George Will Would Have Made a Good Libertarian

If he hadn't sold his soul for money and power to become a neocon Republican operative and traitor to truth.

America First

If this slogan was based on something like the following:

The peace-loving humanitarian approaches the mighty potentate and addresses him thus: "Do not make war, even though you have the prospect of furthering your own welfare by a victory. Be noble and magnanimous and renounce the tempting victory even if it means a sacrifice for you and the loss of an advantage."

The liberal thinks otherwise. He is convinced that victorious war is an evil even for the victor, that peace is always better than war. He demands no sacrifice from the stronger, but only that he should come to realize where his true interests lie and should learn to understand that peace is for him, the stronger, just as advantageous as it is for the weaker. -- Mises

then we'd have something here. If "Americans" want to be selfish, that's how we should be doing it.

I Feel Your…

You want to feel the beloved's pleasure? Then you are stuck with having to feel his pain, as well.

Early Genesis for the Moderns

Is early Book of Genesis in the Bible (EG) bad science? Bishop Barron argues that it is not science at all, whether good or bad; rather, it is good (revealed not natural) theology.

But we have come to know that it is not science only fairly recently. St. Thomas, for example, took EG quite literally. So did (and still do, perversely) some Protestants.

As a result, we can conclude that EG was written the way it is particularly for the modern audience in mind, where by modern I mean any people that can definitively state that EG's factual account is a myth and distill theological truths from an allegory.

It is only today, when we can distinguish between 1) science -- natural, social, divine (i.e., natural theology which is a branch of philosophy), and 2) revealed theology, that EG really comes into its own. It might have misled past thinkers and the masses as a literal scientific account of our origins but surely not anymore. Having been rightly understood, it now finds a proper and unique niche in the modern edifice of knowledge.

Trolleys and Libertarianism, 2

Note that our 3 conditions,

1. Good outweighs evil;
2. Double effect is present;
3. No violations of rights,

are in full force in the trolley case. 3) exists for 2 reasons:

1. because I have no duty to do the impossible, namely save everyone;
2. because the 1 man presumably does not have a right to a track free of runaway trolleys. He knew the risks when he signed up for the job.

Thus, this case is analogous to Air in a previous post, and switching to track B is morally permissible.

Evidence for Original Sin

From my book:

Another perennial problem is of compatibility of evil and God's goodness. But formidable though it is for a theist, evil is not necessarily better evidence for naturalism than it is for theism, because theism, too, predicts a battlefield Earth, a bleak yet full of potential, vast but finite world suspended between heaven and hell, in which human souls are forged.

... not only recognizing that evil is a "problem," but even any conception of evil as such must be deeply religious. That it ought to be "on earth as it is in heaven" but is not presupposes a good God who mysteriously permits us to live in a non-heavenly environment. Suffering for an atheist is merely bad not evil.

Uncanny wisdom and with it, knowledge and understanding are required for the construction of any decent theodicy, because one is under the necessity to show how numerous laws according to which the world works that allow evil, nevertheless, each alone and all together, contribute to the good of the universe as a whole, such that this universe would be worse without them.

At the same time, some burden of proof should be placed on the atheist. If one claims that this world is not the best possible one, then he owes us a reasonably coherent and complete vision of a better world.

This fairly standard soul-making theodicy explains evil. But does it explain all of it? In psychology there is the notion of "optimal frustration," an obstacle for a person to overcome that is neither too easy, such that no growth or skill acquisition occurs, nor too hard, so that one quits in despair and self-loathing, but one that engenders, as a result of the person's overcoming it, some form of personal improvement.

But surely, a great deal of suffering and pain and sin in this life is hardly optimal. The world seems full of suffering that's pointless and suffering that's too intense to be useful or redemptive. This is called sometimes "gratuitous" evil. Now this is just a hint. I may be wrong. But an argument can be made that the world could contain less pain and sorrow and still conduce to creating human beings in all their glory.

If so, then there is some evil in the world that soul-making does not account for. The idea of Original Sin is especially well-suited to explain gratuitous evil and defend theism and goodness of God.

Original Sin claims something like the following. However it was actually contracted, there was a time when "Adam and Eve," our first parents, lived in pretty decent conditions. At some point, however, Adam decided that he wanted to personally experience, both by himself and through his descendants, a full gamut of sin and evil, perhaps to be able to choose between good and evil intelligently. He wanted to taste the poison of sin, to drink freely of it, and still hopefully barely survive in the end.

If it were just some evil Adam wanted to feel (rather like the Most Interesting Man in the World "once having an awkward moment, just to see how it feels"), that could've been dealt with by God giving Adam a knife and telling him to cut his finger. Then God would go, "Do you like that? Unpleasant, isn't it? Let me heal it for you real quick, and I trust you won't want to experience pain, etc. again? I'm glad we have an understanding."

Unfortunately, Adam was apparently interested in all manner of super-sophisticated evil, and God had no choice but to grant his perverse desire. Evil in the presence of a good God is now explained as Adam getting exactly what he wished for, with the overarching purpose perhaps to enable man to choose between good and evil with full experiential knowledge of both.

Was Jesus Murdered or Did He Lay Down His Life?

Jesus surely could not have laid down His life out of any unfitting kink, such as because He was suicidal or because He wanted a more solid reason to condemn us.

Jesus simply did the sorts of things that a God who became man would naturally do. He taught the truth, of both reason and faith, and explicitly insisted from authority that His teachings were "true"; He preached about salvation and warned about hell; He performed many miracles, such as healing the sick, in so doing establishing His credibility and nature; He affirmed to be divine on many occasions (e.g., "'Very truly I tell you,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!'" (Jn 8: 58)).

Jesus refused to compromise; He would not alter His behavior in response to anyone's demands; He was no pleaser of men; He did His own thing with complete disregard for own worldly prosperity, other than to the extent He needed to prove His unique 2-natured being.

And it is precisely for doing these perfectly natural to Him wonderful things in a very Godlike manner that Jesus was destroyed. Jesus did not lay down life in some freaky attempt at suicide; He was being God and acting like God, and nothing more. And of course, we humans also acted in a 100% natural to us wickedness and so up and murdered God just for being Himself. Move along, in other words, there is nothing to see here.

Weighing Lives: More Cases

Philippa Foot presents the following case for our consideration:

... there are 5 patients in a hospital whose lives could be saved by the manufacture of a certain gas, but this inevitably releases lethal fumes into the room of another patient whom for some reason we are unable to move.

His death, being of no use to us, is clearly a side effect, and not directly intended.

Why then is the case different from that of the scarce drug, if the point about that is that we foresaw but did not strictly intend the death of a single patient? Yet it surely is different. The relatives of the gassed patient would presumably be successful if they sued the hospital and the whole story came out.

I agree, it is morally different. Consider then another, my own, case:

6 men are trapped in two adjacent rooms, 1 person in room A, 5 in room B, and are in the process of being rescued. There is only a certain amount of air in both rooms. If I do nothing, the 5 men will surely suffocate from lack of oxygen in B, while the 1 man in A will survive. However, I have the option of activating an air pump that will pull oxygen from A into B, and carbon dioxide from B into A. This'll kill the 1 man in A but allow the 5 men in B to hold out until they are saved. Is it moral to start the pump?

Let's call the Foot's case "Gas" and my case, "Air." As we can easily see, Gas is Air in many various ways. In both cases, saving the 5 is better than saving the 1, and the death of the 1 is a second foreseen but unintended effect. Yet our intuitions want to condemn the act to save the 5 in Gas and approve of it in Air. What's the difference?

I suggest that the difference is the men's relevant property rights. In Gas, the patient rents air from the hospital and is entitled to continue to enjoy its services. We might try a kind of Kantian reasoning here: if a prospective patient were informed that the hospital reserved the right to flood his room with poison gas whenever it was necessary to save a greater number of people, then he would not go to the hospital in the first place. And if this practice became widespread, people would refuse to put themselves in situations in which this dilemma would arise. So, Gas is self-defeating: if everyone were aware of how I made my decisions, there would be no circumstances under which I'd ever make one.

In Air, on the contrary, there is no presumption that either the 5 men or the 1 man own the air around them. I am therefore free to follow the principles of triage as I see fit, including ration the very scarce supply of breathable air so as to maximize the number of survivors. If that means letting 1 die, then so be it.

Here the Kantian reasoning leads to the opposite conclusion: if fully informed of my policy, any Smith would be happy to entrust himself to my tender mercies, since if Air actually occurred when I was in control, the probability of Smith's ending up in B and surviving is 5 times the probability of his ending up in A and dying.

As a result, I think we can formulate a sufficient condition for when an action of weighing lives is moral:

1) The good outweighs the evil, such as in our formulaic examples because 5 > 1 (but what if, e.g., the 1 man is your dear friend?).
2) The deaths of the fewer number are not intended though perhaps are foreseen.
3) No one's libertarian natural rights are violated.

Gas then is 1) and 2) without 3) and is therefore suspect. Here is an example with 1) and 3) without 2):

I stand and watch 1 man die when I could easily save him in order to harvest his organs so as to save 5 men. This seems immoral, and the reason is that double effect is violated.

Even if you do not think it is immoral, my conclusion still stands: the joint condition is merely sufficient; I do not argue that it is necessary, as well.

Trolleys and Libertarianism

Let there be again a runaway trolley, whose driver can steer it on track A, killing 5, or on track B, killing 1.

Suppose the initial position of the switch is track A. If I switch it to B, it seems that I will be "aggressing" or "initiating unjust violence" against the 1 man.

And if the initial position is track B, then by switching to A, I will be "aggressing" against the 5.

Does libertarianism then advocate jumping out of the trolley and, by leaving the choice of the track perhaps to some random number generator, washing my hands of this dilemma?

Perhaps we can reason as follows. Do I have a duty not to kill all 6 people? Well, ought implies can, and since I cannot preserve all 6, it is not the case that I ought to preserve them. I do not therefore have a duty not to kill the man on track B. I can lawfully choose who lives and who dies. Therefore, I do not violate his libertarian rights.

Here is another take on this. I am not responsible for the trolley's uncontrolled running away. If the default direction of the trolley is A, then I am not harming the 5 men; the trolley is. I cannot be blamed for the outcome. By switching from A to B (and presumably making a good decision, as 5 > 1), I benefit the 5 men by sparing their lives against an otherwise unavoidable accident yet harm the 1 man. Is the benefit a positive duty while avoiding the harm a negative one? And if so, doesn't the negative duty have precedence?

It can again be countered that we have negative duties to others not to harm them unjustly, and the harm to the 1 man is not unjust, as is clear from the foregoing.

Now it will be agreed that a murder charge is out of the question if I switch to B. Moreover, the default direction is irrelevant; I still choose where to steer the trolley, and there is no praxeological difference between action and inaction or commission and omission. In the next post we'll consider a few more scenarios to test our moral intuitions.

Open Borders: Arguments Against

Let's make one thing clear at the outset: opening borders will cause mass immigration into the United States.

1) Such immigration will lower wages of the native workers. Now Mises had little patience for this argument: writing in a Viennese newspaper at the end of 1935, he pointed out that there are extensive tracts of land in America which are sparsely settled which

have been the goals of would-be European immigrants for more than 300 years. However, the descendants of those earlier emigrants now say: There has been enough migration. We do not want other Europeans to do what our forefathers did when they emigrated to improve their situation. We do not want our wages reduced by a new contingent of workers from the homeland of our fathers. We do not want the migration of workers to continue until it brings about the equalization of the height of wages. Kindly stay in your old homeland, you Europeans, and be satisfied with lower wages.

Mises almost considered immigration restrictions to be immoral. Nevertheless, the mass immigration will lower wages to an unacceptable extent.

2) The mass immigration will come from the most undeveloped countries, and America is completely unprepared for it. Can you imagine half of Africa moving here in a year or two? Where are they going to live? Where are they going to work? No answers are forthcoming from the open-borders advocates.

3) The migrants will likely consist of "inferior" people, in particular future welfare recipients, prison inmates, vagabonds, beggars, tramps, robbers, and prostitutes. Who is inferior? Blacks who will add to the already vicious black plague in this country? Muslims, those ignorant and violent fanatics? Perhaps, but if some people are inferior, then they, in a kind of attempt at eugenics, must be kept out of the country.

4) Civil strife regarding control of the state between the new ethnicities. These ethnic groups, empowered by their swelling numbers, will likely hate each other with purple passion and seek to gain political power in order both to dominate their "enemies" and to protect themselves from being dominated by their enemies. There aren't enough libertarians to teach them that all sorts of people, by cooperating within the free market, can build a great society.

Open borders will thus be a disaster. They can only work when the entire world has embraced laissez-faire capitalism. Yet both closed and "managed" borders are decidedly un-libertarian and statist. We must conclude that until global capitalism arrives, regarding this issue, statism is correct, and libertarianism is wrong.

Immigration and Demographics

I think I figured it out. The problem with a rapidly changing demographics due to immigration into a country is that the masses of foreign migrants can take control of the government and oppress the former majority of the natives.

Repost: Ethical Dilemmas

Consider some examples:

(1) A runaway trolley driver can steer it on track A, killing 5, or on track B, killing 1.

(2) In order to survive, person Q needs the entire dose of the drug available at the hospital; but persons P1, ..., P5 at the same hospital can be saved with just 1/5 of the dose each.

(3) A sheriff can save 5 innocent men from a lynch mob by covertly framing 1 innocent man.

(4) An evil tyrant gives you the following choice: either you torture 1 man or he tortures 5.

These can be approached in different ways. First, as illustrating the distinction between rule and act utilitarianism (RU / AU). Here the AU choice is the best, lest we be accused of rule worship. (Update: As I argue elsewhere, these dilemmas, though indeed consequentialist, are not utilitarian, because lives and not pleasures are weighed.)

Second, as negative duties not to harm vs. positive duties to give aid. In (1) the driver can't help but violate someone's rights, and so he might as well minimize the harm done. In (2) the conflict is between different ways to benefit, and so again we want to end up with the best consequences. In (3) the innocent man has a right not to be killed, but then so do the 5 men who would die if he lives. From the point of view of an impartial observer, the sheriff ought to frame, but from the point of view of the sheriff there is a conflict between a duty not to kill and a duty to provide aid. If he acts as a utilitarian, then he'll have to live with an uneasy thought that he was a murderer. The problem with (4) is that it is an instance of blackmail, and we may decide to have a policy not to give in to blackmailers, and therefore refuse to torture (so as not to encourage more blackmail).

Third, as a conflict between duty and supererogation. Society demands that we respect the libertarian rights of others. But benefiting others, doing works of mercy, and so on are supererogatory from the point of view of the rather undemanding moral ideal imposed on everyone by the requirements of social cooperation. The question then is, does it work to "make up" for failing to do your duty with supererogation, as in (3) and (4)? If I am a killer for the Russian Mafia yet donate copious amounts of money to the Church, are my sins forgiven?

Fourth, as illustrating the principle of double effect (DE). In (2) we don't intend the death of Q, and so our decision is moral, according to DE. However, if the scenario instead required us to evaluate chopping Q up and grafting his body parts onto Ps, then we would intend Q's death as an essential means to our end rather than merely foresee it as accidentally accompanying our end. (We surely can't say: "We want to get your body parts, but we don't want to kill you.") Similarly, in (4) we can refuse to torture, justifying this choice by saying that we foresee the suffering of the 5 but do not intend it.

Weighing Lives

There is no moral theory that can satisfactorily tell us how to weigh lives against each other.

I am talking about cases where if A lives, then B dies and vice versa, particularly in regard to the philosophical moral dilemmas like the fat man in the cave, the trolley problems, and numerous others.

Russell on Jesus and the Pigs Episode

In "Why I Am Not a Christian," Bertrand Russell questions Jesus' goodness as follows:

There is the instance of the Gadarene swine, where it certainly was not very kind to the pigs to put the devils into them and make them rush down the hill into the sea. You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils simply go away; but He chose to send them into the pigs.

Let's see what the Bible actually says on this matter:

And [the demons] begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. (Lk 8:31-33)


"What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"

Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs."

He said to them, "Go!" So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. (Mt 8:29-32)

So, Jesus was intent on driving the demons out. Where was he going to drive them to? Maybe into the "air," so that these spirits would sort of float around in there for awhile and contemplate their next victim. Or maybe to the demonic hell, the "Abyss."

The demons objected to the latter. It was not yet time for them to be locked up. Demons serve a purpose in the natural order of things; they are useful to God; and so have a claim on certain freedoms and even "rights." Jesus did not force the demons into the pigs; the demons could always on their own accord possess the pigs if they so desired. They'd rather stay in the men, but Jesus precluded that possibility.

So, the demons wanted to possess the men, but Jesus wouldn't have it. Jesus wanted to force the demons into the demonic hell, but he recognized the demons' natural right and withheld from sending them there. The compromise was for the demons to enter the pigs.

The pigs were not protected by Jesus so that he "let" the demons possess them by withdrawing the protection. The pigs' bodies were up for grabs at the outset; it's just that no self-respecting demon would ever voluntarily find himself in a pig. Nor did Jesus command the demons to enter the pigs. He "let" the demons avoid hell. The demons themselves suggested their next target, and Jesus acquiesced in this deal.

It was the demons then who violated the property rights of the pigs' owner, not Jesus.

Now after the pigs had died, the demons had to leave their dead bodies and indeed must have gone back in the "air." So, why not force them into the air immediately?

First, again, Jesus' aim was to cure the men; the demons had a natural right to try to possess good souls (as the souls had the right to resist being possessed); if they wanted to enter the pigs, well, let nature act as it may; in any case, it was better that they go into the pigs than stay in the men, which means that Jesus improved the situation.

Second, going into the pigs was a huge humiliation for the demons, far greater than simply being forced out of the humans. Imagine Lucifer-like creatures, proud, cunning, predatory, and contemptuous of men, coming to inhabit animals as low, filthy, and stupid as pigs. It appears that the demons feared Jesus so much that in exchange for a stay of execution in hell, they agreed to become laughingstocks among everyone, their baneful influence reduced to driving pigs, of all things, mad. How pathetic. And Jesus, I think, figured it would be fun.

Virtue and Evil, 2

Note that pursuing evil ends can be a sign of insanity in two ways.

If Smith thinks that an actually evil end he is pursuing is in fact good, then he is insane for not knowing the basics of morality. That's how the legal system defines insanity, as well.

If, however, Smith does know that the evil end is evil yet for all that proceeds to realize it in action anyway, then he is mad for not being afraid of punishment either in this life (such as imprisonment) or in the life to come (such as hellfire) and so again is a crazy motherfucker.

Mt 15

It is often the case, Jesus seems to be saying, that you honor God precisely by honoring your father and mother.

Virtues and Evil

Situation X may make un-virtuous conduct more tempting than situation Y; hence Smith who behaves well in X may display a greater strength of character than Jones who behaves well in Y, even if Smith finds it harder to resist the temptation.

On the other hand, given X (or Y), Smith for whom virtuous action is easy and pleasant should be recognized as a better man than Jones who has to struggle with himself to act rightly.

Virtues used in the pursuit of an evil end lose their essential character and become aspects of madness. Thus, the 9/11 terrorists were not prudent in masterminding the conspiracy or courageous in carrying out the plan spectacularly; they were mad dogs. A prisoner who, as his fellow inmates describe him, "will kill you if you so much as look at him the wrong way" is not courageous; he is a psychopathic nutjob.

If Smith falsely thinks that something is a noble and good end, then he is a fool. Too much foolishness, and Smith becomes insane. Any character trait, including indeed courage and prudence, that is used to enable or promote the insanity is itself part of it.

Of a virtue that has not been corrupted into the undifferentiated blob of madness, it is true then that no one can make bad use.

Labor Relations, Unions, and Collective Bargaining

In this paper, Walter Block applies libertarian axioms and theorems of property rights to labor unionism. His reasoning is thorough and unimpeachable throughout.

Sometimes I don't get him, though. When he talks about road privatization even within towns, his ideas are easily dismissed as, in his own words, "ravings of a lunatic." Yet in this article he makes a perfectly sensible point regarding whether a union can picket on public roads and sidewalks. Let's indeed, Walter says, consider a picket line to be a perfectly innocuous supplier of information, as unions themselves insist.

In that case, the best analogy is the man who walks up and down the street with sandwich board placards advertising for a local merchant. Would the court allow one or even two such moving billboards? Certainly, provided that they kept some distance between themselves, and did not interfere with passersby. Would they court allow dozens of tightly packed sandwich board carriers who impeded the normal traffic flow? Certainly not.

We conclude from these considerations that striking unionist who use "public property" should be treated exactly like any other group of people attempting to advertise information [in the eyes of the law].

A unionist may refer to "his" job. He assumes he has the liberty to go on strike, get what he "demands," and go back to this job. But, Walter points out, a job is an agreement between two parties to exchange services for money continuously. If any party, whether the employer or the employee, changes its mind, the agreement dissipates, and the "job" goes away. The unionist does not therefore own his job the way he owns his truck.

As a result, a strike under laissez-faire would put the worker's "job" in serious jeopardy, if the company struck against hires replacement workers and even says goodbye to the strikers permanently. This would have most salutary effect on labor discipline. From the social point of view, production must go on, and consumers must be served each and every day. It is absurd for workers to threaten to impoverish a community by refusing to produce.

Unions are the only organizations in modern society permitted both by law and the common ideology to aggress against innocent parties, such as "scabs" and the consumers of their employer's products. As Robert Murphy comments, "Unions are among the few groups to issue formal 'demands.' Some of the others are hijackers, kidnappers, and bank robbers."

But should we side with the conservatives who "take the view that anti-trust and anti-combines law ought to be applied to unions"? No, says Walter.

First, a strike is not inherently illegitimate. If a single person can lawfully quit his job, then "all workers, together, have every right to do so, en masse. All conspiracy laws ought to be repealed, provided only that the agreement is to do something that would be legal when undertaken by a single individual." A strike, he goes on, "refers not to one act, but to two. A strike is, first, a withdrawal of labor in unison from an employer, on the part of the relevant organized employees. Against this, there can be no objection. ... There is a second aspect of the strike, however. This element is pernicious, insidious, and entirely improper: the union practice of making it impossible for the struck employer to deal with alternative sources of labor, who are anxious to compete for the jobs the strikers have just vacated."

In the previous post, we saw that Walter considers unions' unjust violence to be their very essence, going so far as to define the nature of a "labor union" to be thus morally wicked. Unions are defined by both of the foregoing aspects. Mises agrees: "When in the past the laws of some countries denied to employees the right to form unions, they were guided by the idea that such unions have no objective other than to resort to violent action and intimidation. When the authorities in the past sometimes directed their armed forces to protect the employers, their mandataries, and their property against the onslaught of strikers, they were not guilty of acts hostile to 'labor.' They simply did what every government considers its main duty. They tried to preserve their exclusive right to resort to violent action."

However, it is not the case that governments are innocent in this matter. Thus, second, in the case of coercive violent unionism, Walter quotes Rothbard:

the remedy... is not to pass laws outlawing strikes; it is to remove the substantial body of law, federal, state, and local, that confers special governmental privileges on labor unions. ...

when general indignation against unions led to Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, the government did not repeal any of these special privileges. Instead, it added special restrictions upon unions to limit the power which the government itself had created. ...

The government's seemingly contradictory policy on unions serves, first, to aggrandize the power of government over labor relations, and second, to foster a suitably integrated and Establishment-minded unionism as junior partner in government's role over the economy.

One intervention begets others, until society is a meaningless mess.

Walter concludes, reasonably, that "sound public policy... consists in... stripping unions of all coercive powers."

Memo to SJWs

Social justice consists in respecting (on the part of the citizens) and enforcing (on the part of the local government) each individual's private property rights in his body and justly acquired goods.

Unions and the Libertarian Legal Code

Walter Block makes two claims about labor unions. First, that it is "impossible" to find cases where any significant action of a union did not "engage in violence or threat of violence." Second, which is an even stronger statement, that we can't even imagine a union that does not initiate violence. Presumably, then, using unjust violence or threat thereof is part of the very essence of labor unionism. It would never make sense for workers to unionize unless they were from the beginning planning to commit crimes against person or property. (53-64) Walter comments later that though it's not after all impossible for a worker's association to "eschew both white-color and blue-color crime," something so innocent should not really be called a "union." (58)

Of some interest is Walter's question, "May a libertarian join a union?"

Now libertarianism is not a personal morality or a way to become a better person. It does not ask, "Is it morally permissible for me as a libertarian to join a union?" It is a political ideology that asks on the contrary, "Should I punish other people, precisely non-libertarians, when they join a union?" or "Should I insist, in making my voice heard, that unions not be given coercive powers to use violence against innocents or threaten to do so?"

A libertarian then can be an awful "hypocrite," enjoying above-market wages as a member of the union and aggressing against scabs but still think that politically, the unions ought not to have this power, thereby remaining a libertarian. He may enjoy his unionist privilege but not approve it. He may even, while benefiting from labor unionist legislation personally, vote for a politician who promises to abolish this legislation.

I once asked Stephan Kinsella how he can be an intellectual property lawyer while condemning IP. His reply was to the effect that how does his tiny little personal life impinge upon great issues like whether we as a society do or do not countenance IP?

Similarly, I don't care whether Walter uses government roads or teaches in a state university. I am more concerned with the question of whether roads and universities can be privatized with profit for society as a whole. I don't care if Smith lives in a rent-controlled apartment; I do not condemn him or call him a sinner or seek to reform his character. As a libertarian, I'd recommend that rent control be abolished, and that's it. That's the extent of the pull or scope of this ideology.

(It is true that the grounds for this recommendation can be either economic or moral. I'm sure Walter understands both perfectly. The moral case is that it is wrong to infringe upon the landlord's property right. But even while making my case this way, I totally ignore the question of whether it is "moral" to benefit from rent controls as a tenant. It's the state that violates the right not the tenant. So, "morality" is equivocal here.)

As a result, Walter is entirely right that a tenant in a rent-controlled apartment who joins a group called Tenants Against Rent Control indeed is permitted to call himself libertarian.

Now Mises writes:

The nineteenth-century success of free trade ideas was effected by the theories of classical economics. The prestige of these ideas was so great that those whose selfish class interests they hurt could not hinder their endorsements by public opinion and their realization by legislative measures.

At the most, then, a libertarian personally enjoying a state privilege is expected not to resist and even to support, despite any selfish interest, any campaign to abolish this privilege. For example, a farmer should then strive to get price supports abolished despite perhaps suffering personally if they are abolished.

Again, the political problem is not that numerous old people receive Social Security benefits. Are they thieves? Maybe, let God judge them; I won't. The problem is that they will raise hell against anyone who suggests getting rid of Social Security. However, regarding such miscreants, Mises argues: "If modern civilization were unable to defend itself against the attacks of hirelings, then it could not, in any case, remain in existence much longer."

So then: down with unions!