Philosophy

Fraud, Punishment, and Libertarian Moral Theory: Can They Peacefully Coexist?

|

You know if you've a taste for recondite discussions of libertarian moral philosophy, from first principles to detailed applications.

If you do, this post from Bryan Caplan along with its comment thread, and the comment threads of the Will Wilkinson and Tyler Cowen posts with which he jousted, should make your Wednesday afternoon philosophicalrific with all their musings on whether a rigorous libertarian moral theory can indict fraud or allow punishment. (Most in the Cowen thread seem unaware of the once quite influential Robert LeFevre, who famously believed you could not properly cut ropes you had been tied with by an assailant if they weren't your ropes.)

Advertisement

NEXT: Gergen, You Magnificent Bastard, I Read Your Quote About Tom Daschle's Integrity.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Most in the Cowen thread seem unaware of the once quite influential Robert LeFevre, who famously believed you could not properly cut ropes you had been tied with by an assailant if they weren’t your ropes.)

    As intellectual masturbation, this may be a legitimate philosophical point, but from my crude POV, just fucking try it, dipshit. Once I cut through your ropes, I’ll more than likely assault you as retribution for my imprisonment. I get the idea that some philosophers step way outside the boundaries of the human condition when they get to musing.

  2. I can’t grok the conception of coercion that includes lying to someone in order to get something but leaves out, say, the threat to withdraw intensely valued affection in order to get something.

    Case closed.
    Will Wilkinson is such a fucking fag.

  3. Dear God, I find myself agreeing with Kip.
    I am therefore abandoning this somewhat interesting timewaster.

  4. you could not properly cut ropes you had been tied with by an assailant if they weren’t your ropes.

    Does this mean if I have been kidnapped and being held on on private property, I can’t properly walk out the door, because that would be trespassing?

  5. …the once quite influential Robert LeFevre…

    There a good reason for that temporal qualification. I dunno, maybe Ruthless will show up and put in a good word for LeFevre.

  6. who famously believed you could not properly cut ropes you had been tied with by an assailant if they weren’t your ropes.

    I agree with Lost. Cut the ropes. If you feel guilty about it, then apologize once you get to safety.

    Walter Block has similar arguments which he uses during abortion debates: if you’re hanging for your life from the balcony of my twelfth story window, I have the right to force you to let go of my property. Others include the owner of an airplane has the right to forcibly eject stowaways at 30,000 feet, the owner of a lifeboat at sea can evict passengers, etc. I can be as extremist a libertarian as the next guy, but to have a political philosophy so overwhelm your moral compass is a sign you need to eat more fiber.

  7. Wilkinson was pointing out a problem (call it a concern if you like) with classical libertarian theory. IOW, opening the door to discussion. Should we send the goon squad to repossess his decoder ring, or should we thank him for raising an interesting point an inviting further thought about this question?
    Many here will want to do the former.

  8. Should we send the goon squad to repossess his decoder ring, or should we thank him for raising an interesting point an inviting further thought about this question?

    Nah. Just give him a wedgie, and let it go at that.

  9. Wilkinson wouldn’t know what a decoder ring looks like.He is pushing feminist theory(LOL).
    Although one party might “intensely value” the affection of another she has no right to it.
    The fact that the other party is attempting to barter with it proves said affection is insincere.If the first party believes otherwise, or values insincere affection, she is willingly trading the “something” for it.This is a mutual voluntary exchange- not coercion.

  10. I believe LeFevre thought you had the right to free yourself by cutting the ropes, but if you cut any more than the absolute minimum, you owe your captor for damage to the rope.

    I could say more, but I’m sick and tired of paying royalties to that jerk Galambos.

  11. …the threat to withdraw intensely valued affection…

    If he’s saying that witholding nookie is aggression… Preach, you righteous Willster, preach!

  12. I’m reading Rothbard’s The Ethics Of Liberty right now and he would say that an act of aggression against you or your property can only be met with reciprocal force. His example is:

    “if a young boy walks into your store and steals a piece of gum, you cannot shoot him as an act of defense, because youre act was considerably more aggressive than his. As soon as your property violation goes above and beyond his, you are commiting an act of aggression against him.”

    Therefore if we weigh acts of agression in accordance with there severity we can bypass all these silly arguments easily. Tying a person up with ropes is kidnapping, whereas cutting the ropes is an act of aggression that would cost the owner of the ropes a few dollars. According to retributive legal theory the person commiting the agression of kidnapping against you should be punished by something equal to the crime anyway. Besides, if you use an object to commit an act of violence against another person with and they damage it in defending themselves, they owe you nothing.

  13. I could say more, but I’m sick and tired of paying royalties to that jerk Galambos.

    You may owe him royalities, but he may not use force to collect. As he cannot convince anyone that you have “stolen” his thoughts without first revealing them, you are in the clear…

  14. I mean to end that with “you owe them nothing.”

  15. ChrisH is correct. LeFevre developed the position that if you are tied up by someone, you can cut the ropes, if you pay your captor for the damage.

    After he got much flack over this and similar issues, he published a pamphlet on Justice. Therein he considered the question – what if someone stabs you, do you have the right to remove the knife if it is their property? He said that you can consider the knife a gift, and you always have the right to return a gift.

    Then he dealt with the issue of being held captive in chains, and gave an answer based on the same principle as the rope – you can return the chains, but you are responsible if you have to damage them in order to free yourself.

  16. ‘Walter Block has similar arguments which he uses during abortion debates: if you’re hanging for your life from the balcony of my twelfth story window, I have the right to force you to let go of my property. Others include the owner of an airplane has the right to forcibly eject stowaways at 30,000 feet, the owner of a lifeboat at sea can evict passengers, etc. I can be as extremist a libertarian as the next guy, but to have a political philosophy so overwhelm your moral compass is a sign you need to eat more fiber.’

    An excellent analogy with abortion. I don’t think I draw the same conclusion from this as Block, however.

    ‘if a young boy walks into your store and steals a piece of gum, you cannot shoot him as an act of defense, because youre act was considerably more aggressive than his. As soon as your property violation goes above and beyond his, you are commiting an act of aggression against him.’

    I would argue that if a *really* young child walks into your womb, you cannot kill him (or her) as an act of defense, since killing is *much* more aggressive than trespassing.

  17. especially since the trespasser wasn’t *trying* to do anything wrong.

  18. Cut the ropes, shred ’em, dissolve ’em in acid; the guy “gave” them to you.

  19. I’ll certainly pay for the ropes if my captor pays me for my time, life, and liberty he took from me. Better yet, I’ll just deduct the cost of the ropes from his damage payments, to simplify the process.

  20. I would argue that if a *really* young child walks into your womb, you cannot kill him (or her) as an act of defense, since killing is *much* more aggressive than trespassing.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking that trespassing on a person’s land and “trespassing” inside their body are quite different things. If there is no distinction there, then it would seem that rape is just a form of trespassing and assault is simply destruction of private property.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.