Thursday, April 20, 2017

Block Responds on Abortion

Walter Block has written his promised response to my challenges to his concept of “evictionism”; this being the term he uses for abortion.  Despite his insistence to the contrary, it is a distinction without a difference – as Block himself admits.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Abortion Once Again: a response to Feser, Goodwin, Mosquito, Sadowsky, Vance and Watkins

Only a libertarian would think to base an analysis of the abortion controversy on private property rights. The present paper does just that. On that basis, it concludes that evictionism is the only policy compatible with libertarianism.

I agree on discussing this on the basis of property rights; I disagree, of course, that evictionism is compatible with libertarian property rights.

I will deal with Block’s criticism of the views of Goodwin and Mosquito…well, because the two are one.  Block references three of my posts on this topic (here, here, and here), albeit only two (and the lessor two) made it onto the list of references; I believe this is because I sent him one of the posts as a document and neglected to also send the link.  In any case, I find all of his cites to be accurate and represented sufficiently in context.

I will not go point by point; there are a few key points on which the disagreement lies.  I will focus on these.


I must get a minor annoyance out of the way first: In rebutting the position of Goodwin / Mosquito, Block offers the difficult issue of rape eight times (if I count correctly) as an argument against my position.  Guess how many times I made an argument in the case of rape in the essays cited:  zero.

Now, one might call me a coward for not going there.  Well enough.  I left it out for a simple reason: if agreement cannot be reached in the relatively simple and overwhelmingly more common case of consensual intercourse (my quick and unscientific search reveals that less than 1% of abortions in the US are pregnancies due to rape or incest), there is absolutely no chance of reaching agreement with the added complication of rape.  No one launched a rocket into space without first passing Algebra 1.

It was very distracting to read Block’s rebuttal while having to dodge rebuttals to points I never made.

The Distinction Without a Difference

However, even in this introduction of his, [Goodwin] writes: “Both have written in favor of abortion (Block via his concept of ‘evictionism’)…” The problem here is that this conflates eviction and abortion, two very, very different concepts. The first means, merely, that the woman can expel, detached from, separate herself from, the fetus, and leaves it as an entirely open question as to what will happen to her baby afterward. At present technology, the baby first becomes viable when treated in this manner in the third trimester. Abortion, in very sharp distinction, is entirely a separate matter. It combines two different acts: the first, eviction, and the second, outright murder.

Block does not like conflating “eviction and abortion, two very, very different concepts.”  Let’s see if even Block “leaves it as an entirely open question as to what will happen to her baby afterward.”

Morally, Block describes abortion – specifically partial-birth abortion in the third trimester – as “outright despicable murder.”  Murder, of course, being a violation of the non-aggression principle.  But what of the first two trimesters, when the unborn child is not “viable”?  What sayest thou, Sir Walter the Evictionist?

In saying this, I reveal where my own heart is at: strongly with the pro-life side of this debate. However, this perspective is incorrect, since it would not allow eviction in the first two semesters [sic], when the fetus cannot live outside of the womb, and this is justified under evictionism.

Take a look at the ream of paper in your printer.  Don’t look at the ream: look at a specific space between two specific sheets of paper.  If you need a magnifying glass or the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs $27 million electron microscope, feel free.  The space between those two sheets is wider than the space between evictionism and abortion, certainly in the first two trimesters.

As Block accepts (as do I) that the unborn child is “human” from conception, that would make it…murder.  Consider the first two trimesters as the context for his statement, with one slight modification:

In saying this, I reveal where my own heart is at: strongly with the pro-life side of this debate. However, this perspective is incorrect, since it would not allow eviction in the first two semesters[sic], when the fetus cannot live outside of the womb, and [murder] is justified under evictionism.

Murder, of course, being a violation of the non-aggression principle. 

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout the Birds and the Bees and the Flowers and the Trees…

Block cites Goodwin: “However, the woman did take an action in the situation the act of becoming pregnant.”  An incontrovertible point, I thought.  Apparently not for those who find a Grand Canyon’s worth of space between those two sheets of paper.  Block offers:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Rothbard: Concluding Remarks

This will be my final post reviewing the compilation of Murray Rothbard’s essays for the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, entitled “The Irrepressible Rothbard.  This has been both an entertaining and enlightening read; further, it has provided a walk down memory lane – the national politics of the early 1990s.

Max Lerner

I begin with Rothbard’s examination of Max Lerner and his advice, described by Lerner as "the fusion of Wilsonian idealist ends with realistic Hamiltonian means."  This advice is offered within the context of the disintegrating Soviet Union:

And what does this fusion entail?  First, "heroic alliance measures" (English translation: massive subsidy and control) "to shore up the new Russian republics"…

What does Lerner mean by “shore up”?

Here it comes: "against plunging into a 'Russia first' ethnic and anti-Semitic nationalism." …Lerner has outlined for us with great clarity the neocon version of the New World Order: an order where not only any America First trend is stamped out, but also any "Russia first" or anyones else first movement everywhere in the world, in order to eradicate all nationalisms and "anti-Semitism."

Because stamping out the culture that is inherent in the national ushers in one world government.  Well, stamping out all but one:

All nationalisms must be stamped out, it seems, but one.  For Israel must be supported to the hilt and beyond.

Norman Podhoretz

Rothbard moves to Norman Podhoretz:

He also says that the paleos are "fanatical nativists," to whom "immigration from anywhere except Western Europe (or perhaps only England)" is a great threat to "the health and integrity of American Society.

Noting that Podhoretz doesn’t get this quite right, Rothbard suggests:

Paleos, including Pat Buchanan, have no quarrel with immigration from any section of Europe, West or East…. Paleos are all committed to a Euro-American culture as a vital groundwork of the American Republic.

Rothbard apparently agrees that a proper and specific culture is necessary for liberty to thrive.


Rothbard moves on to left-libertarians, and their view “that everyone must have some sort of "equal access" to government facilities…”

Forgive the following lengthy cite, but I find it tremendously valuable for many subjects in the libertarian political debate:

But why?  All of libertarian political thought follows from the non-aggression principle: that no one, including the government, can aggress against someone else's person or property.  Since according to libertarian theory, there should be no government property since it is all derived from coercion, how does any principle whatever of government property use follow from libertarian theory?  The answer is, it doesn't.  On the question of what to do about government property, libertarians, apart from calling for privatization, are set adrift, in short, with nothing but their common sense and their attunement to the real world, of which libertarians have always been in notoriously short supply.

I have written the same when it comes to libertarian theory and the question of state borders (including that “notoriously short supply” part) – libertarian theory does not offer an answer because it cannot offer an answer.


You can know a man by the friends he keeps.

Monday, April 17, 2017

If Not Contract, What?

Charles Goyette has written a piece on the United Airlines debacle: The Small Print vs. The Big Issue.

I have been both surprised and disappointed to discover that so many of the people I esteem as great defenders of free people and free markets have written to defend United’s right to deny a seat to the holder of a paid ticket.  The “involuntary denied boarding” clause is in the contract, they say, and it rules.  It is in there fair and square, they say, and the passenger should have known it.

Nobody books a flight and pays for it and is then told by the airline that it will honor the ticket only when it deems it convenient. But that is the practical effect of the “contract of carriage” fine print.

Before getting to the big question, a couple of thoughts.  First, United did not follow its own “small print” in this case, at least not from what I have read.  Second, anyone who flies with any regularity knows that flights can be oversold and volunteers are requested.  It isn’t merely a question of the “’contract of carriage’ fine print.”  Fliers know this happens without ever reading the contract.  Call it “custom.”

Goyette describes the overbooking practice:

Some explain in needless detail all the reasons that airlines overbook flights.  Those reasons are compelling for airlines, but they are a needless and irrelevant sidebar.

Of course, this is also beneficial to the travelling public – as airlines can ensure full flights with this practice, tickets prices, on average, are lower than they otherwise would have been. 

Now to the big question: if not the contract, what should govern?  A contract represents an agreement between two individuals; it gets no more “libertarian” than this.

What should “great defenders of free people and free markets” suggest instead of the contract?

Of course, custom and culture can govern – and much of our lives are “governed” this way.  Not perfectly libertarian, but beneficial if one wants to minimize or avoid the next possibility.

Alternatively, a government can govern: regulations, laws, legislation, etc.  Completely non-libertarian.

My fellow free-marketeers are correct that United Airlines only hurt itself by its thuggish behavior.

Sure, some contracts are burdensome, onerous, etc.; some companies display thuggish behavior.  If this is overly so, markets tend to resolve the issue.  As has happened in this case.

What has happened to United is a huge victory for the free market – the discipline was swift and sure, and my guess is that it isn’t over. 

In the meantime, my guess is that the bureaucrats are working on “regulations” to address this issue.  Is this really preferred?


So I ask again, if not the market and contract providing regulation and feedback, what?

Investing in Defense Contractors

My question is, would it be a violation of the NAP or libertarian principles for anti-war libertarians to own stock in companies such as those, either through index funds or by purchasing individual shares in a brokerage account?

Would a libertarian be in violation of the NAP or libertarian principle by working for any of those companies as well, in a capacity not directly related to warfare?

Before specifically getting to Walter’s reply…I have dealt with this topic before, long ago in the very early days of bionic mosquito.  At the time, the point was raised by Richard Maybury at The Daily Bell.  I have a series of posts on this topic of investing in defense contractors, but offer the following as the most relevant:

Richard Maybury: The Ugly: This post expands, in a somewhat crude way given bionic was just a pup at the time, my initial comments on the view that it is not consistent with the NAP for a libertarian to own defense stocks.

Richard Maybury at The Daily Bell: this post furthers the dialogue, including a back-and-forth between bionic and whoever was dealing with feedback at The Daily Bell that day.  This post continues that same dialogue with TDB.

Now, on to Walter’s reply (condensed):

The problem with “owning stock” in a bad company is that you are sort of stuck. Stipulate that it is bad to do so. Well, then, what are you going to do? If you sell your shares, you besmirch the person who purchases them from you. Ditto for giving them away to someone else. How about if you just burn your stock certificates? Then, everyone else’s shares rise in value, with the same result. Stuck, I say.

I see no problem here.  What someone else does with his capital and given his principles is his business.  I am responsible for my own behavior; heaven help me if I am also responsible for the behavior of everyone else.

Yet, I see no answer to the underlying question; for example, what if I don’t own such stock today – therefore none of Walter’s concerns arise?  Is it a violation of the NAP to purchase such stock?

I offer one portion of my earlier posts, linked above; it should be noted, Marbury uses examples of handguns and the like when discussing the ethics of investing in Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics:

Maybury’s position on investing in things that do well in wartime is corrupt.  Maybury advocates profiting from the most hideous outward manifestation of the state: war.  Almost every weapon produced by such investments is one of mass destruction – not able to be aimed solely at the intended target (assuming you even trust the state’s judgment on the intended target, individuals half-way around the world that pose no harm to Americans).

One will say that the weapon cannot be immoral, only the operator.  This is correct for a rifle or bow and arrow.  It can be aimed at the intended target.  Not so for weapons of modern warfare.  All such weapons produce what is sanitarily called “collateral damage.”  These cannot be used in a moral manner.

I go on to cite a Rothbard passage on this same point.

Returning to Walter:

What about working for an evil firm, or, for the government? Well, I was employed by several public universities. One justification is that such schools are not evil per se, since colleges would also exist in the free society.

This is a confusing statement.  Why intersperse teaching at a university with the answer to the question at hand?  In any case, I generally agree with Walter’s conclusion – colleges would exist in a free society.  Further, as colleges are virtually all captured by the state, one who has a calling to be a professor has little choice about the funding nature of his employer; most colleges and universities receive significant state funding – directly and indirectly.

What about working for a governmental institution totally incompatible with liberty, such as the Fed or the CIA. Here, I would say that a libertarian could do so, but, only if he undermined the mission of these institutions, not promoted them.

I cannot disagree with this, although I am personally not very comfortable with this.  What can one say about an Edward Snowden, for example?  That such as he is so rare and that such efforts result in negligible fundamental change suggests how difficult it is to destroy from the inside. 

Otherwise, stay clear – there is nothing compatible with liberty here; such entities would never exist in anything even remotely resembling their current form absent government.

And I say the same for today’s defense contractors; and I conclude that investing in these is a violation of the NAP.


I offer below my responses to the nuanced portions of the original questions.  I realize these are delving deep into the gray areas, so I offer my replies with this caveat:

What about investing in defense contractors through an index fund?  If the index is a broad-based industrial index, I do not see an issue; if it is a focused defense and aerospace index, I think not.

What about taking a non-warfare-related position in a defense contractor?  If it is in the washing machine division, I see no problem.  If it is general corporate G&A or overhead, then I see it as a problem.

Friday, April 14, 2017

All of the Topics I Have NOT Covered

I have a confession to make.  There are many topics related to libertarian theory, application of theory, and state aggressions that I have written little, if anything, about.  It seems to be a grave shortcoming on my part.

Let’s run through a list; consider these as potential titles for these non-existent posts:

·        Drug Laws: This One Should be Easy
·        The Age of Majority: Drinking Alcohol
·        Is Second-Hand Cigarette Smoke a Violation of the Non-Aggression Principle?
·        Filing for a Tax refund?  Is This Theft?
·        Can a Deed Restriction Exist in a Libertarian World?
·        Is Torture Ever Justified?
·        To Spank or Not to Spank; That is the Question
·        If Ayn Rand is Wrong, Do I Want to be Right?
·        Privatized roads: a Path to Extortion?
·        Minimum Wage: a Living Wage or a Dying Wage?
·        “Anything Peaceful.”  Is That Really all the NAP has to Offer?
·        Without Free Will, is Man Truly Free?
·        How Far Below the Surface and in the Sky Do my Property Rights Extend?
·        Is Homesteading the Only Legitimate way to Claim Property?
·        Corporations and the NAP?  Discuss
·        The Benefits of Free Trade: DUH.
·        Getting Groped by State Actors, Pros and Cons
·        Environmental Regulation: a Detailed Examination
·        If I Blast My Outdoor Stereo Really Loud only for REALLY GOOD MUSIC, is it an NAP Violation?
·        All I Need to Know About the NAP: “Get Off My Lawn!”
·        Does the NAP Extend to Non-human Mammals?
·        “Papers, Please.” 
·        My Neighbor has a Smoker.  Can I Hate Him for an NAP Violation, or only Because He Never Invites Me Over to his Parties?
·        Can one Hate the State and Still Walk on Sidewalks?
·        School Choice?  I Thought Everything with the Word “Choice” was Libertarian!
·        “Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal” – the Slogan of Every American Politician since…well, Forever.
·        If I Prevent Someone from Committing Suicide, Am I Now Obligated to Care for Him for the Rest of His Life?
·        What is the Proper Way for a Libertarian to Punish His Child?
·        24601 (aka Jean Valjean) Stole a Little Bread for his dying Nephew; Was Nineteen Years in Prison Enough?  A Libertarian Speaks Out
·        He Said Mean Things to Me; Can I Put Him in the Libertopia Hoosegow?
·        A Private Market for Organs: Is this Off-Key?

Well, that’s enough for now.  I am sure even this list is only scratching the surface. 

You see, it isn’t that I don’t have a view on many of these things.  In some cases, I find these topics rather trivial – how-many-libertarian-angels-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-mosquito kind of thing.  In other cases, there are people far more qualified than I am to write on these; the topic is already fully covered. 

Mostly, the reason I don’t write about such things is because I choose to write only about things that interest me – I am not writing for an audience although I am tremendously and truly grateful that others find value in my work.  Some may view my choices as not very important, or might view that I ignore the truly important.  You are free to hold that view; I am free to ignore you.  Because I really don’t care what you think about my choice of topics.

Anyway, I hope this addresses the issue.