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Keeping the state out of your bedroom

October 29th, 2011

A standard theme in (propertarian) libertarian thinking is that personal freedom in matters such as choice of sexual partners goes naturally with economic freedom, defined as the lack of state interference with property rights. To summarise this in a slogan, “If you want to keep the state out of your bedroom, you should support keeping it out of your (and others) business as well”.  But this is not only a false equivalence, it’s self-contradictory, as can be seen by example.

Suppose A rents a house from B, who requires, as a condition that no-one in class C (wrong race, religion, or gender) should share the bedroom with A. Suppose that A signs the lease, but decides that this contractual condition is an unreasonable violation of personal freedom, and decides to ignore it. B discovers this, and seeks the assistance (or at least the acquiesence) of the state in evicting A. On a propertarian/contractual view, B is in the right, and is entitle to call in the state into the bedroom in question.

And, this is the fundamental problem. Is it A’s bedroom or C’s? If we understand the phrase in its normal sense, no-one including a landlord, has the right to tell you what to do in your own bedroom. But, from a propertarian viewpoint, C’s ownership rights over the bedroom, derived from and ultimately enforced by, the state, trump all other considerations.

Of course, this example stands in for many others like this one

If you really want personal freedom, you can achieve it only by constraining property rights.

Posted via email from John’s posterous

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  1. Julie Thomas
    November 11th, 2011 at 11:30 | #1

    Try not to patronise me Jarrah, I have raised 3 children who all achieved matriculation scores that would have gained them admission to a law faculty in any state so I am used to it but it isn’t a good look and often means you have to use some of those psychological mechanisms that lead to you to minimise the ‘truth’ of the other point of view.

    Nit-picking about semantics – like picking me up on the use of a noun to describe a verb – isn’t a useful mechanism in the process of achieving some sort of mutual goal that both right and left can accept.

    Hayek was aware that this is a problem – that the market doesn’t care about things like the cost of children or the feelings he referred to as ‘primitive’. He said that the market would crush these valuable things but thought that ‘voluntary associations’ would provide the answer.

    As, David McKnight says it is obvious that this isn’t working. Do you think that the market is supporting family values or is it crushing them?

    Again the idea of choice as a reasonable way of conceptualising what happens when humans make a decision is flawed because it is based on a flawed outdated understanding of what human nature is and how decisions are made. What model of human nature are using to guide your ideas about how people make choices?

    See this synopsis of Stephen Pinker’s ideas about human nature

    http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ff0616S.pdf

  2. Freelander
    November 11th, 2011 at 11:49 | #2

    What really convinced me that libertarianism was the way of the future was the opportunity to use their form of argumentation.

    Libertarian arguments often rely on that ancient method of proof — reductio add a-simpleton (translated to mean reducing your argument to your own stupidity).

  3. Julie Thomas
    November 11th, 2011 at 11:51 | #3

    Terje, c’mon, saying that your behaviour is selfish is hardly sticking the knife in. First, you haven’t actually renounced Ayn Rand’s philosophy and she very much values selfishness, so why would I assume that to call you selfish would be hurtful to you?

    I think you are fine to criticise the government for policies that ‘cost’ you but you need to acknowledge that government is the only way to counter the excesses of the market that occur because of ‘human nature’ or more accurately, because there are different types of human nature.

    The stronger psychologies, the head kickers, will always take over unless their behaviour is moderated in some way. They, like the girly girls also are a valuable and essential part of the make-up of a decent society but they are not wired to understand or care about the weak and we need some way to ‘encourage’? them to consider the rest of us.

    I have seen it happen so many times in communes back in the 70′s. All the hippie, ‘we just need to be good people and all will be well’ types of communes, went feral. If the community began with some sort of agreed upon aim, and/or underlying values, set up rules and a committee who were able to review the problems that arose from personality clashes, and had the capacity to generate compliance from the commune members, there was some success.

    It seems to me that the government, not just as something that you want to get rid of, is an essential part of a self-organising system.

  4. Julie Thomas
    November 11th, 2011 at 12:04 | #4

    Freelander, I recognise that thinking you describe and I can also appreciate the satisfaction that comes from interacting with people in that way.

    I cannot tell you how much benefit I gained from the psych degrees I did; managed to gain some insight into my own dysfunctional behaviours and an understanding of the thinking patterns that led me to the poor choices that I always seemed to make.

    An up to date first year psych text book is a really useful thing for anyone to read.

  5. Freelander
    November 11th, 2011 at 12:23 | #5

    Being a libertarian is never having to say your sorry, or your wrong.

  6. TerjeP
    November 11th, 2011 at 12:23 | #6

    Julie – Selfishness has virtue but I felt it was being used as a pejorative term. However moving on.

    I don’t advocate no government. I advocate minimal government. One that is constitutionally limited in scope and power. I think government is evil. However I also think it is a necessary evil. The trick is to have a small helpful dose rather than a high toxic dose. We past the recommended dosage around a century ago and should be cutting back if we want a strong and healthy society. If we don’t give a stuff about society we should just carry on as we are.

    You seem to think that the libertarian agenda is about having more plasma TVs. I don’t mind Plasma TVs but if that was all life was about then I would agree with you that it would be a pretty shallow existence. The fact is though that if we want more time with friends and family and we want to know our neighbours we need to be efficient with our work time and careful with our resources. Markets are in general the best way to achieve such efficiencies. However we then also need to make the choise to spend time with people instead of shopping for more stuff. Capitalism isn’t the same thing as consumerism.

  7. Freelander
    November 11th, 2011 at 12:23 | #7

    Notice, even when you use the wrong word or misspell.

  8. TerjeP
    November 11th, 2011 at 12:24 | #8

    p.s. My TV is still the old cathode ray tube type.

  9. Freelander
    November 11th, 2011 at 12:26 | #9

    Terje, you’re not really selfish, you’re unselfishly selfish, which is totally different. Quite admiral really.

  10. Freelander
    November 11th, 2011 at 12:27 | #10

    @TerjeP

    p.s. I’m still receiving my transmissions via the mercury fillings in my teeth.

  11. Julie Thomas
    November 11th, 2011 at 16:53 | #11

    Terje, why would you believe so passionately that government is inherently evil? None of the arguments I have read are in any way convincing.

    I think the libertarian agenda is about thinking that the libertarian person is the very model of the ideal human being and if everyone was just like you, all would be well.

    But you have nfi, do you? You haven’t read what I wrote? Or you didn’t understand it? Too far ouside your comfort zone? You do need to realise that the market is a dirty word now with some people.

    I’ve met a couple of ‘mum and dad investors’ who were told that share owning was the way to go; that would make them happy and safe in their retirement and now they are very anxious and definitely not happy. One man I heard of has been hospitalised with depression because he can’t cope with the insecurity. Too bad for him eh?

    Talking about tv’s, I now have a flat screen, second hand it is, but I paid for it with a quilt I made; no money changed hands; way to go eh? But digital sucks. I don’t know what does it, but sometimes the interference is so bad, it’s unwatchable -and not just during storms.

  12. TerjeP
    November 11th, 2011 at 18:21 | #12

    Talking about tv’s, I now have a flat screen, second hand it is, but I paid for it with a quilt I made; no money changed hands; way to go eh?

    I’m all for low tariff (tax free) trade. However I’m sure you weren’t flaunting the tax laws and you have declared this income on your tax declaration.

    You have said that the libertarian agenda is about making people into libertarians. It actually isn’t. It’s about making the government small and limited. I know libertarians from all walks of life. Some are self employed whilst some work for others. Some earn a lot whilst others earn very little. Some are very materialistic whilst others live frugal. Some wear suits and look conservative whilst others dress like hippies and are into body piercing. Some are married whilst some are not. Some do drugs whilst many are very straight. Some smoke, most don’t. Some are young, some are old. Libertarianism is a political philosophy not a cultural philosophy. They don’t dress a certain way or really have anything in common beyond their political philosophy.

    Why do I believe government is evil? It’s really rather simple. I think people own their own lives and have a right to their rightfully acquired property. Forcing people to do stuff is wrong. Government is the only agent in society that can legally initiate force against people other than in self defense. Forcing innocent people to do stuff or to surrender their property against their consent can have utility but it isn’t ethical. Hence government is evil. It may in some regards be a necessary evil but it is still evil.

  13. TerjeP
    November 11th, 2011 at 18:24 | #13

    “flaunting” should say “flouting”.

  14. Freelander
    November 11th, 2011 at 20:57 | #14

    Would a mask be “flaunting” or “flouting” or both?

  15. Freelander
    November 11th, 2011 at 21:07 | #15

    TerjeP :

    … Libertarianism is a political philosophy not a cultural philosophy. They don’t dress a certain way or really have anything in common beyond their political philosophy. …

    But they all wear masks? Don’t they?

  16. Tom
    November 11th, 2011 at 21:56 | #16

    @TerjeP

    “Capitalism isn’t the same thing as consumerism.” this is true but capitalist have to admit that they benefit if consumer benefits, for example if consumers can buy more things there would be more demand in the market and thus creating economic growth or boom which is beneficiary for the capitalist as well. The only thing that is pulling the string is that consumers are generally workers which is a cost and an asset for the business that is why it is hard to award workers even though they know if every business do actually pay workers well the economy will be much better off.

    Businesses loves to use cost reduction method in wages using inflation rather than improvements in technology and human skills as a cost reduction method; but the sad thing is a lot of the businesses are forced to use these methods as their big competitors are using it thus forcing them to do it as well. If they don’t follow this, there is a bigger chance for small and even medium businesses to go bust, but this is toxic for the economy in the long run. That’s why governments would have to come in and intervene (I might be radical but I think I am at least trying to be considerate and fair). If one is to not be biased and have really looked into the US and Japan, they’ll notice that one of the main reasons for their economic disaster is wage suppression. Japan had shown economic growth in their statistics but their domestic demand is so poor that it is the only industrialised country in the world facing a deflation; while the collapse of US is nearly inevitable. You might think that it is all the US government’s fault but you have to think why would the US government have to continous run budget deficits while economic growth is only averaged at 1.8% for the past 30 years. Is the US government so inefficient that all their budget deficits went down the drain instead of stimulating the economy for the businesses? Why is the Federal Reserve setting rates nearly at 0% but the economy’s demand is still so low and many economist from both sides are speculating a recession?

    I would think that liberaltarians would like Bush more than Clinton, but all the ideal tax cuts still didn’t generate a perfect market (in fact it is in a brink of collapse) and the budget is far worse than Clinton’s era? I believe that any human that is moderate doesn’t have confidence in their beliefs, so being radical is not a bad thing because it meant that a person is confident in their beliefs and ideology but one should not ignore real events.

  17. TerjeP
    November 11th, 2011 at 21:58 | #17

    Freelander – I’ll ask you once before I ask John Quiggin. Cease using my photo as your avatar.

  18. TerjeP
    November 11th, 2011 at 22:14 | #18

    Tom,

    I believe you are somewhat confusing capitalists (as in those that own capital) with capitalists (as in those that advocate capitalism). This somewhat clouds the rest of your discussion.

    In terms of inflation you seem very muddled. In the time prior to fiat currency you might have made an argument that inflation was due to some business conspiracy but governments long ago appropriated the power to create currency and retain a monopoly position in this regard in nearly every country (with a few notable but largely irrelevant exceptions). Whether we have inflation or if we have deflation it is dictated entirely by government monetary policy.

    I did not like Bush. He lied to the American people about the need for a war with Iraq, he introduced the patriot act, his prolific waste of taxpayers money only looks modest because his successor has spent even more recklessly. On foreign policy he basically did the opposite of what he said he would do during his original election campaign. He slapped trade restrictions on steel. Basically he was a run of the mill centrist. Clinton at least undertook some meaningful welfare reforms and balanced the budget.

  19. Freelander
    November 11th, 2011 at 23:33 | #19

    TerjeP :
    Tom,
    …I did not like Bush. He lied to the American people about the need for a war with Iraq, he introduced the patriot act, his prolific waste of taxpayers money only looks modest because his successor has spent even more recklessly. …

    Oh come on. You’re giving us Libertarians a bad name TerjeP. Anyone competent in basic arithmetic knows that Bush wasted way more than Obama. Bush is the reason the US has a Greek-like debt. Too bad they are struggling to put together anything close to a coherent government to address that debt. Borrow and Spend that was Reagan, then Bush I, and after that was fixed, Bush II and now with a Republican Congress using tax expenditures to finally break the Union.

  20. Freelander
    November 11th, 2011 at 23:34 | #20

    Oops, back in disguise…

  21. John Quiggin
    November 12th, 2011 at 04:53 | #21

    Freelander, please knock it off.

  22. Chris Warren
    November 12th, 2011 at 07:45 | #22

    @TerjeP

    I believe you are somewhat confusing capitalists (as in those that own capital) with capitalists (as in those that advocate capitalism).

    You should have stopped when you were ahead.

    Those who own capital generally advocate capitalism.

    Those who advocate capitalism generally lust for capital.

    Distinguishing between capital as cash, and capital as advocacy, misunderstands the fact that all reality can always be technically distinguished from its own advocacy – like a stick from its shadow. But political economic reality determines political economic ideology.

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