Archives for category: Quora

For libertarian economics, what do property rights include?

as answered on Quora:

I hate to pick at nits, but I do not think there is such a thing as “libertarian economics.” But I assume that the questioner really means “economic policy,” and is right to think that libertarians have a distinct policy. But any such policy is also a matter of law (libertarians, even of a hard-core private law variety hold to a rule of law) so the question becomes, What property rights are included under libertarian legal and economic policy?

Well, this turns out to be a big subject.

There are some differences of opinion, in part because the libertarian camp is a bit broader than usually let on by its most insistent advocates. But what defines libertarians is the way they themselves define liberty: as the freedom that all can share by being seen in the negative: a freedom from initiated coercion, or force. (Freedoms-to, in Isaiah Berlin’s formulation, are not the focus of libertarian principles.)

And for libertarians, liberty starts with the individual. Though it can be defined politically, as selfgovernment, it is often, perhaps usually (following Locke and the Levellers) defined in property terms. Liberty entails selfownership. To own one’s self means to own one’s own body. And like all property this entails excludability. In other words, self-defense.

So, already, at this most fundamental level, chattel slavery is prohibited. One cannot own others against their will, unless that other has committed some crime and his enslavement is repayment. Slavery is commonly thought to be not an acceptable kind of ownership, and slaves not legitimate property. Though Libertarians argue about the legitimacy of selling themselves into slavery.

Certainly, the chattel slavery that was the basis of 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century American economy is not legitimate property according to libertarianism. Libertarians were almost all abolitionists, in the mid-19th century, before the Civil War.

The basic conception of justice that libertarians hold has been called the entitlement, or proprietary theory of justice. As formulated by Robert Nozick, a property holding is just if it was justly acquired and justly transferred. To be justly acquired, it cannot be wrested from another. Hence the idea of self-ownership, and the idea of a first-come/finders-keepers ethic of property acquisition. This is the fairly logical outcome of the attempt to find a basic rule that would minimize conflict. Only scarce resources can be owned. So free goods (in the economic sense, as defined by economist Carl Menger and other early marginalists) are not subject to ownership.

This leads to problems of some common resources, such as air (non-economic on the surface of the planet, outside our nose and lungs) and oceans (lots of water there). Libertarians tend to evade or disagree or remain puzzled by these resources, and how property rights could possibly be applied in these resource pools. (Nevertheless, much work has been done, and should be looked up.)

But not to problems of land. I know of few libertarians who go the Georgist route, thinking that land may not be owned — but there used to be many of these, including the young Herbert Spencer and the individualist Joseph Hiam Levy, an able fin-de siècle economist (see his debates with Auberon Herbert and Benjamin R. Tucker.)

Intellectual property rights attorney Stephan Kinsella argues that intellectual property is a misnomer. He extends the analysis of Murray Rothbard, who thought that laws against “libel and slander” were unsupportable because one cannot own one’s reputation. Kinsella makes the point that patent and copyright law are both monopolistic “protections” (intrusions, interventions) of the State, and could not possibly arise in a society that takes the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP — really just a formalization of the principle of universalizble negative freedom) seriously, consistently.


a. property in one’s own person, by which we mean “body”;

b. property in land and other scarce resources that no one else has owned, and which you have appropriated by some widespread or locally apt convention; and

c. property in scarce resources that one has purchased, by contract and without duress.

Libertarians these days almost univocally reject the Lockean idea that possible-to-own resources that have not been appropriated are “owned in common.” This notion is at best a fiction. At worst an imposition. Non-privatized property is seen as UN-OWNED. And property rights theorists are beginning to understand the importance of “ceasing-to-own” as a category. That is, not only must property rights require justice in acquisition and transferance, but also in maintenance. Just as one may lose property, in a physical sense, one can abandon it, in a normative sense. This puts the property into the category of un-owned. If you leave your car on the side of the road, and never return, it is abandoned. The road owner usually appropriates it, but since, today, all automobile titles are tightly regulated by the states, and most roads are State-owned, the states tend to assume ownership. This would not be the case in a libertarian society. Law and custom would look very different. And would have to include rules about disowned property, inadvertent or deliberate, and regard it as un-owned, allowing for a new appropriation.

Other cases of property abandonment? Littering, pollution, and (in the realm of self-ownership) body abandonment upon inadvertent death as well as intended death (suicide). (Would a consequence of this perspective be that suicide is often a form of littering, and, unless measures were made in advance by the would-be suicide, many acts of suicide would be rightly preventable, by coercion, as defense of the property the corpse is intentionally being abandoned upon?)

According to Murray Rothbard, there can be no “public property.” All property must be private. F. A. Hayek demurred from this, arguing that what we are really talking about is “several property,” which would include ownership by groups, in some corporate or even informal capacity. (Randy Barnett explains the seemingly archaic term in this way: “The term ‘several property’ makes it clearer that jurisdiction to use resources is dispersed among the ‘several’ — meaning ‘diverse, many numerous, distinct, particular or separate’ persons and associations that comprise a society, rather than being rooted in a monolithic centralized institution.”) The rule of law defends several property, which would allow for any forms of property now considered “public.”

Philosopher Roderick Long has discussed a public property element in a free society as configured around by the NAP. This subject is still under debate among libertarians.

All property comes down to the right to exclude and the right to control. Several property is private chiefly in the sense of de-priving others of its use. Where you cannot forcibly exclude others (understood as self defense), there is no property. Where you cannot control the thing ostensibly owned (without initiating force), it is not property. I believe Kinsella’s arguments against intellectual property flow directly from these considerations.

No wonder, then, that one proposed alternative to the term “libertarianism” is “propertarianism” — no other school of thought takes property rights as seriously libertarians do, or see them as so fundamental.

Note: There is a whole school of economics devoted to property rights discussion. Many of these economists are libertarians or near-libertarians. Richard Stroup, for example, has proffered a basic rubric for property rights: “For markets to work . . . rights to each important resource must be clearly defined, easily defended against invasion, and divestible (transferable) by owners on terms agreeable to buyer and seller. Well-functioning markets, in short, require ‘3-D’ property rights.” Again, the 3-D property rights require

  1. Definability — clarity in boundaries;
  2. Defense — ability to be maintained;
  3. Divestibility — capacity for ownership cessation by the property holder.

This latter includes divestment by gift, divestment by exchange (giving on condition of receiving something), and inadvertent abandonment (loss by inattention) and purposive abandonment (essentially, gift to the unowned state, gift to “whoever will appropriate from an unowned state” or assault upon others, if the property abandoned is specifically disutile or inutile to all).

Libertarian economic policy rests on conceptions of property rights, centered on individual self-ownership and extending outwards to natural resources and produced goods. Many kinds of several property are allowed, but the society would not be de facto libertarian if there were extensive black markets in stolen goods of whatever kind, or if the state (or similar institutions) appropriated by decree all sorts of un-owned and dis-owned property, or engaged in mass expropriation (taxes) or piecemeal expropriation outside the court system, or in contravention of the NAP.

Which is the more complicated: for a right-wing person to understand a left-wing person or for a left-wing person to understand a right-wing person?

as answered on Quora:

It should be easier for a left-winger to understand right-wingers, rather than vice versa — based on a quick glance at the two ideological approaches.

Why? Well, the most sense I can make out of the left/right duality is this: the right emphasizes defense of self or in-group from the threat of other or out-group; the left emphasizes defense of others from self or out-groups from in-group.

By leftists’ very nature, you would think being open to new thoughts and alien (“outside”) ideas would entail more sympathy for rightists than rightists would have for them. And that was once the case.

Not any longer. Few leftists today can pass an ideological Turing test — but most non-leftists can.

This has been noted for some time, including by careful psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt.

What happened? The left captured the commanding heights of the culture, particularly major media, entertainment, and academic institutions. Everybody is more than familiar with leftist arguments. But leftists, em-bubbled in their institutional safe spaces, have been coddled. And they are therefore, to an astounding degree, pathetically and witlessly unaware of arguments against their positions.

Further, the types of people who adopt ideas based on social status have inverted. When I was young, it was late adopters who were “conservative,” and early adopters who dared buck trends who were leftist.

Nowadays, those people who by nature are culturally conservative adopt not traditional morality and politics but “progressive” morality and politics — because they are at the cultural center. And many of the folks prone to be early adopters now flock to perceived anti-leftist dogmas and positions.

It is quite hilarious.

Of course, both of the human propensities I identify as “left” and “right” are necessary and good for life in an extended order of civilization. But the vices of both — at the extremes, where sacrifices are insisted upon and ritually made — are quite dangerous:

right-wing vice: sacrifice of others to self, other groups to in-group and its hierarchies

left-wing vice: sacrifice of self to others, in-group to out-groups

We will see if our civilization will figure this out. And we will get over this stupid squabble between two necessary human propensities.


N.B. The illustration for this post is of two covers of a great book by a Catholic theologian. In it, he invited readers to go beyond the mere aping of another’s way of thought, but to “pass over” to theirs. And then come back, with greater understanding. “Passing over and coming back, it seems, is the spiritual adventure of our time.” This has not proved to be true. In politics, it has definitely not been the case, otherwise more folks could pass an ideological Turing test. John Scribner Dunne was not talking politics, of course — his interest was in religion and spirituality — but it is curious to see the political crowd most apt to decry dogma and boast of being ‘spiritual but not religious’ fail utterly to avoid dogma and foreswear spirituality.

What are some “politically correct” opinions or terms that makes you roll your eyes when you hear them?

…as answered on Quora….

I am going a bit “meta” with my list:

Woke. It means the same thing as “red-pilled,” but the people who use the term seem somnambulant to me, walking around the world not really understanding the reality of what they see, easily moved to herdish behavior.

“Woke” is a silly term. I often roll my eyes upon hearing it from an earnest leftist.

Gender. Most people mean “sex” when they say it. I know what gender theorists say they mean by it, but their pet term is incoherent. So most people who use the term just look like prudes who cannot bear to use the word “sex” because it is causes twitters and giggles and also because they are trying to pretend that biology is not of prime importance. These folks are mostly in denial about reality. They are asleep at the wheel of thought, far from “woke.” There is a deeper problem with “gender”; in fact, there are two: (1) the notion that gender is a “social construct” is offered as a dogma, with the idea of individual construction of one’s own gender being offered as salvific — without realizing that individual construction is part of the whole social constructivist process, and is indeed part of the problem; (2) “gender” is a categorizing concept, but individuation — the individual’s development of a sense of personal identity — is multiform, making the categorization idea behind “gender” a red herring . . . that is, there must be an infinite spectrum of personal and social adaptations to sexuality, and concentrating on falling into categories is something of a lie. Indeed, it is just another example of the left’s relentless collectivism, where group matters more than the individual.

I snort when I hear anyone use the word “gender.” Well, I used to. The word is so ubiquitous that my snorter is sore.

Prejudice plus power. This revision of the two almost universally accepted definitions of racism previously in use — which are the simple, everyday “hatred of or discrimination against persons on grounds of race” and the more philosophical “giving undue weight to matters of race, usually by applying some statistical or imputed group characteristic to individuals regardless of their individual applicability” — allows its users to engage in actual racism against people they believe (or pretend) have power. But the witless politically correct herds do not understand that power is not a simple thing in society, that almost everyone has power of some sort. A politician has political power, a magnate has the power that comes with wealth, a beautiful person has powers of attraction, the intelligent have powers that include but are not limited to knowledge and wisdom, and I have power to command the wealth I possess to exchange it on the market for the goods I wish to consume. These are all powers. And so too is the power that a mob commands, the power that a gun exerts in expert hands, and also the knife or bludgeon as wielded by a thug. Anyone can have power, and anyone can be a racist towards anyone else. “Prejudice plus power” is a schema for racism and other isms that show its users to be not very bright. But, because they are in an ideological mob, they exert a kind of social power that keeps this stupid dogma secure in the culture.

Such is political correctness.

White supremacy. Now here we have a term of opprobrium used by the “woke” politically correct mobs. Its users are vague as to its meaning. Is white supremacy a policy that keeps whites in power regardless of their demerits, or is it the belief that whites are racially superior?

It is not a term that white racists use for themselves. It is a term placed upon them. Look, I know racists of many races. I have inquired. Every white racist I have known is more than willing to recognize that individuals of other races are in fact superior in many ways to their very own dear selves; further, they readily recognize that, on average, blacks of West African descent tend to be physically superior to whites and that East Asians tend to be smarter than whites. Their racism does not seek to dominate other races, either. I have known no racists who wished to reintroduce slavery, or conquer other nations in foreign lands. Indeed, the confessedly white racists I have known tend to be against imperialism. It is the heart-on-sleave anti-racists who want globalist imperialism, White Man’s Burden and all (though they would never use that old phrase: how gauche!).

What the white racists whom the politically correct left hate are is, in truth, white separatists, not supremacists. Ethnonationalism is their game.

But “white supremacy” is the politically correct term. It is necessary. Why? Because leftists must hide from themselves and others the actually (not politically) correct idea of separatism. And why must they do that? Because it would be uncomfortable honestly to confront all the black separatists in their midst.

Further, by calling others white supremacists, their own supremacy — as whites — on the left might become obvious.

And so, also, they whip up their rather sick suicidal racism, which we now witness on the left in the ubiquitous phenomenon of white anti-white racism.

Of course, alt-right white ethnonationalism might make sense in Finland or Estonia or Hungary or some other Old World country, as ethnonationalisms are the rule all over the world, in Arabia and Japan and in most African countries. And almost no one really bats an eye. In America, however, ethnonationalism as a political agenda is silly and dunderheadedly stupid.

But a kind of white supremacy is a problem — the kind held to by the politically correct left. Leftists apply their idea of multiculturalism and forced ethnic diversity only against white-dominant nations. And why do they do this? Could it be because they actually do believe that whites are superior to darker skinned people? They believe that white nations must hold to standards they do not direct against others, because they think those others are benighted and in need of rescue. By the Supreme Whites. That is, the Baizuo, the White Left.

Political correctness is a moral disease of intellectual cowards and herdish bullies.

There are many more ugly, destructive politically correct concepts.

But these few get to the heart of the matter, I think.


…as answered on Quora….

I will try to be brief.

Facts for the case for “right-wing”? Fascism is nationalist and militaristic. This is usually considered “on the right.”

Facts for the case for “left-wing”: fascism grew out of socialism and socialist agitation, and fascists regarded their economic policy as neither socialist nor free-market. It is heavily dirigiste. Mussolini himself was a man of the left, and one of his main influences for his move away from Marxist socialism was the work of Georges Sorel. Was Sorel leftist? He was deeply anti-capitalist, and desired to bring together worker solidarity. Seems to be a man of the left, to me. But others may disagree.

And if you consider Nazis fascist (and that is, actually, a stretch) then the leftist element is quite strong.

Both fascists and Nazis were famously anti-communist. Nazis made a name for themselves for street fights with communist revolutionaries, and one reason for their rise to power was that Germans in the Weimar Republic judged them the lesser of two evils — compared to the openly revolutionary stance of the bloody-minded commies.

The communists definitely tarred Nazis with the “fascist” label, a move that continues to this day and which has muddied up much thought.*

Trouble here, is: what one starts out believing is not necessarily where one ends up. So an anti-revolutionary stance early in an ideological career does not mean that one isn’t a revolutionary as the State gets captured by one’s party. Similarly, socialists and folks of the left often talk peace, peace: but they get into power, their programs immediately prove slippery and unworkable, and quickly they come to mass executions and preservation of their power by violence. Where is the “left” or the “right” in that dialectic of power? One can start out “on the left” but quickly seem “on the right” without ever giving up any of one’s professed leftist beliefs.

Adolf Hitler never gave up on the Marxist interpretation of economics, for example. He just disagreed on the “internationalist” aspect of Marxian Communism, thinking it a fine thing to keep corporations around so long as they were heavily controlled. The Third Reich also established the most egalitarian welfare and labor policy ever achieved — that seems “left-wing,” eh?

But, the “right-wing” element may lie in the wealth that Nazis used to sustain the Third Reich — it did not come solely from “the rich” as such. It came from dispossessed Jews and conquered territory. Is that “right wing”? Maybe. (See Götz Aly, Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State [2005; 2006].)

Nazi Germany was totalitarian. And Hitler admired Stalin’s efficiency in handling his enemies. Is that left-wing or right-wing? Meanwhile, in actual fascist countries, totalitarianism was not really in operation. It was a more limited affair.

Yet it was Mussolini who said “All within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” I consider this extreme statism to be a leftist thing, not rightist. The traditional distinction is made between totalitarianism and authoritarianism, but, as conceived, fascism is theoretically quite totalitarian, anti-individualist. This all strikes me as left-wing.

You see, “left” and “right” are not easy to determine. Individualists like me have long harped on the difficulty of using the terms to map the ideological spectrum for one obvious reason: it is a directional binary that makes sense only in the context of where you are looking.

Mussolini, Giovanni Gentile, Alfredo Rocco and other paradigm-establishing fascists all strongly opposed laissez faire, any hint of laissez faire. Does that make them leftist? Is “laissez faire” rightist? Seems dubious to me. Laissez faire is a middle ground position among many competing statist programs, of both left and right variants. But your view may differ.

So, though facts can be brought to bear on this issue, it is not facts alone that can decide. The winds of doctrine blow many directions, including up and down as well as forward and back — not to mention left and right.

I advise being circumspect about using these terms. Individualists (like me) tend to regard the real issue as between unlimited state force and a rule of law limiting force. Left and right distract us on the way to confronting that issue.

And in all of this, we must remember that politicians (and this includes ideological activists in universities and on the streets and in voting booths) lie to themselves and lie to others, so mapping their “beliefs” is tricky. And all ideology has huge elements of fantasy, much of it unworkable. So, the outcome of their fantasied utopias is usually dystopian. And it would be wrong to call “utopia” leftist and “dystopia” rightist. In that gambit lies deep delusion.

* This propagandistic labeling may have prevented western liberal-ish societies from catching on to the horrors of Nazism early on, for ‘fascism’ was quite popular in America . . . until, suddenly, it wasn’t. Fascism’s affinity with Progressivism was quite clear, at the time, which Jonah Goldberg made hay of in his disastrously titled 2008 volume, Liberal Fascism.

N.B. The curious might wish to consult David Ramsay Steele’s forthcoming essay collection, The Mystery of Fascism. A simple Internet search will call forth free-to-read versions of the title essay, well worth the effort.

Paul Gottfried’s treatise, Fascism: The Career of a Concept, is a more thorough exploration, but since I have not finished reading it yet, I should perhaps only cautiously advise it.

Women have struggled their whole lives just to have rights and to be treated equally. Now they can’t even have their own identity, as men are now walking up and claiming to “identify” as female. Is it wrong to feel this way?

…as answered on Quora….

The first part of this question seems a bit iffy to me on grounds of fact and reasoning, yet I sympathize: it must be weird to invest a lot of your conception of yourself as deriving from womanhood, and then see a few men fard up their faces and mince about in clothing not normally worn by men . . . and call themselves women and even demand others to accept their self-categorizations. 

Well, their demands are ignoble and immoral, but, alas, commonly accepted and defended and even amplified amongst the lunatics that currently sit at the commanding heights of our culture. I am annoyed by all that.

As for their self-categorization? Very rarely are they convincing. And even at their best they are fake women.

But fake women have rights too, and they can certainly be given enough cultural leeway to do what they want without forcing others to “accept” them and “respect” them. In a free society, the right of free association entails the right of disassociation. You need not hang around them. Freedom of conscience and freedom of speech means that none of us should be forced to speak of them in ways they prefer. And it is a tragedy that these principles of liberty are now denied and flouted by the cultural left these days.

More importantly, I have trouble understanding how you are denied your “identity” by their shallow or deep fakes. You are you. They are whatever they are.

But then, you seem to be defining yourself (as your “identity”) not by your personhood and individuality, but by your commonality with members of your own sex. I find this bizarre. I define my identity not primarily by my commonality with other men, but by my differentiation. 

I see the whole focus of the question as buying into the presuppositions of those men who pretend to be women: as hollow, as a distraction from individuation by recourse to group membership and similarity with others.

It is a fine thing to extol one’s similarities with others, but that isn’t your identity. That is commonality. The whole postmodern movement focusing on “identity” strikes me as as fake as men pretending to be women by dress-up and mere assertion. 

For we are not talking about identity, we are talking about its opposite.

Indeed, the struggle of feminism, I would have thought — before I ditched using the term approvingly, anyway — is the struggle of individual women to be treated as individual persons despite their categorization by sex. The perversion of feminism, as I see it, has been the anti-individual promotion of the sex (modish folks’ll say “gender”) rather than the liberation of individuals from the confines of over-sexualized, constricting and collectivist expectations.

So, like the other response to this question that I noticed, I urge: “let it go.” Not because the fake women are not wholly unthreatening, but because they threaten something you should not take personally.

As for these fake women, my attitudes vary, person to person, expressing (as I have) pity, sympathy, laughter, indifference, pro forma respect and, yes, acceptance.* It all depends. On whether they allow me my freedom, or, instead, have some tyrannical agenda. And also whether they are doing themselves and their loved ones harm, even sans force.

We do live in strange, decadent** times.

* When I was young, I had a number of pre-op “tranny” friends — that is what they called themselves — and I liked them a lot, despite our lack of . . . commonality.

** Also when I was young, I extolled “decadence” even as I denied any precision to the term. Now I know what it means, and remain somewhat ambivalent — that is, I do not think decadence should be normed, even while I confess to being something of a decadent myself.

N.B. I am not at all certain that my response on Quora will be allowed to stand. And I could even be removed from the platform. Why? For merely referring to “fake women.” It will be interesting to see how it goes. Since posting I saw a number of other answers. They are uniformly bad.

Why is your right to own a gun more important than my right to life?

as answered by TWV on Quora:

It is not, of course. Your right to life is no less important than my right to bear arms. The question is misconceived.

Now, what is going on with this question? The querist is more than implying that his/her life is threatened by my gun. Which it would only be were the querist threatening me — that is, since I foreswear aggression, and the only threat my gun poses is against criminals, I cannot help but wonder if the querist might not be contemplating aggression.

And, in a sense, the querist is threatening me! How? By implying a nonsense claim about rights and (perhaps sub rosa) by setting up some bizarre excuse for citizen disarmament.

You see, anyone demanding a general gun confiscation and ban is advocating for force to be applied against all gun owners. Including me. Drolly, this confiscation would be carried out by people with guns, so the gun ban is likely to stop at citizen disarmament. (States rarely give up their guns.)

Now, here is the real deal of justice: your right to life and my right to life both entail our identical rights to defend ourselves. My self defense with a gun does not threaten any peaceful person’s life. Only a criminal aggression does. Since I am not aggressing by merely defending myself, a person parlaying his or her “right to life” as an excuse to take away my ability to defend myself performatively implies that his or her right to life is more important than mine. And thus undermines the very “deal” that equal rights entails. It is, in fact, a hint at — a bullying technique? — to take away my rights, and is thus at the very least a plan for aggression.

So you can see where this would lead, in America. Many gun owners would simply not submit. The gun confiscation would entail outright repression. And even if the government would institute a mere buy-back and a general (if passive) ban, the ban itself would serve as a drawn-out confiscation, in cases where cached weapons are revealed.

Because what gun prohibition entails is a mass aggression against peaceful people, the querist may have set out the terms to justify a civil war, a rebellion more dangerous than the armed revolution that started these United States. By the very terms of the nation’s founding, gun ban advocates prescribe tyranny. And, in an amazing play of effrontery, they tell us they do it all for our safety.

A mad suggestion.

Any advocacy of unequal basic rights is a recipe for aggression. And, now that I think on it, the question does resemble some similar argumentative gambits we have become familiar with from the college crowd, namely, the idea that “offensive words” amount to “aggressions” that justify defensive, retaliatory, or even preëmptive force. And yes, this is precisely how the “microaggression” concept has been used by radical “social justice” advocates. What they fail to see is that a true microaggression justifies only a microdefense.

Proportionality is key.

In other words, bad manners are justly countered only with good manners.

Perhaps what the querist is really worrying about is this: that the mere existence of guns in peaceful citizens’ hands gives political and legal cover to criminals seeking to acquire guns for use in offense. Thus, an argument might run, there is an externality to self-defense in gun ownership that negatively impacts innocents who do not own guns, and thus “indirectly” “threatens” innocents’ lives.

This much is true: there are plenty of externalities in society. And to handle those externalities most Second Amendment folks would indeed deny a general, equal right to own, say, nuclear weapons. Interesting point. I think one could plausibly argue that mere ownership of a nuclear device entails collateral damage, and thus does constitute a threat to innocents who would not aggress against the owner.

But this latter argument against nuclear and other large bombs as legitimate self defense cannot be applied to guns generally, for guns are designed to be pointed. Their very makeup, their constitution, internalizes external damage by their limited and directed nature.

Further, the weaker argument that the widespread ownership of guns makes it easier for criminals to criminally obtain and use guns is in exact parallel with free speech, like this:

  1. a general right to freedom of speech does make it easier for criminals to use speech to engage in fraud and conspiratorial planning of crimes, and
  2. were speech constricted, strictly controlled (perhaps by limiting freedom of association as well) it would be easier for governments to suppress criminal speech. Nevertheless, the
  3. outrageous totalitarian horror of such a Nanny State would likely convince even those most cowardly and fearful of criminal aggression that the risk of freedom would be worth it.

Which is why freedom and the equal rights to it make more sense than the counsel of the fearful and overcauion of the servile. We deal with criminals on a case-by-case basis, deeming that as enough, while personally and communally encouraging peaceful living.

And besides: personal armaments in peaceful people’s hands discourage crime. Not only do armed citizens defend themselves, they directly defend others. And merely by carrying arms they disincentivize criminals from engaging in aggression. The secular trend in crime over the last two decades has been down, even while the number of guns in private hands has doubled. That is a positive externality of widespread gun ownership. The right of gun owners to bear arms protects the rights to life of those who choose to go about defenseless.

The original question thus implied an inversion of the truth, and would better have been re-conceived as

How is my right to life enhanced by your right to bear arms?


Should there be straight pride?

as answered by TWV on Quora:

Probably not. But there should be no “straight shame,” either.

And, more importantly, most people should practice a bit of modesty, as part of humility and decorum, rather than “pride.”

The point of “gay pride” was, as near as I could make out, a reasonable and necessary push back against the anti-homosexual shaming that was once the norm. That the “pride” movement went overboard, as can be seen in too many of the gay pride parades I have noticed, is sad. By putting aside the question of being unashamed of one’s orientation and instead publicly glorying in indecency and immodesty, “gay pride” paraders have promoted shamelessness when shame be more apt.

You see, the original idea of not feeling shame for one’s desires is good. But the shameless public promotion of private, even lewd activities strikes me as bad, immoral, inconsiderate — what amounts to grand effrontery.

Why would straight people wish to emulate all that?

But straight people do need to defend their desires against the onslaught of anti-straight social forces.

I believe heteronormativity also needs to be defended.

Why? Because the norming of the activities that lead to procreation, to the maintenance of the species, is pro-life, humanistic, civilized. To oppose heteronormativity is to promote decadence.

Quite literally.

Of course, the reader will gather that I think heteronormativity need not be oppressive to the small population of sexual outliers. A society can norm heterosexuality without pride and overbearing condescension and exclusion. Heteronormativity can be humble, not proud.

It is a worse than a shame when it is, instead, shameless and tyrannical.

I believe it is imperative that straight people resist cultural decadence and re-learn modesty, responsibility and the blessing of human reproduction. Also, it might be helpful to relearn that sexual activity can be pleasurable within a context centered around the production of offspring and the raising of same.

But “straight pride” won’t do that. “Straight virtue” might.

twv, September 19, 2019

Do Libertarians encourage poor people to not tax rich people and wait for heaven in the afterlife?

as answered by TWV on Quora:

Poor people don’t tax anybody. States do, and these are usually run by fairly well-off people, and are enthusiastically supported by the bulk of middle-income and high-income folks. High levels of taxation, coupled with transfer programs, were created and are maintained by well-off people — indeed by many people who are themselves beneficiaries of taxed wealth.

The idea, implied in the question, that state aid programs are heaven on earth, is laughable.

Libertarians I know are deeply skeptical of aid programs, first for relying upon forced expropriation and second for turning the poor into dependents who will, after enrollment into “welfare,” subsequently never better themselves.

This outlook of seeing only misery in the lives of poor people were it not for transfer programs is deeply perverse, in no small part because it serves as the political version of post-sale selling technique: “like your pittances, peons, you are pathetic and hopeless and cannot do better — so appreciate the crumbs we fling your way . . . and always demand more and vote for us.”

twv, May 4, 2019

Do some gun owners really believe in the conspiracy that the government is planning to take away all the guns?

…as answered by twv on Quora….

Yes. Sure. But most believe it is not a conspiracy, exactly, but instead an open movement that wishes to accomplish civilian disarmament by incremental regulations and prohibitions.

And since that is precisely what many gun control advocates and former advocates have publicly stated as their goal and their method, these gun owners are not witless, are they? Of course they are reasonably skeptical of any further regulation.

I know that when I flirted with gun control ideas, a mass confiscation immediately popped into my head, and I discussed it with other gun control advocates.

Also, political promises of “we only wish to do this so much (and no more)” and objections on the order of “how dare you think we will go all the way!” of any new proposal are to be believed only by chumps. The income tax was promoted as something only a few of the very rich would pay, and even then not all that much. Within five years the rates on the top bracket went from 7 percent to 77 percent and people at the bottom went from paying nothing to paying 1 percent. Government “wants” to grow. So any small increase in regulation is rightly seen as merely a “first step.”

It is also a known thing that many people in government — as legislators and as functionaries — want a general civilian disarmament. It sure would make their jobs easier! They think.

But gun owners look upon all this with a growing sense of incredulity. Government functionaries cannot successfully do their jobs now, as was shown in the recent Parkland, Florida, shooting incident. And the War on Drugs failed to eradicate psychoactive drugs even from prisons, the most heavily guarded buildings in the country.

So that means that a gun confiscation — or any increased legal encumbrance upon citizen ownership — would surely do only one thing: decrease the ability of peaceful and lawfully disposed citizens to own guns, but not the violent and the criminal. It would basically leave people less safe.

Besides, Spencer’s Law applies, as increasing numbers of gun owners understand. Gun crimes have been going down in America as gun ownership has risen. And this applies to school shootings, too. If someone, conservative or progressive, is much exercised about “a rise in violence” in America, they are, for the most part, being driven by coverage and hysteria, not facts, figures, and sound risk assessment. The rise in demand for “doing something” is occurring as the need for “doing something” is diminishing.

Given this, gun owners wonder what could gun control advocates be thinking? Are they that credulous?The kids are, surely — yes. But some gun control advocates, they know, are indeed malign proponents of authoritarian government. Many gun control politicians and activists love tyrannical government as such. Just look at their methods and policies. Freedom has nothing to do with their agendas. They like robust government, vast redistributions of wealth, and massive regulation of every conceivable element of life, down to the drinking of sodas. They are illiberal. Every society has such people. Not a few of my friends and acquaintances would welcome a “benevolent” tyranny if it would get them the policies they desire.

To the extent that they advance their political program in public, gun control organizing is not conspiratorial. It is, instead, an open political assault on a free society. But some of these people are in government, and no doubt do have contingency plans in place to confiscate vast hoards of guns. So I guess even I believe in such a conspiracy.

But mainly I am politically opposed to the entreaties and counsel of fools.


I, of course, am harmless.
A question asked by a far-left Quora “space,” and which I answered —
and published on the libertarian “space” Liberty at Large.

The freedoms of a “typical capitalist society”:

You may choose your occupation, or trade. No one forces you into any particular form of work.

You are tempted by myriads of goods to enjoy, but are not forced to buy any one of them.

Instead of spending all your income, you can save wealth and invest in work that is not plotted out for you, but which you figure out yourself — that is, you can become an entrepreneur.

You can live simply, floating on the hard work of others (and the vast accumulations of wealth) and basking in the general tolerance of society, getting by with just a few contracts. Or you can immerse yourself in the world of commerce and public affairs, buying and selling expensive goods like real estate or antiques or what-have-you. You are not forced into any one manner of living.

Freedoms you do nothaveinclude the ability to command others’ work or attention by threat. You do not have the freedom from want, or from fear, or from anxiety about the future. You lack any freedom to force others to include you in their schemes for advancement. Generally, the rule in a free society as provided in capitalist ones is reciprocity.

This is a great liberator, sure, but many folks resent that freedom. They see that they can ruin their lives with bad choices, and wish to blame others for those choices. And “bad fortune” — misfortune — can happen to anyone. And capitalist societies — private property, “commercial society” — are in the promotion of quality and value, not in equalizing quality and value. Those prone to envy hate such free advance, demanding, instead, organized advance on theirterms, not people’s generally.

Of course, “typical capitalist society” is somewhat vague. “Typical” as in average or modal, or “typical” as in conforming to an ideal type?

Exploring the latter sort of notion, we begin to look upon the laissez faire element as typical in capitalism, as essentialand defining, while in history and usual experience so far, what is typical is mercantilism, protectionism, and mixed economy/transfer state (“bourgeois socialism”) elements. Not a few of the people who most love the freedom to be found in the extended order of a liberal capitalist society emphasize the non-government features, the emergent order, not the spoliation features and centrally planned attempts. Others, ambitious or impatient or resentful, seek to impose an order upon capitalism especially advantageous to them or constructed by their values. So we have the forms of capitalism now dominant: state capitalism, crony capitalism, welfare state capitalism, social democracy, and … what it all comes down to as it works out, The Churning State, where the transfers of wealth by regulation and plunder and “distribution” are so complex that special interests are only sure of their advantages gained in a few specific programs that they have special access to, the general tumult of interests having been so churned on issue-by-issue basis and by sector-by-sector privileges that the general interest becomes impossible even to conceive coherently.

But this latter is not freedom. It is chimerical. Perhaps the term for it should be chimerical capitalism.

I prefer the palpable freedoms of the liberty provided by limited government and the opportunities of voluntary interaction to the illusions of political promise and governmental machination.