Of course, the same question could be directed to the State, right? Something like: "what about the crazy politician who just happens to 'seize' this massive nuclear power... are we safe? But in the Libertarian society, who is to enforce this and bear the costs of enforcing it? Does my fear allow me to force others, who might also be affected, to pay? I think not, but most importantly, WHY am I not allowed to have nuclear weapons in my basement?
The same, I think, applies to the environment and his claim for it to be completely prohibited to pollute the air. What happens when the neighbors of a contaminating industry are being compensated to bear the damage, while other peoples from the world over also suffer the contamination and have no idea of what is going on? Who is to enforce this on behalf of those who do not know what is going on and, most importantly, WHY?
I think one important thing to consider is that in a libertarian society, there is no good reason for a nuclear weapon to exist, and no incentive for them to be built. I think its assumed that in the hypothetical libertarian society, all nuclear weapons would be immediately disarmed and disassembled, and there would be no incentive to build new ones.
Perhaps people will find it beneficial to make every contract that is made in an anarcho-capitalist society (a 'la Chaos Theory) include the provision that you do not own a nuclear weapon, that way if you have one force can justifiably be used against you to confiscate it. If you've successfully avoided contracts, then I'm not sure how it can consistently be argued that we need to take away your nuke. However, to hell with consistency, if I find out you have one I WILL kill you.
Would doing so contradict my argument against preemptive war?
Can a anarcho market also provide nuclear energy? Does that production cause a clear threat to the safety of the public. What is to stop anyone on a suicide mission from digging up some radioactive recources and doping them to catastrophic effeceincy?
Where would laws that refer to atomic energy proliferation end?
Now if someone makes the immediate threat of anihilation, I would feel cause to strike. I have trouble believing, I will commit passive observation of mine or my loved ones demise.
I don't like government treatise, but I am sure I would like a global disarmerment of nuclear weapons treaty. It would be like a lot of other interventions where some concerned would brake the agreement. The fact that these nasty things already are in the market, may say that hopefuly over time when everyone can be more friendly, there will be less of a perceived demand.
I guess it's just another good reason to fight this neo-isolationist crud, the bad guy totalitarians want to shove in an oriface.
Not sure under what intellectual thought category this would fall, but here's my opinion, for what it's worth.
I believe a nation has the right to enforce nuclear disarmament if it has done so itself.
Claiming an external threat when you possess much greater threat potential is hypocritical.
I want all nuclear weapons disarmed. We have more than enough ability to kill each other already.
Leaving aside the incentives to build nukes, I think the difference between Rothbard's defense of private security (and his praise for the guerrilla) is that (at least from an economist's point of view) it tends to localize the use of force and is therefore less unjust; unlike nukes, for obvious reasons. Nukes' purpose is destruction at a grand scale and could hardly be justified for defense or restitution, although I am pretty sure I can come up with a hypothetical situation that would make you think.
Anyway, that is the explanation I get from Rothbard's manifesto. However, I find little analysis on how to actually enforce it or simply what makes it different from my right to act on my own behalf without others claiming my actions to be a 'menace' to their freedom if I am materially not affecting anybody else's property.
At the beginning of chapter 2 he says:
"The Nonaggression Axiom
THE LIBERTARIAN CREED rests
upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against
the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the
"nonaggression axiom." "Aggression" is defined as the initiation of the
use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of
anyone else. Aggression is therefore synonymous with invasion."
So my question here relates to this 'threat' and how (and who) is it to determine this when it hasn't been previously established in a contract. After the contract, of course, the conflict is much simpler since the parties have agreed to the recourse and to be bound by a private court's decision (or second decision).
But what happens when there is no contract? Does this justify "preemptive police" (war), as some of you mentioned?
Does this justify a 'social contract'? And if so, is it correct to presume a 'violent State' (as Rothbard does) when we arrive at a situation when an individual has renounced to his right to break a contract in the future with a sanction that results in him losing his life or liberty?
Is there some recommended literature, at least?
Time will tell
Thank you Tim, I haven't read anything from Murphy, but seems very interesting. I hadn't even thought of that.
In 'The Ethics of Liberty', Rothbard addresses nukes this way:
It has often been maintained, and especially by conservatives, that
the development of the horrendous modern weapons of mass murder
(nuclear weapons, rockets, germ warfare, etc.) is only a difference of degree rather than kind
from the simpler weapons of an earlier era. Of course, one answer to
this is that when the degree is the number of human lives, the
difference is a very big one. But a particularly libertarian reply is
that while the bow and arrow, and even the rifle, can be pinpointed, if
the will be there, against actual criminals, modern nuclear weapons
cannot. Here is a crucial difference in kind.
Of course, the bow and arrow could be used for aggressive purposes,
but it could also be pinpointed to use only against aggressors. Nuclear
weapons, even "conventional" aerial bombs, cannot be. These weapons are
ipso facto engines of indiscriminate mass destruction. (The only
exception would be the extremely rare case where a mass of people who
were all criminals inhabited a vast geographical area.) We
must, therefore, conclude that the use of nuclear or similar weapons,
or the threat thereof, is a crime against humanity for which there can
be no justification.
This is why the old cliche no longer holds that it is not the arms
but the will to use them that is significant in judging matters of war
and peace. For it is precisely the characteristic of modern weapons
that they cannot be used selectively, cannot be used in a
libertarian manner. Therefore, their very existence must be condemned,
and nuclear disarmament becomes a good to be pursued for its own sake.
Indeed, of all the aspects of liberty, such disarmament becomes the
highest political good that can be pursued in the modern world. For
just as murder is a more heinous crime against another man than larceny
so mass murder — indeed murder so widespread as to threaten human
civilization and human survival itself — is the worst crime that any
man could possibly commit. And that crime is now all too possible. Or
are libertarians going to wax properly indignant about price controls
or the income tax, and yet shrug their shoulders at or even positively
advocate the ultimate crime of mass murder?
If nuclear warfare is totally illegitimate even for individuals
defending themselves against criminal assault, how much more so is
nuclear or even "conventional" warfare between States!
Another interesting take on the issue from Walter and Matthew Block can be found here:
None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
So, then, the 'threat' extends only to weapons such as nukes and others that may not be used selectively? Ok, I guess that is a first step.
Now, how about environmentalism? In "For a New Liberty", Rothbard says:
"But in the case of air pollution we are dealing not so much with private property in the air as
with protecting private property in one's lungs, fields, and orchards.
The vital fact about air pollution is that the polluter sends unwanted
and unbidden pollutants?from smoke to nuclear radiation to sulfur
oxides?through the air and into the lungs of innocent victims,
as well as onto their material property. All such emanations which
injure person or property constitute aggression against the private
property of the victims. Air pollution, after all, is just as much
aggression as committing arson against another's property or injuring
him physically. Air pollution that injures others is aggression pure
and simple. The major function of government?of courts and police?is to
stop aggression; instead, the government has failed in this task and
has failed grievously to exercise its defense function against air
Does this mean that Libertarians reject gas-automoviles? How do we move around then? Bikes?
Could be. Or horses. Maybe super low emissions vehicles. Note that the metric is 'harm' to person or property - at what level of emissions can we confidently assert no harm is being done? Or, conversely, at what level can harm be proved? Maybe this sort of ethical argument would drive us toward zero-emission fuel cell vehicles?
The outcome of an ethical argument is often inconvenient in terms of what we would prefer.
The problem, as with so many other issues, is that the State has failed so utterly in the functions it has usurped, and these usurpations have been so numerous and far ranging, that it has distorted everything, and led us to a place where immediately acting according to Rothbardian ethics would probably be disastrous in the near term, from a practical standpoint. I'm sure that would not stop some here from insisting that this is what should be done, but I don't see much evidence that this is going to happen tomorrow.
BTW, one thing that bothers me about the approach I typically hear from libertarians/ancaps on the environment: they insist that harm must be proven. I understand why this is so important, and I don't see a good way around it. But I think it fails to consider that we have an astonshing range of synthetic chemicals used in manufacturing and industry about which we are almost entirely ignorant in terms of their potential for harm. Let's say my neighbor chooses to spray his lawn with chemicals that include endocrine disruptors - but that no studies have been done to prove that. How am I going to prove that 15 or 20 years down the road my 3 year old will turn out to be sterile as a result?
We have a knowledge gap that needs to be acknowledged in all of this. Just because I can't prove immediate harm does NOT mean harm has not been done. Carcinogens, mutagens, teratogens do not typically cause your arm to suddenly fall off, or other obvious harm. In fact, we don't even know enough about the human body, let alone its response to various contemporary substances, to say with any certainty whether harm has or has not occurred. It's entirely possible, for example, for exposure to certain substances to depress the immune system - just to the point of making one more susceptible to the flu, say, every year. How on earth would one 'prove' this definite harm?
So the 'harm must be proven' approach to environmentalism is weak, IMO, because of this knowledge gap.
Steve Bachman:I think one important thing to consider is that in a libertarian society, there is no good reason for a nuclear weapon to exist, and no incentive for them to be built. I think its assumed that in the hypothetical libertarian society, all nuclear weapons would be immediately disarmed and disassembled, and there would be no incentive to build new ones.
I suggest you try moving an asteroid or a small mountain without one, or (sticking just to violent applications) perhaps taking out an entire fleet of naval warships. Rothbard wasn't infallible. His argument about weapon types is completely unsound. Anything which can be used as a weapon, if used irresponsibly, can hurt innocent people, but simply possessing such things does not violate anyone else's rights. Anything which can be used as a weapon can be used for other purposes as well. A biological or chemical weapon could be used to research counter-measures to such weapons. While it may be disgusting behavior, such weapons could also be used purely for personal entertainment: you could release them into an air-tight chamber and kill animals with them. They might also, and often do, have industrial applications.
Steve Bachman: In the event that you do happen to have a crazy neighbor with a nuke, my take is that the community would have a case to take up a grievance with him in a private court, for the fact that he poses a clear and imminent threat to the lives and property of all his neighbors.
Unless he has actually threatened to use the device on his neighbors, they have no valid grievance. Their fear alone doesn't give them some special right to dictate what he can do on and with his own property.
Corporations are an extension of the state.
ozzy43:So the 'harm must be proven' approach to environmentalism is weak, IMO, because of this knowledge gap.
When you get right down to it, your problem is with the "innocent until proven guilty" standard of justice.
Rich333 : His argument about weapon types is completely unsound. Anything which can be used as a weapon, if used irresponsibly, can hurt innocent people...Anything which can be used as a weapon can be used for other purposes as well. A biological or chemical weapon could be used to research counter-measures to such weapons. While it may be disgusting behavior, such weapons could also be used purely for personal entertainment: you could release them into an air-tight chamber and kill animals with them. They might also, and often do, have industrial applications.
loweleif:THe Ethics of Liberty, selected passages...
"We must, therefore, conclude that the use of nuclear or similar weapons, or the threat thereof, is a crime against humanity for which there can be no justification.
For it is precisely the characteristic of modern weapons that they cannot be used selectively, cannot be used in a libertarian manner. Therefore, their very existence must be condemned, and nuclear disarmament becomes a good to be pursued for its own sake."
Notice how Rothbard get's all nasty towards the Idea of Nuclear weapons, but how he doesn't say they should be made illegal, or anything about initiating force to prevent their creation. Rothbard's argument was actually quite sound, in the terms that one cannot justify the use of Nuclear weapons as weapon of war, for precisely the point that it cannot pinpoint it's target. So Rothbard was probably calling for the society to be reasonable and not posses such means for the ends of war.
Rich333: They can most certainly be used selectively, as I've already pointed out in the case of naval warfare, unless we're assigning human rights to fish and/or ocean-dwelling mammals.
Rich333: There are also perfectly legitimate applications, both military and non-military, for nuclear weapons in space.
Rich333: Maybe I'm just reading it wrong, but that last sentence does sound like he was in favor of using force to both prevent their creation and to eliminate existing devices.
I guess the question remains, then. As you mention, Rich333, there are other uses for these 'goods' that not necessarily imply a threat on anybody else's liberty, like construction (demolition). I guess the reason for the question doesn't really lie with the weapons being nukes or not, or them being not selective in defense, but on what really Rothbard meant by THREAT in the non-aggression axiom.
On the side of environmentalism, I lean towards some utilitarianism. I think there has to be an acceptable level of contamination. The contamination of the air is from my point of view the weakest point Rothbard ever made, as anyone could argue that the air I 'appropriate' with my breathing was already appropriated and disposed of by someone else; like appropriating something whatever from nature, that another animal or person had already used and abandoned.
I concede this may not be the best example to make the point, but I would appreciate any comments or recommended readings on the matter. Bob Murphy is very interesting and I just added him to my list for 2008 books.
loweleif:They cannot be used selectively if the intention is to attack humans.
loweleif:Testing military weapons in the ocean does not contradict the premise of the NAP - Violence/Threat of Violence.
loweleif:Non-Military perhaps, and with regards to space yes, but in society with the purpose of military use? Questionable.
Which brings us to the next point...
loweleif:He is asking society to reject Nuclear Weapons as he probably thought the potential costs outweighed the good.