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Is This Principled Libertarianism (Walter Block on Child Abuse)?

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Lagrange multiplier Posted: Wed, Oct 13 2010 8:39 AM

http://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block167.html

From my own judgment, Walter Block never satisfactorily addresses Michael Fleischer's argument: if a person, according to the principled libertarians, is sovereign in his own home and can raise his child as he sees fit, then how could private police agencies interfere?

Child abuse, I believe, is one of the weakest points of the anarcho-capitalist argument: Fleischer is right to emphasize, in a utilitarian fashion, that such abuse could very well be much less in an anarchistic society and so anarchy is thus preferable. However, I'm not sure libertarian moralists can easily claim that private police will forcibly reduce such harm.

Let us suppose there is a community of individuals who traffick in child abuse (acts of an especially deviant nature) and have fully-implemented (even competing) legal systems and enforcement agencies that never, ever consider such abuse criminal. What then? Do outside communities impose their morality? It would, perhaps, be a truly moral crusade, but it's a coercive war nonetheless.

In a Friedmanite fashion, I tend to believe laws will be enacted to deter such crime (e.g., I would be happy to pay more for such services, in fact), but I also can easily conceive of alternative communities that don't actively deter such harm. It always seems to me that Rothbardian libertarians imagine they can centrally plan the moralized legislation for society.

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Sieben replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 8:46 AM

I think Block points out that you're forestalling homesteading of the child, since if you're not being his guardian, there is a guardianship-right "floating" out there to be claimed.

In my view, this is a little wonky since I don't belive in metaphysics (much less ad hoc metaphysics). This is also a loaded issue because we begin by already knowing what the right outcome should be - protect the child. So we're sitting around judging moral standards with our ulterior moral standards that were never justified in the first place.

If you want to avoid the circularity, the problem should be framed as "what if libertarian rights conflict with extreme emotional instincts?", and then just discuss whether objective ethics ought to weigh more than emotions. At this point, I will walk away from the conversation because I am bored and don't have energy to tell people what logical positivism is.

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You certainly don't have to tell me what logical positivism is, but you might need to explain its relevance (logical positivists decry the "objective ethics" you assert).

If a man is self-owning, on his own property, and parenting his child as he prefers, then at what point is an outside agency permitted to interfere?

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Let us suppose there is a community of individuals who traffick in child abuse (acts of an especially deviant nature) and have fully-implemented (even competing) legal systems and enforcement agencies that never, ever consider such abuse criminal. What then? Do outside communities impose their morality? It would, perhaps, be a truly moral crusade, but it's a coercive war nonetheless.

My thought would be that such a rogue cult of child abusers would find it difficult to compete with legitimate, moral communities for both scarce resources and membership.  I don't think most people want to live in or support such a community, so it would suffer from ostracism and boycott, not to mention the costs of internal moral decay.  As its members became poorer relative to the upstanding communities, their time preference and marginal utility of money would increase, and it would be cheaper for outsiders to rescue children by buying them away.  Would child abuse disappear entirely?  No, but there would undoubtably be a stronger economic disincentive against engaging in it.

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DD5 replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 8:57 AM

StrangeLoop:
Let us suppose there is a community of individuals who traffick in child abuse (acts of an especially deviant nature) and have fully-implemented (even competing) legal systems and enforcement agencies that never, ever consider such abuse criminal. What then? Do outside communities impose their morality? It would, perhaps, be a truly moral crusade, but it's a coercive war nonetheless.

 

Not necessarily.  The community can be economically isolated by pure voluntary means.

But you're almost describing a Statist community here.  I mean you're either assuming that everyone in this community is voluntarily seeking such immorality or that individuals are somehow trapped in their community, in which case you're describing some sort of a State.

 

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Sieben replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 8:59 AM

Strangeloop:
You certainly don't have to tell me what logical positivism is, but you might need to explain its relevance (logical positivists decry the "objective ethics" you assert)
Objective ethics is just a subset of metaphysical voodoo which fails the verification principle.

Strangeloop:
If a man is self-owning, on his own property, and parenting his child as he prefers, then at what point is an outside agency permitted to interfere?
I wouldn't focus on the territorial aspect. Serious libertarians think people own use-rights, not molecular or cardinal rights.

I guess you're allowed to interfere whenever you think that the guardianship rights are being forestalled. So if the parent isn't acting as the guardian, you can become the guardian of the child. The same way that if a farmer isn't farming, you can take over.

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Conza88 replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 9:00 AM

Au contraire, it is unprincipled libertarianism which sucks.

trulib:
LS - the Block / Kinsella position that Daniel is talking about is nuanced, but I believe it is a sound argument.  I will try to put it in my own words but I implore you to read Kinsella and Block on this issue.  I believe this uncomfortable area of libertarianism - parental obligations - has been solved, from a practical, legal perspective.  Child rape is illegal, and so is child neglect, under libertarian law.

Abandonment / Continual Homesteading Theory

Imagine a land area made up of numerous allotments.  Each one is being tended carefully by their owners, growing food.  Except one allotment.  This allotment is overgrown with weeds and litter and is a disgrace to the neighbours.  The owner is a man named Bob, and no one has seen him for 5 years.  The neighbours have tried to contact him, but he has vanished.  One neighbour, Alice, decides that enough is enough, she is going to assume ownership of Bob's allotment, clear it up and grow food on it.  Is this an act of aggression by Alice?  If Bob turns up the next day and accuses Alice of aggressing against his property, is Alice guilty, under libertarian law?

Maybe, but maybe not.  If Bob's absence had been 5 days, rather than 5 years, clearly this would be aggression.  But what if it had been 20 years, or 100 years?  What if Bob's grandson suddenly appears to claim his land?  Does the libertarian court award the allotment to Bob's grandson, or to the current owner, Alice's granddaughter?  There has to be a boundary somewhere; there has to be some time when we say 'this allotment has been abandoned'.  Determining exactly how long it takes for an allotment to be abandoned is a continuum problem, to be solved by market competition between courts. 

In some sense, then, Bob has a 'positive obligation' to maintain his land - otherwise he may lose it if someone else is claiming it.  In a way, he must continually homestead his property - otherwise he loses his rights to keep the land. 

Applied to Children

Block applies this idea of abandonment / continual homesteading (I think that's my term, not Block's) to children.  Parents own the rights to bring up their child, because they homesteaded that right.  But if a parent abuses or neglects the child, it may lose the right to bring up the child.  The parents must continually homestead the right to bring up the child, if they want to keep it.  If someone else is claiming it (for example a 'Friends of Babies' organization), they may have a better claim to the upbringing rights of the child.  Specifically, when a libertarian court declares 'this child has been abandoned'.

"The only way to attain homestead rights to the child after giving birth to it is to bring it up in a reasonable manner.  Were the parents to instead abuse their child, this would not at all be compatible with homesteading it. If so, they would lose all rights to continue to keep the child".  (Block, bold mine)

The libertarian courts will have to work out a boundary delineating what is reasonable and what is not.  This is no different to a court determining what is a reasonable claim to have homesteaded an allotment, or how long before an allotment is to be considered abandoned.  Neglecting a child for 10 minutes does not constitute abandonment, but neglecting it for a week while it starves to death certainly does.  The courts will decide, and since the courts are competing for customers, no reputable court will set the boundary at the extremes of 10 minutes neglect, or one week neglect, because most people (I conjecture) believe that the proper time when a child should be rescued from neglectful parents woud lie somewhere in between these extremes.  No court will want to have a reputation for taking abused or neglected children from their parents too soon, or too late, or when the abuse/neglect is only mild. 

The Scenario

So here's how things would go:

  1. Bob rapes his 3 year old daughter.
  2. Evidence of the rape is discovered, by chance, by a nursery nurse.
  3. The nurse calls the 'Friends of Babies' organization.
  4. 'Friends of Babies' knock at Bob's door and start asking him questions.  Bob starts getting nervous, but denies it.  Friends of Babies are confident in their assessment that Bob's lying, so they break into his house and forcibly remove the child from him.
  5. Bob calls his PDA, telling them an evil gang has taken his child away from him, for no good reason.
  6. Bob's PDA investigates.  There's a trial.  If Bob is found innocent, 'Friends of Babies' are guilty of child kidnap.  If Bob is found guilty, the libertarian court declares that, by raping his child, Bob loses the right to continue bringing it up.  Rape is not consistent with homesteading the right to bring up a child, so Bob's right to bring up his daughter is declared abandoned.  The court awards the right to bring up the child to the other claimant: the Friends of Babies organization.
  7. The Friends of Babies organization rehomes the child, perhaps with a relative, or finds adoptive parents for it.
  8. Friends of Babies publicizes the fact that Bob is a child rapist.  He is added to all the (privately-produced) sex offenders registers.  Voluntary actions, such as boycotts of Bob, make Bob's life a misery.

 The rest of the scenario I have not read about anywhere, but I think the scenario would continue thusly:

  • Bob's daughter grows up and claims self-ownership.
  • If she wants restitution or retribution for being raped as a child, she may bring a claim against her father.  The libertarian court will decide on a suitable punishment for Bob, for the crime of child rape. 
  • The burden of proof to show that the sex was consentual (should Bob wish to make this defense) will be prima facie on Bob.  He will have to prove that his daughter made an informed decision to have sex.  No sensible court would be convinced of this in the case of a 3 year old. - link

And link.

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Giant_Joe replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 9:26 AM

Let us suppose there is a community of individuals who traffick in child abuse (acts of an especially deviant nature) and have fully-implemented (even competing) legal systems and enforcement agencies that never, ever consider such abuse criminal. What then? Do outside communities impose their morality? It would, perhaps, be a truly moral crusade, but it's a coercive war nonetheless.

My thought would be that such a rogue cult of child abusers would find it difficult to compete with legitimate, moral communities for both scarce resources and membership.  I don't think most people want to live in or support such a community, so it would suffer from ostracism and boycott, not to mention the costs of internal moral decay.  As its members became poorer relative to the upstanding communities, their time preference and marginal utility of money would increase, and it would be cheaper for outsiders to rescue children by buying them away.  Would child abuse disappear entirely?  No, but there would undoubtably be a stronger economic disincentive against engaging in it.

I'm pretty much in agreement with this. Back in my parent's villages, if the man of a household was acting strange or out of line, the other men would give him a stern talking to. If he didn't get his act together, they'd apply their own form of justice to him. It's very effective in small communities. I believe in some kind of a libertopia, communities would be much more bound together than they are today.

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StrangeLoop:
From my own judgment, Walter Block never satisfactorily addresses Michael Fleischer's argument: if a person, according to the principled libertarians, is sovereign in his own home and can raise his child as he sees fit, then how could private police agencies interfere?

You're right, he didn't.  I do have a problem with any of this being called "principled libertarianism".  You might be surprised with how many of us disagree with Block on this issue.

StrangeLoop:
Child abuse, I believe, is one of the weakest points of the anarcho-capitalist argument:

Then you do not understand the ancap argument.  And it doesn't surprise me, though for as much as you post and cite, I wish it did.

StrangeLoop:
It always seems to me that Rothbardian libertarians imagine they can centrally plan the moralized legislation for society.

In this regard, some Rothbardians are more Objectivists than Austrians.

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Conza88 replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 10:16 AM

"It always seems to me that Rothbardian libertarians imagine they can centrally plan the moralized legislation for society."

Complete bs. Want to try back up your claim?

" In the first place, surely-again in Acton’s words-it must say that liberty is the “highest political end,” the overriding goal of libertarian philosophy. Highest political end, of course, does not mean “highest end” for man in general. Indeed, every individual has a variety of personal ends and differing hierarchies of importance for these goals on his personal scale of values. Political philosophy is that subset of ethical philosophy which deals specifically with politics, that is, the proper role of violence in human life (and hence the explication of such concepts as crime and property). Indeed, a libertarian world would beone in which every individual would at last be free to seek and pursue his own ends-to “pursue happiness,” in the felicitous Jeffersonian phrase." - TEOL, Chp. 30"

Oh yeah, totally wants to centrally plan all personal ethics in society, definitely a despot in the making.. no

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 10:36 AM

This is a subject which I've spent quite a lot of time thinking about.  It's an issue that strikes deeper at libertarian moral theory than many may want to admit.

StrangeLoop:
If a man is self-owning, on his own property, and parenting his child as he prefers, then at what point is an outside agency permitted to interfere?

I think another way of asking that question is, "Does a man own his child?"  My own answer to that is a resounding no.

This means that children are self-owners.  If you're the parent of a child and you're abusing* her, even on your own property, I'd say you're violating her self-ownership.  I therefore find it morally justifiable to invade your property to protect the life of the child who you happpen to be a parent of.

But let's say, arguendo, that the hypothetical stateless society under which we live is more "propertarian" than that.  So were I to invade your property to prevent you from abusing your child, I would be found liable for trespass, if not also property damage/destruction.  Perhaps, though, I'd still consider it worth it to protect your child from your abuse in spite of the legal consequences.  In that case, I'd invade your property anyway.  Of course, if many (let alone most) other people felt that way, the legal "regime" of the stateless society would likely change to reflect that.

Also note that, in spite of all the supposed protections against child abuse provided by modern states, situations like that of Josef Fritzl, his poor daughter, and their(!) poor children still happen.

* As with other terms of immorality, such as "murder" and "rape", the legal definition for "abuse" is subject to boundary conditions, which would presumably be determined by courts.

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Mises Pieces:
My thought would be that such a rogue cult of child abusers would find it difficult to compete with legitimate, moral communities for both scarce resources and membership.  I don't think most people want to live in or support such a community, so it would suffer from ostracism and boycott, not to mention the costs of internal moral decay.  As its members became poorer relative to the upstanding communities, their time preference and marginal utility of money would increase, and it would be cheaper for outsiders to rescue children by buying them away.  Would child abuse disappear entirely?  No, but there would undoubtably be a stronger economic disincentive against engaging in it.

Right now, there are industries trafficking in child abuse that can be geographically located (e.g., Thailand), but they don't suffer economic sanctions.

And, if people wanted to cut off economic transactions with such a community, a problem that plagues cartels would present itself: there is an incentive to break away from the sanctions and make a profit.

"I'm not a fan of Murray Rothbard." -- David D. Friedman

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Conza88:
"The only way to attain homestead rights to the child after giving birth to it is to bring it up in a reasonable manner.  Were the parents to instead abuse their child, this would not at all be compatible with homesteading it. If so, they would lose all rights to continue to keep the child".  (Block, bold mine)

If we are allowing competing legal decisions to determine what is "reasonable," then I believe we are forsaking "principled" grounds (and thank goodness for that).

But, supposedly, anarcho-capitalism is ideal since it decentralizes law and can differentiate products (a taste for one's prefered law will be honored if one is willing to pay); hence, shouldn't we be able to imagine a community whose preferences demand legal systems that treat child abuse (e.g., sex trafficking) as lawful?

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Conza88 replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 11:14 AM

"If we are allowing competing legal decisions to determine what is "reasonable," then I believe we are forsaking "principled" grounds"

Seems like you have no idea what political philosophy is. Those principles are of "guardianship rights" and they haven't been forsaken at all. They are in fact applying the principle to the case.

How about you go do some actual reading on the matter, before spewing ignorance left, right and center.

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Mtn Dew replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 11:17 AM

Essentially there already are communities where child abuse is allowed. You make it seem as if everything is hunky dorey now.

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DD5 replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 11:23 AM

liberty student:
You're right, he didn't. 

Why not?  What is so wrong about this response by Block:

 

Posit that 99.9% of the people in society oppose rapes, murders, cases of child abuse (if the overwhelming majority of people favor these depravities, no system can stop them). Under these conditions, don't you think that the contracts written up by police forces, courts, road owners, would stipulate that when they occur, the forces of law and order may "trespass" on otherwise private property to stop them? It seems to me obvious that this is precisely what would take place.

 Okay, so here's the scenario. The cops break into someone's house while he is committing one of these dastardly acts. They catch him red-handed. His "court-police" agency defends the criminal on the ground that the police violated their client’s private property rights, they kicked down his door, etc. Under my 99.9% assumption, no court police agency would take this view. If one of them did, it would be considered a bandit court, and would presumably, and quickly, go out of business, a point made very clearly by Hoppe, Rothbard, and other libertarian anarchists on my reading list; even David Friedman would agree with this, I presume.

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liberty student:
I do have a problem with any of this being called "principled libertarianism".  You might be surprised with how many of us disagree with Block on this issue.

I believe the failure is in trying to a priori apply principles (or, moral philosophy) to an issue that can only find resolution in a discovery market process.

liberty student:
StrangeLoop:
Child abuse, I believe, is one of the weakest points of the anarcho-capitalist argument:

Then you do not understand the ancap argument.  And it doesn't surprise me, though for as much as you post and cite, I wish it did.

How does believing the issue of child abuse to be one of the weakest points of anarcho-capitalist theory mean I do not understand it? I could believe environmental policy for controlling negative externalities is a weak point, too. That doesn't mean I believe these absolutely undermine the philosophy or would create irreparable failures in an anarcho-capitalist society. Another theorist can believe different areas are the "weakest points"--not a big deal.

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DD5 replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 12:34 PM

StrangeLoop:
I believe the failure is in trying to a priori apply principles (or, moral philosophy) to an issue that can only find resolution in a discovery market process.

How does Block in this particular instance not base his "resolution" on a discovery market process?

 And by the way, a "discovery market process" is in fact deduced by a priori principles.  Unless you're going to argue that it can be induced by the scientific method, which would be another absurd proposition.

 

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DD5:
How does Block in this particular instance not base his "resolution" on a discovery market process?

He does; that's why I think libertarian "rights" break down. If a man wants to voluntarily secede his home from all external forces, then how can an external agency forcibly interfere?

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May I please have my title converted back to its original form?

That's the word I chose. Deal with it.

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 2:25 PM

StrangeLoop:
May I please have my title converted back to its original form?

That's the word I chose. Deal with it.

I think the bracketed comment is indicative of how it's being dealt with. ;)

Did you see my earlier post in this thread?  I sent you a PM but you haven't responded.

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DD5:

Why not?  What is so wrong about this response by Block:

 Posit that 99.9% of the people in society oppose rapes, murders, cases of child abuse (if the overwhelming majority of people favor these depravities, no system can stop them). Under these conditions, don't you think that the contracts written up by police forces, courts, road owners, would stipulate that when they occur, the forces of law and order may "trespass" on otherwise private property to stop them? It seems to me obvious that this is precisely what would take place.

What is wrong, in my opinion, is that he is making a case for majoritarianism: if a clear majority--even near-unanimity--favor a coercive action, then so be it. He is claiming that private property can be subverted if a large number of other people have a good intention.

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Mtn Dew:
Essentially there already are communities where child abuse is allowed. You make it seem as if everything is hunky dorey now.

No, actually, I specifically didn't:

  1. "Fleischer is right to emphasize, in a utilitarian fashion, that such abuse could very well be much less in an anarchistic society and so anarchy is thus preferable."
  2. "Right now, there are industries trafficking in child abuse that can be geographically located (e.g., Thailand)."

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I believe the failure is in trying to a priori apply principles (or, moral philosophy) to an issue that can only find resolution in a discovery market process.

No.  The problem is trying to find a way to carry over a statist goal to an astate system.  Which you are also doing.  It's important as a libertarian to be realistic.  You can't have everything in the world exactly your way.

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Autolykos:
This is a subject which I've spent quite a lot of time thinking about.  It's an issue that strikes deeper at libertarian moral theory than many may want to admit.

I completely agree--or, at least its troubled when considered from a rights-based moral viewpoint. Using my own philosophic foundations, I don't necessarily prohibit foreign entities from "invading" a home to secure a child from acts that violate moral customs. This is similar, in my opinion, to an argument from David Friedman: "He gives an example of using a rifle, the owner of which does not wish to lend it to anyone (even if it would save lives), to shoot a madman who is about to kill several people in a crowd. Whereas libertarian rights theory would suggest that it is not acceptable for someone to take the gun, Friedman would prefer that someone take the gun rather than letting the madman kill lots of people."

Autolykos:
This means that children are self-owners.  If you're the parent of a child and you're abusing* her, even on your own property, I'd say you're violating her self-ownership.  I therefore find it morally justifiable to invade your property to protect the life of the child who you happpen to be a parent of.

Is a baby a self-owner? If so, is a parent responsible for feeding it? If children are entirely self-owners, do parents have any obligation to even care for them? The concept of "self-ownership" breaks down once applied to the actual world where not all agents can be considered rationally autonomous (à la Kant).

Autolykos:
But let's say, arguendo, that the hypothetical stateless society under which we live is more "propertarian" than that.  So were I to invade your property to prevent you from abusing your child, I would be found liable for trespass, if not also property damage/destruction.  Perhaps, though, I'd still consider it worth it to protect your child from your abuse in spite of the legal consequences.  In that case, I'd invade your property anyway.  Of course, if many (let alone most) other people felt that way, the legal "regime" of the stateless society would likely change to reflect that.

If "the legal 'regime' of the stateless society" can approve of violations of private property (entering onto a man's land and snatching away his child), then how are self-ownership and private property being upheld by this brand of libertarianism? If it all depends upon what "many (let alone most) other people" feel, then how is individual sovereignty being held as the foremost value?

If a man (a self-owner) has legitimately purchased his land (and thus owns it entirely; he's not renting, for instance), then how can an external force (even if legitimized as a legal force by others) break in to enforce the moral code of others?

Or, for instance, let us suppose there is a "country" (a remote island, let's assume) where child-sex tourism is a central industry, and where customers from all over the world travel; this island has its own private police force (like Paradise Island) and its own internal rules. Could one legitimately intervene? The children are nourished with the basic essentials (e.g., food, shelter, etc.) and are being treated according to the laws purchased by the island's residents. What can be done, except coercive war, to remedy this? I, for one, would happily endorse coercive measures to insure better lives for those children.

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Caley McKibbin:
No.  The problem is trying to find a way to carry over a statist goal to an astate system.  Which you are also doing. 

What exactly is the "statist goal" you allege I am trying to carry over to a stateless society?

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Stopping every instance of this event that you find unsightly.

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Caley McKibbin:
Stopping every instance of this event that you find unsightly.

No one has claimed that we can stop "every instance of this event that [we] find unsightly."

To stop it all, though, was a policy endorsed by Walter Block, so unless you are willing to accuse him of the same "statist goal," then I must confess not understanding your point.

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No one has claimed that we can stop "every instance of this event that [we] find unsightly."

That is why I made no such accusation.  But you are the one that said this: "How does believing the issue of child abuse to be one of the weakest points of anarcho-capitalist theory mean I do not understand it?"  So, it is a weakness to you that something unsightly might not be countered by libertarianism.

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 3:14 PM

Thanks for a thought-provoking response!

StrangeLoop:
I completely agree--or, at least its troubled when considered from a rights-based moral viewpoint. Using my own philosophic foundations, I don't necessarily prohibit foreign entities from "invading" a home to secure a child from acts that violate moral customs. This is similar, in my opinion, to an argument from David Friedman: "He gives an example of using a rifle, the owner of which does not wish to lend it to anyone (even if it would save lives), to shoot a madman who is about to kill several people in a crowd. Whereas libertarian rights theory would suggest that it is not acceptable for someone to take the gun, Friedman would prefer that someone take the gun rather than letting the madman kill lots of people."

I was under the impression that libertarian rights theory was more concerned with correcting wrongs (i.e. justice) than with preventing them.  Am I mistaken?

Regarding David Friedman's example, I guess the question is which action is seen as more morally wrong.  Now, I'd argue that no one has a duty or an obligation to prevent a madman from killing several people in a crowd.  I'd also argue that taking one's property against his wishes is still immoral.  However, what's more important to me is not that immoral behavior is prevented, but that it is compensated for.  So I'd find it more egregious if the person who stopped the madman then refused to pay restitution for his theft of the rifle.

StrangeLoop:
Is a baby a self-owner? If so, is a parent responsible for feeding it? If children are entirely self-owners, do parents have any obligation to even care for them? The concept of "self-ownership" breaks down once applied to the actual world where not all agents can be considered rationally autonomous (à la Kant).

Strictly speaking, I'd say that a baby is a self-owner.  However, she's in a state of dependence on something else to take care of her until she develops to the point where she can take care of herself.

I do think that children aren't as dependent on their parents as most people seem to believe.  The idea that a human being cannot be considered fully accountable for her actions until she reaches her late teens is ludicrous, IMO.  A lot of the modern-day dependence of children on adults seems to be due to two things: prohibitions on child labor and mandatory schooling.

StrangeLoop:
If "the legal 'regime' of the stateless society" can approve of violations of private property (entering onto a man's land and snatching away his child), then how are self-ownership and private property being upheld by this brand of libertarianism? If it all depends upon what "many (let alone most) other people feel, then how is individual sovereignty being held as the utmost value?

Sorry, but I have to admit to being confused by your questions.  Maybe it's because I'm not so concerned as to whether a stateless society is a perfect embodiment of a given moral theory, whether one bills said theory as being "libertarian" or not.  I figure that a stateless society would by and large uphold self-ownership and private property, but there are always boundary cases.  Perfect adherence to any moral theory seems impossible when we're talking about large numbers of independent human actors.

StrangeLoop:
If a man (a self-owner) has legitimately purchased his land (and thus owns it entirely; he's not renting, for instance), then how can an external force (even if legitimized as a legal force by others) break in to enforce the moral code of others?

Please understand that I'm not saying it would necessarily be morally right for others to invade his land.  I'm merely saying that, if they are then willing to provide restitution for the invasion, then justice will be served.  Does this make sense?

StrangeLoop:
Or, for instance, let us suppose there is a "country" (a remote island, let's assume) where child-sex tourism is a central industry, and where customers from all over the world travel; this island has its own private police force (like Paradise Island) and its own internal rules. Could one legitimately intervene? The children are nourished with the basic essentials (e.g., food, shelter, etc.) and are being treated according to the laws purchased by the island's residents. What can be done, except coercive war, to remedy this? I, for one, would happily endorse coercive measures to insure better lives for those children.

"Laws purchased by the island's residents"?  Can you explain what you mean by that?

Otherwise, if the children no longer want to participate in that industry, I'd say they're free to leave.  If they're kept against their will, then this is another case of violation of self-ownership.

The keyboard is mightier than the gun.

Non parit potestas ipsius auctoritatem.

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Right now, there are industries trafficking in child abuse that can be geographically located (e.g., Thailand), but they don't suffer economic sanctions.

And, if people wanted to cut off economic transactions with such a community, a problem that plagues cartels would present itself: there is an incentive to break away from the sanctions and make a profit.

Well, Thailand is not exactly a stateless society, so I'm not sure if the comparison is completely valid, but I do see what you are saying.

I guess this begs the question, though... if people are too indifferent towards child abuse to expend economic and social pressure against its perpetrators, then how can we expect them to vote for and support a government that will do it for them?  Either people care about it or they don't, right?

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Eric080 replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 3:27 PM

Didn't Friedman answer these notions in Machinery of Freedom?  I'm just asking, because I'm not done with it.  We can play these "what if" games and say, "what if a society performs human sacrifice and its protected by PDAs?"  Well, what if child trafficking is a problem in Thailand the authorities do nothing to stop it?  What if females in the Middle East are forced to cover their heads and bodies?  What if Hutus gain control of the Rwandan military force and slaughter Tutsis?  I mean, this is all dependant on the society we are talking about.  Erecting a State isn't really going to do anything to stop child abuse more than a PDA would.  A society that supports slavery can support slavery in democracy or on a total market.  It doesn't really work as an argument against the State and it doesn't serve as an argument against a total market either.

 

I generally go with the NAP even as a moral skeptic/anti-realist because it seems like a subjective thing that we just agree upon that doesn't have to be subject to truth-value.  But even saying that, in an extreme situation like child abuse, I don't care if PDAs violate the custodial "rights" bestowed upon the parents.  The child isn't regarded as property, it is regarded as having some type of ability not to be coerced against and they obviously don't have the economic capacity to pay for defense themselves.

 

Anyway, you could also make a utilitarian argument that more competition is better, but not all "coercion" is bad.  I mean, currently in the United States if I want to smoke a joint I can't, so even if a PDA had an anti-pot law and coerced pot smokers into giving up their stashes of marijuana, I honestly don't see what the difference is.  If you're not 100% opposed to coercion in principle, you could also make the case that competition between enforcing something like drug laws would still be more efficient.  So you could even be a conservative market anarchist laugh

"And it may be said with strict accuracy, that the taste a man may show for absolute government bears an exact ratio to the contempt he may profess for his countrymen." - de Tocqueville
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Caley McKibbin:
No.  The problem is trying to find a way to carry over a statist goal to an astate system.  Which you are also doing. 

1. You assert that I am trying to carry over a "statist goal."

I then question,  "What exactly is the 'statist goal' you allege I am trying to carry over to a stateless society?"

You answer:

Caley McKibbin:
Stopping every instance of this event that you find unsightly.

2. You thereby claim that my "statist goal" was attempting to stop "every instance of this event that [I] find unsightly."

Then, I answer, "No one has claimed that we can stop 'every instance of this event that [we] find unsightly.'"

You retort:

Caley McKibbin:
That is why I made no such accusation.

3. You, somehow, shockingly deny any such accusation. What exactly was your accusation, then, when you said I had a statist goal? Oh, wait, you already said it was "stopping every instance of this event that [I] find unsightly." But, wait, no... that can't be right because you "made no such accusation"!

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Do you think there is no difference between wanting to do something being able to?  I don't see what is confusing here.

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DD5:
Why not?  What is so wrong about this response by Block:

Posit that 99.9% of the people in society oppose rapes, murders, cases of child abuse (if the overwhelming majority of people favor these depravities, no system can stop them). Under these conditions, don't you think that the contracts written up by police forces, courts, road owners, would stipulate that when they occur, the forces of law and order may "trespass" on otherwise private property to stop them? It seems to me obvious that this is precisely what would take place.

He's talking about democracy or majoritarianism, not libertarianism.

DD5:
Okay, so here's the scenario. The cops break into someone's house while he is committing one of these dastardly acts. They catch him red-handed.

What if they break in and he is not doing a dastardly act?  What if they don't "catch" him doing anything?  Haven't they just violated his property?  What is libertarian about vigilantism?

DD5:
If one of them did, it would be considered a bandit court, and would presumably, and quickly, go out of business, a point made very clearly by Hoppe, Rothbard, and other libertarian anarchists on my reading list; even David Friedman would agree with this, I presume.

So basically, any court which would defend property rights would go out of business, because property rights don't matter if it isn't the majority view.

Again, what does anything about Block's position have to do with libertarian anarchism?

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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StrangeLoop:
liberty student:
I do have a problem with any of this being called "principled libertarianism".  You might be surprised with how many of us disagree with Block on this issue.

I believe the failure is in trying to a priori apply principles (or, moral philosophy) to an issue that can only find resolution in a discovery market process.

Or more simply, taking a huge intellectual shortcut and appealing to natural rights.

StrangeLoop:
How does believing the issue of child abuse to be one of the weakest points of anarcho-capitalist theory mean I do not understand it? I could believe environmental policy for controlling negative externalities is a weak point, too. That doesn't mean I believe these absolutely undermine the philosophy or would create irreparable failures in an anarcho-capitalist society. Another theorist can believe different areas are the "weakest points"--not a big deal.

They aren't weak points of the theory.  They are areas that are weak in theory, and in some cases, only practice can find us answers (beyond theory).  The notion that ancap is flawed is based on an assertion by you that it must be able to provide a satisfactory answer for child abuse and environmental issues.  Ancap doesnt deal with either, nor does it pretend to.  No one is asserting ancap will always result in great outcomes, or that it is capable of manufacturing a utopia.

If you want to critique ancap, point out where it fails itself, the way statism and liberal democracy fail themselves.  Don't critique it for what is not.  Ancap also doesn't handle immortality or time travel well.  So what?

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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liberty student:
They aren't weak points of the theory.  They are areas that are weak in theory, and in some cases, only practice can find us answers (beyond theory). 

I fully agree with this.

liberty student:
The notion that ancap is flawed is based on an assertion by you that it must be able to provide a satisfactory answer for child abuse and environmental issues.  Ancap doesnt deal with either, nor does it pretend to.  No one is asserting ancap will always result in great outcomes, or that it is capable of manufacturing a utopia.

I'm not sure how one demarcates what "ancap" does "deal with" and what it does not "deal with"; how have you done that? On what grounds do you assert that anarcho-capitalistic theory "doesnt [sic] deal" with, for instance, "environmental issues"? I would assert that it most certainly does and it especially should given current popular concerns (e.g., global warming).

Since we both agree that anarcho-capitalism will not "always result in great outcomes," then aren't those--as I had originally phrased it--"weak points," especially when arguing against opposing worldviews? Frankly, claiming that I believe some areas are "weak points" and your claiming that some outcomes won't be "great" seem roughly the same position to me.

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Caley McKibbin:
Do you think there is no difference between wanting to do something being able to?  I don't see what is confusing here.

What is incredibly confusing, for me, is that you asserted I was pursuing a "statist goal" by voicing a preference against child abuse--a position, likewise, being discussed by Walter Block.

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liberty student:
Ancap also doesn't handle immortality or time travel well.  So what?

Actually, I would argue that scientific advances such as those are more likely to be attained in a wealth-maximizing process of development (i.e., anarcho-capitalism). smiley

liberty student:
If you want to critique ancap, point out where it fails itself, the way statism and liberal democracy fail themselves.

I believe that's what I am doing. Child-sex tourism, for instance, is a black market--given all the common criticisms against the War on Drugs, consider the same criticisms as applied to the former industry: once the market is freed from Statist prohibition, anarcho-capitalism seems capable of generating profitable industries in child prostitution. That is, in my opinion, a point worthy of more consideration--and, contrary to your assertion, it's a point that's specific to anarcho-capitalism.

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Eric080 replied on Wed, Oct 13 2010 9:55 PM

@StrangeLoop, I think the rights of children is a very important point to be made in an-cap circles.  But honestly, if there is demand for child protection, it can be provided.  The basic idea is that parents are custodians and not owners, and with this in mind, the lack of economic capacity for children to purchase defense has to be factored into the equation.  If they are being coerced against, I'm sure PDAs would come to their defense as a matter of public safety.

 

Another point, what the idea of defense competition provides is what kind of defense are you willing to purchase?  It's easy for a conservative to sit at his home and then go to the ballot box to vote against medical marijuana and have the state enforce his personal preference with other people's money.  It's quite a different thing to enforce it with your own money.  The idea is that with the competition and with people wanting to be as cheap as possible, I think PDAs would resemble what a libertarian law would look like.  I'm 99% positive that child defense will be part of a PDA's customer package.  It could even be a public funding type thing (I know, socialism!) where they kind of just look out for the defense of people at large with the permission of court rulings that are publicly respected.  I mean it wouldn't be much different from how it works now, there would just be more competition.  Barack Obama taking a pen and marking his signature on a piece of paper doesn't magically legitimize child services, these child services "violate" the right of abusive parents every single time and since most of society approves and probably would pay for such a service, the market can easily provide for child defense.

"And it may be said with strict accuracy, that the taste a man may show for absolute government bears an exact ratio to the contempt he may profess for his countrymen." - de Tocqueville
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