Wouldn’t it be nice if it turned out that every argument presupposed that your ideology is correct? Hell, yeah! But, unfortunately, it ain’t so. Time to grow up and put away childish things.
I find it bizarre that anyone would find Hoppe’s argumentation ethics argument for libertarianism even slightly persuasive. It’s a string of non-starters followed by a string of non-sequitors. But I recently learned that at least one super-smart person found it convincing when he was younger. Thus, I think it’s worth showing how you can refute this argument in under a minute. First, I’ll give you terms commonly used in political philosophy. Then I’ll quote Hoppe’s argument. After that, the minute starts.
Begin with some terms from political philosophy:
A liberty right is something that grants me permission to do something.
A claim right is something that entails others have obligations, responsibilities, or duties toward me.
So, for instance, suppose you believe: “Everyone has the right to do whatever he pleases; no one has any duties to anyone else.” This sentence asserts that people have liberty rights to do anything, but have no claim rights at all.
In contrast, take: “I have the right not to be taxed–the government shouldn’t take my money.” Here I assert a claim right to my money–I assert that government agents have duties not to take my money from me.
With that distinction, consider Hans Hermann-Hoppe’s argumentation ethics argument for libertarian self-ownership.
Hoppe claims that the act of trying to justify a theory that rejected libertarian self-ownership is a performative contradiction—the act presupposes the truth of libertarian self-ownership. As he explains in The Economics and Ethics of Private Property:
It must be considered the ultimate defeat for an ethical proposal if one can demonstrate that its content is logically incompatible with the proponent’s claim that its validity be ascertain- able by argumentative means. To demonstrate any such incompatibility would amount to an impossibility proof; and such proof would constitute the most deadly smash possible in the realm of intellectual inquiry … Such property right in one’s own body must be said to be justified a priori. For anyone who would try to justify any norm whatsoever would already have to presuppose an exclusive right to control over his body as a valid norm simply in order to say ‘I propose such and such’. And anyone disputing such right, then, would become caught up in a practical contradiction, since arguing so would already implicitly have to accept the very norm which he was disputing.
Okay, 60 seconds. Go!
For the sake of argument, grant that by saying “I propose such and such,” I take myself to have certain rights over myself. I take myself to have some sort of right to say, “I propose such and such.” I also take you to have some sort of right to control over your own mind and body, to control what you believe. (Nota bene: I don’t think Hoppe can even get this far, but I’m granting him this for the sake of argument.)
But all I need to avoid a performative contradiction here is for me to have a liberty right to say, “I propose such and such.” I need not presuppose I have a claim right to say “I propose such and such.” Instead, at most, I presuppose that it’s permissible for me to say, “I propose such and such”. I also at most presuppose that you have a liberty right to believe what I say. I do not need to presuppose that you have a claim right to believe what I say.
However, libertarian self-ownership theory consists of claim rights.
So, by saying, “I propose such and such,” at most I presuppose the permissibility of my saying “I propose such and such” and of your believing “such such,” but I don’t presuppose that anyone or anything has any claim rights or duties at all.
Hoppe’s argument illicitly conflates a liberty right with a claim right, and so fails.
Since Hoppe’s argument is complete nonsense, it has other fatal flaws aside from the one I described above. For further refutation, see here:
P.S.: Who is the guy taking the place of the Comedian in the video above?
I’m now writing book #7, Against Politics, for Princeton University Press.
In it, as part of a critique of the “educative argument for democracy” (the thesis that democracy ennobles us or makes us wiser), I want to present the findings of empirical political psychology and empirical political science on voter knowledge and behavior. As a simplification, I want to describe citizens in democracies as falling into three major types, though they can move from one type to another:
Type 1 (nearly half the population): Apathetic and ignorant citizens. Don’t have strong fixed opinions. Often have no opinions. Opinions can change easily. Opinions aren’t grounded in any social scientific knowledge. E.g., the typical non-voter and the typical swing voter. (EDIT: By the way, I think it’s totally fine to be a type 1 person, so long as you don’t vote. I don’t think type 3 people are better than type 1 people. See here.)
Type 2 (nearly half the population): Biased, irrational ideologues. Have strong and largely fixed world-views. Can present arguments for their views, but can’t pass an ideological Turing test. Suffer from massive confirmation and intergroup bias. Political fans. Extremely confident in their views. See other people as nasty and evil. E.g., most activists, most politicians, Hans Hermann-Hoppe-type libertarians, most people who donate money to the Democrats or Republicans, most non-swing voters, the writers at Salon.
Type 3 (small minority): People who think scientifically and rationally about politics. Opinions grounded in social scientific and philosophical knowledge. Self-aware and only as confident as the evidence allows. Can pass an ideological Turing test. Dispassionate, in part on purpose, as a way to combat bias. E.g., David Schmidtz.
I want to refer to type 3 citizens as “Vulcans”. But I need labels for the other two types. They needn’t be Star Trek-based labels–they need to be things that have popular connotations, and so allow readers to easily package together and remember certain traits. If I use your label, I’ll thank you and give you credit in the preface.
(A prefatory note: Most of the references are omitted. This is a summary, not an academic paper. Some of the argument here is adapted from Guzman and Munger, 2013)
David Hume gives an example of what we might call “coercion by circumstance” (Hume 2000, Book III, Pt. II, Sec. V):
“A man, dangerously wounded, who promises a competent sum to a surgeon to cure him, wou’d certainly be bound to performance; tho’ the case be not so much different from that of one, who promises a sum to a robber.”
Now, Hume was interested in the question of whether the wounded man would be bound by a promise to pay. I think the more interesting question is whether the surgeon is morally permitted to elicit such a promise in the first place. Or, what amounts to the same thing, is the wounded man able to enter into a contract for services? To answer “no” is to condemn the wounded man to death. But to answer “yes” means that the surgeon is permitted to act immorally. Choose carefully. (MORE AFTER THE JUMP…)
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On a different topic: Nelson Mandela’s shift on markets; Isaac Chotiner at TNR “Conservatives haven’t wrestled with Mandela’s legacy because they haven’t wrestled with the Cold War” (I worry about this with respect to libertarians, too, as I think I mentioned here about Pinochet last year); astonishingly enough, Newt Gingrich on Mandela.
I’ll note that Mandela’s substantive shift discussed in the first linked article means that the round of “how dare you praise Mandela now when you didn’t praise him in the 1980s” criticism in the last week is at least partly misguided. That’s not an excuse for having been soft on apartheid, but one could have opposed apartheid and still thought that the pre-1990 economic vision of the ANC was a dangerous one– then changed one’s evaluation of Mandela when he changed his evaluation of the economic world.
I’ve been wondering in the last week whether there’s a tendency to explain the transition in South Africa in terms that are excessively South Africa-specific. Would De Klerk have acted as he did without the simultaneous events in Eastern and Central Europe, or the democratization of the Philippines, South Korea, Chile? The position of “anticommunist authoritarian tyrant supported by the US” looked a lot more precarious by 1990 than it had in previous decades, and the position of “reformist leader who transforms the old order” was looking a lot more appealing in the age of Gorbachev. Conversely, as noted in that article, “nationalize the means of production” was a lot less appealing by then, too. ”Peaceful transition to a democratic polity with a mixed economy” in short, isn’t something that necessarily would have happened in 1980 or 1985; it became a plausible map for partly non-local reasons. This was all once a commonplace but I think it’s been lost sight of; South Africa either gets treated as sui generis or gets compared only to other African countries.
A few months ago, I was reading a fascinating paper by Thomas Leonard on “Eugenics and Economics in the Progressive Era.” The paper is full of interesting tidbits, but I was especially struck by the discussion of Progressive Era arguments for the minimum wage.
Most readers of this blog will be familiar with the argument that minimum wage laws create unemployment. And most of us, no doubt, regard this as a powerful argument against the minimum wage.
As Leonard’s paper shows, progressives like Sidney Webb were familiar with this argument. But rather than viewing additional unemployment as a cost of minimum wage laws, they actually regarded it as a positive benefit! After all, you see, the people most likely to be disemployed by a minimum wage were those who were among the least employable anyway – the drunks, the idiots, and the immigrants – especially those who were members of “low-wage races.” And, according to the grand progressive vision, anything we can do to identify such individuals and segregate them from healthy, productive white society was a step in the right direction for the human race.
Leonard’s article contains a number of shocking quotes:
“With regard to certain sections of the population [the "unemployable"] , this unemployment is not a mark of social disease, but actually of social health.” – Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Industrial Democracy
“[O]f all the ways of dealing with these unfortunate parasites, the most ruinous to the community is to allow them to unrestrainedly compete as wage earners.” – Sidney Webb, in The Journal of Political Economy
“The operation of the minimum wage requirement would merely extend the definition of defectives to embrace all individuals, who even after having received special training, remain incapable of adequate self-support…If we are to maintain a race that is to be made of up of capable, efficient and independent individuals and family groups we must courageously cut off lines of heredity that have been proved to be undesirable by isolation or sterilization ….” – Henry Rogers Seager, professor of economics at Columbia University and future president of the American Economics Association
Crazy, right? Look what a bunch of racist nuts progressives used to be! (See this short piece by Steve Horwitz and Art Carden for more) Thank God the debate about the minimum wage has evolved from that. At least today’s progressives want to help the poor, and simply disagree about whether the minimum wage is or is not an effective means to doing so.
Fast forward. Today on the way to work, I listened to Bryan Caplan’s Intelligence Squared debate on whether we should “Let Anyone Take a Job Anywhere.” Bryan and his partner, Vivek Wadwha, were arguing in support of the motion against Kathleen Newland and Ron Unz. So, Bryan’s making his usual arguments, claiming that immigration restrictions are unjust and inefficient, and that whatever concerns we have about them could be addressed in cheaper and more humane ways. And then this happened.
Ron Unz: “In other words, if we had a very large rise in the minimum wage, maybe to $12 an hour, that by itself would alleviate a lot of the problems associated with immigration because, in a sense, if you have a situation where American workers can’t be paid less than, say, $12 an hour, then even a huge amount of foreign competition would insure that ordinary American workers had a reasonable standard of living and maintained it.” (from the official transcript)
That sounded a bit fishy to me. So, curious, I looked to see what Unz has written on this topic. Turns out, there’s a lot. But his moral perspective is even clearer in his publishing writings than it was in the debate. Here’s Unz, writing in the American Conservative back in 2011:
The automatic rejoinder to proposals for hiking the minimum wage is that “jobs will be lost.” But in today’s America a huge fraction of jobs at or near the minimum wage are held by immigrants, often illegal ones. Eliminating those jobs is a central goal of the plan, a feature not a bug.
“In effect, a much higher minimum wage serves to remove the lowest rungs in the employment ladder, thus preventing newly arrived immigrants from gaining their initial foothold in the economy.”
Plus ça change… Same argument, different side of the aisle.
It states, simply, that it shall be legal for anyone to do anything he wants, provided only that he not initiate (or threaten) violence against the person or legitimately owned property of another.
Suppose for the sake of argument that the NAP is true. Suppose it’s not just a prima facie obligation, either. Instead, suppose that it is an absolute principle–no contrary consideration can ever outweigh it. In a previous post, I pointed out that even if so, this doesn’t give libertarians a knock-down argument for libertarianism.
The reason is that socialists, statists, and others can, and some do, accept the NAP. The difference between libertarians and non-libertarians is not about whether aggression is permissible. Instead, it’s about what counts as aggression, or about just who has a right to what.
A statist might say the following, “I believe in the NAP. That’s why it’s imperative that you pay your taxes to your legitimate government. After all, since the government and those taxes are legitimate, the government has a right to that money. It’s not yours. If you kept it, you would be stealing it from its rightful owner, the government.”
A socialist might say the following, “I believe in the NAP. That’s why it’s imperative that capitalist factory-owners and land-owners relinquish control to the proper owners of capital, all the people as a whole. The people have a right to those goods. Those goods do not belong to the capitalists. If the capitalists keep the factories and land to themselves, they steal from the rightful owners, which are the people.”
This is why the NAP is itself impotent in an argument. It does no work. Everyone can just agree to the NAP without that resolving anything. What the socialist, the statist, and the libertarian dispute is not necessarily the NAP, but rather who owns what and why they own it.
Consider Tom Christiano, a left-leaning democratic theorist at the University of Arizona. Christiano is one of the best political philosophers alive today. His response to the NAP argument could be, “Sure, it’s wrong to violate people’s rights by taking away their stuff, but that’s not what I’m advocating. For, as I explain here, while people have private property rights, the government also has rights of control over property within certain limits. I’m not saying everything belongs to the government, of course. But some governments do have rightful claims to tax their citizens, and the money they tax actually belongs to the government, not to those citizens.”
Now, how could Bl0ck argue against Christiano? Two ways:
- Block could produce a good argument for Block’s favored understanding of property rights. Here, the NAP would play no role in justifying those rights, because the NAP instead references those rights. What the NAP requires depends on what our rights are, and that’s determined independently.
- Block could poke a hole in Christiano’s argument, showing that is has a serious flaw.
But Block can’t argue against Christiano by invoking the NAP. Christiano can just say he accepts the NAP.
*Note: I’m not criticizing Block here. I’m not familiar with his stuff other than his Defending the Undefendable book, so I don’t know if he commits the error that I’m discussing here.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels famously wrote “A Communist Manifesto” in anticipation of an imminent earthquake in world politics. Of course, in 1848, that seemed plausible. A number of people have written some version of a “Libertarian Manifesto,” often with an analogous forecast of the eschaton for the state. (Two of the best are M. Rothbard’s effort, and D. Friedman’s effort, IMHO) I want to try something much more modest: an idiosyncratic “Mungerfesto,” with my own view of what Libertarianism might be. My experience in the “Big L” movement of libertarian politics warns me that this is more than enough to get me into trouble. So my point is that I am not speaking for anyone except myself. But I will presume to try to persuade you I’m right. When I was a keynote speaker in 2008 at the LP National Convention, and then running for Governor in November of that year, I learned that we as a movement tend to focus on small points of doctrine as if they were the very fulcrum of our faith. Heresy and apostasy must be cleansed with fire and humiliated with criticism; infidels can be ignored. Of course, that means many of our bitterest fights are with each other.
As I wrote over at the Freeman, it is arrogant to think that I know (and I’m implying it is ignorant to think that YOU know, my friends) just what that future looks like. (As my JB has noted, sometimes the responses to ideas are very close to religiously-framed non sequiturs.) There are some principles, however, that I think are worth talking about. And that’s what I aim to do here. So, set your flames to “Extra Crispy” and have at it!
Part I: What are Libertarians? Is There More Than One “Type” of Libertarian? An old bromide tells us that there are two types of people in the world: Those who divide people into groups, and those who don’t. We, meaning libertarians, tend to be dividers. People who agree with us, on every detail, “count” as libertarians. This famous version of the Nolan Chart captures that view pretty well: 10-10 or you suck! (If you haven’t taken the quiz, here it is.) (If it matters, I’m a P9-E7). One of the problems we face here at BHL is that the absolutist version of libertarianism, based on natural rights imperatives, is neither very persuasive to outsiders nor very satisfying to those of us who think that “social justice” cannot simply be dismissed as a category mistake. It is true enough that, as Hayek and others claimed, “justice” is an attribute of human choices and actions. But that doesn’t absolve social institutions from the requirement that the rules facilitate moral action by individuals. Quite the contrary. If you believe that incentives matter, and that individuals have moral obligations, then you should care about institutions. Some institutions are better than others. And that is really all that “social justice” means: the collective (Yikes! The “C” word!) judgments embodied in institutions and policies have moral attributes, and can be judged on moral grounds. In fact, institutions are just congealed moral intuitions, either products of conscious choice or traditions and inertia. (Wm. Riker said institutions were “congealed preferences.” I would say congealed moral intuitions, because preferences are actually harder to define.)
In short, while it may turn out “we” can’t do some things, it is evil simply to assume “we” shouldn’t do any thing, as a “we.” There is a “we.” Homo economicus is a sociopath.
I’m clearly a member of the group that divides people into groups, because I think there is more than one type of libertarian. I think the two groups are destinationism and directionalism. The difference depends on how you reach a libertarian conclusion. The destinationist starts with two inviolable moral and ethical precepts that describe the ultimate libertarian destination, or ideal society. (a) Full self-ownership, with unrestricted rights to control and alienate both one’s own body and the products of one’s labor. (b) An absolute bar on the initiation (not use, initiation) of force, even if such force would have net social benefits in consequentialist terms. The destinationist libertarian then uses these constraints as restrictions on the form and function of the state in the ideal, ultimate sense. No violations are tolerated, no trade-offs are acceptable on consequentialist grounds.
The second group, the directionalists, are incremental, and focus on immediate policy concerns. For the directionalist, any move that increases self-ownership, even marginally, and harms no one, is an improvement. Improvements should be supported by the libertarian, according to this destinationalist perspective, even if the policy is not “truly libertarian.” In fact, it’s not clear what “truly libertarian” even means. Things are more or less, not all or nothing. Any policy that increases the liberty and welfare of one or more individuals, while harming no one, is better than the status quo. If most people are indifferent, and a few are better off, moving from the status quo to a new policy is justified for the directionalist. The directionalist, if presented with several alternatives, would want to choose that alternative that enhances liberty and welfare the most. The trick is judging political feasibility: the sweet spot is achieving the maximal increase in liberty and welfare that is possible at a point in time. How do you measure that? How would you know? More important, how would “we” know?
I admit there are problems, big ones. ”Welfare”? Seriously? Look, we can talk about welfare, of a group, we just have to be careful. We have to stick to self-ownership, consent, and subjectivism. People are the only legitimate judges of their own welfare, and they have to agree, or at least agree not to object. For any given policy, an assessment requires that have to talk about it. It’s not obvious, the choices are hard, and working for change involves actual (ick!) politics and policy analysis.
Destinationist libertarians identify ideal policies, using ideal theory. For the destinationist, of course, anything other than the ideal outcome is an unacceptable compromise, because sanctioning a new but non-ideal status quo implies complicity. This is the “don’t vote, it only encourages them!” view of politics.
Directionalist libertarians identify a path that leads from the status quo toward ideal policies, using pragmatic and consequentialist considerations. This is the libertarian answer to the common “Tell you how you get from A to B to C” objection we hear so often. Actual, concrete policy proposals, things we could do now, and some of these policy proposals are motivated at least in part by concerns for social justice.
To close, let me admit (as is no doubt predictable) that I am a directionalist. I learn a lot from my destinationist friends, and I value your insights. You keep us all honest, and your objections are useful, because you remind us what our goals should be. But if you think that all policies that differ from your imagined libertopia are equally bad, then you are just wrong. Some non-ideal policies are much less bad than others. In the next four parts of this essay, I will try to argue for some analytical criteria for making those sorts of “less bad” incremental improvements, and make an argument for two policies that will make my destinationist friends shriek and rend their garments. Back soon…
Matt Zwolinski recently posted a piece probing the question of whether a unconditional basic income might be a good idea from a broadly libertarian or at least classical liberal perspective.
One of his arguments was based on the fact of historical injustice. Suppose a purely historical theory of justice in holdings were true: any distribution of wealth is just provided property holdings arose in a just way. The problem is that we know there was historical injustice. E.g., corporation that is successful today might have engaged in rent seeking sixty years ago. Perhaps it wouldn’t exist at all today if it hadn’t engaged in that rent seeking in the past, and thus perhaps anyone who owns stock in that business benefits from that past injustice. Or, e.g., while I purchased my plot of land from someone who purchased it from someone else, if we go back in time far enough, we’ll see a series of injust violent skirmishes over who controls that land. Or, e.g., Brown University was founded and funded in part by people who grew rich off the slave trade, and some of its buildings were built by slaves. Etc. Etc. Almost any item you own has a corrupt past.
Nozick says that we will need principles of rectification to tell us how to deal with past injustice, but he doesn’t say much about what those principles might be. (That’s not an oversight on his part, because Nozick didn’t need to give us a detailed theory of justice in order to make his point in ASU.) However, Nozick suggests that it’s possible that rectification might require redistribution, or a persistent welfare state, or whatnot.
KCL political theorist and my former colleague Adam Tebble has a neat paper here using Hayek to try to undermine Nozick’s claims here.
The following argument is unsound:
- Obama is president.
- Therefore, libertarianism is true.
By pointing out that the argument is unsound, I don’t thereby reveal that I’m secretly a fascist. I don’t thereby declare that libertarianism is false. I just explain that the argument doesn’t succeed in establishing its conclusion.
The following argument begs the question, if used against atheists.
- Everything the Bible says is true.
- The Bible says Jesus is the son of God.
- Therefore, Jesus is the son of God.
By pointing out the argument begs the question, I don’t thereby dispute the conclusion or reject Christ. Rather, I just mean to say that the argument assumes the thing being disputed.
Well, yeah, duh, that’s obvious. But even though everyone knows in the abstract that this is obvious, I frequently see exchanges among libertarians that go as follows:
Libertarian J: Hans Hermann-Hoppe’s “argumentation ethics” argument is among the silliest philosophy arguments I’ve ever seen, and when I say that, I mean to include essays I gave failing grades back when I was TAing for David Chalmers.
Libertarian S: Really? You think that? So, you must be a communist then.
Libertarian J: No, I just mean that I think it’s a terrible argument for its conclusion. I’m not disputing the conclusion. I’m just saying that that argument doesn’t come close to establishing its conclusion.
Libertarian S: Why do you want to aggress against innocent people!
The exchange above is of course fictional.
“Taxes are theft!” Maybe. But that’s a conclusion, not a premise.
Some people think it’s amazingly simple to argue for anarcho-capitalist libertarianism. They think anarcho-capitalist libertarianism follows straightforwardly and directly from a few unquestionable, obvious premises. They think they have a simple, knock-down argument for libertarianism. But they’re wrong, alas. (Too bad! I wish they weren’t!) Instead, what they think is a knock-down argument for libertarianism actually begs the question, and so isn’t a good argument at all.
Consider this argument:
The Aggression-Is-Bad Knock-Down Argument for Libertarianism:
- It is morally wrong to initiate an act of wrongful aggression against another innocent person.
- In order to maintain and fund a state, we must initiate acts of wrongful aggression against innocent people by stealing their property and using violence to force them to do various things.
- Therefore, only anarchist libertarianism is just.
I’m not inventing this argument as a strawman. I’ve seen it countless times, most recently yesterday, when a clan of mean-spirited cartoon libertarians (e.g., this dude) went on a vile attack spree against Matt Zwolinski for writing this. (Matt’s been called a fascist, a communist, evil, a criminal, a “confused f*cker”, and a person who wants to aggress against the innocent.)
I actually agree with the conclusion of the argument. In my view, justice requires anarchist capitalism. I agree with Jerry Cohen that Rawls’s theory of justice concedes too much to human depravity, and so isn’t a theory of justice at all, but rather at most a theory of how to respond to depravity.
But, regardless, the argument above doesn’t prove libertarianism is right. Instead, it presupposes it. Rather than being a knock-down argument for libertarianism, it begs the question. That’s why so many non-libertarians are unimpressed by it. Non-libertarians are unimpressed not because they are vile, stupid, or evil, but because the argument doesn’t do any work. Let me explain why.
Everyone in political philosophy agrees that the state needs to be justified. After all, states claim a monopoly on the use of (most) coercive violence over a particular geographic area and claim a right to create and enforce rules within a certain domain against certain people. This requires justification. After all, as libertarians rightly note and pretty much every non-libertarian political philosopher agrees, states do a lot of things that look suspicious on the surface. Unless we can explain why states should exist and have some of the powers they have, then states are presumed unjustified.
But, then thing is, most political philosophers think it’s relatively easy to supply that justification. It’s relatively easy to show that states are justified. They think that have a bunch of compelling arguments on behalf of statism.
Now, for the sake of understanding the dialectic here, consider what would follow if they were right. Suppose JR is typical statist philosopher. JR adduces some argument A for a theory, call it ToJ, that, as far as he can tells, justifies the modern nation-state, including giving it a wide range of powers and rights to tax, though not an unlimited range. If A were a sound argument for ToJ, then ToJ would be true. And if ToJ were true, then all this would follow:
- The state (of the right sort) should exist.
- The state has the right to collect taxes (within certain limits as implied by ToJ) in order to promote justice.
- When the state collects the taxes needed to promote justice, it isn’t stealing your goddamn money or aggressing against innocent people. Instead, the money rightfully belongs to the state, not to the taxpayer. When the state taxes you (so long as it does so in accordance with ToJ), it actually takes what is rightfully its, not what is rightfully yours. If you were to withhold your taxes or resist paying, that would be equivalent to theft.
In short, if ToJ justifies state taxation, then the state isn’t wrongfully aggressing against people by collecting taxes any more than I am wrongfully aggressing against my neighbors by locking my house doors. What counts as aggression depends upon what rights people have. According to ToJ, people don’t have a right to the money the state taxes; instead, the state has a right to that money.
So, for example, Rawls has a number of arguments for the state. One argument, in abbreviated form, goes as follows:
Rawls’s Argument, Shortened:
- Our institutions, including the institution of private property, are not legitimate or authoritative unless they A) protect a specified range of basic liberties, and b) achieve social justice.
- In order to do A and B, we need a liberal, social-democratic nation-state with taxing powers.
- Therefore, a liberal, social-democratic nation-state with taxing powers is justified.
The Aggression-Is-Bad Knock-Down Argument doesn’t refute Rawls’s argument. It’s powerless against it. Rather, to refute Rawls’s argument, you need to explain why premises 1 or 2 are false, or show that Rawls’s sub-arguments for premises 1 or 2 are unsound.
So, the Aggression-Is-Bad Knock-Down Argument fails. It doesn’t prove that any particular justification of the state and state taxation fails. Rather, it works only if all such justifications fail. The “it’s my money and the state is stealing it from me!” line works only if the state doesn’t have a right to that money, and to know whether the state does or does not have such a right, we need to know whether there is any independent justification of the state.
If you want to defend anarchist libertarianism, what you need to do is show that none of the arguments for the state work. You have to take them down one by one.
Importantly, one the most impressive arguments for the state holds that life without a state would be such a disastrous hell that we need to and should create states in order to escape that hell. (That’s the Hobbesian argument.) To refute that argument, you need to prove that anarchism would work, which means you need social scientific evidence, rather than a few simple moral axioms. To refute that argument, you need to do what Huemer does in part II of this book.
So, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, people. Many libertarians think they have powerful knock-down argument for anarchist libertarianism, but, on the contrary, that argument is completely impotent. A sophisticated non-libertarian can just shrug the argument off–it doesn’t even merit a response. Premise 2 of the Knock-Down argument isn’t really a premise in an argument for libertarianism. Rather, it’s at most a conclusion. It doesn’t prove libertarianism is true; it begs the question.
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- Jason Brennan on Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics Argument Refuted in Under 60 Seconds
- legi_intellexi_condemnavi on The NAP Isn’t a Knock-Down Argument for Libertarianism. On the Contrary, It Begs the Question.
- Jason Brennan on Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics Argument Refuted in Under 60 Seconds
- Jason Brennan on Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics Argument Refuted in Under 60 Seconds
- pelletfarmer on Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics Argument Refuted in Under 60 Seconds
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