Friday, November 23, 2007

The philosophy of liberty

Your humble Devil has been attacked recently as not being a proper libertarian, and this has led to some discussion as to the nature of liberty. In order to clear up these things, I thought it worth reiterating what I believe in.

My philosophy is essentially summed up by this Flash animation. However, for those of you who cannot be bothered to watch it, I have taken the text and put it into easy to read list points.
  • The philosophy of liberty is based on the principle of self-ownership.

    • You own your life.

    • To deny this is to imply that someone else has a higher claim on your life than you do.

    • No other person, or group of persons, owns your life.

    • Nor do you own the lives of others.

  • You exist in time: future, present and past.

    • This is manifest in [respectively]: your life, your liberty and the product of your life and liberty.

    • To lose your life is to lose your future.

    • To lose your liberty is to lose your present.

    • And to lose the product of your life and liberty is to lose the portion of your past that produced it.

  • A product of your life and your liberty is your property.

    • Property is the fruit of your labour: the product of your time, energy and talents.

    • Property is that part of nature that you turn to valuable use.

    • Property is the property of others that is given to you by voluntary exchange and mutual consent.

    • Two people who exchange property voluntarily are both better off, or they wouldn't do it.

    • Only they may rightfully make that decision for themselves.

  • At times, some people make use of force or fraud to take from others without voluntary consent.

    • The initiation of force or fraud to take life is murder.

    • The initiation of force or fraud to take liberty is slavery.

    • The initiation of force or fraud to take property is theft.

    • It is the same whether these things are done by one person acting alone, by the many acting against the few, or even by officials in fine hats.

  • You have the right to protect your life, liberty and justly acquired property from the forceful aggression of others; and you may ask others to help defend you.

    • But you do not have the right to initiate force against the life, liberty and property of others.

    • Thus you have no right to designate some other person to initiate force against others on your behalf.

  • You have the right to seek leaders for yourself, but you have no right to impose rulers onto others.

    • No matter how officials are selected, they are only human beings and they have no rights or claims that are higher than other human beings.

    • Regardless of the imaginative labels for their behaviour, or the number of people encouraging them, officials have no right to murder, to enslave or to steal.

    • You cannot give them any rights that you do not have yourself.

  • Since you own your life, you are responsible for your life.

    • You do not rent your life from others who demand your obedience.

    • Nor are you a slave to others who demand your sacrifice.

    • You choose your own goals based on your own values.

    • Success and failure are both the necessary incentives to learn and grow.

  • Your action on behalf of others, or their action on behalf of you, is virtuous only when it is derived from voluntary mutual consent.

    • For virtue can only exist where there is free choice.

    • This is the basis of a truly free society.

    • It is not only the most practical and humanitarian foundation for human action, it is the most ethical.

  • Problems in the world that arise from the initiation of force by government have a solution.

    • The solution is for the people of the earth to stop asking government official to initiate force on their behalf.

    • Evil does not arise solely from evil people, but also from good people who tolerate the initiation of force as a means to their own ends.

    • In this manner, good people have empowered evil people throughout history.

  • Having confidence in a free society is to focus on the process of discovery in the marketplace of values, rather than to focus on some imposed vision or goal.

    • Using governmental force to impose a vision on others is intellectual sloth, and typically results in unintended, perverse consequences.

  • Achieving a free society requires courage—to think, to talk and to act—especially when it is easier to do nothing.

All of which perfectly describes, to my mind, precisely why socialists are enemies of freedom and are, to put it bluntly, evil.

24 comments:

Ingram said...

Good post, sums things up nicely. These recent arguments put forward by others to suggest some bloggers / readers are not Libertarian are just nonsense. Libertarianism isn't a strict doctrine, it is a broad philosophy of which you have posted yours. This is different in places to mine and no doubt different in places to most others, but broadly speaking we all think along the same lines with fundamentals of life, liberty, property and freedom from people sticking their noses into our business being the core ideals. The point that leftist-statists do not (want to?) understand is that we're capable of and encourage free thought. In fact I think this fucking scares them!

Mark Wadsworth said...

Top stuff.

Vindico said...

Bravo Mr Devil. That is my favourite animation. I agree entirely with it. If only our rabid commie bastards in westminster would grow some grey matter!

Tomrat247 said...

An excellent post - those who claim that the "bloggertarian" is somehow different in principles from libertarian ones are talking buncumb. One point though - how does minarchistic libertarianism actually work in the principle structure? My view is that it is a voluntary exchange of goods for mutual benefit, rather than voluntary actions on your behalf by virtue alone. In this case altruism, i.e. a reason other than money to provide a service, can be an exchangeable property - the reason I help run and manage a church youthgroup, for example.
This is the crux of so many of the governments arguements and one which we should be quickest to shoot down -
Government: "we bansturbated this/created a tax/went to war with...for your own good..."
Us: "no you didn't - we pay your trucking wages to protect individual liberty, security and our body. Stop trying to think it is anything other than this, we wont think anything less than you and to try to feign altruistic motives as the driver is unethical."
Least thats what I think.

Peter Horne said...

"The initiation of force or fraud to take liberty is slavery."

What exactly is meant by "force", in this context?

Are these two statements not contradictory?

"you may ask others to help defend you."

and

"Thus you have no right to designate some other person to initiate force against others on your behalf."

How is this compatible with democracy?

"You have the right to seek leaders for yourself, but you have no right to impose rulers onto others."

Devil's Kitchen said...

Peter,

"Are these two statements not contradictory?

"you may ask others to help defend you."

and

"Thus you have no right to designate some other person to initiate force against others on your behalf.""


The key word is initiate. You may not initiate force, which is quite different from defending yourself.

Think about the way that we hire lawyers in order that we may protect ourselves under the law.

"How is this compatible with democracy?

"You have the right to seek leaders for yourself, but you have no right to impose rulers onto others.""


It's not, and that is rather the point. I have always taken this animation as being a philosophy in its purest form and it quite obviously does not support a state in any form. If you have no state officials, then you do not need democracy to be able to remove them.

But, given that the people of this country are being oppressed by a government elected by only 21.6% of the electorate, it's worth thinking about, eh?

The animation sets out my purest beliefs. In practical terms, I recognise the need for some sort of government: that doesn't mean that I have to like it.

And, as I would have thought might be obvious from my writings at The Kitchen, I don't like it.

DK

Roger Thornhill said...

Yes, DK. Government is a necessary evil, like fire. It needs to be controlled and treated with caution, and always as a servant, not a master.

I do suggest non-Libertarian things such as Swiss healthcare or educational vouchers (that rely on State funding), but I know that these are compromises that at least move in the right direction or set the scene for further steps to be made once foundations are established. I do not pretend that they are totally ideologically sound in purist Libertarian terms.

Tomrat247 said...

DK,

You've also suggested non-libertarian ideals in the past such as the CBI; these aren't bad ideas but they are counter to your central philosophy, which is confusing. I myself am attracted to this idea as it displays true altruism to advocate it, however, implementation would have an effect no different to that of many of our present governments democracy busting policy making. That should be carefully avoided.

sturgess said...

Bloggers and the folk who comment are a pretty sad bunch. The only time they get noticed is when another blogger has his lot make silly remarks about their blog, and so it goes. I'm old and have nothing better to do than this....you lot have nothing better to do because of what you are. You're all very silly people you know and need to get out in the fresh air and smell the daffs.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Thank you, sturgess, for your wonderfully constructive comment. I am now going out, to meet some friends in the pub.

Laters.

DK

Newmania said...

I have an unpleasant feeling I may not be "ideologically unsound". I wonder what this Libertarian set of principles would make of forcing groups of people to perform such tasks as ,learning to read ,living socially or writing a poem other than Da Da -ist giberish or perhaps some music .

In all of these ways you will notice that the adherence of rules that are imposed upon you is in fact a Liberating principle.Libertarianism moreover imagines that with a few simple rules people will become , not the greedy rapacios bastards they are, but silvery angels wandering around Noddy land congratulating eachother on their Liberty. I think this somewhat unlikely and prefer almost any order to none.

Do you want to play the piano or sit on it like child ? Metaphorically that is the position of life we exist not as atoms obeying this or that doctrine , we exist in living relations with our family tribe , past and country.I wonder , at what age a Libertarian thinks a child might consent to sex with an adult ?There are differing sicietakl norms and one assume the Libertarian would leave it up to the child . Fucked if I would but there we are.


Its a nice dash of hot sace on the political barbecue but it can never be the main course. ...but then you know that.Now in the spirit of sensory fulfilment sugested by Brother Sturgess I think I may have a glass of ale myself

Sacerdote said...

As far as children go, I would assume that the above principles do not apply until they are old enough to be considered responsible for their actions, although as far as possible one would want to raise them in a libertarian fashion. It seems to work well enough for the people over at Taking children Seriously. Presumably this would also not apply to the mentally subnormal either. You can't just let them play in traffic.

Steve_Roberts said...

Newmania "forcing groups of people to perform such tasks as ,learning to read ,living socially or writing a poem other than Da Da -ist giberish or perhaps some music .

In all of these ways you will notice that the adherence of rules that are imposed upon you is in fact a Liberating principle"

- Forcing any person to do anything is off the agenda, even something as useful to them as learning to read. However, you can't actually force someone to learn to read. You can force them to attend school - or ratheryou can persecute the parents of children who do not attend school - but that does not mean they will learn to read.

- As to conventions in music, poetry, etc, they have always been voluntary, especially in the sense that a poet who intuits a better mode can test it in his judgement and that of any audience he has or may seek. No need for force here, either.

Trooper Thompson said...

The questions around children/age of consent etc are just red herrings. The Rule is individual liberty, responsibility etc. You make exceptions from this rule, and children are naturally an exception, and (usually) fall under the responsibility of their parents. The child still has all the same inalienable rights of an adult, but they are held in trust, so to speak, by the adult.

Disputes around these issues should be seen as disputes regarding how to deal with exceptions to the Rule. The Rule itself is not in question.

Leftists and state-worshippers may try to sew confusion over such issues to undermine the principle that we are all(presumed to be) responsible adults. They prefer for us all to be as children to the loving father-state.

Peter Horne said...

DK

"The key word is initiate. You may not initiate force, which is quite different from defending yourself."

I take this to mean that one may not initiate force except in self defence.

There are two points I would make here. Firstly it depends what you mean by force. I presume that you mean physical force. Secondly there must be innumerable circumstances
in which you would unhesitatingly initiate force, with no question of self-defence.

E.g. if someone threatens my granddaughter with a baseball bat and I draw my trusty revolver and shoot him in the head, I have initiated force, but not in self-defence. On the other hand if your definition of force includes threats or non-violent pressure of some kind then I have not initiated force, the assailant has. But I still haven't acted in self defence. "Force" then, becomes more akin to coercion, which is a whole new kettle of worms.

I am, of course assuming that at the time of shooting the potential assailant I am convinced that he is about to seriously assault said granddaughter. If you then argue that this is justified, although not in narrow self-defence ,in that I am defending family, friends, society or indeed the rule of law then surely you are acknowledging that sometimes it may be necessary to employ force for the good of general society. Where do you draw the line?

As for placing freedom above democracy, I can only agree. Democracy as practised, is rather overrated.

Robin said...

Do you think there should be a law on which side of the road you drive on ?
Should you be at liberty to not pay taxes but use the infrastructure of the state ?

Trooper Thompson said...

Peter Horne,

"if someone threatens my granddaughter with a baseball bat and I draw my trusty revolver and shoot him in the head, I have initiated force, but not in self-defence"

No, in this case the guy with the baseball bat initiates force, and you are defending yourself and your granddaughter. If you just go up to a man with a baseball bat and shoot him dead, it would be different.

In any case, let us not forget that this is a hypothetical question. Under the rule of law, such matters will often need to be examined by a court, to see that what you say (about the guy threatening your granddaughter, the circumstances etc) are true.

You use this example to assert that "there must be innumerable circumstances in which you would unhesitatingly initiate force, with no question of self-defence"

As this is not one of them, as far as I can see, do you have a better example? (and don't say grabbing a child out of the path of a train)

Rob said...

I'm not sure if this is actually true, but I can remember once, when very young, being told that there actually isn't a law in Britain saying 'drive on the left'. There is a law against driving dangerously, and since (by convention) everyone drives on the left and the roads are laid out for left-sided driving, driving on the right would be dangerous. If, by some miracle, everyone woke up tomorrow and decided to drive on the right, none of them could be prosecuted for it, since it wouldn't be dangerous if everyone did it. Might not be true though, and I've never had the heart to look it up in case it turns out not to be.

As for the second point, of course you shouldn't avoid taxes whilst using the services of the state. But, morally, I can't see much wrong with avoiding taxes if you never benefit from their use. Of course, this brings us on to all kinds of thorny questions about 'free rider' problems and so on... At the very least, the libertarian can always claim that his preference would be for no taxes and no state, and others can judge the sincerity of that preference.

mitch said...

well thats a better constitution than anything cyclops can scrawl.Id vote for it.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Peter,

"Firstly it depends what you mean by force. I presume that you mean physical force."

No, absolutely not. "Force" is bringing any circumstance to bear which means that someone is unable to act in a voluntary consensual manner.

If I blackmail someone into doing something, I am bringing force to bear on them: that is not physical force.

The government actually uses "force" to make us pay taxes, but under threat of fines or under threat of removal of liberty (which, ultimately, is physical force, of course).


Robin,

"Do you think there should be a law on which side of the road you drive on?"

Why should you need a law? You can have a voluntary agreement. It is in everyone's interest to stick to that agreement, else they might end up dead; they might also infringe someone else's liberty by killing or harming them.

"Should you be at liberty to not pay taxes but use the infrastructure of the state?"

Well, let's remember that in an ideal world, there is no real state infrastructure: why would you need it?

The state did not build the railways: it appropriated them from the private companies that did build them.

The state does not own the airways either.

And the first roads were not built by the state: they were toll roads. We have a toll road, of course; it's... er... is it the M6 bypassing Birmingham? I drove on it when I moved down here: absolutely lovely. Almost deserted, well-lit and no cameras.

So, you would drive on toll roads. But remember, you are paying no petrol duty to the state, nor the VAT on top of that. Nor are you paying vehicle excise duty. You pay to drive as far as you drive, effectively.

As I say, this is in an ideal world, and you needn't pay tax for using the state infrastructure because there is no state infrastructure.

DK

Tomrat247 said...

Robin & Rob,

I believe there is already a "buy-in clause" in place when dealing with infrastructure: they call it road and council taxes. These taxes themselves are incredibly low compared to income tax systems, but then again, both road and council taxes collections for various districts are "supplemented". It is a sign of craven bribery and corruption that under Labour this "supplement" has increase rapidly into areas with its highest voting demographic; now some would argue this is simply redistribution to deprived areas and that they are mainly voting strongholds for Labour is merely circumstantial - I think if revenue was acrued in a more localistic setting, which would be cheaper overall, not only would the deprivation start to recede but so would Labours voting share; and that is why they choose to believe the former posit. (Disclaimer: I live in the north, in a labour stronghold, and have lived in the 'inpoverished' areas all my life; their are many causes for it but I believe wholeheartedly that one of the main is the way lifestyle is funded - you pay people to behave like scum and they will. Dance monkey, dance...)

Lucas said...

"...forcing groups of people to perform such tasks as ,learning to read ,living socially or writing a poem other than Da Da -ist giberish or perhaps some music .

In all of these ways you will notice that the adherence of rules that are imposed upon you is in fact a Liberating principle."


Newmania,

No, actually, it's not.

One cannot properly appreciate values that one does not recognize and choose for himself. This is because a mind subverted by force cannot appreciate values at all! Moreover, forcing values on someone precludes him from learning to recognize and choose such values for himself, such that he could appreciate them.

Don't agree?

Too bad. You don't count, because it only takes one person to be absolutely right--a claim that you cannot make for yourself because you, being collectivist, are in denial of that fundamental truth.

"Libertarianism moreover imagines that with a few simple rules people will become , not the greedy rapacios bastards they are, but silvery angels wandering around Noddy land congratulating eachother on their Liberty. I think this somewhat unlikely and prefer almost any order to none."

Nobody here said anything of the sort.

Liberty may or may not improve society or "people," that isn't important. What is important is that it will ensure that an individual who succeeds in living a good, rewarding, innocent life by the principles of liberty may do so in peace, without being obstructed, bullyragged, and tormented by those who say it isn't possible.

And there is absolutely no basis for the claim that any conflict exists between liberty and order.

As for the issue of children, they may not initially have rights, since rights only apply to rational beings, and the faculties of reason are not yet fully developed in a child. All the same, it remains true that the only proper aim of a child's upbringing is to perfect the child's development into a competent, independent individual--it is morally unacceptable to raise a child to be a rightless servile.

To reiterate: It only takes one person to be absolutely right. This constitutes proof positive of the righteousness of individualism and liberty. You will never overturn this point, no matter what you say, how many people agree with you, or how large a mountain of empirics you rake up.

funchy said...

The problem here is that it doesn't address what it means when a living thing is treated as property. Is it wrong to tell someone how to care for THEIR child? Or not to beat or kill their child? Is it wrong to tell someone not to beat their dog (a la Michael Vick)? What about bestiality?

You also can't address the conflict when we have limited natural resources but two parties try to make use of something. Environmental law is an excellent example. Who "owns" the air and water? Is it wrong for a businessman to dump his waste products in the river? When does the water in the river become property of the townspeople downstream?

I'm also unclear on what it means to have liberty. Like the old saying "your right to swing your hand ends at my nose". Well, what if we can't be sure the complaining party was truly hurt by the other person? Does it only take their say-so? What if the hurt was emotional, like something serious such as spousal abuse? Or something less serious such as hurt feelings after a non-PC joke was told?

The outlined rules don't address these subtle but important points.

ScroogeMcDuck said...

I find it both amusing and interesting that you're all effectivley snobby anarchists. Yet I think that most of you would be offended by the label.

The unfortunate problem with a right-libertarian system, such as you are proposing, is that by its very nature the weak are dominated by the strong. The very reason we have a societal system is so the weak are protected by the collective.

Of course, you then have the problem of the tyranny of the majority, which is just as malodorous to the ideal of liberty.

However it does not take away from the fact that natural resources are finite and it is fairer for them to be shared equatibly rather than seized by those with the power to do so.