For Tom Woods: On Thick and Thin


Great of you to weigh in on this topic. You’ve also provided Rothbardians with an ‘out’ that I didn’t think of. That the NAP is fullness of libertarianism but not the fullness of life. I’d thought that the only ‘out’ was that rothbardian libertarianism was sufficient for the moral interaction of states, but insufficient for the construction of a polity.

It’s true that aggression is immoral and it’s true that aggression must be illegal. But is it rational for humans to join a voluntary, anarchic polity, if the basis of **LAW** is “non-aggression against intersubjectively verifiable property”, or must the basis of law be either based on something other than aggression, or broader in scope than intersubjectively verifiable property?

What is the minimum basis for the law upon which it becomes rational to join a voluntary, anarchic polity?

If we have a choice between:
(a) a totalitarian capitalist society, like say, China.
(b) a contemporary social democracy, like say the States.
(c) an anarchic polity in which one CAN bring suit against immoral and unethical actions (say, blackmail, and fraud by omission).
(d) an anarchic polity where unethical and immoral actions are expressly licensed by the law, and retribution for immoral and unethical actions is forbidden.

1) Then which of these will which people of which moral biases, choose?
2) How will members of that polity be treated by members of the competing polities?
3) How will the territory and trade representatives of that polity be treated by competing polities?

I think that an intellectually honest analysis of those questions produces an obvious, and remarkably consistent answer. That is, that either aggression is the incorrect test of peaceful cooperation, or intersubjectively verifiable property is an insufficient test of the scope of property that must be protected from violation, or more likely both.

The current proceeds of anthropology, genetics, and cognitive science, tell us that violations of the evolutionary preference for cooperation, are reducible to ‘free riding’: that is non-contribution. Since in any set of individuals, if we do not require productive contribution, then some are the victims of free riding (parasitism) and others benefit from free riding (parasitism).

If we analyze the common prohibitions of all moral codes under all family structures, and we remove moral constraints that are purely ritualistic, these moral codes are universally reducible to necessary prohibitions on what we would call ‘property violations’ in an effort to facilitate mutually beneficial cooperation.

Moral Prohibition Spectra:
1) Agression: Harm/Oppression,
2) Trust: Subversion/Betrayal/Cheating,
3) Purity: Inobservance of Norms/Behavioral impurity/Pollution
All of these are reducible to shareholder rights and obligations.

Humans universally demonstrate a greater interest in punishing moral violations than we demonstrate self interest. IN fact, we justify our pre-cognitive moral punishments without even being able to articulate why we hold them. We are wired for morality.

We evolved language and punishments violations of these moral intuitions in the form of criminal, ethical, and moral prohibitions:
1. Violence (asymmetry of force)
2. Theft (asymmetry of control)
3. Fraud (false information)
4. Omission (Omitting information)
5. Obscurantism (Obscuring information)
6. Obstruction (Inhibiting someone else’s transaction)
7. Externalization (externalizing costs of any transaction)
8. Free Riding (using externalities for self benefit)
9. Socializing Losses (externalization to commons)
10. Privatizing Gains (appropriation of commons)
11. Rent Seeking (organizational free riding)
12. Corruption ( organized rent seeking)
13. Conspiracy (organized indirect theft)
14. Extortion (Organized direct theft)
15. War (organized violence)

We can empirically observe that people treat a broad spectrum of things as their property, and that they intuit violations of that property, and act to defend that property.

I. Several (Personal) Property
Personal property: “Things an individual has a Monopoly Of Control over the use of.”
Physical Body and Several Property: Those things we claim a monopoly of control over.

II. Artificial Property
Shares in property: Recorded And Quantified Shareholder Property (claims for partial ownership)
Trademarks and Brands (prohibitions on fraudulent transfers within a geography).

III. Kin and Interpersonal (Relationship) Property
Mates (access to sex/reproduction)
Children (genetic reproduction)
Consanguineous Relations (tribal and family ties)

IV Status and Class (reputation)
Social Status

V. Institutional (Community) Property
(i) Institutional Property: “Those objects into which we have invested our forgone opportunities, our efforts, or our material assets, in order to aggregate capital from multiple individuals for mutual gain.”
(ii)Informal (Normative) Institutions: Our norms: manners, ethics and morals. Informal institutional property is nearly impossible to quantify and price. The costs are subjective and consists of forgone opportunities.
(iii)Formal (Procedural) Institutions: Our institutions: Religion (including the secular religion), Government, Laws. Formal institutional property is easy to price. costs are visible. And the productivity of the social order is at least marginally measurable.

We can judge economic impacts of high trust societies that practice near total prohibition on criminal, unethical and immoral actions. And we can compare those to low trust societies that suppress fewer unethical and immoral actions.

So under what reasoning, would it be logical to support the Non Aggression Principle under Intersubjectively verifiable property (NAP/IVP) as the basis for the law, which explicitly licenses unethical and immoral action and prohibits retribution for it?

The NAP/IVP has been a detriment to liberty wherever advocates argue that it is a sufficient means of determining moral and legal rules of cooperation. Because it’s not.

And we cannot pursue an alternative to the existing high trust society without providing people with an alternative that is morally SUPERIOR to the state. And the NAP/IVP fails that test.

Curt Doolittle
The Propertarian Institute

Nonaggression is a part of, but not the fullness of, morality. Virtue and excellence need to be cultivated, too. “I don’t punch people for no reason” isn’t the beginning and end of a decent human life.

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