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An interesting paper by Benjamin Barton, forthcoming in the Michigan Law Review "Books Related to the Law" issue; Prof. Barton makes a good case (to readers and obviously to the journal's editors as well) that the Harry Potter series indeed consists of Book Related to the Law. I'm skeptical of Prof. Barton's suggestion that the anti-government messages in the Potter series will much influence readers towards libertarianism; but the paper is nonetheless worth reading (and fairly short as law review articles go).

Defending the Indefensible:
I'm not really sure what distrust of the state has to do with the Libertarian Party, which is premised on the existence of the state and political engagement with its electoral systems on behalf of a theory of property as paramount (from which liberty is considered as only a derivative interest).

Genuine libertarianism (i.e., non-state socialism) may have more in connection with the ideas of Rowling, but Barton does not touch upon this possibility.
11.19.2005 5:29pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
If the Potter books have a political message, it would seem to be "Tories are evil, moronic or both."
11.19.2005 5:34pm
DK:
I'm glad Eugene doesn't entirely fall for the Rowling-is-libertarian idea that others in the blogosphere are basing on this article.

Anyone who believes that a British author ridiculing bureaucratic excess must be a libertarian deserves to be smacked on the head with a copy of George Orwell's collected works. or Harold Pinter's.
11.19.2005 5:36pm
JBurgess (mail) (www):
Uh oh... DK's gonna find him/herself pulled up in front of some human rights court if that keeps up. That kind of battering goes far beyond corporal punishment and must necessarily be considered assault with intent to kill.
11.19.2005 9:05pm
ANM (mail):
"Anyone who believes that a British author ridiculing bureaucratic excess must be a libertarian deserves to be smacked on the head with a copy of George Orwell's collected works. or Harold Pinter's."

As in, that George Orwell penned a devastating critique of socialism (1984) but was socialist himself?
11.19.2005 10:54pm
Katherine:
seems to be a lot more libertarian on the issue of torture and detention without trial than the commenters and most of the posters on this website, that's for damn sure.
11.20.2005 1:03am
PersonFromPorlock:
Criticism of government is hardly a libertarian monopoly. Liberals, too, often cite the shortcomings of government -- as a justification for more government.
11.20.2005 7:38am
william (mail):
As other commenters have already pointed out, it's not anti-government so much as anti-bureaucracy. But more than that, the main thing that's going on is the standard children's book conflict of smart kids against dumb, close-minded grown-ups. The conflict is with stupidity, not with authority: if anything, the books are arguing for a benevolent dictatorship ruled by Dumbledore, not for a libertarian utopia.
11.20.2005 7:44am
LINO_watcher (mail) (www):
Defending-

Can you go into more detail about what you mean by "a theory of property as paramount (from which liberty is considered as only a derivative interest)".

From what I've been able to ascertain most libertarians, including those involved with the Libertarian Party, view private property as part of a bundle of fundamental rights. Of course there also is the view that one's body is one's property, and that a number of other fundamental rights closely allied to "liberty" spring from this concept. Is this what you meant?

By the way, I also think property is paramount to socialists. They just believe that all property should be controlled and managed by central planners rather than private owners. And by extension one might say that these central planners in some cases believe they "own" the people as property and should therefore control and manage them. This is the case in countries with a totalitarian socialist government, and some have theorized recently that true socialism can only exist by totalitarian means.
11.20.2005 8:20am
eng:
Katherine said "seems to be a lot more libertarian on the issue of torture and detention without trial than the commenters and most of the posters on this website, that's for damn sure."

Though I don't read the comments section too often, I have yet to see a post by the guys here that was not skeptical of torture. Perhaps before you get to far into attacking our hosts, you'd like to elaborate on your seemingly flippant remark.
11.20.2005 7:16pm
DK:
Exactly, ANM, although I was thinking more of Orwell's essays.
British writers of all political perspectives have been ridiculing govt bureaucracy for a long time. It is something of a tradition.
11.20.2005 7:44pm
Defending the Indefensible:
Lino:

Can you go into more detail about what you mean by "a theory of property as paramount (from which liberty is considered as only a derivative interest)".

The Libertarian Party (and I distinguish from the original meaning of libertarianism) premises its philosophy on the idea of property set first and foremost upon ownership of one's self. From this idea of "self-ownership" is derived the contingent right to utilize one's powers in such manner as does not infringe upon the equal property (including of the persons) of others.

True libertarianism does not begin with property, but with liberty itself, and property as such cannot be considered as primary but only a social convention at most. This is a more literally accurate view, in fact, as property refers to possession in propriety, and propriety is precisely a social convention. One may say that one class of possession is proper (stuff you created), another improper (people, for instance). But if possession of people is strictly improper, then people cannot be property, and self-ownership is oxymoronic.

By the way, I also think property is paramount to socialists. They just believe that all property should be controlled and managed by central planners rather than private owners.

This is true of state socialism, of course. It is not consistent with libertarianism.
11.20.2005 8:27pm
TDPerkins (mail):
Genuine libertarianism (i.e., non-state socialism)

I must ask, where have you heard that ANY form of socialism could be "non-state", and on the basis of what do you think this jabberwock could be conflated with "genuine libertarianism".

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
11.20.2005 8:33pm
TDPerkins (mail):
And on reading further down, if I'm not mistaken, you are confusing something being a "social convention" with it's being "socilaist".

Is that right?

I couldn't disagree less, if I am apart from society on an island, there is no society, yet I have property.

And yes self-ownership is fundamental to liberty, but the point rests not on the impossibility of ownership of the self being transferred to another (which is in fact not possible) but on ownership of the self inhering to the exercise of volition. If volition (and personality) could in fact be divorced from the self, then self ownership would not be indivisible from the body.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
11.20.2005 8:46pm
Defending the Indefensible:
TDP:

I must ask, where have you heard that ANY form of socialism could be "non-state", and on the basis of what do you think this jabberwock could be conflated with "genuine libertarianism".

I will provide an example: GNU/Linux, a social undertaking by a large number of people contributing to the creation of a large capital which is nominally "owned" only for the purpose of withstanding improper claims of "copyright" which the state otherwise permits upon works placed in the public domain.
11.20.2005 8:57pm
Defending the Indefensible:
TDP:

I couldn't disagree less, if I am apart from society on an island, there is no society, yet I have property.

How many angels dance on the heads of pins when you claim propriety of possession (property) in the absence of society? There is no one with whom to argue in this circumstance, you have exclusivity by fact, it is no more nor less proper than that the wind shall blow and the rivers flow.

But this claim falls immediately if even one other single person should land, shipwrecked upon the island you have been occupying, for you have no proper claim to tell her that she may not live without indenturing herself to you upon your claim that the island is yours. It is no longer (and never in fact was), for to say otherwise is to claim at least partial ownership of her for the sake of sustaining her very existence.

Even should you deny my words and proclaim your right to demand a rent from the unfortunate woman, she need not respect your claim, and I would not expect her to do so. Thus, you would either have to enforce your claim by violence from which she may defend herself, or reach an understanding with her which is mutually acceptable, a social arrangement which may evolve in the absence of any state.
11.20.2005 9:13pm
TDPerkins (mail):
So you confuse cooperative with socialist. Interesting.

In fact, even the construction "non-state socialism" betrays a wonderful naivete in your thinking. Such a thing has never been and never will be. Cooperation implies the ability to stop cooperating with no more ill consequence than forgoing the benefits of cooperating, while socialism has always implied the supremacy of some controlling segment of society directing the activities of others on pain of a visit by society's coercive organs.

Liberty and libertarianism are exclusive of all forms of socialism.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
11.20.2005 9:24pm
Defending the Indefensible:
TDP:

Liberty and libertarianism are exclusive of all forms of socialism.

Interesting that you say so.

Libertarian socialism, whatever your opinion of it may be, predates the modern "capitalist" (a word invented by Karl Marx, amusingly enough) assumption of the word.
11.20.2005 9:56pm
TDPerkins (mail):
Come now, Defending. There are no angels dancing here, just me and you, and you're trying to tell I didn't have property before the person landed, but I've got property after they land.

Well after they land, I may have to spend resources to retain my property excluxisely to me, or I could more likely cede some, even half of the island to the other person in return for the probable future benefits of the division of labor which is now possible.

But I had property before and after the other person landed.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
11.20.2005 10:10pm
Defending the Indefensible:
TDP:

Come now, Defending. There are no angels dancing here, just me and you, and you're trying to tell I didn't have property before the person landed, but I've got property after they land.

I'm not saying you had property in either case, because property is a social fiction. In the absence of a society it has no meaning, and the propriety of your possession in society is determinable by mutual accommodation.

This is of course a slippery argument if I relied upon property as foundational, but I do not. Were I to do so, it would admit of any social distribution of property as per se morally equivalent to any other (justifying the very system we have here now, actually).

Unfortunately for the Libertarian Party (and apparently for yourself), they do place property at the foundation of their metaphysical framework, and the unsoundness of this has been demonstrated repeatedly.
11.20.2005 10:32pm
TDPerkins (mail):
"I'm not saying you had property in either case, because property is a social fiction. In the absence of a society it has no meaning,"

Then how was I making a living on that island? I'd say it has meaning and it has meaning in the absence of any other person.

"and the propriety of your possession in society is determinable by mutual accommodation."

Not merely the propriety of it, but the fact of it is always determined by the side able to commit the greater coercive power, and you're saying this is some how libertarian. Pfft. That's a queer totalitatrian sort of libertarianism.

In fact it nonsense and NOT libertarianismm, which is my point.

"This is of course a slippery argument if I relied upon property as foundational, but I do not."

I suspect you rely on no foundations at all, or ones which have not been set out with any rigor.

"Were I to do so, it would admit of any social distribution of property as per se morally equivalent to any other (justifying the very system we have here now, actually)."

Seeing property as foundation emphatically does NOT "admit of any social distribution of property as per se morally equivalent to any other", for example all classic socialisms are right out. See, you are quite wrong in that.

"Unfortunately for the Libertarian Party (and apparently for yourself), they do place property at the foundation of their metaphysical framework, and the unsoundness of this has been demonstrated repeatedly."

Oh I'm sure you're convinced of it. I'm also sure you're a fool.

All government is ever about is what a large enough chunk of society is determined to see happen, or prepared to tolerate happening, that it is likely to happen either with or without the breaking of heads.

From your Wiki link:

Like other socialists, libertarian socialists believe that objects should be held communally and controlled democratically; the only exception being personal possessions. Whereas "private property" grants an individual exclusive control over a thing whether it is in use or not, "possession" grants no rights to things that are not in use. A property title grants owners the right to withhold his property from others, or, if he desires, to require payment from those who wish to use it. "Possession," on the other hand, is not compatible with this form of "exploitation" or "extortion". Possession amounts to the right to use, rather than own, for oneself.

In other words, all power to the soviets.

Barnum had it nailed.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
11.20.2005 11:10pm
Defending the Indefensible:
TDP:

I was enjoying the discussion so long as it remained civil. Apparently you are less interested in having a conversation than in "winning" by getting the other participant to discontinue in response to your personal insults.

Since this isn't a competition to me, enjoy your victory, however it may feel to imagine you have "defeated" someone you think is surely a fool.
11.21.2005 1:04am
sammler (mail) (www):
I'm not sure how to say this consistent with Mr. Volokh's policy against invective, but I'll try to stick to the minimum.

The idea that the ineffectiveness of government in the Harry Potter books is indicative of libertarianism is a really stupid one.

The reason is that, for adventure books to be interesting, the protagonists must have, erm, adventures; their fate -- and, if they are to be considered heroic, that of others -- must depend on them alone. This is hardly possible in the presence of a benevolent and efficacious state solution to their problem.

The fact that Harry Potter books are absurdly popular bestsellers, rather than obscure literary jokes, is a reflection of this narrative choice.
11.21.2005 4:55am
TDPerkins (mail):
Defeding, I do and will. You said something awhile back about how it is when property is taken to be "foundational" that any system of morality can be justified includingthe one we have now.


"Were I to do so, it would admit of any social distribution of property as per se morally equivalent to any other (justifying the very system we have here now, actually)."


From what I can tell, post-Kelo--then with the interposition of our elected representatives as the only modifier--then what we have now must be libertarian socialism as much as anything. We have a democracy, and it decides what our property is. How you must be enjoying it.

You deserve ridicule, your ideas are foolish. The ash heap of history, along with spontaneous generation and phlogiston, is where libertarian socialism belongs.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
11.21.2005 6:59am
LINO_watcher (mail) (www):
Defending-

If you are still around I am unconvinced by your arguments.

One might say that self-ownership begins with conciousness - your physical body being inhabited by your conciousness. Or soul, essence, chi, etc. This claim being superior to all others because it predates them and the physical body is a diminished vessel without it. (Indeed, when your conciousness has left in the end the physical body is of little use to you.)

And it isn't hard to find circumstances where one's property rights exist outside of "society." Take the island example. If one were to be acosted by a wild animal and were in imminent danger of harm you could protect your self ownership with force. We're admittedly in pinhead dancing territory here, but no more so than with your claim that property rights do not exist without "society". Self-ownership is so fundamental it tends to be forgotten.
11.21.2005 7:14am
Defending the Indefensible:
LINO:

One might say that self-ownership begins with conciousness - your physical body being inhabited by your conciousness. Or soul, essence, chi, etc. This claim being superior to all others because it predates them and the physical body is a diminished vessel without it. (Indeed, when your conciousness has left in the end the physical body is of little use to you.)

You make two presumptions: 1) propriety of possession (i.e. property) of persons (alliterative, isn't it?), and 2) priority of first user. Neither of these has a basis in anything except political preference.

Regarding 1) in isolation, then, if granted, slavery might be allowable because it is proper for people to be possessed. If 2) is granted, then priority of possession begins at or before birth and it is violative for parents to control their children.

Arguing from premises like these all kinds of strange conclusions can be drawn, but there is no reason to adopt them in the first instance.

Let's take as an example, my hand. Language confuses us a bit here because "my" implies that the hand is a piece of property that I own, but it is more correct to say that my hand is simply part of me. So long as it is attached to my arm (another part of me), it is not a mere tool that I control, it has feelings, I have feelings in my hand. In this capacity, it is not severable from me. (If my hand is severed, it ceases to feel, etc.) If you cut my hand off, I would not say you stole my hand, I would say you injured me. Would you say otherwise?

And it isn't hard to find circumstances where one's property rights exist outside of "society." Take the island example. If one were to be acosted by a wild animal and were in imminent danger of harm you could protect your self ownership with force.

Protecting yourself from harm does not require an assertion of property. Unless you mean to say that you intend to hold the wild animal to law, and sue it in some imaginary court, it seems to me contrary to fact to say that in defending your life you are just protecting your property. The latter is hardly the same as the former.
11.21.2005 9:12am
kien:
Wow, that was the most interesting debate I've ever read here at the Conspiracy...right up until TDP went ad hominem. Oh well, no good thing lasts forever.
11.21.2005 9:13am
Lady Aster (mail):
Hmmm...

Y'now, I consider myself a libertarian (of individualist anarchist/anarcha-feminist flavorings), but I find talk of 'property in oneself' rather alienating. Once you start to debate whether you or society owns you, you've already conceded one is an object to be owned.

I would defend something like market conceptions of poperty... minus corporate personhood and such... but I think Rothbardian self-ownership sounds like the product of a spirit which doesn't experience life directly, but counts one's ownership of oneself as some smug jealous castle to guard.

Libertarian talk of property rights might be correct, but it often betrays precisely the sad kind of mentality people ascribe to 'capitalism'.

regards.

)(*)(
11.22.2005 2:01am
LINO_watcher (mail) (www):
Defending-

You seem to be creating definitions here to make your points. Your definition of "me-ness" does not conflict with the principle of your conciousness owning your physical body, or self-ownership.

I'll address or clarify the two presumptions you claimed I was making. As to the first, "propriety of possession", self-ownership does not imply that since you (or more accurately your conciousness) possesses your body it is appropriate for other people to possess you. In this respect I guess self-ownership can be thought of as unique and inalienable. This is just a longer and more accurate way of describing your concept of "me-ness".

As to the second, "priority of first user", that should be clarified. I guess the more accurate way to put it would be that your conciousness, in addition to being the first possessor, is the only possessor that can make full use of your body as an independent organism acting on its own volition. Yes, someone else can drug, coerce, torture, hypnotize, etc. another person into doing various things, but that is much different than an independent organism acting on its own volition.

As far as your contention that "priority of possession" makes it violative for parents to control their children, in many cases it does. Parents' control of their children is very limited - certain narrowly prescribed boundaries for physical control and resource restriction. Let's not forget that many parents are stupid, mentally ill, vicious, controlling, etc. If the parents should cross those boundaries they become criminals who have committed a crime against the child, who owns his or herself. Starve your child - you're a criminal. Sell your child - you're criminal. Assault your child - you're a criminal. Rape or prostitute your child -you're a criminal. So in many cases the principal of self-ownership does make it violative for parents to "control" their child when they exceed certain relatively narrowly defined boundaries.

Protecting yourself from harm does not require an assertion of property. Unless you mean to say that you intend to hold the wild animal to law, and sue it in some imaginary court, it seems to me contrary to fact to say that in defending your life you are just protecting your property. The latter is hardly the same as the former.

When yourself and your body can be thought of as your most dear and important possession it isn't that strange of a concept. Self-defense is a doctrine that authorizes you to use force against a person or animal given certain narrowly prescribed circumstances, so its really a matter of absolving you from criminal or civil liability, rather than giving you a claim to assert in court.
11.22.2005 2:15am
LINO_watcher (mail) (www):
Lady Aster-

I agree that discussing "self-ownership" tends to sound lukewarm for something so sacred.

And it's ironic that collectivist/socialist thinking that cheapens the individual and undermines liberty and human rights like "for the common good" sounds sensitive. It borders on the sinister.
11.22.2005 2:23am
LINO_watcher (mail) (www):
Lady Aster-

Also note that its the collectivists/socialists that try to discuss whether society "owns" an individual. It is so ironic that they claim to be sensitive, caring, compassionate, etc. when their ideologies advocate and lead to so much coercion, violence, viciousness, corruption, and misery.
11.22.2005 2:38am
Lady Aster (mail):
Lino: I agree that discussing "self-ownership" tends to sound lukewarm for something so sacred.

Aster: An interesting choice of adjectives. But my point is that 'ownership' is a master-metaphor which doesn't begin with Marx but with Lockeans- to whom, I believe, ownership begins by 'mixing one's labour' with unowned nature (a metaphor I find most distressful). But I would hold that ownership derives from one's sense of self, and property in entities by extension as part of one's life neccesary for one's flourishing. This suggests a more anarchistic 'possession' conception of property, at least in spirit. It's 'my life is my own and whole', not 'my life is clearly delineated from yours.' The latter might be a regrettable social necessity, but a political theory that lets everything take on the colour of necessity impoverishes the human condition. This is what I fear, despite my libertarianism, the libertarian approach to economics does.

Lino: Also note that its the collectivists/socialists that try to discuss whether society "owns" an individual. It is so ironic that they claim to be sensitive, caring, compassionate, etc. when their ideologies advocate and lead to so much coercion, violence, viciousness, corruption, and misery.

Aster: I've participated in a number of progressive protests, and attended a campus Amnesty group for years, and am a member of a labour union, and yet I've never heard a socialist yet talk about 'owning an individual'. Their theories might by illogic tend in that direction, but not their spirits. As for 'compassion' and 'caring' and the like- it's actually mainly soft liberals who drip like this, not radical socialists. Personally I think you should treat liberals and socialists as individuals, and most aren't so bad once you get to know them, even if they disagree with you- they probably see other things that you don't. Except Republicans. They're mostly hypocritical jerks.

Actually, it is *capitalists* who I find talking in such offensive terms. Granted, libertarian theory might not produce actual conditions of human ownership, but my experience is that the corporate marketplace is rife with these kind of attitudes. And attitudes are just as important to the texture and experience of social life as laws- and social prejudice can have the force of iron. I like libertarian polities, but I wish people in them acted more like most young socialists.

In fairness, let me say that I'm *not* saying a market is alienating. I'm saying the economistic mindset libertarian often draws from encourages is alienating- as I think is the boss-ridden, corporate marketplace.

I'm not preaching against markets, just for a more humanistic conception of life, an awareness of liberation in *culture*, and independence.

)(*)(
11.22.2005 6:10am
Defending the Indefensible:
LINO:

I'll address or clarify the two presumptions you claimed I was making. As to the first, "propriety of possession", self-ownership does not imply that since you (or more accurately your conciousness) possesses your body it is appropriate for other people to possess you. In this respect I guess self-ownership can be thought of as unique and inalienable. This is just a longer and more accurate way of describing your concept of "me-ness".

I'm just going to zero in on this part, because the issue of priority is secondary to the question of propriety. If it is strictly improper to possess a person, then it is not necessary to reach the question of who has the highest claim to do so.

Here, you want to argue for a kind of "property" which is "unique and inalienable." One meaning of property (separate and distinct from proper possession) can be something proper to a thing, a peculiar quality which is inherent or or essential to it. So we could say that sweetness is a property of sugar. You cannot take the sweetness out of sugar without changing it into something else. You cannot kill a living person without changing her into a dead person. Life is inherent in all living beings, unique and inalienable.

But in that case we aren't really talking about the same word at all, and to conflate one kind of property (an attribute or quality) with the other (occupation or possession) would only be a sort of amusing logical fallacy we might call argumentum ad homonym (not to be confused with the argumentum ad hominem, of course).

If we are speaking of possession, however, then it is clearly the case that a person can be held as a slave, and that this can be authorized and enforced at law, as history shows. I don't believe such possession should be considered proper, and I do deny the morality of it, but I am not forced to twist my definitions of property in knots in order to arrive at a rule that bars slavery, because I say that liberty is paramount, and property only derivative.
11.23.2005 5:27am
LINO_watcher (mail) (www):
Lady Aster-

This is pretty much a dead thread, but I'll reply in case you're still reading.

I think many socialists/communists automatically equate capitalism with big business (with its many distortions to and corruptions of actual capitalism) rather than truly free markets. Free markets are really a great thing when done correctly - each party in a transaction benefits and property is peacefully distributed. But distortions, corruptions, and inequities created by big business and government intervention tend to mask this, driving people to socialism/communism, which are dubious ideologies at best that have created tremendous amounts of bloodshed and human misery.

So while you say that you wish that libertarians would act like young socialists, I guess I'm saying that I wish people inclined to socialism would learn some more about economics and realize that its not capitalism per se - but distortions, corruptions, and government meddling in capitalism - that is responsible for many of the problems blamed on capitalism.

For starters one could learn how increasing the minimum wage increases unemployment and increases inflation, hurting everyone and in particular the poor and those on a fixed income. This is very counterintuitive and it makes libertarians sound like heartless brutes that kill and eat puppies, but it is very well grounded in fact. And there are numerous contradictions and counterintuitive principles like this in economics, many of which are used by those with an agenda or who don't know any better.

Another thing is how often socialists want to erode property rights. This hurts the current middle and upper classes, but it also hurts any future member of those clases, which are an integral part of the economy. So if your end goal is to have upward class mobility - moving the lower class up to the middle and upper classes - eroding property rights hurts everyone. Better to preserve and protect property rights for everyone and remove distortions and corruptions from the system.
11.23.2005 5:49am
LINO_watcher (mail) (www):
If we are speaking of possession, however, then it is clearly the case that a person can be held as a slave, and that this can be authorized and enforced at law, as history shows. I don't believe such possession should be considered proper, and I do deny the morality of it, but I am not forced to twist my definitions of property in knots in order to arrive at a rule that bars slavery, because I say that liberty is paramount, and property only derivative.

But liberty is just as elusive a concept as property, and can just as easily be tied in knots. So you're just substituting one subjective term - "property", with "liberty", which is another subjective term. You have a bundle of rights or freedoms inherent in or allied to the common concept of "liberty' - freedom of choice, freedom of movement, inviobility of the body, self-ownership, property ownership, etc. When any one or more of these is removed, you have a situation that can be considered to approach slavery. "You can do whatever you want, as long as you don't leave and paying customers can violate you sexually" isn't "liberty". "You can do whatever you want, as long as you don't amass more property than we think you should" isn't "liberty" - in fact, it's the foundation of socialism. Unique and inalienable self-ownership, when included in the bundle of concepts we call "liberty", addresses and prevents a lot of nonsense that tyrants and collectivists (often this is redundant) might come up with.
11.23.2005 6:15am
LINO_watcher (mail) (www):
Lady Aster-

Can you explain what you mean by "individualist anarchist/anarcha-feminist"?
11.23.2005 6:31am
Defending the Indefensible:
LINO:

But liberty is just as elusive a concept as property, and can just as easily be tied in knots. So you're just substituting one subjective term - "property", with "liberty", which is another subjective term. You have a bundle of rights or freedoms inherent in or allied to the common concept of "liberty' - freedom of choice, freedom of movement, inviobility of the body, self-ownership, property ownership, etc. When any one or more of these is removed, you have a situation that can be considered to approach slavery. "You can do whatever you want, as long as you don't leave and paying customers can violate you sexually" isn't "liberty". "You can do whatever you want, as long as you don't amass more property than we think you should" isn't "liberty" - in fact, it's the foundation of socialism. Unique and inalienable self-ownership, when included in the bundle of concepts we call "liberty", addresses and prevents a lot of nonsense that tyrants and collectivists (often this is redundant) might come up with.

The nature of propaganda is to twist the original meanings of words, and the mass media of the twentieth century was put to very effective use in doing so. I do not think the concept of liberty is particularly elusive, and I don't think you do either given that you call yourself a libertarian.
11.23.2005 12:31pm
Defending the Indefensible:
LINO:

Unique and inalienable self-ownership, when included in the bundle of concepts we call "liberty", addresses and prevents a lot of nonsense that tyrants and collectivists (often this is redundant) might come up with.

As with the example of the wild animal on the island, I don't see what it has to do with defending property to advocate self-defense. Moreover, placing self-defense on a property foundation would imply either that lethal force is inappropriate against a would-be murderer (because he's really just a thief), or alternatively, that it is appropriate to use lethal force against a would-be embezzler (because he's no less a thief than the murderer). Speaking of preventing lots of nonsense!

Moreover, it is impossible to steal that which is "inalienable." Look up the word.
11.23.2005 12:39pm
Lady Aster (mail):
Lino-

On your first post:

Thank you for an interesting and civilized response. I generally agree with you wholeheartedly, and think your analysis of the factors that drive people to state socialism is very perceptive. And... suffice it to say I think a great number of people could justly cease making a virtue out of their math anxiety. Some of us culturally leftish bohemians are not afraid of economics. I heartily endorse the idea: the flip side of commerce with a humanistic ethos is the liberated spirit with no fear of instrumental reason. I merely fear thay too many libertarians show a foolish, impractical, unstable, and ultimately impossible fear of the expresive side of huamn existence, as does liberalism in general. Socialists and conservatoves win because in diffeent ways they speak to the *texture* of human existence. Libertarians have largely yet to learn to do this.

My one objection is what seems your assumption that one should support the movement of people into 'higher' classes. Personally, I support prosperity for everyone; all things being equal: prosperity makes life more enjoyable, reduces pain and thus makes for benevolent human relations, and allows liesure for liberal pursuits. But I also think often the best quality of life is founf by trading *away* economic class for authenticity and liesure. In my experience, *most* roads to wealth, and *all* routes to status, require a high cost of conformity and soul-deadening, and I *refuse* to believ e that "life is just not that" (and it isn't). I am not sure at all I would prefer a typical middle-class position to working class drugery, if the payment were equalized. In my experience middle class existence requires an assimilation to the goals and values of organizational life which to me is an unacceptable compromise (my experience with truly wealthy people is too scattered for me to form any kind of theory or conclusion).

More crucially, I am suspicious of the virtues of class climbing because the benign pursuit of wealth for pleasure easily sildes into a search for power, respectability, and social status. I support none of those and think they are very spiritually destructive evils. Being true to oneself is above all important, and if that is conjuctive with wealth, pursue wealth by all means. But promoting as a general good an advancement in class within a political theory means an endorsement of the social ladder. And there is a place I find a great deal of corruption and cruelty.

I think increasing wealth is fine, but we shouldn't translate that into loving a mental picture of the whole world crusting over with bourgeois suburbia (or Lake Tahoe). If you're familiar with Ayn Rand, I could put it: "beware class advancement and gentrification as Peter Keating". The most creative spirits are ill at ease in any system: aristocratic, capitalist, or socialist.

Well, we've slain our aristocracies
and the convents closed their doors-
and I do not doubt the justice,
nor the reasons, for those wars.
But there's little love for learning
with our oligarchs obtuse
and in nine-to-five men liesure
merits less and little use.


)(*)(
11.24.2005 12:51am
LINO_watcher (mail) (www):
The nature of propaganda is to twist the original meanings of words, and the mass media of the twentieth century was put to very effective use in doing so. I do not think the concept of liberty is particularly elusive, and I don't think you do either given that you call yourself a libertarian.

Now you're being hypocritical. Most libertarians I know include self-ownership in the concept of liberty, yet you reject that contention. So obviously the "concept of liberty" is open to some interpretation, even among libertarians.

We already discussed why self-ownership is unique, so your arguments about discussing it in a self-defense context are odd. Defense of self, even in the context of discussing self-ownership, is much different than defense of property.

As far as the term inalienable is concerned, Funk &Wagnalls refers to it as something that cannot "rightfully" be taken away. There are lots of things that shouldn't "rightfully" be taken away, but that hasn't stopped all manner of miscreants, like tyrants, collectivists, and collectivist tyrants, from trying to take them away.

I should have known what I was getting into when you used an oxymoron like "libertarian socialism". Just how do you plan on stealing everyone's private property without it being considered coercion? And I suppose the "planners" that decide who gets the collective property that is stolen won't become corrupt tyrants with time, like they have in every other similar scheme. And I suppose the removal of price mechanisms, economic incentives, etc. won't result in economic stagnation and starvation like it has every other time its been tried.
11.24.2005 1:18am