Security Forces?) and then people could hire these ?firms? to protect them by moving to the geographic location under the ?firm?s? control.

Kind of a ?societal evolution??

Serpent (prev): Do I have to actually wait for the person to commit the murder or rape before I can legally/morally act, or can I take preventative action before the actual crime occurs?

Micha Ghertner (resp): This would depend on the procedural rules maintained by both your security firm and the other persons security firm.

But I?m not required to hire a ?Private Security Force?, am I? And if I am not, then isn?t that the same as saying that everybody just gets to make up their own set of rules? Really you are just advocating Subjective Morality.

Micha Ghertner: What standard of evidence do they require for pre-emptive self defense? I would expect the current statist standard (which is mostly based on common law) to be similar to the standard used under a private law system. Someone brandishing a weapon and pointing it in your direction, someone armed breaking into your property, etc.

But you have already said that there is nothing stopping each individual from adopting his own standard, so if some individual or group of individuals want to kill and steal for a living that is just as acceptable as any other standard ? correct? There is no authority to promote what is best for society as a whole. In the system you are proposing it is every man, woman, and child for themselves ? right?

Why do I have to wait for you to point a weapon at me? If I don?t like you, I can just gun you down, and so long as none of my friends care then why do I need to worry? Under your system I don?t see where anyone else?s idea of ?morality? really needs apply or matter to my tribe.

Micha Ghertner: [Morality of Self-defense ?] Again, you are switching subjects here. Your original question was a moral one: what justifies self defense? Now you are asking why this question even matters. It doesn't matter much to me, but it apparently mattered to you since you asked me to answer it. It matters to anyone who is interested in the philosophical justifications for self-defense.

But philosophical justifications only matter if there is a common (objective) morality. According to you there isn?t. According to you Morality is subjective, so your idea that killing is only moral for purposes of self-defense is no more moral then claiming that killing is always moral for any reason.

Either there is an objective (societal) morality, or there is not. You seem to want to have your cake and eat it to.

Micha Ghertner: As for your other question: I dont even understand what your point is. No, it does not follow everyone is voluntarily accepting a response of force, anymore than it follows that this is the case for governments (which are currently in a state of anarchy, by the way).

If you treat governments (nations) as individuals then I agree. To some degree nations are in a state of anarchy relative to one another. There is no common morality amongst nations ? but a lot of Individuals are working on that!

Micha Ghertner: [would PETA be morally justified killing non-vegetarians?] It would certainly be legal and moral according to PETA's community and private protection firms. But until they are able to convince the rest of the world, which is primarily omnivorous, that their theory is correct, I would expect them to fail fairly quickly in their war against everyone else.

How about anti-abortionists? Do you really think that there will still be a doctor alive providing abortions one year after a system of anarchy (as you describe) was in place? I think you are drastically underestimating the power of small radical groups in the absence of a central powerful authority. You really believe the vast majority of Christians in the U.S. care about abortion providers getting murdered?

What about ?hate crimes?? Do you really believe that minorities such as homosexuals are going to be safe in such a world? I get the distinct feeling that the Heterosexual private Security force is going to be much larger and much better funded then the Homosexual private security force (although their uniforms probably won?t look as nice).

But I have been saying all along that if you could ever enact your Anarchy it would collapse into a system of Feudalism within 10 minutes. Ten minutes is the most you would get to enjoy your anarchy.

Micha Ghertner: What authority exists to say NO when two countries, like the US and Iraq, go to war?

There is no objective (shared) moral code between Iraq and the U.S.

And when there is no objective morality violence and physical force is your only recourse. There is no ?trade? or ?markets? in the absence of commonality (objective morality/society/civilization).

Micha Ghertner: [Video game universe ?] Is this a philosophical question or a practical difference question?

Should I just appear at your front door offering you a ?red? pill or a ?blue? one? ;)

I?m asking if there is some tangible difference between this universe (this reality), and what you would be experiencing if you were a character in one of those massive online video games? The universes in those games are not made of ?matter?, but instead they are made of information.

What makes you believe this reality is any different?

How can you say that the

How can you say that the details don?t matter so long as the proper person is punished? Do you really believe that the proper person is going to be punished if you don?t pay attention to the details?

These are two entirely separate questions. To the first, I am a consequentialist, so morally, I could care less whether procedural safeguards are followed: if the person deserving of punishment gets punished, that is all that matters. (I prefer theories of compensation and deterrence, not retribution, btw.) Pragmatically, and also in response to your second question, of course there is less room for mistakes if procedural safeguards are followed; that is the whole point of procedural safeguards in the first place.

How would that ?communal standard? be decided upon?

Um, by the community...that's the whole point of a community standard. Specifically, by those you associate with: your chosen defense and arbitration firms.

Right, so over time larger and larger family groups and tribes would come together under a ?communal standard? and form ?City-States?, and then eventually we would reach the point where we had ?Countries?/?Nations? (i.e. ?Private Security Forces?) and then people could hire these ?firms? to protect them by moving to the geographic location under the ?firm?s? control.

No. Notice that these firms differ in one fundamentally important way from governments: they can claim no exclusive rights over geographic areas. The only way that this could come about, as I mentioned in the original post, is if all of the property owners in this area originally agreed to this arrangement.

But I?m not required to hire a ?Private Security Force?, am I? And if I am not, then isn?t that the same as saying that everybody just gets to make up their own set of rules? Really you are just advocating Subjective Morality.

No, no one is required to purchase security, but unless you have strong friends and family, it would be a wise purchase, provided you have anything worth protecting. And everybody does get to make up their own set of rules, but then, the same is true under a system of democracy, except the unit is the state rather than individual. Each state gets to make up its own rules. It's absolute anarchy!

And of course I am advocating subjective morality. There is no other kind.

But you have already said that there is nothing stopping each individual from adopting his own standard, so if some individual or group of individuals want to kill and steal for a living that is just as acceptable as any other standard ? correct?

What do you mean by "just as acceptable"? Acceptable to whom? It's not acceptable to my own personal view of what people should do. It's not acceptable to me if they violate my rights, and I would hope to have my security firm prevent them from doing that. As Friedman explains in the article I mentioned, we would not expect a criminal firm to be very successful in a war against the majority of non-criminal firms.

There is no authority to promote what is best for society as a whole. In the system you are proposing it is every man, woman, and child for themselves ? right?

The authority to promote what is best for society as a whole?!? You are starting to sound like Hillary Clinton. Who has such authority and where does it come from? And of course it is not just every man, woman, and child for themselves. Rather, it is whatever voluntary arrangments people may make with each other for mutual benefit. There will still be crime, just like there is now, but there is no reason to think that the state is the only or the best way of dealing with coercive force (especially since it must engage in it in order to do so).

Why do I have to wait for you to point a weapon at me? If I don?t like you, I can just gun you down, and so long as none of my friends care then why do I need to worry?

You need to worry not only about your own friends, but about mine. Do I have friends and family that are willing to avenge my death? Have I purchased the services of a police firm?

Under your system I don?t see where anyone else?s idea of ?morality? really needs apply or matter to my tribe.

Nor should it.

But philosophical justifications only matter if there is a common (objective) morality. According to you there isn?t. According to you Morality is subjective, so your idea that killing is only moral for purposes of self-defense is no more moral then claiming that killing is always moral for any reason.

Which is why I said I could care less about the moral justifications. But you asked for one and I gave it to you.

But even if I did care about the moral justifications, I don't see how you could justify the claim that killing is always moral for any reason, and then try to argue against me killing you in self-defense.

To some degree nations are in a state of anarchy relative to one another.

And isn't it interesting that we are in a relatively stable, peaceful relationship with other nations, and we are able to engage in commerce and other voluntary arrangements without perpetual conflict? What does that tell you about the need for (world) government?

Do you really think that there will still be a doctor alive providing abortions one year after a system of anarchy (as you describe) was in place?

The better question to ask is if there will still be any killers of abortion doctors alive after a year. They seem to be a much smaller, less funded minority than the large amounts of support organizations like NOW and Planned Parenthood have.

You really believe the vast majority of Christians in the U.S. care about abortion providers getting murdered?

I certainly hope so, for their sake. Isn't there something about hate the sin, love the sinner, and judge not, lest ye be judged, and all that other jazz? Jesus seems like a pacifist to me, which is one of the many reasons why Christianity never had much appeal for me.

What about ?hate crimes?? Do you really believe that minorities such as homosexuals are going to be safe in such a world? I get the distinct feeling that the Heterosexual private Security force is going to be much larger and much better funded then the Homosexual private security force (although their uniforms probably won?t look as nice).

You imply that all heterosexuals want to commit crimes against homosexuals. In actuality, the conflict would be between violent homophobics and the rest of us decent people who strongly disapprove of civil rights violations.

But I have been saying all along that if you could ever enact your Anarchy it would collapse into a system of Feudalism within 10 minutes. Ten minutes is the most you would get to enjoy your anarchy.

Iceland lasted 300 years, a bit longer than ten minutes.

There is no objective (shared) moral code between Iraq and the U.S.

And when there is no objective morality violence and physical force is your only recourse. There is no ?trade? or ?markets? in the absence of commonality (objective morality/society/civilization).

Wait a second. First you claim that there is no objective moral code between the US and Iraq (I agree), but then you claim that there can be no trade in the absense of objective morality (I disagree). How did the US trade with Iraq a few decades ago? Was there an objective moral code back then, and it only later disappeared? These objective moral codes are quite peculiar.

I?m asking if there is some tangible difference between this universe (this reality), and what you would be experiencing if you were a character in one of those massive online video games?

No, there could be no tangible difference, assuming computers will one day be able to simulate consciousness, and I believe they will.

What makes you believe this reality is any different?

Nothing. If anything, the question is even more difficult for you. There are good philosophical reasons for thinking that we are currently living in a simulation.