Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Where does it end?

In the esoteric corners of Libertarian blogs, application of libertarian theory to scenarios that would desire consequence or retribution are common. I enjoy it: Libertarianism, particularly the rawest subset of Anarcho Capitalism (which I advocate), isn't without it's glaring holes that need addressing. Apologists for these glaring holes appeal to the best possible outcome. It isn't dissimilar from listening to the rambling Marxist at the coffee shop a block away from the local college. Descriptions of utopias or theoretical societies, though great at illustrating the ideal, aren't helpful. With nothing but respect to some of the brilliant libertarians that take this approach, I think the brilliance is better spent on realistic application of the theory. We aren't helping liberty when grading our own papers results in a passing grade.

I can't help but conclude that the most reasonable and consistent approach to these glaring holes is one advocated by Bionic Mosquito. I can't say with any certainty that this idea is his, but at least in recent times he's certainly been at the forefront, to much controversy from Utopian believers. Culture, whatever this culture may be, fills these holes.

This brings me to analyze a belief championed by Robert Wenzel, who I think is a great contributor to Libertarianism. The belief in question is that a farmer is within his rights to shoot a child for stealing an apple. I interpret this as: A victim determines the value and severity of punishment upon the aggressor.  In other words, a subjective solution to an objective situation. For what it's worth, initially I thought Robert may have just been trolling.

Trolling or not, I think it's a good topic.

I don't have a clear answer on the scenario in question as the details are vague (Were rules posted? Can the child read these rules? Is the child visibly armed? Is this apple clearly part of someone's property? Is there a risk to the farmers life if he waits to try to determine these things? Are we certain this child is the thief in question, and if so how can you prove it?), other than to say the trade of an apple for an individual's life, particularly an undeveloped individual, doesn't seem like an equivalent loss if said child doesn't pose a clear danger. It certainly wouldn't sound reasonable to the parents of said child, and I can't imagine the farmer would be enjoying his apple orchard for very long, let alone a community that doesn't mind a liberal employment of the death penalty (which, back in this reality, is a violation of the NAP). Just because you delete government from the social equation doesn't mean blowback gets deleted as well, or that individuals with a coercive mindset wouldn't be interested in operating in ways that violate the NAP vanish in a flash of light. Unless, again, Utopian musings.

Is such a community compatible with the NAP? I don't think it's impossible. If ten participants all agree that participating human lives are fair game if they're caught violating an agreed upon set of rules, that's their business as long as I'm not coerced into participation. Children being imperfect and inexperienced in social etiquette[let alone having the capacity to consent?], I can't imagine too many children surviving in such a community, which would likely lead to said community's untimely end. Is someone allowed to withdraw consent? Robert Wenzel may defend such a community, he may even champion it (For what it's worth: No, I don't think Robert Wenzel delights in the idea of farmers killing misguided youth.). He may even applaud the farmer in this situation. Does Robert still believe this when the outcry escalates into blowback, and a continuous back and forth becomes the norm? Capulets and Montagues, Crips and Bloods, etc.

But where does this particular mindset end? If I don't like the smell of cigarette smoke, and I can smell my neighbor's cigarette smoke wafting onto my property, am I within my rights to kill said neighbor for robbing me of air on my property that would otherwise be clean? Is my neighbor's wife within her rights to kill me for the loss of household revenue and the destruction of the family unit?

What if my neighbor's newborn won't stop crying at a time that's most disruptive, taking away my right to a peaceful property? Do I have the right to exact a righteous justice of my choosing, raising high my knife as I roar triumphantly for Anarcho Capitalism? Could I use a tiny nuclear device instead?

How many of us can say with any sincerity that we, as individuals with our own histories, experiences, merits and flaws, would be alive and thriving right now if this were the case?

Libertarianism and specifically Anarcho Capitalism, admittedly, fall short in answering these questions to any satisfying degree when looking at the philosophy in strict isolation. To which, the only answer I see consistent with Libertarianism comes back to cultural norms in the community.

Culture does a lot of positive things in today's real world, regardless of law or circumstance that either reinforces the culture or flies in it's face. For each culture that doesn't condone an activity or mindset, there's likely another that would welcome it with open arms.

Robert Wenzel cites that a culture runs risk of being another form of government. He may be right, I don't think anyone can determine this definitively. My sole objection is that individuals tend to congregate with like minded individuals, geographically and socially.

Even if I could say that this is true, I'm more inclined to believe that his Apple scenario would be more likely to spawn the rallying cry that creates the state out of his Libertarian Utopia - much more likely than a selection of implied cultural norms.

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