Human Flourishing Requires Natural Rights and Non-Aggression

Revisiting Rothbard's early works.

In 1973, nine years before he published his magnum opus in political philosophy, The Ethics of Liberty, Murray Rothbard issued a comprehensive popular presentation of the libertarian philosophy in For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, first published by the mainstream publisher Macmillan.

The book is an excellent discussion of libertarian principles and applications, and it is still worth reading today. In rereading the book for the first time in decades, I found the foundational material especially interesting. Indeed, the material in For a New Liberty foreshadows what we find in greater detail in the later Ethics of Liberty.

As we saw in the later book, Rothbard believed that what he called the "nonaggression axiom" had to be derived. Although he used the word axiom, rather than principle or maxim or (as I prefer) obligation, he did not mean that the idea of nonaggression was self-evident, a priori, or self-justifying. Nor did he say that the denial of the axiom results in a contradiction.

As Rothbard wrote, "If the central axiom of the libertarian creed is nonaggression against anyone's person and property, how is this axiom arrived at?" Clearly, then, he regarded it as a derived principle. Does that mean he was wrong to call it an axiom? Not according to Roderick Long:

Another objection [to the nonaggression axiom] focuses on the term "axiom," which is sometimes taken to imply that the prohibition of aggression enjoys a special epistemic status analogous to that of the law of non-contradiction, e.g., that it is self-evident, or knowable a priori, or a presupposition of all knowledge, or that it cannot be denied without self-contradiction. While some proponents of the prohibition do indeed claim such a status for it, many do not, and accordingly it is sometimes suggested that "non-aggression principle" or "zero aggression principle" is a more accurate label than "non-aggression axiom."

On the other hand, there is a broader sense of "axiom" in which a foundational presupposition of a given system of thought counts as an axiom within that system of thought … even if it rests on some deeper justification outside that system; for example, Isaac Newton described his fundamental laws of motion as "axioms" within his deductive system of mechanics, yet regarded them as grounded empirically. In this sense non-aggression might legitimately be regarded as an "axiom" of libertarian rights theory regardless of what one takes its ultimate justification to be.

Rothbard continued his own discussion of the foundation of the nonaggression axiom thusly:

What is [the axiom's] groundwork or support? Here, libertarians, past and present, have differed considerably. Roughly, there are three broad types of foundation for the libertarian axiom, corresponding to three kinds of ethical philosophy: the emotivist, the utilitarian, and the natural rights viewpoint.

"Emotivists," he wrote, "assert that they take liberty or nonaggression as their premise purely on subjective, emotional grounds." He was undoubtedly dissatisfied with that "foundation":

While their own intense emotion might seem a valid basis for their own political philosophy, this can scarcely serve to convince anyone else. By ultimately taking themselves outside the realm of rational discourse, the emotivists thereby insure the lack of general success of their own cherished doctrine.

He meant that one must give reasons for why we all have a right not to be aggressed against, or why (changing perspective) we owe it to others to abstain from aggression.

He also dismissed utilitarianism as a foundation for libertarianism. While he agreed that freedom produces the good consequences claimed by utilitarians, he found this defense wanting because it is confined to consequences only and has led to a weak espousal of guidelines in political theory, rather than to "an absolute and consistent yardstick." He might have gone further and argued that strict consequentialism cannot contend with the fact that the various things that contribute to human well-being are discrete and incommensurable (there's no homogenous thing called well-being) and that interpersonal comparisons of subjective utility are impossible. In other words, the required utilitarian calculus cannot be executed.

That leaves the "natural-rights basis for the libertarian creed," which Rothbard claimed is the "basis which, in one form or another, has been adopted by most of the libertarians, past and present."

"Natural rights," he went on, constitute "the cornerstone of a political philosophy which, in turn, is embedded in a greater structure of 'natural law.'" From there, Rothbard provided material similar to what he would write later. He described human nature and the nature of the world as requiring that each person

learn about himself and the world, use his mind to select values, learn about cause and effect, and act purposively to maintain and advance his life. Since men can think, feel, evaluate, and act only as individuals, it becomes vitally necessary for each man's survival and prosperity that he be free to learn, choose, develop his faculties, and act upon his knowledge and values. This is the necessary path of human nature; to interfere with and cripple this process by using violence goes profoundly against what is necessary by man's nature for his life and prosperity. Violent interference with a man's learning and choices is therefore profoundly "antihuman"; it violates the natural law of man's needs.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    In light of his concern with human flourishing, it is unsurprising that Rothbard would write that "it is evident that individuals always learn from each other, cooperate and interact with each other; and that this, too, is required for man's survival" and that "the libertarian welcomes the process of voluntary exchange and cooperation between freely acting individuals."

    But sometimes individuals do not cooperate and interact with the right other individuals or not enough of the right other individuals or in the correct way to suit the common good, so therefore varying degrees of nudging must be applied to help them volunteer for the common good.

  • x4rqcks3f||

    Check your individual privilege. Not everyone was born with the resources to act outside the collective.

  • fuck you tulpa||

    .

  • x4rqcks3f||

    Is that "fuck you tulpa."? Maybe I shoud have included a sarc tag.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    OT

    "SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — In the wake of a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma last month, a Utah lawmaker says he believes a firing squad is a more humane form of execution. And he plans to bring back that option for criminals sentenced to death in his state....

    "Utah eliminated execution by firing squad in 2004, citing the excessive media attention it gave inmates. But those sentenced to death before that date still had the option of choosing it, which is how [Ronnie Lee] Gardner ended up standing in front of five armed Utah police officers. Gardner was sentenced to death for fatally shooting a Salt Lake City attorney in 1985 while trying to escape from a courthouse."

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/.....d/9211225/

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    What kind of sick fuck would want to participate in a firing squad?

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    People who want to do it should be disqualified. Except victims' relatives.

  • Duke||

    What kind of sick fuck would want to participate in a firing squad?

    Probably most police officers.

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

    Don't forget the prison guards.

  • Virginian||

    What kind of sick fuck would want to participate in a firing squad?

    There are certain people I'd volunteer to serve on the firing squad for. After satisfying myself of their guilt of course.

    I do approve of the death penalty in principle, I just don't trust the government to get it right.

  • craiginmass||

    Many internet Big Men would brag about themselves doing it, but when the time came to step up to the plate, they'd likely chicken out.

  • politicsbyothermeans||

    Projection.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    This is way too complicated, too many words, too much effort for a simple concept. You can derive non-aggression from the idea that if we all have equal rights, that must include equal aggression, and the only level of aggression which can sustain society is no aggression except in self-defense.

    My fundamental philosophy starts with survival being the most basic human right; it includes not just bare survival, but how we live, which means the the product of our labor as property. This right to control ourselves includes the duty to control ourselves, and I call it self-control. I'm sure established philosophers have a better term for it :-)

    Equality is also derived, in that if some are better than others, that denies self-control to the inferiors.

    I have come to the conclusion that philosophy is for people who like to talk, and that's fine as long as they just talk. Unfortunately, few can earn a living that way, so most such quibblers turn to law, which also satisfies the natural human instinct that others don't see things as clearly, and therefore some humans are superior to others, but that only increases the sense that superiors must enlighten inferiors, and thus we have government.

  • ||

    ".... too many words, too much effort for a simple concept."

    Richman is well meaning and I welcome his philosophical articles, but you are correct. He always does this. Tries too hard.

  • John||

    You can derive non-aggression from the idea that if we all have equal rights,

    Sure you can. But why do we all have equal rights when in reality we are all so unequal? Why does the mentally and physically handicapped person have the same rights as the athletic genius?

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Equal rights, equal opportunities, equal protection, but not equal results or equal housing or equal anything. Metadata vs data, I dunno, I'm sure there's a standard phrase for it. It is compatible with children and low-IQ adults who can't take care of themselves; they still have equal rights.

    The statists throw in freedom from want as if it were a right, and then derive equal results, redistribution, and all the other claptrap of government, glossing over that this requires coercion against everybody for normal operation, where equal rights requires coercion only against those who violate others' equal rights. Then statists excuse their universal coercion by saying that everyone aggresses against everyone when they collect more property or earn more, regardless of these activities not being a zero-sum game.

  • SKR||

    Um society has sustained a much higher level of aggression than self defense since the dawn of time.

    You're assumptions are flawed. Try again.

  • See.More||

    ... and I call it self-control. I'm sure established philosophers have a better term for it...


    self-governance

  • John||

    Natural rights easily flow from a theistic perspective. If there is a God, every person is equally a creation of God and therefore equal before God. If we are all equal before God, then things like the nonaggression principle easily follow.

    If there is no God, however, where do these natural rights come from? I don't see how nature endows me with any rights. Nature is a pretty brutal place. What purpose do I serve in nature beyond eating and procreating my species? From a strictly natural perspective, all men are not created equal. Some are smart, some are stupid, some are deformed or carry terrible genetic attributes that will be passed on to their children. Man is equal in dignity, but dignity is a subjective concept. If there is no God and we all exist because of some wonderfully happy accident in evolution, I don't see why all men are equal or of equal dignity. I think they are and I like living in a world where they are. I see a world where men are not of equal dignity as resulting in terrible things. Why am I right? Why I am right and someone who views each individual as nothing but a means to some kind of better species or better world wrong? I have a hard time making the case against them other to say I don't want to be a means and I don't think they or anyone else is capable of making a better world or better species. The first statement is just a preference and the second can't be falsified. How do we know this time won't be different if we don't try it?

  • John||

    The point is not to engage in an argument about the existence of God. That has been done enough on these boards and no one on either side is ever convinced anyway. The point is how do you convince people who are not theists of the existence of natural rights and the equal dignity of man? Sure you will convince some of them but what about the others? What about the ones who are seduced by Utopian ideas that claim to create a better world by improving man or using each individual as a means to some grandiose ends? Too many times people argue for natural rights as if it is an unarguable assumption. It is not. Or worse, they assume their set of natural rights is the same as everyone else'? They are not. Utopia is a very seductive idea. So seductive that is often causes people to twist the meaning of "rights" into just the opposite; something to be imposed on others rather than the individual's freedom and autonomy.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Agreed! With the reservation that there have been utopian religious people, like Woody Wilson and today's Islamists.

    But it's easier to make the case for basic rights by invoking "the laws of nature and of nature's God" than by just going with nature.

  • John||

    You do have Utopian religious people. But, I at least know how to argue against them. If there is a God, only he can create Utopia, not them. And if there is a God, everyone is equal before him, so you have no right to act like you are somehow more equal. You are a sinful and fallen creature that shouldn't pretend otherwise.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Indeed - the remedy for bad religion is good religion, IMHO.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Excellent comment. Also worth noting that 'human flourishing' as some kind of gravamen for natural law can easily be used to justify socialism or a variety of illibertarian positions wrt property and other rights. Lastly, it really is a stretch to go from NAP to property rights, which are two entirely distinct concepts.

    This is part of the reason I am not a libertarian.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    "Human flourishing" refers to individual flourishing. A human being who is denied the fruits of his labor can't flourish to the degree he might were he not the victim of theft. There's no reason, rational, historical, or empirical, to believe that the aggregate of individuals denied their earnings would lead to a wealthier, more flourishing society than one in which they were left to pursue their own ends in peace.

    Property rights (specifically property in one's person) lead directly to the NAP. If property didn't exist--if I'm a sociopath or fool who denies the existence of other people's right to their own bodies or the labor of those bodies--by definition there couldn't be any such thing as aggression, either by me against my victims or aggression of others against me.

    The standard unreflective, unenlightened human ego is usually okay with the first, as it's good for me if I steal from others, but not the second, which is exactly why we needed natural-rights philosophers to pull humanity out of the economic pit of expropriation that crippled production until about 1800.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    "Human flourishing" refers to individual flourishing. A human being who is denied the fruits of his labor can't flourish to the degree he might were he not the victim of theft.


    Yes, and a human being who lives in a hovel until being killed off by Typhoid fever ain't doing much "flourishing", either. I'm pretty sure that e.g. Bill Gates has already "flourished"; the enormity of his wealth is such that taking away a portion of it will not have a large effect on his flourishing in any terms that we can make concrete. OTOH, giving a portion of this wealth to those who have been born into little of no fault of their own will assuredly allow the individual recipients to "flourish". I'm not saying I agree with this argument, but it's pretty much textbook Rousseau and what I lived and breathed when I was a Marxist. Trust me, libertarians are not the only ones with a deontological system or who base their moral claims on "human flourishing", or even individualism. And this:

    Property rights (specifically property in one's person) lead directly to the NAP.


    Is just silly. Self-ownership does not imply that one can own objects outside the self, nor does NAP even require self-ownership as a foundation. The "mixing of labour" is a Lockean formulation which has some merit (especially as a practicality), but which is far from a "natural law" or self-evident (indeed Locke spends some time defending this formulation).

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    This is simply to say that the premises and conclusions of libertarianism are neither entirely self-evident or universally recognized by much of anyone -- even in the culture where these principles are best effected into law, it is at best a minority view. I happen to agree with this view, but arguing it based on its sheer obviousness needs to be explained when it is not obvious based on actual human history regarding property and other rights, or for that matter the history of Enlightenment philosophy.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    OTOH, giving a portion of this wealth to those who have been born into little of no fault of their own will assuredly allow the individual recipients to "flourish".

    I know that's devil's advocate play, but it's blatantly false that stealing from the rich "helps" the poor. The market-made wealthy are rich because they understand how best to invest capital, which benefits everyone via the invisible hand--taking wealth from them reduces the amount of capital while reducing everyone's incentive to work, rich and poor alike. Nothing retards economies like transforming capital investment into consumption while encouraging part of the workforce to remain home.

    Self-ownership does not imply that one can own objects outside the self, nor does NAP even require self-ownership as a foundation.

    Also false, though this is a more elementary error. Self ownership implies ownership of the self's labor, which is then mixed with unclaimed property. This is Locke 101, Block 101 stuff. I'm surprised to see you making these mistakes, frankly.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    it's blatantly false that stealing from the rich "helps" the poor. The market-made wealthy are rich because they understand how best to invest capital


    1) No one said anything about "market-made". As we both know there are plenty of wealthy individuals who are not "market made". This would be true even in a free market environment, inheritance being a right in such an economy.

    2) The argument you make is indirect, theoretical, and only holds true according to theory if you allow for certain conditions in labor and capital markets which by definition cannot hold true in all cases. I agree that up and taking money from the rich is a naive play from a utilitarian viewpoint in developed economies for a number of reasons, but I also grant that my economics-influenced viewpoint doesn't have nearly the level of certainty or universal application as say physics and that it is therefore silly to deify the principle.

    Self ownership implies ownership of the self's labor


    [Citation needed], and who said anything about the self's labor? Labor is merely physical and mental exertion. I speak of property, which is distinct from labor (and which, in modern labor markets, is alienable thus contradicting self-ownership in some interpretations).

    which is then mixed with unclaimed property


    Yes, yes, one's labor provides a "natural" claim on material goods and so forth. A pleasant formulation which lacks provability.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    The problem here is that many assume that simply because there is an answer for such-and-such topic in the canons of libertarianism or because that answer appeals to one's sense of decorum, the issue is henceforth settled for all time and that this answer simply *must* be the correct and universal answer any reasonable person must arrive at after due consideration. This is the cardinal flaw of libertarianism, and one which resounds hollow when one investigates what the originators of the philosophy have to say about their own principle (Locke, for example, had somewhat contradictory views on the labor theory of property at various times). There are obviously very different ways to approach property which are equally rational (and about as arbitrary in their fundaments as Lockean labor rights). Property unclaimed is uncreated, and therefore it is non-sequitur to introduce "mixing of labor" as the magic ingredient which makes totally yours a thing which you had at best a partial hand in fashioning. It is an unearned apotheosis of one's political philosophy to suppose that its convenience to yourself or your cardinal value serves as proof of its universality.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    Nice jargon, but jargon doesn't solve the simple issue that people act to sustain the meaning of their lives.

    You may have once been a marxist, but you're still a collectivist, as you don't understand why human beings act or what they act for.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    No one said anything about "market-made". As we both know there are plenty of wealthy individuals who are not "market made". This would be true even in a free market environment, inheritance being a right in such an economy.

    Inheritance is "market made."

    Yes, yes, one's labor provides a "natural" claim on material goods and so forth. A pleasant formulation which lacks provability.

    Human beings don't windmill their arms around randomly in the hopes that it will produce wealth to sustain their survival. Silly.

  • James Taggart||

    But, how do you justify taking things away from people? Don't all arguments really boil down to "because we can"?

    How about we agree that "I'll support your right to not have things taken away from you because you'll support my right not to have things taken away from me"?

  • ||

    "Natural rights easily flow from a theistic perspective. If there is a God, every person is equally a creation of God and therefore equal before God. "

    1. That is a big if. Even if you could make a case for theism, not everyone would accept it or interpret it the same. Theism in a myriad of forms has been used more to justify killing than as a basis for non-aggression.

    2. Despite point #1, Christianity popularized the notion of equality before god which has evolved into equality before the law. Without Christianity I doubt the enlightenment would have ever occurred.

    "If there is no God, however, where do these natural rights come from? "

    The greater the degree of understanding the laws of physics, the greater your degree of success in building things. Why ask where the laws of physics come from? They just are, and we can measure our accuracy in defining them by our success in applying them. The guy who can build a spaceship has a superior understanding of the laws of nature than the guy who can only build a dug-out canoe.

  • ||

    In the same way, societies operate according to certain rules. Look at the success of any given society and you will have a measure of that societies understanding of the laws of nature that govern societies manifested in their rules.

    Without question the notion of natural rights has given societies vastly more success than those who don't subscribe to it. Just as the name implies, natural rights come from nature, just like the laws of physics.

    Hmmm. It is a difficult concept to put in a nutshell.

  • John||

    This is why classical liberals and socialists talk past each other. Classical liberals are operating under the assumption that everyone is ultimately equal before the law. Socialists don't share that assumption. They see everyone as deserving according to their contribution. If you are standing in the way of progress, you are not equal in ANY WAY, to someone who is supporting that progress. Again, why are they wrong and classical liberals right?

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    Because we have the superior understanding of human nature Everything in the disagreement between collectivism and liberalism comes down to homo economicus vs. homo recipricans.

    If you understand that human beings at heart pursue their own interests--that I eat a sandwich or read a book or pursue an interest in socialism for the satisfaction those pursuits bring me, not the satisfaction of a stranger or 1,000 strangers--then you can recognize the value of the invisible hand in coordinating the actions of people who are basically selfish (in the Randian sense--wealthy people obviously find it much easier to be philanthropic than people who are naked and starving, as the marginal cost of giving is so much lower).

    If you deny the existence of homo economicus--maybe you're a utopian Christian, maybe a communist--and you believe that people are basically self-sacrificing New Soviet Men, and that they'll gladly slave away all day at a job they hate so that some stranger will enjoy the benefits, well, the world conducted a lengthy and painful experiment that disproved that folly.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    The lesson of history, biology, and psychology is that people aren't angels, but finite, bipedal apes with a human nature in the same way that rabbits have a rabbit nature. The past 200 years demonstrate that we have tremendous capacity for production and intellectual development, but none of that capacity could've been exploited if philosophical or political elites continued to pretend that we're drones laboring for the good of the hive.

  • craiginmass||

    "wealthy people obviously find it much easier to be philanthropic than people who are naked and starving, as the marginal cost of giving is so much lower"

    I don't think this reflects the actual real world.

    "In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns."

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    The greater the degree of understanding the laws of physics, the greater your degree of success in building things. Why ask where the laws of physics come from? They just are, and we can measure our accuracy in defining them by our success in applying them.


    This presupposes that ethics and such can be derived through observation in the same way as physics, and that all participants have the same goals. Suffice it to say, people don't even agree on what the outcome of a good policy or moral should be; how then can one claim an objective basis on which to evaluate the universality of one's ethics?

  • John||

    I know the laws of physics "just are" because I can use them to predict how things work in the real work. I can't sue natural rights to predict anything. All natural rights are is a set of assumptions. They are good assumption, at least from my point of view, but they are just that, assumptions. You think all men are created equal. Good for you. A lot of other people don't and can point to actual evidence that they are not created equal. Why are you right and they are wrong? In fact, given the obviously different abilities and relative values of individuals, isn't your insistence that "all men are created equal" just a childish superstition? You really think that a person born deaf, blind and crippled is in any meaningful way "equal" to Mozart?

    To believe in "natural rights" you have to believe in equality before the law. To justify equality before the law, you have to believe that everyone is in some way equal. A lot of people don't believe that. Indeed, socialists, fascists and Communists don't believe that. They believe that some are more equal than others based on their race or political class.

  • ||

    "Why are you right and they are wrong?"

    I point to the spectacular success our society has achieved due to our adoption of a legal system that recognizes those rights.

    If you build an airplane that won't fly then you have a poor understanding of nature. If your society collapses then you have a poor understanding of the rules that govern how societies operate.

    Natural rights are akin to the laws of physics and to the laws that govern economics. People have all sorts of notions about economics yet certain ideas allow for success and others don't. We did not invent those ideas, we discovered them.

  • Christophe||

    It's a kind of reverse rule-utilitarianism (That is, it assumes that good principles lead to good outcomes, and so we can figure out which principles lead to good outcomes by observing societies).

    I tend to subscribe to that approach as well. It doesn't singularly point to libertarianism (because we don't have enough data to infer that far), but it does rule out many sets of foundational principles as completely disastrous for people.

  • craiginmass||

    Well, then, we are doing pretty good - all in all.
    No need to get rid of the gubment and go back to some untested theories as many here claim.

    Whew! That's a relief.

  • ||

    "I can't sue natural rights to predict anything. All natural rights are is a set of assumptions. "

    I can make accurate predictions based on the degree to which a society respects natural rights. As Christophe points out, good principles lead to good outcomes.

  • prolefeed||

    In fact, given the obviously different abilities and relative values of individuals, isn't your insistence that "all men are created equal" just a childish superstition?

    That phrase doesn't mean created equal in ability or intelligence or looks or anything else like that. It means we all have equal natural rights.

    That this phrase was written by a slave-holder is ironic, but cognitive dissonance is a bitch. And that the phrase "all men" really did refer to individuals who are genetically male at that time is ... not particularly enlightened.

  • John||

    t means we all have equal natural rights.

    Sure it does. And what does "we all have natural rights" other than something you like? Who says we have natural rights? And even if we do, who says those rights are what you say they are? What about my view of "natural rights"?

  • BakedPenguin||

    I'd add to what Suthenboy said. Putting aside the valid argument of whether God exists for a second, any argument can come from a theistic perspective, since if God exists, he (she, it, they) is not directly observable. The mystical experiences people have reported are conflicting and contradictory. Trying to guess the will of an entity that doesn't communicate on a regular basis is folly. Arguing that we are all equal before God is taking your particular flavor of mystic thought as a given. Ask a Muslim or Hindu if we are all equal before God.

    I think Rand was right - to live a human life, we have to think. To think, we have to have the right to disagree, which means freedom from compulsion. You don't force someone to think, you force them to stop thinking and obey. Natural rights come from our basic nature.

  • blank||

    Why I am right and someone who views each individual as nothing but a means to some kind of better species or better world wrong? I have a hard time making the case against them other to say I don't want to be a means and I don't think they or anyone else is capable of making a better world or better species.

    Disregarding the "better world or better species" aim, are not people nothing more than means to others? Just like every other physical object in a person's life. Acceptance of the value of the division of labor requires a perspective that others are means with the ends being an increase in the quality of life. All of my interactions with others are in furtherance of achieving some desired outcome. Conscious or unconscious. This is how life operates.

  • John||

    Disregarding the "better world or better species" aim, are not people nothing more than means to others?

    If we are, then why is utilitarianism bad? If I am just a means, then why is it wrong to kill me as long as my death results in a greater good?

  • DJF||

    Another US foreign policy success story. I am betting some internet movie is at fault, round up the movie makers!!!!!

    “”””Tripoli - Libya’s government imposed a no fly zone over the embattled city of Benghazi following weekend clashes that left 70 dead and 140 injured.

    Residents of Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya, woke up on Friday to the roaring sound of jets and the whistling of bullets flying overhead. Col Khalifa Hiftar, a rogue Libyan army colonel, began an operation set to rid Libya of all Islamist groups, and he didn’t hold back.

    Hiftar, a general who served under Muammar Gaddafi before fleeing to exile in the US in the 1980s, claimed his offensive had the backing of both the army and air force. He said the intention was to rid the city of the Islamist militias.

    Approximately 6,000 soldiers on the ground took control of the city’s streets. They raided militia bases as jets and helicopters pounded them from the air.”””

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/.....26982.html

  • John||

    The Arabs themselves are going to have to fight this war. If Libya wants to not turn into an Islamist shithole, they will have to kill the Islamists. We can't kill them for them.

    What a pointless and idiotic intervention Libya was. The most ironic thing about it is that the one unarguable lesson of Iraq is that the US cannot impose a nonIslamic government on an unwilling population. The only long term success that was achieved in Iraq was the result of the Iraqis themselves deciding they had had enough of Al Quada. The very people who claim to most object to Iraq immediately intervened in Libya pretending that the US could magically settle the conflict where it couldn't in Iraq.

  • DJF||

    The US has a long history in the Middle East of talking about democracy but when votes happen or when polling on possible votes happen being very disappointed in the results. They are shocked that Muslim believers want a government that somewhat follows Islam.

    The policy makers in Washington both Republican and Democrat want “liberal democracy” to win and that is defined as believing in the same things as the Republican/Democrat policy makers believe in. So they support some college professors/students or internet café users and ignore the broad majority of voters

  • John||

    The best way to discredit the Islamists is to let them have power

  • craiginmass||

    True, in the larger sense.

    However, if they start having massive power blocks and treaty orgs (mutual support) in much of the world, they become a "bloc" that may have to be dealt with.

    We do know that force of arms doesn't work - so I guess the only choice left is to bombard them with porn and cross our fingers.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    In fairness, there is much in Islam (past and present) which is entirely inappropriate to include in government.

    You are right that the contradictions between democracy and liberality become most apparent in such societies.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    National Public Radio broaches a, shall we say, fairly delicate subject.

    "Despite the indignities of being made to live within certain physical parameters and being assigned schools based on the color of their skin, many black Americans who are old enough to recall their segregated childhoods remember some aspect of that time with some fondness....

    "Brenda Stevenson teaches history at the University of California, Los Angeles, and says she understands some blacks' wistful look back at a more supportive time.

    ""There is a sense, I know in Southern California, that black children are not educated well," she says. "People feel that way. And I think that's where the nostalgia comes from.""

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/codes.....wn-v-board

  • John||

    We can thank the Progs for discrediting segregation and equal rights. What is going on there is two separate phenomena; the bringing of equal rights to the black community and the Prog take over of public, and particularly inner city, education. The first one was a great good. The second one was anything but. Sadly people are associating the results of the Prog takeover with equal rights.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Good point - NPR seems to talk of bad public schools as a given, by implication a regrettable but unavoidable byproduct of desegregation.

  • craiginmass||

    I think what you have is the bringing of lawful equal rights through legislation, but the will of the majority for it not to be so.

    Problems created over 100's of years don't go away because you write something into the Federal Register.

    In the bigger picture, the progressive policies of FDR, Truman and Ike in fully integrating the military and other facets of the gubment was/is a really big thing - it gave educational and economic opportunity to millions.

    Unfortunately, that same ethic cannot be applied to tens of millions of people with generations of poverty and very few avenues out of it.

    I met some black dudes in SC who were doing very well - building houses on spec. Guess what? Their families were some of the very few who got their "40 acres" after the civil war. They have parlayed that into success - many of the family also succeeded in trades, law enforcement, etc.

    Do some digging behind the economic success of many and you'll find that ownership of land and resources buttressed up the families over the generations.

    I can't say I know the answer, but asking a black kid in the slums to just "pull up his bootstraps" certainly isn't it.

    Voting rights, civil rights, social safety nets (medicare, SS), military integration, trust busting, etc...yeah, all the work of the progressives. I'm proud of it. But no one can eliminate hate and jealousy and racism from men's minds.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Diane Feinstein is on Jabba the Hut's show.

    Teh terrrrists are out there America. Be afraid. Be very very afraid. Now bend over and spread 'em. And stop asking questions.

  • WDATPDIM?!||

    This is a test.

    § 141

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    You got a C+.

  • WDATPDIM?!||

    Woohoo!

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    You choose (invent?) philosophy to maximize that which you value.

    The NAP maximizes liberty.

    Love to stay and argue this, but...FdA wants to fish. Have a nice day Reasoniods. :-)

  • Libertarius||

    Fuck Rothbard. With alleged defenders like that, capitalism and political freedom have no need for enemies.

    He was a philosophical lightweight, and his writings are a jumbled mess of transparent rationalism here, convenient skepticism over there, juvenile subjectivism in the other place. But the most overwhelmingly dominant theme in his work is that of pragmatism; Rothbard wants to escape reality and the necessity of objective government, and he'll take whatever route is most convenient to get there (including, of course, blatant plagiarism of Ayn Rand, who he then joined the leftists in publicly smearing).

    Rothbard's claim to Aristotelianism falls apart on a cursory inspection. His rationalism is obviously Platonistic, and the rest of his philosophical hodgepodge is fully consistent with the tradition established by Kant. "Human flourishing", a noble ideal of Aristotelians and Objectivists, is the last thing you find in a state of mindless anarchy.

    He was also a shitty economist. Regarding the division of labor, this pretentious clown claimed to sweep aside Adam Smith, and asserted that the fundamental value of the DoL lies in "diversity". This is absurd; if I grow crab apples, you raise hyenas, and your brother-in-law manufactures aluminum bed sheets, our production is certainly diverse...but who's buying?

    As an intellectual, an economist, and a man, I have little regard for Murray Rothbard.

  • John||

    ^^THIS^^

    All the "natural rights" adherents are are Platonists which is really just being a theist that substitutes "ideals" or "first principles" in place of "God".

    I like their principles and would rather they rule than some half witted socialist but it is comical to watch them claim how their principles are so self evident and beyond dispute.

  • blank||

    it becomes vitally necessary for each man's survival and prosperity that he be free to learn, choose, develop his faculties, and act upon his knowledge and values. This is the necessary path of human nature; to interfere with and cripple this process by using violence goes profoundly against what is necessary by man's nature for his life and prosperity.

    Through my use of violence others learn that by bending their will to mine the discomfort they are experiencing will cease or that further opposition will result in prolonging the discomfort. They can then decide the most prosperous course of action to take based on their values and with the knowledge they just acquired.

  • Eric Bana||

    Since men can think, feel, evaluate, and act only as individuals, it becomes vitally necessary for each man's survival and prosperity that he be free to learn, choose, develop his faculties, and act upon his knowledge and values.

    That's not true though. A slave is not free to act, but he can live and survive. Don't get me wrong--I'm not advocating slavery. I just don't see how such a natural rights formulation holds up when people can explicitly be not free and yet still survive and live in the world. Any help on why this isn't a problem for such a natural rights idea?

  • BakedPenguin||

    You're ignoring the "prosperity" part of that. North Koreans are technically alive, but who the hell would choose to live that way?

    Libertarius is correct in that Rothbard swiped and somewhat altered Rand's argument. To live as humans, we have to be free to think, since that's basic to our nature. Force stops that, since you don't force someone to think, you force them to obey. Since thinking for one's self is integral to our nature as humans, we should have the right to do so, and to act upon those thoughts so long as we do not impinge on someone else's rights. We may survive even with these rights being violated, but to the extent they are violated, we are not living as humans, but as animals.

  • Eric Bana||

    The whole problem with going from an "is" to an "ought" is that there are so many is's. People can produce things; people can take things from others. People can do a combination of producing things and taking things from others all while applying their mental faculties on how best to do it. One could easily say "Since taking things from others is integral to our nature as humans, we should have the right to do so."

  • Derpetologist||

    Recently on Derpbook:


    Oil IS plentiful here. We are EXPORTING more oil now than we have in the past 20 years. Oil products are the US's number one export. Cell phones are more affordable now because the technology improved, the first cell phones cost over a thousand dollars. The first flat screen TVs cost thousands of dollars as well, now you can get one for $400 anywhere in America. The improvement in the lives of the poorest are at the EXPENSE of the American middle class. The exact amount of wealth hemmoraging from the American middle class, is the exact same amount enriching the poor in other countries.

    Are there leftists who do not believe wealth is a zero-sum game? I have yet to meet one.

  • John||

    One of the many classic scenes in Dr. Strangelove is the one where the RAF officer played by Peter Sellers tries to call Washington with the recall codes necessary to stop nuclear Armageddon and doesn't have the change to make the phone call. Sellers asked an infantry Col Bat Guano who has just liberated the air force base from the insane General Jack Ripper to shoot open a coke machine and get the change so Sellers can make the call. Bat Guano says in response "Hey that is private property."

    In addition to being a great scene it is an educational retort to the "first principle natural rights" crowd. All natural rights are are a set of categorical imperatives. And categorical imperatives work great right up until reality presents a set of circumstances rendering them absurd. What makes the scene funny is that in a strict sense, Guano is right. That Coke machine belongs to the Coca Cola Company and its shareholders. If you respect private property rights and view them as an absolute "first principle", then who are you or Bat Guano or anyone else to shoot up their machine and steal their money to make your call you failed to plan for making? That is vandalism and theft. Oh, but it if vandalism and theft in the pursuit of saving the world for nuclear Armageddon. Okay, so I guess "private property" isn't so absolute is it?

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    That's a weirdly inflexible understanding of political philosophy, not to mention the categorical imperative. Kant absolutely would not have claimed that you couldn't steal change from a vending machine to save the world or that you couldn't lie to save a Jewish family from the holocaust.

    Is it wrong to steal private property? Yes. Would a reasonable person do it to save the world? Obviously--a reasonable person would know that the property owner would forgive him the violation of property rights, and if he didn't, the tort would be a small price to pay.

    Political philosophy and ethics isn't God's Law handed down from on high. It's a rational means of living together in peace and prosperity derived from a series of first principles.

  • Libertarius||

    And Kant's "categorical imperative" is just as much contrived, arbitrary bullshit as "Because God said so".

    At least the religious mystics don't pretend to be champions of reason.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    Hey, it's an opportunity to bash Kant. Better not let that one slide.*

    *If I were able to make any sense of Kant at all I might defend him, but from what I can tell the objectivist is right.

  • John||

    One last retort to the "we know these things are right because we see it works better in the real world" argument. That argument gives away the game. The whole reason why first principles are first principles is because they have supremacy over real world results. We don't give a man a fair trial because we think doing so results in some kind of material benefit. We give him a fair trial because as a man that is what he is entitled to and no amount of material benefit could ever justify depriving him of one.

    Once you justify principles based on how well they work, you both assume what "working well" looks like and that if some other principle ever proves to work better, this principle is no longer any good. You are never going to win that argument because the world is impossibly difficult and people are always going to point to where applying the principle produces harm. Giving everyone the right to privacy produces a great society right up until doing that lets someone set off a nuke where they could have otherwise been stopped had it not been for all of this privacy.

    The old saying "better a hundred guilty men go free than one innocent man go to jail" illustrates my point. It doesn't matter that society is more unsafe and all of this harm is done by guilty men going free because the principle that we don't punish innocent men is bigger an unrelated to all of that. It is a first principle that outweighs the material world.

  • blank||

    The old saying "better a hundred guilty men go free than one innocent man go to jail" illustrates my point. It doesn't matter that society is more unsafe and all of this harm is done by guilty men going free because the principle that we don't punish innocent men is bigger an unrelated to all of that. It is a first principle that outweighs the material world.

    We do punish innocent men though because there is a point where the costs outweigh the benefits. The judicial system operates under the guideline for conviction: beyond a "reasonable" doubt, not "no" doubt. This first principle does not escape disqualification based on the standards you established in your first two paragraphs.

  • blank||

    Once you justify principles based on how well they work, you both assume what "working well" looks like and that if some other principle ever proves to work better, this principle is no longer any good.

    Yes,"working well" for each member of the audience is what you are trying to sell. That they are free to disregard libertarian principles is inherent in the principles themselves. There is no contradiction because individual agency is supreme. There is no emotional appeal just cold, calculating rationality.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    In that case, you cannot claim universality for your principles only subjective preference which others may choose to adopt. Judging by the numbers, doesn't look to me like too many people are buying what libertarians are selling so I guess it's OK that "cold, calculating rationality" appears to be consigning classical liberalism and libertarianism to the same dustbin of history as communism.

  • blank||

    In that case, you cannot claim universality for your principles only subjective preference which others may choose to adopt.

    Sure you can claim universality, but you just have to hope others do not scrutinize your principles too closely. This is no different than any other political philosophy that claims universality regarding principles for a harmonious society construct.

    Judging by the numbers, doesn't look to me like too many people are buying what libertarians

    Obviously, you are correct. It does appear to be a handicap of libertarianism, with regards to verbal persuasion, that an emotional appeal is lacking. Emotional manipulation may be the more apt term. Maybe it is the absence of the satisfaction gained by believing that top men are steering the ship of state in the right direction. Further, it is inhibited by a puritanical strain found in a significant number of its adherents.

    so I guess it's OK that "cold, calculating rationality" appears to be consigning classical liberalism and libertarianism to the same dustbin of history as communism.

    I'm not a PR guy, I don't know how to effectively persuade the masses to adapt a more classical liberal outlook in all facets of their life. Also, communism is far from dead.

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