Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on November 25, 2011

in Seen and Unseen, Trade

… is from Charles Davenant‘s 1697 tract An essay on the East-India trade, as quoted on page 99 of Jacob Viner‘s 1937 collection Studies in the Theory of International Trade:

Trade is in its nature free, finds its own channel and best directeth its own course; and all laws to give it rules and directions, and to limit and circumscribe it, may serve the particular ends of private men, but are seldom advantageous to the public.

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Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 8:52 am

Interesting he used the phrase “seldom.” I can’t think how interfering with trade is ever advantageous to the public.

Peter November 25, 2011 at 9:10 am

It’s not impossible, just unlikely. If some forced interference with trade actually, probably by some freak accident, led to more proper resource allocation than the market itself, then it would. This is a highly unlikely thing to happen for a variety of reasons, but it’s not technically impossible, unless you assume that the market always leads to the most optimal allocation of resources and knowledge.

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 9:45 am

I can see that possible simply by the “infinite number of monkey on infinite number of typewriters given infinite amount of time” theory, but realistically, I cannot envision such a scenario in real life.

As an aside, I believe the market always leads to the most optimal allocation of resources and knowledge better than any other system devised by man.

Greg Webb, librarian clowns, et al November 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm

You parrot information that you only superficial understand. You add nothing to the discussion. You would do better to lose some weight instead of trolling around here.

Greg Webb, librarian clowns, et al November 25, 2011 at 1:56 pm

You parrot information that you only superficial understand

As opposed to simply inventing the information out of whole cloth, which is what I like to do.

You should be watching me like a hawk, Jon Murphy. Watch and learn from a Master Troll.

Economic Freedom November 25, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Stealing others’ identities again? You are a troll without any true sense of identity. You, also, offer nothing of substance to any discussion that you participate in. Why do you live and breathe? To simply irritate other people who are smarter and better informed that you are? What a waste of gnarled DNA.

Economic Freedom November 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Stealing others’ identities again?

Sue me, you ignorant trolling fraud.

Anonymous Librarians November 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Stupid troll! You should learn how to think and write before posting any comments.

vidyohs November 25, 2011 at 9:45 am

I agree that nothing is technically impossible (just because it has never happened does not mean it can not or will not ever happen), not even the unthinkable of persons rejecting the sound principle of comparative advantage, stubbornly insisting on going it alone; but the likelyhood of a man in D.C. or two or more men in D.C. more wisely deciding the course of my trade is a great HUGE brickwall of improbablility. So, HUGE that I’ll just say no, because technically being wise enough to be able to guide all trade by all parties in a manner more efficient than they themselves could do, would mean knowing in intimate detail every single desire and whim of each individual, and I submit that is as near to impossible as it gets, especially as each individual will likely change in desire and whim so rapidly that even his wife or best friend can’t keep up.

Damn pesky, natural humans always overturning such wonderful imaginings, fantasies, theories, and ambitions of those who know better!

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 10:12 am

Not only would you have to know every desire, but you’d have to know every person’s costs AND have to be able to know how they value such benefits and costs and then choose the exact option that would maximize the net benefits.

[sarcasm]
Oh, the cursed fact that knowledge is decentralized! If only there was some central agency whose sole job is to know everything about everyone. A central knowledge agency, if you please. Then these learned people could make all life’s choices! [/sarcasm]

Stone Glasgow November 25, 2011 at 10:20 am

If five men are on an island, and two of them are breeding humans and buying and selling sex with children, raping babies on their private land, in full view, is it best for them all if no intervention is made in their private market?

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 10:28 am

Touche. In an extreme example like that, yes. But that comes under the heading of “Violation of Natural Rights”

vidyohs November 25, 2011 at 10:38 am

I think that while technically correct, as Jon and I both acknowledge the technicality possibility, you went to fatuous lengths to create a scenario involving crime that has nothing to do with free markets and trade as is the topic of the post by Prof Boudreaux, and the comments by the first three parties.

Why do you suppose anyone intelligent believes that a free market or free trade is crime. Crime is a separate issue in both the thought of elimination and education.

But, what the hell, any nit can be found, and a found nit must be picked.

Stone Glasgow November 25, 2011 at 11:35 am

“natural rights?”

What are those and who decides what they are?

Stone Glasgow November 25, 2011 at 11:46 am

Vidyohs,

“Crime,” is a term defined by men. If two men believe that trading baby-rape is okay and legal, and two others do not, there is no way to settle which group is correct.

We see examples of this in other nations. Some stone gay men to death, others bury unwanted babies in the ground. Crime is relative and there is no absolute definition.

Interventions in markets are beneficial if market participants find that moral injustices are avoided by using force. The trouble with most interventions today is that they are intended to correct moral problems that are always there by default. The fact that some men are more productive than others cannot be corrected by taking the fruits of their labor.

Trading in baby-rapes, on the other hand, is not a prpblem that exists by default, and can be corrected using force. This simplified example can be applied to other interventions as well. It’s not rocket science.to calculate which moral issues can be effectively mitigated and which cannot.

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 11:59 am

Natural Rights are rights determined by Nature (thus the term, natural). They are unalienable. These Natural Rights are the right to Life, Liberty, Property, and Happiness.

Stone Glasgow November 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm

“Determined by nature?”

What is “nature?” I think you’re confusing the political rhetoric of the 18th century with reality.

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Well, you did ask what Natural Rights are. In addition to being the bedrock of the US Constitution and legal system, they are universally accepted by the nations of the world (see the UN Charter).

The natural rights are as old as the Ten Commandments, and older even.

MikeF November 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm

But in what sense are “Life, Liberty, Property and Happiness” really *natural*? Are they a constant, valued nearly-equally across all cultures and societies throughout history? Would prehistoric man nod his head sympathetically at that formulation of human rights? I find that hard to accept given that many, even most cultures throughout history: practiced slavery or similar liberty-destroying exploitations without compunction; had very different conceptions of property from the free-market capitalist ideal; and did not think much about “happiness” as such. Those rights are good ones – I like them – but they are ultimately pretty arbitrary. Why not list the natural rights as “Life, Sex, Food, and Shelter”? Or *ducks* how about “Life, Liberty, Property, Happiness, and Access to Affordable Medical Care”? Saying that the rights you think should be protected are “determined by nature [and] unalienable” is just an appeal to authority – to a mute authority, actually, who’s never made his position clear.

Stone Glasgow November 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Well said Mike. I agree 100%.

vidyohs November 25, 2011 at 12:41 pm

“But, what the hell, any nit can be found, and a found nit must be picked.”

““Crime,” is a term defined by men. If two men believe that trading baby-rape is okay and legal, and two others do not, there is no way to settle which group is correct.”

You’ve created the nit, thank you very much.

My God SG when did you go complete bonkers? Sure crime is a termed created by men, and it describes an act or acts by a man or men. Sooooo freaking what, does that have to do with a discussion of free markets and free trade?

Crime – free market……..different you see.

Crime describes an act of harm forcefully committed against another whether he is present or not.

Free market describes a voluntary and willing exchange of things of value performed by two individuals.

Crime – free market………different.

Now natural rights are rights that accrue from the act of individual birth and survival and the word natural is used to describe what is proper to the individual and not bestowed by any power other than what created the individual. To head off the next nit pick, each individual perceives his creator differently, some believe it is a Supreme Being, others an accidental world of random chance. Doesn’t matter, each of us is created by a force we do not understand and some call it God, some call it nature, and either way each individual responds to it in an observable way.

It is actually pretty damn silly to ask, “what is nature”, that is doing the Disingenuous Kuehn thing and not worthy of you. It is what it is and as Billy S. asked, “A rose, a rose, by any other name should smell so sweet.”

Nature is not hardly an 18th century invention or discovery, and if nature isn’t reality, I woke up in the wrong world this morning.

Stone Glasgow November 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm

“Crime describes an act of harm forcefully committed against another…”

That is your definition of a crime, and it does not match what most of the world believes. It doesn’t even match what the founders of this nation believed!

Most of the world believes force is not a crime if applied morally. And the founders believed that force was just if applied to blacks, natives, women, and children.

The belief that force is never justified unless in self defense is a valid world-view, but we must admit that it is one view among many.

I don’t believe any creator gave me any natural rights. I don’t think we have natural rights any more than wild animals. The concept does not make sense. It implies that there must be a final authority bestowing rights upon men.

Stone Glasgow November 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm

“You’ve created the nit, thank you very much.

My God SG when did you go complete bonkers? Sure crime is a termed created by men, and it describes an act or acts by a man or men. Sooooo freaking what, does that have to do with a discussion of free markets and free trade?”

If we are to base our entire opinion of the proper role for government on the understanding that we posses certain unalienable rights, and if we are adamantly demand that government remain absent from private transactions because of these rights, I would like to be able to properly defend my beliefs. I don’t enjoy brushing aside a “nitpick,” as if it were meaningless.

Most people believe that intervention is a good and moral thing in many cases. If we don’t agree, we must be willing to “show our work,” as it were. We must be able to say exactly why intervention is not required among free men, even when some of us are peacefully raping children on the other side of the island.

What if all men on the island are doctors except one, and the non-doctor has taken a liking to one of the men. He is buying snake oil from him, and all doctors know that he has scurvy, curable with vitamin C. He will not listen to anyone but the snake oil salesman.

Is it proper to watch him die, knowing that force can save his life? Is it proper to allow one doctor to continue selling the worthless cure, providing just enough vitamin C to keep him sick as long as possible in order to extract maximum profits before he dies? What if the sick man is mentally disabled by his sickness, and cannot be seen to be making rational decisions? What if he is the man’s young son? What of he is mentally handicapped?

Who decides these things? Can you honestly say that you have the answers to these questions?

Greg Webb November 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm

“But in what sense are “Life, Liberty, Property and Happiness” really *natural*? Are they a constant, valued nearly-equally across all cultures and societies throughout history: . . . Saying that the rights you think should be protected are “determined by nature [and] unalienable” is just an appeal to authority – to a mute authority, actually, who’s never made his position clear.”

Hohoho! A clearly disingenuous argument. If I held a knife to your throat, or to your prehistoric man, you would fight me or beg for mercy. If I caged you, or your prehistoric man, you would try to escape at the first opportunity. If I tried to steal your car, or your prehistoric man’s spear, you would fight me for it. If I did things that made you unhappy, you would avoid me. Everyone understands the natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness.

Those who seek control will forcibly take those rights from others and disingenuously claim that those people have no rights. But then, they fight furiously or beg piteously when others try to take their natural rights.

“to a mute authority, actually, who’s never made his position clear.”

He has. Silly stupid people twist His words as disingenuous, manipulators often do. I’m sorry that you hate God. Get over it.

Darren November 25, 2011 at 4:07 pm

If five men are on an island, and two of them are breeding humans …

Tough with no women.

MikeF November 25, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Why bring God into it, Greg? It’s at least arguable that Life, Liberty, Property and Happiness are rights supported by the natural order of things. But if our rights are derived from God, there is *no way* that interpretation is correct. Have you read the Bible? The Old Testament contains a how-to guide on slavery, passed down by the dude who genocided humanity but for one family; the hero of the New Testament ranted against the rich and destroyed the property of money-lenders who were simply engaged in consensual economic activity. OWS wishes they could do what Jesus did to the financial district of his day.

There is a fundamental difference here: I believe that life, liberty etc. *are* rights that must be vigorously defended. But they are not “natural” – they are the result of human thought evolving over thousands of years, growing based on experiences and experiments in goverance, and reaching a point where a set of rights has been identified that, when protected, lead to much more successful societies than existed previously. That process isn’t finished. A thousand years from now, most human societies will probably have a vastly different understanding of human rights, just as humans a thousand years ago would scoff if you suggested they had a “natural right” to be happy. The “natural” descriptor was just a rhetorical flourish used by Enlightenment thinkers. Doesn’t mean their ideas weren’t good.

vikingvista November 25, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Intervention by whom? The same five men? You keep setting up these two or five men scenarios and then ask questions as though there is some magical external judging and intervening force. I’ve got news for you, if it is unanimous, then that is what will happen.

Greg Webb November 25, 2011 at 4:55 pm

“Why bring God into it, Greg?”

You brought Him up in your previous comment, MikeF. Do you always make such disingenuous statements?

“It’s at least arguable that Life, Liberty, Property and Happiness are rights supported by the natural order of things.”

Yep. That’s why Benjamin Franklin amended Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence to say that these rights are “self evident”.

“But if our rights are derived from God, there is *no way* that interpretation is correct.”

False. Do you understand the Bible?

“Have you read the Bible? The Old Testament contains a how-to guide on slavery, passed down by the dude who genocided humanity but for one family; the hero of the New Testament ranted against the rich and destroyed the property of money-lenders who were simply engaged in consensual economic activity. OWS wishes they could do what Jesus did to the financial district of his day.”

Given that you have twisted the meaning of the Bible to make silly statist arguments, it is obvious that you do not understand either the Bible or the Jewish Scriptures. As the famous Jewish Rabbi Hillel once said, “That which you hate, don’t do to others. That is the meaning of the Scriptures. The rest is commentary. Now, go and study.”

“There is a fundamental difference here: I believe that life, liberty etc. *are* rights that must be vigorously defended.”

I agree. Natural rights are frequently violated by those giving in to their desire to control others. They must be defended.

“But they are not “natural” – they are the result of human thought evolving over thousands of years . . . “

Yes. They are natural rights. What societies and elites think is unimportant. These rights are not changeable nor immutable. They are timeless.

Even those determined to commit suicide will fight you if you try to murder them. No one wants to be a slave nor have their property stolen. No one desires to be unhappy.

Your argument is disingenuous at best. At worst, it is a silly attempt to support your disbelief in God.

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 5:44 pm

How is it than an off-hand comment I said turned into this?

vidyohs November 25, 2011 at 6:29 pm

@Stone Glasgow

“even when some of us are peacefully raping children on the other side of the island. “

Oooookay SG tell me how one peacefully rapes? (without force or threat of force, which includes the surreptitious drugging of another).

I think you’re trying real hard to step on your own dick here.

vidyohs November 25, 2011 at 6:39 pm

“Is it proper to watch him die, knowing that force can save his life? Is it proper to allow one doctor to continue selling the worthless cure, providing just enough vitamin C to keep him sick as long as possible in order to extract maximum profits before he dies? What if the sick man is mentally disabled by his sickness, and cannot be seen to be making rational decisions? What if he is the man’s young son? What of he is mentally handicapped?

Who decides these things? Can you honestly say that you have the answers to these questions?”

I can play the disingenuous game too…….what use to ask those questions knowing that a meteor could strike Earth some day and wipe us all out?

“Is it proper to watch him die, knowing that force can save his life?”

Is it proper for you to use force on someone who is rationally using his own intelligence and knowledge to decide the course of his life? He doesn’t GAF about your disagreement, and frankly he shouldn’t if he feels your opinion is meaningless to him.

Why do you think others should GAF about you or your opinion, and why do you think there is ever an occasion to impose your opinion on another…….ever SG…..ever?

kyle8 November 25, 2011 at 6:57 pm

God damn, so much stupid sophistry in this thread, If you deny that there are any natural rights then you can also deny the need to have a government, or to give a shit about trade one way or another. It is just an argument one might have with a few stoned sophomores. It is meaningless.

Civilization, for it to matter, operates with at least some basic assumptions.

CalgaryGuy November 25, 2011 at 7:25 pm

“Crime,” is a term defined by men. If two men believe that trading baby-rape is okay and legal, and two others do not, there is no way to settle which group is correct.

Sure there is, the two men are absolutely entitled to BELIEVE that trading baby-rape is OK, but the moment they engage in it, it is no longer peaceful, voluntary trade as the rights of the baby are being violated. Rape by definition means forcing oneself upon another without their willing consent. It matters not that the men buying and selling it think they are doing nothing wrong, the criminal aspect involves the act upon the baby, not the exchange of money.

Stone Glasgow November 25, 2011 at 7:32 pm

“Intervention by whom? The same five men? You keep setting up these two or five men scenarios and then ask questions as though there is some magical external judging and intervening force. I’ve got news for you, if it is unanimous, then that is what will happen.”

Viking, I set this up to force us to think about a difficult situation, where two men are doing something the other three find morally unacceptable, but are doing so peacefully on their own land. What if it isn’t unanimous? What if three think they should intervene against the baby rapists?

Stone Glasgow November 25, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Greg, you’re flat wrong. You’re replacing the state with God, and claiming that some set of rights are set by Him, natural, and timeless. That’s certainly not the case, and the bible clearly is not all rainbows and light. Read in its entirety and at face value, it indicates that modern “natural” rights were not accepted 2,000 years ago. Killing you wife or children was ok. So was rape. So was destruction of financial centers if lead by the son of God (a statist cult leader.)

Even today, children are born into slavery, and accept their fate as adults. They don’t feel any “natural” right to be free or happy. Women in some places mutilate their baby girls by force, and those girls grow up to do the same. They don’t think young girls have any natural right to a clitoris.

Women in the middle east accept that the have no natural right to travel alone, or to wear revealing clothing. They reject intervention by outsiders that would offer them more of what the outsiders feel are their “God given” rights to wear bikini’s alone in public.

Many current and past cultures reject the rights our founders found to be “self evident.”

Stone Glasgow November 25, 2011 at 8:01 pm

“Why do you think others should GAF about you or your opinion, and why do you think there is ever an occasion to impose your opinion on another…….ever SG…..ever?”

When I see clearly that I can stop an abuse, I want to intervene. I don’t claim that intervention is proper, or that I know best. Please don’t confuse me with a mumbling statist-idiot.

If raping children is obviously an inappropriate use of force against the will of a child, who makes that decision? Some tribes and ancient cultures brought boys into manhood by forcing them to swallow the semen of an adult male.

Today, parents punish children with physical and metal torture and imprisonment. Are those actions not similar affronts to their natural rights? If not, where is the line between spanking and illegal violence, and who decides?!

I see no difference, per se, between men spanking their kids and raping them, except in the opinions of others. If you claim that God or “nature,” makes the rules, and that the line between one form of violence and another is known to you, you’re no different than any other statist, who makes the same claims but draws the line in a different place.

Stone Glasgow November 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Vidyohs,

If you stumble into my home, drunk, and hold a gun to your own head, and tell me not to stop you, should I ask only that you pull the trigger on the lawn for easy clean-up? Or should I recognize that you are not thinking clearly and intervene?

Yergit_abrav November 25, 2011 at 11:50 pm

@stone
Your sophistry begins with equating aggression (rape) with trade.
Perhaps you will feel this is not your intent. Ok great. That must mean you are debating who gets to decide what aggression is. What are the boundaries.
Meaningless detail really if you accept that aggression is wrong. I say it’s a red herring.

vikingvista November 26, 2011 at 3:19 am

Stone,

The question still doesn’t make sense given the context you created. It all depends on what the five think and what they are capable of, which you haven’t spelled out. There are the five decision makers, and no one else.

As far as rights are concerned, all five are presumably capable of communicating their values to the others, reasoning out opinions, and acting upon them. This means each person has options that would not be available if that were not the case. That means the market is still relevent. And no matter how much one or more of the three men hate baby raping, war may still not be the best choice for achieving their ends.

You can try arguing about universally consistent sets of individual actions consistent with objective human nature. You can even pull a set of so-called “natural rights” out of your ass based entirely upon your personal subjective values. You can also claim to speak for a nonexistent tormenting supernatural power. But something tells me baby rapers aren’t going to care about any of those things.

As adult human beings, they do care about things however, and that’s what markets are good at exploiting. You can always war against your environment, and sometimes that is all you can do to achieve your ends. But here you are interacting with people, so you have additional choices.

Finally, neither free markets nor socialism nor totalitarianism nor any other form of social organization can be judged based upon the merely possible or imaginable, or even upon a real observed anecdote. Baby raping, and countless other offenses on people’s values, can be imagined in any society.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 6:26 am

“There are the five decision makers, and no one else.”

NO! That is the point; who decides how many “decision makers” there are? In the past, blacks were not “decision makers.” In the past, women were not “decision makers.”

Today, children are not “decision makers.”

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 6:31 am

‘You can try arguing about universally consistent sets of individual actions consistent with objective human nature. You can even pull a set of so-called “natural rights” out of your ass based entirely upon your personal subjective values. You can also claim to speak for a nonexistent tormenting supernatural power. But something tells me baby rapers aren’t going to care about any of those things.”

C’mon man. Read what I am writing instead of assuming what I mean to say. You are the one arguing for so-called “natural rights,” based on your, or perhaps the founding father’s, subjective values.

I am asking where “natural” or “self evident” rights might come from. I am making no claims.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 6:38 am

‘Your sophistry begins with equating aggression (rape) with trade.
Perhaps you will feel this is not your intent. Ok great. That must mean you are debating who gets to decide what aggression is. What are the boundaries.
Meaningless detail really if you accept that aggression is wrong. I say it’s a red herring.”

That is the whole point. Why do we accept that aggression is wrong? Further, if we accept that “aggression” is wrong, who decides what the definition of aggression might be, and who decides which beings are capable of complaining?

In the past, blacks and women could not complain about aggression. Today they can. In the future, animals and children may similarly enjoy the right to complain. But the point is, who decides?

It irrational, delusional, and an act of cognitive dissonance to continue to avoid this basic question. I understand that all have avoided it because there is not answer, but we should also realize that because there is no answer, right and wrong lose their meaning, and we cannot religiously proclaim that violence and force are always wrong.

They are sometimes wrong and sometimes right; even for people who support a voluntary society.

Greg Webb November 26, 2011 at 11:55 am

“Greg, you’re flat wrong.”

Stone, instead of making conclusory starements, you should make logical arguments properly supported by objective, verifiable evidence.

“You’re replacing the state with God, and claiming that some set of rights are set by Him, natural, and timeless.”

No. Please refer to my previous statements about Benjamin Franklin and “self evident” rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. As I explained twice before, these rights become self evident and natural when even those who would willingly deprive others of these rights are threatened with losing these rights themselves. They are “self evident” or “natural” because God is not involved to the atheist.

“That’s certainly not the case, and the bible clearly is not all rainbows and light”

Conclusory statement and straw man argument. Who said the Bible was “rainbows and light”?

“Read in its entirety and at face value, it indicates that modern “natural” rights were not accepted 2,000 years ago.”

Again, Stone, you make silly straw man arguments. Please see my quote from the great Jewish Rabbi Hillel noted above. Everyone would “hate” to lose his or her life, liberty, property, or happiness. It’s only in taking those natural rights from others do some think it’s okay. Or perhaps, you would prefer how Jesus said it, “love one another as you love yourself”. The rest of the Jewish Scriptures and the Bible are commentary in the form of history and metaphor.

“Killing you wife or children was ok. So was rape. So was destruction of financial centers if lead by the son of God (a statist cult leader.)”

You make the same disingenuous arguments of the statists. You twist the meaning of words to attempt to rationalize your hatred of God. Your choice. But, the issue is whether certain rights are natural. They are — whether you believe God exists or not.

“Even today, children are born into slavery, and accept their fate as adults.”

Nonsense. Children naturally rebel from their parents. They may “accept” the force and coercion applied to them because they have limited options. Those who do leave. That’s why so many come to the US and other countries in the west.

“They don’t feel any “natural” right to be free or happy. Women in some places mutilate their baby girls by force, and those girls grow up to do the same. They don’t think young girls have any natural right to a clitoris.”

Straw man argument. You argue that force and coercion are legitimate methods to suppress natural human rights. They are not. You argue that if force and coercion are effective then no one naturally yearns for his or her natural rights. That is disingenuous at best.

“Women in the middle east accept that the have no natural right to travel alone, or to wear revealing clothing. They reject intervention by outsiders that would offer them more of what the outsiders feel are their “God given” rights to wear bikini’s alone in public.”

Again, your argument of effective coercion in favor of your view that certain rights are not natural is an illogical straw man argument.

“Many current and past cultures reject the rights our founders found to be ‘self evident.’”

Yes, and those current and past cultures use or used coercion to keep those whom they were depriving of their natural rights in line. You have to see it from the viewpoint of the individual to understand natural rights and liberty. If you look at it from the viewpoint of those benefitting by depriving others of their natural rights, you will never understand it. Are you a statist?

The easiest way to understand it, Stone, is to ask yourself if you would be willing to lose you life, or liberty, or property, or happiness if your local political elite (let’s say a neighborhood watch group) decides that, for the good of the neighborhood, you must die, or be caged, or lose your house without compensation, or be tormented by your neighbors. If you object, then you are subconsciously admitting that the rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness are natural, self evident rights.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 12:58 pm

“If you look at it from the viewpoint of those benefitting by depriving others of their natural rights, you will never understand it. Are you a statist?”

No.

Some people enjoy being controlled, and enjoy knowing others near them are controlled as well. This desire is not satisfied by freedom.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 1:25 pm

“The easiest way to understand it, Stone, is to ask yourself if you would be willing to lose you life, or liberty, or property, or happiness if your local political elite (let’s say a neighborhood watch group) decides that, for the good of the neighborhood, you must die, or be caged, or lose your house without compensation, or be tormented by your neighbors. If you object, then you are subconsciously admitting that the rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness are natural, self evident rights.”

If this is the case, then asking a person who enjoys being under the control of others the same question should prove the opposite point.

Many people want others to be responsible for their future, and want others to make decisions for them. This desire is incompatible with the assertion that freedom is a natural right. Most people in the past and present don’t feel that they gave a right to make many decisions, and don’t desire the right to make them.

Assuming that everyone is exactly like us gets us into tge same myopic and irrational world as any statist. We want total freedom and can’t imagine anyone else failing to share our view.

Do any animals have “natural rights?” Why is it okay to kill and enslave them, but it was wrong to enslave black men when they too were regarded as animals? If you claim that they were always obviously humans, who makes that decision? Chimps today would argue that they don’t like cages either, as would any house cat.

Why is it ok to force freedom and responsibility on people who don’t want it, and at the same time make an arbitrary decision about which decision-making beings enjoy the “natural right” to freedom?

It’s hard to imagine, but some people (most people) literally do not want to make some if their own decisions. It is forceful to demand that they do so, and blind to fail to see them struggling to remain under the thumb of others. They may argue in favor of government control for all, but they are really demanding control for them, as an individual.

It’s like stating that all children have a right to freedom, and if a two year old wants to leave home alone in winter the parent has no right to stop them. At what point do animals and children become free, even against their own will? Who decides what a “child,” or “animal,” might be?

Greg Webb November 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm

“Some people enjoy being controlled, and enjoy knowing others near them are controlled as well. This desire is not satisfied by freedom.”

Stone, I’m glad that you are not a statist. Why do you argue disingenuously as a statist does? I do not know of anyone who wants to be deprived of his or her life, liberty, property, or happiness. They might like to deprive others of those natural rights, but they will fight you or run away from you if you try to deprive them of those natural rights. Your argument is based on a false assumption, and thus, is unpersuasive.

No one enjoys being controlled. That is just nonsense.

Greg Webb November 26, 2011 at 7:01 pm

“If this is the case, then asking a person who enjoys being under the control of others the same question should prove the opposite point.”

You make a false assumption. No one is willing to give up his or her natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. Some people enjoys controlling others and are willing to deprive others of their natural rights. I call those controlling people statists.

I thought you might be one because many atheists argue against God and thus denigrate one of the great arguments for freedom. You say you are not a statist, but then you argue that their are no natural rights that are “self evident” to humans everywhere. That is strange for someone who opposes statists. How do you defend against the statist argument that people are just animals where the strongest ought to rule others and that the ruled have no rights?

“Many people want others to be responsible for their future, and want others to make decisions for them.”

Like children, the OWS protesters want others to provide for them by depriving others of their natural rights to liberty and property. But, if you try to tell take a protester’s iPhone (property) or tell them that he or she can no longer protest (liberty), you will get a fight. Same in Tahir Square. Or in Syria.

I’ll finish my response later.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 8:24 pm

“No one enjoys being controlled. That is just nonsense.”

Have you ever seen someone ask a waiter to choose for them? People voluntarily ask others to control their lives all the time. They gain a feeling if safety from it.

The other day I was in a car with a 65 year old woman. Upon seeing several parking spots, she asked another passenger “which one should I take?” The other passenger began offering advice “that one looks good but is a bit small, and that one might be gone before we get…”

“Just tell me what to do! Don’t offer me choices!” was her response, cutting him off in mid-sentence. It is often easier to submit to the control of others in order to improve your own life, especially of you feel they are better able to make difficult choices and trust them to make them for you.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 8:31 pm

“How do you defend against the statist argument that people are just animals where the strongest ought to rule others and that the ruled have no rights?”

Because something exists does not make it desirable or moral. This argument is like aiming that AIDS victims or cancer patients should die because their bodies are diseased.

Because some men are violent and forceful does not make it desirable for them to dominate weaker men any more than it is desirable that disease-causing pathogens should dominate their host’s body.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm

“Like children, the OWS protesters want others to provide for them by depriving others of their natural rights to liberty and property. But, if you try to tell take a protester’s iPhone (property) or tell them that he or she can no longer protest (liberty), you will get a fight.”

Yes. But you’re avoiding the fact that they also want others, whom they perceive to be wise and benevolent, to make some of their decisions for them. They want to delegate responsibility to other men because they feel others can make those decisions better than they can.

They also happen to want to force everyone else to submit to the same authority, but these two desires are separate and distinct. We often conflate them in our attempt to determine what their goals might be.

We don’t object to their desire to be controlled; but we do object to their desire to have us submit to their chosen king. It’s important to distinguish between these two natural human desires, because we all feel them to some extent.

Even free men support the forced control of children. Statists see most men as children.

Greg Webb November 27, 2011 at 12:43 am

“Have you ever seen someone ask a waiter to choose for them? People voluntarily ask others to control their lives all the time. They gain a feeling if safety from it.”

Asking for advice is not the same as having someone deprive you of your natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. Your argument is disingenuous.

“The other day I was in a car with a 65 year old woman. Upon seeing several parking spots, she asked another passenger “which one should I take?” The other passenger began offering advice “that one looks good but is a bit small, and that one might be gone before we get…”

That’s simply asking for advice. You even mention that in your description. That is not the same as having the other person deprive her of the liberty to choose. Your argument is disingenuous.

“Just tell me what to do! Don’t offer me choices!” was her response, cutting him off in mid-sentence. It is often easier to submit to the control of others in order to improve your own life, especially of you feel they are better able to make difficult choices and trust them to make them for you.”

Still she just asked for advice of someone she trusted. She was not deprived of her liberty to decide that the other peron was wrong. Your arguement to not valid.

Greg Webb November 27, 2011 at 12:48 am

“Because something exists does not make it desirable or moral. This argument is like aiming that AIDS victims or cancer patients should die because their bodies are diseased.”

It was a question. Not an argument. You failed to answer a perfectly valid question to make irrelevant points. Why?

“Because some men are violent and forceful does not make it desirable for them to dominate weaker men any more than it is desirable that disease-causing pathogens should dominate their host’s body.”

What are you talking about? Why are you avoiding directly answering a valid question?

Greg Webb November 27, 2011 at 1:02 am

“Yes. But you’re avoiding the fact that they also want others, whom they perceive to be wise and benevolent, to make some of their decisions for them. They want to delegate responsibility to other men because they feel others can make those decisions better than they can.”

I can choose to delegate authority to someone else to advise me as to a lot of things. I still choose. Can’t you see that asking for advice is not the same as being involuntarily deprived of the liberty to ask for advice?

“They also happen to want to force everyone else to submit to the same authority, but these two desires are separate and distinct. We often conflate them in our attempt to determine what their goals might be.”

Voluntarily asking for advice is not the same as being deprived of the natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. Why are you so far off the issue?

“We don’t object to their desire to be controlled; but we do object to their desire to have us submit to their chosen king. It’s important to distinguish between these two natural human desires, because we all feel them to some extent.”

Nonsense. Statists say that they want the security of someone like them controlling others, but they never want to be controlled and are always unwilling to sacrifice their natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness.

“Even free men support the forced control of children. Statists see most men as children.

Free men want to teach their children until they become responsible adults. Statists are just insecure idiots who just want to deprive others of their natural rights. So, why are you so far off the issue of natural rights that are self evident to all, even those who desire to deprive others of those same rights?

Stone Glasgow November 27, 2011 at 2:07 am

“Asking for advice is not the same as having someone deprive you of your natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. Your argument is disingenuous.”

It’s not advice. It is a request to make the decision for me. To control my future. YOU decide, not me.

Stone Glasgow November 27, 2011 at 2:11 am

“Still she just asked for advice of someone she trusted. She was not deprived of her liberty to decide that the other peron was wrong. Your arguement to not valid.”

What do you think my argument is? You just admitted that I proved my point — that some people really do want someone they trust to make decisions for them — to represent them and tell them what to do.

If I ever met someone I trusted more than myself, I might do the same. I have a hunch that libertarians are good company not because of their beliefs, but because they have never met anyone they consider more capable and intelligent than themselves.

It’s hard to imagine being average when you’re so intelligent and capable that delegating authority over your own life is unimaginable.

Greg Webb November 27, 2011 at 12:19 pm

“It’s not advice. It is a request to make the decision for me. To control my future. YOU decide, not me.”

Then, change your advice to something silly like telling her to park in the middle of the street and watch her reject your advice and make a better choice. You are clearly being disingenuous. When will you respond to my previous questions?

Greg Webb November 27, 2011 at 12:34 pm

What do you think my argument is?

i am waiting for you to make a persuasive argument against natural rights.

“You just admitted that I proved my point — that some people really do want someone they trust to make decisions for them — to represent them and tell them what to do.”

So, when I ask the guy at Home Depot to tell me the best way to fix my fence, I am asking him to control me and I am relinquishing my natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. That’s ridiculous.

“If I ever met someone I trusted more than myself, I might do the same.”

That is arrogance and hubris that I find all too common from statists. Why do yo discuss anything with anyone else if you only trust yourself? And, do you really fix your own watch, lawn mower, garage door opener, vacuum, etc? If not, then you do rely on the advice and counsel of others. I guess, according to your view, that you now have no natural rights.

“I have a hunch that libertarians are good company not because of their beliefs, but because they have never met anyone they consider more capable and intelligent than themselves.”

You don’t know libertarians, do you? But, to someone who trusts only himself, you can’t be wrong, can you?

“It’s hard to imagine being average when you’re so intelligent and capable that delegating authority over your own life is unimaginable.”

I thought that was your argument. You previous said that you only trust yourself.

Greg Webb November 27, 2011 at 4:15 pm

“Many people want others to be responsible for their future, and want others to make decisions for them.”

Nah. They just want you to give them money and stuff. Don’t be fooled. Thry don’t want any strings attached to your gifts. Try telling them not to do something that they really want to do and see how willing they are to let you make all their decisions.

“This desire is incompatible with the assertion that freedom is a natural right.”

Swing and a miss! Natural rights are the right to life, liberty, property, and happiness. And, no one gives those up without being coerced to do so.

“Most people in the past and present don’t feel that they gave a right to make many decisions, and don’t desire the right to make them.”

Conclusory and illogical statement. Can you quote a credible source for this false assertion?

“Assuming that everyone is exactly like us gets us into tge same myopic and irrational world as any statist. We want total freedom and can’t imagine anyone else failing to share our view.”

Assuming that other people are inferior to you and are not entitled to the natural rights of life, liberty, property, and happiness is the typical arrogant argument of statists and thieves. I know many Russians, Romanians, Poles, Turks, Egyptians, Syrians, Chinese, Hondurans, Venezuelans, etc who disagree with you.

Do any animals have “natural rights?”

No. They are not people, though people have responsibilities for animals.

Why is it okay to kill and enslave them, but it was wrong to enslave black men when they too were regarded as animals?

Straw man argument. Slave owners argued that negros were property, not animals. They said that negro did not have natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. Why would you want to argue the same argument as slave owners used to argue?

“Chimps today would argue that they don’t like cages either, as would any house cat.”

Let me know when you find that talking chimpanzee and talking house cat. Perhaps, they can help you make a persuasive argument against the natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness.

“Why is it ok to force freedom and responsibility on people who don’t want it, and at the same time make an arbitrary decision about which decision-making beings enjoy the “natural right” to freedom?”

Straw man argument. No one has the right to deprive another of the natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness.

“It’s hard to imagine, but some people (most people) literally do not want to make some if their own decisions.”

It is “hard to imagine” because it is a disingenuous argument. You are not entitled to deprive someone of their natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness unless you are willing to give up the same. Are you ready to be deprived of your life? How about your liberty? Property? Happiness? No? Then, you may not do that to others. Even if you are willing to coerce, trick, manipulate, etc others into it.

“It is forceful to demand that they do so, and blind to fail to see them struggling to remain under the thumb of others. They may argue in favor of government control for all, but they are really demanding control for them, as an individual.”

Wow! With these silly, stupid statements, you reveal that you are a statist.

“It’s like stating that all children have a right to freedom, and if a two year old wants to leave home alone in winter the parent has no right to stop them. At what point do animals and children become free, even against their own will? Who decides what a “child,” or “animal,” might be?

Parents are responsible for teaching their children to become mature, responsible adults. They rest of your argument is the typical disingenuous nonsense designed to justify one’s desire to control others.

Stone Glasgow November 27, 2011 at 8:16 pm

“No. They are not people, though people have responsibilities for animals.”

Black people were not “people” when this nation was founded. Claiming that animals don’t have natural rights and that people do depends squarely on the the definition of “person,” set by a king or group of people acting to control others.

Stone Glasgow November 27, 2011 at 8:22 pm

“Then, change your advice to something silly like telling her to park in the middle of the street and watch her reject your advice and make a better choice.”

The same applies to government laws. People who voluntarily turn over control of their lives to government powers are still willing to take away that control, just as the woman might question parking in the middle of the street.

If the government instructed her to kill her family, she would correctly veto that instruction, but there is a tolerance. People will put up with a lot of faulty instructions after asking someone else to make them in their place. The concept is exactly the same, however. Some people want to be under the control of another person or people, but still retain a somewhat analytical mind and will avoid certain actions, and ignore some of the instructions they receive.

Stone Glasgow November 27, 2011 at 8:25 pm

“i am waiting for you to make a persuasive argument against natural rights.”

You can’t have natural rights unless you believe a higher power gave the to you. It’s illogical to claim that natural rights are simply “there” for people, and not for animals, for any reason you can dream up.

If you claim it’s because they can feel pain and desire to be free, alive, and happy, so do animals. Chimps can speak up to 200 words in sign language, and can communicate all of the same desires. Black people certainly expressed the same concerns 200 years ago, but were ignored and considered to have no “self evident” natural rights.

Are you claiming that God gave man natural rights, and not animals?

Stone Glasgow November 27, 2011 at 8:30 pm

“You previous said that you only trust yourself.”

No, I said I haven’t met anyone I trust more than myself.

I am not personally attacking you. There is no need for snarky, personal attacks. I negotiate on good faith, and wish to learn something here. It may appear that I am disingenuous, but I assure you that I am not attempting any form of trickery. If I say something non-sensical, it is because we don’t understand each other. Or perhaps that I have not thought it through very well. The purpose of this discussion, for me, is to think it through as completely as possible.

Stone Glasgow November 27, 2011 at 8:34 pm

“Assuming that other people are inferior to you and are not entitled to the natural rights of life, liberty, property, and happiness is the typical arrogant argument of statists and thieves.”

If you make this argument, you must explain why you feel that “animals” are inferior to you and not entitled to natural rights. You must also define “animals,” and explain why your definition is better than the one used 200 years ago. Or why your definition is better than mine. If I believe that chimps and cats deserve the same rights, why am I wrong? It is arrogant to assume that you can define “animal,” correctly, and I can’t. And most people couldn’t define it “properly” 200 years ago.

Stone Glasgow November 27, 2011 at 8:37 pm

“Straw man argument. Slave owners argued that negros were property, not animals. They said that negro did not have natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. Why would you want to argue the same argument as slave owners used to argue?”

The point of this exercise is to show that claiming natural rights for men and not animals requires a definition of “man” and “animal,” and those definitions must be set by someone. Who sets those definitions? What if I don’t agree? That’s the point. The morality of slavery in either direction is not even part of this discussion.

Stone Glasgow November 27, 2011 at 8:40 pm

“Straw man argument. No one has the right to deprive another of the natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness.”

According to whom? Who says that these natural rights are real and that all men (not animals) are born with these rights? Who protects them? Claiming they are “self evident” is about as logical as claiming the existence of God to be “self evident.”

Stone Glasgow November 27, 2011 at 8:44 pm

“It’s hard to imagine, but some people (most people) literally do not want to make some if their own decisions.”

It is “hard to imagine” because it is a disingenuous argument. You are not entitled to deprive someone of their natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness unless you are willing to give up the same. Are you ready to be deprived of your life? How about your liberty? Property? Happiness? No? Then, you may not do that to others. Even if you are willing to coerce, trick, manipulate, etc others into it.

Many people are willing to give up their property (taxes), liberty (laws restriction drug use, for example), happiness (laws banning various enjoyable activities, like gambling). They want these laws because they have some notion that they are good for the world, and that allowing themselves these freedoms would not be a good idea. They voluntarily restrict themselves and transfer personal decision making power to government.

Stone Glasgow November 27, 2011 at 8:46 pm

“It is forceful to demand that they do so, and blind to fail to see them struggling to remain under the thumb of others. They may argue in favor of government control for all, but they are really demanding control for them, as an individual.”

Wow! With these silly, stupid statements, you reveal that you are a statist.

This isn’t even attempting to address my statement. Did you read what I wrote? If you don’t believe that most people really do want to be living under the thumb of other men, please explain why most of the world demands restrictive laws and forceful control of their own lives (and the lives of others).

“It’s like stating that all children have a right to freedom, and if a two year old wants to leave home alone in winter the parent has no right to stop them. At what point do animals and children become free, even against their own will? Who decides what a “child,” or “animal,” might be?

Parents are responsible for teaching their children to become mature, responsible adults. They rest of your argument is the typical disingenuous nonsense designed to justify one’s desire to control others.”

Stone Glasgow November 27, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Parents are responsible for teaching their children to become mature, responsible adults. They rest of your argument is the typical disingenuous nonsense designed to justify one’s desire to control others.

I have no desire to control others. Again, the purpose here is to find the most basic argument in favor of a free society. It appears that a free society depends on the assumption that men are born with natural rights, and defining those natural rights. I am asking the difficult questions about who sets those rights, where they came from, and how it is decided that men enjoy them (but perhaps not all men) and animals do not.

If you’re going to brush aside every difficult question and imply that it is disingenuous simply because it is difficult, or ignore it because it requires that you consider the foundations of your world-view, you’re no better than the liberal with his head in the same, singing and skipping along as he demands that everyone near him be quickly and efficiently enslaved, refusing to listen to any form of logic or reason indicating that absolute control by kings and depots will probably be the eventual conclusion to his demands.

Please, reconsider your avoidance of my questions. They are supposed to be difficult, and force us to think about the very foundations of our belief system.

vikingvista November 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm

ME: “There are the five decision makers, and no one else.”
DU:”NO! That is the point; who decides how many “decision makers” there are? In the past, blacks were not “decision makers.” In the past, women were not “decision makers.”

It isn’t even up to discussion. YOU created a scenario where, objectively speaking, and by your own terms, there are precisely five entities whose natures make them capable of making decisions. It has nothing to do with what anybody *wants*. Blacks and women have ALWAYS been decision makers. It is a human trait that nobody asks for and nobody once possessing it by their natures has an option, short of death, of not possessing.

Which is your problem. You keep asking questions which presume some sort of great decision maker daddy in the sky.

You ask “Who decides?” Why is it so hard for you to grasp, that (1) the objective reality is that each person capable of making decisions does in fact make decisions; and (2) values are subjective?

vikingvista November 27, 2011 at 10:38 pm

ME: “You can try arguing about universally consistent sets of individual actions consistent with objective human nature. You can even pull a set of so-called “natural rights” out of your ass based entirely upon your personal subjective values. You can also claim to speak for a nonexistent tormenting supernatural power. But something tells me baby rapers aren’t going to care about any of those things.”

DU: “C’mon man. Read what I am writing instead of assuming what I mean to say.”

Stone, it is you who are being presumptuous–and disingenuous if you claim to want dialog.

My quote CLEARLY isn’t rephrasing YOUR positions. It is giving commonly used arguments, all of which are incompatible with one another, and not all given by any one person, and perhaps none by you personally. I am telling you that the commonly used arguments, whether rational or not, but which are the usual responses in this type of debate, are irrelevant in your scenario, because baby rapers don’t care. Here I will make again the point of that passage that you totally missed: baby rapers DO care about something, making the market relevant.

This quite clearly has nothing specifically to do with what you’ve written, and taken in isolation from the rest of my post, has no meaning. It is as though you only read part of my post, and as expected gave an asinine out of context reply. I have read what you’ve written, I fully understand it, and I am thoroughly unimpressed with your inability to recognize your own assumptions.

DU: “You are the one arguing for so-called “natural rights,” based on your, or perhaps the founding father’s, subjective values.”

Jesus. I’ve written at length on this matter to you in another post, which you apparently only pretended to read, given this non sequitur.

Natural rights, as I’ve explained to you before, do exist. These are objective matters. These are not values, although a great many people–again as I’ve already explained to you–conflate values with rights. Anyone reading my replies to you, would realize that isn’t me.

DU: “I am asking where “natural” or “self evident” rights might come from. I am making no claims.”

Which, again, I articulated in great detail to you already. I’m sorry I wasted my time. You are making the claim to care about people’s answers and the issues you raise. Clearly your claim is a false one. There is a name for someone who trolls for replies that they don’t really care about.

I mistook you for a thoughtful inquisitor. I won’t make that mistake in the future.

Stone Glasgow November 28, 2011 at 5:15 am

“Which is your problem. You keep asking questions which presume some sort of great decision maker daddy in the sky.

You ask “Who decides?” Why is it so hard for you to grasp, that (1) the objective reality is that each person capable of making decisions does in fact make decisions; and (2) values are subjective?”

1. I don’t believe in God or have any interest in a “higher power.”
2. I’m asking you to tell me who the fuck decides what “person,” and “decision maker,” mean. In the past blacks were not either. Today apes are decision makers, but have no rights. Why?
3. I agree that values are always subjective.

How can you claim that objective reality exists if all viewpoints are subjective?!

Stone Glasgow November 28, 2011 at 5:27 am

Viking,

I generally read everything you write at least twice. I apologize if I have failed to understand your arguments. I am not kidding. Apparently, I lack the intelligence to comprehend what you’re trying to say. I would appreciate it if perhaps you might simplify your arguments, for the cheap seats.

I am an intelligent person wishing to learn. I want to challenge myself and my beliefs. If I appear illogical perhaps it is because I am missing many things. Perhaps it is because I fundamentally share your viewpoints and believe that society is best if all actions are voluntary.

I cannot personally justify my beliefs unless I ask these questions. I can’t defend what I believe without admitting that when push comes to shove, we must somehow define “person” and “decision maker,” and the person or people that define words like that are ultimately controlling others by force.

If I think apes deserve property rights and you don’t, who is wrong and why?

Stone Glasgow November 28, 2011 at 5:39 am

“ME: “You can try arguing about universally consistent sets of individual actions consistent with objective human nature. You can even pull a set of so-called “natural rights” out of your ass based entirely upon your personal subjective values. You can also claim to speak for a nonexistent tormenting supernatural power. But something tells me baby rapers aren’t going to care about any of those things.”

DU: “C’mon man. Read what I am writing instead of assuming what I mean to say.”

I said this because I don’t believe ther exists a set of “universal human rights,” and I don’t believe in any supernatural power. I felt you were assuming that I believed in such things.

What is your point in mentioning that rapists don’t care about these things? I feel you both missed my point and confuse me for a man who thinks I have a right to control others, believes in an imaginary bearded-man in the sky who may smite him at any moment, and thinks that he knows what is right for others.

I don’t think objective value, natural rights, or God exist. I intuitively feel that life and liberty are a good and self evident basis for a free society, but I can’t justify claiming that I am sure, or say why I’m sure. I only feel I am right, and I am only one man.

Stone Glasgow November 28, 2011 at 5:42 am

“baby rapers DO care about something, making the market relevant.”

I don’t understand.

Stone Glasgow November 28, 2011 at 5:44 am

“your inability to recognize your own assumptions”

What are my assumptions? This is the point of this conversation. Please tell me what I am blindly assuming.

Stone Glasgow November 28, 2011 at 5:51 am

“Natural rights, as I’ve explained to you before, do exist. These are objective matters. These are not values, although a great many people–again as I’ve already explained to you–conflate values with rights.”

Perhaps I did miss one of your posts.

I don’t understand the difference. How can one tell the difference? Aren’t self-evident rights based on the values of individuals? If not, where do natural rights come from? Certainly not God. Certainly not that men wish to be free and happy, because animals share that desire, and the difference between animal and man has historically been a confusing distinction.

I can’t figure out how rights can be natural if animals don’t have them too. Are we freedom loving but only within our own species? Why?

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 9:35 am

“Black people were not “people” when this nation was founded. Claiming that animals don’t have natural rights and that people do depends squarely on the the definition of “person,” set by a king or group of people acting to control others.”

No. Even the slave owners knew that black people were people. The Alabama Slave Code required owners to permit slaves time to attend church, etc. That is why they were ruled to be property and not animals by the US Supreme Court in the infamously wrong Dred Scott decision.

Abraham Lincoln, in his famous debates with Stephen Douglas, said that black people were not property or animals because everyone knows the difference between a duck and a person as well as the difference between a wagon and a person. Lincoln’s argument was that a person is self evident, and that people who wanted to deprive a person of his or her natural rights would use law to do so. Yet, everyone knew otherwise.

Your argument relies on a King to decide who is a person. That is the same argument that statists make when the wanted to deprive black people of their natural rights and the same arguments used by today’s statists to argue for abortion (i.e., a fetus is not a person) and that man is just another animal with no inherent rights. Why would you want to make such silly arguments?

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 9:45 am

“If the government instructed her to kill her family, she would correctly veto that instruction, but there is a tolerance.”

Your argument really falls apart here. If I retain control to reject your advice as to how best do something, then I retain my liberty. Everyone relies on others for advice, but they have not ceded their liberty by doing so.

“People will put up with a lot of faulty instructions after asking someone else to make them in their place.”

I own a business and ask employee’s to make judgments and decisions on a wide variety of issues. I do not micromanage as that would be overly controlling and inefficient. I hire good people and ask them to think. I have not ceded my liberty or my authority for my business. If your argument had any validity, anyone could say that I have ceded my liberty when I have not.

‘Some people want to be under the control of another person or people, but still retain a somewhat analytical mind and will avoid certain actions, and ignore some of the instructions they receive.”

Your argument, if valid, supports the statist argument that people have no natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. Fortunately, your argument is not persuasive or credible. If a person retains the right to reject even stupid commands, then he or she has not been deprived of his or her natural rights.

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 10:00 am

“You can’t have natural rights unless you believe a higher power gave the to you.”

Nope. That is why Benjamin Franklin changed the original draft of the Declaration of Independence to say that these rights are “self evident” as is the difference between an animal and a person. If you can’t see the difference, then I cannot help you. But, if you can’t understand that, you can’t understand much of anything. My friend’s three year old boy understands those differences.

“It’s illogical to claim that natural rights are simply “there” for people, and not for animals, for any reason you can dream up.”

Let me know the next time that someone mistakes you for a cow and tries to take you to the slaughter house. I am confident that you will understand the distinction between an animal and a person when arguing why you should not be slaughtered for hamburger patties.

“If you claim it’s because they can feel pain and desire to be free, alive, and happy, so do animals.”

I never claimed that. I merely said that, for atheists, certain issues are self evident. The distinction between people and animals if evident to everyone one but you and certain people who argue for big government.

“Chimps can speak up to 200 words in sign language, and can communicate all of the same desires.”

All animals communicate. That does not make them a person.

“Black people certainly expressed the same concerns 200 years ago, but were ignored and considered to have no “self evident” natural rights.”

Yes, by people who wanted to say that “the king had new clothes though he was naked.” You will always have disingenuous people trying to argue that the obvious is not true in order to deprive others of the natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. Why do you want to be on their side?

“Are you claiming that God gave man natural rights, and not animals?”

People have natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. Animals doe not. There are two arguments supporting natural rights. One involves God and it is only for believers. The other does not involve God and it for atheists. If you do not believe in God, why would you want to attack the argument designed to support natural rights for non-believers? Do you wish to be deprived of your life, liberty, property, and happiness?

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 10:04 am

“I am not personally attacking you. There is no need for snarky, personal attacks. I negotiate on good faith, and wish to learn something here. It may appear that I am disingenuous, but I assure you that I am not attempting any form of trickery. If I say something non-sensical, it is because we don’t understand each other. Or perhaps that I have not thought it through very well. The purpose of this discussion, for me, is to think it through as completely as possible.”

Cool. Perhaps you ought to explain your arguments in defense of life, liberty, property, and happiness for people then. I always appreciate adding to my arsenal of arguments in favor of such because statists are so disingenuous in their arguments and so willing to deprive others of their natural rights, yet so unwilling to give them up.

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 10:12 am

“If you make this argument, you must explain why you feel that “animals” are inferior to you and not entitled to natural rights. You must also define “animals,” and explain why your definition is better than the one used 200 years ago. Or why your definition is better than mine. If I believe that chimps and cats deserve the same rights, why am I wrong? It is arrogant to assume that you can define “animal,” correctly, and I can’t. And most people couldn’t define it “properly” 200 years ago”

Stone, people have been able to tell the difference between chimpanzees, cats, and other people for thousands of years. For religious people,there is one argument. For atheists,the argument is that the differences are self evident to anyone but the disingenuous and have been so for thousands of years.

We can get into the definitions if you would like, but you can easily look them up in the dictionary. I am sure those won’t satisfy you. Are you a member of PETA by any chance?

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 10:19 am

“The point of this exercise is to show that claiming natural rights for men and not animals requires a definition of “man” and “animal,” and those definitions must be set by someone. Who sets those definitions? What if I don’t agree? That’s the point.”

No, it does not require perfect definitions. Look them up. Animals are not people. That is self evident. Animals do not have natural rights, though people have responsibility for them.

Your argument is the philosopher’s argument. And, you can argue that for the rest of your life and not have an answer. But, it is self evident in the real world. You should leave the ivory tower world of philosophy once in a while and see have real people behave. No one mistakes a person for an animal. Not even the slave owners of 1860.

“The morality of slavery in either direction is not even part of this discussion.”

Then, why did you bring it up.

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 10:28 am

“According to whom? Who says that these natural rights are real and that all men (not animals) are born with these rights? Who protects them? Claiming they are ‘self evident’ is about as logical as claiming the existence of God to be ‘self evident.’”

People do. That is what self evident means. And though, a group may deprive other people of their natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness, they know the difference. Please see Abraham Lincoln’s debates with Stephen Douglas. To argue otherwise is to argue as the slave owners did — disingenuously.

The debate about God is long and divisive. I believe. You don’t? Cool. That is part of your natural right to liberty.

You make all the statist arguments to deprive others of their natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. But, you would make all the arguments I have if Christians came into power and tried to deprive you of your life because you are a nonbeliever, or your liberty not to believe, or your property just because you are a nonbeliever, or your happiness until you convert. Why attack your only argument keeping them from doing so?

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 10:31 am

Stone you wrote, “It’s hard to imagine, but some people (most people) literally do not want to make some if their own decisions.”

Then you copied my response, “It is “hard to imagine” because it is a disingenuous argument. You are not entitled to deprive someone of their natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness unless you are willing to give up the same. Are you ready to be deprived of your life? How about your liberty? Property? Happiness? No? Then, you may not do that to others. Even if you are willing to coerce, trick, manipulate, etc others into it.

Many people are willing to give up their property (taxes), liberty (laws restriction drug use, for example), happiness (laws banning various enjoyable activities, like gambling). They want these laws because they have some notion that they are good for the world, and that allowing themselves these freedoms would not be a good idea. They voluntarily restrict themselves and transfer personal decision making power to government.”

Thanks for making my argument by presenting my argument. Though I am not sure why you did so.

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 10:38 am

“This isn’t even attempting to address my statement. Did you read what I wrote?

I read what you wrote. Several times. But, your have written so much that is disingenuous. And, written much in favor of those who would be willing to deprive you of life, liberty, property, and happiness. Care to summarize your argument? Also, please explain why you deserve any rights based upon your previous arguments?

“If you don’t believe that most people really do want to be living under the thumb of other men, please explain why most of the world demands restrictive laws and forceful control of their own lives (and the lives of others).”

Some people want to control others. They start with things we all can agree on. Then, they start dividing us into special interest groups to win a simple majority to impose other rules that others object to. The concept of natural rights is intended to keep them from depriving others of those natural rights that the vast majority think are from God or are merely self evident to all. Again, why would you argue against such?

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 10:41 am

“I intuitively feel that life and liberty are a good and self evident basis for a free society,”

Stone, why are you arguing with me if you agree that life and liberty are self evident rights?

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 10:52 am

“I have no desire to control others. Again, the purpose here is to find the most basic argument in favor of a free society. It appears that a free society depends on the assumption that men are born with natural rights, and defining those natural rights. I am asking the difficult questions about who sets those rights, where they came from, and how it is decided that men enjoy them (but perhaps not all men) and animals do not.”

Stone, your questions are timeless and I believe that you know the answers already. I have presented how Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln dealt with the issues. If you have some thing to add to the argument in favor of freedom, the I would love to hear it. But, if you are going to ask ivory tower philosophical questions that the left asks to rationalize their desire to deprive others of life, liberty, property, and happiness, then you are simply wasting time and enhancing the statists’ arguments.

“If you’re going to brush aside every difficult question and imply that it is disingenuous simply because it is difficult, or ignore it because it requires that you consider the foundations of your world-view, you’re no better than the liberal with his head in the same, singing and skipping along as he demands that everyone near him be quickly and efficiently enslaved, refusing to listen to any form of logic or reason indicating that absolute control by kings and depots will probably be the eventual conclusion to his demands.”

No, Stone. I addressed your questions as Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln did. It is good company that I would advise you to keep as well. They were great men who understood the practical world and the evil desire of people of control others. Your desire to prove how smart you are by merely rejecting the arguments of wise men show that you understand little and play silly games while pretending at knowledge.

‘Please, reconsider your avoidance of my questions. They are supposed to be difficult, and force us to think about the very foundations of our belief system.”

As I pointed out above, I answered your questions much as Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln did the statist arguments. The fact that you reject their arguments proves that you are not wise or smart. And, if you keep argument against them you may one day find yourself deprived of life, liberty, property, and/or happiness.

Now, Answer my question, why would you want to argue the arguments that the statists argue in favor of inequality and control of a few over the many?

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Stone, I’m pleased that you think that the rights to life and liberty are “good ideas”. And, “good ideas” commonly agreed upon by people are “self evident,” and thus rights natural for people.

No one confuses chimpanzees for people. Nor do they confuse people for chimpanzees. Thus, your argument about defining animals and people is disingenuous.

That’s not avoiding the question. That’s asking you to prove everyone else wrong by making persuasive arguments as to why chimpanzees ought to have rights and be treated equally to people.

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Stone, all of your questions are philosophical ones, which I am willing to debate and discuss at great length. An economics blog, however, is not the appropriate place to do so. You gave a blog so set it up there and we can begin our discussion.

Your questions are, ultimately, the timeless questions of life that philosophers have discussed and debated for thousands of years and developed various philosophies, including religion, to explain. The rights to life and liberty are “good ideas” as many great philosophies have advocated.

vikingvista November 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm

“1. I don’t believe in God or have any interest in a “higher power.””

I have no doubt that you don’t think you do. Yet you assume them in your questions.

“2. I’m asking you to tell me who the fuck decides what “person,” and “decision maker,” mean.

“Who decides?” is a question that assumes that there exists some entity “who decides” all of these matters. Who decides masses are attracted by gravity? Who decides what creatures will crawl the earth? Who decides the atmospheric composition of Jupiter? Who decides that human beings possess the ability to communicate and choose among actions? Your loaded question assumes that which you deny–a higher power, a big daddy decision maker. I’ve answered your question in more detail previously. I refer you to my own post to you.

“In the past blacks were not either. Today apes are decision makers, but have no rights. Why?””

Humans of all enthicities have always been decision makers, that inescapable fact is not one of their decisions. Why the “fuck” do I have to keep repeating myself to you? Humans have a nature, as do rocks as do monkeys. Do you not believe blacks were always humans? And tell me, when is the last time you came to any agreement with an ape?

“3. I agree that values are always subjective.”

Then start dividing your thoughts between the objective and the subjective.

vikingvista November 29, 2011 at 12:59 am

“If I think apes deserve property rights and you don’t, who is wrong and why?”

If we are talking about an objective system of natural rights, then deserving can have nothing to do with it. You keep mixing the objective and the subjective. If rights are objective then an entity either has them or it doesn’t, for objective reasons, irrespective of any desire or any value.

You can uncover what, objectively, must be meant by “rights” by asking yourself if a series of entities has rights. Does an island have rights? Does a tornado have rights? Does a moon have rights? Does a book have rights? Does a rock have rights? Does a plant have rights? Does a human liver have rights? Does a dog have rights? Does an ape have rights? Do you have rights? Do you have rights if you are the only person you are aware of? What if you are interacting with a another person?

A subjective use of “rights” is common. People, in particular, like to proclaim that many of the things they love (value most) and want to protect have rights. We’ve even got one subjectivist legal formalist around here who declares rights are whatever government legislators say they are. But subjectivism is a dead end for rational persuasion. We are talking about *objective* rights, so none of these ideas work for us. Subjective values must be stripped from these conceptualizations of rights.

If rights are objective, they must stem from the objective nature of the entities. When you ask yourself the above questions, through the usual conceptual process of identification and differentiation, you discover that objective rights are discovered by observing behavior. They can only apply to entities capable of acting as though there are rights. That is, only entities with the abilities to act volitionally, communicate with others, and grasp the values of others can in any object sense have rights. Rights then, are the choices of these entities regarding how they will behave with respect to the choices of other entities. They are the nonviolent solution to protecting one’s values, only available with entities that possess that capacity to communicate. They are agreements.

If you encounter someone, perhaps a rare thoughtful lawmaker, who is interested in what set of such rights can be applied universally to any given rights-capable individual in a current or future society, then you can embark upon a Lockean-type argument, and will come to the logical conclusion that such a set of rights can only be negative rights. That is, the only universally consistent right is the right to be left alone.

But not everyone is interested in consistency, or universality, or deductive arguments. In particular, baby rapers are unlikely to care. That makes conflict more likely, but that is life. Still, the capacity to respect others’ values and to agree is inseparable from their natures, and so rights are always potentially relevant. If you were dealing with baby-eating lions instead of baby-raping humans, rights would never be relevant, since lions are by nature incapable of such behavior.

So the market is relevant, because you are dealing with people, and people have the capacity to recognize rights. In another post I suggested to you a number of ways in which you could, in a market, attempt to express your values for the welfare of those babies. It is entirely your decision if directly launching war is in your best interest, consistent with your values.

Since the babies are too young to express rights themselves, by launching war (as opposed to utilizing the market), you are by action proclaiming the babies to be rightfully your property. If logic is of interest to you, then you should want to present a rational argument for why the babies are your property, irrespective of your value for the babies. Otherwise, it must be your position that some things are of such value to you that you will violently acquire them regardless of whether or not they have anything to do with you.

There is no authority in these matters. There is only objective human nature, logical deduction, and the subjective values of each individual. Of these, only human nature and the fact of subjective values are inviolable in action.

To answer your above question directly: apes don’t have rights, in any objective sense, because apes don’t express them.

Stone Glasgow November 29, 2011 at 5:09 am

“Who decides?” is a question that assumes that there exists some entity “who decides” all of these matters. Who decides masses are attracted by gravity? Who decides what creatures will crawl the earth? Who decides the atmospheric composition of Jupiter? Who decides that human beings possess the ability to communicate and choose among actions? Your loaded question assumes that which you deny–a higher power, a big daddy decision maker.”

Thank you. This makes sense and I think I see your point; that objective reality exists as something fixed. Each of us has our own subjective view of that reality.

Stone Glasgow November 29, 2011 at 8:52 am

“Some people want to control others. They start with things we all can agree on. Then, they start dividing us into special interest groups to win a simple majority to impose other rules that others object to. The concept of natural rights is intended to keep them from depriving others of those natural rights that the vast majority think are from God or are merely self evident to all. Again, why would you argue against such?”

I agree with this.

You’re forgetting that I agree with you. I’m struggling with my (our) beliefs because it seems that nothing is set in stone. We must always make our best determination of objective reality and live with that.

Stone Glasgow November 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

“No, Stone. I addressed your questions as Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln did. It is good company that I would advise you to keep as well. They were great men who understood the practical world and the evil desire of people of control others. Your desire to prove how smart you are by merely rejecting the arguments of wise men show that you understand little and play silly games while pretending at knowledge.”

I’m young. I’m naive. Please stop insulting me. I have a real desire to understand and have no respect for men who live in ivory towers, per se, or for men who desire to insult rather than discuss. I have no other motive in being here.

I’m not here to prove why I am right. I’m here to offer my opinions and invite others to show me my errors. We don’t learn in any other way. You, Don, Russ, Methinks, Ken, et al and many others here are the most valued resources for education in the world today.

Please; stop implying that I’m a wise old idiot trying to trick people into evil behaviors. From my point of view, I and half the world don’t understand what the eff is going on.

It’s only natural to ask questions. In my opinion.

Stone Glasgow November 29, 2011 at 9:21 am

“Now, Answer my question, why would you want to argue the arguments that the statists argue in favor of inequality and control of a few over the many?”

If I have done so it is an accident of my intention to challenge my own beliefs. The only way I escaped a lifelong liberal indoctrination was by the same process. I questioned my own beliefs and those of my peers and parents.

Today, you are my peers. I want to answer the most fundamental questions without resorting to faith or ignorance.

Moving from poverty to wealth by my own hand taught me that there is value in hard work and free action. Recently I am struggling to understand why half the world sees me as soulless, heartless, greedy, immoral, and likely to destroy the world. They can’t see why free men produce value.

I can’t see why intelligent men feel the need to control me.

Stone Glasgow November 29, 2011 at 9:23 am

“Stone, all of your questions are philosophical ones, which I am willing to debate and discuss at great length. An economics blog, however, is not the appropriate place to do so. You gave a blog so set it up there and we can begin our discussion.”

Done.

Greg Webb November 29, 2011 at 10:09 am

“I can’t see why intelligent men feel the need to control me.”

Stone, it is human nature to want to control others. My belief is that the most insecure of us feel a stronger desire to control their environment and everyone in that environment.

I am pleased to note that you are a truth seeker and not one of the disingenuous people who play silly games by asking questions in order to try to trap someone in an argument to prove how smart the disingenuous person is. Several who comment on this blog play that game. They are normally beaten, but they continue to come back again and again having learned nothing from their previous defeat.

I apologize for any perceived insult, but telling someone that they are “flat wrong” is not a good way to begin a friendly dialogue about philosophical issues. From this point on, I will respond on your blog to your questions and comments. I look forward to our discussion.

vikingvista November 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm

In this case, it is impossible. One might argue that with government theft, there are skyscrapers, and battleships, and satellites, and without state violence none of those things exist. But this assumes that each individual victim of state violence values those things more than what they lost. This assumption is demonstrated to be false by the fact that force was necessary.

The *most* that can ever be said is that some people are advantages by state violence, while others are disadvantaged. Forceful intervention can never create something as general as “public” advantage.

Yergit_abrav November 26, 2011 at 7:45 am

@stone. Thank you for your response. I think we can say that aggression is always wrong. You imply aggression against blacks or women wasn’t wrong before. I disagree. It was always and will always be wrong. I’m sure the victims of such aggression knew it was wrong even if their society told them to be quiet about it. That’s what natural rights is about… The difference between what an individual feels innately is an intrusion against them and what someone else judges. The comment was made above that rights such as the right to life is self evident. I agree that it is. Perhaps I misunderstand you but you seem to think women and blacks only have rights that are bestowed by others. That is where we part ways.
I had been hopeful we would agree that aggression is wrong. But I guess that we cannot find common ground there, based on your last comment? Self defense or punishing a crime are different from aggression, just in case that was not clear. I am not arguing that violence is always wrong.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Many people under the control of others enjoy their situation. They want to be controlled for whatever reason. Slavery is not always involuntary. A desire to be controlled is not compatible with freedom as a natural right. Many people don’t like directing their own actions or being responsible for their own future.

vikingvista November 27, 2011 at 10:47 pm

“Slavery is not always involuntary.”

One of the dumbest sentences I’ve read today. Is English not your first language?

Stone Glasgow November 28, 2011 at 5:59 am

A woman who returns to her abusive husband who nealy beats her to death regularly, and is not permitted to leave his house, seems to live as a slave; all her actions are directed by her husband, and there is little difference between her and a slave from an outsider’s viewpoint.

Yet she returns to him over and over again. Back to her hellish life of her own volition? Is that not slavery by choice?

Is it not slavery by choice when a man lives in a socialist nation, when he has the option and resources to leave and live in a free country with lower taxes and less regulation?

vikingvista November 29, 2011 at 1:03 am

Stone,

There is a word for having a real choice to do whatever some person tells you to do. That word is “freedom”.

You are literally claiming that freedom is slavery.

Greg Webb November 27, 2011 at 1:01 am

“Yes. But you’re avoiding the fact that they also want others, whom they perceive to be wise and benevolent, to make some of their decisions for them. They want to delegate responsibility to other men because they feel others can make those decisions better than they can.”

I can choose to delegate authority to someone else to advise me as to a lot of things. I still choose. Can’t you see that asking for advice is not the same as being involuntarily deprived of the liberty to ask for advice?

“They also happen to want to force everyone else to submit to the same authority, but these two desires are separate and distinct. We often conflate them in our attempt to determine what their goals might be.”

Voluntarily asking for advice is not the same as being deprived of the natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness. Why are you so far off the issue?

“We don’t object to their desire to be controlled; but we do object to their desire to have us submit to their chosen king. It’s important to distinguish between these two natural human desires, because we all feel them to some extent.”

Nonsense. Statists say that they want the security of someone like them controlling others, but they never want to be controlled and are always unwilling to sacrifice their natural rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness.

“Even free men support the forced control of children. Statists see most men as children.

Free men want to teach their children until they become responsible adults. Statists are just insecure idiots who just want to deprive others of their natural rights. So, why are you so far off the issue of natural rights that are self evident to all, even those who desire to deprive others of those same rights?

vikingvista November 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm

“Proper”? “Optimal?” How are these defined in a market if not by the voluntary choices of the individual participants? Unless *you* personally are the measure of all value in a market. But then, why you and not me?

Values being individual, subjective, and noncomparable, the only objective measure of public advantage is the extent to which the public is free.

muirgeo November 25, 2011 at 10:26 am

Remember the Milton Friedman videos from yesterday where he talks of the greatness of the 19th and early 20th century… we were a protectionist nation that funded itself almost completely using tariffs…. but other then that… well other then that and ALL the other major countries who arose powerful by protecting their infant industries as China now does so well… but other then those examples you’re right. I can’t think of anything.

Greg Webb November 26, 2011 at 11:57 am

George, try reading some history before making these silly arguments.

DapperDanMan November 25, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I haven’t been following CafeHayek for very long, but does everyone here assume that monopolies are a good thing that provide maximum welfare to citizens of the world? I know that Don is against practically all government interference, but if we are truly interested in maximizing public welfare, in theory and in practice the presence of monopolies leaves a welfare loss. This isn’t as farfetched as the cannibal/rapist but a legitimate question: is the regulation of international and domestic monopolies ever advantageous to the public?

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm

“but does everyone here assume that monopolies are a good thing that provide maximum welfare to citizens of the world?”

Absolutely not. We advocate a competitive marketplace. The only way a monopoly can survive for an extended period of time is with government support (which we oppose). A company may come to dominate a market for a short time, but it will not last. the market is naturally competitive.

I’ll explain more later, gotta run.

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Hello Dan again,

So, let me begin where I left off:

Monopolies can arise in a free market (“free market” means there is no outside influence on the market. No government interference, for example). You are absolutely correct in saying monopolies create a welfare loss. However, a monopoly is not guaranteed their position as a dominant firm. All it takes to unseat a monopoly is another company to come in and make a better product. Suddenly, the monopoly is unseated. Here are some historical examples: Nintendo dominated the video game market in the 80′s and 90′s. Until Xbox and Playstation came in. Now it’s a much more competitive market. Microsoft dominated the PC industry. Now Apple and Linux are legitimate competitors. Sears used to be the only “big box” store. Now there’s Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, Costco, BJ’s, Big Y, etc.

The only way for a monopoly to survive in a free market is to continuously improve its product/costs.

However, the monopolies we see today are often protected by (or created by) an “extra-market force,” e.g. the government. Landline telephone companies are monopolies. Electricity providers are monopolies. Water providers, garbage removal, etc. All these things are protected by the government.

Likewise, monopoly protection can be given in form of patents. This one’s kind of self-explanatory, but if you’d like me to explain just say so.

So, just so you are aware, Don Bourdeaux and Russ Roberts, as well as myself and many of the other posters on this blog (Greg Webb & Methinks1776, just to name a few), believe that government intervention in a market more often than not make the problem they were trying to solve worse. That’s why we oppose regulations and interventions. If you’d like to know more, you can either read some great books by Austrian economists such as “A Critique of Interventionism” by von Mesis, “The Pretense of Knowledge” by FA Hayek (it’s a speech), any of Russ’ 3 great books, or anything by Fredrich Basait. However, if you want videos that are short (as opposed to heavy books), I’d check out LearnLiberty’s channel on Youtube.

We always like questions and, as long as you’re not a douche, we’ll answer them with limited sarcasm.

vidyohs November 25, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Good job Jon, let’s hope it sticks. :-) Damn I wish I could be a free marketeer like Greg Webb and m’lady Methinks, oh the sorrow I feel.

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 8:25 pm

What, Vidyohs? You don’t like my shameless self-promotion?

:-P

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 8:25 pm

But seriously, Dan, Vidyohs has good opinions, too

DapperDanMan November 25, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Thanks for the respectful and serious reply. I’m a new masters student and was previously unfamiliar with Austrian econ and its tenets, so I’m trying to broaden my education with opinions that challenge what you might call the traditional theory. I’ll check out some of those resources and come back with more questions.

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Good luck with your Masters! I just started my Masters this semester.

Russell Nelson November 26, 2011 at 2:13 am

The difficulty comes when people want a monopoly government to protect them from monopoly corporations. If the theory is that monopolies are bad, then this solution is no solution at all.

vikingvista November 26, 2011 at 3:33 am

Amen.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 26, 2011 at 8:44 am

DapperDanMan

watch out. we have a lot of trolls here, refuges from the Bush administration, who know nothing about economics and who offer really stupid comments like, “A company may come to dominate a market for a short time, but it will not last. the market is naturally competitive.”

Of course one only has to look around to see that is not true. Monopolies or near monopolies (oligarchies) dominate economic life. For example, almost all energy in the United States is suppied by a monopoly (electricity and natural gas). ATT has a monopoly business in telephones for everyone whose phone number and address have to appear in its white and yellow pages and a near monopoly in land lines.

Microsoft is a near monopoly in operating systems.

Health care in about 85% of the country is a monopoly when you include trama 1

The list is endless.

Trolls like Jon Murphy put out all this crap that gov’t regulation is bad and that we need “free markets” That means and instant return to fraud in most all transactions.

For example, the essential feature of the recent financial crisis was that the market in mortgages, etc. was not regulated. Millions of people lied on their loan applications to obtain loans they did not intend to repay. Tens of thousands of loan brokers and investment bankers repackaged these loans into securities which all knew would not be repaid. All this activity caused trillions in losses, to say nothing of the additional losses caused by “synthetic” products, which were nothing but gambling contracts, that most billions more.

The tripe you will hear here is that the Fed. Reserve caused the crisis by keeping interest rates low, but that is not true.

Lower interest rates have nothing to do with fraudsters (borrower and lender) making a fraudulent loan. The criminal techniques used would have resulted in the same loans being made at higher interest rates.

Ubiquitous November 27, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Microsoft is a near monopoly in operating systems.

So?

The point you ignore is that Microsoft prices its product as if it had lots of actual competitors.

Which proves that you don’t need existing competitors to keep a monopoly in check; you only need the possibility of competitors. The problem is that government-controlled markets dispense even with that possibility.

The only kinds of monopolies we need to prevent are those that are established by special government decrees that restrict or prevent entry into a market by private individuals. The way to do that is to keep government small, limited, and out of the economy.

vikingvista November 26, 2011 at 3:31 am

The only economically relevant monopoly is one which is sufficiently successful at violently supressing competition. Competition need not be actual to have an effect on prices and business practices, but it does need to be actualizable. In this country, only governments and their protected private entities are violent monopolies. And no, not everyone here thinks government monopolies are good things.

Greg Webb, librarian clowns, et al November 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/nov2011/2011-11-16-02.html

If you were a rhinoceros you would understand.

vikingvista November 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm

It can’t be. It is a belief held by those who erroneously believe in an objective standard of value (which invariably is merely their own subjective values). One might argue that it can come about because people can change their minds after an intervention, to come to later agree with the intervention. But that standard does not exist at the time the intervention is chosen.

You can’t compare one person’s values to another’s. One person’s loss cannot not be reversed by another person’s gain. The only possible measure of a person’s welfare, is that person’s opinion. Therefore, the only rational meaning of “public advantage”, is that each individual member of the public agrees that he personally is advantaged. Since each person acts according to what he judges as his advantage, the only possible way to achieve public advantage is voluntaryism. Anything else is forcefully disadvantaging some to the advantage of others.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 1:36 pm

“The only possible measure of a person’s welfare, is that person’s opinion.”

Is that true for a three year old child? For a mentally handicapped person? For a drunk person?

Sometimes the best interest of an individual is not something the individual can accurately determine. There is a line between child and adult, sober and drunk, and children and drunks cannot see the line. Children and drunks may stamp their feet and make demands that are real at the time, but it is immoral to listen to all their demands. Controling by force is moral if the victims of control cannot make reasonable decisions.

vikingvista November 27, 2011 at 11:46 pm

ME: “The only possible measure of a person’s welfare, is that person’s opinion.”
DU: Is that true for a three year old child? For a mentally handicapped person? For a drunk person?

It is necessarily true for any entity capable of making the judgement. The fact that values are subjective is really a difficult concept for you to grasp, isn’t it?

Let me ask you this: Is it true for a rock? That is, are you a better judge of the welfare of a rock, than is the rock itself? Does this question even make sense, given that a rock cannot value anything? Then how does it make sense for you to presume that you are the better judge of welfare for anything besides yourself, merely because that other thing DOES have the capacity to value things? Whenever the concern is ostensibly for something other than yourself, then it is only your subjective values you are projecting, not the other entity’s values.

As I have said, it may be that you violently force someone to act against his will (but compatible with your values), but that the person sometime later comes to share your values and thank you for your intervention. That is your risk to take, that he or others will not retaliate against you. I presume you would only do so if you knew the person well enough to guess his future state of mind. But whatever happens in the future, you are acting against his values at the time of the intervention.

A person may think he can cure his hangnail by cutting off his head. In so doing, he is making a decision regarding how best to satisfy his value of not suffering the hangnail, in the context of his other values. He may be illogical in his reasoning, or wrong in his facts, but ONLY HE can tell how much he values hangnail relief versus any other value. You simply cannot. He may very well value hangnail relief above life itself. Only he knows.

Children frequently have value systems different than their parents’, and different than their future selves. A caring parent commonly forcefully imposes his own values upon the child. Still, only the child knows how happy it makes him. And caring parents also screw up their kids all the time, sometimes understandably creating forever resentful offspring. And sometimes people outside the family retaliate against the force a parent imposes on his child.

So yes, each person is the only judge of his own welfare. He assesses his own happiness, not you.

Stone Glasgow November 28, 2011 at 6:10 am

“So yes, each person is the only judge of his own welfare. He assesses his own happiness, not you.”

I agree, but that wasn’t my point. Welfare are happiness are two different things. A man walking towards and unseen cliff will be happy as he strolls to his death, but he is not capable of making a better decision regarding his own welfare compared to a man that sees the cliff.

vikingvista November 29, 2011 at 1:17 am

“Welfare are happiness are two different things. A man walking towards and unseen cliff will be happy as he strolls to his death, but he is not capable of making a better decision regarding his own welfare compared to a man that sees the cliff.”

Being wrong in facts or logic or unrealized outcome is besides the point. You want to forcefully stop him, and presumably for some reason (perhaps one that you are not privy to), he disagrees with you. He may not want to fall off a cliff, but neither has he. His welfare is his happiness, and his happiness is, in this case, higher if you allow him to keep walking.

Acting in your own interest does not preclude being wrong.

Peter November 25, 2011 at 9:06 am

Another great Davenant quote from the same essay, “The natural way of promoting the woollen manufacture is not to force its consumption at home, but by wholesome laws to contrive that it may be wrought cheaply in England, which will enable us to command the markets abroad.”

Adam Smith November 25, 2011 at 10:24 am

If an American tries to buy or sell an Persian rug, he faces fines as high as $1,000,000 and prison for as long as 20 years.
Fred Koch’s thermal cracking process was blocked by scores of lawsuits in America and only after years as a consultant in Russia was he able to amass enough capital to return to the U.S. and compete in the Kleptocapitalistism that you pommies labor under.

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 10:45 am

It’s amazing that this quote was written 230 years before the dreaded Smoot-Hawley Tariff (which, in the midst of the Great Depression, cut US trade by 60%, increased US Unemployment by 5.3 percentage points [nearly doubling the rate], and, by some estimates, prolonged the Depression by as many as 5 years). You’d think the historical lessons learned between 1697 and 1930 would have prevented such a calamity.

Greg Webb November 25, 2011 at 11:09 am

You’d think the historical lessons learned between 1697 and 1930 would have prevented such a calamity.

No. Statists never learn from history. History does not apply to them. After all, those people living in the past were not as smart as the statist is today. It is the smug arrogance of those who pretend at knowledge.

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 11:19 am

I was reading an article a little while ago that supposed that the Crash of 1929 may have been, in part, caused by the debates of the S-H Tariff.

khodge November 25, 2011 at 11:31 am

Just as some of the late July early August stock market drops were caused by the debates on the deficit? Possibly a few of the down days were superficial moves unrelated to other fundamentals but the market quickly returns to fundamentals. After all, wasn’t the drop in ’29 gone a year later?

Jon Murphy November 25, 2011 at 11:56 am

I believe so. The stock market is such a poor indicator of true economic fundamentals it can hardly be relied upon. In fact, I did a little research project and found that fully 50% of the stock market major declines occur during or after a recession, 10% lead a recession and the other 40% occur completely divorced of any recession.

indianajim November 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm

“…seldom advantageous to the public.”

This language is ok (it certainly reads well), but seems ambiguous enough to be nit picked. I don’t have time to think up an alternative, maybe someone else will…

Daniel Kuehn November 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Davenant is one of the many mercantilists that – surprise, surprise – were free traders!

It’s unfortunate that mercantilism is often taught as protectionism. It was a broad “school of thought” stretching over several centuries, and certainly some were more protectionist. But people take the protectionist government policy at the time and mistake it for what the mercantilist economists actually thought. A lot of the mercantilist trade policy that was advocated was really proposed as an early form of monetary policy (people forget that this school was writing before the establishment of the Bank of England for the most part, so trade balances were one of the few monetary policy levers available).

Sam Grove November 25, 2011 at 3:17 pm

I don’t know how anyone thinks mercantilist = protectionist, they, they are two different terms with distinct meanings.

I do note, however, that the Wikipedia article observes the following: “Mercantilism is the economic doctrine in which government control of foreign trade is of paramount importance for ensuring the prosperity and security of the state.”

What does that mean in practice?

Sometimes, protectionism.

Don Boudreaux November 25, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Daniel: You should read more mercantilists. They weren’t free traders. And for you to project them as being only partially, or being only inessentially, advocates of protectionism is for you to reveal that you don’t know your history of thought sufficiently well on this front.

You can, to improve your education on this front, do no better than to begin with Viner’s still-unmatched survey of mercantilism. (Heckscher will also do nicely.) Davenant is interesting only because, while he wrote during the zenith of mercantilist thought, he was sufficiently wise to dismiss much of what is essential to mercantilism.

Daniel Kuehn November 26, 2011 at 11:34 am

Don, Viner and Hecksher are dated on this point. There’s no excuse in 2011 to act like the mercantilists were a bunch of protectionists. They did take (to use Blaug’s phrase) a more “administrative” view of the economy. That is true. But they discussed the gains from trade in detail and advocated intervention as form of monetary policy and demand management, not using the protectionist arguments that you saw in the 19th century. It was Mun, after all, who first emphatically made your favorite point that exports are not always bad and imports are not always good!

Thanks for the advice, and I’d offer the same advice to you – read more mercantilists, and perhaps read more recent commentary than just Viner and Heckscher (Grampp is very good).

Don Boudreaux November 26, 2011 at 11:49 am

Daniel: Viner’s extensive quotations from the mercantilists are not dated. And his essays on mercantilists are chock-full of such quotations – lengthy ones. Read them.

Don Boudreaux November 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Daniel: I’ve read Grampp, btw. The argument that mercantilists were not free traders does not entail the claim that they never saw gains from imports. It is more that they judged trade patterns precisely by (what they presumed to be) the monetary effects of such policies, including how (they presumed) these effects affected domestic demand and employment.

Maximizing consumer welfare – promoting consumer sovereignty – keeping the domestic market as free as possible of producer monopoly power – understanding that money is not the ultimate source of wealth, and (therefore) that accumulation of money ought not be the ultimate goal of trade policy – rejecting the belief that country A’s gains from trade with country B are not country B’s losses – THESE are the points that the typical mercantilist never accepted or understood. And it is the mercantilists’ failure to accept and understand these points that Adam Smith and his intellectual progeny emphasized, quite rightly and appropriately, as deep flaws in the mercantilist mindset.

Mercantilists were indeed proto-Keynesians – a fact which, if I understand you, apparently immunizes them from the accusation of being protectionists. But that they advocated managed trade, with a wrongheaded emphasis on increasing exports, for the purpose of accumulating specie so that the domestic economy will have higher (what we call today) “aggregate demand” no more makes them free traders than does the fact that, say, Friedrich List applauded the results of some unimpeded international trade make List a free trader.

Oh, and if you think that Viner and Heckscher are “dated,” what about William R. Allen? Is he, too, “dated”?

Ubiquitous November 26, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Viner and Hecksher are dated on this point. There’s no excuse in 2011 to act like the mercantilists were a bunch of protectionists.

You’re a pretentious, mediocre, little snoot, Danny Kuehn. We all saw that at no point in your previous post did you say “Yes, I’ve read them.” You didn’t read them. You excused yourself from reading them by claiming they were “dated.” You did that precisely because you childishly resented Don’s suggestion that you could learn something from them, so you thought you’d play a little academic one-upmanship.

You’ve become a polished, third-rate scholar. Congratulations.

Invisible Backhand November 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm

“The delusion is as old as it is detestable with which many men, especially those who by their wealth and power exercise the greatest influence, persuade themselves, or as I rather believe, try to persuade themselves, that justice and injustice are distinguished the one from the other not by their own nature, but in some fashion merely by the opinion and the custom of mankind. Those men therefore think that both the laws and the semblance of equity were devised for the sole purpose of repressing the dissensions and rebellions of those persons born in a subordinate position, affirming meanwhile that they themselves, being placed in a high position, ought to dispense all justice in accordance with their own good pleasure, and that their pleasure ought to be bounded only by their own view of what is expedient.”

The Freedom of the Seas
or
the Right Which Belongs to the Dutch to Take Part in the East Indian Trade

a Dissertation by Hugo Grotius

Translated with Revision of the Latin Text of 1633

Invisible Backhand November 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm

“Trolling is a game about identity deception, albeit one that is played without the consent of most of the players. The troll attempts to pass as a legitimate participant, sharing the group’s common interests and concerns; the newsgroups members, if they are cognizant of trolls and other identity deceptions, attempt to both distinguish real from trolling postings, and upon judging a poster a troll, make the offending poster leave the group. Their success at the former depends on how well they — and the troll — understand identity cues; their success at the latter depends on whether the troll’s enjoyment is sufficiently diminished or outweighed by the costs imposed by the group. Trolls can be costly in several ways. A troll can disrupt the discussion on a newsgroup, disseminate bad advice, and damage the feeling of trust in the newsgroup community. Furthermore, in a group that has become sensitized to trolling — where the rate of deception is high — many honestly naïve questions may be quickly rejected as trollings. This can be quite off-putting to the new user who upon venturing a first posting is immediately bombarded with angry accusations. Even if the accusation is unfounded, being branded a troll is quite damaging to one’s online reputation.”

Judith Donath (1999)

Invisible Backhand November 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm

“Nay, the increase of those creatures that are bred and fed in the water are not only more and more miraculous, but more advantageous to man, not only for the lengthening of his life, but for the preventing of sickness; for it is observed by the most learned physicians, that the casting off of Lent, and other fish days, which hath not only given the lie to so many learned, pious, wise founders of colleges, for which we should be ashamed, hath doubtless been the chief cause of those many putrid, shaking intermitting agues, unto which this nation of ours is now more subject, than those wiser countries that feed on herbs, salads, and plenty of fish; of which it is observed in story, that the greatest part of the world now do. And it may be fit to remember that Moses appointed fish to be the chief diet for the best commonwealth that ever yet was.”

The Compleat Angler (1653)
Izaak Walton

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm

While traders can made short term profits, in the long run trade is a destroyer because “resources are always magnetised to the economically successful regions. To counterbalance this, political action is needed. Central government collects taxes from successful endeavours and redistributes resources to poorer areas. This is not done just by regional aid, but by welfare transfer payments and paying the wages of public sector employees or building infrastructure. Were it not for this process, market forces would always tend to make rich regions richer and poor areas relatively poorer.”

Martin Jacomb, Financial Times

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/83cca7c8-110f-11e1-ad22-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1ejqr1bSU

Sagittarius A November 25, 2011 at 3:04 pm

So what does this even mean? It was written three centuries ago. What merit could it possibly have other than nifty entertainment? (I enjoy reading Montesquieu for his historical value despite the fact that he has no insights to offer modern political science)

I never mean to offend you Don, but sometime you post things that are meant to have this aura of totality when in reality they add nothing to the conversation.

Still love the blog though, dear me. Must be a curse, it must be.

Sagittarius A November 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm

PS: I know the quote above is not from Montesquieu I was just serving that up as an example of what I meant.

muirgeo November 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Yeah , trade was fun and free back then. When two ships from opposing countries or companies passed each other they waved and cheered each other.

When the ships landed they traded spear tips with the natives for gold… ahhh the good old days.

CalgaryGuy November 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm

ahh, the good old days, when king’s and queen’s ruled the land and gave orders to expand the area of their control…

Mesa Econoguy November 25, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Imposter.

No spelling errors, and bizarre references to government-caused problems, solved by government.

Sheath your sword.

brotio November 25, 2011 at 9:58 pm

I agree.

While some of the impostors have been really funny, I’d still prefer they mock the tards openly.

muirgeo November 27, 2011 at 2:59 am

Let’s see, I think I had just graduated medical school at the time . . .

Yes, it brings back memories. Mercantilism; protectionism; bloodletting; leeches for cleansing the system; those were the days!

Economic Freedom November 28, 2011 at 10:11 am

Animals should have MORE rights than homo sapiens. Homo sapiens are only one species out of millions. Humans are the worst species because they overpopulate the planet, destroy the place for the other species, and intentionally kill other species for sport and pleasure. Humans stink and that includes 99% of the ignorant, troll commentators on the blogs. That goes double for Greg Webb, Jon Murphy, and the rest of the arrogant, stupid librarian clowns around here.

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