Libertarianism

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:25 am UTC

Are there any other moral justifications for how private property comes to be owned than John Locke's? His philosophy seems to rely on the labor theory of value, where the land is inherently without value and only labor adds value, and therefore the person who does the work deserves the land, which I believe the labor theory of value is fully debunked when it comes to natural resources.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:37 pm UTC

Locke/Nozick took that approach, yeah, but it's a theory from a different era. Nowadays, there is comparatively little unclaimed land that one actually could simply lay a claim to and start improving. Homesteading used to be a thing, and so it arguably had some applicability then, but those days are mostly gone.

Nowadays, instead of the deontological approach, most folks go for a consequentialist justification.

It does seem somehow less satisfying in certain respects. There's definitely a historical inequality involved, in that brand new land claims were much easier in the past, particularly for certain individuals, than they are today. I suppose it's inevitable to some degree, in that land is scarce and the population has increased, but there is a certain appeal in the idea of justifying everything from a blank slate onward, rather than only addressing the modern day.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:46 pm UTC

For a moral justification of private property ownership today in a libertarian system you would have to show that the property was acquired through just means to begin with, and transferred through voluntary contracts. Homesteading doesn't seem justifiable unless you assume labor theory of value, which wasn't correct at the time.

I haven't really read a libertarian argument of private property ownership that doesn't assume Locke's view of natural law, or just argue on utilitarian grounds, dismissing other possibilities besides "the government owns it and decides what to do with it" and declaring them unable to work, and settling on private property as the only possible solution if we value freedom.

So, are there any moral argument in favor of private property that don't assume natural law?
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 18, 2018 4:06 pm UTC

I don't think that anyone holds that all property was justly acquired to begin with. Pretty much people just buy title insurance in case it turns out that oops, this land was totally not his to sell.

It's sort of a messy patch, but history is incredibly messy, and it doesn't seem as if rectifying past wrongs is a significant concern for any philosophy or political party. Native Americans might have reservations respected now(though sometimes that's still a mess), but no party is strongly concerned with unraveling every past misdeed.

The same is largely true of non-property misdeeds. A murder that's gone unsolved long enough that everyone involved has died of old age? Probably not going to get any attention, even if someone's family was greatly disadvantaged as a result.

So, are there any moral argument in favor of private property that don't assume natural law?


Consequentialism does not. It derives it's arguments in favor of private property from the current day results being more advantageous than otherwise. This is largely similar to utilitarianism, and those are fairly common moral systems in use. It doesn't really address all transactions back to an unclaimed state, but it doesn't need to.

As an aside, natural law/labor theory of value/libertarian labor mixing are subtly different. All related, but the differences are important here. The labor theory of value is that value is set based on the labor invested into something. This is generally not a libertarian principle, even with regards to initial ownership.

Natural law is a system of inherent rights stemming from god or nature or what have you. Most modern politics, systems, etc hold to some standard of rights, though they might not hold to the same ones. Libertarianism is mostly notable for taking a particular individualistic approach to rights. In short, the idea that generally, people have a freedom of speech, but Bob does not poses a problem for Libertarians, whereas it may not for other systems.

Labor mixing, the basic idea from Locke's original owner criteria, is basically using the example of an individual browsing in the woods and formalization of the custom of "dibs". You see an acorn, pick it up, prepare it, cook it, and eat it...once it's inside you, it's definitely yours. So, when did it become yours? The conclusion Locke reaches is when you pick it up. You get a natural resource once you put effort into collecting it. Okay, eating acorns is a bit odd, but that's his example. I think it's reasonable when describing gathering in the woods on that scale. However, collecting one acorn does not grant ownership of the entire tract of trees or all the acorns, merely the acorn you picked up. At least, that's how people work in practice.

I don't have any particular idea with the idea of land originally being claimed by whoever bothered to clear the land, plow a field, and build a house there(US homesteading rules explicitly required living/farming/improvement over several years). It's a reasonable way to handle distribution of a ton of unclaimed land. We just really don't have a great deal of unclaimed land today, so it's of questionable relevance in the modern age.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Wed Jul 18, 2018 4:27 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:As an aside, natural law/labor theory of value/libertarian labor mixing are subtly different. All related, but the differences are important here. The labor theory of value is that value is set based on the labor invested into something. This is generally not a libertarian principle, even with regards to initial ownership.


Labor theory of property is what I'm talking about. The view of Locke is that an acorn on the ground has no value, but when you pick it up it gains value. This is then extrapolated to land, which assumes that the value of that land is equal to the effort you put into it.

Also, see this article from mises.org, where they literally call land "valueless":

https://mises.org/library/justice-and-p ... itarianism
The pioneer, the homesteader, the first user and transformer of this land, is the man who first brings this simple valueless thing into production and use.


Tyndmyr wrote:Consequentialism does not. It derives it's arguments in favor of private property from the current day results being more advantageous than otherwise. This is largely similar to utilitarianism, and those are fairly common moral systems in use. It doesn't really address all transactions back to an unclaimed state, but it doesn't need to.


The consequentialist arguments are the utilitarian ones I was referring to, which are pretty much all just a bunch of handwaving. Like I said, they basically assume government vs private property is the only option, dismissing government as obviously bad assuming it requires a central ruling body, and assuming private property is obviously good assuming that ownership won't become too centralized. They don't consider any of the other systems of property rights in existence; they completely fail to explain why property rights based on title are better than property rights based on occupation.

It's neither a moral argument nor a part of a greater utilitarian philosophy; it's basically just saying "Well, because it's the best system we know of, we should go for it", where it is assumed that capitalism is purely a positive and government is purely a negative, and the power granted by property ownership is ignored. It's hard to see someone coming up with those principles without actually starting from the assumption that private property ownership is the only correct conclusion.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 18, 2018 4:35 pm UTC

I think the issue Thesh is concerned with is that, if libertarianism is as concerned for respecting private property rights as it is, it's important that we know what is actually whose rightful property. If some thug walks into a rich person's mansion, kills the occupants, and starts living there, he pretty uncontroversially doesn't have private property rights to the mansion, because it's not really his property at all, he's just unjustly occupying it. If he sells the mansion to someone else and walks away with millions of dollars, that someone else also, pretty uncontroversially, doesn't have private property rights in the mansion, because the thug who first stole it didn't own it in the first place to sell it to him.

But... did the rich person really have rights to it either? Sure, they paid someone money for it, but did that someone rightfully own it to be able to sell it? Maybe they paid someone money for it too, but did that person rightfully own it either? In order to say that we must respect rich guy's private property rights to his mansion, we need to know that it is actually in fact his mansion, and not stolen property illegitimately sold to him.

That leads ultimately back to the question of how the mansion originally became anyone's private property, which is what Thesh is on about. At some point that plot of land and all the building materials were just stuff sitting around in the natural world not exclusively owned by anyone. How did they come to be exclusively owned by anyone? Were they, perhaps, stolen from the public domain? We need to know that that's not the case if we're to justify respecting rich guy's private property rights to his mansion, because if that is the case then it's not actually his mansion in the first place at all.

ETA:
Thesh wrote:they completely fail to explain why property rights based on title are better than property rights based on occupation.

I myself have an argument against property rights based solely on occupation, which is basically that it's reasonable for people to want to be able to walk away from their property for a while and come back and have it still be their property after not occupying it for a bit, and there is a Sorties-like problem in settling the question of when property has been vacated enough that it is no longer their property. Pretty uncontroversially, going to work for the day shouldn't count as abandoning my home, and lose my property rights in it. Taking a 50 year vacation though, leaving the house empty and untended meanwhile, maybe should? But what about a five-year vacation? A week? A year? A month? How long must I stop occupying it for it to stop being my property, and how can you justify that cutoff point?
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 18, 2018 4:54 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:As an aside, natural law/labor theory of value/libertarian labor mixing are subtly different. All related, but the differences are important here. The labor theory of value is that value is set based on the labor invested into something. This is generally not a libertarian principle, even with regards to initial ownership.


Labor theory of property is what I'm talking about. The view of Locke is that an acorn on the ground has no value, but when you pick it up it gains value. This is then extrapolated to land, which assumes that the value of that land is equal to the effort you put into it.

Also, see this article from mises.org, where they literally call land "valueless":


Mises uses some strange word choices sometimes. Empty land has value in accordance with how pretty much everyone sees value. It may not be productive at present, but having the land is preferable to not.

It would be more accurate for them to say that they are making the land productive.

Tyndmyr wrote:Consequentialism does not. It derives it's arguments in favor of private property from the current day results being more advantageous than otherwise. This is largely similar to utilitarianism, and those are fairly common moral systems in use. It doesn't really address all transactions back to an unclaimed state, but it doesn't need to.


The consequentialist arguments are the utilitarian ones I was referring to, which are pretty much all just a bunch of handwaving. Like I said, they basically assume government vs private property is the only option, dismissing government as obviously bad assuming it requires a central ruling body, and assuming private property is obviously good assuming that ownership won't become too centralized. They don't consider any of the other systems of property rights in existence; they completely fail to explain why property rights based on title are better than property rights based on occupation.

It's neither a moral argument nor a part of a greater utilitarian philosophy; it's basically just saying "Well, because it's the best system we know of, we should go for it", where it is assumed that capitalism is purely a positive and government is purely a negative, and the power granted by property ownership is ignored. It's hard to see someone coming up with those principles without actually starting from the assumption that private property ownership is the only correct conclusion.


Someone ultimately has the choice of "yes this will happen on this land" or "no it wont". Whoever that is owns it. If it belongs "to the people", but ultimately a government agency has all the control, then for all practical purposes, that government agency owns the land.*

Private property is generally assumed to contain within it the various schemas of multiple owners. Libertarians do not generally have any problems with corporations or other abstract entities owning land or other properties. A bunch of folks form a co-op and buy land? Cool, the co-op is the legal owning entity, and it still falls under private property so far as libertarians are concerned.

Occupation-based ownership makes the entire establishment of renting difficult. Not everyone has the assets to buy a home, business, or what have you. In addition, many people want to specialize their activity. Such specialization is basically the foundation of the modern economy, and is often extremely advantageous. So, you might be better served by focusing on your particular business and renting space, rather than dealing with the responsibilities of ownership. If the lender and renter are both satisfied with their voluntary contract, then Libertarianism would see no reason to intervene.

*This can be a problem in some cases even with existing laws. If the government can decide to seize your land to buy a shopping mall on the basis of it providing more tax dollars, then your control over your land is less strong, and it may only take a bit of garden variety corruption to compromise your ownership. Eminent domain is generally viewed by libertarians with distrust for this reason.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:08 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I think the issue Thesh is concerned with is that, if libertarianism is as concerned for respecting private property rights as it is, it's important that we know what is actually whose rightful property. If some thug walks into a rich person's mansion, kills the occupants, and starts living there, he pretty uncontroversially doesn't have private property rights to the mansion, because it's not really his property at all, he's just unjustly occupying it. If he sells the mansion to someone else and walks away with millions of dollars, that someone else also, pretty uncontroversially, doesn't have private property rights in the mansion, because the thug who first stole it didn't own it in the first place to sell it to him.

But... did the rich person really have rights to it either? Sure, they paid someone money for it, but did that someone rightfully own it to be able to sell it? Maybe they paid someone money for it too, but did that person rightfully own it either? In order to say that we must respect rich guy's private property rights to his mansion, we need to know that it is actually in fact his mansion, and not stolen property illegitimately sold to him.

That leads ultimately back to the question of how the mansion originally became anyone's private property, which is what Thesh is on about. At some point that plot of land and all the building materials were just stuff sitting around in the natural world not exclusively owned by anyone. How did they come to be exclusively owned by anyone? Were they, perhaps, stolen from the public domain? We need to know that that's not the case if we're to justify respecting rich guy's private property rights to his mansion, because if that is the case then it's not actually his mansion in the first place at all.


Oh, definitely valid. In practice, those are mostly handled by statutes of limitations.

On a moral basis, we can agree that a great many historical actions regarding property rights were, regardless of statues of limitations, wrong.

Essentially no modern system of politics seeks to uproot all historical claims, requiring a positive proof of all moral decisions involved to justify their claims. Libertarianism is no exception. Ideally, it seeks to ensure that ownership rights are respected now. It cannot be held responsible for the mis-deeds of all prior systems. Perhaps some particular misappropriates are recent or large enough to catch the public eye and those can be fixed, but it seems unlikely that any system can or would fix all past wrongs. It ain't gonna happen if you elect Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, or anyone else. It might not even be possible, the scope of it would be enormous, and the costs of calling all property claims into question would be significant.

Also, "stolen from the public domain" is odd, at least from a libertarian pov. If there's no competing claim, why should a person not build a house? If we're assuming a time when unclaimed land is widely available, someone who homesteads in unclaimed territory is not stealing from anyone. If you have competing claims, well, there you need government to sort them out. If no claims exist...go nuts. The public, for libertarian purposes, is usually treated as simply a large number of individuals. You can't really have a public interest without any individual interest in the same thing.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:23 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Someone ultimately has the choice of "yes this will happen on this land" or "no it wont". Whoever that is owns it. If it belongs "to the people", but ultimately a government agency has all the control, then for all practical purposes, that government agency owns the land.*


Land can be owned by the public, and the public can establish bodies that rent out the land, pay the rent to the public, but have no power over the land other than that. The government has the role of a property manager, except maintenance is left up to the tenant, who decides what to do with the land. From both a moral and utilitarian perspective, this seems superior to private property ownership. It avoids all the problems with rent seeking and inequality, while also leading to more efficient pricing, and by forcing people to pay for it or surrender it, it leads to.

You are looking at government from a very specific way that should not be assumed - i.e. an independent body that is ran by some group of elites.

Tyndmyr wrote:Occupation-based ownership makes the entire establishment of renting difficult. Not everyone has the assets to buy a home, business, or what have you.


What do you mean buy a home? Occupation-based property rights state that if a home is sitting there empty, you can have it for as long as you live in it. This is pretty much the natural state of the world.

Tyndmyr wrote:In addition, many people want to specialize their activity. Such specialization is basically the foundation of the modern economy, and is often extremely advantageous. So, you might be better served by focusing on your particular business and renting space, rather than dealing with the responsibilities of ownership. If the lender and renter are both satisfied with their voluntary contract, then Libertarianism would see no reason to intervene.


Specialization doesn't require private property ownership, and if you accept the moral argument that the Earth belongs to everyone, including all future generations, and you accept that the land has value, then to acquire it justly you would need to enter into a mutually-beneficial arrangement with all future generations at the time the land is appropriated, not just some of the people at the time.

Pfhorrest wrote:I myself have an argument against property rights based solely on occupation, which is basically that it's reasonable for people to want to be able to walk away from their property for a while and come back and have it still be their property after not occupying it for a bit, and there is a Sorties-like problem in settling the question of when property has been vacated enough that it is no longer their property. Pretty uncontroversially, going to work for the day shouldn't count as abandoning my home, and lose my property rights in it. Taking a 50 year vacation though, leaving the house empty and untended meanwhile, maybe should? But what about a five-year vacation? A week? A year? A month? How long must I stop occupying it for it to stop being my property, and how can you justify that cutoff point?


When it comes to cut-off points, there is never a moral justification, only utilitarian ones. Laws against adults having sex with minors are a good example here - age doesn't define the morality, but by banning it you avoid all of the problems with "Well, was this 25 year old having sex with a 14 year old really a problem in this specific case?" At some point you just have to decide what's taking things too far.

This is why I generally prefer a market socialist perspective where the land is rented. If you want to keep paying, I don't care if you keep a summer house. Want to rent it out the rest of the year? Fine, you still have to pay rent to the public as long as you hold the lease.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:23 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Essentially no modern system of politics seeks to uproot all historical claims, requiring a positive proof of all moral decisions involved to justify their claims. Libertarianism is no exception. Ideally, it seeks to ensure that ownership rights are respected now. It cannot be held responsible for the mis-deeds of all prior systems. Perhaps some particular misappropriates are recent or large enough to catch the public eye and those can be fixed, but it seems unlikely that any system can or would fix all past wrongs. It ain't gonna happen if you elect Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, or anyone else. It might not even be possible, the scope of it would be enormous, and the costs of calling all property claims into question would be significant.

Just to be clear, is this thread for discussing the Libertarian Party of American politics specifically, or for libertarian as an abstract political philosophy? I've been assuming the latter, in which case it doesn't really matter if Democrats and Republicans share the same faults in their political philosophies and there are no other viable political parties who don't share those faults. On an abstract level anyway, considering the wide range of philosophical possibilities, all three of those parties have a lot more in common than they have different between them.

Also, "stolen from the public domain" is odd, at least from a libertarian pov. If there's no competing claim, why should a person not build a house? If we're assuming a time when unclaimed land is widely available, someone who homesteads in unclaimed territory is not stealing from anyone. If you have competing claims, well, there you need government to sort them out. If no claims exist...go nuts. The public, for libertarian purposes, is usually treated as simply a large number of individuals. You can't really have a public interest without any individual interest in the same thing.

If you allow for groups of people to be owners of property, then you can consider the group of all people ("the public") to be the owner of property. If that group initially owns everything, even if they're not occupying it (because ownership is not based on occupation, we're assuming), then an individual taking something for their own is stealing it from that group. It's the same as if a smaller, more well-defined group of people owned a smaller but still large amount of land and weren't using most of it: if one member of that group goes out and takes part of it that's not being used, the group as a whole still owns it nevertheless, and can tell him to relinquish occupation of it if they later decide.

Since, as you allude to upthread, property is just that to which you have rights, and an owner is just whoever has rights over a thing, then the only way the unsettled natural world would not initially belong to the public would be if the public had no rights to it, in which case taking part of it for private property would be even more illegitimate. If it's initially publicly owned, then there is at least the possibility of transferring ownership from the pubic to an individual somehow; but if it's initially unowned, there is nobody with rights to it who can transfer them to any individual, and it's all off-limits forever. That would be absurd, so, initial public-ownership it is. The remaining question is how it's possibly to go from everything being publicly owned (from everyone having inclusive rights to everything) to some things being privately owned (to some people having exclusive rights to some things).
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:53 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Essentially no modern system of politics seeks to uproot all historical claims, requiring a positive proof of all moral decisions involved to justify their claims. Libertarianism is no exception. Ideally, it seeks to ensure that ownership rights are respected now. It cannot be held responsible for the mis-deeds of all prior systems. Perhaps some particular misappropriates are recent or large enough to catch the public eye and those can be fixed, but it seems unlikely that any system can or would fix all past wrongs. It ain't gonna happen if you elect Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, or anyone else. It might not even be possible, the scope of it would be enormous, and the costs of calling all property claims into question would be significant.

Just to be clear, is this thread for discussing the Libertarian Party of American politics specifically, or for libertarian as an abstract political philosophy? I've been assuming the latter, in which case it doesn't really matter if Democrats and Republicans share the same faults in their political philosophies and there are no other viable political parties who don't share those faults. On an abstract level anyway, considering the wide range of philosophical possibilities, all three of those parties have a lot more in common than they have different between them.


Both, to some degree. It's a political philosophy either way, and I'm not aware of any country successfully untangling such a historical knot in a manner that is definitely fair to all concerned. I think it's usually just accepted as an intractable problem, and in any case, the problem of whatever political system was in use at that time, rather than a problem with libertarianism itself.

Also, "stolen from the public domain" is odd, at least from a libertarian pov. If there's no competing claim, why should a person not build a house? If we're assuming a time when unclaimed land is widely available, someone who homesteads in unclaimed territory is not stealing from anyone. If you have competing claims, well, there you need government to sort them out. If no claims exist...go nuts. The public, for libertarian purposes, is usually treated as simply a large number of individuals. You can't really have a public interest without any individual interest in the same thing.

If you allow for groups of people to be owners of property, then you can consider the group of all people ("the public") to be the owner of property. If that group initially owns everything, even if they're not occupying it (because ownership is not based on occupation, we're assuming), then an individual taking something for their own is stealing it from that group. It's the same as if a smaller, more well-defined group of people owned a smaller but still large amount of land and weren't using most of it: if one member of that group goes out and takes part of it that's not being used, the group as a whole still owns it nevertheless, and can tell him to relinquish occupation of it if they later decide.


Group ownership requires specific assent. You're only part of the co-op if you want to be part of the co-op. The same is true everywhere else. Libertarianism takes issue with the traditional hand waving of a "social contract" that legitimizes many actions on behalf of "society" because it really doesn't meet the standards for a contract. Society as a whole isn't a legal entity, as it's not actually a thing everyone explicitly agrees to join. Even a government probably doesn't meet that standard(though it's closer).

The focus on voluntary action and strict contract law means that groups that are not well defined gain no standing from those who do not explicitly support them. So, you can't really steal from anyone unless there's a victim.

This is part and parcel of a general abolition of victimless crimes as a whole. In some cases, things are structured similarly, just with a more explicit definition of victims, where they exist in practice. But if you can't find a victim at all, then that action ought not be considered a crime.

Since, as you allude to upthread, property is just that to which you have rights, and an owner is just whoever has rights over a thing, then the only way the unsettled natural world would not initially belong to the public would be if the public had no rights to it, in which case taking part of it for private property would be even more illegitimate. If it's initially publicly owned, then there is at least the possibility of transferring ownership from the pubic to an individual somehow; but if it's initially unowned, there is nobody with rights to it who can transfer them to any individual, and it's all off-limits forever. That would be absurd, so, initial public-ownership it is. The remaining question is how it's possibly to go from everything being publicly owned (from everyone having inclusive rights to everything) to some things being privately owned (to some people having exclusive rights to some things).


Nope, it's initially unowned, and then becomes owned. Consider an island humans land on for the first time. Nobody owns any of it beforehand, but they arrive(and probably a flag if it's colonial era), and then apportion the island(or part of it) out among themselves.

There is no need for initial "public-ownership". If the public did not know something existed, they cannot have meaningfully exerted any of the properties of ownership over it. Therefore, we cannot say that an undiscovered land is publicly owned. At some point, it transitions from unowned to owned. Inserting "public ownership" simply adds an additional step to no effect.

The theory is that land, like everything else unowned, most properly becomes owned when you begin working on it. This works reasonably well when one has a modest, concise level of what is included in a claim. If someone picks a berry in the woods, everyone understands that you don't go grab the berry from his hand, but instead pick your own. If he picks a single berry, then claims the entire patch as his, everyone ignores him and picks their own.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:59 pm UTC

As it stands, the unequal distribution of property results in a lot of injustice. If you were going to move to a libertarian system, I would think you would need to deal with this injustice, or at least argue it away morally. To argue from a utilitarian standpoint you have to show that libertarianism fixes the problem, which I don't think anyone can do, and so utilitarianism is useless here. To argue from a moral standpoint, you need to be able to justify the property ownership as it stands today.

Otherwise, I don't see how you can move to a libertarian system without some massive redistribution. If someone is going to argue that we should not have redistribution due to property being an inalienable right, then they are going to have to show that it was acquired justly. "Statute of limitations" doesn't make an immoral act moral, it just limits the power of government.

If you are arguing that we can't redistribute, and should just move straight to libertarianism, then I have an awful suspicion you are not really interested in the well-being of others.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby arbiteroftruth » Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:01 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:If you allow for groups of people to be owners of property, then you can consider the group of all people ("the public") to be the owner of property. If that group initially owns everything, even if they're not occupying it (because ownership is not based on occupation, we're assuming), then an individual taking something for their own is stealing it from that group. It's the same as if a smaller, more well-defined group of people owned a smaller but still large amount of land and weren't using most of it: if one member of that group goes out and takes part of it that's not being used, the group as a whole still owns it nevertheless, and can tell him to relinquish occupation of it if they later decide.

Since, as you allude to upthread, property is just that to which you have rights, and an owner is just whoever has rights over a thing, then the only way the unsettled natural world would not initially belong to the public would be if the public had no rights to it, in which case taking part of it for private property would be even more illegitimate. If it's initially publicly owned, then there is at least the possibility of transferring ownership from the pubic to an individual somehow; but if it's initially unowned, there is nobody with rights to it who can transfer them to any individual, and it's all off-limits forever. That would be absurd, so, initial public-ownership it is. The remaining question is how it's possibly to go from everything being publicly owned (from everyone having inclusive rights to everything) to some things being privately owned (to some people having exclusive rights to some things).


I can't speak for Tyndmyr, but I would say that property is that to which you have exclusive rights. So you not only have the right to use property, you also have the right to exclude others from using it. After all, if I have no right to tell intruders to leave my house, then it's not really *my* house in the typical sense.

Which means "unowned" is a different state than "publicly owned". If something is owned by the public, then the public has the right to make a group decision to exclude certain people from using the property. If the property is unowned, then the public does not have that right, and in the absence of any principle that would exclude an individual from making use of that property, every individual by default has the right to make use of it, at least until some notion of a legitimate claim (such as homesteading) establishes an owner.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:07 pm UTC

I'm not sure I accept that ownership requires a right to exclude others, but I think we would, in general reserve some right to exclude others. We reserve the right, and have a moral obligation, to not use everything. Land is set aside for nature, natural resources set aside for future generations. Businesses would have the right to decide who works there, and what is sold there, but not who shops there. If it's a residential property, we are giving the resident right to decide who enters and who doesn't.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:25 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:As it stands, the unequal distribution of property results in a lot of injustice. If you were going to move to a libertarian system, I would think you would need to deal with this injustice, or at least argue it away morally. To argue from a utilitarian standpoint you have to show that libertarianism fixes the problem, which I don't think anyone can do, and so utilitarianism is useless here. To argue from a moral standpoint, you need to be able to justify the property ownership as it stands today.

Otherwise, I don't see how you can move to a libertarian system without some massive redistribution. If someone is going to argue that we should not have redistribution due to property being an inalienable right, then they are going to have to show that it was acquired justly. "Statute of limitations" doesn't make an immoral act moral, it just limits the power of government.

If you are arguing that we can't redistribute, and should just move straight to libertarianism, then I have an awful suspicion you are not really interested in the well-being of others.


Why should libertarianism be held morally responsible for the failings of prior systems?

We can all agree that, say, colonialism was wildly unfair and unequal, and we probably ought not repeat the experiment. I do not think it is even possible to undo all the damage that colonialism or slavery or other past wrongs has done, though. How could we? We cannot return to life those who have died as a result of unfairness, and cannot restore families.

One might advocate some degree of restitution on an individual basis, but this is a can of worms by itself. Outside of situations that conveniently fit the court system(well documented wrong, identifiable victim and guilty party), lie a great many cases in which satisfactory restitution cannot be made. Should we exclude restitution for wrongs which left no surviving victims? That seems to be a morally untenable act to reward. From who shall we take the repayment, if no guilty party can be found(consider a family dying out)? It is largely the position that no universally fair answer to these exists, and that the most we can do for many of them is to remember them, and avoid repeating the mistake. Even fairly recent events, such as the Holocaust, which included the confiscation of vast amounts of property, can only be undone in small part. There is simply no way to equalize that wrong, no matter how much redistribution you embrace.

Essentially every political ideology save socialism/communism recognizes this. It is no coincidence that movements under the socialist/communist banners often embrace extremely widespread redistribution, and in turn become one of history's great wrongs. You cannot atone for a person murdering others by killing his children, and if you try, you may be more of a monster than he.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:39 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Why should libertarianism be held morally responsible for the failings of prior systems?


You just danced around the point. The wealth inequality is in and of itself an injustice - some people are wholly dependent on others for survival, others have so many people that depend on them that they can extract millions a year without lifting a finger. You are making a moral judgement that there is no right to redistribute property, so either you have made a decision that the current distribution is just, or you are convinced that libertarianism will undo the harm. Why should we just accept the past failings, and not try and start from a point where everyone is inherently equal, and where everything can be acquired through voluntary contracts if you are going to move to a libertarian system?

As far as I can tell, you are just making the argument "Oh well, life's unfair", arguing entirely from a position of nihilism, so I'm not sure you are really the person to be answering questions about morality.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:52 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Why should libertarianism be held morally responsible for the failings of prior systems?


You just danced around the point. The wealth inequality is in and of itself an injustice - some people are wholly dependent on others for survival, others have so many people that depend on them that they can extract millions a year without lifting a finger.


Wealth Inequality, by itself, is not an injustice. Certainly not under libertarian thought.

It's seen as nigh inevitable. Even if two people started out with exactly the same property, their wealth would diverge over time. This is natural, and we should expect diversity in nearly all things. There are inequities that are troubling, such as when you end up with crony issues ensuring wealth stays in the family regardless of corruption or incompetence, but inequality of wealth is, in itself, not a moral wrong.

You are making a moral judgement that there is no right to redistribute property, so either you have made a decision that the current distribution is just, or you are convinced that libertarianism will undo the harm. Why should we just accept the past failings, and not try and start from a point where everyone is inherently equal, and where everything can be acquired through voluntary contracts if you are going to move to a libertarian system?

As far as I can tell, you are just making the argument "Oh well, life's unfair", arguing entirely from a position of nihilism, so I'm not sure you are really the person to be answering questions about morality.


If Joe the Murderer killed all of his neighbors, leaving all of their children fatherless, while his own children enjoyed a father their entire life, then yes, Joe was an awful person. We do not need to justify Joe's actions, nor are we obligated to murder his children in turn.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby arbiteroftruth » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:02 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:You are making a moral judgement that there is no right to redistribute property, so either you have made a decision that the current distribution is just, or you are convinced that libertarianism will undo the harm.


False dichotomy. It may be that the current distribution is unjust, but that an act of direct redistribution would be even more unjust, for reasons already alluded to. The ones being punished are not the actual perpetrators of the initial injustice, the ones being paid are not the original victims, and so much economic activity has occurred in the meantime that it's impossible to figure out how much wealth any given person ought to have ended up with, especially when you consider that their career choices, investment strategies, etc, were based on the actual status quo rather than on the situation that would have existed without past injustices.

In short, the ripple effect of sufficiently old injustices is far too complicated to untangle, which means it's impossible to determine what a just redistribution would even look like. Better instead to focus on maximizing economic mobility in general, so that the present distribution loses relevance over time (on the scale of generations).

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:23 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Thesh wrote:As it stands, the unequal distribution of property results in a lot of injustice. If you were going to move to a libertarian system, I would think you would need to deal with this injustice, or at least argue it away morally. To argue from a utilitarian standpoint you have to show that libertarianism fixes the problem, which I don't think anyone can do, and so utilitarianism is useless here. To argue from a moral standpoint, you need to be able to justify the property ownership as it stands today.

Otherwise, I don't see how you can move to a libertarian system without some massive redistribution. If someone is going to argue that we should not have redistribution due to property being an inalienable right, then they are going to have to show that it was acquired justly. "Statute of limitations" doesn't make an immoral act moral, it just limits the power of government.

If you are arguing that we can't redistribute, and should just move straight to libertarianism, then I have an awful suspicion you are not really interested in the well-being of others.


Why should libertarianism be held morally responsible for the failings of prior systems?

We can all agree that, say, colonialism was wildly unfair and unequal, and we probably ought not repeat the experiment. I do not think it is even possible to undo all the damage that colonialism or slavery or other past wrongs has done, though. How could we? We cannot return to life those who have died as a result of unfairness, and cannot restore families.


I think the issue is, essentially, that the transition from a market with a fair amount of government intervention with one to very minimal government intervention, or one with large amounts of common property to exclusively private property creates a significant advantage for certain parties at the expense of others. For example, you were talking about auctioning off large swathes of federal land. Presumably the idea here would be that local parties could buy up this land to use for some "productive" purposes, but, in practice, there would be nothing stopping a deep-pocketed corporation or sovereign wealth fund from buying up half the state of Oregon and stripping the land for resources--in fact, this is almost certainly what we would expect to see happen, given that the majority of the world's wealth is owned by a tiny fraction of the population. This already happens in the developing world.

So the question is: If you are prepared to strip away all of the protections that government provides to people, what benefits are those people expected to get in return to offset the losses?

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:26 pm UTC

Private property requires exclusion. That's what makes it private. The defining characteristic of public property is its non-exclusiveness. It's not non-property, because property is that in which one has rights, so non-property would be something nobody has any rights to, something off limits to everyone, which is not what we're talking about. (Or is it?)

To leave the label "property" out of it entirely to avoid confusion: at the start of civilization, who had rights to what? With no particular reason to think that any individual had more rights than any other, either everybody had rights to everything, or nobody had rights to anything. Including things nobody was aware of yet, or had access to if they were; like the Moon, for example, which everyone could see but nobody could access, or Pluto, which nobody even knew existed yet, but it was right up there in the sky the whole time.

If nobody had rights to anything, then there's no start to the chain of transfer of rights, and still nobody has any rights to anything. We're all trespassing on a world we have no rights to, and always have been.

If everybody had rights to everything, then those rights are obviously inclusive of everyone: nobody has more right to anything than anyone else, so nobody gets to exclude anybody from anything else.

But nowadays, we want to say that some people have exclusive rights to some things, and others have exclusive rights to other things. How did that happen?

I'm not asking for a history of the concept of rights evolving over time, or of fiat declarations of title by victorious conquerers, but of how one's present-day concept of rights accounts for someone today legitimately having exclusive rights to something, given a starting point of everyone having inclusive rights to everything (the alternative to which is either that nobody has ever had any right to anything, or that initially some people had more rights than others and that's responsible for the present state of affairs).

I'm not asking this rhetorically to suggest that it can't be done. I think it can. It's just important to explicitly do so, otherwise, as Thesh points out, present continuing injustices, consequent to the past injustices that we must otherwise infer to have happened, can't be ignored, and must be redressed. It is probably an intractable problem to properly sort out every chain of injustice one by one, but it's no less just to apply a kind of broad palliative form of redress to society as a whole than it is to just ignore the problem entirely.

On the one hand, you could say "fuck it, we can't sort out who legitimately owns what, so whoever currently has title to it gets called legitimate", but on the other hand you could just as easily say "fuck it, we can't sort out who legitimately owns what, so forget all current claims to ownership, we're starting over from scratch with everyone having inclusive rights to everything". Those both sound pretty disastrous, consequentially speaking, so probably something in between them is the best, and that whole spectrum between them is equally injust, deontologically speaking, so just pick the unavoidable injustice with the best consequences I guess.

ETA: Forgot to follow up on that Moon thing. Who owns the Moon? That is, who has rights to the Moon? Nobody; are we all forever to leave the Moon undisturbed and not trespass on it? Everybody; is the Moon the common heritage of all mankind? (Present international law says it's this one). If some day in the future some individual owns private property in some part of the Moon, how could that come to be?
Last edited by Pfhorrest on Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:38 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:27 pm UTC

arbiteroftruth wrote:
Thesh wrote:You are making a moral judgement that there is no right to redistribute property, so either you have made a decision that the current distribution is just, or you are convinced that libertarianism will undo the harm.


False dichotomy. It may be that the current distribution is unjust, but that an act of direct redistribution would be even more unjust, for reasons already alluded to.


Do you actually have an argument to suggest that is the case? Not solving the problem harms a majority of the least well-off of future generations. Redistribution takes money from the most well-off today, usually not to the point where there is any real physical or emotional harm.

Again, a moral argument is being made that we shouldn't redistribute, and a moral argument is being made that we should have private property ownership. I'd like a little more than "Fuck you, I've got mine" to justify this. Like, an actual argument for why it is right or wrong. If you can't make that argument, should we not default to the position of all people being equal?

arbiteroftruth wrote:The ones being punished are not the actual perpetrators of the initial injustice, the ones being paid are not the original victims, and so much economic activity has occurred in the meantime that it's impossible to figure out how much wealth any given person ought to have ended up with, especially when you consider that their career choices, investment strategies, etc, were based on the actual status quo rather than on the situation that would have existed without past injustices.


For the most part, they continued profiting off of those injustices, and in controlling those resources they made decisions that led to those resources becoming more unequally controlled over time, further causing harm. You can't make money without working unless it is coming at the expense of the economy, and all profits represent the creation of artificial scarcity. That is, for the most part they are just as complacent.

What if 100% of all wealth becomes concentrated into one person's control? Is this situation in and of itself, not immoral. I think we all agree that there is a line somewhere. Tyndmyr, in advocating for libertarianism without redistribution, that the current level of inequality we have today is justified, but has provided no argument to justify it other than "Well, someone has got to own something." Nothing about that has to do with morality.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:43 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:I think the issue is, essentially, that the transition from a market with a fair amount of government intervention with one to very minimal government intervention, or one with large amounts of common property to exclusively private property creates a significant advantage for certain parties at the expense of others. For example, you were talking about auctioning off large swathes of federal land. Presumably the idea here would be that local parties could buy up this land to use for some "productive" purposes, but, in practice, there would be nothing stopping a deep-pocketed corporation or sovereign wealth fund from buying up half the state of Oregon and stripping the land for resources--in fact, this is almost certainly what we would expect to see happen, given that the majority of the world's wealth is owned by a tiny fraction of the population. This already happens in the developing world.

So the question is: If you are prepared to strip away all of the protections that government provides to people, what benefits are those people expected to get in return to offset the losses?


Transitions are challenging, and oftentimes, we'll need a fairly slow process to mitigate pain from the changeover.

One commonly suggested solution, in part or in whole, to the federal lands bit is to re-open homesteading on those lands. It's an idea with more traction out west, where folks may commonly rely upon government lands for day to day life. If a person grazes cattle on those fields constantly already, there is little downside to him taking ownership of the land.

It may be that some mix is best, with some land being good for mines, with other more valuable for living. Generally speaking, more productive enterprise in terms of mining, etc is seen as a positive by libertarians, but there is no particular reason to exclude the little guy, and there is a certain appeal to opening up homesteading in terms of opportunity.

Pfhorrest wrote:Private property requires exclusion. That's what makes it private. The defining characteristic of public property is its non-exclusiveness. It's not non-property, because property is that in which one has rights, so non-property would be something nobody has any rights to, something off limits to everyone, which is not what we're talking about. (Or is it?)


A private person can open his land up to the public, and the government can throw you off of "publicly owned land", so it seems to me that the traditional terms are often merely convenient branding. Certainly, the shopping mall down the road is more of a public space in real terms than the military base is.

Rights are not limited to property, and not everything you may do is encompassed by rights. Rights are a special, protected class of things you may do.

To leave the label "property" out of it entirely to avoid confusion: at the start of civilization, who had rights to what? With no particular reason to think that any individual had more rights than any other, either everybody had rights to everything, or nobody had rights to anything. Including things nobody was aware of yet, or had access to if they were; like the Moon, for example, which everyone could see but nobody could access, or Pluto, which nobody even knew existed yet, but it was right up there in the sky the whole time.


By default, as a starting condition, nobody owns any property. I think talking about which country or person owned the moon is mostly meaningless in an era in which nobody could reach it. Given the difficulty of accessing it today, I think it's probably *still* pretty meaningless. For all practical purposes, both Pluto and the Moon are unowned. One could make an exception for the site of Apollo landing if one wished(and the US would probably like it preserved for historical reasons), but otherwise...effectively unclaimed.

There would be nothing immoral about someone flying to a chunk of the moon, building a house, and calling it his. It'd merely be practically difficult.

Pfhorrest wrote:If nobody had rights to anything, then there's no start to the chain of transfer of rights, and still nobody has any rights to anything. We're all trespassing on a world we have no rights to, and always have been.


Libertarianism does not posit an unbroken chain of transfer rights ad infinitum. There was a first claimant.

The same would also be true if you assigned rights to a particular "public". After all, the world was not always crawling with humans. At some point, a change occurred.

Pfhorrest wrote:If everybody had rights to everything, then those rights are obviously inclusive of everyone: nobody has more right to anything than anyone else, so nobody gets to exclude anybody from anything else.


Natural laws are called such because they originate from the natural order. A hunter guards its kill, and an animal, it's burrow. From a moral perspective, if one assigns animals rights, one should also respect those things. How many rights an animal should get is kind of an aside, and I don't know that libertarianism takes any particular viewpoint on that. However, the point remains that the natural order of things is that ownership is claimed.

If we wished to include more things from nature, we could, I suppose, have folks settle disputes over property by combat, but dueling seems to be unpopular these days. That said, libertarians would probably be more friendly to the idea than most.

Pfhorrest wrote:Those both sound pretty disastrous, consequentially speaking, so probably something in between them is the best, and that whole spectrum between them is equally injust, deontologically speaking, so just pick the unavoidable injustice with the best consequences I guess.


That's essentially the libertarian position, yeah.

The legal system's a rough approximation of this, and statues of limitations are a concession to our inability to ever sort out absolutely every wrong. That is imperfect morally speaking, but if we cannot do better, that's our best option for now. Hopefully we'll be able to do better in the future.

Thesh wrote:
arbiteroftruth wrote:
Thesh wrote:You are making a moral judgement that there is no right to redistribute property, so either you have made a decision that the current distribution is just, or you are convinced that libertarianism will undo the harm.


False dichotomy. It may be that the current distribution is unjust, but that an act of direct redistribution would be even more unjust, for reasons already alluded to.


Do you actually have an argument to suggest that is the case? Not solving the problem harms a majority of the least well-off of future generations. Redistribution takes money from the most well-off today, usually not to the point where there is any real physical or emotional harm.

Again, a moral argument is being made that we shouldn't redistribute, and a moral argument is being made that we should have private property ownership. I'd like a little more than "Fuck you, I've got mine" to justify this. Like, an actual argument for why it is right or wrong. If you can't make that argument, should we not default to the position of all people being equal?


The actual answers are that
A. It is practically impossible.
B. When people have attempted massive redistribution, they've created some horrible evils.

Both of these have been stated.

Nobody has a moral problem with fixing theft or fraud or what not when it can be handled by the justice system. It's just that neither libertarianism nor any other system can overcome every obstacle to righting every past wrong. That's an extremely high bar. Socialism too is unable to perform this, and it is not interested in trying. It is merely a handy pretext for creating a new order. It does not attempt to actually rectify old wrongs.

The idea that the system of throwing out all of society and starting fresh should be the default is odd. It basically amounts to insisting on socialism. The sort that comes with the tearing down of the existing society, when we're talking massive redistribution.

For the most part, they continued profiting off of those injustices, and in controlling those resources they made decisions that led to those resources becoming more unequally controlled over time, further causing harm. You can't make money without working unless it is coming at the expense of the economy, and all profits represent the creation of artificial scarcity. That is, for the most part they are just as complacent.


Having wealth makes it easier to make wealth. I would have a difficult time creating bread using nothing but raw materials I grow myself, rocks, and a cooking fire. If I owned a bakery, I would be able to make far more bread.

This represents an obvious example in which having wealth allows one to create more. Profits do not represent artificial scarcity. Scarcity is natural. It is wealth that allows us to overcome scarcity to some degree. If one takes the bakery from the baker, then society is the poorer for it. This is true even if the baker's great grandfather was a thief.

Re-distributive socialism would burn down society in the name of vengeance for wrongs that cannot even be properly reckoned.

What if 100% of all wealth becomes concentrated into one person's control? Is this situation in and of itself, not immoral. I think we all agree that there is a line somewhere. Tyndmyr, in advocating for libertarianism without redistribution, that the current level of inequality we have today is justified, but has provided no argument to justify it other than "Well, someone has got to own something." Nothing about that has to do with morality.


I have provided numerous examples of why the current state of affairs includes historical problems, but why it is not moral to seek to destroy society.

It's okay to disagree with them, but you are, at present, merely ignoring them.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:52 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:The actual answers are that
A. It is practically impossible.


It's not.

Tyndmyr wrote:B. When people have attempted massive redistribution, they've created some horrible evils.


Capitalists commit horrible evils all the time.

Tyndmyr wrote:I have provided numerous examples of why the current state of affairs includes historical problems, but why it is not moral to seek to destroy society.


No one is asking to destroy society. It's not about overcoming the past, or undoing the injustices. It's showing that they are just in having the property in the first place. You don't seem to be concerned about this idea at all, and just don't really seem to care one way or another if inequality is unjust.

The only arguments you have are stuff like statute of limitations, or that stuff was in the past, which aren't really moral arguments. You are starting with the position that private property is just, and seem to think justice is about punishing people for their crimes or something. They don't really answer the questions I'm asking. Yes, I get it, those things don't matter to you. They matter to some of us.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:56 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:The idea that the system of throwing out all of society and starting fresh should be the default is odd. It basically amounts to insisting on socialism.

If by "socialism" you mean a statist redistributive government in opposition to libertarianism, then no. What it amounts to is that, if you're proposing a completely libertarian government going forward, and you're unable to untangle the mess of injustices it's inheriting, you've got to throw out the current assignment of ownership and start over from scratch, otherwise you will just get a libertarianism that's no better (and possibly worse) than what it's replacing.

"Let whoever has their probably-ultimately-illegitimate titles to property keep them, and then let's move forward legitimately from there" is not any more or less just than "throw out all existing titles to property including whatever legitimate ones there might be, then move forward legitimately from there". There's a whole spectrum of possibilities between those extremes, but they're all equally unjust, deontologically, if you can't sort out legitimate property form illegitimate. The only remaining question is which does the least harm, consequentially.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:11 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:B. When people have attempted massive redistribution, they've created some horrible evils.


Why is it okay to have massive wealth redistribution from the poor to the rich (what we have now) but not okay to have massive wealth redistribution from the rich to the poor?

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:19 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
To leave the label "property" out of it entirely to avoid confusion: ...

By default, as a starting condition, nobody owns any property.

You missed the point of not using the word "property" for clarity there. To me, those words mean "nobody has any rights to anything", but you seem to think they mean "everybody has equal rights to everything", I think? In either case, there's no account given of how you get from either of those conditions to someone having exclusive rights to something. If something is just out there, and anybody can go do whatever they want with it, and Alice goes and does what she wants with it, that hasn't yet established that Bob can't come along and also do what he wants with it against Alice's wishes. How do we get to a state where Alice can tell Bob to fuck off? I mean yeah, in practice, Alice just does tell Bob to fuck off, and if she backs it up and keeps doing that long enough the rest of society starts saying "come on Bob, just leave her alone" too, but that doesn't explain the justice of the situation, it just states that that is the situation that happens.

Pfhorrest wrote:Those both sound pretty disastrous, consequentially speaking, so probably something in between them is the best, and that whole spectrum between them is equally injust, deontologically speaking, so just pick the unavoidable injustice with the best consequences I guess.

That's essentially the libertarian position, yeah.

The libertarian position says that leaving ownership with whoever happens to have the title right now, regardless of the justness of its history, is "disastrous"? So... when we switch over to libertarianism, we should do something about who owns what property besides just leave it with whoever has the title right now, i.e. redistribute it some?
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:21 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:The actual answers are that
A. It is practically impossible.


It's not.


How then would one remedy all past injustices regarding property?

Tyndmyr wrote:B. When people have attempted massive redistribution, they've created some horrible evils.


Capitalists commit horrible evils all the time.


Everyone is flawed. However, not all flaws are equal. The great overturning of societies in terms of ownership coincide with periods of mass privation and death. Most of the great genocides stem from these origins.

If you're risking that, you ought to have a better reason than insisting upon it as the default.

Tyndmyr wrote:I have provided numerous examples of why the current state of affairs includes historical problems, but why it is not moral to seek to destroy society.


No one is asking to destroy society. It's not about overcoming the past, or undoing the injustices. It's showing that they are just in having the property in the first place. You don't seem to be concerned about this idea at all, and just don't really seem to care one way or another if inequality is unjust.


Yeah, the past was injust, and no doubt some modern property would not have it's current ownership if the past were entirely just. Nobody's arguing with that.

I'm not concerned with doing something that's literally not possible.

The only arguments you have are stuff like statute of limitations, or that stuff was in the past, which aren't really moral arguments. You are starting with the position that private property is just, and seem to think justice is about punishing people for their crimes or something. They don't really answer the questions I'm asking. Yes, I get it, those things don't matter to you. They matter to some of us.


Private property can be handled justly, and often is. Specific cases of unjustness exist in great number, though.

Justice consists of two parts. Punishing the guilty, and providing recompense for the injured. A third, if you wish to include prevention of future injustice. Nobody has a moral objection to any of that. However, it is the case that practically, old misdeeds frequently lack information, anyone to punish, or anyone to recompense. If a murderer dies without being caught, there is no way to actually punish him, even though we all agree his crime was morally indefensible.

Pfhorrest wrote:If by "socialism" you mean a statist redistributive government in opposition to libertarianism, then no. What it amounts to is that, if you're proposing a completely libertarian government going forward, and you're unable to untangle the mess of injustices it's inheriting, you've got to throw out the current assignment of ownership and start over from scratch, otherwise you will just get a libertarianism that's no better (and possibly worse) than what it's replacing.


I don't think it is wise for any government, upon being elected, to upend all claims to property. Nor do I think that doing so is required for improvement.

The inability to stop past wrongs does not imply an inability to prevent future wrongs.

Pfhorrest wrote:"Let whoever has their probably-ultimately-illegitimate titles to property keep them, and then let's move forward legitimately from there" is not any more or less just than "throw out all existing titles to property including whatever legitimate ones there might be, then move forward legitimately from there"


The latter has wronged whoever has a legitimate title. While there is no deontological protection for those benefiting from ill-gotten gains, there is for innocents. If it's a non-zero number, then you are committing some degree of wrong.

I'll grant that the consequentialist approach is more popular nowadays, but I think there's still something to preserving existing titles from a purely moral perspective. I also note that this approach sort of conflicts with the idea of innocent until proven guilty. We can abstractly accept that a significant number of extant property rights involve, in some way, misdeeds, but if one cannot demonstrate guilt in a specific case, we have a poor basis for nullifying it. If we do so wholesale without bothering with proof, we will certainly wrong some.

It is also the case that those losing from such a reorganization may not be the same folks, even from a familial perspective, as those who did the misdeed. Let us take a hypothetical plot of land that was taken from a Native population by force. Clearly benefiting by illegitimate means. Those who settled there likely benefited. Now, property has changed hands a number of times, many years have gone by, and a portion of the land has been converted to a condo, and sold to new immigrants to the country. Do those immigrants deserve to be kicked out of their home as a result of murders committed by members of different ancestry, nationality, and so forth, when they have done nothing wrong themselves? This is the practical state of a great many property titles, and taking the land from the current owner will commit a new wrong while not righting any previous wrong.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:35 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:B. When people have attempted massive redistribution, they've created some horrible evils.


Why is it okay to have massive wealth redistribution from the poor to the rich (what we have now) but not okay to have massive wealth redistribution from the rich to the poor?


Neither is okay. Significant amounts of libertarian thought are devoted to disabling cronyism by limiting the ability of the government to exert power on behalf of the wealthy. The government ought not be using your tax money to subsidize the wealthy.

Pfhorrest wrote:You missed the point of not using the word "property" for clarity there. To me, those words mean "nobody has any rights to anything", but you seem to think they mean "everybody has equal rights to everything", I think? In either case, there's no account given of how you get from either of those conditions to someone having exclusive rights to something. If something is just out there, and anybody can go do whatever they want with it, and Alice goes and does what she wants with it, that hasn't yet established that Bob can't come along and also do what he wants with it against Alice's wishes. How do we get to a state where Alice can tell Bob to fuck off? I mean yeah, in practice, Alice just does tell Bob to fuck off, and if she backs it up and keeps doing that long enough the rest of society starts saying "come on Bob, just leave her alone" too, but that doesn't explain the justice of the situation, it just states that that is the situation that happens.


Ah, everyone by default has rights to themselves. Treating one's own body as property is a rough equivalence, though there is some disagreement as to how far that equivalence should go. Regardless, standard property protections ought to apply. You generally get to do with your body what you want, and do not get to mess with that of others unless they consent.

That's the origin of rights, and it's part of why voluntarism is important. In the end, nearly everything comes down to consent.

In Alice's case, it's pretty straightforwardly first come, first served. If someone has a house somewhere, you don't get to just bash it down, and put up your own. If you get Alice's agreement, then everything's dandy. But by default, what already exists and is someone else's, you don't have a right to mess with.

Alice's ownership gets extended over unowned land by virtue of her work. If she's built the house, then she's investing of herself into it. The same is true for gathered food or whatever else. If she properly has the right to determine what happens to her, then Bob being able to come and take all of her stuff at will is clearly at odds with that principle.

Pfhorrest wrote:The libertarian position says that leaving ownership with whoever happens to have the title right now, regardless of the justness of its history, is "disastrous"? So... when we switch over to libertarianism, we should do something about who owns what property besides just leave it with whoever has the title right now, i.e. redistribute it some?


No. The consequentialist bit is the libertarian part. If they're morally equal, do the thing that is least harmful. IE, no redistribution(save for cases that the justice system has the necessary info to handle).

That said, they're not morally equal. Redistribution is not justice.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:39 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Thesh wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:The actual answers are that
A. It is practically impossible.


It's not.


How then would one remedy all past injustices regarding property?


You said redistribution was impossible. No one is talking about remedying all past injustices, this is the strawman you invented to dodge the question. It's about achieving a state in which you can justify who owns what property. It doesn't matter whether you remedy past injustices, it matters whether you can remedy the injustice today.

Tyndmyr wrote:Everyone is flawed. However, not all flaws are equal. The great overturning of societies in terms of ownership coincide with periods of mass privation and death. Most of the great genocides stem from these origins.


https://www.mailman.columbia.edu/public ... al-factors
The investigators found that approximately 245,000 deaths in the United States in the year 2000 were attributable to low levels of education, 176,000 to racial segregation, 162,000 to low social support, 133,000 to individual-level poverty, 119,000 to income inequality, and 39,000 to area-level poverty. 
Overall, 4.5% of U.S. deaths were found to be attributable to poverty—midway between previous estimates of 6% and 2.3%. However the risks associated with both poverty and low education were higher for individuals aged 25 to 64 than for those 65 or older.


And that's just people dying every single year in the US only because of poverty, thanks to private property ownership.

Tyndmyr wrote:If you're risking that, you ought to have a better reason than insisting upon it as the default.


I'm not risking it, you just assume that it will happen because you don't have any other argument against it. You have not actually provided an argument by how this will occur.

Again, these aren't moral arguments, you are pretty much just assuming that these things are impossible so you don't have to make a moral argument against redistribution.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:41 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:"Let whoever has their probably-ultimately-illegitimate titles to property keep them, and then let's move forward legitimately from there" is not any more or less just than "throw out all existing titles to property including whatever legitimate ones there might be, then move forward legitimately from there"


The latter has wronged whoever has a legitimate title. While there is no deontological protection for those benefiting from ill-gotten gains, there is for innocents. If it's a non-zero number, then you are committing some degree of wrong.

The former wrongs everyone who remains unjustly excluded from what otherwise might be their legitimate property.

We have a situation where ownership is presently assigned in a way of uncertain legitimacy. Some people have title to things that they shouldn't, and others are deprived of title to things they should. Leaving things how they are allows for ongoing injustices: some people who should have rights to some things are being deprived of them, right now. Clearing the slate probably creates different injustices instead: some people who have legitimate rights to things right now will be deprived of them, if that happens. In either case, somebody's property is being unjustly withheld from them right now, and will continue to be; we're not talking about just past injustices, but ongoing ones.

Ideally, we would be able to sort out who exactly is being illegitimately excluded from what, but as you rightly point out, that's a huge intractable problem. Given that we can't do that, we have to choose which unjust situation we're going to run with going forward. We can't even sort out exactly which situation would have more deontological injustice in it, keeping whatever things are like now or starting over from scratch (or somewhere in between), because to do that would require we know what the just assignment of title would look like, which we've conceded it an intractable mess to sort out.

So, since for all the above reason it seems we cannot help but have some ongoing deontological injustice, and we can't even know how much of it we have, all we can account for are consequential considerations. Which of the incommensurable states of deontic injustice does the least harm? (The principle of marginal utility would suggest it's clearing the slate).

All of this assuming that, going forward, we do everything deontologically justly, i.e. adopt (some form of) radical libertarianism. Alternately, instead of either leaving everything how it is now or changing it up and then moving forward from there, we could commit some slower and more subtle ongoing deontic injustices to counteract the consequential harm of the unquantifiable deontic injustice baked into the status quo. But that wouldn't be libertarianism.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:51 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
Thesh wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:The actual answers are that
A. It is practically impossible.


It's not.


How then would one remedy all past injustices regarding property?


You said redistribution was impossible. No one is talking about remedying all past injustices, this is the strawman you invented to dodge the question. It's about achieving a state in which you can justify who owns what property. It doesn't matter whether you remedy past injustices, it matters whether you can remedy the injustice today.


Oh redistribution is possible. It's just awful. No, it's justice that's not always possible. Still worth trying for.

Not everyone who owns property today does so injustly. Nor is inequality an injustice in itself. There's a perfectly fine justification for, morally, how property ownership should work(and often does). Libertarianism wishes it to work justly, there's no moral failing here.

The taking of property by socialists is no different than those who previously ignored property rights. It is no different than previous wrongs. It's merely claiming that the existence of past wrongs justify another round of them.

Tyndmyr wrote:Everyone is flawed. However, not all flaws are equal. The great overturning of societies in terms of ownership coincide with periods of mass privation and death. Most of the great genocides stem from these origins.


https://www.mailman.columbia.edu/public ... al-factors
The investigators found that approximately 245,000 deaths in the United States in the year 2000 were attributable to low levels of education, 176,000 to racial segregation, 162,000 to low social support, 133,000 to individual-level poverty, 119,000 to income inequality, and 39,000 to area-level poverty. 
Overall, 4.5% of U.S. deaths were found to be attributable to poverty—midway between previous estimates of 6% and 2.3%. However the risks associated with both poverty and low education were higher for individuals aged 25 to 64 than for those 65 or older.


And that's just people dying every single year in the US only because of poverty, thanks to private property ownership.


Ah, yes, because socialism/communism and redistribution has solved poverty. Please.

Tyndmyr wrote:If you're risking that, you ought to have a better reason than insisting upon it as the default.


I'm not risking it, you just assume that it will happen because you don't have any other argument against it. You have not actually provided an argument by how this will occur.


The baker example is one such argument. Additionally, we have a litany of historical examples illustrating that not only can it possibly occur, it routinely has occurred. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_killings_under_communist_regimes

Ultimately, someone or some group ends up in charge of the redistribution. Whoever that is has an awful lot of power. This has a strong tendency to go awry. The loyal are rewarded, the out-group is punished. In addition, you are often separating property from those who have profitably used it in the past. This means lower efficiency and less wealth. If you take the bakery from the baker and give it to enthusiastic young socialists who have not baked, there will be less bread baked, and at higher cost.

Pfhorrest wrote:The former wrongs everyone who remains unjustly excluded from what otherwise might be their legitimate property.


That is the current result of a past wrong. It is not a present misdeed in need of correction.

The child who grows up with a murdered parent is indeed disadvantaged in the present day. It is still not just to punish the murderer's children, even when we know who the murderer's children are. It is even worse to punish at random if we do not know who the murderer's children are.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:00 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:The child who grows up with a murdered parent is indeed disadvantaged in the present day. It is still not just to punish the murderer's children, even when we know who the murderer's children are. It is even worse to punish at random if we do not know who the murderer's children are.

I think this "punishment" thing is where we're losing track. Nobody is talking about punishing the people who did misdeeds, or their descendants. (Well, we would be, but we don't even know who they are.) If Bob steals something from Alice and sells that to Charlie, Charlie doesn't have a legitimate claim to the stolen property he bought, but nobody's looking to punish Charlie, because he didn't do anything wrong. The thing still isn't his property though, and Alice is still entitled to have it back.

We're talking about an intractable social-scale mess of that kind of situation. Nobody's looking to punish the Charlies, just to make restitution to the Alices. But nobody knows who's a Charlie or who's an Alice with regard to what, because it's all lost to history. Do we just tell all the Alices whoever they might be that tough shit, some Charlie has your stuff now?
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:05 pm UTC

@Tyndmyr

So, you assume that to have redistribution, you must have violent insurrection to overthrow the leaders and implement a dictatorship? And that's basically your only argument against redistribution?

No one is looking for utilitarian arguments. No one is even talking about communism or socialism; literally, nothing more than redistribution for the sake of a just libertarian capitalist society. You have stated that redistribution is practically impossible, and immoral, yet it happens in our society today. It's quite easy to just pass a law to change ownership. It doesn't require a war and violence. This is all shit that you are making up, solely for the sake of dodging the questions about morality.

So, assuming that you can pass laws without also committing genocide. Assuming that we have a way that we have a simple, easy way, to redistribute the wealth without causing hardship. Why shouldn't we?

It's like pulling teeth here.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby arbiteroftruth » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:09 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:The child who grows up with a murdered parent is indeed disadvantaged in the present day. It is still not just to punish the murderer's children, even when we know who the murderer's children are. It is even worse to punish at random if we do not know who the murderer's children are.

I think this "punishment" thing is where we're losing track. Nobody is talking about punishing the people who did misdeeds, or their descendants. If Bob steals something from Alice and sells that to Charlie, Charlie doesn't have a legitimate claim to the stolen property he bought, but nobody's looking to punish Charlie, because he didn't do anything wrong. The thing still isn't his property though, and Alice is still entitled to have it back.

We're talking about an intractable social-scale mess of that kind of situation. Nobody's looking to punish the Charlies, just to make restitution to the Alices.


Even in that situation, if Bob can't be found, it would be wrong to give the property back to Alice. To do so simply makes Charles the one who has been victimized by Bob, because Charles already spent money on the purchase that he believed to be legitimate, when in fact he was duped by Bob. Even in this simple scenario, the best we could do would be to split the burden evenly between Alice and Charles, probably by letting Alice buy the property from Charles at half price, so they each suffer a loss of half the value of the property.

Replace Charles with generations-long circulation of value throughout an economy with hundreds of millions of people, and do similarly with Alice, and even the hypothetical just division of burden becomes extremely diluted. The notion of full restitution only makes moral sense if it's coming from the actual wrongdoer, who we're presuming cannot be identified.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:13 pm UTC

arbiteroftruth wrote:Even in that situation, if Bob can't be found, it would be wrong to give the property back to Alice. To do so simply makes Charles the one who has been victimized by Bob, because Charles already spent money on the purchase that he believed to be legitimate, when in fact he was duped by Bob. Even in this simple scenario, the best we could do would be to split the burden evenly between Alice and Charles, probably by letting Alice buy the property from Charles at half price, so they each suffer a loss of half the value of the property.

The social-scale equivalent of that "best we could do" would be, surprise, to divide up the property evenly among the people. Because not only is Bob nowhere to be found but we don't even know who's an Alice and who's a Charlie, just that there are lots of both, and we want to do as right as we possibly can by all of them. So we split the burden evenly between the Alices and Charlies. We don't just tell the Alices to pound sand.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby arbiteroftruth » Wed Jul 18, 2018 10:38 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:The social-scale equivalent of that "best we could do" would be, surprise, to divide up the property evenly among the people.


No, the social-scale equivalent would be to divide up the difference between what each person has and what they deserve. Let's do a slight expansion of the small scale to show the principle.

Bob steals $100 of some divisible resource from Alice, sells half of it to an unwitting Charles for $50, and half of it to an unwitting Deb for $50. Bob then vanishes never to be brought to justice. Alice, by virtue of having owned $100 of resource and not consenting to sell it, deserves to have $100 in value. Charles and Deb, having each made $50 purchases in good faith, each deserve to have $50 in value. There's $200 of "deserved value" in this situation, but only $100 in value of the original resource. If we divide this burden proportionally, it means Alice buys back the resource from Charles and Deb for $25 each, so Alice is out $50 and Charles and Deb are each out $25; everyone has half of the value they deserve.

If we divide the burden directly, Alice buys back the resource from Charles and Deb for $16.66 each, so everyone is out (approximately) $33.33 from their deserved value.

In either case, Alice still controls more value at the end than Charles and Deb. In the proportional case, Alice controls a net $50 ($100 in resource less $50 in cash), while Charles and Deb each control only $25 in cash. In the direct case, Alice controls a net $66.68 ($100 in resource less $33.32 in cash), while Charles and Deb each control only $16.66 in cash.

Extend the same principles to a large group of people, and the limit does not tend toward equal redistribution of wealth.

(Edited the first sentence to better reflect my intention)

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby sardia » Wed Jul 18, 2018 10:54 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Transitions are challenging, and oftentimes, we'll need a fairly slow process to mitigate pain from the changeover.
One commonly suggested solution, in part or in whole, to the federal lands bit is to re-open homesteading on those lands. It's an idea with more traction out west, where folks may commonly rely upon government lands for day to day life. If a person grazes cattle on those fields constantly already, there is little downside to him taking ownership of the land.

It may be that some mix is best, with some land being good for mines, with other more valuable for living. Generally speaking, more productive enterprise in terms of mining, etc is seen as a positive by libertarians, but there is no particular reason to exclude the little guy, and there is a certain appeal to opening up homesteading in terms of opportunity.
A private person can open his land up to the public, and the government can throw you off of "publicly owned land", so it seems to me that the traditional terms are often merely convenient branding. Certainly, the shopping mall down the road is more of a public space in real terms than the military base is.

Rights are not limited to property, and not everything you may do is encompassed by rights. Rights are a special, protected class of things you may do.
By default, as a starting condition, nobody owns any property. I think talking about which country or person owned the moon is mostly meaningless in an era in which nobody could reach it. Given the difficulty of accessing it today, I think it's probably *still* pretty meaningless. For all practical purposes, both Pluto and the Moon are unowned. One could make an exception for the site of Apollo landing if one wished(and the US would probably like it preserved for historical reasons), but otherwise...effectively unclaimed.

There would be nothing immoral about someone flying to a chunk of the moon, building a house, and calling it his. It'd merely be practically difficult.

Libertarianism does not posit an unbroken chain of transfer rights ad infinitum. There was a first claimant.

The same would also be true if you assigned rights to a particular "public". After all, the world was not always crawling with humans. At some point, a change occurred.

Natural laws are called such because they originate from the natural order. A hunter guards its kill, and an animal, it's burrow. From a moral perspective, if one assigns animals rights, one should also respect those things. How many rights an animal should get is kind of an aside, and I don't know that libertarianism takes any particular viewpoint on that. However, the point remains that the natural order of things is that ownership is claimed.

If we wished to include more things from nature, we could, I suppose, have folks settle disputes over property by combat, but dueling seems to be unpopular these days. That said, libertarians would probably be more friendly to the idea than most.
That's essentially the libertarian position, yeah.
The legal system's a rough approximation of this, and statues of limitations are a concession to our inability to ever sort out absolutely every wrong. That is imperfect morally speaking, but if we cannot do better, that's our best option for now. Hopefully we'll be able to do better in the future.


False dichotomy. It may be that the current distribution is unjust, but that an act of direct redistribution would be even more unjust, for reasons already alluded to.

Do you actually have an argument to suggest that is the case? Not solving the problem harms a majority of the least well-off of future generations. Redistribution takes money from the most well-off today, usually not to the point where there is any real physical or emotional harm.

Again, a moral argument is being made that we shouldn't redistribute, and a moral argument is being made that we should have private property ownership. I'd like a little more than "Fuck you, I've got mine" to justify this. Like, an actual argument for why it is right or wrong. If you can't make that argument, should we not default to the position of all people being equal?

The actual answers are that
A. It is practically impossible.
B. When people have attempted massive redistribution, they've created some horrible evils.

Both of these have been stated.

Nobody has a moral problem with fixing theft or fraud or what not when it can be handled by the justice system. It's just that neither libertarianism nor any other system can overcome every obstacle to righting every past wrong. That's an extremely high bar. Socialism too is unable to perform this, and it is not interested in trying. It is merely a handy pretext for creating a new order. It does not attempt to actually rectify old wrongs.

The idea that the system of throwing out all of society and starting fresh should be the default is odd. It basically amounts to insisting on socialism. The sort that comes with the tearing down of the existing society, when we're talking massive redistribution.

For the most part, they continued profiting off of those injustices, and in controlling those resources they made decisions that led to those resources becoming more unequally controlled over time, further causing harm. You can't make money without working unless it is coming at the expense of the economy, and all profits represent the creation of artificial scarcity. That is, for the most part they are just as complacent.


Having wealth makes it easier to make wealth. I would have a difficult time creating bread using nothing but raw materials I grow myself, rocks, and a cooking fire. If I owned a bakery, I would be able to make far more bread.

This represents an obvious example in which having wealth allows one to create more. Profits do not represent artificial scarcity. Scarcity is natural. It is wealth that allows us to overcome scarcity to some degree. If one takes the bakery from the baker, then society is the poorer for it. This is true even if the baker's great grandfather was a thief.
.


If you're arguing that massive redistribution usually results in evil, what about small percentage of a large economy? Eg ACA transferred wealth from the rich to the poor via subsidies and taxes. That's could count as a massive redistribution or a slightly less massive redistribution. Is any of that evil?

Regarding statue of limitations, if I took your guns/stuff 100 years ago, i agree that's statue of limitations. But if I took all the gun factories by genociding/forced migration of your forefathers, would that still be not fixable because the statue of limitations ran out? Like I'm sitting there enjoying the gun factory inheritance from my parents. It still has your family crest on it or whatever historical evidence. You would be ok letting it go?
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:00 pm UTC

Arbiter, your analysis in that case is fine, thanks for looking into that in more detail.

The bottom line though is that we don't just tell Alice "tough shit, Charles and Deb have your stuff now", and leave things how they laid after Bob's crimes. We try to make up for some of the injustice done to Alice, while also trying not to just screw over Charles and Deb who did no wrong. Contrary to Tyndmyr's (and I thought your) assertion that the societal "Alice" (whoever it is that is on the receiving end of past injustices) is just SOL, "Bob" is gone now and "Charles and Deb" (whoever happens to have the property that would've belonged to "Alice") don't deserve to lose anything.

Also note here that the "Alice" in society is not the presently-undeservedly-wealthy, who benefit from "Bob"'s past crimes. "Alice" is the vast majority of people, who most past injustices have harmed to the benefit of a few "Bob"s, and the few "Charles and Deb"s who've since innocently traded with them. So if your analysis concludes that Alice ends up deserving the most benefit of our best attempt to compensate all the innocents for Bob's crimes, then you're saying that a best attempt to compensate the innocents of today for the crimes of the past will deliver the most benefit to the people at large, not the handful of the rich. Which is good, I totally agree, I just thought that you didn't.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby arbiteroftruth » Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:51 pm UTC

Alice ended up with the most value only because she had the most property tied up in the situation to begin with. If you flip it around, with a large number of initial victims and a small number of innocent recipients of the ill-gotten gains, the recipients will still be the ones controlling more value each. The proportional approach is the more redistributive one in that case, but that just has each recipient paying 50% of their purchased value back to the victims, and the victims each being compensated for 50% of their losses, regardless of the size of each group.

And that's still just in the context of the thought experiment in which we can actually untangle who has been wronged and who has benefited, and by how much. When you throw in the fact that we can't reliably identify any of the parties or numbers involved, odds are somebody's SOL no matter what we do.

But my main point is that even with perfect knowledge, total reset with equal distribution of wealth isn't justified in general. But sufficient economic mobility, degrading the relevance of historical wealth over time, makes the "no redistribution" approach viable in the long term.

That level of mobility isn't the status quo by any means, but I maintain that that should be the focus of a morally-oriented approach to economics.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Jul 19, 2018 12:02 am UTC

I actually agree that a properly moral economic system should be able to start from a screwed up initial distribution of wealth and naturally tend toward a more just one over time. An economic system should not be dynamically unstable, where small perturbations amplify over time instead of diminishing.

But classical right-libertarianism is not such a system. It needs to get it right from the start or else will just get worse over time. (And, being dynamically unstable like that, will get worse over time anyway just as a product of runaway random perturbations. But getting it right at the start is still necessary for it, even if not sufficient).
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