Walter Block* defines the non-aggression axiom (sometimes called the non-aggression principle, or NAP for short) as follows:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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  • _

    You’re disregarding the only logically consistent conclusion. Anarcho-Capitalism/Voluntaryism.

    There’s a joke that’s been going around over the past few years: what’s the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist? Answer: six months.

    If you value principle, consistency, and justice, and oppose violence, parasitism, and monopoly, it may not take you even that long.

    • Jeremy McLellan

      Jason doesn’t disregard anarcho-capitalism. In fact, he has a book coming out defending it. http://amzn.com/0415732972

    • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

      There’s a joke around here about cartoon libertarians, and you’re clearly one of them.

      The only logically consistent conclusion? What premises do you think everyone accepts such that AnCapism is the only logically consistent conclusion? Show me the argument, and I’ll either point out it’s invalid, point out a premise I don’t accept, or become an AnCap.

      • Libertymike

        There is also a joke around here about those who think that formal training in philosophy is the sin qua non of intellectual development and prowess.
        You might understand it better if I told you that such an attitude is classic Dunning Krueger.

        • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

          Yes, I admit to having a bias in favor of competency in formal logic. You don’t necessarily need formal training, I guess. Be self-taught or home-schooled for all I care.

  • http://mikevo.wordpress.com/ Mike Van Orden

    Yeah, but they are just giving lip service to the NAP, they don’t really understand it philosophically if they say things like “After all, since the government and those taxes are legitimate, the government has a right to that money”. There is no backing for that statement other than saying it is so. Anyone can claim something is legitimate if they just accept it as so without defense. And how does someone argue that the government has rights of control over property within a certain limit. The control over that property was self proclaimed and taken by force, so doesn’t that make it illegitimate. So the NAP argument is impotent only if you grant the opposition some seriously philosophical leeway, which breaks down the whole point of having a logical debate if baseless assertions are allowed to be had without rigorous criticism being levied against them.

    • M Lister

      There is no backing for that statement other than saying it is so.
      Anyone can claim something is legitimate if they just accept it as so
      without defense.

      real question here- are you familiar with any of the works by Christiano or Murphy and Nagel linked (or many others)? I ask because what you say isn’t even close to a plausible account. If you’re not familiar with them, I think it would do you a service to read some of the material. They may be wrong, but it’s obvious that the characterization here is no better than a joke (or perhaps you meant it as one?)

      • http://mikevo.wordpress.com/ Mike Van Orden

        Can you provide some more direct links to some of their arguments? The one in the post simply goes to his website.

        • M Lister

          The book by Murphy and Nagel linked above (_The Myth of Ownership_) is a good place to start, or _The Cost of Rights_ by Stephen Holmes and Cass Sunstein is also a place to look. _Real Freedom for All_ by Philippe van Parijs offers another approach. I don’t agree with all of any of these books, but they are certainly completely full of argument. This is just a tiny bit of a huge literature.

          • http://mikevo.wordpress.com/ Mike Van Orden

            right on

    • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

      “Yeah, but they are just giving lip service to the NAP, they don’t really understand it philosophically if they say things like “After all, since the government and those taxes are legitimate, the government has a right to that money”. There is no backing for that statement other than saying it is so. Anyone can claim something is legitimate if they just accept it as so without defense.”

      I agree with your last sentence here. So I’m sure you have a good argument defending the existence of natural property rights that are independent of social arrangements or agreements. I’d love to hear it. Like M Lister said below me, I doubt you’ve actually read the arguments you’re blindly critiquing.

      “And how does someone argue that the government has rights of control over property within a certain limit. The control over that property was self proclaimed and taken by force, so doesn’t that make it illegitimate.”

      Isn’t the establishment of private property just as much self proclaimed and taken by force? One person draws a line through nature and points a gun at everyone else, threatening them with force if they cross it.

      • http://mikevo.wordpress.com/ Mike Van Orden

        Property rights are tricky, I would agree. But it doesn’t give government any more right to it. Not all things are taken by force unless you are saying NAP also applies to the trees, the grass, and the animals. It does to an extent, but survival is necessary. And if I’m blindly critiquing I don’t mind looking over the full context. The link in the post seems to only directly go to a website and not a specific article or argument. Maybe I’m missing it. I do happen to agree that the NAP is insufficient to defend anarcho capitalism. But one example argument and a quote were provided as possible statist talking points that render the NAP as a defense for anarcho capitalist libertarianism “impotent”. I was simply saying those points in the context of the blog entry were not compelling in the slightest

        • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

          “Not all things are taken by force unless you are saying NAP also applies to the trees, the grass, and the animals.”

          All I’m saying is self-ownership alone isn’t much without external resource ownership. And for those who think natural resources are owned in common, homesteading IS taking by force. So a discussion of the right or just form of property rights is quite necessary even if we’re self-owners.

          “It does to an extent, but survival is necessary.”

          I’m not sure what you mean by this. Survival isn’t necessary in a strong sense of the word ‘necessary’. And in the weak sense, saying “survival is necessary” could just as easily justify coercive redistribution, if a poor, starving person needs a rich guy’s resources to survive.

          “I do happen to agree that the NAP is insufficient to defend anarcho capitalism.”

          I think we all agree then, that NAP alone is insufficient. Perhaps we just disagree on the power of NAP beyond that.

          • http://mikevo.wordpress.com/ Mike Van Orden

            Property rights aren’t a law of the universe I guess is what I would say. You basically own your body and that’s about it and even then people can get weird about the definition of “own”. My point on survival being necessary is the things that we apply property rights to are dependent on needs and survival, or at least at the basest level. But modern society has gotten more and more complex and answering what we have a right to and the proper way in which we uphold those rights are getting increasingly beyond our ability to discern. It’s very hard to claim in an objective sense that we all deserve to have homes, food, and medical care. We certainly would like that, but we’ve also learned that trying to make this work on a societal level is more than problematic, it’s beyond the cognitive threshold to really understand how to best guarantee people have all their “rights”. So if the system can’t guarantee that it’s methods of maintaining fairness will even work, and have often demonstrated that they don’t, why should we be bound by law to participate? That’s where freedom to me becomes the most essential of moral considerations because people wanting to do what’s best for everyone else doesn’t really seem to work all that well. I’m just rambling at this point, only meant to clarify my survival comment.

    • Libertymike

      Text, without context, is pretext.
      Those who would resort to using text, without context, are cartoonish intellectuals.

      • http://mikevo.wordpress.com/ Mike Van Orden

        this seems to be the criticism for my comment from more than just you and I don’t think you can call someone a cartoonish intellectual from one comment. Similarly in this blog post, the statements that he provided to argue that the NAP is impotent by itself as a libertarian defense are out of context. So i guess we are all being cartoonish intellectuals if I’m supposed to think that the comments by themselves properly refute the NAP as sufficient defense for liberty. So ad hom’s, way to go.

        I would agree with the statement that the NAP is insufficient in and of itself, but the example argument and quote given that someone might give saying that they follow the NAP and remain a left leaning democrat weren’t compelling at all…without context. So why provide them at all?

        • Libertymike

          My post was not in response to your comment; rather, I placed it below Brandon Byrd’s post who rightfully took Jason to task.

          • http://mikevo.wordpress.com/ Mike Van Orden

            i see, my apologies

          • Libertymike

            How hard could it have been for Jason to include Blocks’ full conception / argument?

    • good_in_theory

      ” Anyone can claim something is legitimate if they just accept it as so without defense”

      Gee, sounds like individual claims to rights in private property.

      “The control over that property was self proclaimed and taken by force, so doesn’t that make it illegitimate”

      Gee, sounds like labor mixing.

      • http://mikevo.wordpress.com/ Mike Van Orden

        You seem to be trying to refute a point that I didn’t assert. I didn’t defend individual claims either. Cartoon intellectual seems to be a popular ad hom around here, I don’t want to go so far as to suggest you are demonstrating whatever this cartoonishness is, but sarcasm and being cute aren’t really the greatest methods for debating.

    • TracyW

      The control over that property was self proclaimed and taken by force, so doesn’t that make it illegitimate.

      Hypothetical situation: you legitimately (however you define “legitimately”) acquire a house. I show up one day, sit down and refuse to leave. I ignore all peaceful attempts to get me to leave. So you bodily drag me out (or get someone else to drag me out on your behalf). Does my intransigence make your control over that property illegitimate?

      • http://mikevo.wordpress.com/ Mike Van Orden

        this analogy is nothing like what governments and nations do and have done, nice try though

  • Hume22

    Can the same be said about the Rawlsian Liberal Principle of Legitimacy and its reliance on particular favored conception of “the reasonable” (think how idiosyncratic nature of Rawls’ account; it borders on intellectual dishonesty when one also considers his methodological claims (“I’m just systematizing the values that are shared by us citizens in constitutional democracy, nothing to see here, move along”)?

    • murali284

      Rawls’s argument is marginally better, largely because it doesn’t take that much work (ok maybe enough for a MA or PhD thesis) to clean up all the bad parts

    • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

      Good question, which deserves an answer.

  • Theresa Klein

    What the socialist, the statist, and the libertarian dispute is not necessarily the NAP, but rather who owns what and why they own it.

    This sounds basically right to me.
    I think a more fundamental premise than the NAP is self-ownership. The NAP really extends from self-ownership. If I own myself then then I am entitled to not be physically coerced by others. And from self-ownership is derived the bulk of property rights (minus land ownership, which i’ll leave to the side for now). NAP works in defense of your right to own what you produce yourself or obtain through trade with other self-owning producers.

    The libertarian says individuals belong to themselves. The socialist says they belong to society, and the statist says they belong to the government. That’s the difference.

    • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

      “And from self-ownership is derived the bulk of property rights (minus land ownership, which i’ll leave to the side for now). NAP works in defense of your right to own what you produce yourself or obtain through trade with other self-owning producers.”

      Without rights of external resource ownership, even with self-ownership, the worker only has a right to own what he produces out of his own material or ex nihilo, which is almost nothing. No matter how much he transforms an external object or how much value he adds to it, the final product is not his unless he owned the initial object. So NAP and self-ownership don’t get you very far at all.

      • Theresa Klein

        We can get to rights of external ownership, it’s just more complicated. But I disagree that you can’t get a lot just through self-ownership.

        For instance, I don’t agree that if someone doesn’t own the original resource then they don’t have ANY rights to what they make from it, regardless of how much they transform it or add value to it.

        Any just society is going to have to grant people that make improvements or convert natural resources into more useful forms some sort of ownership rights. But you can’t simply assign rights by fiat, or by popular vote, because that would create more injustices for future generations to undo. You have to have a simple uniform rule that applies to everyone and is intuitively fair. The homesteading principle does that.

        • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

          “We can get to rights of external ownership, it’s just more complicated. But I disagree that you can’t get a lot just through self-ownership.
          For instance, I don’t agree that if someone doesn’t own the original resource then they don’t have ANY rights to what they make from it, regardless of how much they transform it or add value to it.”

          Maybe, but that doesn’t follow from self-ownership. You need an extra premise about property acquisition.

          “You have to have a simple uniform rule that applies to everyone and is intuitively fair. The homesteading principle does that.”

          Homesteading without a fair share constraint is not intuitively fair. At least many philosophers don’t think it is.

          Stanford encyclopedia:

          “A main objection to this view is that no human agent created natural resources, and there is no reason that the lucky person who first claims rights over a natural resource should reap all the benefit that the resource provides. Nor is there any reason to think the individuals are morally permitted to ruin or monopolize natural resources as they please. Some sort of fair share condition restricts use and appropriation.”

          • Theresa Klein

            IIRC the Lockean formulation of homesteading requires you to leave some land for others. Hence you cannot claim the entire set of resources and monopolize them.
            However, once you’ve claimed them and improved them and that act is uncontested for some period of time, you own them.
            Suppose a family famrs a particular parcel of land for 500 years. Would it be fair for another family to come along and say “We don’t have any land, so you must give us half of yours, it’s our fair share.” ?

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            The Lockean proviso requires that you leave “enough and as good” which is never satisfied literally. Which means it must be interpreted in some non-literal way, and people inevitably disagree about how much should be left.

            As for your question about the families, no, half seems excessive and not intuitively fair after all the work the first family did. But once we agree that there is some fair share constraint, then we’re just haggling over price.

            There’s quite a lot of work to be done even after agreeing on self-ownership and NAP. If you accept a fair share constraint on property acquisition, that amounts to a Non Exclusion Principle. But just like exactly what constitutes aggression must be interpreted, we must also interpret what constitutes exclusion. Some aggression is obviously allowed, to defend against the aggression of others. And some exclusion is obviously allowed, to make sure people can acquire property and provide for their future.

          • JSebastian

            But a “first claim” system does exactly that – so how could you possibly object to it? If your share is passed down , via inheritance, then any person can have a share of the original resources. Isn’t this essentially what the “public lands held in trust” concept is about also? It seems to me that if the government can unilaterally appropriate some percentage of a finite resource, and another percentage of all remainders by subjecting them to taxation, then certainly any individual can have the same rights of ownership over natural resources, no?

    • sam

      “If I own myself then then I am entitled to not be physically coerced by others.”

      Why? Or rather, why does the fact of self-ownership (assuming that can be made clear), imply any entitlement at all? And if that cannot be shown, I don’t see how NAP or anything else can derived therefrom.

      • Libertymike

        Upon what plausible basis could you argue that self-ownership does not confer the entitlements of which Theresa writes?

        • sam

          Well, I did ask for an argument to establish the conclusion. Do you have one? I will say this, the notion of self-ownership is so opaque that until that ground is cleared up, all we have is mere assertion. But that is a topic for an new thread, I think.

        • good_in_theory

          Well, so long as assertions of self ownership are made so as to be question begging*, then I guess there’s not much basis, except it’s not a matter of “conferring” entitlements, it’s a matter of declaring them by fiat.

          *Things which are owned have a right not to be coerced. Individuals own themselves. Therefore self owners have a right not to be coerced

      • murali284

        To say that you own yourself (under a plausible understanding of ownership) just is to say that you are entitled to exert control over yourself. If you are morally entitled to exert control over yourself, then you have a right against others exerting control over you. Why? because if others have control over you, you do not have control over yourself and you are entitled to have control over yourself (as per self ownership) Thus, if you have a right against others controlling you, then that just means that you have a right against being coerced by others.
        Of course, in that case establishing that you own yourself requires argument and cannot be simply asserted. A further problem arises, of course, when people make conflicting claims against one another. Then one’s person control over his self can interfere with the control of another person over her self.

        • Theresa Klein

          Thank you. To me the idea that self-ownership implies that you have a right to be free from coercion is just self-evident, but you put it better than that.
          What can self-ownership possibly mean if it doesn’t mean that you get to control your own actions and the product of your labor?

    • good_in_theory

      Self-ownership doesn’t entail an entitlement to not be coerced unless one defines “ownership” as an entitlement to not be subject to coercion, which would be question begging.

      And self ownership doesn’t get you to the bulk of property rights. “Labor mixing” doesn’t follow from self-ownership. Even if it did, a large portion of defining the scope of property rights can’t be deduced from self-ownership or anything tenuously related to it.

  • Brandon Byrd

    Jason,
    I’m still not sure who you’re arguing against. Apart from a few overzealous laypersons, no one argues for libertarian conclusions by appeal to NAP alone. Arguments using NAP as a premise are almost always supplemented by arguments which purport to justify and define the scope of property rights. If you bother to read past the first paragraph of the Block essay you linked to, you’ll see that Block explicitly maintains that the NAP depends on a theory of property. He writes:

    “If the non-aggression axiom is the basic building block of libertarianism, private property rights based on (Lockean and Rothbardian) homesteading principles are the foundation. For if A reaches into B’s pocket, pulls out his wallet and runs away with it, we cannot know that A is the aggressor and B the victim. It may be that A is merely repossessing his own wallet, the one B stole from him yesterday. But given a correct grounding in property rights, the non-aggression axiom is a very powerful tool in the war of ideas.”

    Block (and everyone else I know of who invokes NAP in their argument) knows that what counts as aggression depends on a theory of property. This pattern of argument goes back to Locke, who used a theory of property to argue for a prototypical version of NAP (which stated that no man ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions).

    Maybe the biggest problem with Block’s position is simply that he doesn’t know what “axiom” means (a self-evident premise for which argument is not required). NAP is not an axiom, and Block clearly doesn’t think it is one (even though he says it is). If we drop the view that NAP is axiomatic, we will have arrived at the view that most NAP-thumping libertarians seem to have accepted all along: that NAP, in conjunction with a theory of property rights, yields libertarian conclusions about the scope of state power.

    • murali284

      Well, then we might as well take aim at the homesteading account of property. That is also an utterly ridiculous account. As Nozick said, mixing what is owned with what is unowned does not obviously make what is unowned owned. Why isn’t the first person to piss, bleed or puke into the sea the owner of all the seas? Hell, why didn’t the first fisherman own all the seas? It seems that the kinds of owned things which have to be mixed in and the kinds of unowned things they have to be mixed into is rather arbitrary

      • Libertymike

        Analogy fail.
        Show us the market for urinated sea water, and we’ll talk.

        • murali284

          Why does there have to be a market for it. Is it part of the homesteading argument that there be a market for the thing so mixed? None of the traditional homesteading arguments ever mention a market for it. Its all about mixing owned with unowned.
          Also, let me put it this way. If I could go right now and own all the surrounding waters of Singapore by pissing in it and shouting “mine” I would do so. That would allow me to charge ships for entering it, people for entering it, desalination plants for using it….

          • Libertymike

            Rothbard does not limit his conception of homesteading to bare title to a resource. Sure, I believe he would argue that there need not be a market for the property in question to be rightfully claimed by the homesteader.
            However, IIRC, Rothbard understood that those who laid claim to a resource and then undertook the task of improving upon it had an even stronger basis upon which to maintain that they owned the final product of the mixed owned and unowned.
            At any rate, simply shouting “mine” probably does not cut it. What action have you undertaken to secure the water and to improve upon it?
            How about this? Dad, Johnny and Johnny’s two sisters are on their way to DIA. They have just spent two weeks at Steamboat Springs, Colorado and now must return home to Rhode Island.
            While dad is driving the rental car to Avis, Johnny declares to his two sisters, “I call front seat when we get home”. He makes this declaration even before the family boards the jet home to Green.
            What has Johnny done to secure his claim of having the front seat?

          • murali284

            What do you mean by secure his claim? Does this involve taking concrete steps like threatening violence to those who would counter his claim? Does this involve somehow setting up physical barriers to cordon off his seat? None of these have anything to do with creating value.

          • Libertymike

            Its elementary, is it not?
            Do you think the kid has done anything, in a practical sense, to secure his claim to the front seat by merely “calling it” from 2,000 miles away?
            Of course, your subsequent questions could very well apply and the affirmative response to the same do not, in and of themselves, create value. Agreed.
            However, you, in your hypothetical, without more, stand upon no firmer ground with respect to your claim than does Johnny with his. My point is that merely shouting your claim to the waters surrounding Singapore, in Rothbard’s view, would be insufficient to lay claim to the same upon a homesteading basis.

          • murali284

            The question is not whether Rothbard thinks that me shouting it is insufficient. The question is whether Rothbard’s theory has the resources to make that claim. If it is just an ad hoc claim that does not follow from what according to him fundamentally makes acquisition claims valid.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        You seem to have somehow missed the part of ASU where Nozick answers his own question. Let me help: “Perhaps the idea…is that laboring on something improves it and makes it more valuable; and anyone is entitled to own a thing whose value he has created.” ASU, 175. Pissing into the sea doesn’t improve it. No need to thank me.

        • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

          “Pissing into the sea doesn’t improve it, so no ownership right is created.”

          So are we objectivists or subjectivists about value? I thought most libertarians were the latter. To those with golden shower fetishes, pissing into the sea improves it greatly. To an environmentalist, any laboring on some natural resource may make it worse.

          “Perhaps the idea…is that laboring on something improves it and makes it more valuable; and anyone is entitled to own a thing whose value he has created.”

          If we are subjectivists about value, this whole thing sort of boils down to first come first serve.

          • murali284

            Also, prove that “anyone is entitled to own a thing whose value he has created”. Its easy to assert this, but this just passes the buck along. It is at best only marginally more plausible than the labour mixing story.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            Agreed. There may be a good argument for it, but I haven’t heard one yet. On the other hand, I could accept a consequentialist defense of homesteading, but strict deontologists don’t have that option available.

          • murali284

            Depends on what you mean by deontologists. As long as you don’t say that the consequences are objectively desirable, you could plausibly count as a deontologist*. Its basically Lockeans and Rothbardians who have a problem, not deontologists writ large.
            *For example, even though Rawls focuses on the prospects of the worst off, he doesn’t do so because people fairing well is objectively good. Rather, focusing on the prospects of the worst off supposedly minimises the strains of commitment and this in turn makes a such a conception stable. Rawls has a complicated story to tell about stability, but at the least, there is an “ought implies can” sort of justification for caring about stability.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            Right, I said “strict deontologists”, meaning consequence-insensitive deontologists. I realize there are lots of forms of deontology that are somewhat sensitive to consequences (many of BHL I think).

            I think a consequence-sensitive deontology could say that some consequences are objectively desirable or good. She would just believe that the right or just doesn’t depend ENTIRELY or ONLY on consequences. She could argue that a world in which homesteading grants private property ownership is objectively better (perhaps due to some standard of well-being independent of evaluative attitudes) than one in which we cannot rightfully homestead.

            A strict deontologist would have to argue that homesteading is right or just independent of whether good consequences tend to result from it.

          • murali284

            I think we are using the word deontologist differently. I’m claiming that you could be a deontologist even if you thought that the only duty people have is that of beneficence. There are no side constraints here. It is entirely goal directed. And it is almost purely consequence sensitive.
            But there are ways of being consequence sensitive without being teleological, that is, without asserting the existence of some final end or objective good.
            I’m probably nitpicking,

          • Theresa Klein

            Actually I do think this idea of improvement to a piece of land conferring ownership is flawed. There has to be some avenue for an individual to lay claim to a piece of unowned territory, and use it solely for his personal sustenance, along with his family. Does it really matter if anyone else thinks he improved it?
            Among Native American tribes, hunting rights to particular territories were recognized on a tribal basis and nobody contended that the tribe that owned* the hunting grounds had to improve upon it. The tribe that owned the hunting grounds simply had to be using it and capable of defending it.
            *(Oh please, Native Americans did have property rights. If they respected other tribes’ hunting grounds, they had property rights. Put down the peace pipe, hippie. )

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I think there is room to distinguish between rights to use/enjoy and permanent ownership. I agree that Native Americans using land for hunting have the continuing right to do so, and that it would be wrong to dispossess them. But, if they abandon these lands to hunt somewhere else, having not improved them, I don’t think it would be unjust for someone else to claim ownership by homesteading, provided the Lockean condition of “enough and as good” is satisfied.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Sorry, this result is so intuitively compelling that I think I need say no more in the absence of a counterargument. If I have solely created the value in question, I think you owe me an argument as to why it is not mine. If you can’t at least see this, I think further conversation is useless.,

          • murali284

            Sorry, this result is so intuitively compelling that I think I need say no more in the absence of a counterargument
            What result? Private property? Labour Mixing? I have little doubt that the institution of private property is in fact justified. As Kevin Vallier has said in another post private property stands in need of justification, and the bar is not so low and it is not that intuitively compelling that any cockamamie attempt at justification would do.
            Now I do think that private property is justified. Its just that the labour mixing account or the value creation account of private property is just so implausible in its own right that we don’t need to keep such bad justifications around especially when there are justifications available which people who don’t find private property intuitively compelling will have reason to accept. That is to say, according to the already low justificatory standards of reflective equilibrium, the argument falls flat. There would be no reason to think the argument was worthwhile if you did not already think that private property was justified. According to more stringent standards where premises must be so acceptable that no one could rationally reject them*, this doesn’t even pass the smell test.
            *Conceptual truths for apriori claims and a great deal of evidential backing for empirical claims.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            The “result” that: “anyone is entitled to own a thing whose value he has created,” which was the comment you quoted, remember. If the person creating the value does not own it, who does? How did they come to own something that another person created. I’m sorry you find the idea that creating value confers ownership rights implausible, but that does not make it so.

          • murali284

            I’m sorry you find the idea that creating value confers ownership rights implausible, but that does not make it so.
            If you’re talking about intuitive plausibility, your mere assertion that something is intuitively plausible does not make it so. I’m pretty sure that there are enough others who don’t find it so plausible that it confers absolute ownership rights.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Right, so you refuse to answer the two questions I asked. In the absence of plausible answers, I don’t see how you can object to my claim. If in a pre-political world I invest my time, effort and capital in growing a crop, then on your view there would be nothing amiss if others came and simply took it from me by force. Is that your view? Why not?

          • murali284

            in a pre-political world I invest my time, effort and capital in growing a crop, then on your view there would be nothing amiss if others came and simply took it from me by force. Is that your view? Why not?
            I don’t know. I reserve judgment. I can imagine cases where intuitively it would seem acceptable. I can also imagine cases where intuitively it would not. None of my intuitions survives serious scrutiny.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Fine, but before you start deciding that natural rights ideas are utterly implausible, perhaps you should have substitutes in hand.

          • murali284

            I don’t know about pre social rights. But I do have a well developed theory of social morality. It lies somewhere between Rawls’s political liberalism and Gaus’s own account of public reason.

          • murali284

            Quick clarification, in what sense do you mean pre-political? Do you mean pre social as well?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            A state of nature, i.e. the absence of government. Two people stranded on an island, etc.

          • murali284

            There is a difference between a mere absence of government and a state of nature. A state of nature is a non-historical setup where there are no rules to coordinate conduct. If people find themselves in a state of nature, their first obligation is to set up the right kind of social institutions.

          • murali284

            Sorry pressed submit too soon. In principle, there is no reason why there cannot be social rules without government. For example, if there are only two people on an island, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of reason why they should set up a government. Yet, they will need some rules to coordinate conduct. Does this necessarily require full blown property rights? I don’t think so

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            In the context of Locke/Nozick’s argument here, an objective standard is required. Improving a resource (e.g. growing crops) indirectly helps others, and this is part of the justification for original appropriation

          • murali284

            growing crops is only one kind of thing that people may do with previously unowned resources. I might for example, extract resin from a tree to make this horrible ugly hateful sculpture which objectively has no value*. Are you arguing that anyone can permissibly destroy this statue?
            *That it lacks objective value may be difficult to prove, but no harder IMHO to prove than the notion that growing crops has objective value. It is however, just as easy to assert.

          • JSebastian

            “So are we objectivists or subjectivists about value? I thought most libertarians were the latter.”

            Well, most libertarians are Objectivists, in recognition of the tradition of objective examination of human systems, as posited originally by Ayn Rand. And thus being objective about value leads one to the determination that value as a calculation is necessarily going to be subjective, meaning to the whims of the market participants and the laws of economics. Not to quibble….its just that it seems to me that we confuse the point a bit if we switch labels just for the sake of convenience.

            Hence when he makes the point about there not being a market for pee-water, it simply is in recognition of the fact that the value of something is indeed subjective, meaning that it is based on the relative intensity of desire to acquire the resource as expressed in a bid or other price signal. Improved land offers more attraction than unimproved land, with the necessary caveat that the improvements might be of varying value depending on who the buyer is.

            As another example, if you provide irrigation for agriculture on an empty parcel but the buyer just wants to graze cattle on it, the improvements actually have negative value – that is, they detract from the utility that the buyer wishes to extract from the parcel, and thus detract from the price that the buyer is willing to offer.

        • murali284

          I really doubt you want to go endorsing a labour theory of value.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I don’t see how I have. Perhaps you could elaborate further.

          • murali284

            Aren’t you saying that mixing your labour with unowned resources makes those unowned resources yours because mixing your labour creates stuff of value?

          • good_in_theory

            I think the implication would be that only those instances of labor making which are adjudged to have created value confer property rights. That doesn’t require a crude labor theory of value, it requires a theory in which labor can be a cause of changes in value. Whether the source of that change is labor per se or (subjective) judgements about the effects of labor is open.

            It remains a labor theory of property, however, which has its own problems, alongside the problems in turning subjective and partial judgements into a standard.

          • murali284

            If the only instances of labour mixing that create property rights are those which create value, what about things created which don’t have value? The kind of property rights his account justifies is not a private property regime.
            If he wants to rest the justification of acquisition via labour mixing on value creation, he has to claim that all labour mixing creates value and that is just LTV.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            It creates value by improving the property. It is not entirely a subjective standard of value because the person who transformed the resource thinks it is an improvement, and would pay something to preserve it in its transformed condition.

            I’m not saying that Nozick’s theory is trouble free, but I see its competitors as having far more problems. Try providing an account of how property comes to be owned in common or collectively.

          • murali284

            It is not entirely a subjective standard of value because the person who transformed the resource thinks it is an improvement, and would pay something to preserve it in its transformed condition.

            That is a subjective standard of value, but let’s leave that aside.

            Try providing an account of how property comes to be owned in common or collectively.
            I don’t have to do that because I’m not trying to defend collective property. I’m just criticising one way defending private property. But more importantly, it seems to me that you are confusing origin stories for justification.
            If private property were to be justified, then of course one way in which people could acquire previously unowned resources is by transformation via labour. Hell, even first come first serve would be a quick way to privatise all unowned land. And that would be good because private property regimes are often to the benefit of the worst off.
            But mixing your labour is not what makes it justified. The mere fact that private property is formed by acquiring it from previously unowned resources via labour does not imply that the labour justifies such acquisition.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            No, first come/first served is vulnerable to the claim that all private property is unjust because non-original appropriators were denied the chance to initially acquire, and become “first come” is a matter of brute luck. The Locke/Nozick formulation requires that “enough and as good” be left for others, either in unclaimed resources or the economic virtues of private property. Moreover, it vindicates redistribution is extreme cases where Nozick’s “historical shadow” is triggered. “First come” does not have these virtues.

          • murali284

            As a matter of fact in private property regimes latecomers have it better than first appropriators. Latecomers don’t have to deal with setting up the relevant infrastructure, uncertain property rights etc etc etc.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I accept this as an empirical fact, at least as a generalization, but I don’t think it does much if any philosophical work. What if perfectly innocent people are starving under your property regime (“first come” or whatever). Under what rationale, if any, are you planning to violate the property rights you have created?

          • murali284

            I also think that people have obligations to create and support social institutions that prevent people from starving and that the obligation to create, administer and abide by working property regimes is part of this obligation. If this turns out to require taxation by the state then the state is justified and the portion owed in taxes is not something which the first movers have a right to.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            If you will re-read your earlier comments, you will see that you are shifting ground. You first started out criticizing the labor mixing theory as an implausible justification of private property. As far as I can see, you have offered no better, more plausible alternative. Now you are introducing new moral theories, without foundation, as to people’s “obligations” to do various things. Where the hell do these come from? How do you plan to integrate/balance them with whatever property rights are created by “first come” or whatever. As far as I can tell, Nozick’s Lockean justification of private property is far superior to yours. But feel free to keep trying.

          • murali284

            I start from somewhere roughly Rawlsian, which for all its problems, is still better than the Lockean justification of property.

          • good_in_theory

            I’m not sure it makes much sense to talk about property rights in things with no value. If they aren’t valued who is going to claim or defend a property right in them?

            I don’t see why you think a labor theory of property with the constraint that such labor mixing create value requires the LTV. Labor’s ability to create value doesn’t mean labor is the source of value, it can mean it is something which enables the creation of value by something else.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            What I’m not saying is that labor is the only factor of production, so you are off base here, just as much as your earlier comment about pissing into the sea creating ownership of it.

          • murali284

            Whether labour is the only factor of production doesn’t matter. The question is whether any labour creates or contributes to the creation of value or not. And you must assert the latter in order for your argument to go through. The latter is problematic enough as it is.

          • good_in_theory

            What is problematic about labor contributing to the creation of value? One thing people value is (some) changes in the state of the world. One means of producing changes in the world is the exertion of energy towards the accomplishment of a goal (labor). Ergo labor contributes to the creation of value.

          • murali284

            Not all labour produces meaningful changes in the state of the world. e.g. digging and refilling ditches in the desert. Lots of labour, very little value. Unless on your account, that doesn’t count as labour at all. If we ordinarily think of a ditch digger as labouring and a ditch filler as labouring then it would be rather odd to think of someone who digs and then fills the same ditch immediately after as not labouring.

          • good_in_theory

            Whether or not all labor creates value doesn’t matter for determining whether “any labor which creates value creates a property right” – or whatever – implies a labor theory of value. And whether or not labor necessarily creates value is just a semantic question which is not relevant to this question.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Of course I assert that labor creates value. Who the hell doesn’t accept this. Why you think this commits me to the labor theory of value is beyond me.

          • murali284

            I don’t think its obvious that labour always creates objective value. Firstly, its because it is difficult to establish that anything does have objective value and if anything does which particular things do.
            Secondly, even on the matter of subjective value, I can think of some labour that doesn’t create anything that I value. I can also think of labour that doesn’t create things that anyone values.

          • good_in_theory

            I don’t think anyone is arguing labor always creates value. ‘Labor creates value’ is not equivalent to ‘all labor always creates value’.

          • murali284

            Or to put it another way, if what you’re saying is that mixing your labour with an unowned resource legitimately appropriates it only when doing so creates some value, then those instances of labour mixing which don’t create value are not legitimate instances of appropriation. In which case, you don’t have a private property system, but a weird quasi communist system in which the right to your property in previously unowned resources is subject to revocation if the thing you create is deemed valueless.

        • Theresa Klein

          Improvement by itself doesn’t make ownership either. You also have to be capable of exerting some control over it.

          Even if some Englishman in 1500 had magical piss that made the sea produce more fish, he wouldn’t be able to keep the Chinese from fishing out of it.

          What the Englishman owns is, perhaps, his fishing boat, along with the catch that he takes through his own labor.
          But, you say, that would lead to overfishing, trajedy of the commons, etc.

          Which is where we get to the property right arguments. Who controls the sea? Why the local authorities who have the boats with the guns in them. So the local authorities get to decide who gets to fish. Fair enough. But what makes their decisions just?
          The local authorities could decide to hand exclusive fishing rights to Baron Fishmonger. But nobody would says “Well, THAT’s fair!” Alternatively, the local government could say “everyone gets an equal share of all fish caught”. But then people who actually did the fishing wouldn’t get anything extra for their effort. Or, still more alternatively, all the local fishmen in the area could form their own self-defense association, and create time slots during which X number of people are allowed to fish at any one time, and then divvy them up according to who is contributing most to the mutual defense of the fishing grounds.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I agree. In my short comment, “improvement” was intended to imply “control.” If you homestead one acre you don’t automatically get ownership over the surrounding 10,000 undeveloped acres, because you did not improve them. As I said to someone else, Nozick’s theory of just original appropriation is not without issues, but I think the competitors are far worse.

          • Theresa Klein

            Agreed. Original appropriation has issues, but it at least entails a fairly simple universal principle that can be equally applied to everyone. I havn’t ever heard any alternative that could be articulated in a sentance or two. Except maybe “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” And we all know how THAt turned out.

    • good_in_theory

      Well that won’t help because Lockean and Rothbardian homesteading principles are ridiculous.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        “Lockean…homesteading principles are ridiculous.” Wow, what a powerful argument. I cover this is some depth in Chapter 2 of my book Nozick’s Libertarian Project: An Elaboration and Defense. Why don’t you check it out from your local library, and then tell me where I go wrong.

        • good_in_theory

          Oh, yes, much more compelling that “this intuition is so strong to me.”

          Given how quickly you slip into the dogmatic assertion of what seems intuitively correct to you I don’t think I’ll be picking up your book.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Look, genius, I don’t give a damn whether you read my book. But you troll this site with “libertarian” in its name 24/7, and spout off about everything. So you should have read ASU by now. If you did, then you must have at least a rudimentary understanding of Nozick’s argument for original appropriation via homesteading. So in place of your brilliant “ridiculous” comment you should have offered an argument against it.

            On the other hand, if you haven’t read ASU, then given the time you have invested here, you are just a clown, and nobody should take you at all seriously. You pick.

          • Libertymike

            Unsportsmanlike conduct, No. g_i_t, 15 yards from the previous spot.

          • good_in_theory

            As if a tool like you had any standing to comment about unsportsmanlike conduct.

        • murali284

          You know, at least where I live, it is really difficult to get any halfway decent book on political philosophy from public libraries.

  • Brendon Bessette

    Jason, could your argument be put another way? Here’s my idea:

    The NAP fails as a basis for libertarianism because it can actually justify any ideology, not just libertarianism. It depends on what one considers “aggression.”

    • Jason Brennan

      Yes, great!

      • Libertymike

        Argument fail as it depends upon a frivolous premise, namely, that the “aggression” exhibited by an adult entertainer in keeping all of her earnings which were obtained by consensual, voluntary exchange is the same thing as the aggression manifested by jack booted IRS / DEA / ATF thugs using violence to break down a person’s doors, shoot her dogs and ransack her home.

        • Jason Brennan

          Mike, it’s not that hard.

          What counts as aggression depends upon who is entitled to what. A typical libertarian isn’t going to call it aggression when I lock my car door, because it’s my car.

          The thing that the socialist and libertarian dispute is not whether aggression is good or bad, but who is aggressing against whom.

          The Marxist thinks that when the workers seize the means of production, this is equivalent to me taking my wallet back from a thief.

          So, you have to debate them on the question of who owns what, not on the question of aggression.

          Anyone who is convinced of libertarians by the NAP is just confused. I have decisively refuted the argument, and there is no room for reasonable disagreement in this case.

          • Libertymike

            Jason, no.
            It is fantasy land to argue that libertarians and statists are in agreement as to whether aggression is good or bad. Thus, you position fails as a matter of fact and is constructed upon a false premise. It also violates Hoppe’s Argumentative Ethics as your false premise is a performative contradiction.
            You are assuming that all statists, i.e., socialists, progressives, democrats, republicans, Marxists, agree that aggression is bad. Some do, others not so much. Lincoln did not think so. Sherman did not think so. Custer did not think so. Chivington did not think so. Bear Coat Miles did not think so. Teddy Roosevelt did not think so. Hearst did not think so. Hoover did not think so. Wilson did not think so. FDR did not think so. Janet Reno did not think so.
            On the other hand, you are also assuming that all statists view the question of whether the initiation of violence is acceptable through the lens of who owns what. Such an assumption is manifestly untethered to reality. There are socialists who are nauseated and pained by paramilitary pussies breaking into a leaseholder’s dwelling at 4 AM in order to execute a search warrant the contents of which specify that, according to a “confidential informant”, mary jane may be there.

          • Jason Brennan

            Please re-read my posts. Your criticism doesn’t make sense.

            People, I’m just straight up right about this.

          • Phil

            Argumentation Ethics? I argue with you, therefore Anarcho-capitalism. Oh, well done. Case closed.

  • David Blau

    The author has a point here — the NAP must be combined with some theory of property ownership. Without knowing who owns a piece of property, it’s impossible to define aggression against ownership interest. If the government or corporations own everything, then an individual has no property right to lose by definition. Most libertarians I know are some flavor of capitalist, and believe in strong private property rights.

    However, simply because the NAP is incomplete as a theory doesn’t mean it’s impotent. The NAP is necessary to libertarian theory, but not sufficient, in the same way that every large ship has to have a captain AND an engineer — the two complement each other. It would be easy to formulate a legal theory on the basis of might-makes-right capitalism, where the biggest corporations are entitled to more and better property rights by virtue of their aggression. But the consequences of this theory would be dire, so I think the NAP is better.

  • Jameson Graber

    Holy crap, how do these threads explode so fast? Does Brennan get paid by the comment? If so, he’s a genius.

    • Sean II

      Isn’t there an old timey con-job that involves something similar?

      As I recall…two grifters go into a town and one does something clearly calculated to offend the sensibilities of the people. Maybe he denounces motherhood, apple pie, college football, or if it happens to inflame the particular crowd, Murray Rothbard, “taxes = theft”, non-aggression.

      That sets the stage for the other grifter to come in and very publicly give him a what for, thereby becoming a hero to the locals. As I figure it, this means we should all be very suspicious of…

      • Jameson Graber

        “As I figure it, this means we should all be very suspicious of…”
        …you?

        • Sean II

          Uh-oh. Begging your pardon sir, I have to flee now…

  • Sean II

    “A statist might say the following, ‘I believe in the NAP. That’s why it’s imperative that you pay your taxes…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.”

    It’s a small point, but a very important one: most modern statists do not, in fact, make the argument you’re using here. It’s an argument they could make, but it’s not one they typically do.

    Most statists simply evade the fact that taxes are collected coercively. That is, they don’t even see the violence involved in the taxing process. To them the NAP would seem like a big, non-trivial revelation…if you could get them to sit still long enough to understand how tax collection really works.

    Others statists are perfectly happy to accept the validity of your ownership over your income, they just don’t give a shit. They understand aggression is required to collect taxes, and they don’t mind that one bit. They believe the money is yours today, ours tomorrow…because, you know, how else could we have roads. To them, the NAP would seem like a revelation.

    So the statist you imagine, the one who strikes at the root of property rights, isn’t very common. We’re talking maybe a handful of intellectuals here. For most statists who actually exist the NAP is both a) big news to them, and b) capable of doing great violence to the arguments.

    • Libertymike

      Your post illustrates the point which I make above and have been making at BHL: formal training in philosophy is not necessarily an advantage in argumentation / debate.
      Jason should understand that, in order for his argument to carry the day, one must abandon the meaning of aggression and instead regard it as a sort Rorschach test. In addition, as I posted above, his argument is also premised upon a false equivalence.

  • JP Martindale

    But it surely seems too strong to suppose that in every instance in which a person has a right that a given ‘resource’ be used in a certain manner, the violation of that right can be plausibly construed in terms of the language of aggression. Suppose somebody (A) has fallen face first into a shallow puddle and is unable to get up. They will hence drown unless a passerby (B) undertakes the very minor effort of rolling them out of it. Now it is at least not totally implausible that somebody might suppose, in this situation, that A has some kind of right over B’s body such that B’s body be used to rescue A, in that force could be used to make B perform that particular A-saving action (perhaps by another person C who is present and armed, but for whatever reason incapacitated and hence incapable of undertaking the rescue themselves). But it surely implausible to read B’s not so acting and continuing on with their walk as an act of aggression against A – aggression seems to imply some notion of active interference with the conduct of another, and that form of expression doesn’t seem a reasonable way of construing the rights violating action here. (J Narveson, if I remember correctly, makes a similar observation somewhere in here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1009749215043#page-1)

    So at worst, the NAP would arguably succeed in ruling out some alternative rights claims to the extent that these cannot reasonably be made consistent with some notion of non-interference. But regarding those doctrines that are least prima-facie compatible with the concept of their non-aggressive enforcement, the point of the underlying rights theory is surely to show that one particular concept of ‘interference’ with another is in some sense more fundamental than other concepts (in the cases of disputes over property with a labor mixer and non-labor mixer, perhaps the first has actively assimilated a resource into their long terms plans in a way that the latter hasn’t or such like), so that a real acceptance of the validity of the NAP should commit one henceforth to accepting particular rights claims insofar as one finds these more convincingly tied to the idea of significant non-interference than alternative rights claims (even if these rights claims turned out to have other undesirable costs, e.g. inequality or community breakdown, which might in the absence of one’s belief in their plausible construal as consistent with non-aggression lead to one’s rejecting them in favour of alternative claims)

  • Jay_Z

    NAP fails for me because:

    1) I view all property ownership as coercive, but
    2) I understand property ownership is a useful tool, and I expect people to make use of it.

    I understand people and animals acting in their own survival interests. But in the larger universe, those actions aren’t really morally good. They are morally neutral. Whether you improved the land that you fenced off or not, you’re primarily doing it for your survival benefit and not others. Others may even be harmed if you use too much of a resource. Claiming property is always coercive to the larger world.

    So what happens when a human being is born into this world, and they wonder why they can’t freely claim unused property very easily, because all of the good stuff is tied up and protected with guns? Well they could try to claim it, but that way lies violent anarchy. I do think the safety net and other social programs that help the less fortunate are a tradeoff against property claims. You don’t have those programs, it’s harder to defend your property ownership as anything but a violent taking. You do have those programs, it’s a recognition that individualistic property ownership is a fact of life, but we’ll provide this aid as a counterbalance.

  • YesAndNo

    So then define aggression. If being forced to do something *against your will* is not aggression, then what is? If money being taken from you against your will isn’t aggression, then why do you consider theft to be aggression?

    Sure, you can disagree on what counts as aggression… but I think you’ll find it hard to come up with a definition of aggression that treats theft and taxes differently.

    • good_in_theory

      As you’ve stated it, you’ll have trouble coming up with a definition of “aggression” that treats theft and repossession of stolen property differently. And if you modify it such that ‘aggression’ is only ‘unjustified taking against someone’s will’ then the question of ‘justified vs unjustified holding’ remains. ‘Who owns what’ and how that ownership cashes itself out remains the question.

  • Rachel

    As well as Brennan has presented this, this point has been made on the Wiki page on the NAP for a long time. It says, “NAP and property rights are closely linked, since what aggression is depends on what a person’s rights are.” That is cited to Stephan Kinsella, whom you guys probably have heard of.

  • JesseForgione

    Brennen has got things reversed. Libertarian property theory is derived from non-aggression, not the other way around. And the NAP/property is presupposed by any form of peaceful cooperation.

    Inasmuch as we interact peacefully, i.e., by agreement rather than as a contest of force, we do not bring scarce goods, including human bodies, into physical conflict.

    The first user of a scarce physical good does not bring it into conflict, i.e., he does not take it from anyone by force.

    The second (would be) user can either leave it alone, persuade the first user to give it up voluntarily, or resort to a contest of force.

    And any argument for resorting to a contest of force rather than reasoned agreement is self-contradictory, since argumentation appeals to the other’s voluntary agreement. (If you’re gonna shoot, shoot, don’t talk.) That means that there can be no rational argument for theories of property which are not based on non-aggression.

    • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

      “And any argument for resorting to a contest of force rather than reasoned agreement is self-contradictory, since argumentation appeals to the other’s voluntary agreement.”

      How is an argument for resorting to force self-contradictory? Walk me through it slowly, because I’ve never understood Argumentation Ethics.

      • JesseForgione

        Well first I just want to point out that the rest of what I said does not rely on that point. The NAP would still define peaceful interaction, and the first-user theory of property rights would still follow from it, even if arguing did not also have to presuppose it.

        Basically, when I make some normative argument to persuade you of the justice or injustice of some conclusion, I am trying to persuade you to agree. It would be nonsensical to argue to you that your agreement in the matter was not required. An argument presupposes peace and the choice to interact by agreement rather than as a contest of force.

        • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

          “The NAP would still define peaceful interaction, and the first-user theory of property rights would still follow from it, even if arguing did not also have to presuppose it.”

          I’m not so sure. Being the first user would certainly not violate NAP, but I’m not sure from NAP alone you can turn natural resources into your own property.

          “Basically, when I make some normative argument to persuade you of the justice or injustice of some conclusion, I am trying to persuade you to agree.”

          Maybe sometimes. But you could just be trying to prove you’re right, regardless of whether or not the opponent agrees or disagrees. You also might just be searching for the truth of the matter, unconcerned about whether your opponent accepts it.

          “An argument presupposes peace and the choice to interact by agreement rather than as a contest of force.”

          I’m not so sure. I don’t see why a kidnapper and his victim cannot have a legitimate argument while the victim is captive.

          Maybe an argument, by your definition, presupposes peace for the duration of the argument, but not forever afterward. A statist could say, “We ought to have peace and the choice to interact by agreement for the duration of this argument, but we ought to force people to pay taxes in April next year.”

          Also, suppose you are right, then doesn’t that rule out private property? A proponent of private property thinks using force to defend private property claims is legitimate, while an opponent denies this. So, by your reasoning, one cannot consistently argue for private property.

          Here are several critiques of argumentation ethics:

          http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/12/hoppes-argumentation-ethics-argument-refuted-in-under-60-seconds/

          http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/On_Hoppe.html

          http://www.anti-state.com/article.php?article_id=311

          http://praxeology.net/unblog05-04.htm#10

          • JesseForgione

            The key concept is scarcity. So first imagine Caruso and Friday living in Paradise where all desired goods exist in super-abundance. There can be no conflict, with only two exceptions. There would still be scarcity of each person’s physical body, and the precise space in which he stands.

            So even in Paradise, avoiding physical conflict would mean that each is the owner of his body.

            Now in the real world, many goods are scarce and potentially rivalrous. So avoiding conflict means we have property in those as well.

            If Caruso sets a physical object to some purpose (say he puts out a fishing net, or plants some strawberries), and if Friday wants to set these scarce goods to a purpose of his own, he (Friday) can either persuade Caruso to give them up voluntarily, or he can simply override Caruso’s use, bringing the goods into physical conflict.

            The fact that property is the alternative to physical conflict is true, even before we make any normative claims as to whether one ought to choose peace over conflict.

            Regarding argumentation, it’s not that arguing means you can’t later resort to aggression. The point is that the argument itself appeals to the other’s voluntary agreement.

            If you were some dictator, you might very well start by arguing, and then end up imposing socialism on people. But it would still be the case that no argument for socialism could ever be consistent.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            “Now in the real world, many goods are scarce and potentially rivalrous. So avoiding conflict means we have property in those as well.”

            But property does not avoid conflict. Perhaps you could argue that it decreases the total amount of conflict and therefore we ought to have property rights, but then you’re arguing for property on consequentialist grounds, not deontological grounds.

            “If you were some dictator, you might very well start by arguing, and then end up imposing socialism on people. But it would still be the case that no argument for socialism could ever be consistent.”

            Socialism is a system in which the means of production are owned in common. I fail to see how an argument for it is inconsistent.

          • JesseForgione

            It’s not just that property tends to avoid conflict, as though these were two separate things, but rather property is avoiding physical conflict.

            That is, the word for “not overriding each other’s use of scarce goods by physical force,” is “property.”

            That’s why an argument for socialism (which involves physically overriding others’ use of scarce goods) cannot be consistent and remain an argument as such (rather than say, a threat).

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            Capitalism also overrides others’ use of scarce goods, if the owner owns a huge plot of land, and there’s no land in the area left for a poor person to use or live on. The owner threatens the poor person with force, pointing his gun and saying, “Stay off this land!”

          • JesseForgione

            So like with any other scarce good, the question would be “who is overriding whom.” Each man wants to use the good (in this case the land) for something different.

            The first person to set it to some use did not override anyone else to do so. The second person to come along can either persuade the first user to give up the good voluntarily, or he can bring it into conflict by overriding the first user.

            It would be wrong to describe the first user as creating a conflict with all potential future would-be users, and even if we presupposed that framework, it would immediately open the second user up to the third user and so on, making conflict permanent.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            Most philosophers think homesteading without a fair share constraint is unjust. From stanford encyclopedia of philosophy:

            “A main objection to this view is that no human agent created natural resources, and there is no reason that the lucky person who first claims rights over a natural resource should reap all the benefit that the resource provides. Nor is there any reason to think the individuals are morally permitted to ruin or monopolize natural resources as they please. Some sort of fair share condition restricts use and appropriation.”

            If you think you can prove libertarianism using simple logic and definitions, I’d love to hear the argument, because I have yet to be convinced. Set up the argument like this, so I can tell which premise I disagree with, if any:
            (1)…
            (2)…
            (3)…
            (4) Therefore, libertarianism.

          • JesseForgione

            There are really two points for me to prove in that case: first, that private property is the logical alternative to physical conflict, and second, that avoiding conflict is in fact preferable (leads to more desirable consequences).

            The first I think I’ve shown above, unless you have another objection.

            The second is economics. A peaceful society of private property allows for trade and production, economic calculation, and ultimately more responsible, efficient, and beneficial use of resources than one that is subject to violation by some monopolistic authority that doesn’t bear the costs of its own actions.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            I think we might be in agreement about a lot. I am a consequentialist, so I think we ought to do what has the best consequences (I interpret this as maximum total happiness and minimum total suffering). I also think that some form property rights are a very good way, probably the best way to achieve the best consequences. But this doesn’t necessarily rule out government taxation, if this helps to achieve the best consequences. Maybe government is more harm than good, in which case I agree, let’s get rid of it.

            But you started out by trying to prove a deontological argument. That libertarianism is the only self-consistent political philosophy, and that socialism is inconsistent. You didn’t reference consequences in those arguments, and I don’t see how those arguments work. I’m not disputing your conclusion, that libertarianism is the best system.

          • JesseForgione

            So the way I think of deontology and consequentialism is not as two opposing viewpoints or competing priorities, but as two levels of analysis, which ultimately conform to each other.

            In other words, getting things right in principle is the way to get desirable consequences. (And in a sense, defining the good as “desirable consequences” or “maximum happiness” is already a deontological rule.)

            An analogy might be how the way to get the correct answers to math problems is to rely on sound mathematical principles. We would never ask “are you someone who tries to do math correctly, or someone who tries to get accurate answers?”

            It’s the same with ethics, and the same with economics.

            Every actor is aiming (either well or poorly) at his own increased happiness. In order to be more successful, he needs knowledge of the nature of his existence, which requires him to value truth, reason, purpose, etc..

            The beginning of civilization is when two actors recognize the value of peaceful cooperation to mutual benefit, as opposed to conflict over scarce goods.

            Agreeing to peaceful cooperation means not taking things by force. Within the context of peace, we can have trade, division of labor, specialization, economic calculation, and a capital structure too complex for anyone to comprehend.

            Every instance of aggression (in this context: overriding property owners by force) not only introduces conflict, but breaks down the system of trade, prices, and productive incentives, and replaces it with one-sided confiscation, economic chaos (incalculability of profit and loss), and moral hazard (as the users of resources do not bear the costs of their own decisions).

          • JesseForgione

            And the more aggression there is, especially the institutionalized aggression of statism, the more civilization itself is broken down, and the further we descend into violence and chaos. Some of the best (worst) examples were seen in the 20th Century.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            I think we agree on principles then. We are both consequentialists. You are convinced that anarcho-capitalism is the system that plausibly leads to the best consequences. I am somewhat agnostic, because of my lack of knowledge about economics and history. But I find the consequentialist defenses of anarcho-capitalism made by people like David Friedman somewhat convincing.

          • JesseForgione

            I think that would be a misinterpretation of my position. I don’t think people like Friedman have very strong arguments for anarcho-capitalism, and the reason is that they don’t understand the underlying principles of why it works.

            My position is that the moral is the practical, and those principles are derived from the very nature of human action.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            Now you’ve lost me. You can’t derive an Ought from an Is. So, you can’t derive moral principles from positive facts about human nature without a hidden moral premise somewhere. I’m curious what that hidden moral premise is.

            Friedman argues that in an AnCap society, it is plausible to think that people will overall be better off, or get more of what they want and of better quality. I think his arguments are strong because, obviously, people want what they want (that’s a tautology), so obviously people will favor whatever system gets them what they want.

            The moral theory that I think is true is hedonistic utilitarianism, which states that we ought to maximize total enjoyment and minimize total suffering. Obviously since we are not omniscient, we need to come up with good rules of thumb that by following, we can best approximate maximizing utility.

            What moral theory do you think is true? Natural rights? Rational Egoism? Contractarianism? Contractualism? Divine Command Theory? Something else?

            As in, finish this sentence: We ought to…
            Or this sentence: The right action is that which…
            Or this one: The wrong action is that which…

          • JesseForgione

            I’m not trying to be mysterious, so the short answer is that I’m a rational egoist, but I don’t agree that it’s a hidden moral premise.

            “You can’t derive an Ought from an Is. ”

            That depends on your conception of “ought.” You certainly cannot derive some Moral Commandment the Universe, or Platonic Good, or Categorical Imperative. But we can easily derive conditional “oughts” such as “if you want to keep living, given the specific nature of your existence, you ought to breath air and drink water, and avoid the reverse.”

            When we consider the nature of human action, we see that action, as such, aims at the actor’s increased happiness and well-being, though not always successfully. Action must presuppose knowledge about the world in which one acts, and such things as causality and one’s own ability to affect outcomes.

            All of an actor’s subjectively valued ends toward which he commits means, are themselves ranked ordinally by the degree of happiness he expects to derive from them. Every actor is the source of his own values, and his own happiness is the original purpose of all his actions.

            The kind of values that are derived from being an actor with a specific physical nature are things like truth, reason, purpose, self-esteem, etc., and all kinds of secondary contextual values which follow from those.

            So I wouldn’t just say “We ought to…” but rather the conditional statement: “If I care for my own life and happiness (and living and acting shows that I do), then I ought to consider the real nature of my existence, and act according to principles that are consistent with the successful achievement of my happiness.”

            (All of that is still a separate argument from the earlier one about the NAP, which applies specifically to interpersonal interactions, and defines peaceful society as opposed to violent conflict.)

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            “I’m not trying to be mysterious, so the short answer is that I’m a rational egoist.”

            That’s reasonable. As a utilitarian, I have no good argument against an egoist. I simply believe that my well-being is as valuable as that of anyone else, so I believe we ought to promote everyone’s well-being. I understand completely those who reject this and say one’s well-being is only valuable to oneself.

            “But we can easily derive conditional “oughts” such as “if you want to keep living, given the specific nature of your existence, you ought to breath air and drink water, and avoid the reverse.” ”

            You still need a hidden ought to derive that conditional. The ought you need is: “You ought to get what you want.”

            I wouldn’t necessarily accept that premise as it is. But I could accept the following amended version: “Other morally relevant things being equal, you ought to get what you want.”

          • JesseForgione

            ‘You still need a hidden ought to derive that conditional. The ought you need is: “You ought to get what you want.”‘

            But there are no intrinsic “oughts” outside of human values. All value presupposes a valuer, and “oughts” presuppose an end purpose.

            So I would say even if we assume some other theory of ethics to be true, the only sensible formulation would still be: “if you intend to be ethical, then you ought to…”

            I promote the wellbeing of others because, and to the extent that, I value them. That might sound like a “selfish” way to put it, but that is genuine benevolence, as opposed to resentful obligation.

            I highly doubt that you would consider:
            “The death toll on the battle field previously thought to be 10,000, was in fact 11,000″
            …to be worse news than:
            “One of your loved ones has died in an accident.”

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            “But there are no intrinsic “oughts” outside of human values. All value presupposes a valuer, and “oughts” presuppose an end purpose.”

            I agree with one interpretation of this. As in, a universe with no valuing life has nothing good or bad in it. It is completely value-neutral. However, I think enjoyment and suffering are objectively valuable, in the sense that they are valuable whether they are wanted or not. If someone is confused and wants to suffer (i don’t mean wants to feel pain like a masochist might, but i mean wants to have overall bad experience), that does not make suffering good in my view. When he suffers, it will still feel bad (since by my definition suffering is experience that feels bad).

            “So I would say even if we assume some other theory of ethics to be true, the only sensible formulation would still be: “if you intend to be ethical, then you ought to…”

            I agree somewhat. It seems like the only way someone could be motivated to be ethical is if he had the intention or inclination to be ethical. Some abstract proposition (you ought to…) won’t motivate him by itself.

            “I promote the wellbeing of others because, and to the extent that, I value them. That might sound like a “selfish” way to put it, but that is genuine benevolence, as opposed to resentful obligation.”

            No, that is perfectly sensible. Egoists and utilitarians will in a lot of cases favor the same actions, because, for those of us who have empathy, it increases our own happiness when we increase that of others.

            “I highly doubt that you would consider:”The death toll on the battle field previously thought to be 10,000, was in fact 11,000″
            …to be worse news than:
            “One of your loved ones has died in an accident.” ”

            It depends on your definition of ‘worse’. From a disinterested, unbiased point of view, the former is worse. But the latter will probably have a greater negative effect on me and my own happiness.

          • JesseForgione

            “However, I think enjoyment and suffering are objectively valuable, in the sense that they are valuable whether they are wanted or not. If someone is confused and wants to suffer, that does not make suffering good in my view.”

            I agree with that completely. But that’s why I’m a rational egoist, and not a relativist or moral nihilist.

            The part I disagree with is

            “From a disinterested, unbiased point of view, the former is worse.”

            From a disinterested point of view, neither would be worse. In fact, neither would matter at all. But there is no such Platonic point of view anyway. Even if we imagine “God’s point of view,” it would still be only his values, not mine or yours.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            “From a disinterested point of view, neither would be worse. In fact, neither would matter at all. But there is no such Platonic point of view anyway. Even if we imagine “God’s point of view,” it would still be only his values, not mine or yours.”

            Maybe you use the words in a different way, but I use ‘objectively valuable’ to mean valuable independent of evaluative attitudes. So when I say enjoyment is objectively good and suffering is objectively bad, I mean they are good and bad independent of what you, I, or God values (likes, dislikes, wants, etc.). In my view, a greater amount of suffering in the world is always worse than a lesser amount, whether or not I know it’s happening or feel personally affected.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            How do you know that pleasure is objectively good and suffering objectively bad? You’re not relying on that horrible thing called intuition, are you?

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            Who said intuition is horrible? The intuition I get when I consider the truth of a tautology or the falsity of a contradiction seems reliable. I am skeptical of the faculty people call ‘moral intuition’ by which we supposedly perceive value, independent of our evaluative attitudes, out in the external world, either in actions or states of affairs. I find arguments from disagreement and evolutionary arguments fairly compelling.

            On the other hand, when I introspect my own experience, I am directly aware of two phenomenal qualities, pleasantness and unpleasantness of mental states, which are irreducibly normative. That is, I cannot give a full description or account of, say, the experience of agony (in normal conditions) without invoking value terms. In my view, this unpleasantness just IS badness (pro tanto badness, not necessarily all-things-considered badness).

            I believe that whether or not an experience of mine has the phenomenal quality of unpleasantness is ontologically (though not necessarily causally) independent of my evaluative attitudes regarding this experience, since I believe that judging or evaluating the experience as unpleasant is not a necessary condition of the experience being unpleasant. I believe it is metaphysically possible for a being without evaluative attitudes, or incapable of making evaluative judgments, to suffer. I say “believe” because I’m not sure that I know these things (I certainly don’t know that I know).

            If you want to include introspecting normative qualia as a form of using moral intuition, then I think that form is reliable. But then moral intuitionism risks becoming extensionally equivalent to moral realism, and we wouldn’t really need separate categories anymore. I’m not quite sure that I “know” pleasure to be objectively good and suffering objectively bad, although I do know that I experience pleasantness and unpleasantness, and these experiences are pro tanto good and bad. If I were convinced that the pleasantness and unpleasantness of experience is ontologically dependent on evaluative attitudes, then i guess I would cross the line into antirealism, but not in any interesting sense like, say, constructivism or relativism.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            This: I am skeptical of the faculty people call ‘moral intuition’ by which we supposedly perceive value, independent of our evaluative attitudes, out in the external world, either in actions or states of affairs. I find arguments from disagreement and evolutionary arguments fairly compelling is extremely puzzling. You don’t seem to think that our reactions to pain/pleasure have a much more obvious evolutionary explanation. Really?

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            “You don’t seem to think that our reactions to pain/pleasure have a much more obvious evolutionary explanation. Really?”

            No, I’m sure they do. I’m not sure what you’re point is here. I’m not saying anything about the origin of pleasant and unpleasant mental states.

            “Also, the fact that you describe the pain/pleasure evaluation in introspective terms and the other as involving judgments about “external” affairs has nothing to do with the reliability of the moral judgments. One can easily meditate on the abstract idea of innocent people being murdered, and have exactly the same type of evaluative attitude, in deontological terms (e.g. Kant).”

            The difference to me is that the badness of innocent people being murdered is intuited (either when perceiving or thinking about such an event), while the phenomenal unpleasantness of certain episodes of experience is experienced as a quale. I am not meditating on the abstract idea of certain of my experiences being unpleasant, but rather I am directly experiencing them as such. In my view, unpleasantness is a quale like redness.

            “Finally, I deny that your “evaluative attitude” is anormative attitude. The fact that you or most people find something pleasurable does not make it good, even pro tanto. Most people prefer watching cage fighting to watching Shakespeare’s plays. I don’t see how it therefore follows at all that cage-fighting is better than Shakespeare from the moral perspective. I don’t think you have actually provided any argument for the claim that pleasure is good in the moral sense of that term.”

            Here you are misunderstanding my view. My view is not that, if most people tend to find experience of some external thing X pleasurable, then X is good. My view is that the pleasant experience is itself good, not what it is an experience of. The things in the world that cause our experiences are only instrumentally valuable. You really don’t think a pleasant mental state is pro tanto good? As in, other morally relevant things being equal, you don’t think having a pleasant mental state is better than not having one. And other morally relevant things being equal, you don’t think having an unpleasant mental state is worse than not having one? And the experience of pleasantness and unpleasantness of mental states provide pro tanto reasons for action, pursuing and avoiding respectively. Even a deontologist can accept the following proposition, though some ascetic types might deny it: Other morally relevant things being equal, we ought to pursue pleasant mental states and avoid unpleasant ones.

            “all scientific, mathematical and logical propositions, even the most basic, are subject to ongoing dispute, so unless you want to give up on these as well, “arguments” from disagreement are incredibly weak.”

            “Danny Frederick, a frequent and one of the best participants here, will quote you chapter and verse about how all scientific, mathematical and logical propositions, even the most basic, are subject to ongoing dispute, so unless you want to give up on these as well, “arguments” from disagreement are incredibly weak.”

            I would love to here about all those disagreements to see if they are on the same level as moral disagreements. When many people’s moral intuition tells them that homosexuality, euthanasia, and abortion are immoral and others’ moral intuition do not, there is some serious intuition misfiring going on. I don’t think the argument from disagreement is completely devastating, but I certainly take it more seriously than you, since I don’t put “argument” in quotes.

            “Also, if you ask people to rank different pleasures in terms of value, you would get equally strong, perhaps stronger, disagreements than about basic moral questions, so this part of your argument against deontology also fails.”

            I’m not sure what you’re saying here. When person X and Y are watching cage fighting, and person X says he is receiving 10 hedons of pleasure and person Y says he’s only receiving 2 hedons, that is not a problem for my view. Experiencing phenomena in the world yields different levels of pleasantness and unpleasantness for different people. Again, my view is that intrinsic goodness and badness are properties of mental states, not the things that cause these mental states (these are only instrumentally good or bad).

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Forgive me for not wanting to waste too much more time on this.

            1. You criticize deontological theories on the ground that they intuitions they rely upon are determined by evolution, and then when I point out that your preference for pleasure is probably subject to a much stronger biological bias, you don’t see the point. Then I’m afraid I can’t help you.

            2. Your attempt to distinguish the “experience” of pleasure from the “experience” of moral intuitions doesn’t work. Intuitionists would say that they see that killing the innocent is wrong in the same way they see that 1 + 1 = 2–no further analysis required. Not different in any substantive way than your experience of pleasure.

            3. Yes, as it happens I believe all other thing being equal, pleasure is one (of many) goods. This is NOT an argument for utilitarianism. It is only an argument for pleasure as a good if no other moral considerations are present. How often is that the case? Without begging the question against contrary views, about zero. Pleasure would be a “bad” if it comes at the expense of a another person’s rights, and your observation about pleasure as a quale gives us no reason to believe otherwise.

            4. Many people, if not most, do not derive pleasure, but displeasure from watching cage-fighting. This is where the disagreement is found. Some people might rank cage-fighting as a pleasure, but “1” on a scale of 1-100, while other ranks it at 100. I see no way to resolve these.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            1. I accept that the preference for pleasure has an evolutionary explanation. But I am not using the preference for pleasure as evidence of its goodness. The goodness is in the feeling itself. Suppose all experience were neutral from a hedonistic point of view (no pleasantness or unpleasantness). We would probably still have preferences for some experiences over others due to our evolutionary past.

            2. Here is the difference I see: An intuitionist has an experience (moral intuition) which tells him that some other thing is good. For me, the experience (pleasure) is the thing that’s good. The former is indirect and the latter is direct. It is somewhat like the difference between experiencing an external object like an apple as red versus experiencing the quale of redness. The former is more fallible than the latter.

            3. You misunderstood my point. I never claimed that the pro tanto goodness of pleasure is an argument for utilitarianism or against deontology. I only asked you those questions because you initially denied the pro tanto goodness of pleasure. To get from pro tanto hedonism (pleasure and displeasure are pro tanto good and bad) to hedonistic utilitarianism, you need a lot more premises.

            4. If you have no reason to think that, with respect to the utility of others, one clearly beats the other, then do what will maximize your own utility, which you have a better idea about. Perhaps go with whichever one is most profitable, like any entrepreneur would.

          • JesseForgione

            We value various ends by the degree of happiness we expect to derive from them. So I think the one way it makes sense to call something “objectively valuable” is in the sense that it’s what actually would achieve your happiness, even if you don’t realize it.

            So I might think that shooting heroin will make me happy, but in the long run (due to the specific real nature and facts of my existence), I’ll see that I was wrong, or what is more likely, that I had been evading the knowledge of what the consequences would be.

            But there is no such thing as “value,” independent of any valuer, and there is no Platonic viewpoint from which to give things objective or intrinsic values.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            “But there is no such thing as “value,” independent of any valuer, and there is no Platonic viewpoint from which to give things objective or intrinsic values.”

            I disagree. Imagine a universe with a single mind who has a single episode of experience. Suppose that experience can either be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. I think that the experience being pleasant is objectively and intrinsically better than the other two options, independent of perspective. Even though I, here in our universe, am the one evaluating the three options, I don’t think their value depends on my evaluating them.

          • JesseForgione

            Happiness is objectively better than suffering, almost by definition, since that’s really what “better” means, properly understood.

            But we are still talking about someone’s happiness, and things being better for someone, who is made more, or less, happy.

            It simply isn’t true that you value everyone equally. You value yourself and the people close to you more than strangers, and much more than people you regard as evil.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            “Happiness is objectively better than suffering, almost by definition, since that’s really what “better” means, properly understood.
            But we are still talking about someone’s happiness, and things being better for someone, who is made more, or less, happy.”

            I pretty much agree.

            “It simply isn’t true that you value everyone equally. You value yourself and the people close to you more than strangers, and much more than people you regard as evil.”

            You’re making an empirical claim about my own evaluative attitudes, probably by inference from how you yourself feel. I think everyone’s pleasure and displeasure has equal intrinsic value, but different instrumental value, depending upon the impact it has on others. The pleasure a psychopath gets from torturing someone is intrinsically good (in virtue of it being pleasure) but instrumentally bad because of the suffering it causes others.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            “So the way I think of deontology and consequentialism is not as two opposing viewpoints or competing priorities, but as two levels of analysis, which ultimately conform to each other.”

            You can think of them that way if you want, but that’s not what the normative theories are. Consequentialism states that the right action or policy depends ENTIRELY on consequences. Deontology denies this, and says the right action depends on its conforming with a certain set of rules or maxims. They can sometimes yield the same result, as in, both consequentialists and deontologists can agree that torture is wrong. But the consequentialist thinks it’s wrong because it causes bad consequences (suffering, for example). The deontologist thinks it’s wrong because it violates a rule or rights.

            “In other words, getting things right in principle is the way to get desirable consequences.”

            If your principle is that we ought to achieve the best consequences, then that is consequentialism, not deontology. Both consequentialism and deontology can have principles and rules. But they differ in what they say rightness DEPENDS on. If rightness depends entirely on consequences, that’s consequentialism. If rightness depends on conforming to rules, that’s deontology.

            ” (And in a sense, defining the good as “desirable consequences” or “maximum happiness” is already a deontological rule.)”

            No, it’s not a deontological rule. It’s a consequentialist principle. Deontologists can have rules that depend PARTLY on consequences, but their rules will also depend upon something else, like not violating rights. Consequentialist principles care about ONLY consequences.

            As I said, consequentialism and deontology can agree on which actions or policies are right. But they disagree on WHY they are right (causing better consequences vs. conforming to rules).

            And, there are cases where they might disagree. Suppose for a second that forced redistribution actually makes the world better overall. As in, forced redistribution has better overall consequences. And suppose that deontologists have a rule against forced redistribution. Then, the consequentialists will favor forced redistribution and the deontologists will oppose it.

            To know if you’re a consequentialist or a deontologist, ask yourself, if there were convincing evidence that suggested authoritarian socialism (complete central planning of an economy) caused the best consequences (most happiness, least suffering, or however you want to interpret ‘best’), would you support it? If so, you’re probably a consequentialist. If not, you’re probably a deontologist.

          • JesseForgione

            It’s a false dichotomy. Action as such aims at happiness. The question for ethics is what principles and values are consistent with achieving it, given the nature of the actor’s existence.

            Now, I don’t mean that deontology as such, and consequentialism, as such, are the same thing, and to that claim, I would agree with your objection that they are two different, even opposite, (meta-) theories of ethics.

            What I mean is that the fundamental principles derived from the nature of action as such, are what allow us to understand what leads to the consequences we desire.

            So the only correct answer to the question:

            “if there were convincing evidence that suggested authoritarian socialism…caused the best consequences…would you support it?”

            would be to find the theoretical premise that led to that interpretation of the evidence, and see if it was sound.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            1. If you wish to be taken seriously I wouldn’t start sentences with “Most philosophers think…” I don’t care, because this is not even the ghost of an argument.

            2. Your quote doesn’t actually state a “majority opinion,” not that I care.

            3. Your quote speaks in the language of fairness and justice, not consequences, so let’s analyze it on these terms. Between person A who invests his time, energy and capital in improving a resource (he didn’t create) and person B who has done nothing to improve this same resource, I honestly don’t see how B is entitled to anything (absent the need to prevent a moral catastrophe). If B is entitled to some share of the value of local land he has done nothing to homestead or cultivate, then by the same “logic” he is entitled to some share of the value of land in Outer Mongolia, or the Milky Way for that matter.

            4. The requirement that A homestead the property to claim ownership, removes this from the realm of pure luck. At worst, it is luck plus hard work. Maybe A puts in this hard work and his crops fail due to bad luck–will B and everyone else then reimburse him in order to share in his misfortune? I doubt it.

            5. If you wish to debate the consequences of Lockean appropriation, talk to David Friedman, Richard Epstein and others.

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            Obviously that quote doesn’t state a majority opinion, it is just one opinion. But from the Chalmers survey, 10% of academic philosophers who were polled are libertarian. I expect only a portion of those think there should be no fair share constraint at all So if that poll is representative of academic philosophy, then I think most philosophers think that there should be a fair share constraint, if they accept homesteading at all.

            “Between person A who invests his time, energy and capital in improving a resource (he didn’t create) and person B who has done nothing to improve this same resource, I honestly don’t see how B is entitled to anything (absent the need to prevent a moral catastrophe).”

            Perhaps A’s getting there first was due to luck, which is plausible. And perhaps had B been lucky enough to get there first, he would have done the same amount of labor or more on the land. He was prevented from doing any labor on the land by A. Since he might or would have done labor on the land, creating value for himself and others, it could be argued that he is entitled to a piece of A’s value. You may disagree, but it’s not like there’s no argument.

            “The requirement that A homestead the property to claim ownership, removes this from the realm of pure luck. At worst, it is luck plus hard work.”

            It doesn’t necessarily remove it from pure luck, depending upon your definition of luck. It could be the case that there is no free will and everything is luck (if we define luck as circumstances not freely chosen).

            And even if it is luck + some freely chosen work, then he doesn’t deserve all of the benefit according to luck egalitarian intuition, which i think is plausible (you don’t deserve the consequences of what you didn’t freely choose).

            “Maybe A puts in this hard work and his crops fail due to bad luck–will B and everyone else then reimburse him in order to share in his misfortune? I doubt it.”

            Uh, yeah, if the fair share constraint is some sort of compensation paid to others that becomes a social safety net, then A WILL be helped by B and everyone else if he meets hard times.

            “If you wish to debate the consequences of Lockean appropriation, talk to David Friedman, Richard Epstein and others.”

            Lockean appropriation does have a fair share constraint, I thought. Only rothbardian doesn’t, unless I’m mistaken. I listen to youtube videos with David Friedman all the time. He is the most convincing advocate of anarcho-capitalism that I have ever heard. I’m no economist, but what he says sounds plausible. If having no fair share constraint tends to lead to better consequences, then good, I’m on board. On the other hand, if we’re making desert-based, deontological arguments grounded in “moral intuition”, I find it unconvincing that having no fair share constraint is just.

    • Fredrick

      Yes but what if I say in MY version of non-aggression you have to pay taxes. If you don’t, are you not initiating a contest of force? In MY version of non-aggression I can walk into your home. Were you to stop me, would you not be initiating a contest of force? And if I placed my hand on your supple buttocks… This in not aggression but an act of intimacy. Would you immediately resort to a use of force to stop me, which your private property doctrine demands? It is obvious to me the NAP and private property are incompatible.

  • GTFOofNOLA

    I make the same argument when libertarians claim there is a right of self-defense. Of course there’s not. If there were, I could beat down all the authors at BHL and say that their idiotic theories and retarded arguments threatened to set economics and libertarianism back 1000 years thus constituting a real and present danger if their nonsense ever became policy.

  • Giovanelo

    “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.””

    What is the basis for the assertion that some governments have rightful claims to tax their citizens? It’s just the claim “governments believe they have a right to exercise aggression with impunity over their citizens” in disguise..I can say now that by “social justice” I mean a right of all white people to plunder all the black people and enslave them. I can justify my theory by saying that I understand the term “social justice” differently than Christiano and that white people actually have “rightful claims” to the black people’s bodies and property. How is exactly my redefinition of social justice less valid than Christiano’s redefinition of the Non-aggression axiom? What you are saying here is that Block is wrong about the non-aggression axiom, because somebody else could come up with a different definition of the term. By this standard, no argument in the history of science or philosophy could have ever been valid.

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  • JSebastian

    The example you provide of Christiano is i think flawed in its axiomatic assumption of government rights where none have been sufficiently (by rigorous examination) proven to exist. For example, the power to tax. If we were to scrutinize this without any pre-conceived notions of government power, and simply consult our own heritage of western political philosophy we find the bedrock idea that government derives its authority only from the Consent of the Governed. But it can be argued that since the government did not obtain consent or have consent from all Americans, then it lacks the authority to tax the property of all Americans. It only has the consent of *some* of the governed, not of all. And thus one can call into question the conclusion you have made automatically (axiomatically or dogmatically, it might appear).

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