• http://twitter.com/ChristoGage Christopher Gage

    Cracking article. Well thought-out questions. The part about certain libertarians attempting to define libertarianism to fit their own extreme opinion was very welcome, and needed to have been asked.

    Nice.

  • http://twitter.com/DanielPryorr Daniel Pryor

    Fantastic interview, Lee. I’d be interested to know what particular brand of utilitarianism Sam aspires to! Completely agree with him on the direction being more important that the exact end, but I’ve always been sceptical of utilitarian bases for libertarianism – at least the ones that I’ve come across thus far.

    Matt Zwolinski wrote a great article about a week ago for BHL on NAP. He cited a 1988 survey that asked:

    “Suppose that a parent of a new-born baby places it in front of a picture window and sells tickets to anyone wishing to observe the child starve to death. He makes it clear that the child is free to leave at any time, but that anyone crossing his lawn will be viewed as trespassing.

    1) Would you cross the lawn and help the child? And 2) Would helping the child violate the parents’ rights?”

    I’m sure Sam, and indeed myself, would cross the lawn and save the child. Yet I would still categorise myself as a natural-rights libertarian. The distinction that Rothbard (yes, it’s that man again) drew between legal and moral issues is key, I believe. Whilst under strict natural-right formulations of libertarianism, it would technically be an “illegal” invasion of property rights to cross the lawn, it would of course also be the utterly moral course of action. In fact, almost everyone replying to that survey would cross the lawn. I’d struggle to imagine a society in which a right-enforcement agency would genuinely pursue the “trespasser”, if not for shared humanity then for reasons of profit (if my REA prosecuted someone for that, I’d be switching provider in an instant).

    I think it’s therefore possible to reconcile the absolute legal nature of NAP with individual moral cases that seem to “disprove” it, simply due to the monstrosity of said moral cases meaning that virtually nobody would choose to enforce such “rights violations”.

    In cases where the morality of rights violations is decidedly unclear, NAP seems to serve as a useful yardstick (ala Hayek). Citing interventionism, Sam says:

    “The problem is that it’s difficult to tell from the outset which interventions will turn out well, and which will have appalling results (in terms of loss of life) as, say, Iraq or Vietnam did. Having said that, I do not think unintended consequences should mean that we prohibit any and all possible interventions in the future.”

    Pragmatically, there have probably been cases in which intervention was the best option (then again, hindsight is a wonderful thing). However, as an advocate of the natural-rights based approach, I would err on the side of a NAP-inclined solution. If there is a significant body of public opinion that is pro-interventionist, REAs or indeed other firms may find it profitable to provide such a service. Indeed, free market interventionism could perhaps end up looking something like the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.

    That’s my two cents, anyway. I’d be interested to know others’ opinions on this stance. My open-mindedness is, I like to think, not a rhetorical technique.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=546092083 Terry Mcintyre

    3rd-world couuntries have made remarkable progress by abaandoning the ideology-driven pursuit of government education; see research by James Tooley and Pauline Dixon.

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