Extend Commerce and You Extend Peace

by Don Boudreaux on January 31, 2008

in Trade

Here’s a letter that I sent yesterday to the Washington Times:

War-making being the special talent of the state, Patrick McGinn sensibly predicts that war cannot be legislated away (Letters, January 30).  But he incorrectly argues that war reflects basic human nature in a world of scarce resources.  Virtually all resources are scarce, and yet when they are privately owned and tradable in free markets people seldom fight each other for access to them.  For example, my wife and I bought our house peacefully; we didn’t have to kill the previous owners to get inside.  So, too, with all of the other scarce things that we consume regularly – water, bread, milk, coffee, chicken, wine, hotel rooms, you name it: each of these things is scarce and in high demand, and yet people in market economies almost never fight for them.

Extend commerce and you extend peace.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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Me January 31, 2008 at 6:44 am

So true. Spread this letter far and wide.

Martin Brock January 31, 2008 at 7:36 am

I need a little less sentimentality and a lot more Ron Paul, even if a fixed gold price and border fences are not my style. I agree that truly free markets promote peace, but "Capitalism" does not describe free markets. "Property" doesn't describe what John Locke described either. Maybe it should, but it doesn't.

Socialism is not mutualism either. I accepted this verdict of history many years ago, but I've just lived through seven years in which the nominally "pro-Capitalism" party expanded the state at an incredible pace and concocted a "global threat" from a few fanatics in caves with a wealthy benefactor. A trillion dollars later, the benefactor is still at large, and the empire is larger and more parasitic than ever, not to protect "the poor" or "the workers" or to extol "equality" but to defend "liberty" and "property" and "markets". If that's Capitalism, I'm through with it.

This resignation certainly does not make me a Socialist. I don't live in a world carved into two moronically competing camps by politicians. Maybe they do, but I don't. I'm a "mutualist" again, for the time being, and I decide what the word means.

Tom January 31, 2008 at 8:15 am

….concocted a "global threat"…..

yeah, just some kids having fun. Even though they have touched ever major country in the world. Martin, sometimes I like your posts, but this one is really stupid. And you ARE a bit of a socialist. And you do not get to decide what words mean.

Randy January 31, 2008 at 8:29 am

Mutualist, huh. I guess I'm a mutualist too, in that I think transactions that are mutually and voluntarily entered into are generally the most practical. I expect that if I use force against others that they will defend themselves, and if others use force against me then I will defend myself. So, except in extreme circumstances, the use of force is inefficient. Better to trade.

vidyohs January 31, 2008 at 9:12 am

"If that's Capitalism, I'm through with it.

and I decide what the word means.
Posted by: Martin Brock | Jan 31, 2008 7:36:03 AM"

Well Martyduck, you have decdied but you're obviously wrong.

It isn't capitalism, it is politics.

Your problem is THAT you HAVE let others define capitalism and socialism and obviously haven't expended a great deal of thought on the former, while leaning heavily towards the goals of the latter.

And, as Perciles said so long ago, "You may ignore politics, but politics will not ignore you."

A grown man is a fool to think or say such a thing as "I'm through with it."

Per Kurowski January 31, 2008 at 10:07 am

“I don't live in a world carved into two moronically competing camps by politicians. Maybe they do, but I don't. I'm a "mutualist" again, for the time being, and I decide what the word means.”

Posted by: Martin Brock | Jan 31, 2008 7:36:03 AM

Hear hear!

Regards from the radical middle in the extreme center of the center

John January 31, 2008 at 10:29 am

I'm in agreement with McGinn.
Wars,aggression,conquest,confiscations,etc.,are just a part of economic thinking. They had a good crop; we didn't. It's going to be a long winter, so, the best use of our time is to attack those with the stores. And we must do to them whatever it takes for us to survive the long winter.

It could be water, oil or you name it.

Where in history are the examples of libertarian societies which have survived the aggression of their neighbors by means of open borders and just trade policies?

That said, Ron Paul and Robert Taft remain paragons of a philosopy of human optimization.

The Albatross January 31, 2008 at 10:42 am

Where in history are the examples of libertarian societies which have survived the aggression of their neighbors by means of open borders and just trade policies?

Great Britain adopted free trade in 1783, only to abandon it in 1912, although if I remember right it went "undefeated" during this period, which involved a scrap with a Corsican tyrant, but then again the relatively free trade that proliferated in the 19th century coincides nicely with an era of relative peace. Until, of course, the trade barriers started going up just prior to World War I, and then again before WW II–but maybe that is just coincidence.

Randy January 31, 2008 at 10:58 am

"Where in history are the examples of libertarian societies which have survived the aggression of their neighbors by means of open borders and just trade policies?"

I'd start with the USA. Our power is primarily a function of our wealth, and our wealth is primarily a function of free trade. Yes, there is a layer of political activity on top of the libertarianism, but the libertarianism is the primary source of the power which we have used to deal with aggression.

Sam Grove January 31, 2008 at 11:19 am

The world is suffering the heritage of mercantilist economic thinking, in the west, largely due to the apparent success of the Roman empire.

We are in the midst of a shift to different way of thinking. Let's keep pushing.

Martin Brock January 31, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Tom:

yeah, just some kids having fun. Even though they have touched ever major country in the world. Martin, sometimes I like your posts, but this one is really stupid. And you ARE a bit of a socialist. And you do not get to decide what words mean.

First, They haven't touched every major country, and breadth is not depth. A few dozen guys pulled off 9/11, and the best remedy would have been reinforced cockpit doors and new rules for pilots, which we've probably adopted anyway and which cost a tiny, tiny fraction of the incredibly state expanding "war on terror".

Second, I could call you "a bit of a fascist", but I have more integrity than that. If you want to define "socialism" and defend your assertion, you can do that, but I'm not holding my breath.

I get to decide what I mean by words. By "socialism", I mean "state ownership of the means of production and central planning of their organization". What do you mean? In what sense of the word have I advocated any "socialism"? You're making it up.

Martin Brock January 31, 2008 at 12:35 pm

"If that's Capitalism, I'm through with it.

and I decide what the word means.
Posted by: Martin Brock | Jan 31, 2008 7:36:03 AM"

Well Martyduck, you have decdied but you're obviously wrong.

It isn't capitalism, it is politics.

Your textual surgery doesn't change the fact that "the word" in my statement refers to "mutualism".

"Capitalism" means what the nominal champions of "Capitalism" do. "Socialism" fits the same description, but I don't expect a zealot of "Capitalism" to understand that.

Your problem is THAT you HAVE let others define capitalism and socialism and obviously haven't expended a great deal of thought on the former, while leaning heavily towards the goals of the latter.

Ideological zeal and deception is a poor substitute for thought. When you have some specific criticism of a specific assertion, I'll respond to it.

And, as Perciles said so long ago, "You may ignore politics, but politics will not ignore you."

I haven't ignored politics. I've described it.

A grown man is a fool to think or say such a thing as "I'm through with it."

Ignoring half a statement and then equivocating is a poor substitute for reason.

Sam Grove January 31, 2008 at 12:39 pm

Libertarians are only anti-socialist in the sense of being anti-state. We don't oppose the market socialism of say, insurance, or credit-unions. We don't even have a problem with voluntary communes. In my family, we practice communism, but we don't really want to support more than our current two parasites.

The problem with most collectivists is that they seem to think it a good idea to use the state to require universal membership in which ever variety of collectivism they espouse.

Martin Brock January 31, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Some libertarians are anti-collectivism, sometimes, but they're never anti-state. Uniform, forcible proprieties imply a state, and practically all libertarians advocate them. Even the anarcho-capitalists advocate a state while saying they don't. I've never met the libertarian who didn't want to require universal membership in their own system of forcible propriety. Drawing a line around a parcel of land and threatening to harm people who cross it without your consent is not a state. A collection of people defending a system of similar lines is a state.

I say these things, because they're true, and people leap to the conclusion that I'm somehow opposing lines around parcels of land. I don't oppose them at all. I don't claim to be an anarchist. I don't oppose markets in parcels of land either, but all parcels of land are not Lockean property, and a Treasury note is not a parcel of land at all, but we call all of this stuff "property".

James Hanley January 31, 2008 at 1:30 pm

There's a lot of blah blah comments on this post. Pull it together, folks.

Re: Boudreaux's post. Agreed on the value of markets. Disagreed on human nature. I study the evolution of human behavior, as well as political economy, and because free markets are not exactly what you find distributed across hunter-gather societies, while warfare is, I think he's unduly cavalier about that.

Rather, markets are a set of institutions that help channel human nature into more mutually productive behaviors, and away from the predilection for war.

Sam Grove January 31, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Some libertarians are anti-collectivism, sometimes, but they're never anti-state.

Define 'state'.

Randy January 31, 2008 at 1:50 pm

James,

"…free markets are not exactly what you find distributed across hunter-gather societies.

I'm not an expert in the field, but everything I've read, or seen on the history channel, indicates that trade between clans was quite extensive. For example, widespread dissemination of tool and weapon technologies, exchanges of animals, furs, women, pottery, baskets, beads, etc.

jorod January 31, 2008 at 2:14 pm

We endorse capitalism for its effiency not its ethics, someone once said. Markets are the mechanism or process of capitalism. Freedom and individual rights and law are the ethics. In the end, it usually results in the best price for any particular quantity of goods desired, assuming no natural disasters or serious shortages.

If the United States is a fascist empire then I'm the king of Amsterdam. Exaggerated, alarmist rantings do not get to the heart of the matter but make good propaganda for demagogues. Certainly the fiscal policy of Denny Hastert and George W. Bush was a dismal failure. Tax cuts without spending cuts are the petard of the present day republicans. As for the use of power, it is an option states use to influence other states. It is used most often when one feels threatened or is attacked or forced to ensure one's own survival. Many times the threat may be a matter of perception. But 9-11 was more than perception. Of course, the judicious use of such power must also take into account the strength of the foe and the likely response of one's enemies. The Arab radicals greatly underestimated the response of the US. Of course, I wouldn't call them exactly judicious. We would all like to resist the use of war, but this presupposes that we are dealing with rational people who are seeking a solution to issues with due considereation to the interests of all parties involved. But how to do this with people who don't respect law, freedom, or individual rights, let alone human life? I'm afraid war will remain an option for many years to come. We still live in a mostly uncivilized world where economists have little utilitarian value.

Martin Brock January 31, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Define 'state'.

The state is a monopoly of forcible propriety. It systematically decrees some acts "proper" and others "improper", and it forcibly encourages the "proper" while discouraging the "improper".

Do you have something else in mind?

Henri Hein January 31, 2008 at 2:49 pm

"There's a lot of blah blah comments on this post"

That's funny, I thought it was one of the more interesting discussions in a while.

Henri Hein January 31, 2008 at 2:55 pm

"people leap to the conclusion that I'm somehow opposing lines around parcels of land"

Martin, I've noticed that a lot around here. One is either for or against. Nuance is not possible.

I enjoy your comments.

jorod January 31, 2008 at 2:58 pm

By State I mean the modern nation-state that presumably controls its own destiny within its own borders.

Martin Brock January 31, 2008 at 2:59 pm

Rather, markets are a set of institutions that help channel human nature into more mutually productive behaviors, and away from the predilection for war.

But the U.S. spends more on its military than all other nations combined and rarely stops waging war. If we declare definitively that "markets" don't have this effect, then the U.S. hardly seems the most "market oriented" nation on Earth. I don't know about you, but I look around and find relatively little to consume that my neighbors produce, and that's not because we don't manufacture things. It's more because we manufacture things that only our state and other states consume. Granted, I live in Huntsville, Alabama, and the industry here is unusually state dominated, but there's little doubt about it here.

Martin Brock January 31, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Markets are the mechanism or process of capitalism. Freedom and individual rights and law are the ethics. In the end, it usually results in the best price for any particular quantity of goods desired, assuming no natural disasters or serious shortages.

"Market" and "individual right" need specification to be meaningful. Who has what right, and what are the terms of trade? We can divide all commerce into statutory categories and organize it under some hierarchical, regulatory umbrella while entitling various interests to negotiate the transfer of various rights. That is fascism. People bought and sold in Italy in the 20s and 30s.

If the United States is a fascist empire then I'm the king of Amsterdam. Exaggerated, alarmist rantings do not get to the heart of the matter but make good propaganda for demagogues.

No one's calling the U.S. a "fascist empire" here, but comparing the U.S. to Italy in the 20s, I have to wonder which nation is more state dominated. Italy's military was never larger than the rest of the world's combined, and central authority was more difficult to administer as a practical matter.

The Arab radicals greatly underestimated the response of the US.

No, they didn't. The Bush reaction was exactly what they expected and desired. The Islamists aren't bothered by the Iraqi invasion. They hated the Baathists. As far as they were concerned, the Baathists were on "our side". They want the middle east inflamed, and they want the U.S. overextended and ultimately exhausted. That's the whole point of their strategy. They're winning. Bush is a puppet on bin Laden's string.

Of course, I wouldn't call them exactly judicious. We would all like to resist the use of war, but this presupposes that we are dealing with rational people who are seeking a solution to issues with due considereation to the interests of all parties involved.

No, it doesn't. We aren't obliged to make war on irrationality. We could have done precisely nothing about 9/11, and we'd now be a trillion dollars richer and more secure if we had. Short of doing nothing, we could have done far less costly and futile things than try to impose a liberal democracy on Iraq.

But how to do this with people who don't respect law, freedom, or individual rights, let alone human life? I'm afraid war will remain an option for many years to come. We still live in a mostly uncivilized world where economists have little utilitarian value.

War is the health of the state and the bane of comity.

jorod January 31, 2008 at 4:23 pm

I won't defend the merits of the war in Iraq. Res ipsa loquitur. We could kill all the generals like the ancient Athenians did and lose the war. I would simply prefer that the President and Senators lead the troops into battle. That might temper their fervor a bit. Never tell someone to do something you wouldn't do yourself.

Sam Grove January 31, 2008 at 5:03 pm

The state is a monopoly of forcible propriety. It systematically decrees some acts "proper" and others "improper", and it forcibly encourages the "proper" while discouraging the "improper".

Do you have something else in mind?

Just wanted to make sure before I disagreed with the previous assertion.
Some libertarians are anti-collectivism, sometimes, but they're never anti-state.

I consider myself libertarian (since 1980) and also anti-state.

I think the state decrees things as lawful or unlawful, and that lawful is not the same as proper, they may be in alignment, but not necessarily.

I consider it possible to have society sans a political apparatus, a 'state', though not at this time.

I oppose forcible monopoly.

Sam Grove January 31, 2008 at 5:13 pm

The Arab radicals greatly underestimated the response of the US.

I think they tried very hard to get this response. Certainly the PNAC site made it clear that a new 'Pearl Harbor' was needed to justify the U.S. establishing a military footprint in the middle east. Unfortunately for their plans, the original attack on the World Trade Center didn't have dramatic enough results to engender the outrage sufficient to carry out the desired response. Regime change in Iraq came about under the Clinton administration.

Do you really think the al-Qaeda/Islamist strategists were unaware of all this?
They have internet access too.

FreedomLover January 31, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Let's be very clear about the Libertarian movement. Half are economic libertarians AND social libertarians. The other half are economic statists who want to be able to buy pot in the grocery store. Let's not pretend it's about anything else with the LATTER group.

jorod January 31, 2008 at 5:43 pm

I defer to John Locke on the definition of the state, I think. The tricky part is in the details.

vidyohs January 31, 2008 at 5:59 pm

"people leap to the conclusion that I'm somehow opposing lines around parcels of land"
Martin, I've noticed that a lot around here. One is either for or against. Nuance is not possible.
I enjoy your comments.
Posted by: Henri Hein | Jan 31, 2008 2:55:31 PM"

Henri Hein,
Consider the fact that Sam Grove, Robert Russel, and Don boudreaux can say more and exhibit a cleaner more concise intellect in one paragrpah than MartinDuck can in 80 paragraphs.

Martin is a prolific writer, would it be that he could also read, comprehend, and understand.

Alas, he equates quantity with quality. A mistake as he proves over and over.

vidyohs January 31, 2008 at 7:12 pm

I study the evolution of human behavior, as well as political economy, and because free markets are not exactly what you find distributed across hunter-gather societies, while warfare is, I think he's unduly cavalier about that.

Rather, markets are a set of institutions that help channel human nature into more mutually productive behaviors, and away from the predilection for war.

Posted by: James Hanley | Jan 31, 2008 1:30:28 PM

Mr. Hanley,
I believe you need to rethink this. In fact free markets were available to all hunter-gather's and they participated regularly. While warfare certainly existed since the earliest days of humanity it was not necessarily an impediment to free markets.

The traveling peddler for instance was welcome in all camps, but the traveling peddler was actually a modern creation coming into existence probably somewhere back as far as thirty thousand years ago in my own estimation.

Instead of thinking on the level of Freidman of Marx, step back and look at markets as they actually are at the root.

For instance a free market means that no one or thing imposes any regulation on what is traded. That is a bare bones root analysis of what a free market is.

So if in one tribe Og liked Mog's handaxe, and Mog liked Og's spear and they got together one day and traded, they had just created and engaged in a free market. No one else in the tribe presumed a right to interfere or dictate additional terms to either or both of the participants in the trade. No chief stepped forward and said, "Well and good, Og and Mog, but I expect to have access to both spear and handaxe every sixth day as my tax as chief."
Didn't happen that way you see.

Free markets have existed as long as humans have traded, and my friend that goes way back into a time we can only study through fossils.

vidyohs January 31, 2008 at 7:31 pm

"We endorse capitalism for its effiency not its ethics, someone once said.
Posted by: jorod | Jan 31, 2008 2:14:30 PM"

jorod, whoever said that was speaking for himself mostly and maybe some misguided such as the socialists of the world.

Capitalism is efficient to be sure, but intelligent people endorse it because it is as natural as breathing.

Do we question the ethics of breathing? No.

Capitalism has to begin at some level, true. Captial isn't something we find in the closet when we come home from work. (I know that most socialists view it that way but socialist are screwed up.) No one finds pile of capital in the rocks beside the road when he stops in the wilderness to pee. Capital is not just money or credit, there is such a thing as capital goods. Captial has to be created or accumulated.

There is no capitalism without capital.

There is no capital without profit

There is no profit without creation or accumulation.

So why and when did accumulation or creation of profit begin?

Use your imagination and extend the process as far back as you can.

I have and I see Lucy and her kin as capitalists, just as I see the Leopard as a capitalist when he kills, eats his fill and then drags his profit (left-over carcass) into a tree as an investment against hunger for the next three days; you see if the Leopard wasn't interested in making profit on his efforts he would simply kill small animals he could eat in one sitting and never try for the ones that set him up for days. Just remember before you dismiss this, that humans too had to develop means of preserving food, something a Leopard has never been able to imagine, before their profit taking on their labors became so strong that instead of being set-up for days they were setup for months or seasons.

Now take that one step farther. The ancient human who practiced food preservation would see a winter that did not consume his entire stock of profit before spring brought opportunities for fesh replenishment. His profit then became capital goods which he could invest in trading with others who were not so lucky or who hadn't worked as hard at storing profit. Capitalism. And, how far back in time did that happen? We can only surmise from the fossil record of artifacts found in places we know were surely distant from their origination; and, from the fact that in any group of humans not all talents are equal, so trading amongst a group surely went on. What did one trade to the flint-knapper of the group for one of his fine spear points? Investment of profits, captial goods, free markets all in the very distant history of mankind.

vidyohs January 31, 2008 at 7:34 pm

"his entire stock of profit before spring brought opportunities for fesh(fresh) replenishment."

Martin Brock January 31, 2008 at 8:03 pm

vidyohs:

Alas, he equates quantity with quality. A mistake as he proves over and over.

No, again, that's you. You're forever confusing your words with mine. Maybe there's a pill for it.

Martin Brock January 31, 2008 at 8:17 pm

I think the state decrees things as lawful or unlawful, and that lawful is not the same as proper, they may be in alignment, but not necessarily.

Property is lawful.

I consider it possible to have society sans a political apparatus, a 'state', though not at this time.

To distinguish your rights from mine with any assurance, we require a common standard that we both respect. This standard is the law, and it is property, and if it's forcible, it's a state. It's a state, because it's both forcible and universal. I don't get to declare myself outside the state and move into your house. The state doesn't require my agreement to enforce your title.

I oppose forcible monopoly.

Except your right to monopolize your house and your car and your bank account and the Treasury notes behind your bank account and on and on. Property rights are monopolies, but we don't want the state establishing very broad monopolies.

vidyohs January 31, 2008 at 8:46 pm

The last time I heard a rebuttal this intellectually vapid was some 64 years ago from a little girl playmate in the sandbox in her backyard.

vidyohs:

Alas, he equates quantity with quality. A mistake as he proves over and over.
No, again, that's you. You're forever confusing your words with mine. Maybe there's a pill for it.
Posted by: Martin Brock | Jan 31, 2008 8:03:47 PM

Keith January 31, 2008 at 8:47 pm

"War-making being the special talent of the state"

Not so much. 9/11 was not war made by a state, but it is war. Individual empowerment cuts both ways.

The reason it's good that US military spending exceeds all others is explained in Leviathan by Hobbes. When and if we get talked into acting like Europeans, the world will have a state of nature. You can see that in the failed states now. It's not a civilized way to live.

Canada is secure because of America. Western Europe is secure because of America. Half of Asia – the democratic half – is secure because of America. Africa is pretty much hell because we don't act like Leviathan there.

Without Leviathan – North Korea eats South Korea. China eats Taiwan. Iran eats Iraq. Pakistan eats Afghanistan. Russia eats the Ukraine, for starters.

You want to reduce America's global footprint? Be careful what you wish for. It's hard to imagine a more effective way to increase human suffering the world over.

Randy January 31, 2008 at 8:49 pm

So, Martin, I've been meaning to ask… Is your point that because some use of force is necessary that all uses of force are acceptable? Do you draw no lines at all?

Sam Grove January 31, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Except your right to monopolize your house and your car and your bank account and the Treasury notes behind your bank account and on and on.

I oppose market monopolies, that is the restriction of access to the market. Market share is not property.

To distinguish your rights from mine with any assurance, we require a common standard that we both respect. This standard is the law,

I do not grant that a standard is, or has to be, law, that is, legislated by politicians. We have many standards that are not so legislated and are none-the-less universally agreed to and accepted.

I think common law may not require a political apparatus, and instead, may be effected by culture, tradition, and social recognition. I believe non-political, non-monopoly government is feasible.

Specifically, I oppose monopoly, or political, government. My property in my body is not 'proper' because of law, but because of my nature as a being. I think I share this nature with all creatures that have material requirements to survive.
My property in my product is an extension of this nature.

Sam Grove January 31, 2008 at 9:20 pm

North Korea eats South Korea.

This assertion has little credibility.

Martin Brock January 31, 2008 at 11:22 pm

vidyohs:

The last time I heard a rebuttal this intellectually vapid …

It's not a rebuttal. There was nothing to rebut. It's just a little of the pointless sniping you seem to like. I thought you'd be pleased.

Martin Brock January 31, 2008 at 11:46 pm

Randy:

So, Martin, I've been meaning to ask… Is your point that because some use of force is necessary that all uses of force are acceptable?

Of course not. The generalization is incredible, and it's entirely yours.

Do you draw no lines at all?

I draw lines all over the place. In this forum, I advocate that Bill Gates pay no more taxes than you and I if he chooses to invest rather than consume, and I'm called a "socialist". I advocate repealing Social Security faster and more completely than any other serious reform proposes, but you must support your own parents who supported you, and I'm again called a "socialist". I note the obvious fact that much "private property" is no more than entitlement to tax revenue, and I'm called a "socialist". I advocate no central planning of any kind, but I'm called a "socialist". You explain it to me.

If you want to discuss specific lines, I'm willing, but if you oppose some measure based solely on its enforcement, while extolling private property and markets (as I do), I can't take you seriously. Private property is force. You want to discuss specific lines? Propose some specific lines. I've done that.

Martin Brock February 1, 2008 at 12:38 am

Sam:

I oppose market monopolies, that is the restriction of access to the market. Market share is not property.

So do I. I oppose most patents for example. That often gets me called a "socialist" too. How about Treasury notes? Is entitlement to tax revenue proper as long as we can trade it? If we just pass our entitlements to tax revenue around, do we have a "market economy"? Is a certificate entitling you to some tax revenue "capital"? Is this system "capitalism"? Do you realize that the total value of all Treasury notes rivals the value of all publicly traded companies in the U.S.? If Federal employees could choose their own successors and/or sell their offices to the highest bidder, would that be "capitalism"?

I typically can't get straight answers to these questions from nominal "libertarians", because they're too busy telling me how much they want their taxes cut so they can keep more of the interest they earn on their Treasury notes. That's just the world around me.

I do not grant that a standard is, or has to be, law, that is, legislated by politicians. We have many standards that are not so legislated and are none-the-less universally agreed to and accepted.

So what is the standard exactly? Begging this question doesn't answer it. If you think that standards are so universal, you've obviously never been sued. When you talk about "universal standards", you're either discussing forcible proprieties, laws of nature or figments of your imagination. I can easily look around God's creation and see the genuinely universal standards. That's "territory", not "property". When I look around man's creation, I see lots of forcible propriety. I'm not saying that's all a bad thing, and I'm certainly not saying it's all a good thing, but it's definitely what I see.

I think common law may not require a political apparatus, and instead, may be effected by culture, tradition, and social recognition. I believe non-political, non-monopoly government is feasible.

"Common law" means something specifically, and it's not stateless, but I want a lot more common law myself, i.e. I want many panels of common citizens making a lot more choices a lot more frequently, and I want a few titular lords elected in biannual elections making a lot fewer. Jury decisions are forcible, and they can't simply be unconstrained. I discuss one, specific reform in this direction, the progressive consumption tax, and I'm called a "socialist".

For "common law", "tradition" and "social recognition" to have any meaning, I need you to tell me more specifically what you're proposing. I do not want more national legislating by jurisdiction shopping lawyers as in the Big Tobacco suit. As far as the progressive consumption tax is concerned, I'm happy if the revenue raised is removed from circulation. Just pile up the money somewhere and burn it. We'll roast hot dogs.

Specifically, I oppose monopoly, or political, government. My property in my body is not 'proper' because of law, but because of my nature as a being. I think I share this nature with all creatures that have material requirements to survive. My property in my product is an extension of this nature.

Fine. I love my mom's apple pie too. What you've just described here is politics, i.e. it's the stuff all politicians say all the time. Now, I need some straight answers to some simple questions. If you receive some currency in a transaction, is that "your product"? Do the details of the transaction matter at all? If you buy a Treasury note with the currency, is the interest on this note "your product"?

I'm all for Lockean property, but it happens not to be most of what we call "property" these days.

FreedomLover February 1, 2008 at 3:10 am

Martin, like I said earlier, since you're so hazy on what property means, I'm asserting my immediate right to confiscate your house and car. Hand it over since you're being so vague.

vidyohs February 1, 2008 at 6:16 am

"I think common law may not require a political apparatus, and instead, may be effected by culture, tradition, and social recognition. I believe non-political, non-monopoly government is feasible.

Posted by: Sam Grove | Jan 31, 2008 9:19:13 PM"

Kritarchy does exactly that.

Randy February 1, 2008 at 6:30 am

Martin,

"…but you must support your own parents who supported you…"

"I advocate no central planning of any kind…"

"You explain it to me."

Well…for starters, I'd be willing to take the second statement more seriously if it weren't for the first.

"…you oppose some measure[s] based solely on…enforcement, while extolling private property and markets…"

Yes. Exactly. I oppose some measures based solely on enforcement because the political class has no business enforcing its will on people who aren't doing any harm. To do otherwise is to prioritize a preferred vision of society over allowing individuals to choose their own paths through life. To me, that's socialism.

Martin Brock February 1, 2008 at 7:49 am

Martin, like I said earlier, since you're so hazy on what property means, I'm asserting my immediate right to confiscate your house and car. Hand it over since you're being so vague.

I'm the only person here who is not vague about what "property means", and if you try to confiscate my house and car, I'll happily call my buddies in the mafia … or the state … and have them punish you for it. It's all the same to me.

Property is a forcible propriety, and that's all it is. The state is a monopoly of forcible propriety, and that's all it is. Property is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force.

Randy February 1, 2008 at 8:12 am

If the organization entrusted with the protection of property rights begins to seize property for its own purposes, why should it maintain the trust?

Martin Brock February 1, 2008 at 8:26 am

vidyohs:

Martin,

"…but you must support your own parents who supported you…"

"I advocate no central planning of any kind…"

"You explain it to me."

Well…for starters, I'd be willing to take the second statement more seriously if it weren't for the first.

The second statement overgeneralizes. Touche.

The support of aging parents by their children is economically rational, because it returns an investment to the investor. It is a property of parents in their children, and I've never denied. In a more honest past, we acknowledged it. Today, politicians lie about it, and none lie louder than nominal "libertarians".

I just don't buy the statist pretense that Social Security, or a bank account for that matter, does anything else, except insofar as other systems can transfer the burden of your elder support to my children or vice versa. A "retirement account" filled with Treasury notes is only the most egregious possible tax on parents, because parents with more children necessarily purchase fewer notes all else being equal. They purchase the next generation of taxpayers instead.

Parental support is traditional. It's among the most ancient proprieties, as old as anything else we call "property". It is the fifth commandment. When we try to get rid of it in the name of "freedom", it reappears in another guise. When you have a specific alternative, I'll discuss it with you.

"…you oppose some measure[s] based solely on…enforcement, while extolling private property and markets…"

Yes. Exactly. I oppose some measures based solely on enforcement because the political class has no business enforcing its will on people who aren't doing any harm.

Like the "political class" isn't doing the enforcement. Like the enforcement you advocate is somehow "not political". You can see the contradiction in my words, but can you see it in your words?

Social Security and similar systems do harm. A different system of forcible propriety does less harm. That's the argument. If you want to return to the state of nature, we can do that, but mortality rises quite a bit among both young children and the elderly in this scenario. I don't want a "young" collective supporting an "old" collective. I want decentralized authority, like the authority of parents over their children, and I want rational relationships between investment and yield, because both ultimately require less force. We must face reality first though.

To do otherwise is to prioritize a preferred vision of society over allowing individuals to choose their own paths through life. To me, that's socialism.

Then property is socialism. If socialism is theft, Proudhon was right after all. When you're ready to let me choose my own path through your socialized division of nature's territory, let me know. Just leave the keys under the mat.

Martin Brock February 1, 2008 at 8:31 am

Randy:

If the organization entrusted with the protection of property rights begins to seize property for its own purposes, why should it maintain the trust?

Organizations behave this way. The argument applies to any possible enforcement of anything, so it effectively applies to none. No one here advocates anarchy. Specifically, which forces do you advocate and which do you oppose? Whose interest is served by evasion of a debt to parents? The state's or the evaders'?

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