Free Will

“If there is no free will, why write books or try to convince anyone of anything? People will believe whatever they believe. They have no choice! Your position on free will is, therefore, self-refuting. The fact that you are trying to convince people of the truth of your argument proves that you think they have the very freedom that you deny them.”

A) This is a conflation of determinism and fatalism. This claim suggests that people think they have control over what they believe, as if the experience of being convinced by evidence and argument were voluntary. There is much evidence against the notion that our conscious selves have no control of what we believe. We didn’t choose to be born with a brain that’s able to accept good arguments. We’re simply designed to accept it when it is in front of us. Some of us are born with brains that hang onto our biases and emotional attachments more. However, those attachments are malleable due to our hard-wired adaptability to our environments. We didn’t choose to be adapt. We simply are. There may be varying degrees of adaptability or some may be born with none due to unhealthy mutations. Even in those cases, they had no control over those physical manifestations. Some may argue that how can one claim such an absolute statement when we see so many random events concerning free decisions?  Every random event which occurs can be attributed to either the environment or our genes. You cannot decide to obey the law of gravity rather than fly around at your pleasure.

Our society is plagued with this libertarian notion of Free Will which defies all good studies of Science.

 “If nobody is responsible, not really, then not only should the prisons be emptied, but no contract is valid, mortgages should be abolished, and we can never hold anybody to account for anything they do.  Preserving “law and order” without a concept of real responsibility is a daunting task.”

B) Where did the notion of punishment come from? Is it truly the justified and righteous way of dealing with atrocities? When we look at scientific facts about psychopaths, we see that they didn’t choose to become psychopaths. They had no control over their hard-wired susceptibility to a life without empathy. Should we forgive a psychopath for murder? We’d like to say No, but the answer isn’t as easy as our instincts like it to be. Let’s take a look at something we take as granted within the libertarian notion of deservedness as Hard work or merit to illuminate the errors of our intuitions concerning responsibility. An article shows that even something as trivial as birth order and size (which we have no control over) determine our work ethic and our overall personalities. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ruled-by-birth-order/ If you take a look at a child whose parents and siblings are hard workers (genetic and environmental factors), they’re most likely going to be hard workers. It’s been hard-wired to be susceptible to developing rigorous work ethics. Perhaps even the traits that characterize or lead to hard work, such as perfectionism. Are they only going to be hard workers? No. We were also programmed in the ability to adapt to our environments. However, we did not choose those programs nor did we choose the varying levels of adaptability each individual is born with. These natural facts show how we are not able to say it is always right to punish such murderers with absolute certainty. Instead of being merely enraged at atrocities, we should rationally think about how the consequent responses we could take after such atrocities will benefit our well-being. Why should we squander our money on imprisoning murderers rather than improving our education system? Why is imprisonment the least harmful way of dealing with criminals? Shouldn’t we change the environmental factors that caused many of these murders to happen? How does it benefit our well-being when we punish and practice equally violent acts of execution? Instead of tying responsibility and punishment to our gut reactions, we must connect it to the well-being of conscious creatures.

I do believe that it is more cost efficient to imprison murderers who exhibit violent tendencies to prevent further murders, since that is to secure the well-being conscious creatures. Not because he is responsible for all of his decisions. Some may believe that my argument concerning responsibility with the case of murder is weak. That is precisely because of the nature of murder.  It ends the possibilities of all pleasure, love, and experiences of a conscious creature. It is the end. It’s very difficult to justify. However, murder is not the only case in which we attribute a crime due to responsibility. We imprison the poor who commit minor theft and sell marijuana. We let our government and corporations to destroy the poor who were dissuaded into taking out risky loans. We let potential murderers walk around with guns due to our attachment to responsibility. We even spout nonsense like we should’ve let the banks collapse and consequently the world economy. I vehemently disagree. We should’ve prevented the banks from making such risky bets in the first place. We shouldn’t let irresponsible people roam around in a laissez faire economy with no regulation. Our perverted sense of freedom and responsibility let us harm the poor and prevent us from treating each other fairly. This is a real issue. We do not live in an Ayn Rand world of objectivity. It is utter gibberish. We are capable of touching on objectivity but we as subjective beings may never become purely objective. It is physically implausible. David Hume was right. We can only experience the world as subjective. It is always an experience of first person. With emotions and genetic biases that prevent us from having all truths in this world. We should take Thomas Hobbe’s warning of our savage and violent past of anarchy seriously. Freedom doesn’t exist. Life may be about discovering different sorts of restraints. When one argues that discovery and responsibility requires Free Will, I beg of you to think again. No matter what decision you are making, you do not have control of how the decision came to you nor does your conscious self have control over your body’s enactment of it. Moral Responsibility may need to disappear as a word, for it does not exist anymore. Instead, we should take upon the consequentialist approach of a utilitarian calculus. It is ridiculous to denigrate being restrained and controlled by kindness and fairness for radical responsibility and libertarianism.

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23 thoughts on “Free Will

  1. “…The fact that you are trying to convince people of the truth of your argument proves that you think they have the very freedom that you deny them.”

    A) This is a conflation of determinism and fatalism….”

    I think it is just acknowledging that a determinist cannot claim to be claiming an objective truth without automatically claiming to be acting outside of strict causality (rather than reacting within a strictly causal universe).

    Even the claim ‘there is no free will’ is a claim of objective truth which is an act of free will. If it is not an act of free will then it cannot be said to be a claim of objective truth. It is just an uncontrollable reaction to causal factors.

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    • You don’t need free will to make truth claims. No truth claim from a human being is likely to be absolute due to human limitation. e.g. We can’t gather empirical data from things that happened before the Big Bang.
      We are not beings free of causation.

      We don’t need free will to explain consciousness nor the ability to make formal rules such as math. I wrote a blogpost on consciousness. You should read it because I don’t wish to explain so meeting that will take many paragraphs as a comment.

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      • ‘…You don’t need free will to make truth claims….”

        Agreed. But claiming a truth claim is *objectively* true both requires free will, and is an expression of free will.

        An objective truth is more than just a claim of truth that you are compelled to make due to causal factors which you have no control over.

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  2. There is more scientific evidence against Free Will. There is more evidence for consciousness being material. I’ve cited the sources for these claims on my other blog post. Check it out.

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    • Equally there is evidence for consciousness acting beyond the confines of the brain. Naturally these simple verifiable, repeatable experiments are dismissed, censored by the mainstream (materialist) scientific community. Almost zero funding is given (at least in the non military realm) to experiments which demonstrate and explore consciousness’ non local aspects … while huge sums of money are provided to continue scanning the brain with instruments which by there very nature cannot possibly measure consciousness as anything more than mere brain function.

      In all areas of science (and academia) the prevailing dogma has ALWAYS been supported and well funded and any new ‘paradigm changing’ evidence has ALWAYS had to battle dismissal, censorship and even persecution by the establishment (who have so much invested in the old world view) before it is acknowledged – often this process takes centuries.

      Of course the idea of a non local consciousness is not really new or paradigm changing. Humans have known this for thousands of years. The idea that consciousness is merely brain function is the new theory, although the current schooling system teaches it as if it were an established and universally accepted fact.

      Not long ago smoking was healthy according to many prominent and well funded scientists. The ‘fact’ that we are merely lumbering robots machines made out of meat is not a reflection of reality or a conclusion of scientific experimentation, it is just that it happens to be the world view which best serves the current system of human control and exploitation with its governments, military industrial corporations and consumer based culture.

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      • Read my blog Loop. I’ve told you many times. It seems like you don’t read. The majority of Cognitive science and neuroscience tackle a materialist view. A few carve up space for a perhaps immaterial view, but they are not adamant. They simply exclaim it may be possible. A very few who claim it actually is immaterial are idiots like Deepak Chopra.

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      • No. A materialist basis has nothing to do with military industrial complexes. It’s better for them to dumb us down to believe in absurd things like souls which gives weight to Christian Theology consequently ruining a space for rational thought. Stop coming up with conspiracy theories. I’m starting to feel uneasy.

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  3. I disagree. We didn’t need to taste every apple in this world to induce that it was edible. Even though we might not be equipped with the tools to verify and claim a deductive conclusion of all truths we are certain of, we do not need to bother going that far to prove 1+1. It is simply impractical and ridiculous. Much like Russell’s teapot analogy.

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    • John claims free will is an illusion and everything he thinks and does is causally determined.
      Sarah claims free will is real and that she is perfectly capable of choosing A or B.

      As a determinist John must claim Sarah’s claim is false and that she doesn’t really have free will and that she is merely compelled to claim she has free will by strictly causal factors in a strictly causal universe.

      But to be consistent John would have to acknowledge that his own claims are equal to Sarah’s in that he is also compelled to claim she does not have free will also by strictly causal factors in a strictly causal universe.

      Therefore, as a determinist, all John can do is claim that they are BOTH compelled by causal factors to either support position A (determinism) or position B (free will). Neither have any control over this. Both are slaves to strict causality.

      If John claims position A is *objectively* true he is asserting his ability to make a choice beyond mere causality. He is expressing his choice for A over B which is an act of free will. Remember only Sarah claims to have the ability to choose A or B.

      That is why any determinist who claims their position is objectively true is in fact refuting determinism.

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      • You may claim that our intuition and emotional responses which feel like we have a self are evidences for Free Will.
        Intuitions are the worst evidence. We used to feel like African Americans were inferior. We used to feel like the Sun revolved around the Earth. It still looks like so to our eyes. When there is verified evidence, we have to concede. These are links I posted on my blogpost Loop, which you keep refusing to read. http://io9.com/5975778/scientific-evidence-that-you-probably-dont-have-free-will

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      • “…You may claim that our intuition and emotional responses which feel like we have a self are evidences for Free Will…”

        Nope. That was not my argument.

        I made my argument in my previous comment. Are you able to refute it?

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      • READ A Dilemma for Libertarianism Karl Widerquist Lecturer in Politics The University of Reading Karl@Widerquist.com They asked… “Is it right to pay taxes to the Roman Empire?” … Jesus replied, “Show me a coin in which the taxes are paid. … Whose image is on it?” … “Caesar’s,” they replied. And Jesus said to them… “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.” -The New Testament, Book of Mathew, Chapter 22, Verses 17-21 Libertarianism can be thought of in at least three ways: It is the ideology supporting (1) maximal equal liberty understood as self-ownership or noninterference, (2) strong, inviolable property rights without regard to the pattern of distribution of those rights, or (3) a so-called libertarian state, which is either a government limited to protecting property rights and self-ownership or no government at all. Most libertarians think of their philosophy as embodying all three of these claims, believing that a commitment to maximal equal freedom necessarily entails a commitment to strong property rights, which in turn necessarily entails a commitment to a libertarian state. I call the connection between these claims the “argument from liberty.” There are other arguments for the libertarian state, such as that it is more efficient or more productive that other regimes, but the argument from liberty is the essential libertarian argument. It is, of course, the reason libertarians choose to call themselves “libertarian.” It might be more accurate to use the term “right-libertarian” because most of the arguments here do not apply to left-libertarianism, but for simplicity, I call right-libertarians by the term call themselves. Critics of the argument from liberty have usually focused on the first two claims, arguing that freedom is not the most important value, that the libertarian conception of freedom is flawed, or that self-ownership does not necessarily imply strong property rights. The connection between the second and third claims is often accepted by both opponents and supporters, but the goal here is to challenge that connection. This article makes a fundamental criticism of libertarianism by arguing that the inviolability of strong property rights does not necessarily imply a libertarian state. If this article successfully demonstrates that a libertarian state does not follow from libertarian principles, it poses a serious dilemma for libertarians. It argues that libertarianism’s stated principles cannot justify a libertarian state but imply acceptance of monarchy or whatever state power has existed for a sufficient amount of time. This is so, because state power to tax and regulate property can be derived from property rights that meet all the libertarian conditions for legitimacy. Thus, an important additional conclusion of this paper is that taxes (except possibly for a head tax) do not necessarily violate formal self-ownership or constitute interference with any existing rights, but they are aspects of property rights, as any other payment in a market system. Libertarians usually miss this possibility because they do not consider that a government could hold valid property rights, although the principles they profess do not rule it out, and this article argues, favor it. This dilemma forces libertarians to choose between the principles and the state they advocate. The argument proceeds as follows. Section 1 briefly considers libertarian principles of property ownership and liberty. Section 2 demonstrates how a very unlibertarian state, a property-owning monarchy, can develop out of a commitment to libertarian property rights, and shows how this example establishes most conceivable government rights to own property and to tax private holdings follow from rather than conflict with libertarian principles of property rights. Section 3 considers nine objections that libertarians might make against the legitimacy of a property-owning monarch. Section 4 considers the limits that libertarian theory might put on the behavior of such a monarch. Section 5 concludes libertarian principles of property ownership do not lead to a libertarian state. 1. The Libertarian Conceptions of Property Rights and Liberty Libertarians assert four principles that are meant to exhaust the conditions necessary for establishing just property rights. Robert Nozick names three of them—original acquisition, transfer, and rectification. He leaves the fourth principle unnamed, but I call it, “statute of limitations.” Most libertarians—including Robert Nozick, David Boaz, and Murray Rothbard —take original acquisition from John Locke’s labor mixing theory of unilateral appropriation, although they give the appropriator a much stronger claim than Locke did, and many tend to play down Locke’s provisos. Some libertarians—including Jan Narveson, Israel Kirzner, and Tibor Machan—replace labor mixing with other principles such as first use or discovery. Once ownership is established, voluntary transfer and rectification of past wrongs govern how property rights pass from one person to another. The statute of limitations becomes necessary because these three principles cannot establish any property rights in a world where little or no property can be traced back in an unbroken change of transfer and rectification to original appropriation. Rothbard asserts, “where the victims are lost in antiquity, the land property belongs to any non-criminals who are in current possession.” To have liberty, under the libertarian conception, is to be free from interference with whatever rights a person happens to possess. A person has a natural right to self-ownership, but no natural right to property. If a person has an existing right to an external asset, any interference with that right is a violation of liberty, but the fact that a person does not happen to own such a right is not a violation of liberty. States may not interfere with anyone’s existing property rights to create positive opportunities for others to obtain property rights. Libertarian equality under the law is achieved when the state equally protects everyone’s rights while letting the four principles determine what property rights people have. The belief that these four principles exhaust the conditions necessary for determining the legitimacy of the distribution of property rights is equivalent to the libertarian claim that the legitimacy of the distribution of property has nothing to do with the pattern of inequality. Nozick summarizes this claim in the statement, “Whatever arises from a just situation by just steps is itself just.” Eric Mack restates this claim in more exacting language, “Whatever set of holdings arises from a just set of holdings by the specific transforming steps endorsed by the principle of justice in transfer is itself just.” As long as the distribution of property was determined according to these four principles, it is just in libertarian terms: no matter what the pattern of distribution is; no matter how poor some individuals might be; no matter how small the group the controls property is; no matter whether individuals are effectively forced by propertyless to be servants to the property-owning class. Libertarians see the advocacy of unlimited inequality as parallel of advocating limited government, but no libertarian authors I have found examine the full implications of having truly unlimited wealth inequality. If we must accept “whatever set of holdings arises,” we cannot make an exception if the pattern that happens to arise is one that libertarians might not like. 2. State ownership of property This section shows how the libertarian tale of transfers of rights from original appropriation can lead to a state which owns some or all of the property rights in a nation, and from these rights it can derive the power to tax. Thus, taxation and most other potential government powers do not violate the four stated principles of libertarian property rights. This story is meant to be taken as literally and as seriously as the libertarian story connecting current property holders to original appropriation. A. The Queen as a property-owning monarch Imagine an island called Britain. In the state of nature, all of the land is appropriated by a relatively small portion of the population following whatever rule of appropriation a libertarian reader might prefer. There is no government, but something like the state of nature or anarcho-capitalism prevails. According to Narveson, these “property rights … are liberty rights. You may … do what you wish with what is yours.” Thus, each proprietor essentially governs her own land. From this starting point Nozick traces the development of government from voluntary protective associations. But suppose that the proprietors prefer to protect their property themselves rather than employ protective associations. Propertyless people come to proprietors seeking land, materials, and protection in exchange for labor or services. Each proprietor insists that anyone who wishes to live on her estate accepts her as the arbiter of all disputes. The proprietor creates different sorts of deals with different people. To some she sells permanent tenancy rights, a sort of quasi-ownership called a “title” that tenants can buy and sell from each other so long as they recognize that the proprietor retains lordship over all property. She thereby retains the right to charge a royalty on all titles, to change the royalty rate or the conditions under which a person holds a title, and to reclaim any rights granted under title at any time. Not all tenants have quasi-ownership; some of her tenants rent indirectly through quasi-owners with the understanding that she has the right to collect a further royalty directly from them in whatever form she wants—as a portion of tenants’ income, a portion of their sales, a portion of their day in work direct for her, etc. In the libertarian sense, tenants voluntarily choose to pay royalties in exchange for the right to live on her estate. Proprietors find it advantageous to enlarge the size of their estates through voluntary transfer. They trade with each other, form strategic marriage alliances, and use the custom of primogeniture in inheritance. Proprietors may engage in just defensive force against aggressors, increasing their holdings by whatever form of just rectification the libertarian reader supports. Over the generations, estates become larger and larger, until finally one proprietor owns the entire island of Britain. At this time she decides to call herself “Queen” rather than “proprietor.” She prefers to refer to her “estate” as her “realm,” her “tenants” as “subjects,” and her “royalties” as “taxes.” But the nature of the Queen’s revenue has not changed. It is a voluntary transfer that fulfills all of the libertarian principles for justly acquired property. The taxes the Queen collects, therefore, do not constitute interference with existing private property rights. The Queen’s revenue is a form of profit that she has earned by allowing her subjects to hold private titles. Her tax revenue is her property to do with as she will. She can use it for her own amusement, for public works, for the common defense, or for alms to the poor. Being a “taxpayer” gives one the right hold the property on which one pays taxes, but it does not give one the right to help decide how the Queen spends her revenue; just as being a rent payer gives one the right to occupy a rental property but does not give one the right to have help decide how the landlord spends her income. After several generations, the quasi-landowners begin to forget that the Queen is the heir of the original appropriators of land. Some philosophers invent libertarianism and assert that title holders were somehow the heirs of the original appropriators, and should have full property ownership rather than quasi-ownership. But they have forgotten that they only hold such titles as the Queen has established; they hold those titles only at the pleasure of the Queen, and she has always retained the right to tax and regulate her property. What complaint can a libertarian make? Before considering that question, it is necessary to clarify whether the Queen is a government or just an extremely wealthy private individual, and in what sense taxation is a property right. B. Is the Property-owning monarch a government? The Queen is a “property-owning monarch” who derives enormous power not from divine right, social contract, or consent of the governed, but from her inviolable libertarian property rights. However, is a property-owning monarch, strictly speaking, a government, or just an extremely wealthy individual? In Nozick’s terms, she can be. In his story, government develops out of profit-seeking protective associations with no necessary responsibility to be democratic. The Queen’s government does everything a Nozickian state is supposed to do: she protects everyone’s formal self-ownership and the property rights of everyone who happens to own property (i.e. herself). People have the right to choose which agency they want to protect their self-ownership, but without resources, other agencies have difficulty competing with the Queen. The people could create a propertyless parliament to protect their self-ownership against the Queen. If she wanted to play hardball, she could revoke the titles of anyone who participated in such a project. If so, she would simply be exercising her property rights as a landlord who evicts members of a tenants union or a company that fires employees who try to organize a labor union. But let’s say the Queen is a nice person who allows Parliament to exist. Is Parliament the government or is the Queen? Parliament can act to protect citizens’ rights—such as they are—against the Queen, but Parliament cannot protect individual “property rights,” because the only individual who owns property is able to protect her property herself. Parliament can pass laws on issues that involve self-ownership and not property, but it needs the Queen’s permission to use any property to enforce laws. The Queen retains most effective governmental power, but Parliament retains some formal government power. Perhaps the two together make up the government. However, there are at least two ways to unite the powers of the Queen and of the Parliament. In one generation a monarch could decide to bequeath her property to Parliament instead of to her children. Or, from the start, the proprietor was never a single individual, but a democratic group of individuals. Simply retell the above story of the Queen and replace her by a democratic corporation. Thus, this story unites government power and the power of property ownership into one entity by virtue of appropriation, voluntary transfer, rectification, and statue of limitations—principles that exhaust the conditions for establishing just libertarian property rights. C. In what sense is taxation a property right? According to Anthony Honoré, “the liberal concept of full individual ownership” is a set of eleven rights and duties, or “incidents,” that a person can have over an asset. I have split two of the incidents into parts labeled “a” and “b” for reasons that will become clear below. These incidents are: 1. The right to possess, 2. The right to use, 3. 3a: The right to manage (i.e. the right to decide how it is used and by whom), and 3b: the right to regulate management 4. The right to the income the property generates, 5. The right to capital (i.e. the right to transfer property to others or to consume, destroy, or waste it), 6. The right to security (i.e. the right to refuse involuntary transfers), 7. Transmissibility (the right to transfer it to heirs), 8. The absence of term (that ownership does not come to an end at specified future date unless voluntarily transferred by the owner or her successors), 9. The duty to prevent harm (i.e. the duty not to manage one’s property in a way that potentially harms another person or another person’s property), 10. Liability to execution (i.e. 10a: that property may be seized by creditors, and possibly 10b: that it may be taxed or appropriated by the state), 11. Residuary character (i.e. eventually all interests in the property revert to the owner). According to Honoré, full individual ownership is “the greatest possible interest in a thing which a mature system of law recognizes.” Of the 11 incidents, nine are rights but two (incidents 9 and 10) are duties, so that full ownership is not absolute ownership. The incidents of property ownership are divisible. Property rights can consist in any combination of these incidents. Many weaker forms of ownership exist, including easements, rental agreements, share cropping arrangements, long- and short-term leases, partnerships, use rights, property with leans on it, and so on. Assets can be effectively unowned or held by an individual, by a group, or by a nation. Honoré is unwilling to say whether taxation of property (incident 10b) is a standard incident of ownership even though taxation is as common as property. The powers assumed by most governments are moderate in comparison to the Queen in the story above who controls all 11 incidents of all property in her realm. Instead, most governments claim the powers of taxation and regulation, which can, to some extent, affect all 11 incidents of ownership, but the powers of government can be summarized as incidents 3b and 10b. For example, regulation indirectly affects not only management (3), but also use (2), and capital (5). Taxation indirectly affects income (4), capital (5), and transmissibility (7). But focusing on the powers of government to regulate (3b) and tax (10b) simplifies the discussion without sacrificing clarity. The libertarian position seems to be that private property ownership is not only inviolable but also that it should and does constitute full liberal ownership. Currently private title holders have incidents 1, 2, 3a, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10a, and 11, subject to the government’s powers of 3b and 10b. Libertarians believe private title holders ought to control all incidents 1, 2, 3 (a and b), 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10a, 11, subject either to no taxation or to the minimum possible taxation (incident 10b). But are they entitled to those incidents? Libertarians are aware that these incidents can be divided, but have they been divided? Are incidents of ownership held only at the government’s pleasure; divided between government and title holders; or held entirely by title holders? There are two ways to answer this question; one is by an empirical examination of each party’s connection to the original appropriator or by invoking the fourth libertarian principle of the statute of limitations. Each party owns what has been in their possession for a sufficient number of years. Thus, the four libertarian principles lead to the conclusion that governments own the power to tax and regulate property. Libertarian principles do not support the so-called minimal state but a strange form of non-ideological nationalism that supports whatever state property rights have existed for a sufficient amount of time as long as those rights don’t conflict with formal self-ownership. 3. Does the Queen Make Individuals Unfree? Monarchy and any other forms of dictatorship is anathema to nearly all modern conceptions of justice. Liberals, communitarians, egalitarians, left-libertarians, democratic socialists, and the average person, can make a large number of complaints against the property-owning monarch consistently with their beliefs about justice. She is hogging all the resources and everything we make out of them. She has assumed privileges for herself in violation of principles of democracy and equal rights. She effectively makes everyone else her servant. These avenues of criticism are not open to libertarians, because they assert that people do not have an equal right to control resources. Libertarian equal protection under the law requires ignoring all differences in how much property an individual owns. Libertarianism has only four principles to establish justice in property rights—appropriation, voluntary transfer, rectification, and statute of limitations—and none of them have been violated. A review of libertarian literature—including works by David Boaz, Israel Kirzner, Tibor Machan, Jan Narveson, Robert Nozick, Murray Rothbard, and others —found no reasoning consistent with the argument from liberty that can be used effectively against a property-owning monarch. Any argument that can be put forward in favor of a title-holding class against the concentration of property ownership in one monarch can also be used in favor of a propertyless class against the concentration of property ownership in a title-holding class. This section considers and rejects nine arguments libertarians might make against the Queen. A. Interference The essential libertarian argument against government taxation and regulation of private property is that it is unjustified interference, and a form coercive aggression against individual rights; Rothbard declares, “Taxation is robbery.” However, libertarian theorists also make clear that the only unjustified interference is that which interferes with an existing right that an individual actually holds and holds justly. The denial of access to land cannot interfere with the property rights of a homeless person, if he holds no property rights in land. Similarly, the denial of access to tax-free titles cannot interfere with the property rights of a title holder, if the title she holds does not include the right to be free of taxation. Libertarian theorists have used the story of a connection to original appropriation to claim that private title holders possess all 11 incidents of property ownership so that any government taxation or regulation interferes unjustly with an existing right. This argument falls impotent against the Queen or against any government with property rights, because title holders are only connected to the original appropriators through her titles. For the Queen’s taxation and regulation of individual title holdings to be unjustified interference, current title holders must have at one time legitimately held titles that gave them the right to be free of taxation and regulation. When did they buy that incident of ownership? Whom did they buy it from? How much did they pay for it? The answers of course are never, no one, and nothing. Title holders have the same freedom from interference as the propertyless person under capitalism: whatever property rights they own are free from interference; but they have no right to obtain property rights that they do not now possess. In the libertarian sense, the Queen’s subjects have equality before the law with the Queen. Tibor Machan’s argues: [F]or the purposes of political justice, the only relevant equality is equality under the law, which preserves and protects the natural rights of each citizen. To strive politically for universal equality of any other kind is to strive for what is impossible and therefore wrong to pursue. If it is wrong to pursue greater equal ownership of property, title holders should simply accept their unequal position relative to the Queen. Narveson defends the Queen very well, mistakenly thinking that he is somehow defending title holders against the state, “coercion is a matter of bringing it about that the coerced person’s alternatives are considerably worse than in the status quo ante.” In the status quo ante, and for centuries before, private title holders held at best incidents 1, 2, 3a, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10a, and 11, while the government retained incidents 3b and 10b, if not much greater rights of ownership. Therefore, title holders have no claim to say that anyone coerced them or took their rights away. The Queen prevents title holders from assuming greater rights, but again according to Narveson, “the fact that having [property] entails having the right to prevent others from using it does not show that there is now a restriction on others’ liberty which there wasn’t previously.” If the previous title holders had been allowed to sell stronger rights to the property they passed on to current holders, they could have charged more. If these previous title holders were profit maximizers, they would have charged the full market value of incidents 3b and 10b. Therefore, that property rights are weaker than they might otherwise have been has not cost current title holders anything in a market sense: they do not hold full property rights, but they haven’t paid for full property rights. To find a person who actually lost market value because of this arrangement we have to go back to the original appropriator who is “lost to antiquity.” Once the possibility of government property rights is understood, libertarian policies are revealed as the promotion of positive opportunities rather than freedom from interference. When propertyless person who holds no incidents of ownership demands some of the incidents of ownership, libertarians declare that she is asking for a positive opportunity not freedom from interference. When a private renter who holds some of the incidents of ownership asks for additional incidents of ownership (though rent control and the right to renew her lease), libertarians declare that she is asking for positive opportunities not freedom from interference. Therefore, when a person who holds quasi-ownership asks to be given full ownership, the libertarian must also declare that he is asking for a positive opportunity not freedom from interference. The libertarian position on the promotion of positive opportunities is that it should never be done at the expense of interfering with the property rights of others, no matter how unequal the pattern of property ownership might be. If we take that argument seriously, it must apply even if the ownership of property is so unequal that the Queen owns everything. B. The story of the Queen is not literally true The story of the Queen, as I have told it, is not literally true. No government can trace its property rights in an unbroken chain of voluntary transfers (or just acts of rectification) to the original appropriators of property. As true and as obvious as this statement is, it is possibly the worst argument that a libertarian might attempt to employ against government property rights, because just as the Queen cannot trace her property rights to the original appropriators, neither can private property holders. The libertarian original appropriation story is not literally true; the propertied class cannot trace its property rights in an unbroken chain of voluntary transfers (or just acts of rectification) to the original appropriators of property. For an individual to defend his property “right” he has to trace the origin of his title, but a “title” is entirely a legal concept, and it’s origin always traces back to a government granting the individual the right to hold it with the understanding that government retained the right to tax and regulate property held under that title. In place of a genuine connection to the original appropriators, libertarians employ the statute of limitations argument. Unfortunately for libertarians, this argument favors the Queen. She is non-criminal because she merely exercises full ownership rights to her extensive estate. She has a better claim to property rights than anyone else because no matter how far individual title holders can trace back their line of ownership, she can trace hers farther. In Britain, every piece of property traces back to a title granted at the pleasure of the Queen England, and officially she still is the ultimate owner of all property. Over the years, her family has transferred much of those property rights to the British Parliament. If that transfer was legitimate (or so long ago that we can ignore it), Parliament now holds those rights legitimately. If it was illegitimate, the Queen of England’s individual power to tax, regulate, or act as the full owner of all of Britain’s property should be restored. It is possible, and even likely, that ancestors of the Queen of England disposed some people with a prior claim to some or all of Britain’s property. However, Edward Feser argues: [R]ectification could only be achieved, consistent with Nozician principles, by dealing with specific claims of specific past injustices filed by specific individuals against other specific individuals, and treated by the state on a case-by-case basis rather than as a matter of general social policy. Feser uses this argument to defend current title holders against reparations toward the descendants of slaves or dispossessed native peoples, but if it is a principled argument it also defends the governmental property rights against libertarians. Introducing libertarianism as a general social policy does nothing to compensate the heirs of whoever might have been dispossessed by the Queen of England. Given that the Queen grants titles at her pleasure, the current title holders are those most favored by the Queen’s regime, and they are distinctly unlikely to be the heirs of whoever her ancestors may have dispossessed. This empirical argument is not limited to Britain. It is hard to find any property rights in the word that cannot be traced back to “the arbitrary distribution of the sovereign.” The titles to 40% of the Earth’s surface (the portion that was once colonized by Britain) are granted by governments whose claim to rule that territory stems from treaties signed by representatives of the British monarchy, and most of the rest of the world traces its property to treaties signed with other European powers. Kirzner uses Columbus as an example of the kind of discoverer he wishes to promote, but Columbus was under contract to the Spanish Queen. If his discovery secured property rights to Latin America, the current owner of all that property is King Juan Carlos of Spain. We know where he lives and we can rectify the dispossession of his family, but establishing a libertarian state Latin America will do nothing to compensate him. A good case based on the four libertarian principles can be made for restoring full ownership of the whole of Russia to the heirs of Romanov dynasty, but certainly no case can be made on those principles for increasing the rights of current Russian title holders who attained their titles from the successor of the Soviet government. In some of those places, we might be able to find the individuals or groups who were dispossessed by governments, but in most cases those were other governments such as the Inca Empire and Native American tribes. C. Property rights ought to have been full ownership rights One could argue that the current title holders bought titles that ought to have entitled them to full property ownership, and therefore, they should be considered the full owners of that piece of property. That statement is difficult for a libertarian to defend, because pieces of property do not have rights—only sentient beings have rights. It is the same argument that a New Yorker might make in favor of his rent controlled apartment. When he first rented this apartment he ought to have bought the right to rent this apartment under rent stabilized conditions for the rest of his life. Is that a libertarian argument? Which libertarian principle supports it? Whatever the rights current title holders ought to have been able to buy, it is clear that the rights they actually bought were less than libertarians would prefer to hold. D. The Queen’s power to tax and regulate property infringes not just on property ownership but also on self-ownership Both right- and left-libertarians might complain that the Queen’s power to tax infringes not only property ownership but also self-ownership. The argument proposed here does not create a fundamental dilemma for left-libertarians as it does for right-libertarians (who call themselves simply “libertarians”). However, it is relevant for the left-libertarian proposition that the government has the right to tax only the value of land and natural resources, but that respect for self-ownership prevents it from taxing the value of income, sales, or individual effort. The Queen does not seem to have any limits on what kind of taxes she can impose. Does this power conflict with formal self-ownership? Nozick’s argues that taxation is on a par with forced labor describing redistributive taxation as, “a notion of (partial) property rights in other people.” According to this view, income taxation is tantamount to forcing an individual to work for others for a portion of the day. Wheeler does a little further arguing, “No significant moral difference in kind exists between eliminating my ability to play softball by taking my knees away and eliminating my ability to play the market by taking my money away.” It is a mistake to consider the argument about taxation as having something to do with libertarian formal self-ownership; it is about property ownership. As long as the Queen’s power to tax is derived from her ownership of property, any tax she can succeed in levying is not an infringement on full libertarian self-ownership. Michael Otsuka argues, if we can only come to hold a title to worldly resources on the condition that we share some of those worldly resources with others, then the state’s forcing us to share a part of our resources others is no more an infringement on the right of self-ownership than the purchase price of the any good in the market. An income tax is not a tax on an individual’s time, but on an individual’s attainment of property. If you have a valid ownership claim to property, and the Queen takes some of it away, she has violated your property ownership, not your self-ownership. If someone else has a valid claim to property ownership, and the Queen uses an income or sales tax to take a portion of it away when they want to transfer it to you, she violates their property ownership, not your self-ownership. However, if the Queen has a valid property right in all of the external assets in her realm, her taxes violate neither property rights nor self-ownership. They are simply the expression of her ownership rights. This analysis is consistent with a normal understanding of property rights. Imagine a large building with many apartments and businesses inside. The owner of that building can simply charge a flat rent to everyone who holds a lease. But she can instead charge each of them by percentage of their income or their expenditure. She can charge all three if she wishes. She can extend that charge not only to everyone who holds a lease, but to anyone who works in or merely visits that building. She does not have to limit her taxes to only money. She can require everyone who spends X hours a day in her building to spend Y hours working directly for her. If anyone doesn’t like it, their option is to stay away from her building. If she buys the building next door, her property rights do not diminish, and because libertarianism has ruled out any concern with the pattern of ownership, her rights also do not diminish if she succeeds attaining ownership of every piece of property in the land. The Queen can limit people’s ability to play the market, but not by taking “their” money away, just by taking some of her money back. She even put her picture on the money to remind people that they hold it at her pleasure, and that they must render unto her what is hers. If we take Wheeler seriously, no significant moral difference in kind exists between eliminating the Queen’s ability to play softball by taking her knees away and eliminating her ability to play the market by taking by collecting taxes on the use of her money. E. The Queen leaves individuals without effective self-ownership The Queen’s subjects do not lack formal self-ownership; they lack effective self-ownership. They cannot refuse to work for the Queen, because they don’t have any property of their own, and they need access to property to secure the necessities of survival. If they “choose” not to work for her, they will either have to starve or emigrate. This argument is true, but most libertarians cannot use it against the Queen, because they deny that individuals have a right to effective self-ownership. Many libertarians explicitly argue that individuals do not have a right to food, shelter, or life. As Boaz puts it, “if the right to life means this, then it means that one person has a right to force other people to give him things, violating their equal rights.” Equality before the law in Boaz’s terms involves complete blindness to how much or how little property one has. Therefore, we cannot force the Queen to give individuals food and water without denying her equal rights. Kirzner argues that the person who first appropriates the only watering-hole in the desert is entitled to charge what he will for it because he in the morally relevant sense, it did not exist before he discovered it. A life-or-death power over the propertyless is not too much for a property owner to assume. According to Narveson, “That the starveling is so badly off that he will not last long if he does not accept a proffered job… is not the fault of those who offer it, nor, quite possibly, of anyone.” Narveson explicitly opposes a right to life, We come into the world equipped with the right not to be harmed, not to have our liberty violated. But we don’t come equipped with a positive right to any resource. And in desperate circumstances, this could be taken to mean that we do not come equipped even with a ‘right to life’. … if constraining the liberty of some in order that others may prosper is contrary to justice, so is doing so in order that others may live at all. According to Machan, libertarianism does not guarantee the success of everyone and those who are unable to attain property have “failed of their own accord,” and should rely on the compassion and generosity of whoever owns property. He believes property is valuable because it gives the owner a sphere of control, but “this position does not mean that the natural right to private property involves any kind of entitlement to have goods and services provided for one by others.” Therefore, as desirable as it would be for title holders to have full ownership rights, there is no responsibility on the property-owning monarch to give them those rights. Even a lifetime of effective servitude does not make people unfree in libertarian terms. If it is permissible to deny effective self-ownership to the all workers who must serve the ownership class to get access to property, then it is permissible to deny effective self-ownership to all entrepreneurs who must serve a property-owning monarch to get access to property they wish to invest. The effective unfreedom felt by everyone but the Queen in a property-owning monarchy is the same effective unfreedom felt by the propertyless under libertarian capitalism: they must work for whoever controls property to survive. As long as an individual’s lack effective self-ownership happens because they have no claim to property ownership, they have as much self-ownership as libertarianism allows anyone to claim. Most libertarians seem to want effective self-ownership for the title-holding class and to deny the very same right to the propertyless, but they cannot have it this both ways if they wish to retain any claim to support equality under the law. Respect for effective self-ownership does not amount to a libertarian claim to dispossess the Queen, but it could put some limit on her power. F. The Queen monopolizes the ownership of resources One could argue that the Queen’s monopolization of resources is simply too much power for one person to hold. Market power arguments are typically ruled out by libertarians. Mack for example asks, “why should this (allegedly) negative externality [market power] be thought to render the resulting situation unjust.” There is one significant difference between her power and the power of a capitalist class under libertarianism: She is sole owner of property; anyone who wants property must serve her individually, while under the type of capitalism libertarians envision, individuals have a choice of many property owners to serve. Power in a libertarian state is decentralized from one central authority to a group even if that group is a privileged class. This argument might be coherent on its own but it is an argument about the pattern of the distribution of property, and therefore, it conflicts with the argument from liberty. Libertarians have not responded to egalitarian complaints about economic inequality by saying that such-and-such pattern of distributional inequality is within acceptable limits, but by declaring categorically that any argument based on a pattern of distributional inequality is unacceptable. Nozick, for example, declares “Whatever arises from a just situation by just steps is itself just.” As section 3 demonstrates, the end-state, in which the Queen owns everything, resulted by a series of just steps from an initially just situation in accordance with libertarian versions of the Lockean proviso. The fact that the Queen happens to own everything and therefore has the power to tax is a pattern, and so libertarians cannot simply dismiss it which committing the fallacy of special pleading. The pattern of the Queen’s property rights is simply not a reason to object to the power it gives her, no matter how much members of the title-holding class might resent the level of inequality between them and the Queen. Any libertarian objection to the Queen must rest on the historical principles of initial acquisition, transfer, rectification, and statute of limitations, but we have seen that these historical principles favor the Queen. Again a dilemma, if libertarians do not wish to accept the Queen’s power to tax as just, they must either drop their prohibition on judging the justness of a situation by the end-state pattern of property relations, or they must amend the principles that are supposed to fully determine whether the distribution of property is just. According to Rothbard, “The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else.” Therefore, to dispossess the Queen to attain any beneficial aspects of a competitive market system, violates the central axiom of the libertarian creed. We cannot rob the Queen (or any other property-owning government) of their legitimate property rights to attain benefits for ourselves. Those benefits would come at the expense of freedom as libertarians have defined it. Kirzner is confused on this point, stating the oxymoron, “Decentralized, individual decision making is nothing but a system of inviolate individual rights.” Decentralization is one possible pattern of inviolate individual rights. But if individual rights are truly inviolate, we must accept them whether they lead to a decentralized system of worker cooperatives, a centralized system of corporate capitalism, or an extremely centralized system of monarchical property rights. Apparently the belief in a so-called libertarian state is merely a preference for one distributional pattern of others at the expense of a strict adherence to principle. G. To be free is to have the opportunity to buy property One could argue that to be free is to have the opportunity to buy full liberal ownership rights and that the Queen’s permanent monopoly on the ownership of property denies people the opportunity. This seems to be what Machan has in mind when he writes, “What the right to private property means is that one has the authority to take actions which could eventually result in securing for oneself whatever is appropriate for one’s individual life.” Libertarians have considered and rejected monopoly as grounds for the regulation of property rights, and there are at least three problems with applying a monopoly argument to government property rights. First, we cannot say that the opportunity to buy property is present for everyone in a libertarian state. There are homeless people who cannot afford any property. Many others work their entire lives without accumulating full ownership rights to businesses or to their homes. If we are to say these people have the “opportunity” to buy property, but are simply unable to do so, we have to define opportunity extremely broadly. That is, as long as individuals have the legal right to buy something, they have the opportunity to buy it even though they cannot afford it. But such a definition leaves out a large part of the population, and as Waldron argues, any defense of property based on the value of owning property supports a policy in which everyone actually owns property not one in which some have it and some do not. Second, under the broad understanding of opportunity, we cannot say that the opportunity to buy property is absent under the Queen. Individuals in the Queen’s realm are free to offer to trade services for property rights. Any individual could offer to do X for the Queen in exchange for her promise to carve out a bit of her territory and cede it to them, and the Queen may accept or reject that offer. Any individual could offer to marry the Queen or to marry her daughter to become the Queen’s heir. Catherine the Great attained ownership to the whole of Russia by this method. The vast majority of people will never succeed in doing this, but they have “the authority to take actions which could eventually result” in securing those rights, and therefore Machan’s conditions for opportunity are satisfied. In other words, a homeless person has the opportunity to buy a house, but he simply cannot afford it; and in the very same sense the Queen’s subjects have the opportunity to buy full ownership rights, but they simply cannot afford them. Third, it is not true—strictly speaking—that the Queen has a monopoly or permanent property rights. Governments come and go. There are at least 192 countries in the world today, and individuals are at liberty to buy property rights from any them. There are people in America who are so wealthy that they could make a credible offer to buy a piece of territory from a poor nation. To say that governments have a responsibility to ensure that title holders can afford to buy full property rights but no responsibility to ensure that everyone can buy property rights is not only an argument about the distributional pattern, it is also an argument for a very strange pattern. The arguments here do not imply a libertarian state can never be justified, if one happened to develop historically. It shows instead that the argument from liberty implies no objection to states that have developed historically, and that the only just way to create a libertarian state would be for libertarians to buy the government through due process. However, if doing so does not increase freedom, why bother? H. It is not that any pattern per se is acceptable but any pattern that could have arisen through market trade is acceptable Libertarians might argue that the Queen’s property rights could not have arisen through just initial acquisition, voluntary, and rectification. The Queen’s extensive property rights could not be the result of libertarian exchanges of property secured by many initial acts of appropriation, and therefore they must have involved some injustice along the way. It is not that any pattern per se is acceptable but any pattern that could have arisen through market trade is acceptable. As a premise in an argument for libertarian property rights, this statement involves circular reasoning. The argument is supposed to justify libertarian market trade, but the conclusion of the argument (that libertarian markets should exist) is assumed as one of the premises of the argument. As a factual hypothesis, this statement is questionable. The libertarian appropriation story of individual appropriators who tame the wilderness without government aid has always been empirically weak. As far as we know, agriculture began in Egypt and Mesopotamia as large-scale irrigation projects coordinated by governments, and it did not spread to Europe by the acts of family farmers who ventured onto unused land. Hunter-gatherers who had some kind of collectivist conception of land-use rights preceded farmers to all of the continents except Antarctica and to most of the habitable islands of the Earth. For the most part, those hunter-gatherers governments were displaced by colonial governments before individuals could establish any private titles to specific plots of land. There is injustice in this situation, but it is hardly that such a government taxes the titles it made possible. Even if we pretend that the individual appropriation story is true, it seems at least as likely that individual proprietors would prefer to defend and enlarge their own estates leading to monarchy as to subscribe to a Nozickian protective association leading to a libertarian state. According to Narveson, the rights that the first appropriator receives depend on what rights she thought of herself as establishing, but if so, libertarian rights to property only exist to the rare plot of land that was originally appropriated by a person who actually thought she was establishing a libertarian right to property. As hard as it is to find the original appropriator or to determine what she was thinking at the time, but it is safe to say that few original appropriators—Aztecs, Sumerians, Carthaginians—thought they were establishing libertarian property rights. I. Only Individuals can own property Libertarians might be tempted to respond to any argument involving government property rights by arguing that only individuals can own property. “Society” is not the kind of entity that is capable of baring rights. The argument for the appropriation of property applies to individuals and not to any amorphous entity such as society or the world as a whole. That argument might have some weight against people who argue that society owns property because there is some natural right to hold property collectively. But the argument here is based firmly on the libertarian conception of individual rights. The Queen is an individual whose powers are individual libertarian property rights. It would be a very strange argument to say that a Property-Owning Monarch is justifiable but a property owning democracy is not. But one cannot draw the conclusion that democracies cannot hold property from the belief that only individuals are rights bearers. Individuals can hold those rights in any way they choose. If the Queen wants to bequeath her property to Parliament, a prohibition on her ability to do so violates her individual liberty and the individual liberty of everyone who owns a share in Parliament. If a group of individuals want to discover a resource, claim it, mix their labor with it, and hold it as government-owned property, a prohibition on their ability to do so is a restriction of the individual liberty of every member of that group. Libertarians do support jointly held property arrangements such as marriages, partnerships, and corporations. Could a libertarian support a law prohibiting a corporation from holding more than X% of national wealth without amending their conception of liberty? No, therefore, they cannot support a law restricting one corporation called the government from owning 100% of national wealth. 4. Limits to the Queen’s Power Although libertarianism does not contain an argument capable of demonstrating that the Queen’s property rights are illegitimate, it may contain arguments that would at least limit their extent. This section discusses four possible libertarian arguments that modern governments do or should have less power than the Queen in the story above. A. Formal self-ownership The Queen must respect formal self-ownership, but the libertarian understanding of formal self-ownership is extremely weak for people who do not own property, and provides very little protection against the Queen. She cannot arbitrarily imprison individuals, but she could exile them. She cannot simply go around lopping off people’s heads, but as argued above, the respect for formal self-ownership does not preclude her from doing the next best thing—depriving individuals of food and water until they agree to do her bidding. Therefore, presumably, if the Queen lives on an island nation, and if people refuse to serve her, she could force them to swim for it without denying them their formal self-ownership. The possibility of a parliament to protect formal self-ownership rights was discussed above, but if self-ownership does not prevent the Queen from denying individuals a “right to life,” she may never find it necessary to violate their formal self-ownership to get what she wants from them. Formal self-ownership must entail the right to exit under ordinary circumstances, but the right to exit does not imply that any other sovereigns have the duty to accept immigrants or to treat them any better than their native sovereign. Also, individuals might agree to forfeit their right to exit under some circumstances. They might incur a debt to the Queen and agree not to exit her realm without permission until the debt is paid. Depending on how much of a person’s self-ownership can be alienated by contract, this loophole could give the Queen great latitude in restricting emigration. If the right of contract is strong, she could make a rule in which individuals who remain one day passed their age of adulthood are now in her debt. The freedom to exit does not imply the freedom of internal movement. The Queen owns all the land including all the roads within her realm, and she has the freedom to decide who can and cannot use the roads without asking what anyone else thinks, “Since,” as Narveson states, “a very large part of the point of having a right is precisely that you do not have to get anybody else’s permission.” There is nothing to stop her from dividing her realm into manors, appointing one group of people as lords, another as peasants and saying that the peasants can only work for the lord of the manor on which they were born, thereby introducing effective feudalism. The Queen’s peasants are not bound to the land by the same rule that bound medieval serfs, who had a moral obligation tying them to a specific place in violation of formal self-ownership. Peasants under effective feudalism have no moral obligation to remain in a specific place; they simply lack the property rights necessary to travel, work, or live anywhere else in the nation. Effective feudalism is simply a pattern of property relations that might arise, and if we take libertarian principles seriously, “Whatever arises from a just situation by just steps is itself just.” B. The Lockean Proviso Some libertarians limit the right of original appropriation by what Nozick calls “the Lockean proviso” although it is substantially streamlined from Locke’s limits on appropriation. It is summarized in the statement that appropriation is valid at least where there is “enough and as good left in common for others,” which “is meant to ensure that the situation of others is not worsened” by appropriation. Conceivably this proviso could put substantial limits on the Queen’s ability to exploit her property rights, and limit her ability to deprive individuals of their effective self-ownership discussed above. However, only a few libertarians support such a strong version. Most libertarians consistently downplay the proviso. Some think there is no need for any proviso and some think the proviso is so weak that it is easily fulfilled. Both Kirzner and Narveson see no need for any Lockean proviso on appropriation. According to Narveson, the Earth is both unowned and up for grabs and there is no need to compensate those who must therefore do without it, because “none of it belongs to anyone, individually or collectively.” That my acquisition of a given plot thereby disenables you from having that plot is true enough, but nothing to the point, since you had no right to that plot, any more than I did. … Acquisition limits opportunity, to be sure. But nobody had a duty to provide you with that opportunity, nor even to maintain it for you. Kirzner makes a similar argument for different reasons. According to him, discovery is the key principle in establishing ownership. In the relevant ethical sense, resources did not exist until they were discovered. Therefore no one can be made worse off by another’s appropriation, even if the discoverer appropriates the only watering hole in the desert. Kirzner and Narveson seem to think that eliminating this proviso is somehow good for private title holders, but the decision to dismiss the proviso seems much less appealing to advocates for the title-holding class when it stands as the only thing protecting them from a property-owning monarch. If the Queen is not subject to any proviso and need not provide any opportunities for anyone, she can let her people starve if they refuse to serve her and tax them into destitution if they agree to serve her. Feser sees some merit in a proviso, and some merit in the right of people with property to deny food and water to the propertyless. Nozick claims that appropriators do have a responsibility to ensure opportunities for the propertyless under the Lockean proviso, but it amounts only to this: every individual is entitled to have some opportunity to reach at least the living standard they could reach in technologically primitive society in which all assets are held in common. However, property owners do not owe individual unconditional access to this standard of living, but only the opportunity to work for the owners of property to reach it. Therefore, as long as the Queen’s taxes are not so burdensome that they push consumption levels below that of hunter-gatherer societies, the proviso is fulfilled. Such a proviso does not take away the Queen’s power to deprive individuals of food and water if they refuse to behave the way she wishes as long as there are some conditions that they can meet to attain a minimum level of consumption. Mack’s “Self-Ownership Proviso” seems also to amount to no more than the regulation of the Queen’s wages. He claims that owners cannot use their property in such a way that it makes people worse off than they would be in some state of nature, but he argues that “costless access is never a reasonable baseline.” That is propertyless people must serve the interests of property owners, such as the Queen, to get access to the necessities of life. C. The Queen’s ownership might not cover new creations Even if the Queen has the claim to be the successor of the original appropriators of land and natural resources, one might be tempted to argue that her entitlement includes only those goods that existed at the time the Queen’s predecessors appropriated them. Many new resources and goods have been invented or discovered since then by private individuals. Some mining companies may have drilled in areas that no one else thought would be successful. Individuals have created intellectual property out of their own heads. How can the Queen have claim to ownership of these things? Is there an ever-increasing amount of property that is free from the Queen’s ownership? This argument fails to limit the Queen’s reach because her control of existing property gives her leverage to bargain for control of new property. According to Kirzner, “we must certainly make the producer’s discovery-title to what he has produced depend on his having acquired just title to the necessary ingredients of production.” As the Queen controls ingredients that are essential to all production, she can refuse to let anyone use them unless they agree that she owns the whole of their discoveries. For example, suppose I discover diamonds in your backyard that you did not know where there. As long as you have the right to your backyard, no matter how much effort I might have put into discovering them, they are your property unless you explicitly sign the rights over to me before I discover it. The mining company has the Queen’s permission to search on her property, but the Queen is a harsh mistress who has made it quite clear that she will tax and regulate any discovery made in her realm. If discoverers do not like the Queen’s conditions, they can refuse to search for new property, but they cannot aggress against the Queen or coerce her to give up some of her property rights. The argument for new discoveries could only work for discoveries made in and used exclusively in unclaimed territory, such as international waters. Intellectual property provides a more promising avenue along these lines. Because I have formal self-ownership, the Queen cannot assert ownership over me or my ideas. Unfortunately, the principles of appropriation, voluntary transfer, rectification, and statute of limitations, establish no way for new intellectual property to be traded for existing property without permission of the Queen. Once I have an idea I can keep it a secret, give it away for free, or try to trade it for property. As long as I keep it to myself, it is mine forever, but if I want to trade it for property, I must go to someone who owns property—i.e. the Queen. Anything traded for her titles becomes her property, simply through libertarian “voluntary trade.” D. The government has waved some of its rights The world has changed since the days when monarchs claimed absolute sovereignty of their territory. Possibly some government’s have waved some of their rights to property. Even if correct, such an argument would not support a libertarian state, and it is questionable whether governments have genuinely waved property rights in any significant way. No government I know has renounced the right to introduce new taxes and regulations. If government owns property raising taxes is the equivalent of raising the rent on a tenant who has no long-term lease. Some constitutions recognize some level of privately held property rights, but it is questionable whether such statements amount to enforceable contracts or unenforceable one-sided statements. Governments do reserve the right to amend their constitutions without the consent of specific title holders. This argument does not imply that governments can amend their constitutions to eliminate self-ownership rights, which government has never had the right to take no matter what their constitutions say, but this argument does imply that the government reserved the right to increase its control over property before it issued private titles. 5. Conclusion The libertarian dilemma is clear. Do they remain committed to the principles of property rights and drop their commitment to the libertarian state or do they maintain their commitment to the libertarian state and drop or amend their principles of property rights? Libertarian principles of property ownership—original acquisition, voluntary transfer, rectification, and statute of limitations—give no support for objections to government taxation or regulation of property if they are applied consistently. If they imply anything at all, it is respect for whatever entity controls the power to tax and regulate property, whether this government is a small or large democracy or even a monarchy. The dilemma for libertarians presented in this paper is fundamental. If the arguments here are correct two of the core principles of the ideology are in direct conflict with each other. Libertarianism has no principled argument successfully demonstrating that liberty requires the establishment of a so-called libertarian state. If libertarians choose to maintain their commitment to the libertarian state, they must do so at the expense of liberty as they have always defined it. If libertarians chose to maintain their commitment to the principles of property rights, they have created an argument for property rights so strong that it cannot function as an argument for private property rights. Thus, libertarianism is not classical liberalism, but a form of royalist conservatism. However, if you are a libertarian who chooses this option, it gives you some reason to rejoice. You might have believed that a system based on libertarian principles could not be established without a long political struggle. But actually, you already live in a state fully consistent with libertarian principles. You might have believed that y LikeLike
      • Have you read David Hume? Even any good piece of science? We’re not sure E=mc^2 applies to the area of the universe beyond our understanding, such as something beyond the 12th dimension or dark matter. We do not need to taste every apple to induce that it is edible. There is no concrete and absolute deductive reasoning we are certain of. When we claim something is true, we certainly mean the evidence for it is very strong. It is all inductive reasoning. So in a sense it is not objectively true. However, the absolutist definition of objective truth is useless. We are not sure if we can attain it and it does not help us in any way.

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      • “Consider an agent whose act is, in such a sense, “libertarian free.” Now a duplicate agent in exactly similar circumstances governed by the same natural laws and subject to the same occurrence of considerations at the same points in the deliberative process will form exactly the same judgment concerning the best thing to do and will act accordingly. But then, given the consideration pattern that occurs (but might not have), there is no “wiggle room” for the agent in forming an evaluative judgment — it simply falls out, of necessity, from the consideration pattern. Hence such an account does not leave sufficient room for free agency.” Robert Kane
        (Ekstrom, Free Will: A Philosophical Study, 2000, p.121)

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      • “Mike does not have complete control over what chance images and other thoughts enter his mind or influence his deliberation. They simply come as they please. Mike does have some control after the chance considerations have occurred. But then there is no more chance involved. What happens from then on, how he reacts, is determined by desires and beliefs he already has. So it appears that he does not have control in the libertarian sense of what happens after the chance considerations occur as well. Libertarians require more than this for full responsibility and free will. What they would need for free will is for the agent to be able to control which of the chance events occur rather than merely reacting to them in a determined way once they have occurred.” (Kane, A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will, 2005, p.65)

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  4. Have you read David Hume? Even any good piece of science? We’re not sure E=mc^2 applies to the area of the universe beyond our understanding, such as the 11th dimension. We do not need to taste every apple to induce that it is edible. There is no concrete and absolute deductive reasoning we are certain of. When we claim something is true, we certainly mean the evidence for it is very strong. It is all inductive reasoning. So in a sense it is not objectively true. However, the absolutist definition of objective truth is useless. We are not sure if we can attain it and it does not help us in any way.

    Like

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