Pissed Off

April 30, 2010

The government will fall that raises the price of beer. – Czech proverb

When you invite the whole world to your party, inevitably someone pees in the beer. – Xeni Jardin

The Lost Abbey tasting room is literally an oasis in the desert. They are no joke and one of  only two breweries (along with Stone) to have two beers on Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s list of the top 25 beers of 2009. The San Diego area has 33 breweries, part of what makes it Men’s Journal’s top pick for American beer towns (Portland has a mere 29). Yes, it’s good to live in San Diego.

What was I saying before this turned into a tourism ad? Oh, yes. The tasting room. A dollar doesn’t get you much these days, but in their tasting room, “it’ll get ya drunk” on a seriously generous serving (4 oz.) of high-ABV beer of outstanding craftsmanship; full pints are a bank-breaking $4. It’s a ridiculous deal in a wonderful atmosphere, right among the barrels, tanks and attendant smells of a working brewery.

It was a good deal; then the state showed up to put a stop to it. The frustration, anger, and raw emotion expressed in this post makes for a breathtaking read. There isn’t much more to say. But I’ll say it anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

Take It Easy

April 29, 2010

Anarchists are radical types and some of us love a good boycott. The recent immigration law in Arizona, being an abominable piece of garbage, seems as good a reason as any to ostracize the hell out of somebody. But I’ve seen a few calls for “boycotting Arizona.” Not Arizona business X or Arizona group Y…just Arizona. It’s quote possible that this is just a shorthand way of saying the government or supporters of the law; sloppy, but right on. If they mean something more like anyone or anything from the artificially-demarcated area known generally as Arizona, I have to raise an eyebrow. Isn’t boycotting AZ residents or products en masse akin to the tactic of state sanctions of other states? State sanctions aren’t normally something I see anarchists praise. So why would we want to emulate them?

Jim Davidson, in a conversation on Facebook, agrees:

…a boycott of Arizona as a region makes no sense, to me, because of the parties not involved in, or opposed to, the acts of oppression being boycotted and ostracised.

But he also point out a subtle difference:

I don’t know about the extent to which private actions are similar to state actions….it would be individual actions in a boycott by persons consenting to participate. A state sanctioning another state or country causes everyone in the state which is sanctioning to suffer even if they don’t consent to the sanctions, as well as causing all those in the state being sanctioned to suffer even if they don’t agree with the actions purportedly motivating the sanction. Sanctions are different from individual action in the extent to which they are coercive to all parties.

This is a good point as far as it goes. But the fact remains that they are, if used indiscriminately, directed at “those in the state being sanctioned…even if they don’t agree with the actions purportedly motivating the sanction.” Is it appropriate to boycott just anyone (primarily businesses I imagine, export or tourist) that happens to be from AZ just because the government that no one can ever consent to passed a horrible law? If so, it seems to give credence to the idea that “you are where you live.” That seems to be more than a little ironic when used in support of the idea that people should not be discriminated against because of an accident of birth. I just question the sense of wide-ranging boycotts over large territories simply because the goons forcibly maintaining a monopoly over force there are behaving goonishly. You lose something in both efficacy and the moral high ground.

Momento

April 28, 2010

Today, I starting going through old draft blog posts that died on the vine; a little spring pruning. If there is anything worth saving from the trash folder, I might even publish it. The following passage is one such worthy clip. The strange thing is that I can’t for the life of me recall if (a) it’s a quote from someone else, (b) it’s a paraphrase of someone else’s idea that I read somewhere sometime, or (c) I wrote it my own damn self. (c) seems highly unlikely given that, you know, I don’t remember developing the thought. I was either in so much of a hurry that I didn’t write down the source or I had a moment of clarity that is totally alien to me now that I read it months later. Oh well. Here it is. If you know what it’s from (if it’s from anything), please let me know. My apologies to the clever individual responsible. If it turns out to be me, I’m sure my memory will return post-haste….unless you hate it.

Public goods theory states that non-rivalrous and non-excludable goods (e.g. governance) will be underproduced on a free market. In order to correct this underproduction, the government must step in and coerce free riders into paying, thus assuring adequate funding for the public good.

The consent theory of political obligation says that citizens’ duty to obey the law and the government’s authority are derived from the voluntary agreement of the citizens to be ruled by the government.

One of these theories must be wrong:

If public goods theory is true, then consent theory must be false — if the government coerces free riders, then they cannot consent.

If consent theory is true, then public goods theory must be false — if people fund government voluntarily, then there is no free rider problem.

I can think of a few objections. Can governance be considered a public good, in whole or in part, even in light of private production of law codes? It seems the resulting peace and civility promised would be. Is it necessarily the case that universal voluntary funding doesn’t underproduce governance? So perhaps it’s better to say not that public good theory per se is false if consent theory is true but rather that the prescription for what government should do would, by norm, have to be blocked. Well, FWIW…

What Is Aggression?

April 27, 2010

The following essay was my submission for an ATP 101 assignment asking: What is aggression? How can we distinguish between aggression and other kinds of undesirable influence? The space in the assignment was limited so I only intend this to be a starting point for further research.

A key concept underlying aggression is that of a moral agent’s ‘boundary’. I do not mean for this term to imply a continuous, spatiotemporal boundary [1] , though it will often correspond to exactly that. Instead, the boundary is a logical entity that divides the set of all actions that can be performed by others into (a) those that treat our agent as a means [2] (“inside the boundary”) and (b) those that do not (“outside the boundary”).

Simply performing an action that treats another person as a means (i.e. is within that person’s boundary) is not sufficient to make the action one of aggression, however. That would count most, if not all, of human interaction as aggressive, making it a poor basis for a legal system [3] . Therefore, we might be tempted to separate out those ‘boundary crossings’ that occur without the consent of our agent. But that too seems a poor basis for a legal system that needs to enforce its judgment without being itself unjust.

I do think, however, that lack of consent from our agent is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for an action committed against her to be classed as one of aggression. Either of two other conditions must obtain: (a) the action is not necessary to end an act of aggression on the moral agent’s part; or (b) the action is necessary to end an act of aggression but morally disproportionate (in the direction of excess) to the seriousness of that act. Therefore, aggression is treating someone as a means without their consent where doing so is either (a) unnecessary to end aggression or (b) disproportionate to the seriousness of that aggression [4] . (Long) We might call this, and therefore define aggression as, “treating someone as a mere means.”

Because I have given a definition that relies on the concept of “treating someone as a means,” using it to distinguish between aggression and other kinds of undesirable influence will require a method for knowing what “treating someone as a means” means. It also relies on an ability to determine the necessity of an action (to end aggression) and whether an action found so necessary is disproportionate in moral seriousness. The necessity of an action to end aggression is likely something that can be determined empirically, for the most part. The other two factors will require more complex methods of determination (e.g. critical reflection, reflective equilibrium, intuition-pumping, additional moral principles, community norms etc.)

I will say something further about “treating someone as a means.” I do not think that treating someone as a means requires intention. Nevertheless, intention can play a role in certain contexts, e.g. “threatening to invade someone’s boundary is itself an invasion of that person’s boundary (since in announcing my intention of using you as a means I am already treating you as the sort of thing it is legitimate to use as a means).” (Long) I do think it requires subjecting or subordinating someone to some condition, rather than simply taking advantage of the facts about someone.

You will notice that I do not refer to property rights nor do I specifically refer to physical force. It may be the case (and I think there are good reasons for thinking) that in the process of unpacking ‘treating someone as a means’ that it will necessitate some consideration of external property and/or a limit to actions that are physical violations of person or property. This more general definition, however, keeps the underlying moral premise in the foreground so as to prevent any question-begging formulations prior to a discussion of property rights or non-physical harm among those who share a desire to capture the spirit of non-aggression.

Works Cited

Long, Roderick T. “Abortion, Abandonment, and Positive Rights: The Limits of Compulsory Altruism.” 1993. <http://praxeology.net/RTL-Abortion.htm&gt;.


[1] Imagine a sphere in 4D space-time surrounding our moral agent.

[2] I will not be defending this notion here but it comes from (though not only from) the Aristotelian virtue-ethical normative principle that states that, “Every person has the right not to be treated as a mere means to the ends of others,” where ‘right’ is understood to mean in the sense of ‘legally enforceable’. To treat someone like a mere means is to not treat them as an end in themselves. (Long)

[3] I will only focus on aggression as it relates to legal institutions concerned with the legitimate use of force. There are many other domains concerned with correctly defining ‘aggression’, including psychology and biology, but these are not generally concerned with the normative realm implied by a non-aggression principle.

[4] The recursive nature of this definition is not problematic because (a) obtains in the case where there is simply a lack of any reciprocal boundary crossing.

More Things, Horatio

April 22, 2010

I was asked by a few interested people to expand on my last post. There was also some discussion that took place on Facebook around Stephan Kinsella’s reply. At one point in that discussion, Stephan asked me a question that I think gets at the heart of the matter. I thought I would answer it here (with Stephan’s blessing) to kill two birds with one stone.

When we are careful to define capitalism in a non-crony, non-corporatist way, to refer to private ownership of the means of production — and you say you are STILL against it, how can this not be construed as unlibertarian? Please explain.

-Stephan Kinsella, in conversation on Facebook

The short answer is that it should be obvious from the fact that I call myself a “free market anti-capitalist” that I’m not against “private ownership of the means of production,” assuming it entails what I think it entails.  What I’m against are some of the things that you think it entails. But rather than this meaning that we have two different visions of capitalism, I’m assuming that you wouldn’t call my vision capitalism at all. Read the rest of this entry »

What some left-”libertarians” oppose is the economic order most standard libertarians favor and expect to accompany an advanced free society–whatever word you slap on it. Thus they go on about mutual aid, wildcat strikes, the workers, localism, self-sufficiency, they condemn the division of labor, mass production, factories, employment, firms, corporations, “hierarchy,” international trade, not to mention “distant” ownership, landlordism, “alienation,” industrialism, and the like. Their agenda is not required by libertarianism–most of it is not even compatible with it, I’d say, so is unlibertarian. But this is a debate we can have–it’s on substance. I think this is a large motivation for their hostility to the word “capitalism”–they mean capitalism like we do, and dislike it. I don’t mean crony capitalism–but actual libertarian-compatible laissez-faire capitalism. They want libertarians to stop saying capitalism because they want us to adopt their substantive unlibertarian, Marxian agenda. Yet they pretend it’s just for strategical or lexical concerns–which it’s not. This is yet another reason I think we should dig our heels in and not give in: they will then count it as a substantive victory for unlibertarian, leftist ideas.

-Stephan Kinsella, quoted by Juan Fernando Carpio

Stephan Kinsella is right about one thing: the reason I’m a free-market anti-capitalist is because I have substantive differences with him and other “standard libertarians.” To the extent that my friends on the libertarian-left are making linguistic and strategic arguments against the word ‘capitalism’ (and I’m not convinced that all of them are or that none of their arguments have a substantive element), I don’t have much of a dog in that fight.

But if Kinsella thinks this is a gotcha, a deep insight into our hidden agenda, then let me be clear: I mean capitalism like you do, and dislike it. As I said, there is no pretending it’s only “strategical or lexical” here.

Where I disagree with Kinsella is about who, exactly, is being “unlibertarian and Marxian.” Well, ‘Marxian’ is a bit unfair but capitalism and Marxism share in a fundamental myth that I reject, so in that sense, I’m further from Marxism than Stephan.

OK, that’s a cheap shot. But it is a debate we can and should have.  I’m not going to start it here because I’ve already talked about it elsewhere and I just wanted to use this space to make my position clear. In the meantime, calling all haters of “anarcho”-capitalism

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