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Are Libertarians Really Anarchists?

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There is a difference between technology and ideas, though. Technology can and should be protected by patent laws, as it requires a certain act of creativity for someone to find this particular application. If I develop a new method of extracting oil and start using it, then it would be wrong for others to copy it without my consent, and the government should enforce my property rights.

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There is a difference between technology and ideas, though. Technology can and should be protected by patent laws, as it requires a certain act of creativity for someone to find this particular application. If I develop a new method of extracting oil and start using it, then it would be wrong for others to copy it without my consent, and the government should enforce my property rights.
Agreed, but that's not applicable in this case. There were no patent infringements. Actually, not to put too fine a point on this, it is immaterial if you develop a new method for extracting oil: you must also publically lay claim to the method. Because anyone can independently discover those facts of reality that are embodied in a method, it is important that what is protected is your own creation, and not a similar creation that would be creatable by any rational and intelligent person. So the creation must also be legally registered.

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Irrelevant on the first account because any American laborers were compensated for their work.

Perhaps you will be so kind as to cite how Exxon, Mobil, Shell and Partex were compensated for their assets in Iraq which the government of that country nationalized in 1973.

Under capitalism, workers do not own the means of production -- that is socialism.
Then a socialized oil industry is what Iraq had after 1973.

The proper concern is over the rights of the owners of the oil wealth (which happens not to be Americans).

It happens not to be Americans only because those Americans who held oil resources in Iraq (the stockholders of Exxon, for example) were dispossessed of their property by the looting Baghdad government. Restoring their rights is no different than the U.S. restoring freedom of the seas in the Tripolitan War, 1800-1815.

Irrelevant on the second account because one cannot own an idea. It is not the function of a proper government to protect a citizen's ideas from being used by foreigners.

Note that I said "technology" not "ideas." I was referring to U.S. and European expertise and capital investment which discovered petroleum in Iraq and brought it to market. As Robert Tracinski has observed,

The Arab chieftains who ruled the region had no idea the oil was there and no idea what to use it for; they were still riding camels. But once the West discovered the oil and put it to use--running our factories and automobiles--the chieftains began to tax the oil. When that wasn't enough, they simply stole the oil fields, beginning with the de facto nationalization of the Saudi oil fields in 1950.
http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?JServSes...ws_iv_ctrl=1087

When it comes to taking back our oil, what’s good for Exxon is good for America.

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Perhaps you will be so kind as to cite how Exxon, Mobil, Shell and Partex were compensated for their assets in Iraq which the government of that country nationalized in 1973.
Shell is not our problem, it's a Dutch problem. Partex is a British problem. Perhaps you would be so kind as to show me the proof that Exxon and Mobil lost property in the nationalisation. And perhaps you will also provide the evidence that the altruistic war in Iraq -- which is taking place 30 years after the nationalization which the US government assented to -- has any relevance to protecting the rights of Americans. Remember, the war is not about the oil.
Note that I said "technology" not "ideas." I was referring to U.S. and European expertise and capital investment which discovered petroleum in Iraq and brought it to market.
Ah, well, now I understand the problem. That's simply a wholely false assertion regarding the US. Oil was first discovered and used by the natives centuries ago so the conceptual stuff ("oil is useful") is ancient lore that is well past the expiration date of any IP claim. Oil was specifically discovered to exist in Suleiman in the early 1900s by undercover Europeans, not by Americans. The discovery of oil is itself irrelevant, unless you stake a property claim on the land, which the geologists did not do. The US has not one thing to do with this: you may argue that the British, Russian, French, Dutch and German governments have a responsibility to defend the ancestoral claims of their citizens, and to their credit, the Brits are doing something to defend the long-lost property rights of their citizens. The remainder of those who ultimately bear responsibility for this war and the protection of someone's property -- the Russians, Frenchs, Dutch and Germans -- have decided not to defend any historic property claim. We have no obligation to sacrifices our lives and wealth for their sake.

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Shell is not our problem, it's a Dutch problem. Partex is a British problem. Perhaps you would be so kind as to show me the proof that Exxon and Mobil lost property in the nationalisation.

You'll find a number of web sources to confirm that fact, including this one:

The 1972 oil nationalizations in Iraq pushed the US and UK companies completely out of the country. Before that date, they held a three-quarter share of the Iraq Petroleum Company, including Iraq’s entire national reserves. After 1972, all that oil disappeared from their balance sheets.
http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/oil/2...aniesiniraq.htm

And perhaps you will also provide the evidence that the altruistic war in Iraq -- which is taking place 30 years after the nationalization which the US government assented to -- has any relevance to protecting the rights of Americans.
Justice demands that Iraq, like every other country that seized American property, be brought to account and made to restore the stolen goods. It is true that former oil men Bush and Cheney are not taking any steps in this direction. But it is no less true that if the U.S. withdraws now, Iraq will fall into the hands of pro-Iranian fanatics who will employ Iraq’s considerable resources in their war against the pro-freedom, pro-reason West. We will then have to turn around and re-conquer this evil nation to put an end to another state that sponsors terrorism. And at what cost? Thousands of more lives? Hundreds of billions of more tax dollars?

Remember, the war is not about the oil.Ah, well, now I understand the problem. That's simply a wholely false assertion regarding the US. Oil was first discovered and used by the natives centuries ago so the conceptual stuff ("oil is useful") is ancient lore that is well past the expiration date of any IP claim. Oil was specifically discovered to exist in Suleiman in the early 1900s by undercover Europeans, not by Americans.

The discovery of major oil deposits in Iraq in 1927 was the work of the Turkish Petroleum Company, a consortium of European oil companies. The government of Iraq granted a concession to the consortium to explore for and extract oil in return for a payment to the government of a royalty for every ton of oil extracted. The fact that U.S. companies entered into a similar agreement with Iraq's government at a later date does not mitigate the injustice of nationalizing their assets.

The discovery of oil is itself irrelevant, unless you stake a property claim on the land, which the geologists did not do.
The government of Iraq unilaterally broke its contract with Western oil companies and seized their assets. This is called socialism.

The US has not one thing to do with this: you may argue that the British, Russian, French, Dutch and German governments have a responsibility to defend the ancestoral claims of their citizens, and to their credit, the Brits are doing something to defend the long-lost property rights of their citizens. The remainder of those who ultimately bear responsibility for this war and the protection of someone's property -- the Russians, Frenchs, Dutch and Germans -- have decided not to defend any historic property claim. We have no obligation to sacrifices our lives and wealth for their sake.

I don't call a 1972 expropriation "ancestoral." Nor is it true that only non-U.S. companies were affected by nationalization. Mobil and Exxon also lost assets. Tracinski's rallying cry also applies to Iraq, present and future: "No oil for corrupt Saudi princes, and no more blood spilled by the terrorists they support."

Edited by Daedalus

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Do you think that the size of govenment and the nature of government are unrelated, or only loosely related?

They may be related, maybe not. You could have anarchy (no law) or no government and have no protection of individual rights - and it would be as bad as an all emcompassing government.

Generally speaking, a moral government would have just enough resources (raised by user fees, tolls, lotto, donations) to protect individual rights. If $10 billion or $10 trillion is required to accomplish this task is anyone's guess and it's not what Objectivists are concerned with. Libertarians are generally for the reduction of government at all costs or the privatization of law which is certainly more tedious.

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As a once Objectivist, then libertarian, then anarchist, then who-knows what, I might be able to shed some light on this. Libertarians are anarchists if they draw their premises to their rightful conclusions. If the banning of the initiation of force is a moral absolute, then anarchy is what is morally superior. If no one may initiate the use of force and a government is a monopoly on the use of force. The monopoly requires that the government initiate force in order to hold its monopoly, thus it is immoral.

However, I have come to the conclusion that morals in government don't really hold. If I instead look at the more general 'what is best for people', then it isn't clear that anarchy is morally superior anymore. I believe anarchy can work, just as governments can work, and criminal rings can work, and how totalitarian states can work. It is all a matter of whether the majority of the public supports the system (implicitly or explicitly).

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... a government is a monopoly on the use of force. The monopoly requires that the government initiate force in order to hold its monopoly, ..
Just to clarify, what do you mean by "initiate force"? Are you talking about a situation where the government searches property of an innocent, etc. Or, are you also speaking of the government (say) imprisoning a convicted criminal?

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Just to clarify, what do you mean by "initiate force"? Are you talking about a situation where the government searches property of an innocent, etc. Or, are you also speaking of the government (say) imprisoning a convicted criminal?

Not to put words in his mouth but what Libertarians typically mean is:

If I want to set up a militia and hunt down, judge and execute murderers the government will use force against me. They consider this to be the government initiating force.

mrock

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If the banning of the initiation of force is a moral absolute, then anarchy is what is morally superior. If no one may initiate the use of force and a government is a monopoly on the use of force. The monopoly requires that the government initiate force in order to hold its monopoly, thus it is immoral.

I can't resist the logic of this. But you forget a fundamental problem here. If there is no government (anarchy), you will have fights in the streets, robberies, etc. In the end you'll have the rule of the gun. You also have the rule of the gun to a degree if you have a government, that is correct, but at least this way it's at least partially under control. Without government you'd have warlords fighting with each other and organized crime taking over. It's sad but true. The idea of everything working out smoothly just seems naive to me.

It sounds nice and it follows from the absolute of banning the initiation of force. But just because you ban it in your head doesn't mean that others do so, too. A short look at history shows how eager humans are to use the sword where the pen fails.

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I can't resist the logic of this. But you forget a fundamental problem here. If there is no government (anarchy), you will have fights in the streets, robberies, etc. In the end you'll have the rule of the gun. You also have the rule of the gun to a degree if you have a government, that is correct, but at least this way it's at least partially under control. Without government you'd have warlords fighting with each other and organized crime taking over. It's sad but true. The idea of everything working out smoothly just seems naive to me.

It sounds nice and it follows from the absolute of banning the initiation of force. But just because you ban it in your head doesn't mean that others do so, too. A short look at history shows how eager humans are to use the sword where the pen fails.

I agree. There's a reason why we have referees in soccer games. If you've played soccer, you know how honest people tend to be about a ball going out of bounds, for instance.

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I would not describe myself as having that belief, but I do have a related belief, which is that the majority of libertarians do not adhere to a principle which excludes anarchy as a possibility. That means that the choice between restricted government (a proper Objectivist government) and complete anarchy is, for them, an arbitrary choice -- some of them may not feel like having anarchy, but there is no philosophical foundation to libertarianism that precludes it.

There are two main problems with anarchism.

1. It does not have a workable answer to the issue of National Defense.

I have had correspondence with David Friedman (son of Milton) on this matter and he has not resolved this problem to my satisfaction. And he is the most rational exponent of anarchism that I know of. I am convinced that anarchism has no satisfactory solution to the matter of National Defense.

2. Even assuming a more or less peaceful world, there is the problem of competing protection agencies. The only way that such agencies can function without civil war, is to appoint a Referee to settle disputes among them. This I claim is re-establishing government. So in order for anarchism to work, one would need a central authority to resolved disputes peaceably.

This is a reductio ad absurdum. Goodbye anarchism, hello minarchism (i.e. limited government).

Bob Kolker

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There are two main problems with anarchism.

1. It does not have a workable answer to the issue of National Defense.

I have had correspondence with David Friedman (son of Milton) on this matter and he has not resolved this problem to my satisfaction. And he is the most rational exponent of anarchism that I know of. I am convinced that anarchism has no satisfactory solution to the matter of National Defense.

2. Even assuming a more or less peaceful world, there is the problem of competing protection agencies. The only way that such agencies can function without civil war, is to appoint a Referee to settle disputes among them. This I claim is re-establishing government. So in order for anarchism to work, one would need a central authority to resolved disputes peaceably.

This is a reductio ad absurdum. Goodbye anarchism, hello minarchism (i.e. limited government).

Bob Kolker

Who says anarchism needs a solution for national defense?

Competing "protection agencies" is anarchism, and that's how it works. What image do you think the word "anarchy" conjures up? I associate it with endless multi-way turf war, just as is going on in the West Bank and Gaza, just as is going on in Afghanistan, etc.

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Not all libertarians are explicit anarchists. But all libertarians who are part of the libertarian movement of today, are at least _implicit_ anarchists. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of the libertarian movement. The reason the the libertarian movement started back in early 1970s was to make all kinds of people join a common cause for "freedom".

Now while this might, at a first glance, seem like a good idea, it in fact is not a good idea at all. Why? It doesn't matter, according to libertarianism, whether you ground your defense for freedom on a rational philosophy or on an irrational philosophy. This indifference implies that libertarianism view philosophy as ultimately irrelevant to the issue of freedom. Apparently, "freedom" is compatible with every kind of philosophy (Platonism, Christianity, Kantianism, Hegelism, etc) and, by the very same logic, the libertarians usually claim that libertarianism is compatible with every code of morality (Hedonism, Utilitarianism, Altruism, etc).

This is precisely why you can find both the friends of capitalism and the enemies of capitalism, that is the anarchists, within the same alleged movement for "freedom". This is why you can find both better people such as Ludwig von Mises or Henry Hazlitt and worse people such as Walter Block and Murray Rothbard in the libertarian movement.

What does the fact that the libertarian movement view essentially every philosophy or code of morality as being coherent with libertarianism and "freedom"? Well, for one thing it implies that every idea is equally true or false. How else would you explain the total indifference? And by the same logic every code of morality is equally true or false. This is _subjectivism_!

What does subjectivism imply regarding the case for freedom? Well, if there's no objective knowledge, no objective concepts, no objective set of values, then there's no objective ground for restraining peoples freedom of action in any regard whatsoever. If so, then there's (rationally) no legitimate ground for a government.

Thus the anarchists within libertarianism can always say in answer to those who want a limited government: "Who are you to say that there should be a government that forbids certain kinds of actions simply because you seem to think they consistute 'force'? Who are you to define 'force'?"

If truth, concepts, values is subjective then anarchism is the only consistent alternative within the libertarian movement. This means that "freedom" according to libertarianism means that: the individual should be free do to whatever he feels like - _without any restrictions or restrains of any kind_.

Further, if every philosophical defense for freedom is equally true or false, then this implies that freedom doesn't have or need any intellectual or rational defense. If that's the case, then it can ultimately only mean one thing, namely that the libertarian movement rest on the premise that freedom is good merely because the libertarians _feels_ it. (It is worth mentioning in this context that leading libertarians such as Walter Block often define libertarianism as simply "the non-aggression _axiom_".) Subjectivism is indeed an integral part of the libertarian movement.

This is why it's perfectly all right to say the the true _essence_ of the libertarian _movement_ is nihilism, subjectivism, amoralism and anarchism. This is also why it's perfectly in order to say that (the better) libertarians who don't agree with this assessment in fact fail to see the true essence of the libertarian movement just like some communists and environmentalists fail to see the true essence of their movements.

For further details on this subject read Peter Schwartz pamphlet _Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty_ . You can buy it at the Ayn Rand Bookstore.

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Who are you to define 'force'?"

If truth, concepts, values is subjective then anarchism is the only consistent alternative within the libertarian movement. This means that "freedom" according to libertarianism means that: the individual should be free do to whatever he feels like - _without any restrictions or restrains of any kind_.

So, you're saying that libertarians come together as a group, saying they are for "freedom" and against "force". However, they do not arrive at their ideas via a common philosophy. Therefore they all have different notions of what is meant by "freedom" and what is meant by "force". Is that an accurate summary?

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So, you're saying that libertarians come together as a group, saying they are for "freedom" and against "force". However, they do not arrive at their ideas via a common philosophy. Therefore they all have different notions of what is meant by "freedom" and what is meant by "force". Is that an accurate summary?

That is true and it constitute yet another problem with libertarianism as a movement. But that's not an accurate summary of what I said or meant to say.

The fundamental problem with the libertarian movement is, as I said, that by claiming that everone, regardless of the nature of their philosophy, is welcome into this movement, you're implying that freedom is compatible even with false philosophies or that it has no need of _any_ philosophical base whatsoever.

In either case you've got big problems.

In the first case you're attempting to pretend that every philosophy can defend freedom - even if some of them are false. In that case you'll end up as a subjectivist. Why? Well, what is subjectivism? In epistemological terms it is the person who says that what is true depends on who you're asking. What is true for may not be true for you and vice versa. Etc. Only a subjectivist of this kind would be so utterly indifferent to the truth and "tolerant" of the false.

In other words you'll end up by saying as the founders of the libertarian movement did: "I don't care why you think freedom is good. (In fact I don't even care what you think freedom is.) What's true for me is not necessarily true for you. And that's all fine and dandy. All I know is that I believe in freedom and you believe in freedom. So why not get together and fight for freedom? Perhaps we can make other people - also without any concern for their philosophical base - join us? Perhaps we can start an entire movement for freedom?"

Notice, by the way, what this subjectivist approach does for the libertarian movement. It establishes that freedom is not in any way more defendable than dictatorship. The subjectivist libertarians say: "Freedom is great because we feel it!" What statist can't say the same thing in their defense?

In the second case, you may not explicit hold the view that truth is subjective. But nevertheless you may think that freedom is not in need of any intellectual defense at all because you say that it's more or less obvious or self-evident that freedom is a good thing. In the end however, that's just another way of saying: "I can't prove that freedom is good. But why should I care to prove it? It's self-evident! I just know it!" Which is just another fancy way of saying: "I know it to be true, because I feel it!" So, in the end, you once again end up as a subjectivist.

Now, even if you're not an explicit anarchist, but a proponent of a limited government; you don't see the government not as a necessary evil but as something essentially good, you'll pretty soon be in a lot of trouble if you join the libertarian movement or start to sanction it by refering to yourself as an libertarian. Why? Because if you join the libertarian movement and thus sanctioned the subjectivist approach to ideas, then you've also sanctioned the view that your own philosophical defense for capitalism is not any better than anyone's else.

If so, then you'll eventually end up as an implicit anarchist. If you accept the view that there's no objective truth, then there's no objective validation for anything. There's no objective validation for any code of morality and thus no objective validation for any morally legitimate restrains of peoples actions. Thus there's no way to actually defend the existence of a government.

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