His original definition is as follows:
Culture... is all of the behaviors in our lives that are not answerable by or even addressed by the non-aggression principle. The non-aggression principle addresses when it is proper to use aggression; it is a political principle. The NAP says nothing about many things: haircuts, clothes, religious affiliation (or not), car color, etc. It speaks to the proper use of force, nothing more.
Oddly, my own definition of culture seems at first glance to be very similar: it's what people, I say, having obeyed the law and abided by justice (the "NAP"), do with their freedom. Culture is as super-diverse as the food in the supermarket. By its essence, then, culture cannot be managed, controlled, or protected by governments. So far America has survived without a "Ministry of Culture," and thank goodness for that.
But in fact Bionic has something much more specific than this in mind. He stresses the alleged importance of culture to libertarians by posing challenges like:
How much labor is to be mixed with land or other unowned resources in order to transform these from unowned to owned?
How much punishment fits the crime? The NAP [binds only the upper limit].
What are acceptable family relationships?
What is an acceptable greeting between two businessmen?
Greeting a person of the opposite sex?
Hand holding in the park?
What is the age of majority, everywhere?
What is the proper "justice" for stealing an apple, everywhere?
Define the term "aggression," everywhere.
Define property, everywhere.
Based on these, I believe he divides culture into 2 forces. First concerns some aspects of practical application of libertarian law.
Regarding the amount of labor needed for proper homesteading of land, I agree that there may not be a single best answer. But still general limits can be easily established.
Walter Block suggests, for example:
For agricultural purposes, he must clear the tree stumps, move away the big rocks, plow the land, seed it, and gather a crop from these efforts of his.
For urban areas, he must build a road or a house or a factory on it.
To use the territory for a park, he must clear the land, build paths and bathrooms for his intended clients, place lighting there, etc.
He is then and only then justified in calling the land his own, being able to legally repel invaders, etc.
The possibility of hard cases does not detract from the fact that most cases are easy.
Regarding punishments, Rothbard, for example, favored the retribution theory. He notes at one point that a thief in addition to his main crime also puts his victim
into a state of fear and uncertainty... So that for proportionate punishment to be levied we would also have to add more than double so as to compensate the victim in some way for the uncertain and fearful aspects of his particular ordeal.
What this extra compensation should be it is impossible to say exactly, but that does not absolve any rational system of punishment -- including the one that would apply in the libertarian society -- from the problem of working it out as best one can. (Ethics of Liberty, 89)
Is Rothbard's system therefore vain? Is proportionality of punishment a useless ideal because of the practical difficulty of imposing just the right (in Rothbard's system) amount of punishment? There are, of course, other criteria of punishment, such as utilitarian deterrence. The idea is to minimize the combined cost of (1) crime to the victims, (2) punishments to the criminals, and (3) the justice system itself including investigations and enforcement such as prisons to the taxpayers. But that, too, is very empirical which implies not just that different cities may punish differently, but that in the same city, punishments should usefully change from time to time. If we grant these to Bionic, have we thereby conceded that the penal code is a "cultural question"? Not really, because the difficulty of arriving at the correct answer does not entail that no correct answer exists. A "culture" that got it right is objectively superior to a culture that made a mistake.
The age of majority for sex is definitely greater than 9 and less than 21 everywhere. Of course, opinions may differ but hardly exceedingly greatly. Regarding drinking, there should be no "legal" age of majority. Regarding being drafted into the military, there should be no draft. If there is volunteer military, then the government which owns the military can decide on its own authority how old people must be to join. Regarding voting or ability to make contracts, it's the "age of reason," probably somewhere around 14 years old, the age at which young Catholics perform the confirmation sacrament.
Alternatively, we can use Rothbard's criterion that the age of majority is attained when a child asserts his full rights to self-ownership, namely, "when he leaves or 'runs away' from home. Regardless of his age, we must grant to every child the absolute right to run away and to find new foster parents who will voluntarily adopt him, or to try to exist on his own."
The proper justice for stealing an apple is perhaps a small fine or mandatory service to the apple merchant for a few days. A judge issuing a sentence will be guided by a number of considerations, and his judgment will have to be "wise," an objective virtue.
Aggression can be obvious, like getting punched in the face, or more controversial, like being bombarded by photons from the lamp in a neighbor's window. The latter, however, are rarely problems; and the former are the legal system's chief concern.
"What is property?" is not a trivial problem, either. One obvious controversial issue among libertarians is intellectual property. But that well-reasoned opinions regarding it differ again does not entail that there is no best or true opinion. The answer to this question surely is not "it's an entirely arbitrary convention, as impervious to rational examination as a choice between a vanilla and chocolate ice-cream."
So much for this aspect of Bionic's "culture." His second apparent definition is "non-coercive social pressure."
I think our author has definite views on the proper incentives he personally would like to establish to other people in the course of their daily lives for proper business / opposite sex greetings, proper attire, proper family relationships, and so on.
If a person will not greet him the way he likes, Bionic will refuse to do business with him. If a girl fails to greet him well, he will not date her. If his lawyer is dressed inappropriately, he will forsake him for a more respectable person. As for hand-holding in the park, the park's owner can make up his own rules.
It's perfectly fine to ruminate on these, but I personally find these issues fairly uninteresting. Why should they bother a person qua libertarian? All a libertarian will argue is that it is each person's right not to be punished by the state for an "improper" greeting or attire. A private property owner, of course, can establish definite rules and enforce them with threats of ejection of troublemakers from his land.
Bionic then proceeds to affirm that he "would love to live in a community (however large or small) governed entirely by generally accepted common culture and custom, and not governed at all by law." But if in this community a certain punishment for theft is imposed, what does it matter whether the system of "governance" is based on "common culture" or law? Is it simply that one is unwritten and the other written? But what's the big deal? Wouldn't a clear unambiguous written law be far more efficient, anyway?
Suppose further that in that community a death penalty is inflicted for stealing an apple. A traditional libertarian will say this is unjust. But Bionic apparently disagrees, saying that as long as everyone in the community agrees to be bound by this restriction, all is well. Perhaps he would look contentedly at a socialist commune, too, as long as its every member entered it voluntarily. Now I agree that generally, the affairs of one city are none of any other city's business. But the institutional aspect of libertarianism which in part does indeed consist of massive decentralization is very much incomplete without its ideological aspect of laissez-faire capitalism and natural law.
Further, how would Bionic ensure a common culture? There are two ways; one is coercive restrictions on individual culture-making, such as the government forcing everyone to worship the same celebrities. I am pretty sure our author is not in favor of that.
The other is people forming like-minded communities and self-segregating. The "common culture" can arise only within relatively small private civil associations. Even in those, there may be written "bylaws" or contracts if it's a business firm and so on. Again, I do not find his distinction between written and unwritten laws to be compelling. If the community stones you for adultery, an injustice is committed against you regardless of whether the killers are guided by law or "common culture."
The relations between these civil associations which do not have much in common other than desire for mutual benefit through commerce and trade -- their "foreign policy" -- ought to be based entirely on libertarian ideology.
Finally, people with very different values -- and who share no common culture other than libertarian law -- can not only co-exist but profit handsomely from each other's existence. If Bionic does not understand this, then he has not been paying attention to the main points of libertarianism or economics, for that matter. In the economy, diversity (in complementary skills) is strength. There is no need for a thriving and perpetually improving commonwealth to feature any shared culture beyond commitment to libertarian justice.
Mises put it this way: "It is precisely because of [economics'] neutrality that people with different evaluations are able to live peaceably together. This is one of the most important ideas that came out of the Industrial Revolution and the development of modern science. It was an idea that was absolutely foreign to the most eminent minds of the sixteenth century. Very few persons then could have understood that people with different religions, values, and ideas, could live together in the same city, the same country, or the same world."
In sum, I am unconvinced that the focus on "culture" is useful for our libertarian project.