More on Kelo



The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses -- even against their will -- for private economic development...

The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes to generate tax revenue. Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

[CNN Story]

It's kinda like the Raich case, where the Supreme Court reamed the commerce clause pinhole into a gaping void which allows the feds to regulate anything (as satirized so well by fafnir here). Now they've interpreted the word public in Amendment V ("nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.") to mean anything which benefits the public in general, *including* private businesses, rather than the more obvious interpretation of direct public use. Since you can argue that pretty much any private business benefits the public, now your local officials, who "know best", get to decide whether or not to bulldoze your fucking home.

I can't help but suddenly see a satiric HGTG vision, but rather than a highway bypass, Arthur's house, and by comedic extension, all of Earth, are facing the Vogon bulldozers because its a good place for a mall.

Aside from my passionate feelings that shit like this is just wrong (I'm a consequentalist only when cool-headed - my anger is all about natural-rights), it seems much harder to justify economically than the previous standard for takings. That is, when you are building a highway, there is a genuine holdout / last-mile problem. Seizure and compensation is one way of dealing with this. Yeah, it bothers my libertarian guts, but it is a decent solution to a real problem.

But the same is not at all true of a random private development. A highway that doesn't succeed in going from point A to point B because it couldn't get a key piece of land is useless. A mall that has to locate in an incrementally worse location is only incrementally harmed. Since the holdout problem is far less dramatic, it seems like a much rawer deal to "solve" this "problem" by bringing in the heavy hand of government, so often used by the unscrupulous, susceptible to specialized interests, and careless of the common folk's welfare.

On the bright side, at least no one is talking about seizure without recompensation. How far we've come! Unless, of course, you're seizing something that might once have vaguely been associated with drugs. Maybe we haven't come that far after all...

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Brandon: "people will

Brandon: "people will perform whatever logical contortions are necessary to avoid changing their minds on questions of morality"

That's a pretty dim view of public discourse, isn't it? There are plenty of people who change their minds on questions of morality. I have several of them as students in my various introductory ethics courses every semester. Give folks some credit here.

My guess is Brandon agrees

My guess is Brandon agrees with me – but I’m obviously not sure.

I'm not sure how I got pulled into this or why my opinion is important; I was just referring to that old saying about people who live in glass houses and what they should and should not do with stones.

For what it's worth, I don't think trespass constitutes initiation of force unless it diminishes the property owner's enjoyment of his property, for example by causing some kind of damage, or by invading his privacy.

I do think that taking or damaging someone else's private property does constitute an initiation of force, and that defending private property does not. I also don't think it's particularly productive to talk about it, because people will perform whatever logical contortions are necessary to avoid changing their minds on questions of morality.

“Useful” only in the

“Useful” only in the sense of reinforcing the cocoon.

The same criticism applies to the English language as a whole, so far as I can tell. The usage of any common ground will by necessity prohibit the inclusion of some foreign principles. By speaking English, you give up the possibility of convincing many who don't speak it. It makes one lazy, but so does English -- after all, the more challenging route to communication would be to speak in Icelandic.

I don't see how showing that there are different types of force, or different degrees of force, reveals the non-agression principle to be a definitional dodge.

I agree with Brandon, but I

I agree with Brandon, but I still think that the shared libertarian intuition of force premise is useful when libertarians talk to each other.

Scott: "Only if

Scott: "Only if Proudhon-style anarchists are debating libertarians. Such debates – though doubtlessly interesting – seldom happen here. People visiting this site tend to have some shared intuitions about what is coercion and what is not, making debate along libertarian lines possible and even fruitful – my intuition is that our visitors’ intuitions tend to be closer to the libertarian side than the Proudhon side."

Maybe I'm off base here, or misremembering something, but I thought that I remembered reading that Jonathan started Catallarchy in the hopes of maybe converting a few open-minded non-libertarians to your position. You're right that there aren't many such here; that is, while there are plenty of open-minded people, there aren't many non-libertarians around. But to the extent that there are a few of us (I know that I fit at least one of the two criteria--maybe both?), wouldn't it make some sense to have this sort of debate about core principles.

For the record, I think it's a stretch to call standing on your property an initiation of force. It might be a violation of a right that you have, but not all rights violations are acts of force, are they? Though on second thought, I suppose that such a position makes at least some sense when one thinks that all rights are non-interference rights.

Still, force seems to imply something different from simple interference, and I'm not sure how useful it is to conflate the two. Coercion does imply some kind of force or threat thereof. It seems to me, though, that when I stand on your property, I'm not coercing you to do anything at all. When you put a gun to my head and demand that I leave, you are coercing me. The proper question is not who coerced whom first; rather it is which of us is justified in using force.

So I tend to think that Matt is right that to make the debate about coercion is to miss whatever it is that is really at stake. I see no inherent reason to think that all coercion is inherently bad. A lot of commenters I've read here agree; many are happy to defend coercion in defense of property rights. The argument we should be having is about when coercion is justified.

I, for instance, defend coercive taxation because I defend rights of recipience. Most here don't. Still, the debate there is not over whether there is coercion involved. Obviously there is. The debate is over whether that is an instance of _justified_ coercion.

Pham- I say "from a gun"

Pham-
I say "from a gun" because I had an argument with John T. Kennedy about Gay Marriage (I think) and he was opposed to it because "it puts a gun to people's heads" by increasing gov't power somehow. Generally I thought it was about the craziest argument I've ever heard, and it functioned well as a reductio ad absurdam argument against libertarianism.

I’d love to hear how you think taxation of any sort can be justified, and how it could be seen as anything other than an initiation of force?
I don’t say that in sarcasm, but in genuine interest to see if you can do it.

The Poli Sci "free rider" problem answer is a classic, and I suppose that you could add that at this point your earnings and lifestyle are so heavily a product of government assistence that "your income" as a concept isn't a good one. Also, given the history of property we're dealing with a situation of imperfect justice (i.e. the title you own is illegitimate because it was stolen) and as a such taxing for redistributive purposes makes things more fair. Since Natural Talents aren't "earned" you might also argue that they should be considered community property, meaning that the benefits that accrue to them should be shared.

I think it's important to mention that my argument doesn't rest on this in any way shape or form. Tp me taxation isn't "intitiation of force" (as you define it) because I think it's justified. To you shooting someone who's pitched a tent on your land (let's ignore the "stab you in the back" part and just say he's homeless) is justified and as such isn't "inititation of force." I keep repeating myself here, but what I'm saying is that the concept of coercion or "intitiation of force" as defined this way has no value whatsoever. Kicking someone off your land isn't defensive and niether is taxation. We should call them what they are: (possibly) justified uses of force. Then we should argue about why we think so.

This is one of the problems with talking mostly with people who share your basic presupposition- you can lose sight of them (the presuppositions) and become convinced that your side is simply "the noncoercive principle taken to it's logical extent."

The issue as I see it is not about the implement of force (’from a Gun’ as you put it), but the initiation of the force. I personally haven’t ever seen a reason to initiate force that I could reasonably justify.
yes you have- private property. Calling a tent pitched on your land "force" streches the defintion so much that we can call anything "force." If force means "a violation of my rights" (as you seem to be implying) then I could claim that tax evasion is force (because I have a right to welfare benefits as funded by your tax money.) Right or wrong, we should be talking about the justfication, not the force.

I think I've unfortunately had to make the exact same point over 20 times. I'm sorry to anyone who's read this and got it the first time. Spare yourself.

-Matt

ps- I don't mean that as insult by the way, Pham; you may not have read my posts to Scott.

you’re right- that is a

you’re right- that is a problem. I don’t know that it lends any creedence to the argument about private roads though.

It's just an argument that "free" public roads crowd out private ones.

But that said, I think you can make a good case that lack of information is the biggest problem with public roads and that tolls would provide the propper information as well as incentives for even a publicly owned road to solve their traffic problems. From there I don't think it is too much of a leap to justify allowing private roads to compete.

A system of private roads

A system of private roads was tried in the US and was a disaster.

When was this? Obviously pre-1950s

I also wasn't aware that the current public road system isn't a disaster.

Matt, I’ve seen alot of

Matt,

I’ve seen alot of you Catallarchy guys convinced that Libertarianism is all about the noncoercion principle taken to it’s extreme, which is complete lunacy.

That's just not true. Many of the commenters might say this, but I don't know of any contributor who takes it to the "extreme". As an example:

ticking bomb

Claiming that I think libertarianism is all about the noncoercion principle is a gross distortion of my views.

Pham, As it happens, I have

Pham,

As it happens, I have offered an argument to that effect here. I can't say that I convinced much of anyone, though. You're welcome to have a look.

Natural Rights of Recipience

Matt, thanks for the vote of confidence. You seem to be doing just fine, though.

Pham, That seems an

Pham,

That seems an acceptable stance, and I really can't argue against it.

Scott- Well it was mildly

Scott-
Well it was mildly insulting to you, so the fact that you consider it "absurd" is really not surprising. RE: Intuitions, unless you think that Pirvate Property rights are more fundamental rights than freedom from harm, of speech, etc. then I doubt we disagree much, because certainly believe that property rights are morally correct, but they're not first-order rights. I don't think anybody sersiously believes otherwise (i.e. consistently) or else they'd be (by extension) unconcerned about Monarchism and/or Fuedalism.

Pham-

1) Thus a dicussion of the initiation of force often is a discussion of the justifications of the underlying premise.

I do see it. My point is that we should discuss the justifications themselves, as a simple blanket statement about opposing coercion tells us nothing (it says "I don't like what I don't like.")

2) The ‘free rider’ argument isn’t a reasonable justification for taxation, quite simply because, while inconvenient, it is possible to deal with the ‘free rider’ problem without resorting to taxation, or other forms of coercion. The State taxes simply because it can, and it’s easy.

I don't think that's always true. A system of private roads was tried in the US and was a disaster. We may be right about Free Rider problems- I think they can be solved bia other forms of social organization other than the state as well.

Besides I’d like to focus on one thing here, and that is exactly what you wanted to do.
I appreciate that Pham.

What I’d like to see is a soild real arguement as to exactly why they are justified, that doesn’t amount to simplicity, laziness, or bafflegab.
happy to do it, Pham. You might want to ask Joe Miller as well- he's probably got better points on this than I.

I did provide a few arguments about how the distinction between "your income" and "the state's income" is an imperfect one given the level of assistance we recieve by virtue of living in the US. I also mentioned that natural talent is morally arbitrary, and should rightly be considered community property to a degree.

Let's take healthcare for example, if you like. The private system of health care functions very poorly and is highly inefficient (less efficient than Canada's, for instance, byt about 40%.) Worse still, private health care providers have a strong incentive to spend money on figuring out ways NOT to cover you, which is very wasteful and something which ought not be a feature of serious health care. Because it's clearly preferable to have a single-payer system of health care, the government should step in and pay for it via Tax Revenue (which are justified for reasons I mentioned above.) Suppose someone opted out of healthcare because they were young and stupid and then got Testicular Cancer, a rare disease which is easily curable (something I happen to know a little bit about, since I had it.) Should that person die simply because they skipped a payment from their insurance and got dropped? Or because they were too naive? Or simply took a risk and got burned? I think anyone would agree that they should not die. A system which guarantees them health coverage is the fair system, as far as I'm concerned.

Furthermore, what about a 9 year old with Leukemia who's parents didn't cover them... Should they die? These are all reasons why we should have a guaranteed coverage.

Now I agree that the State isn't the only way this could be done, but we're a long way from disbanding the state and we shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

I hope that's what you were looking for.

-Matt

Two things

when you’re arguing with

when you’re arguing with people, Scott, the goal is to be clear about your positions. Notwithstanding your complete inability to do so in practice...

Careful where you throw those things. You might break a wall or something.

but I still think that the

but I still think that the shared libertarian intuition of force premise is useful when libertarians talk to each other.

"Useful" only in the sense of reinforcing the cocoon. There are a number of problems with adopting such contentious a priori axioms. For starters, you concede almost straight away the possibility of persuading any reasonable interlocutor of the wisdom of your political position. Secondly, and more importantly, it dulls your thinking, allowing you to just dodge uncomfortable questions or contradictions instead of refining (or discarding!) core justifications for your position.

As for "trespassing as initiation of force", I think I can easily demonstrate that this is a definitional dodge. Let's say that trespassing is an initiation of force. Now, I'd say it's an uncontroversial assertion that many people would prefer, say, someone taking a shortcut across their lawn to, say, being hit over the head by a length of 2 by 4. This suggests that it wouldn't be too difficult to differentiate between two different types of "force": Force A and Force B, or of you prefer "Classic" force - meaning violence or threat of violence and force "Lite" meaning infringment of property rights. Posit a property-owner who, say, punches someone trespassing on his lawn. The trespasser might have initiated force "lite" but the property owner has initiated "classic" force and not simply responded in kind, so you are still back to having to justify that initiation of force. Conflating the two types is just a device to ignore this problem in order retain the cherished principle of "non-initiation of force".

when you're arguing with

when you're arguing with people, Scott, the goal is to be clear about your positions. Notwithstanding your complete inability to do so in practice (as evidenced by your last "argument" starring socrates), maybe you can understand it in theory.

1. noone seriously thinks that initiating force (as you define it, which is "unjustifiable use of force" since you'll allow for force to get people off others' property) is right.
2. as a result, noone will seriously support a theory which advocates unjustifiable uses of force (in their minds.)
3. It is unfruitful (not to mention maddeningly simple-minded) to simply accuse the other side of putting a gun to someone's head, when your relevent disagreements are actually over the justifications themselves.

I could easily construct a socratic dialogue in which property is treated the same way as Taxation was in your dialogue but it would be absolutely pointless, because it obfuscates the very thing we should be clear about: the assumptions which underlie it.

again and again,
Matt

On second thought, invoking

On second thought, invoking the non-aggression principle is probably useless, or question-begging, as you say.

I linked a David Friedman chapter above where he says just that, I think.

Timmy: What do you guys

Timmy: What do you guys think of taxation? Is it morally right?

Socrates: Well, Timmy, libertarians believe that the initiation of force is wrong.

Timmy: I guess I believe that, but how is taxation initiation of force?

Socrates: Well, it's the purloining of peoples' own money -- theft, in other words. Hence, we consider it initiation of force.

Timmy: I guess I agree that it is stealing. And, I think the initiation of force is wrong, too! Hmm, I guess I better stop sending dues to the Democrats!

Socrates: How miraculously fruitful this conversation has been!

Timmy: Agreed!

Socrates: Now come over here and sit in my lap.

Timmy: Yay! Wait, what?

but that still doesn't mean

but that still doesn't mean that discussing coercion is helpful. Maybe it would help if you'd give an example of when saying "[doing x] initiates force and is therefore wrong " is helpful to the discussion. My guess is that it's almost always a mere distraction or, at best, lazy arguing.

-Matt

you’re right that

you’re right that Libertarian’s do think that, just as Proudhon-style anarchists think that property is theft. Meaning that they would be just as justfied in claiming that private property is “initiation of force.” Meaning that we should drop the “initiation of force” argument, and put it in the dictionary where it belongs: as the definition of “begging the question.”

Only if Proudhon-style anarchists are debating libertarians. Such debates -- though doubtlessly interesting -- seldom happen here. People visiting this site tend to have some shared intuitions about what is coercion and what is not, making debate along libertarian lines possible and even fruitful -- my intuition is that our visitors' intuitions tend to be closer to the libertarian side than the Proudhon side.

Excluding you, of course.

Scott- you're right that

Scott-

you're right that Libertarian's do think that, just as Proudhon-style anarchists think that property is theft. Meaning that they would be just as justfied in claiming that private property is "initiation of force." Meaning that we should drop the "initiation of force" argument, and put it in the dictionary where it belongs: as the definition of "begging the question."

-Matt

Matt: it’s a huge strecth

Matt:

it’s a huge strecth to claim that standing on someone’s property is “force", and so what we’re really talking about it justfiable intitiation of force.

A reasonable statement, but one that many libertarians disagree with. To them, and to me, so far as I can tell, that is an initiation of force -- a violation of one's right to exclude others from their property -- in other words, a theft.

Pham:

If the meteor is a direct threat to me and mine, then it has initiated force (as much as an inanimate object can initiate anything), I’m completely justified in destroying it, or swatting it aside. Now if you owned said meteor, then I’d still be justified as long as I gave you a chance to do something about it first (for all I know your just bring it in towards earth to park it in a close orbit for mining). If you are unable, unwilling, or there simply isn’t time, then I’m justified again, I also probably have a good tort against you for the cost.

Suppose the meteor is heading towards earth, destined to destroy it. There is one way to stop it -- a button on an old curmudgeon's property that will fire rockets at it. The curmudgeon has made it plenty clear that he doesn't care if the meteor's coming -- it's his land, it's his button, and he's happy to let the world end. Are you justified in jumping his fence and pushing the button?

Or would you let the world be destroyed?

If this is so and I

If this is so and I “believe” it is then there is no “no coercion” principle.

Of course for you and I there's no coercion principle. We obviously don't believe it. But others do. I also don't believe in God -- it doesn't follow that He doesn't exist, and it doesn't follow I am being "obtuse" by defending theists.

You wilfully conflate trespass with violence for no other reason than to try and rescue this principle when a more intellectually honest approach would be to concede that, say, trespass does not in fact constitute “initiation of force” but might in most cases warrant use of “justifiable” force.

Says you. But those who believe in the principle do think it constitutes an "initiation of force," I believe. That definition may be odd to some -- obviously it is to you -- but it is not to them.

There is no need for the

There is no need for the English speakers to actually learn Icelandic, if they merely learn to distinguish between tree and flower they are the better for it, the sum of their useful knowledge has been increased and once they have learnt that distinction it would be foolish to persist with the archaic conflation.

Nor is there any need for libertarians who believe in the non-agression principle to learn how to speak to others who don't take it as a given, if they have no interest in talking to such people. You could argue that it is good for libertarians to be able to speak to others. That without doing so, they're reinforcing the coccoon, or some such.

That's fine. But speaking English does the same thing. For it's also good to know Icelandic -- it allows you to speak to Icelanders.

Beyond just reinforcing the

Beyond just reinforcing the Coccoon(which it clearly does)- it’s simply inaccurate. It’s comletely opaque to define “justified force” as “lack of force” because the two don’t mean the same thing, and it misdirects the argument from talking about the justification itself (which is ALWAYS the issue.)

But of course it's not ALWAYS the issue. People talk about a wide range of topics, here and elsewhere, and "justification" is sometimes in the spotlight, sometimes not. When not in the spotlight, it's convenient to simply take the axiom as a given -- if the conversers both believe it or something close to it.

Moreover, I don't think anyone is defining "justified force" as "lack of force."

I’ve seen alot of you Catallarchy guys convinced that Libertarianism is all about the noncoercion principle taken to it’s extreme, which is complete lunacy.

It may be complete lunacy, but what you've written seems to me a complete fabrication, assuming by Catallarchy guys you mean the authors. I don't know of a single writer here who believes in the vulgar non-coercion principle taken to the extreme -- indeed, we select for people who don't.

Either of those cases preclude any serious meeting of the minds, and as such always produces a negative result.

Depends on the minds in question.

I believe it does. And while

I believe it does. And while I’ll readily admit it’s not shared by all libertarians, it is shared by fair number of them, and just as when one communicates with an English speaker it makes sense to use English, when one communicates with a certain type of libertarian or a person with libertarian-type intuitions, it makes sense to use a certain axiom as a shared assumption. Note how I speak to you in English and not Icelandic.

OK, let's stick with the language analogy so I can show you the problem. Let's say that, through some path dependency quirk, English speakers have only one word for "tree" and "flower", (perhaps something like vertical-plant-with-leaves-or-petals). Picture a bunch of English speakers who are used to talking away to each other about these vpwlops, they lack a really good way of distinguishing between a meadow and a forest. As you can imagine they get lost quite a bit if they go hiking. Now, let's say they meet an Icelandic speaker who explains that, in Icelandic, there are separate words for those big tall vpwlops and those pretty little vpwlops. There is no need for the English speakers to actually learn Icelandic, if they merely learn to distinguish between tree and flower they are the better for it, the sum of their useful knowledge has been increased and once they have learnt that distinction it would be foolish to persist with the archaic conflation.

Nor is there any need for

Nor is there any need for libertarians who believe in the non-agression principle to learn how to speak to others who don’t take it as a given, if they have no interest in talking to such people

Sheesh, I'm baffled at your obtuseness here. It's not as if you don't understand the issue, seeing as you attempted to explain it to Pham above thus:

I’m willing to accept that coercion is typically a bad solution to problems - I believe it is. But it is perfectly acceptable in some situations.

If this is so and I "believe" it is then there is no "no coercion" principle. You wilfully conflate trespass with violence for no other reason than to try and rescue this principle when a more intellectually honest approach would be to concede that, say, trespass does not in fact constitute "initiation of force" but might in most cases warrant use of "justifiable" force. Of course that would require you to abandon the seductive, simplistic notion that everything can be reduced to the non-initiation-of-force principle. Far better to cling to the comfort blanket than recognise this absolute principle for a chimera and replace it with a more defensible guideline, which is perhaps applicable in most cases but not in all.

But those who believe in the

But those who believe in the principle do think it constitutes an “initiation of force,” I believe. That definition may be odd to some – obviously it is to you – but it is not to them.

the argument is over whether anybody uses the term (obviously they do.) The argument is over whether any sane person should use the term. It's clear that they shouldn't- it's not a matter of disagreement. The "coercion principle" is simply a propaganda device with no substance behind it at all. No Libertarian seriously believes it (because they believe in property rights, which contradict the principle), it's simply used to hijack an argument, like a punch to the face.

-Matt