Changing Hosts

February 26, 2010

Due to frustration with the restrictions placed on formatting by wordpress.com, I am now hosting my blog on my own server, at blog.iansturdy.com. I hope to hear from you there.


Regarding Doubt and the Grounds of Knowledge

February 23, 2010

Doubt, if you can, everything. This Descartes attempted, and he claims to have not only successfully doubted all, but moreover to have returned from the void, the foundations of his beliefs being thereby rendered unquestionable. But I cannot go so far; there is much that I cannot doubt. Descartes claims that in his doubt of all, he could nonetheless prove his own existence, for “Cogito, ergo sum.” But I ask, whence “therefore”? How does he who doubts everything know that what thinks exists? For my part, I need no such argument, for I am simply unable to doubt my own existence. Imagine that you do not exist, not by imagining a world in which you had not been born, or a time in this world before you had been born, but thinking that here, now, you do not exist. For my part, I cannot; my power of doubt fails me.

Thus I have a piece of knowledge. But of what nature is it? It is not objectively certain, I suppose; I have not derived it by infallible syllogism from objectively certain premises. But if it is uncertain from this objective standpoint, it is nonetheless subjectively certain,1 for I cannot think otherwise. And if, come what may, I shall never doubt it, what matters the method of its proof? And what, indeed, would an objective proof be? The result of a deduction? But whence the premises? Whence the rules of inference? Objective proof is only possible within a framework to provide premises and a logic. Objective proof of such a framework is impossible.

Consider the principles of propositional logic. ‘A or not A’, and certainly not both. How do we know this? Not from any logic, for it is logic that we seek to prove. Rather, my grounds for belief in the principles of logic are the same as for my belief in my own existence. Without sophistry, attempt to believe both that it is and that it is not snowing. I simply do not know what that would mean. Just as I cannot doubt that I exist, I cannot believe that a contradiction is true. Or believe that it is neither snowing nor not snowing. Again, my powers of mind fail me, and I cannot. Or believe ‘If A then B, but A and not B’. Again, the statement is meaningless to me. Although I cannot prove it false, neither can I doubt its falsity.

Thus I may more clearly state the relationship between subjective and objective proof. An objective proof is interpersonally valid, but hypothetical, so that while those who accept the framework assumed are bound on pain of inconsistency to accept the conclusion, those who deny its foundations are bound to nothing. Subjective proof, by contrast, is not interpersonally valid; indeed, the proof is intrinsically incommunicable, being the inability to doubt the proposition proved. However, while objective proof binds conditionally, subjective proof binds absolutely: one who professes disbelief in what he cannot doubt denies himself. Thus we may define reason as consistency, but in two forms. One is objectively rational if he accepts all that his beliefs bind him to accept, and deny all that they bind him to reject (as a corollary, to be objectively rational one’s premises must be consistent, for otherwise those two tasks would be jointly impossible). One is subjectively rational if one’s intentional beliefs are consistent with one’s deeper beliefs.2

Thus far I have dealt with propositions. But there is one more element in the wall that prevents me from following Descartes into the void of total doubt, one question that refuses to pass unanswered: what ought I to do? The question is uniquely persistent in that any attempt to ignore it is itself an answer (“I ought not to answer that question”, or some more complex variation). Nor can I answer with mere opinion, for that too is a factual answer (“I ought to do as I please”). Fortunately, to this normative question correspond normative subjective facts. I ought to seek the truth, not falsehood; I could never consciously believe what I thought false.3 Similarly, I cannot doubt that good is to be pursued, and evil avoided, above all other considerations. These answers, a deduction of which has tormented the positivists, who sought proof in science, come easily unto me, for unlike scientific proof, subjective proof cares little whether a proposition is normative.

1: This essay does, I admit, attempt to prove the subjectivity of truth. But subjectivity must not mean relativism; I assert that there are no grounds for belief apart from the individual mind (for how could there be any which are not perceived through that mind?), but not that the truth thereby found will be different for different minds, and emphatically not that we can choose what is true.

2: I see the power of this definition in analysis of the self-proclaimed relativists who nevertheless tend to be rather dogmatic about their relativism. Their profession of relativism clashes with the fact that one cannot truly doubt that some things simply are true, and this deeper belief in the existence of interpersonal truth clashes with their professed belief to create the wildly inconsistent statements that one occasionally sees, in which self-proclaimed relativists assert the absolute truth of relativism, or some other branch of political correctness.

3: This is not to say that people cannot have subconscious impulses toward believing what is false (on which see Bryan Caplan’s work on rational irrationality), but merely that one could never consciously do so without badly twisting definitions.


Dignity

December 17, 2009

I recently had the ebook “What Matters Now” suggested to me, (I would not strongly recommend it; for those insecure in their knowledge of what matters it is likely dangerous; for those secure it is likely a waste of time). In reading it, I was rather troubled by one comment by Jacqueline Novogratz therein: “Dignity comes from creating your own destiny and from the respect you get from your family, your peers and society.” Is this dignity?

Creating your own destiny is a part of dignity, if considered rightly. One cannot have dignity while a slave to another. But what does it mean to be a slave? A free man makes his own choices; a slave accepts the choices of others. This does not, however, mean that the free man chooses the choices. Every one of us is given a certain set of options among which we choose; those, and no others. We do, it is true, influence by our present choices the options we shall face in the future, but we can only influence them, never determine them. Therefore, to be free a man need have no control over outcomes; it is indeed possible that all possible choices would produce the same result. Is a man faced with a choice between death and doing wrong to avoid it? He remains free, so long as he does not allow another to choose for him. The choice is his, even if the options are not those he would choose if he could. Thus also a man may be a slave despite possessing the greatest power: if a man allows the actions of others to determine his own actions he is a slave. Our lives, therefore, are precisely what we make of them: if a man resists what he cannot control, he condemns himself to frustration; if he grants to others power over what is in his control, he condemns himself to slavery; if he uses rightly what is hiss and accepts what is not, he is free. Therefore, dignity as self-determination is the power to create not one’s external situation but one’s own character.

And what of the second part of the definition, “the respect you get from your family, your peers and society?” This we must in no way allow. For the respect of others remains always contingent. Do the masses love you? Ask again tomorrow, or if not then the day after. Therefore, dignity demands nearly the opposite of being respected: an independence from the need for the respect of others. Do what is right, and judge others on what they think of what you have done; do not judge what is right by what others will think. He is richest who has the least fear of want, and because the possession of all external things is contingent and so one with wants and the means to satiate them must still fear their loss, he is richest who has the fewest wants. In the same way he is most dignified who least relies on the approval of others.

Novogratz continues to say that “It’s easy to take dignity away from someone but difficult to give it to them.” Half is nearly correct; the other half could not be further from the truth. Dignity is not merely difficult but impossible to give, for he who relies on the gifts of others does not possess dignity. But at the same time dignity is impossible to take away. The dignified man is precisely the self-reliant man, the man who contents himself with doing right and accepts what he cannot control. Nothing any other can do can disturb such a man. He is free in wealth, for he does not fear its loss; he is free in poverty, for he does not need anything but his own will. He is free when respected, for he does not allow the maintenance of that respect to control him; he is free when disrespected, for if he has done wrong he knows the disrespect to be deserved and if he has done right he knows that in their malignments his accusers condemn only themselves (should we seek the praise of bad men? Certainly not. And is the man who praises evil good or bad? Bad. Therefore, doing evil can only earn the praise of bad men, whose praise is worthless). Dignity is important; but let us think not of how we can bestow it on others but of how we can teach ourselves and others to secure it for themselves.


Consequentialism and Unit Conversions

August 7, 2009

It is easy to compare measures in the same units; comparing measures in different units of the same type (as length or time) merely takes a bit more work. But how is one to compare measures in units of different types? Is a mile more or less than a minute? One can answer this question readily in a specific context; if driving at 60 mph, the two may be called equivalent. But unlike a conversion between, say, feet and metres, where the conversion is inherent to the units involved, such a conversion between miles and minutes relies also on the situation.

All this is a very roundabout method of presenting my fundamental difficulty with consequentialism: it relies on mathematically impossible calculations. A consequentialist asserts that the value of an action can be measured by its consequences, and actions compared by the relative worth of their consequences. The difficulty is in comparing the value of disparate things. A typical consequentialist argument that I hear too often is that the harm done by taxation is smaller than the good provided by the security that the taxation can secure, and that therefore taxation is a net good. This argument could mean one of two things. Possibly, it means that physical security is more important than financial security, and therefore that any increase in physical security outweighs any amount of taxation. But this seems false; is security so valuable that the smallest modicum of security outweighs the greatest theft?1 Perhaps, then, the argument is proportional: the actual security gained outweighs the theft, although were the provision of security less efficient it would not. But security is one thing, and theft another. By what conversion are we to coIt is easy to compare measures in the same units; comparing measures in different units of the same type (as length or time) merely takes a bit more work. But how is one to compare measures in units of different types? Is a mile more or less than a minute? One can answer this question readily in a specific context; if driving at 60 mph, the two may be called equivalent. But unlike a conversion between, say, feet and metres, where the conversion is inherent to the units involved, such a conversion between miles and minutes relies also on the situation.

All this is a very roundabout method of presenting my fundamental difficulty with consequentialism: it relies on mathematically impossible calculations. A consequentialist asserts that the value of an action can be measured by its consequences, and actions compared by the relative worth of their consequences. The difficulty is in comparing the value of disparate things. A typical consequentialist argument that I hear too often is that the harm done by taxation is smaller than the good provided by the security that the taxation can secure, and that therefore taxation is a net good. This argument could mean one of two things. Possibly, it means that physical security is more important than financial security, and therefore that any increase in physical security outweighs any amount of taxation. But this seems false; is security so valuable that the smallest modicum of security outweighs the greatest theft?1 Perhaps, then, the argument is proportional: the actual security gained outweighs the theft, although were the provision of security less efficient it would not. But security is one thing, and theft another. By what conversion are we to compare one to the other? It might be objected that individuals perform such tradeoffs daily; when one purchases a good or service one is asserting that one prefers the item to the money, and the conversion is contextually supplied by one’s preferences. However, another might choose differently, and therefore the conversion is therefore not universal but situational. Furthermore, only individuals hold preferences, strictly speaking; societal preferences must be built from individual preferences, and no method of doing this is inherent to the preferences.2 And, even if such a conversion did exist, I have never heard mention of it in such discussions. How does the consequentialist decide which quantity is greater, aside from a conversion standard? He cannot. Yet one who asserts one thing to be better than another without comparison of their effects by some such conversion is no true consequentialist.

Some utilitarians, such as the hedonists, seek to avoid this problem by avoiding such conversions, claiming that only pleasure is good and thus that all things may be compared in common units of pleasure. But pleasure is by no means as simple to measure as distance. J.S. Mill, for example, divides pleasure into higher and lower types, which are to be valued differently. But at what exchange? Bentham attempts to avoid that difficulty with his claim that “quantity of pleasure being the same, pushpin is as good as poetry.” But how are we to measure pleasure? What, precisely, is a packet of pleasure? Or is it continuous, rather than discrete? I see no path around the question within consequentialism, nor do I see a direct solution.

Therefore, it seems to me that consequentialism cannot serve as a guide to conduct. Whenever you hear someone saying that we should do something because its gains outweigh its losses, or one thing rather than another because its net gain is greater, and the consequences at issue are disparate, ask by what conversion he compares the two. If he cannot answer, his argument is nonsensical; if subjective, his argument fails to bind others. A legitimate answer I have never heard.

1: I do not wish to assume that theft is innately bad, which any consistent consequentialist would deny, but that the seizure of resources prevents them from being used elsewhere, causing (presumably) some loss of good.

2: This, of course, does exclude any claim that the free market uniquely identifies societal preferences. On the other hand, it also precludes any argument that it does not–the matter is simply undefined. Distribution must be determined without recourse to welfare arguments (which allows the reentry of the free market as just).


The Rule of Law

June 10, 2009

The present controversy over the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court makes this a good time to discuss the rule of law. While I certainly have no sympathy for identity politics, I find the particular lines drawn here most peculiar. The Republicans uphold the rule of law, by which they seem to mean positive law; the democrats oppose it. This is exemplary, I believe, of an odd correlation throughout American politics.

A legal positivist, for example, ought to support the rule of law so defined. As a legal positivist, the law is not answerable to any higher standard, and so any deviation from the law, rigorously applied, can only be arbitrary. Furthermore, legal positivists tend to be communitarians, believing that the individual reaches fulfillment in the community. Correspondingly, such people should hold that the individual agents of the government reach fulfillment when acting as part of the whole, bound together by common principle: the positive law. However, this correlation does not obtain: as evidenced by the recent Supreme Court nomination, our resident population of communitarian legal positivists seems rather hostile to the rule of law in favor of identity and personality politics.

Contrapositively, one would expect those who accept natural law to oppose the rule of positive law. If the law is answerable to a higher standard, then the law should not rule except insofar as it conforms to that standard. Yet libertarians in this country seem to hope to use the law to curb the government. If the law is unjust, they appeal to the Constitution. And if the Constitution is unjust? Few libertarians have a graceful option in that circumstance. It is said that Judge Learned Hand once told Justice Holmes to “Do justice, sir, do justice”, to which Holmes replied “That is not my job. It is my job to apply the law.” And many of those who profess to support limited government support Holmes’ rejoinder. Robert Bork is a poor example, being himself a legal positivist in strange alliance with those who at least professed to support natural law, but the sentiment is widespread: Clarence Thomas holds that it is his duty to uphold the human law, whatever may be just; noted supporters of limited government Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams concur.

This definition of the rule of law does not even allow for any sensible interpretation of its common expansion, “the rule of law, not of men”, for all positive law is, by definition, made by men. Perhaps there is some benefit in having all legal decisions reference one standard, but so long as that standard is positive, the rule is still of men, merely several steps removed.

Therefore, it seems to me that the identity of the law in question must be altered from the positive law to the natural law. This law is discovered, not made, and thus its rule may be properly distinguished from that of men. It makes sense for someone who believes in the moral supremacy of natural law to support its legal supremacy as well, while it also makes sense for someone who rejects natural law to oppose its rule. Thus, interpreting the rule of law as referring to natural and not positive law explains its usage and affiliations.

Given that, however, the conclusions reached from support of the rule of law demand reconsideration. Those who support the rule of law tend to strongly oppose judicial activism. However, leaving aside activism arising from corruption or whim, I can find no fault with the judge who upholds the natural law above all human orders. Can it be consonant with the rule of law to transgress the true law on account of human fictions that aspire vainly to the title, for, as so often repeated, an unjust law is no law at all? Is not that such rule of men, and not of law? However useful human constructions may be in following the natural law, one should never bind oneself to what is not fixed. One should not bind oneself to the statutory laws, for they might be altered, and thereby made unjust. One should not bind oneself to the Constitution, for it might be amended, and thereby brought into conflict with the natural law (not to mention its myriad conflicts as it stands). One should only bind oneself to what is immutable by all human devices, the natural law.

Thus, I fail to see why Sotomayor ought to be disqualified from the Supreme Court merely because she wishes to uphold a law other than human law. The critical question, rather, should be whether she upholds the true natural law, for any other law is just as much a human invention as the laws of the US Government. However, the fact that the oath of office requires pledging allegiance to the Constitution, and not the natural law, raises difficulties perhaps insurmountable. One cannot take an oath with reservation (although signing laws with reservations seems to be working well for our presidents), so I cannot see how anyone who believes in the natural law could take the oath of office in good conscience. However, this is its own dilemma, and no fault of Sotomayor: those who are ideologically qualified to sit on the Supreme Court cannot take the oath of office in good conscience; those who are not are obviously unacceptable.


A defense of the supernatural

May 9, 2009

Let us hypothetically assume materialism, that all possibilities are completely described by physical specification. Under this assumption, I do not believe that any moral statements can be justified. In a materialistic universe, all possibilities are adequately described physically; therefore, a moral statement would be a reason for preferring one physical arrangement to another. On what grounds could one make such a claim? The preference could not refer to any non-physical standard, such as symmetry or order, for such a standard, if true, would be a true non-physical statement and thus contradict the assumed materialism. The standard cannot be contained in some portion of the physical universe, for rules for mapping states to prescriptions are without limit, and the rule used would then become a non-physical statement.1 The standard could not be correspondence of the whole universe to itself, for that is tautologically true. Therefore, no standard is consistent with materialism, whether not founded on any physical facts, on some facts, or on all. Consequently, no preference among possible configurations of atoms can be justified.

But, following our original assumption of materialism, only configurations of atoms exist, and thus all things, including thoughts, are solely configurations of atoms. Thus, within a materialistic universe, no belief is preferable to any other. Consequently, if materialism is true, the set of atoms corresponding to belief in materialism is in no way preferable to that corresponding to disbelief, even though the former is true and the latter false: the consistent materialist cannot prefer truth to falsehood.

On the other hand we may consider the rule that belief in truth is better than belief in falsehood. This being a nonphysical fact, it is inconsistent with materialism. If it is true, then to believe it is better than to believe the contrary; if false, not. Thus, I conclude that belief in materialism is, even if logically consistent, irrational, for belief in the preferability of truth to falsehood is better than belief in materialism if true, but is not worse if false.

1: Thus we may dispense with attempts at materialistic egotism. Whence does the materialist determine that the arbitrary group of atoms he considers himself are preferable as a normative standard?


Justice without Aggression

April 9, 2009

I believe that I may finally be in a position to outline the first steps in a positive theory of agovernmental order. I here take it as granted that force in defense of property is just, and necessary to the preservation of society. This is to me a quite open question, and Tolstoy has his appeal; however, I shall here assume the typical resolution. Thus, my thesis is that the appropriate exercise of force against aggression does not itself require aggression.1

I work, of course, within my own theory of natural rights: that the sole enforceable right is the right of property in one’s self, possessions, and land, all other supposed rights being the exercise of control over one’s property in certain ways; that force in defense of one’s property is just, and therefore not aggressive; that changes in physical possession do not change legal title, and thus that the seeking of restitution is a continuation of defensive action on behalf of that title; and that the right to defense of property inheres originally to the individual. Thus, the question is whether institutions wholly compatible with this account of justice can effectively regulate society.

From this account of rights, it should be clear what can and cannot be done to maintain order.2 One can defend one’s own property, including using force to reclaim it from those who have taken it, or claiming restitution from those who have destroyed it.3 Furthermore, one may claim in restitution one’s expenses, since they are a loss imposed by the crime. One may not, however, act in preemption of a merely probabilistic harm. Just as we are to hold a defendant innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, so a shadow of doubt about the immanence of a crime makes self-defense aggression. From this it naturally follows that preventing another from defending his property is aggression. Furthermore, one may not harm the property of another in defense of one’s own, including forcing another to aid one’s defense (which neatly answers the media resolution; all subpoenas are unjust).

This means that no government, as commonly conceived, can satisfy my burden. Inherent to government are, it seems to me, two things: the establishment of a coercive monopoly on force within a jurisdiction, and the coercive collection of revenues. Interference with another’s defense of his property (which extends to collection of restitution) and taxation of any kind to support the institutions of law are aggression, unjustifiable on any grounds (see http://ambulatorysesquipedalian.wordpress.com/2009/04/04/indirect-proof-and-necessary-evils/ on the nonexistence of necessary evils).

So what institutions might justly preserve order? An individual who thought his own resources insufficient for the restoration of his property could hire another who specializes in the task to do so for him, following the standard procedure of delegating rights to an agent. This cost, of course, would be the liability of the criminal (although he is bound to pay only necessary, not actual, costs). But what if the criminal resists? Would such private enforcement not lead to constant violence?

Restitution without war requires some form of nonviolent arbitration. For such arbitration to be effective, both parties must be willing to abide by its decision, for or against them. In our society, this is done by brute force: resist the government, and you tend to get the worst end of it. In a society without a monopoly on force, no one would have the power to compel the submission of any other by direct force. So how could arbitration be made binding? This question, fortunately, was very well answered by the polyarchic institutions of pre-Feudal Europe: outlawry. Rather than attempt to overwhelm a resistor of the arbitrated resolution, publically proclaim his guilt. One who has violated the duties of the law has no claim on its protection, and others would be hesitant to deal with a noncompliant criminal. In a society in which the government does not compel people to interact with others, such ostracism would be perhaps the most severe punishment of all possible. Of course, forcible restitution is still just; however, it may not always be possible, and there outlawry has its role.

The efficacy of outlawry depends, of course, on the public acceptance of the ruling. In cases of commercial contracts, the standards are fairly clear, and thus I think such public enforcement quite probable: who would wish to do business with someone who reneged on a contract and then defied justice? For a business owner, the loss of business from a boycott of other companies would probably suffice as a deterrent (and did, in the non-coercive merchant courts of the middle ages). But what of criminal law, where agreement on crimes and punishments is scarce? To analyze this problem, I think that we must alter our conception of law. In our statist age, law is a production of the state, an authoritative pronouncement of what is to be done. Clearly, no such law has a place in a society with no state. The production of law is fundamentally different in a free society: there is no lawgiver, but a law-finder, seeking to identify the relevant natural legal principle and then to justify it to others. If the lawgiver fails in this respect, the law fails to be enacted, for the law in such a society rests upon its popular acceptance for its enforcement. This was the nature of the common law: people today, I think, tend to analyze the common law in terms of our own institutions, with the judges replacing the legislature in creating a binding set of created regulations. In its prime, however, before the common law became subverted by the positive law of the state, it was not a positive law at all, but rather an application of the natural law to the case at hand. Precedent was not a binding regulation, but a guide helping the judge to find the proper application. Correspondingly, in the free society that I imagine the judges do not craft a code of law and force it upon the parties to the case; they attempt to apply the universally justifiable natural law, a law enforced not by violence, but by the conscience of all. This necessarily limits the scope of the law, but not beyond measure. Did the law not overlegislate, I suspect that disagreements would be far rarer.

But what of criminals who cannot pay their liabilities? They would live in perpetual debt, ever bound for all they owned to their creditors. Bankruptcy has no place in a free society. But should they not have borne that in their considerations of whether to commit the crime? Some, however, object in the opposite direction, that restitutive law is unfair to the victims, for they are not guaranteed restitution. To this, first I must question how this can justify the punitive sentences advocated by its advancers: if it is unjust to the victim to be payed only in correspondence to the criminal’s ability to pay, is it any more just to deny the victim all satisfaction save the pleasure he derives from the sufferings of his offender? Are we such a race of sadists that we enjoy the sufferings of others more than the albeit partial satisfaction of our own losses? But I do not think that such satisfaction need be partial. We have a very good microcosm of the form of law I discuss here in our present institutions regarding automobile accidents. There, a complex set of insurances and liabilities protect the victim against unrecompensed loss and the offender against payment beyond his means. Similarly, I believe that a system of insurance against loss and surety for liabilities would serve all necessary purposes. One could object that this will destroy the incentives against crime, if criminals gain the proceeds of their success while the burdens of their failures fall largely on their liability insurance. I must first note that for this objection to hold, automobile liability insurance and malpractice insurance are destructive of proper incentives and must be discouraged. But the Anglo-Saxons had an even better answer: instead of contracting with some impersonal insurance agency, their insurance was a group of twelve who pledged surety for each other’s liabilities. One would not enter such a contract unless one trusted the honesty of the others, and none but a monster (who would probably not be accepted into such a group anyway) would willfully exploit his friends in this manner. The Anglo-Saxons also solved the difficulty of ensuring that all had such surety by refusing to interact with those who lacked it, just as today the government (which we may take as here acting in its capacity as owner of the roads, rather than as sovereign) requires those who use the roads to have liability insurance.

And what of the poor? I hope that after this presentation that question naturally vanishes, but I fear otherwise. The poor have no worries in such a society. Victims may claim compensation for the costs of enforcement, and so one cannot be too poor to pursue justice. Favorable resolution is not certain, it is true; but if one could not bear that risk he could sell his right to the restitution to a firm, who would pursue the case then on their own behalf, guaranteeing the original victim the expected value of the award. The courts would have no incentive to rule against the poor, for the enforcement of a verdict depends on its legitimation, and so only in a society in which nearly all members of which systematically discriminate against the poor would such a biased verdict triumph. For the same reason, bribery is unlikely to be able to pervert justice; the decision is of no account in itself, but only its popular acceptance. And, lest I legitimize the nirvana fallacy, I must ask what comfort the poor have in our present society. The poor are at present wholly reliant upon the government condescending to pursue their case, which the government has shown all willingness to not do at its own pleasure. Once in court, the poor are subject to a legal code produced by a legislature highly responsive to the lobbies and donations of the wealthy. Furthermore, it is in the state that bribery comes into its own, for while in a free society the people must ratify the decision of the court, and the people are beyond bribery (save by an organization as widespread as the government), under the state the decision of the judge is itself decisive, and so bribery is of binding influence. If anything, it is not the poor but the rich who need fear the loss of the state, for it is the rich who wield disproportionate influence over the government, an influence destroyed when there is no government to subvert. The government is not an equalizer, but a lever: it magnifies whatever disparity already exists, by allowing those with considerable resources to control the disposition of resources taken from others.

Thus, I find no reason to expect that society cannot exist without aggression. Replace a coercive monopoly on force with its free use where just and crime will be discouraged, not encouraged. Replace the creators of the law with its discoverers; one would never dream of having a legislature legislate the laws of physics; why, then, have a legislature legislate the laws of morality? Replace the brute force of the law with the ostracization of the people, of no less danger to the criminal but a terror, not an aid, to the tyrant. This could not, it is true, do all that can the state. This society will never be hammered into the mold of the social engineer. It will never be conscripted into the war of the conqueror. It will never bow before the messianic tyrant. These failures I cannot avoid, for they are incompatible with freedom. But to those who think these failures virtues I commend justice without compromise.

1: I discuss coercion in an earlier \link{http://ambulatorysesquipedalian.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/freedom-and-coercion/}{post}. Most straightforwardly, force is an encouragement of another by negative incentives, and aggression is the unjust use of force.

2: By order I do not, of course, mean that society should be thought an organism that must be directed toward some unified end. Rather, an orderly society (as opposed to an organized society) is one in which people can pursue their own ends in consonance with the rights of others.

3: For the act of destruction cannot destroy the title to the property, since the aggressor has no power to dissolve the title. He must dissolve some title, however, since his action decreases the quantity of property and titles and property must remain in correspondence. It therefore follows that he must dissolve the title to his own property to the extent that he destroyed the property of the victim, which property then falls under the title of the victim. Restitution is not punishment, but defense.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.