I have recently taken to reading a lot about the philosophical underpinnings of Libertarianism. Like many unsuspecting saps, my first discussion with a Libertarian was initiated when one made some off-handed comment about the government robbing them of their money at gunpoint. I am not one to shy away from discussions on politics. Upon hearing what I thought to be an absurd claim which I thought was likely based on poor logic, I asked for them to back up their claim. The Libertarian in question was thrilled to be able to explain the concept to me and carefully laid their argument as most do:
Libertarian: Do you agree that the initiation of force is immoral?
Me: Well I guess.
Libertarian: The government takes our money by force.
Me: How do you figure?
Libertarian: What happens if you don’t pay your taxes? The government will throw you in jail. They are initiating force against you.
So something is up with this. I dug a little deeper, acquiring a copy of For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto by Murray Rothbard. Rothbard describes three types of Libertarians, two of which are straw men he easily burns:
1. Emotivist Libertarian
2. Utilitarian Libertarian
3. Natural Rights Libertarian
Rothbard describes the Emotivist Libertarian as someone who asserts that “they take liberty or nonaggression as their premise purely on subjective, emotional grounds.” This straw man is easily dispatched: “By ultimately taking themselves outside the realm of rational discourse, the emotivists thereby insure the lack of general success of their own cherished doctrine.” He takes utilitarianism to its logical and extremist conclusion in which the benefit of the many outweighs that of the one unilaterally; an obvious irrational, even if logical, result. With 1 and 2 easily burned to the ground, the 3rd option is the convenient winner.
Natural Rights, says Rothbard, come from Natural Law which is described by the philosopher John Locke. The Natural Law of the self are defined as Life, Liberty, and Property. Rothbard posits three possible arguments for self-ownership: the individual owns…
A. their whole self
B. part of their self
C. none of their self
Rothbard goes on to argue that A is the only possible answer. He argues that B is not possible because if you do not own your whole self, then you cannot convince anyone of it since you own part of them and they own part of you. All owners of your “self” would have to agree… this degrades to absurdity quickly. For C, he argues that if you owned none of yourself then you would have no control at all.
I feel like Rothbard is ignoring a key component of the definition of Natural Rights on purpose. If the self is made up of Life, Liberty, and Property, then self ownership must be applied to each, not all three unilaterally. Applying the idea of self-ownership to Life, Liberty, and Property, I posit the following:
LIFE = A*
LIBERTY = B
PROPERTY = B
The Libertarian claims A (ownership of the whole self) for each. To a Libertarian who believes this, please tell me:
* I do not believe in absolutes. I think that both A and C are absolutes. I still have to come to terms with the idea of absolute ownership of LIFE. I think in this case, it means that I own my personal body (even though that concept doesn’t really make sense to me). I choose A in this case for the sake of argument.
** Property as described by Rothbard in Chapter 2 of For A New Liberty.
OK! First post is up. I will have to revisit this quite a few times in order to really get my understanding all nailed down.
So I got pulled over last night. There I was sitting in a lane going around 63 in a 65 mph zone. There was nobody in front of me and hadn’t been for over a mile. I tapped my breaks a bit to make room as two large semi’s got on the highway. About a mile later, a trooper pulled up along side me, then quickly applied his breaks, jumped behind me, and put on his lights and siren. I carefully pulled over across two lanes to the side of the road.
He approached the car from the right side and asked that I get out of the car. I complied and we chatted for a bit. He asked where I was from. Well, Northern California and Humboldt and Mendocino counties tend to bring up the pot conversation. He asked if I had any on me and I said no. I indicated that I got rid of all my stuff when I moved to Texas because the laws out here are so severe. He raised an eyebrow at that and asked if I had anything in my car. I indicated that I did not. (and through body language tried to imply that I would have been fine if he wanted to waste his and my time searching my car – motioned towards the car, etc.). He asked if I had done anything else since I had clearly smoked pot. I gave him the “heck no” narrative. I was being truly honest here. That is how I feel. (My friends in Abilene told me afterwards that I was crazy to be so honest and I should have been short on details as Parker County troopers are known for harassing people.)
He abruptly changed the subject. He said I was following too close. I indicated my confusion since I had had a truck cut me off and he rambled on about the “possibility of horses, deer, or cattle prompting a sudden stop by the truck in front of me which would produce an accident that was my fault for following too close”. Where I was going, why I was driving instead of flying. Then he asked me to stand at the passenger window of his car while he wrote up my warning. While typing it up, he said “I don’t think Obama is going to legalize it.” I said “huh?” and he said “marijauna”. I just agreed with him on the subject.
Give me a break. This guy clearly saw my Obama sticker and wanted to harass me. He was suspicious of a car willing to have an Obama sticker on it. For the record, I put the sticker on when I lived in Northern California and then I moved to Texas. I have considered removing it before as it does lead to people out here harassing me a bit.
UPDATE: I originally set this post as a draft as I was living in Texas at the time. Since I no longer live there and am SO much happier, I am setting it back to posted. About 18 months after I wrote this post, I was side-swiped by an inexperienced 18 year old driver. I stopped to see if she was ok and too call the cops since she drove off in her car even though two wheels had been completely shredded. The cop ignored me, spent 10 minutes consoling the 18 year old woman, and then gave me a ticket for unsafe lane change. After that, I removed my Obama sticker. I had grown accustomed to cops following me for 2-3 miles through town whenever I had gone out in the evening. After I removed the sticker, they stopped. I am so glad to be out of that town full of so much hatred and religious nonsense.
When I completed my MS Thesis at Humboldt State University (HSU), I was quite busy. The weekend of May 16th, I played Trombone with the band I managed, the Humboldt Firkin Tappers, at the Legendary Boonville Beer Festival. Two weeks later, Sharyn and I got married at the 3-day wedding we had spent a year and half planning (it went very well). A week after the wedding, I defended my thesis while we worked on packing up the house. Two weeks later, we moved to Texas! Needless to say, I was mildly distracted. Updating my blog with an official post about my completed thesis was not really at the front of my thoughts.