May 212010

Rand Paul (photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

Recently the Republican nominee for one of Kentucky’s senate seat, Rand Paul, dared to question the 1964 passing of the Civil Rights Act (or did he?). This instantly made him a Very Bad Person™ in the eyes of progressives (not that having Ron Paul for a father is winning many popularity contests). Paul seemed to be defending the austro-libertarian contention that government intervention against prejudicial discrimination in the private sector is antithetical to the natural rights to freely associate and freely use private property.

Frederic Bastiat (public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Frederic Bastiat wisely said in Economic Harmonies, “Government acts only by the intervention of force; hence, its action is legitimate only where the intervention of force is itself legitimate.” The question at hand is whether or not governmental force is justified in forbidding discrimination.

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Sep 182009

I’m often challenged in political arguments with progressives, particularly on Twitter, to define socialism. My opponents claim that I’m abusing the term. I’m inclined to see such a claim as an example of conversational terrorism, but it happens often enough and I care enough about productive dialog that I’ve decided to relent and offer a definition. I might not have done so entirely to my satisfaction had I not been listening to an audiobook version of Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law” this morning. I offer here his laudably simple and clear definition.

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Jun 282009

I just finished a very interesting book, Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life. While remaining largely apolitical and apolemical, Bok covers various forms of lying, including but not limited to white lies, lies of omission, protective lies, polite lies, paternalistic lies, and evasions. She lays out the possible arguments for each type’s justification, as well as ways telling each might hurt the teller(s), the dupe(s), and society in general. There’s a lot of food for thought here, making this book a good read for any conscientious individual and must read for doctors, lawyers, politicians, and anyone else wielding great power or influence.

The audience for this book seems to be rather general, and I would be very interested to read a book about the ethics of lying as they apply to libertarianism. Inparticular, I’m looking for discussions of how different types of lies can infringe upon one’s right to security in liberty, property, or (as I have tried to argue) dignity. Any suggestions?

Jun 192009

Libertarians take as axiomatic that every person has a natural right to be secure in his life, liberty, and property. Necessary to respect and protect these rights is the non-agression principle, which states that all interpersonal exchanges must be voluntary and coercion is immoral. Briefly, to take one’s life is to take one’s future, to take one’s liberty is to take one’s present, and to take one’s property (the product of one’s life and liberty) is to take the part of one’s past that produced or acquired that property. A lengthier explanation can be found in the “Philosophy of Liberty”.

This ethos is good so far as it goes, and I find it far more appealing than the interventionism (imperialistic paternalism abroad and socialist paternalism at home) I see taking over American government, but I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that it’s missing something. Libertarianism seems to me to be vulnerable to accusations of being the philosophy of the selfish. While objectivists might not object to such an accusation, I suspect most other libertarians would. Collectivists of various stripes argue that man, self-centered and self-serving as he is, cannot be trusted to adhere to non-aggression for very long without a least a little – and perhaps a great deal of – governance.

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