On Law and Social Contracts

This post is a departure from my area of expertise (economics) into an area of interest (law and philosophy).

Law (not legislation) is the set of rules, techniques, and institutions we set up among ourselves to handle the inevitable conflicts that arise when two or more people interact (Hayek, Alchian, Plato, and Cicero, among many others, used this definition).  Law may be written down, it may not.  Law may be against legislation, it may not.  Law may be best described if we use the original Greek word: nomos, or norms.  The norms of a society are its law.  As Hayek put it in Law, Legislation, and Liberty, law: “refers not only to explicit laws but to all of the normal rules and forms people take for granted in their day-to-day activities.”

At this point, we should take a brief but necessary digression on the difference between law and legislation.  Law, as I stated above, are the norms of society; both formal and informal rules.  Legislation, on the other hand, are rules passed by some governing body.  Something may be against the law but not against legislation (for example, infidelity in a relationship or marriage).  Legislation may be the same as law in some cases (for example, it is both against the law and against legislation to steal), but legislation may try to usurp law (many kinds of legislation championed by “social engineers” are like this; they seek to overthrow the established social order for one reason or another and impose a new one.  For example, minimum wage seeks to overthrow the established law regarding work agreements and impose new agreements the parties do not consent to.  A more extreme form would be anti- interracial marriage legislation or anti-religion legislation).  The distinction between law and legislation will become important later in this post.

To the extent laws are informal, and that they emerge through the repeated interactions of people, they are, in a sense, unanimously adopted.  At least, unanimously consented to, under the Rousseauian criteria (that is, people obey them even if they don’t agree.  Disagreement is signaled by leaving the society).  What’s more, given that these laws are adopted without the inherent threat of violence (that is, they are adopted not on the grounds that disobeying the law will result in violent forms of correction.  Punishment may develop to include violence later, but it is not inherent to the law), we can say the consent to such law is voluntary, another key aspect of social contract theory.

To the extent that laws are developed over time through people’s peaceful and voluntary interactions, we can consider laws a social contract.  Note that this differs from legislation.  Legislation cannot be considered either peaceful, voluntary, or emergent from people’s interactions (to the extent legislation codifies law, it does meet these criteria but only by virtue of being descended from law).  The fact that legislation carries behind it the threat of government action (“disobey this legislation and the punishment will be X”), renders it immediately hostile.  The fact it is imposed, rather than emergent, renders it involuntary.  Further, to the extent the State prohibits or obstructs migration (both immigration and emigration) reduces the individuals freedom to leave the contract, and thus negates the voluntary aspect further.  By this criteria, we cannot consider legislation a social contract.

In short, the law is a social contract, as properly understood.  Legislation, however, is not.  I intend to further develop these ideas, as well as discuss the role of the State in the social contract and the law, in future blog posts.  I cannot speak to when they will be coming, as my research needs to be focused more on my graduate work.  But stay tuned.

114 thoughts on “On Law and Social Contracts

  1. Great post, Jon. Good point separating law from legislation. Under natural law I think it’s not so much a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, as it is weighing the cost of disagreeing and rejecting norms and customs against the loss of societal and community benefits – cooperating for mutual benefit. We can assume belonging to a community confers benefits on the individual members, that they value, and don’t want to lose, or else they wouldn’t form voluntary communities.

    You haven’t read Huemer yet, have you. 🙂

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      • Unless I’m reading you wrong, you have distinguished between voluntary and coerced. ‘Social contract’ is often used to justify the state,which you haven’t done. You haven’t yet discussed the state, but you mentioned coercive legislation which implies the state, and you contrasted that with social norms and customs which are basically voluntary.

        We form a line at the checkout counter and wait our turn, not because it’s mandated by the state, but because we all expect it of each other and risk angry confrontations and refusal of service if we violate that custom. We have an inate sense of the justice in “first come first served”

        Likewise we cover our bodies in public because it’s expected, and we risk loss of beneficial interaction with others if we don’t – ingoring for a moment the statutory prohibitions.

        Voluntary is good. Threats of violence are bad. I think most societies are governed mostly by these customs and norms, with statutory law being either redundant or harmful to liberty.

        The primary issue is consent. We haven’t consented to most of the things required of us by the state under threat of violence.

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  2. Few things are more ironic than libertarians complaining about the outcome of libertarian practices.

    No human practice is more libertarian than language. Everyone gets to decide for himself what the words he speaks and hears mean to him. Usages vary somewhat and the penalty for getting it wrong is simply that you may misunderstand someone else or not be understood by them the way you want to be. Languages are constantly evolving and there simply is no higher authority to appeal to than prevailing convention. Dictionary makers monitor and follow conventional practice. They don’t lead it. Every year they update their dictionaries to bring them into better alignment with conventional usage.

    Like it or not, English speakers refer to pieces of legislation as “law.” They refer to social norms, even powerful ones as, well, “norms.” So then, if you commit an armed robbery or simply get a speeding ticket English speakers will refer to that as “breaking the law.”

    If you go into your swimming pool with your clothes on, no one will say you broke a law. They will say you violated a social norm. If you saw through your meat with a spoon and put it in your mouth with a knife no one will say you violated the law. They will say you violated a social norm.

    I am well aware that F.A. Hayek and Don Boudreaux have tried mightily to change these language conventions surrounding the use of “law” and “legislation.” Surely you have noticed that they failed.

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      • It’s not careless to use a language in the way that the overwhelming majority of its speakers do. In fact, it’s the best way to communicate and make your argument. I don’t like every language convention. No one likes every language convention. I avoid using the ones I don’t like but I don’t argue that the majority of the speakers of a language are using those conventions wrong or carelessly. That is a claim that can only be based on a belief that something other than convention underlies word meanings. If you really think something other than convention underlies word meanings I’d like to know what that thing is.

        So then, if you want to argue that prevailing social norms and practices are more important than legislation or word meanings go ahead and make that argument and I’ll agree with you.

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        • “It’s not careless to use a language in the way that the overwhelming majority of its speakers do.”

          Sure it is. Many people carelessly say “robbery” when they mean “burglary.” These are specialized words. And, words mean things. In the long run, the word meanings may change if they continue to be misused. But, never in the short term.

          Hayek and Boudreaux distinguish between “law” and “legislation” and are careful to explain their use of the words whenever they use them. They know they are changing the language and that is a long process. Don has taken Hayek’s use of these words and increased their usage. Changing the language and educating people is a slow process. Don has been quite successful as more people than ever before are using these words as Hayek suggested.

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          • John,

            I agree with most of your comment. I also am annoyed when people use burglary and robbery interchangeably. Thankfully that is not yet the prevailing practice although it is common enough that we are both worried that it might one day be. If that day comes I will still use those terms the way I do today but I will not tell other people they are using the language wrong if it is the prevailing practice to use them interchangeable and most people do.

            You make a good point when you observe that people are free to advocate for changes in language conventions and that that occasionally succeeds especially when people are clear about the fact that they are advocating for a change.

            It was a long time ago that Hayek advocated the change that you and Jon are hoping for. I don’t see any evidence that the change he advocated has spread outside of a very narrow community of like minded libertarians.

            Either way I really must insist that it is not “careless” to follow ordinary language conventions when arguing for the things you want to advocate for.

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          • Greg G., Hayek did not have the internet, social media, and many other alternative means of educating others. I remember a time not so distant when all the professors of economics at my university were all Keynesians and Hayek and Mises were long forgotten. But I see universities where all the professors teach the ideas of Hayek and Mises. It takes time, but technology has changed education and how ideas are disseminated.

            I am not worried that the meanings of the words “robbery” or “burglary” will change. We all have different levels of education and expertise. I have carelessly (because I did not look it up) used medical words that I thought I understood the meaning. A doctor corrected me. I use the word correctly now.

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        • Hi Greg G.

          So then, if you want to argue that prevailing social norms and practices are more important than legislation or word meanings go ahead and make that argument and I’ll agree with you.

          I’d like to make that argument, will you agree with me? 🙂

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          • Ron,

            >—“I’d like to make that argument, will you agree with me? 🙂”

            Sure but don’t be surprised if we encounter some disagreements further down the road.

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        • Greg

          1.

          It’s not careless to use a language in the way that the overwhelming majority of its speakers do. In fact, it’s the best way to communicate and make your argument.

          2.

          Everyone gets to decide for himself what the words he speaks and hears mean to him. Usages vary somewhat and the penalty for getting it wrong is simply that you may misunderstand someone else or not be understood by them the way you want to be.

          If we accept that both of these statements is true, then it’s pretty clear that libertarians are not only using the language as they prefer, something of which you approve, but are pointedly making a distinction between two concepts of law that that are commonly jumbled together under one definition as if they were no different. Perhaps libertarians are not so much complaining about the common usage, as they are carefully explaining the distinction they are making so as to ensure the non-libertarian will understand their intended meaning.

          You have registered a complaint about people who use the words burglary and robbery – which are very different transgressions – interchangeably in the common usage. Perhaps a peek in the mirror …,

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          • Ron,

            But libertarians ARE so much complaining about the common usage. Jon says it is “careless.” You say it jumbles things together. We already have a perfectly good term for the socially accepted practices you want people to refer to as “law.” That term is “social norms.” It works just fine. It doesn’t jumble anything together. It is not careless. Everyone understands what is meant by it.

            You want to change the language convention in a way that undermines the weight carried by legislation. It’s not working. You are, and ought to be, free to develop any special language you like to talk to other libertarians. But when you use a special language to talk to non-libertarians it makes you less effective in communicating your ideas. That’s all. So carry on calling taxation theft and positive rights the imposition of slavery. It’s OK with me. I’m not looking to advance your ideas anyway. Just offering some helpful advise on why you aren’t more successful spreading them.

            As I said, using robbery and burglary is not yet the common convention. It may one day be. If I am around when that day comes I won’t tell other people they are using the language wrong. But I will start to indicate whether or not there was an encounter between the victim and the criminal when I use those words if I want to convey that information.

            On a related note, I have already accepted the sad demise of the word “literally.”

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          • Well, the content of the post did have a lot to do with the meaning of the words “law” and “legislation” and “norms.” Semantics is the study of word meanings so an important part of the post is about semantics.

            But if you want to return the focus to the other parts I am happy to accommodate. Consider this part of the post:

            >>>—“To the extent laws are informal, and that they emerge through the repeated interactions of people, they are, in a sense, unanimously adopted. At least, unanimously consented to, under the Rousseauian criteria (that is, people obey them even if they don’t agree. Disagreement is signaled by leaving the society). ”

            If I told you that libertarians have signaled their unanimous consent to current governmental arrangements by not leaving the country I doubt you would have trouble spotting my error. In both cases people really do stay and tolerate things they don’t agree to.

            Social Contract Theory can be very useful in discussing what types of arrangement people ought to voluntarily agree to. It’s a lot less useful for explaining what they actually do.

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          • Greg

            The part of Jon’s article that you quoted is the part I come the closest to disagreeing with, but I’m allowing for a wide interpretations of the language and waiting for clarification in future installments.

            Rousseau isn’t someone I would hold up as a libertarian, but Jon’s wording stopped short of endorsing the use of force by the collective against individuals who disagree. In fact Jon specifically used the phrase “leaving the society” as opposed to your use of the phrase “leaving the country” which implies a physical relocation. I’m not entirely happy with Jon’s wording, but it’s close enough. I will wait for clarification.

            .

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          • Ron,

            Whether or not it is leaving the society or leaving the country few people do either because they disagree with the requirements of the society or country.

            In neither case does failure to leave justify assuming agreement.

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          • “So carry on calling taxation theft and positive rights the imposition of slavery.’

            Both concepts derive from the issue of whether government has limits. If you assume there are no limits on what government can do, then taxation is never theft and taking from some to give to others (i.e., positive rights) is never slavery. If you assume government has limits, then taxation that exceeds legitimate government functions is theft and taking from some to provide healthcare to others is slavery.

            There is a huge battle over the meaning of words. This has been caused as those who would use government to impose their view on others seek hide their real intentions. For example, “positive rights” assumes that some people deserve to have others provide goods and services to them for free. They don’t. The terms “progressive” and “liberal” are frequently misused to mean people who believe government power should be used to force others to do as they wish. There is nothing progressive or liberal about using force. Those are merely political games. And, much of politics is about semantics or reframing the issue to put your position in the best light (or even to cloak it behind nice sounding terms.

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          • John Simm,

            If someone accuses you of a crime do you think you have a right to a fair trial before you are punished for that allegation?

            If so, you believe in a positive right. Trials are expensive and the accused will not always be able to pay.

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          • Greg G,

            “If someone accuses you of a crime do you think you have a right to a fair trial before you are punished for that allegation? If so, you believe in a positive right.”

            No. A fair trail is a negative right. “A negative right is a right not to be subjected to an action of another person or group.” And, from Wikipedia: “Rights considered negative rights may include civil and political rights such as freedom of speech, life, private property, freedom from violent crime, freedom of religion, habeas corpus, a fair trial, freedom from slavery.”

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          • John Simm,

            Just because someone writes something in Wikipedia doesn’t make it the case. One of these things is not like the others. You haven’t explained who will pay for the fair trial for a man who is accused but has no money to pay for a trial. Perhaps you have noticed that we now pay for trials with taxes. Are fair trials no one has to pay for the elusive free lunch?

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          • Greg G.,

            Wikipedia is just one source of many. All of those items fall within the definition that “a negative right is a right not to be subjected to an action of another person or group.” A government may not deprive someone of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. That makes a fair trial a negative right in the it limits government power.

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          • ““So carry on calling . . . positive rights the imposition of slavery.’”

            Here is a list of the “positive rights” that libertarians normally refer to as slavery:

            The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
            The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
            The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
            The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
            The right of every family to a decent home;
            The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
            The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
            The right to a good education.

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          • John Simm

            Exactly. Every one of these so-called ‘rights require that someone may be placed in the service of another against their will. To apply equally to every person rights must be negative, therefor there can be no positive rights. I don’t have a “right to your resources, including your labor.

            Now it’s possible, even likely, that most of us feel a moral obligation to help others who are in need, but that’s a different concept entirely, and is a voluntary response, not a coerced response.

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  3. Sorry Jon but this post is a mess. It is full of special pleading. Social norms are not unanimously agreed to. To even have a norm there has to be, at least occasionally, a real behavior that is abnormal and in violation of the norm. Different social norms garner different levels of support. Some are written into law and some aren’t. Levels of support for social norms change whether or not they are written into formal law.

    It is also wrong to say that legislation cannot be considered emergent. You have fallen into the trap of simply using the word “emergent” as a compliment for those emergent processes you approve of. Millions of voters select hundreds of thousands of representatives at different levels of government. Different levels of government sometimes make laws that conflict with each other. The elected representatives select many thousand of bureaucrats who participate in determining what the law is. Every single one of these agents has their own decentralized complex set of motives and goals which include calculating to what extent they need to satisfy the desires of the voters.

    The result is very unpredictable and emergent. Almost everyone elected to office is shocked and disappointed to find they have less power than they anticipated. The fact that making legislation is an emergent process is the main reason it has so many unintended consequences.

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      • I thought the post was pretty good. The idea of “emergence” has been around since Aristotle. Law emerged spontaneously over time from the vast majority of common people, while legislation was imposed in the short term by a relative few who has power over others. Examples include the prohibition against murder for law and Obamacare for legislation.

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    • Greg

      To even have a norm there has to be, at least occasionally, a real behavior that is abnormal and in violation of the norm.

      Exactly. We could even say that social norms and customary law have developed over time to proscribe the undesirable behaviors they describe.

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  4. Greg G

    If someone accuses you of a crime do you think you have a right to a fair trial before you are punished for that allegation?

    Does a “fair trial” include conscripting jurors against their will?

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    • Ron,

      I think the current system we have for selecting jurors is a good one. Anyone can get out of serving for a number of reasons which include, but are not limited to, simply stating that they have a bias regarding the case.

      I have given up on getting John Simm to tell us who he thinks should be required to pay for the fair trial of a suspect with no ability to pay the costs of a trial. If the accused can’t pay the cost of a trial then someone else will be stuck with those costs. That makes the right to a fair trial a positive right.

      In any event, the accused may be innocent in which case imposing those costs on him creates that form of coercion. I trust that you recognize this problem and it is part of the reason you do not recognize the right to a fair trial as a legitimate right. As I recall you place more faith in volunteer vigilante justice. What could possibly go wrong with that?

      Even though I disagree with your an-cap ideas I admire your willingness to confront their most difficult problems rather than simply duck them as John Simm has done above.

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      • Nothing says a “positive right” like saying the government may NOT imprison you when you are accused of a crime.

        “Ducking issues” mean disagreeing with definitions and other sources that prove you are wrong.

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        • John Simm,

          OK one last attempt here. You say that the right to a fair trial is a negative right.

          But fair trials are expensive. Who should be required to pay for them?

          If they are a right and some third party is sometimes required to pay for them then they are a positive right. They are a right to a benefit that everyone gets whether or not they can afford to pay.

          Why can’t you answer this question? Please don’t reply with another cut and paste from one of your many “sources.” I want to know what YOU think in your own words. Every time you fail to answer this question i become more skeptical that you have anything interesting to say on the subject.

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          • Greg G.,

            I am not here to fight with you. You have gone through three iterations of your argument as definitions and evidence have proven you wrong.

            1. “So carry on calling . . . positive rights the imposition of slavery.’”

            I have never heard libertarians frame this issue as one involving “positive rights.” Normally, the argument is about government taking someone’s income and wealth to pay for healthcare, education, etc. for others. That is the same as slavery. You work, while I eat.

            2. ““If someone accuses you of a crime do you think you have a right to a fair trial before you are punished for that allegation? If so, you believe in a positive right.”

            Your second iteration is better, but still wrong. The right to a fair trial is a negative one because there is a restriction on government power.

            3. “Who should be required to pay for them?”

            Your third iteration is best, but a misrepresentation. ALL negative rights has “positive” aspects in that they are defended through the court system. So, are all those negative rights that prohibit or restrict government action now “positive” rights? No.

            Thank you for the discussion. Have a wonderful day.

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          • John Simm,

            Finally a real answer. Thank you.

            Unless you are an anarchist, (and you aren’t) all negative rights DO have “positive ‘aspects’ in that they are defended through the court system.” I love that euphemism. Of course the “aspect” that is “positive” is that someone is often required to pay for a service that benefits another person whether they consent to that payment or not. That is to say that both the courts and the police are funded by taxes which are collected under threat of government coercion.

            Of course you only want government to undertake functions which YOU think are “legitimate.” That doesn’t make you different from anybody else. This makes you like everyone else. We all only want government to undertake the functions we think are legitimate.

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          • Greg G,

            Why are you so belligerent? There is no need to be. Perhaps you feel challenged because you are wrong or perhaps you simply want to push a political ideology that has been proven not to work. In either case, you should not act belligerently.

            As Eugene Volokh explained, ” Rights can also be mixtures, or look like one while actually being the other. The right to have a criminal defense lawyer appointed for you (if you’re too poor to afford one) may look like a constitutional positive right, but I think it’s really a constitutional negative right — it’s really the right not to be deprived of your liberty unless you’ve been convicted through a process in which a lawyer has been appointed for you.”

            But then, I am sure that this is another source that you will deny simply because he disagrees with you. I believe that is four sources against you. Shall I provide more?

            Legitimate government functions are laid out in the Constitution. So, no, just because you feel that something is legitimate does not make it so.

            But, thanks again for the conversation. You have now convinced me that you have nothing interesting to say on this subject.

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          • John Simm,

            Don’t take it all so personally. It’s not meant that way. Not yet anyway. You were just starting to convince me you did have a few interesting things to say.

            I actually love the Volokh quote because he hits the nail on the head when he says “Rights can be mixtures…” (of positive and negative rights). They are so often mixtures that this whole fuss about thinking there is a clear line between positive and negative rights is a train wreck. I know you are sincere about the distinction feeling real to you. I’m not questioning that.

            But don’t you ever wonder why so few other people care about it? The reason so few other people care about it is because they see how artificial it is. You want government to do what you want it to do just like everybody else. You are just a bit more sanctimonious about it.

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          • Greg

            But don’t you ever wonder why so few other people care about it? The reason so few other people care about it is because they see how artificial it is. … they don’t give it any serious thought.

            Many people believe it’s OK to force others to act against their will – as long as it’s for the “right reasons”

            Good intentions are all that is necessary. (/sarc)

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          • Greg G,

            From another commenter, “It’s possible that you got pissy with John Simm . . .” So, it was you who were acting belligerently.

            I see that you are changing the issue to whether “there is a clear line between positive and negative rights.” That is the fourth iteration. Your original issue was ” “So carry on calling . . . positive rights the imposition of slavery.”

            Your second and third iterations were the right to a fair trial and who pays for it. But, as Eugene Volokh clearly states, both are negative Constitutional rights.

            I’ve never heard a libertarian calling “positive rights the imposition of slavery.” You were the one who broth the issue up. So perhaps the question should be why do you care so much about positive and negative rights?

            Government powers are limited. That is what Constitutions are for? Those who want the government to do what they want misrepresent what powers the Constitution grants the federal government.

            Thanks again for the conversation. Your continued misrepresentations have convinced me that you have nothing interesting to say on this subject.

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          • We all only want government to undertake the functions we think are legitimate.

            How very true. Guess what functions are on my list.

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      • Greg

        Anyone can get out of serving for a number of reasons which include, but are not limited to, simply stating that they have a bias regarding the case.

        Or by simply throwing away the notice to appear when it arrives in the mail. This creates a dilemma for a libertarian who may wish to exercise his right of jury nullification. One can’t know whether jury nullification can even be applied to particular case until they are empaneled and assigned to a case as a prospective juror.

        Who should pay for a fair trial? Here’s a scenario that might help clarify:

        I am accused by a person or by the state of a crime. I am, in fact, innocent, and I may be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Therefore it falls on the accuser to pay for a trial and prove me guilty. My minimum defense is a declaration that I’m “not guilty”. and it is incumbent on the accuser to prove me guilty to the satisfaction of whatever entity is sitting in judgment of the case. (that may not be my smartest defense move in light of the fallibility and proneness to error of the current state justice system). If I wish to reduce my odds of suffering a miscarriage of justice, I may pay for expert assistance in ensuring my acquittal. Knowing that mistakes happen and that I may be required, unjustly, to defend myself from erroneous charges, I have maintained a “legal defense” insurance policy for just this eventuality.

        In a more just system of “loser pays”, the accuser would be required to reimburse me or my insurance company for our otherwise unnecessary expenses. And of course in a more just world there would be no “crimes against the state” only crimes against persons and property.

        Of course in the opposite case, where I AM guilty and proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, I can see part of my “sentence” being to pay the expenses of the accuser who rightfully brought charges against me. I would imagine my Legal defense insurance would provide that coverage also, although I would expect that coverage to be cancelled after a payout and I would expect to be ineligible for that coverage again unless and until I satisfactorily reimbursed the insurance company, or perhaps after some period of time without another criminal charge.

        In any event, the accused may be innocent in which case imposing those costs on him creates that form of coercion. I trust that you recognize this problem and it is part of the reason you do not recognize the right to a fair trial as a legitimate right.

        And hopefully I’ve explained that I can insure against the expenses incurred by unfair criminal charges just as I can insure against unfair muggings or unfair sprained ankles.

        Even though I disagree with your an-cap ideas I admire your willingness to confront their most difficult problems rather than simply duck them as John Simm has done above.

        It’s possible that you got pissy with John Simm before he had a chance to know you better. If I’m not mistaken, this was your first date.

        In any case, I’m convinced that the current political systems under which we live, even at their best, aren’t necessarily the best of all possible systems, and that many if not most of the social institutions we (you) think require the heavy fist of monopoly government, could be even better served by voluntary, cooperative market systems, as so much of our lives are already better served by such systems.

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        • Ron,

          >—-“It’s possible that you got pissy with John Simm before he had a chance to know you better. If I’m not mistaken, this was your first date.”

          You might be right. These things so rarely work out I may not have put in the effort I should have. I might have been spoiled by your constant willingness to take on tough questions and lost patience too soon.

          As far as I can tell I’m your only internet frenemy. Against all odds we started out on the right foot and somehow remained respectful. That happened with Jon and I too despite the fact that despite the fact that we disagree on a lot. That kind of constant respectful disagreement is rare enough I never expect it. Maybe I’ve become too jaded. The internet has a way of lowering your expectations about people.

          By the way, would you please explain to John Simm how violated your libertarian sensibilities are by being coerced into paying taxes so government can do the things he wants it to do.

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          • As far as I can tell I’m your only internet frenemy.

            By golly, you may be right. Most others with whom I frequently talk, including Jon, are either much closer to my own views or too distant for common ground. If Jon continues to write on the current subject as he has promised, We can look forward to some interesting comments. He may be moving toward anarchism. 🙂

            Against all odds we started out on the right foot and somehow remained respectful.

            That is rare, and I value it. And thank you for not making my life easy.

            By the way, would you please explain to John Simm how violated your libertarian sensibilities are by being coerced into paying taxes so government can do the things he wants it to do..

            I think you just did.

            Many libertarians assert that a small monopoly government with a limited “Night Watchman” kind of role would be ideal, and of course from where we stand now, that looks beautiful. But at the time the Constitution was written and adopted, it was a coup by the elites of the day who wanted more central government power than existed under the articles of Confederation. They won. And of course the new Constitution was violated when the ink was barely dry.

            The problem is that when you delegate some of your powers to an agency operated by humans to whom you’ve also granted a monopoly on the use of force and the power to tax, there is little you can do to keep it limited. Human nature is such that the agent eventually grows to become the master.

            If one believes in sovereignty of the individual, negative natural rights, and the individual right of self determination, there seems to be an irreconcilable conflict with the notion of monopoly power and taxation under threat of violence.

            And of course you aim for that spot where libertarians are vulnerable every time.

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          • Ron H.,

            “But at the time the Constitution was written and adopted, it was a coup by the elites of the day who wanted more central government power than existed under the articles of Confederation.”

            Both the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists believed in the founding principles of limited government. A coup does not require the approval of the States.

            ” little you can do to keep it [power] limited” and “monopoly power and taxation under threat of violence”

            That is why the founders separated the powers, provided for federalism, and enumerated the powers granted to Congress.

            “Human nature is such that the agent eventually grows to become the master.”

            As the founders pointed out in The Federalist, war would be the greatest enemy of the Republic. They were right, which is why politicians of both liberal and conservative persuasions are calling everything a “war” now.

            “libertarians are vulnerable”

            How so? There has to be some centralized power to deal with foreign enemies and criminals. You have to limit it because, if you don’t, those with access to that power become domestic enemies and criminals.

            Like

          • Ron,

            >—” If Jon continues to write on the current subject as he has promised, We can look forward to some interesting comments. He may be moving toward anarchism.”

            Oh no he’s not going over to the dark side. He is not just not an anarchist, he’s one of those bleeding heart libertarians who want (gasp) a guaranteed minimum income.

            Of course you are quite right that the Constitution was a huge move towards acknowledging the legitimacy of government and centralizing power. The Constitution announces in its very first sentence the intention to “promote the general welfare.” One reason we get along so well is that you care about getting the history right and aren’t peddling High School level historical mythology about this era. I respect that.

            The libertarians of the Revolutionary War era opposed the Constitution and almost carried the day. The Articles of Confederation were the high water mark for American libertarianism. Recall that very few were happy with them and that is why they called a Constitutional Convention.

            I like many things about libertarians. I like that they are quick to stand up against authoritarians. I like that they care about these issues and want to engage on them. I like that they are almost always hard working and self sufficient. I like that they ask important questions.

            On the other hand I think that the idea that one value always (or almost always) automatically trumps all others oversimplifies in a way so extreme it’s hard to take seriously. We do care, and should care, about many values simultaneously and they often conflict in ways that are hard to resolve.

            All types of power corrupt, not just political power. Too much economic power corrupts too. Yes, I know you will want to ask why I think I have the answer to how much is too much. I don’t think I have the answer but I do think that history has shown over and over again that constitutional democracy protects human rights better than any other system when answering these types of questions. Not because it never gets it wrong but because other systems especially anarchy have a much worse record.

            I’m sure you are more than willing to return the favor as for aiming for the vulnerable spots. I think we both care a lot about getting better at arguing for what we believe in and like being challenged for that reason.

            Like

          • Greg G.,

            “The Constitution announces in its very first sentence the intention to “promote the general welfare.”

            The grant of power to ‘‘provide . . . for the general welfare’’ raises a two-fold question: how may Congress provide for ‘‘the general welfare’’ and what is ‘‘the general welfare’’ that it is authorized to promote? The first half of this question was answered by Thomas Jefferson in his opinion on the Bank as follows: ‘‘[T]he laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They [Congress] are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose.’’ The clause, in short, is not an independent grant of power, but a qualification of the taxing power. Although a broader view has been occasionally asserted, Congress has not acted upon it and the Court has had no occasion to adjudicate the point.

            Quotes from 3 WRITINGS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON 147–149 (Library Edition, 1904).

            “aren’t peddling High School level historical mythology”

            Perhaps Ron can do much better than you. Your comments on this topic are simply insults and misrepresentations.

            Like

          • Let me summarized your viewpoints:

            Ron C: AnCap. No government.

            Greg G: Statist. Government has no limits.

            Are you guys familiar with the false dichotomy logical fallacy?

            Like

          • John Simm,

            First of all let me remind you that if your interest in what I have to say here is as low as you keep claiming it is you are free to stop reading at any time. You are certainly free to stop responding to my comments. Responding shows just about the highest level of interest possible. It is uniquely ineffective at showing disinterest. The internet is a big place and this is one of the longest comment threads in the history of this blog. You have been the person most interested in what I have been saying here on the entire internet so you protest a bit too much.

            >—-“Are you guys familiar with the false dichotomy logical fallacy?”

            Well yes. Familiar enough to know that your choosing two ideas from different places and then claiming the combination of the two by you is someone else’s logical fallacy is not what a false dichotomy is. A false dichotomy is when someone claims you are limited to only two choices when there are in fact other choices. There are many other choices in this case and you may use your “many sources” to choose as many of them as you like.

            There is another logical fallacy you should bring your attention to though because you use it repeatedly. The straw man fallacy is when you argue against a position so weak that no one in the conversation is taking it. You keep saying I am advocating no limits on government. I am not advocating that. There are, and ought to be, many limits on government. No doubt fewer than you want but then you want a lot fewer limits on government than Ron wants. There just aren’t any possible arrangements that make everybody happy.

            Ron is a real honest to God anarchist. You could learn a lot by talking to him. Now real anarchists are rarely seen in nature but the internet is a big place and you can find a lot of weird things here that are harder to find in real life.

            It is true that Ron was being a bit overly dramatic (as libertarians are prone to be – in claiming no limits on government for example) when he described the Constitutional Convention as a coup. He didn’t mean it literally the way we think of a coup today but he was making an important point. The state governments that sent representatives to the Constitutional Convention thought they were authorizing only revising the Articles of Confederation not replacing them completely. This attending knew this but decided to go farther anyway. The states deciding to ratify were then faced with the frightening possibility of being a tiny nation next to a much larger, stronger nation if they failed to ratify. Many felt coerced.

            Your Jefferson quote unintentionally illustrates an important point. There was no single clear intent about what the founders meant by the Constitution. The range of disagreement then was even greater than it is today. Some were closet monarchists. Almost half were opposed to the Constitution. Jefferson actually lost on the issue of the bank which was the inspiration for your quote. He was in the minority on that. At one point a majority believed the Alien and Sedition Acts were a legitimate exercise of federal power. Almost no one outside of the Trump wing would think that today. The very idea that the Supreme Court could declare laws unconstitutional wasn’t established until the Jefferson Administration. Jefferson was shocked and appalled by the idea.

            I really did not intend to offend you but I’m not going to lose much sleep over it if you insist on being offended. My intent was to provoke you into answering some tough questions and thinking more deeply about these things. If you are able to develop a thicker skin you just might find you become a lot better at defending the idea you care about most. Or not. Internet comment sections can get a lot rougher than this and they are not for everybody.

            Like

          • Greg G,

            Your comments are simply insults, inaccuracies, and misrepresentations. They are of no interest to me. For example, your red herring logical fallacies where you changed the “issue” four times. And then, you disagreed with with an authority like Eugene Volokh. You destroyed your credibility with such actions. But, please continue wasting your time writing long comments.

            Ron apparently does not wish to discuss his anarchist views. That is okay. Just for your education, please note that libertarians and anarchists are not the same.

            Like

          • John Simms,

            For those keeping score at home that’s two more logical fallacies for you. The Appeal to Authority Fallacy where you simply assume something is true because an authority asserted it and:

            The No True Scotsman Fallacy where you simply assert without argument that you are the true arbiter of the meaning of a term. In fact not all libertarians are anarchists but all anarchists are libertarians. Self described libertarians come in a quite astonishing variety of flavors. There are anarchists, minarchists, Objectivists, left libertarians, right libertarians, bleeding heart libertarians and self described libertarians who voted for George W. Bush twice.

            It’s not very libertarian at all for you to try and set yourself up as the arbiter of who gets to call himself a libertarian and who should be allowed to raise what and how many issues.

            Ron is one of the easiest people ever to get to discuss his views. You’re not trying very hard. Try asking him what you think are tough questions if you wan to interest him. You may be boring him.

            Every expression of disinterest with this discussion on your part becomes hilariously less convincing than the previous one.

            Like

          • Greg G,

            In the quote from his article, Eugene Volokh made the case and proved your view to be incorrect. I pointed out that libertarians and anarchists are different (i.e., “not the same”). You understand of logic is as bad as your understanding of the history of the founding.

            Libertarians (as do most people) understand definitions and have the ability to properly distinguish between those things. Apparently, you do not.

            If Ron wants to talk, he will. If not, then that is his choice. That is very libertarian of me. 🙂

            Your misunderstandings about “positive rights,” the Constitution, history, and logic are mildly entertaining. And, I am starting to enjoy your “pissy” attitude.

            Like

          • Greg G,

            BTW, please note that even Ron noted your “pissy” attitude. Please quit trying to shift the blame for your poor behavior.

            Like

          • John Simm,

            I actually did note that if you were paying attention. I happily accept the blame and credit for all that I have written.

            Thank you for your latest three expressions of “disinterest.”

            Like

          • Greg G.,

            “I happily accept the blame and credit for all that I have written.”

            You should not be “happy” about a “pissy” attitude. Adults do not act that way.

            Like

          • Greg G,

            I cannot let your misrepresentations stand. Thomas Jefferson did not attend the Constitutional Convention. James Madison did. Here is what he said at the Convention: “A law violating a constitution established by the people themselves, would be considered by the Judges as null & void.” Other delegates said similar things. Also, it was address in Federalist 78. You have a poor understanding of the Constitution and the history of the founding.

            Like

          • John Simm,

            I did not claim that Jefferson attended the Constitutional Convention. There’s another straw man. I did refer to his opinions on some relevant issues because YOU brought him up in the discussion.

            It’s not clear to me from your comment whether or not you are even aware that Jefferson thought the Supreme Court did not have the power to declare laws unconstitutional. ARE you aware of that? Or is the question too difficult?

            Like

          • Greg G.,

            The fact that Jefferson was upset about the case of Marbury v. Madison is another of your red herring logical fallacies. Jefferson simply was not aware of what the delegates had decided because he did not attend the Constitutional Convention. Perhaps, you ought to drop the “pissy” attitude and learn something.

            Like

  5. John Simm,

    You are faking a knowledge of logical fallacies that you don’t have and you are faking a knowledge of Marbury versus Madison that you don’t have.

    Marbury versus Madison was a Supreme Court case heard during the Jefferson administration many years after the Constitutional Convention was concluded. So the “delegates” did not “decide” it. The Supreme Court justices did. It is widely considered the most important Supreme Court decision in history.

    So you have answered my question about whether or not you were aware of it but not in the way you intended.

    Like

    • Greg G.,

      I love how you keep changing the topic once you are proven wrong. Marbury v. Madison was not the issue. The issue was of judicial review. As I proved, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention understood judicial review. Marbury was easy to decide if you understood the Constitution. You obviously do not.

      Like

    • Greg G.,

      Ron actually responded. You might want to read his comment. Please learn something instead of adopting a “pissy” attitude with him too.

      Like

      • John Simm,

        And do you really think you are not being pissy? I did read and respond to Ron’s comment. He suggested that it was “possible” that I had gotten pissy with you before knowing you well enough to justify that. At the time I though he might be right. Now I think I was prescient. It’s like they say about Ted Cruz: Why do people take an instant disliking to him? It saves time.

        We’ll see what Ron thinks of all this now that he’s got more to go on. He is more than capable of speaking for himself and you have been hanging on that one comment of his like it’s a life raft in a stormy sea.

        Like

        • Greg G,

          It seems that you and Ted Cruz have one thing in common. He has a better chance of getting away with it, however.

          You may be right about one thing though. Ron may come to your rescue. After all, you are “frenemies.” I hope he sticks to the issues instead of trying to make it personal as you have chosen to do in order to cover up your errors.

          Like

  6. Wow! Did you guys miss me? My ears have been burning all morning, and now I know why. I’ve seldom been the topic of conversation for this long, and this has just got to be a record number of comments on one thread with my name in the body of the comment. I don’t know whether to be flattered or appalled.

    I’m not sure where to begin. I feel this tremendous pressure to be at the top of my game, and as high as expectations have become, I fear disappointing everyone.

    OK. Now that I’ve expressed the proper level of humility, we can begin:

    Rather than trying to address the wide ranging conversation I see above, I’ll just open the meeting to Q&A. Just shout out any topic and I will expound at great length on it.

    All seriousness aside, I will say this John, it is Greg’s nature to be prickly, but if you can get past that you will find that he makes some really good points and has some really tough questions for libertarians. Sometimes it’s easier to reject them than to think hard about them, but I, for one, appreciate his probing manner, even though it sometimes causes discomfort. I have had to work hard on occasion to justify my core beliefs. I think we, as libertarians sometimes don’t do a very good job of defending our views with logic.

    My comment to Greg was that his prickly manner may have put you off before you had a chance to realize that he actually knows what he’s talking about.

    In a nutshell, Greg is a better teacher than 100 libertarians who agree with us on most things.

    I do have a response to the last comment you directed to me.

    Both the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists believed in the founding principles of limited government.

    Well not really. The Convention was probably less about agreement and more like what a joint DNC/RNC convention would look like today. The constitution as finalized was a mass of compromises between competing interests and several major issues of the day were not addressed, including slavery. The Constitution contains some ambiguous wording that plagues us to this day, including the infamous “General Welfare” clause. It was barely ratified by the skin of its teeth based on promises by proponents to fix the glaring problems to which others objected, at some later date.

    It did, however, establish a much more powerful central government than previously existed under the Articles of Confederation.

    That is why the founders separated the powers, provided for federalism, and enumerated the powers granted to Congress.

    Yes, they enumerated congressional powers, and then added the general welfare clause which some people interpret today as meaning “do whatever you think is best for the country” instead of the more restrictive interpretation I prefer, which is that whatever Congress does, within their enumerated powers, must be for the common good of all, and mustn’t benefit one state or one group over another. Of course we know that has long since gone out the window. Congress now does pretty much whatever it wants to do. “We must pass the bill to see what’s in it.”

    Yes, they separated powers among three branches of government assuming that the branches would compete with each other and hold each other in check, but it turns out cooperation among the branches is easier, and leads to more power for all. Witness the entanglement between the executive and the legislative branches today. It’s sometimes hard to tell who is who.

    Federalism? The power of the states has been been constantly eroded for over 200 years. The 17th Amendment eliminated state control of their own representatives (Senators), and that Lincoln fellow kind of helped nail the lid on the coffin of state self determination as a true federalist system would require.

    [libertarians are vulnerable] “How so? There has to be some centralized power to deal with foreign enemies and criminals. You have to limit it because, if you don’t, those with access to that power become domestic enemies and criminals.

    When libertarians advocate some type and amount of central government with a monopoly on the use of force and the power to tax and to force otherwise peaceful people to act against their own will under threat of violence, they directly contradict libertarian beliefs in sovereignty of the individual, self determination, inalienable natural rights, and the ability to declare that “taxation is theft”.

    Libertarians are therefore vulnerable to accusations of suffering a cognitive dissonance. Greg is often quick to point out that conflict n discussions with libertarians.

    Like

    • Here is a question for both of you:

      John says that libertarians and anarchists are “not the same.” Well I’ve never actually seen any two libertarians with exactly “the same” beliefs when you get into the detail but I assume John did not mean it in that trivial a way. Go ahead and correct me if I am wrong on that John.

      I took that to mean he is saying that anarchists are not real libertarians. Do you regard anarchists as a legitimate type of libertarian Ron or as something else entirely?

      Like

      • Greg G,

        I said that anarchists and libertarians are different (i.e., not the same). If they were the same, then there would be no differentiation between the two. There obviously is, otherwise there would be no need for different words to describe them.

        Like

      • Greg

        Obviously I can only speak for myself (a very libertarian attitude) but In my view, anarchists are indeed libertarians who are at the extreme lower end of the spectrum when it comes to how much monopoly government they believe is legitimate, and they reject the notion that ANY amount of coercive force may be used against others who are peacefully pursuing their own goals and not infringing anyone else’s rights. They believe, generally, in what most all who call themselves libertarians profess to believe, except they reject the authority of the state, It is the difference between voluntary agreements and contracts, including social contracts on the one hand, and coercive force on the other.

        Some may have reached that position as I did, after struggling for a long time with the disconnect I described above between being sovereign and being a subject of a coercive force, which in every case means being subject to other people who have more power than individuals can delegate to an agent.

        Of course John may choose to describe libertarians and anarchists as different creatures if he wishes. Choice is good.

        Like

        • Ron, not me. Here are Webster’s definitions:

          anarchism
          1: a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups
          2: the advocacy or practice of anarchistic principles

          libertarian
          1: an advocate of the doctrine of free will
          2a : a person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action
          b capitalized : a member of a political party advocating libertarian principles

          Of course, you may choose to disagree with Webster’s dictionary’s definitions. Choice is good.

          “The most well-known version of anarcho-capitalism was formulated in the mid-20th century by Austrian School economist Murray Rothbard. Murray coined the term and is widely regarded as its founder. He combined the free-market approach from the Austrian School of economics (classical liberalism) with the human rights views and a rejection of the state he learned from 19th-century American individualist anarchists such as Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker (though he rejected the anarchists’ anti-capitalism, along with the labor theory of value and the normative implications they derived from it) In Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism, there would first be the implementation of a mutually agreed-upon libertarian “legal code which would be generally accepted, and which the courts would pledge themselves to follow.” This legal code would recognize sovereignty of the individual and the principle of non-aggression.”

          https://mises.org/system/tdf/For%20a%20New%20Liberty%20The%20Libertarian%20Manifesto_3.pdf?file=1&type=document

          It appears that Murray Rothbard revised classical liberalism (i.e., libertarianism) to create anarcho-capitalism. So, it Murray’s view, they are different. Choice is good.

          Like

          • John

            One of your Webster’s definitions is of a political ideology, the other is of a person who adheres to a political philosophy, but no matter. I agree with them completely, and if you think carefully about the definitions they are essentially the same. No government = free will. The principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action = no government. I don’t see a lot of difference here. Anarchists believe in the same things Webster ascribes to libertarians in this definition.

            But we may be getting out in the weeds here and getting bogged down with labels. Is maintaining a distinction between libertarians and anarchists an important issue?

            Yes. I’m very familiar with Rothbard, and you’ve selected one of his most important works.

            Murray further distinguished anarchism from anarcho-capitalism by “rejecting the anarchists’ anti-capitalism, along with the labor theory of value and the normative implications they derived from it.”

            Yes. Rothbard distinguished between anarcho-capitalism and anarcho-communism.

            Ron, given the definitions presented, are you an anarchist or an anarcho-capitalist?

            Oh my, do I only have those 2 choices?

            Eenie Meenie Minie Mo. Catch a libertarian by the toe.

            If you insist on labeling me, I’ll choose anarcho-capitalist. I’m very much in favor of free choice, self ownership, negative natural right, the non-agression principle and free markets. But be careful not to assume I hold some particular view or position based only on your definition of the term an-cap.

            Like

          • Ron, thank you for recognizing that “anarchy” is not the same as “anarchy-capitalism.” As Rothbard pointed out, they are different. The same is true of “libertarianism” and “anarchy.” Anarchists are opposed to capitalism and believe in the debunked labor theory of value and the normative implications. Libertarians don’t. Anancho-capitalists don’t either. Thus, it is wrong to say “anarchists” are “libertarians.”

            Like

        • Murray further distinguished anarchism from anarcho-capitalism by “rejecting the anarchists’ anti-capitalism, along with the labor theory of value and the normative implications they derived from it.” So, it appears that anarchy and anarcho-capitalism are not the same.

          Ron, given the definitions presented, are you an anarchist or an anarcho-capitalist?

          Like

    • Ron,

      “it is Greg’s nature to be prickly”

      I noticed. He also likes to misrepresent issues. And, his favorite tactic is to change the issue when the facts are against him. But, enough about Greg G. He said nothing worthwhile in the many comments that he wrote.

      What do you think of this: “So carry on calling taxation theft and positive rights the imposition of slavery.” There are two issues:

      1. Is taxation theft?

      2. Are positive rights the imposition of slavery?

      And, if I remember correctly, most libertarians are referring to FDR’s Second Bill of Rights when they are talking about these two issues. Let me just repost those “rights” again:

      1.. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

      2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

      3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

      4. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

      5. The right of every family to a decent home;

      6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

      7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

      8. The right to a good education.

      Are the taxes taken to pay for these “rights” theft? Does forcing people to pay for these things against their will result in the effective imposition of slavery?

      Like

      • John

        What do you think of this: “So carry on calling taxation theft and positive rights the imposition of slavery.” There are two issues:

        1. Is taxation theft?

        Yes. Taking something that doesn’t belong to you without that persons permission and consent is theft.

        2. Are positive rights the imposition of slavery?

        Yes, in the sense that some other person must be forced into service against their will. This is a good description of slavery. Consider a doctor who believes abortion is murder being forced to provide them to women who have a “right” to an abortion.

        We might say that a person has a right to an abortion, but no one is required to perform one, nor may anyone be forced to provide one. The right involved is an absolute right to self ownership and self determination. You may do with your own body whatever you wish.

        And, if I remember correctly, most libertarians are referring to FDR’s Second Bill of Rights when they are talking about these two issues. Let me just repost those “rights” again:

        I don’t know any libertarians who believe this is a list of legitimate rights, as they all require that someone else be placed in your service to provide them. This list is similar to a list of rights listed in the constitution of the former Soviet Union, and of course many Progressives and others on the left believe they are legitimate.

        (1. thru 8.)

        Are the taxes taken to pay for these “rights” theft?

        Yes. Any taking by force is theft.

        Does forcing people to pay for these things against their will result in the effective imposition of slavery?

        The word “slavery” is a fraught and highly emotion laden term, and may be too harsh to use in these cases. But yes, the concept of forcing a person to act against their own will under threat of violence is the same.

        Like

      • John

        I noticed. He also likes to misrepresent issues. And, his favorite tactic is to change the issue when the facts are against him.

        I think you’re mistaken.

        But, enough about Greg G. He said nothing worthwhile in the many comments that he wrote.

        You might try reading him more carefully while ignoring the prickles. The conversation the two of you had went off the rails a long way back.

        Like

        • Ron,

          Given the extraordinary number of times John has expressed disinterest in what I have to say, urging him to read me more carefully may not be the most promising strategy. Maybe if I ask you the right questions he will read your answers carefully and we may be able convey the key point that way.

          As I understand it, you think ALL taxation is theft regardless of the purpose it is used for. You do not voluntarily consent to pay taxes for national defense, a police force, or a judicial system.

          You experience the collection of mandatory taxes for those purposes as theft under threat of violence for the purpose of providing defense services, policing services and judicial services for the benefit of other people who want those services provided the government. You do not want those services provided by the government and do not recognize the provision of them as a benefit to you.

          Therefore you experience this as theft from you to provide a positive right to those services to other people.

          Is that a fair representation of your views?

          Like

          • Good idea. Perhaps I could ask John to be disinterested more carefully, so as to have a better understanding of what he is actually disinterested in.

            Failing that, I think your idea is a good one. I will respond to the question you asked, and we will see what happens.

            You have presented a fair representation of my views, as long as it’s clear that I DO want some of the services currently provided by government, especially those three important ones you mentioned – defense against external threats, police and protection services, and a judicial system to provide dispute resolution. Those services DO benefit me, but not in a way or to an extent that I would prefer.

            My objection is to the forced provision of those services by a single monopoly provider who has no competition and who can take from me whatever it wants in payment for services I may or may not want in the forms and quantities that are currently provided, and over which monopoly provider I have no real control. I can’t fire this provider and hire a competitor as I can in the free market world of voluntary exchanges.

            The primary issue is consent. I have not consented to pay for the services that I must accept, and there is no reasonable or logical scenario in which I’ve implied consent through some sort of “social contract”.

            The secondary issue is quality and price. It is my view that the free market imposes discipline on providers of goods and service that ensure the best products and lowest prices possible are available to consumers. That market discipline is completely absent in the political arena, allowing the monopoly provider to remain extremely unresponsive to consumer needs.

            I reluctantly pay taxes imposed on me under threat of violence because I don’t want to be snatched up and locked in a cage for non compliance. I also comply with most other rules imposed by government to the extent that I must to avoid the same unpleasant snatching and caging.

            Like

          • Yes it’s clear how little you care about his view on me being too quick to get pissy with you. Tell us more about how unimportant that was to you.

            Like

          • Greg G.,

            Awww! Are your feelings hurt? Perhaps, you will lose the “pissy” attitude. After getting caught in misrepresentation after misrepresentation, it is clear that you have nothing to be “pissy” about.

            Like

  7. Ron,

    I read Greg G’s comments quite carefully and watched him change the issue time and again as he was proven wrong. He even said Eugene Volokh was wrong when he was obviously right based on the argument he made. Of course, Volokh is in the top 100 of libertarians, but, based on Greg G’s behavior today, he is simply the typical OWS guy who misrepresents while making pissy comments. The weakest libertarian is more persuasive.

    But, you are here to defend your “frenemy.” That is a noble things to do, especially when he is wrong and has been pissy about being proven wrong.

    Cheers, mate. Have a nice evening.

    Like

  8. I’m really appreciative of the number of comments here. However, I should mention that this is automatically set up to cut off comments at 100. We’re at 82 now (83 with my comment), so y’all may want to make your closing arguments soon.

    Like

    • I’m all done on this thread Jon. I’m gonna take the hint from all the “disinterest.”

      But I thought we got to 101 back in September 2015 on that day you let the inmates take over the asylum. That was the last time disinterest ran this high. Somebody should look up the meaning of that word and post one of those dictionary definitions.

      Like

      • Greg G,

        Your comments regarding the Constitution and the founding are of no interest. Your “pissy” attitude, misrepresentations, and need to keep changing the issue are mildly entertaining.

        Like

      • Greg

        You are right about words becoming part of the common usage. The previously rarely heard word “pissy” is now part of everyone’s everyday vocabulary.

        Like

  9. Jon, it’s looking like this fun thread will burn itself out before 100, but in case it doesn’t could we maybe have a “Part 2” post to continue commenting on? With your kind permission, of course. 🙂

    Like

    • Greg G on Hayak and Boudreaux: “they failed.”

      Was this one of Greg G’s “interesting” comments?

      No. It was mildly entertaining to prove he was wrong, however.

      Like

  10. Greg G on Eugene Volokh:

    Greg G: He is wrong. The right to a fair trial is a negative right.

    Was this one of Greg G’s “interesting” comments?

    No. It was mildly entertaining to prove he was wrong, however.

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    • I am actually in agreement with Volokh on the most important point and I think the introduction of his quote was very helpful in this discussion to making my point which was about the effect on people’s rights not their jargon.

      He conceded that there is an positive “aspect” to some of the most important negative rights. He gives up the game on the point that really matters right there. That “aspect” just is the very selfsame “aspect” that causes all objections to positive rights in the first place.

      No one objects to positive rights on the grounds that they protect people from bad outcomes.

      The objection to positive rights rests entirely on the fact that some people are coerced into paying for other people to enjoy them whether they voluntarily agree to that or not. That is the “aspect” that matters if you care more about rights than jargon.

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      • You were the one who first brought up positive rights. Apparently, you thought it was a big deal then. But then, you kept changing the issue as you were proved wrong.

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  11. Greg G on libertarianism and anarchy:

    Greg G: Libertarianism and anarchy mean the same thing.

    Was this one of Greg G’s “interesting” comments?

    No. It was mildly entertaining to prove he was wrong, however.

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    • I did not say that libertarianism and anarchy “mean the same thing.” That is your wording.

      I said that anarchists are one of many different types of libertarians.

      If I said that a squirrel was a type of mammal would you conclude that meant that mammals and squirrels were simply “the same thing” and that showing they had different dictionary definitions would prove me wrong?

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      • You were the one who said I was wrong for saying that they were different. They are “not the same.”

        But, nice attempt to shift the issue.

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        • This is the statement I made that you took issue with:
          “In fact not all libertarians are anarchists but all anarchists are libertarians.”
          If you doubt that simply scroll up.

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          • Greg G., no. Here is the comment you are looking for:

            Ron is a real honest to God ANARCHIST. . . . It is true that Ron was being a bit overly dramatic (as LIBERTARIANS are prone to be . . . )

            Greg G , June 18, 2017 at 5:57 am (emphasis mine)

            Here is my response that you objected to:

            “please note that LIBERTARIANS and ANARCHISTS are not the same.”

            John Simm , June 18, 2017 at 7:20 am (emphasis mine)

            But, thanks for another attempt at misrepresenting what happened.

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          • And then I thought I was putting us on common ground by clarifying that anarchists are but one type of libertarian.

            But you have insisted from then till now that some kind of major disagreement about that remains. I don’t really know why and I don’t care anymore.

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          • And, you still have not figured it out. Perhaps this will help.

            Anarchists are not the same as anarcho-capitalists. Thus, anarchists are not the same as libertarians. Duh.

            You are very careless with language.

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  12. Greg G,

    As I have said at the beginning of our conversation, I have no wish to fight with you. It appears that your “pissy” attitude, poor understanding of the founding’s history, and need to keep changing the subject when you are proven wrong is just who you have chosen to be.

    Have a nice day.

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    • Yes, your wish to not fight about this stuff is as impressive and often repeated as your lack of interest in my comments. I plead guilty to having great difficulty understanding the language you are using.

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      • Greg G.,

        You really are the “pissy” sort. Man up, buttercup.

        BTW, anarchists and libertarians are not the same. Perhaps you ought to buy a dictionary.

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