Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Lord Keynes" — The Horror of Rothbardian Natural Rights

Murray Rothbard adopted a natural rights ethics to justify his system of anarcho-capitalism. I have already written a post here showing the logical foundations of his ethical system are incoherent and unconvincing.

John Maynard Keynes once wrote of Hayek’s bookPrices and Production:
“The book, as it stands, seems to me to be one of the most frightful muddles I have ever read, with scarcely a sound proposition in it beginning with page 45 … It is an extraordinary example of how, starting with a mistake, a remorseless logician can end up in Bedlam.” (Keynes 1931: 394).
With the requisite changes, one can say that same thing about Rothbard’s ethical theory.

When judged by the standards of most other ethical theories (whose starting propositions and arguments are at least not so obviously false as natural rights), the logic of Rothbard’s theory takes him to conclusions that can only be described as moral insanity.
Read it at Social Democracy for the 21st Century
The Horror of Rothbardian Natural Rights
by Lord Keynes

OK, Rothbard can be excused for bad philosophy since he was an trained economist rather than a trained philosopher. On the other hand,philosophers find it rather queer when those without formal training in the subject presume themselves experts capable of jumping to the head of the line without even taking the trouble to understand previously published thought or enter the debate that has been ongoing for millennia now.

But where he left me was in arguing on the economic merits of privatizing the oceans. I may not be an economist by training, but really.

Liberty is a basic principle of ethics since the modern era. Fundamental to it is the view that human beings not only have no natural right of ownership over human beings, but also that ownership of human beings is fundamentally immoral. This is a core principle of liberalism of which libertarianism aka anarchism is an extreme example. In this view, husbands do not own their wives and children as chattel, as previously in human history under various systems of thought, and the concept of "self-ownership" is meaningless nonsense in today's worldview.

The Libertarianism of the right does not begin with liberty but rather ownership. According to this view, ownership and property rights are natural and fundamental, while liberty and human rights are incidental. As a result, anarcho-capitalism is a contradictory oxymoron. It is a worldview that is at odds with the evolution of Western thought and the development of civilization.

42 comments:

Bob Roddis said...

What a complete load of crap. LK is such a source encouragement to me personally with his never-ending journalistic and pedagogical malpractice.

He doesn't understand basic Austrian concepts and he does not understand the non-aggression principle. Simply amazing.

http://bobroddis.blogspot.com/2012/06/12.html

Bob Roddis said...

I forget to mention that LK sounds a lot like that other sharp knife in the drawer, Rick Santorum.

Tom Hickey said...

Bob R:"I forget to mention that LK sounds a lot like that other sharp knife in the drawer, Rick Santorum."

OK, you got me there. Connect the dots. I don't see any relation.

Bob Roddis said...

Santorum makes that same dim-witted and phony argument that libertarianism means the end of morality. We'll all engage in gay orgies and smoke meth all day. Birds of a feather.

There's nothing to stop you progressive types from signing up 30 percent of the population for some sort of VOLUNTARY MMT money thing, job guarantee and shared medical care. There's nothing to stop the Santorums from avoiding and evading gays. It's just a POLITICAL philosophy intended to prohibit ASSAULTIVE behavior.

Tom Hickey said...

"There's nothing to stop you progressive types from signing up 30 percent of the population for some sort of VOLUNTARY MMT money thing, job guarantee and shared medical care."

Bob the government's role in employment and medical care are political choices made at the ballot box. The choice of currency is not an option like that, especially in an era of global coordination around such things.

The global monetary system under the firm control of the ruling elite, and is more or less solidified by international treaty, and this isn't at all likely to change at the ballot box. So we might as well make the most of the monetary system we've got, which affords wide policy space. That's economic policy and it is a matter of political choice.

Lord Keynes said...

Bob Roddis@June 8, 2012 12:05 AM

This guy calls himself a "Rothbardian".

It is no wonder he spits bile when confronted with what his hero was really like: a cultist who declared that parents have the legal right to kill their children by withdrawing food.

The same lunatic declared that, in his wonderful anarcho-captalist paradise police can “beat and torture” mere suspects as long as the suspect is found guilt later.

And these people claim the moral high ground in debate.

Trixie said...

<3 Lord Keynes.

It's all in the name. A cape is just a bonus.

Dan Kervick said...

The whole doctrine of natural property rights is baseless theology. The boundaries between what is "mine" and what is "thine" are not inscribed by the mind of God or by Nature. They are the product of human conventions and laws. Those conventions and laws are forged by human beings to advance their lives together in society, and if they decide that their well-being will be advanced by changing the rules, they can and will do so.

Anonymous said...

Nature has no laws (in the human sense). Specially property laws or rights. Nature has no rights.

Rights and laws are human inventions and that's about it.

Nature is not 'metaphysical' is not based on language constructs, is governed by deterministic movement and time relationships. Everything in nature is just a causal chain of reactions which happen in time.

Anthropomorphizing nature (or matter) is absurd.

paul said...

"…Nature has no laws (in the human sense)…"

That's why we can place all of the voluntary constraints we like on our monetary systems, it won't make the economy go in the direction we think the constraint will push it.

The direction the economy goes is a function of the SB equation because that is an accurate mathematical representation of the system wrt monetary economics.

Any economy that uses money as we know it will behave in this manner, even a gold standard.

Constraints of this sort are more like handicaps.

xyz said...

Bob Roddis:

For a transition to your utopia to be ethical, wouldn't it necessitate an initial redistribution of all wealth equally, i.e. a "resetting" of history back to year zero, so as to wipe out all of the unethical accumulations of wealth gained through acts of aggression, and thereby set the foundations for a just society based on the fundamental laws of private property and non-aggression.

Once we have "reset" ourselves in this way, we can allow the Rothbardian utopia to play itself into existence.

If we transition to it without going through this initial step, we'd be taking with us all of the accumulated structural flaws of the past, thereby distorting the outcome.

Matt Franko said...

Dan,

"They are the product of human conventions and laws. Those conventions and laws are forged by human beings to advance their lives together in society"

Seems simple. Why dont people get this?

From what I have observed, many humans (this looks prevalent in the Libertarian area) seek not to be subject to anything, including each other.

Also I would just point out that God at one point did provide Laws related to distributional use (no ownership) of property to the House of Israel.

Resp,

xyz said...

What does the bible say about that, Matt? Do you have a quote?

Bob Roddis said...

1. People already understand English common law, private property and contracts. There are no problems are that aren't solvable employing those concepts and institutions, so there is no need to re-create the wheel. The U.S. Constitution was based expressly upon natural rights. Rothbard's system merely calls for a more meticulous and rigorous enforcement of those protections in order to maintain personal safety of even the weakest among us.

2. And don't worry. I did take notice that Lord Keynes did not dispute my contention that the Rothbard’s POLITICAL Natural Rights argument is simply a different topic than the non-political subject of "what positive duties are necessary to be a good person".

3. Putting all issues to a vote means you could easily end up with a totalitarian theocracy. That's the problem we keep seeing in the Middle East where the populace has no concept of a natural right to be left in private for either sexual, lifestyle or business purposes. In the west, people still have an underlying understanding of the concepts of natural rights and private property although, due to government schools, they are generally incapable of expressing it in a coherent manner.

Heck, based on a worldwide vote, the populace could decide to use one of those Martian contraptions from “War of the Worlds” to vacuum up all of those overpopulated African and use them for fertilizer. Since the victims have no natural rights, tough luck, buddy. Democracy rules!

4. I suspect that issues of police torture would be covered by voluntary contractual prohibitions against it. I note that our present day Keynesian government engages in all types of torture, war and the killing of innocents where the victims have no recourse due to the ghastly notion of “governmental immunity”. I recall that Rothbard said that if the police tortured the wrong person or in an inappropriate situation, they would be deemed criminals and treated as such. (Details are not LK’s strong point).

And from reading LK’s smear, you would never know that the very Rothbardian LewRockwell.com posts scores of article attacking police and security state brutality.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/grigg/grigg-arch.html

5. And, of course, it’s precisely because government provides essential services like medical care, education, and money that all three are now permanently in the toilet.

paul said...

"…government provides essential services like medical care…"

Government provides (partially) a payment system, not the service itself.

The private-sector solutions aren't working out so well either.

Lord Keynes said...

"I did take notice that Lord Keynes did not dispute my contention that the Rothbard’s POLITICAL Natural Rights argument is simply a different topic than the non-political subject of "what positive duties are necessary to be a good person". "

A tautology.

Of course his political argument from natural rights is different from his social arguments: where was this ever denied here or in my post?

This issue is his specific grotesque ethical ideas here derived from the natural rights. So you don't dispute that?

Bob Roddis said...

This issue is his specific grotesque ethical ideas here derived from the natural rights. So you don't dispute that?

I dispute the implication that these moral dilemmas (abandonment of children, torture) would be anything but extremely rare in a world free of war, genocide, rape and poverty or that they would not be covered by contractual arrangements that would generally prohibit them. Go ahead LK. Twist that around like you always twist what I’ve said about voluntary participants in a contractual FRB relationship. I guess that’s just your style.

Lord Keynes said...

(1) the belief that the world would be free of "war, genocide, rape and poverty" under some fantasy anarcho-capitalist system has zero empirical evidence. We are told by certain libertarians (whether it is true or not) that Somalia is supposedly an example of their anarcho-capitalist system, and it is a violent society filled with war, rape, poverty and mass starvation:

Rape:
http://www.unhcr.org/4720a5794.html

http://www.worldpolicy.org/blog/2011/10/26/living-hell-somalias-hidden-rape-epidemic

Famine:
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/68221/ken-menkhaus/somalias-starvation

www.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/opinion/starving-in-somalia.html


(2) "that they would not be covered by contractual arrangements that would generally prohibit them."

And possibly common amongst those who don't submit to any such "contractual arrangements"?

Bob Roddis said...

Somalia does not have a regime of effective strict property rights protections. Duh. It's a horror story about how hip Marxism will result in a hell hole and another example of how hipsters will not protest the ongoing Marxism. A civilization based upon strict property rights protections doesn't just happen. The populace has to want to respect the rights of others to be different and to live their lives free of assaultive violence.

Citing Somalia against me and Rothbard is like walking around with a sandwich board announcing "I'm LK, and I've lost yet another argument".

Bob Roddis said...

And possibly common amongst those who don't submit to any such "contractual arrangements"?

Like the Afghans? And what exactly should we do to fix Afghan culture with force? I thought we tried that.

Lord Keynes said...

"Somalia does not have a regime of effective strict property rights protections. "

Fair enough.

This still means the belief that the world in practice (rather than in some deluded theory) would be free of "war, genocide, rape and poverty" under an anarcho-capitalist system has actually zero empirical evidence.

Tom Hickey said...

Bucky Fuller called property boundaries, including national boundaries, "imaginary lines" drawn in sand by the Great Pirates.

Tom Hickey said...

paul: "The direction the economy goes is a function of the SB equation because that is an accurate mathematical representation of the system wrt monetary economics. Any economy that uses money as we know it will behave in this manner, even a gold standard. Constraints of this sort are more like handicaps."

I would call mathematical models that model reality "boundary conditions." Any expressions that violate the math fall outside the boundaries and are excluded. The boundaries indicate the "space," in the case of sectoral balances, the policy space. For example, policy options that violate the identities by not summing to zero are ruled out of the game apriori without have to look at the world.

Math tells us what is possible or impossible and allows up to assign a probability greater than zero and less than one within the realm of the possible. Science is then about the pesky details of actualizing the functions and arguments in terms of real world experience.

Tom Hickey said...

xyz" "

For a transition to your utopia to be ethical, wouldn't it necessitate an initial redistribution of all wealth equally, i.e. a "resetting" of history back to year zero, so as to wipe out all of the unethical accumulations of wealth gained through acts of aggression, and thereby set the foundations for a just society based on the fundamental laws of private property and non-aggression.

Once we have "reset" ourselves in this way, we can allow the Rothbardian utopia to play itself into existence."

We can already do this. It's called the game of Civilization. Anyone who has played knows that there are a lot of unintended consequences of action. The free market" is going to eradicate the possibility of unintended consequences, some of which lead to disaster or total catastrophe? That's a sheer leap of faith.

Tom Hickey said...

Matt: "Also I would just point out that God at one point did provide Laws related to distributionaluse (no ownership) of property to the House of Israel."

This is still the view of indigenous peoples. They regard the concept of land titles as a ruse for stealing from the commons that belongs to no creature of Nature but rather is constitutive of Nature, an integrated system into which humanity is integrated as a nested sub-system. When any sub-system exceeds the natural limits of the system, it gets cut back by natural processes, as humanity is about to find out the hard way.

Fundamentalists point to the Genesis creation myth story which has God giving dominion of the earth to Adam. Every ancient ethnic culture has a creation myth. These are teaching stories, not historical descriptions. Arguing land entitlement and property rights based on them is bonkers, and so is Dominionism as a political ideology (it's not a theory in the scientific sense). No serious biblical scholar holds these views.

paul said...

@Tom re my comment…

Well stated.

Tom Hickey said...

Bob R: "Putting all issues to a vote means you could easily end up with a totalitarian theocracy."

This the argument of the ruling elite against actual democracy. It's a reason that Plato did not like direct democracy Athenian style either, because the assembly condemned Socrates to death for impiety and corrupting in the youth in a judicial decision that is regarded as one of the worst in history.

As result we have "indirect" democracy, i.e., government in which the ruling class retains the privilege of power and influence beyond its numbers.

I don't think that this argument against direct democracy is frivolous, and the premises are debatable. One factor is the debate is that of collective consciousness. Is the collective consciousness of an electorate advanced enough to make decisions prudently that affect the entire electorate? If not, what is the optimal remedy?

This debate goes back in Western philosophy to Plato and his student Aristotle. It has been resolved historically in that there are really no actual direct democracies, but as a theoretical argument it still is being debated and the debate is unresolved.

I think that it is necessary to bring in life and social sciences, especially cognitive science and evolutionary theory, to put the debate on the right track, instead of continuing to spin arguments that rest on apriori principles.

Matt Franko said...

"For example, policy options that violate the identities by not summing to zero are ruled out "

Interesting word "ruled" out. "Rule" implies authority. The "rule" of the tyrant. In this case the "tyranny" or "rule" or "authority" of the math.

Morons do not consider themselves subject to this authority.

rsp

Tom Hickey said...

Bob R. "That's the problem we keep seeing in the Middle East where the populace has no concept of a natural right to be left in private for either sexual, lifestyle or business purposes. In the west, people still have an underlying understanding of the concepts of natural rights and private property although, due to government schools, they are generally incapable of expressing it in a coherent manner."

Bob,what you are considering as cultural taboos (IN anthropologist-speak), the people in those cultures take to be the unquestionable word of God through a prophet. Orthodox Jews and fundamentalists and conservative Christians of different sects also consider their biblical injunctions in the same light. There is a huge disconnect with liberalism that is in the process of being worked out. Often the historical dialectic involves violence rather than reason or tolerance, since humanity is still strongly connected to its primate roots and there are pack, herd, and tribal vestiges that influence behavior. What is "natural." All this is a result of the working out of natural processes. We'll just have to see where it goes from here.

Tom Hickey said...

The fundamental problem with extreme liberalism based on methodological individualism, especially if it assumes ontological individualism as the basis of methodological, is explained by evolutionary theory, anthropology and sociology.

While it is not the case that animals are purely individualistic in the sense of pursuing survival and reproduction as evolutionary goals. Altruism is a primitive characteristic in biology as a means of perserving a shared strain of DNA through grouping by kinship. This often involves "altruistic" behavior in the form of forging individual satisfaction for group goals, now known as "taking one for the team." Group that increased their adaptability rate more than other by cooperation and coordination won the survival game and their DNA strain was perpetuated over time.

The result is that ontological individualism is a myth, and methodological individualism ignores naturally altruistic behavior, admittedly limited in scope to sub-groups. However, through the use of expanded intelligence, at least some humans have been able to transcend kinship and cooperate and coordinate with their "in-group."

The in-groups that are best at this, i.e., increase their adaptability rate the fastest, end up with most of the pie. However, if their behavior is parasitical, they also end up destroying their environment and decline and perhaps even perish. Think of revolutions, when other sub-groups unite and overthrow the ruling sub-group, perhaps exterminating them as well.

Does any of this sound familiar? If not, I have not described it sufficiently well enough.

Tom Hickey said...

Bob R. "I note that our present day Keynesian government engages in all types of torture, war and the killing of innocents where the victims have no recourse due to the ghastly notion of “governmental immunity”."

Like this behavior started with "Keynesianism," or is limited to it? Really?

Tom Hickey said...

"And, of course, it’s precisely because government provides essential services like medical care, education, and money that all three are now permanently in the toilet."

Evidence please.

Matt Franko said...

Some of what Tom describes ie cooperation in species (which I would call "the unity of the spirit and the tie of peace") may be exhibited in a video at this link:

http://mikenormaneconomics.blogspot.com/search?q=buffalo

Humans could watch this and learn...

Resp,

Tom Hickey said...

Perhaps it is possible to measure advance of collective consciousness and its rate of change in terms of changes in Dunbar's number.

reslez said...

It's a reason that Plato did not like direct democracy Athenian style either, because the assembly condemned Socrates to death for impiety and corrupting in the youth in a judicial decision that is regarded as one of the worst in history.

To be fair, Socrates was kind of a dick.

After the jury found him guilty of impiety, Socrates initially proposed his punishment be free meals at the Athens Prytaneum for life, an honor reserved for city benefactors and triumphant Olympians. This evidently managed to piss off even more of the jury, as a larger number voted to put him to death than found him guilty.

He likely harangued the jury and participants throughout the trial and probably thought suicide-by-jury wasn't that terrible a way to go given his advanced age.

marris said...

> The in-groups that are best at this, i.e., increase their adaptability rate the fastest, end up with most of the pie. However, if their behavior is parasitical, they also end up destroying their environment and decline and perhaps even perish.

Evidence please. What are the successful in-groups out there?

Why is fast adaptability the important feature? (as opposed to some measure of "best adaptability" or best "long-term stable, but good enough" solution?

This stuff sounds quite crazy whenever I read it.

marris said...

Sorry, I should have asked for examples of successful in-groups which you consider non-parasitical. The key question in my post is why anyone should care about rapid adaptability per se.

Tom Hickey said...

@ reslez

You must have read I.F. (Izzy) Stone's Trial of Socrates. Typical Plato and Socrates were elitist snobs rant.

Tom Hickey said...

marris: "What are the successful in-groups out there?"

Um, Goldman Sachs, where they are "doing God's work," for one.

maris: "Sorry, I should have asked for examples of successful in-groups which you consider non-parasitical. The key question in my post is why anyone should care about rapid adaptability per se."

Rapid adaptability means "eating other people's lunch." If you don't whether someone eats your lunch, I guess it doesn't matter.

As for successful in-groups in the present environment that aren't parasitical, are there any that are not dependent on economic rent — land rent, monopoly rent, financial rent or crime — for their "competitive advantage?" The present state of both "capitalism" and "democracy" is institutionally skewed toward parasitism. "Capitalism" and "democracy" have become mere slogans used for deception.

Evolutionary-wise, it is no sin to use deception or even violence to gain competitive advantage and increase adaptability rate. However, as human beings we have evolved to a level where we consider it a violation of the rules, morality, ethics, virtue, justice being social constructs. But these social constructs are not random either. The are based on "fairness" as an evolutionary traits found in animals with less developed nervous systems, and cognitive science is locating the biological explanation in mirror neurons.

Evidence? There has been a load of work published in these field recently. Economists seem to have missed it for the most part.

I recommend beginning with David Sloan Wilson's 13 part series "Economics and Evolution as Different Paradigms" at scienceblogs.com, evolution for Everyone, between dec 7, 2009 and Oct 10, 2010. It's a mini-course that everyone interested in economics should read and ponder.


See also David Sloan Wilson, Evolution Begins to Occupy Center Stage in Economic Debates
for a short intro.

Matt Franko said...

Tom,

This from David Sloan Wilson's article at HuffPo:

"Against this background, I can return to Frank's thesis in The Darwin Economy and Whitfield's critique in his review. If we read Frank's book with multilevel selection in mind, between-group selection makes many appearances. For example, he notes that countries that don't raise sufficient revenue to function well are replaced by countries that do. At least there is a replacement of social organizations, which is what multilevel cultural evolution is all about."

Appears to assume exogenous "money" but he may be on to something.

He may be implying that nations fail due to some sort of loss of collective intelligence as related to the operation of their monetary systems.

Leverage has documented that there are brain malfunctions in these people who may be the ones in charge of things when it all goes bad. The brain neocortex apparently shuts completely down.

Perhaps there is a biological cycle in the human where periodically due to what reasons may not be clear, but there is something in the genetic code whereby there is a large occurrence of brain malfunction in a collective portion of the population. A portion of the population that is related to each other thru the fact that they are all occupying positions of authority within the population.

Maybe there is some type of hormone secreted by people who achieve authoritative positions and then you know how these people hang out together (Davos/Congress/Dinners, etc) they start to absorb this hormone and it's like "inbreeding" in reproduction, causes biological problems and malfunctions/mutations.... in this case looks like shut down of the neocortex and perhaps other mental derangement.

You may want to drop Wilson a note and fill him in on endogenous "money" and point out instead the brain malfunctions in this sub-class of humans that seems to occur at these points of crisis and collapse in nations.

Perhaps the biologists can get on this and figure out if there is a biological/chemical accounting for this phenomenon ("moronization") that seems to cycle thru humanity...

Resp,

paul said...

Matt,

Who would have thought? Moronism is a disease.

Matt Franko said...

Paul,

When the civil engineers start to put the support structures on the top and the roadways down in the river, then we can call them morons, or aerospace engineers pointing the tip of the rocket down towards earth...

Everything else seems to be going pretty good for humanity, but our problems today seem all centered around authority. Something is going on around the concept of authority. Perhaps it is disease like.

Perhaps at some level these Rothbard people can detect this operation around the concept of authority and their defense mechanism is flight.... just go to full Libertarianism as a type of quarantine.

Resp,