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Classical liberalism. The individual before the state, non-interventionist, free-market based society.
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By Monti
#15250828
Murray Rothbard is one of the leading thinkers of libertarianism. Among his books, we count “The Ethics of Liberty”(*) . Let us take a quick look at its content.

Man, as anything, has a nature. “The natural law, then, elucidates what is best for man- what ends man should pursue that are most harmonious with, and best tend to fulfill, his nature” (12). Man is given the faculty of reason. This enables him to discover the principles of natural law. As a human being, Rothbard shares his knowledge of these principles, but I am not sure that everybody will agree on their natural character.

Natural rights are those "which, by fair deduction from the present physical, moral, social, religious characteristics of man, he must be invested with ... in order to fulfill the ends to which his nature calls him."(23).

Natural rights are in essence property rights, property of oneself and property of goods obtained following natural rules. “The concept of "rights" only makes sense as property rights. For not only are there no human rights which are not also property rights, but the former rights lose their absoluteness and clarity and become fuzzy and vulnerable when property rights are not used as the standard.” (113).

Natural rights are not the only way to deal with the “good” in social philosophy. The main alternative is eudemonism, what Rothbard calls “utilitarianism”. A representative of this school, Ludwig von Mises, writes: “But the teachings of utilitarian philosophy and classical economics have nothing at all to do with the doctrine of natural right. With them the only point that matters is social utility. They recommend popular government, private property, tolerance, and freedom not because they are natural and just, but because they are beneficial.” (**)

Rothbard reproaches to Hayek that he seems to locate the origin of rights in the government. I am not sure that it is really Hayek’s thought, but the point fundamentally is: for who does not believe in natural law, rights are necessarily a social construction, of which the political constitution is an emanation by the way of a historical compromise.

Rothbard builds his social philosophy on the concept of state of nature. In fact, an assumed state of nature. The figure of his state of nature is Robinson Crusoe, a man living in full autonomy and liberty. But, in real life, from the point of view of anthropology, has ever a man, in normal conditions, been a Robinson Crusoe? Crusoe becomes a social being after having met Friday, with whom, in full mutual autonomy, he engages in exchange. But actual man is put in social relations from his birth and even before. Various philosophers have conceived of different states of nature: Rousseau, Locke, Hobbes. None of these states has ever existed.

Rothbard’s Crusoe (i.e., each man) discovers the world: “he learns the natural laws of the way things behave in the world (…) (he) discovers the primordial natural fact of his freedom.” (31). “Absolute freedom, then, need not be lost as the price we must pay for the advent of civilization; men are born free…” (41). This idea seems nonsensical: man is born and necessarily lives in a mixture of freedom and constraint.

So, self-ownership is the base of a good society. The only alternative (the only one which respects the condition of universality) is communism, where everybody is a partial owner of everybody. “Can we picture a world in which no man is free to take any action whatsoever without prior approval by everyone else in society? Clearly no man would be able to do anything, and the human race would quickly perish.” (46). Why imagine that each of us would have to ask permission to do anything to millions of other persons individually, whereas it would be so easy to simply apply the law, which we are supposed to know et that has been decided by the majority vote?

The explanation of this oddness is that Rothbard, as an anarchist, hates the State. It is to be abolished. Laws can be made without a State: the best laws originate from custom and from judgements by courts outside the State. Two main activities of the State disappear in the “free society”: income redistribution and public morality. Throughout his book, Rothbard repeats that the State is a gang and that taxation is theft.

Man is free: the only limit is not to make use of violence against fellow-men and their properties. But Rothbard insists on the distinction between aggression and defensive violence, which is legitimate. Self-defence is a corollary of property right and self-justice is a corollary of self-defence. But the avenger must proportionate the punishment to the seriousness of the affront. Rothbard advocates “a tooth (or two teeth) for a tooth” (91). Why two teeth? To compensate the victim for the trouble to be aggressed. And beside the punishment, there must be restitution of the stolen object. If necessary, the criminal will be forced to work for the victim: “the ideal situation, then, puts the criminal frankly into a state of enslavement to his victim” (86).

As we see, the aggression against a person or property, and the retaliation, are a private business between the victim and the aggressor. Society is not implied. The thief has no debt towards society, only towards his victim. The State is commonly endowed with the monopoly of the use of coercion and force. In the “free society”, there is no State: people are responsible of the punishment of their aggressor. Possibly, they would rather pay an ad hoc agency to do the job. These agencies are private firms specialising in protection, which operate on a competitive market. For judicial security, the victim or his agency may resort to an arbitrage court (private, naturally) to determine the penalty, because a punishment out of proportion is considered as a new aggression.

Robert Nozick, also a libertarian but less extremist than Rothbard, advocates what he calls “the minimal State”, a State responsible only of justice and police. He has imagined a scenario in which the competitive system of protection agencies would evolve spontaneously towards the minimal State. Rothbard has no difficulty to prove that such a spontaneous movement is impossible.

Which property is legitimate? Rothbard follows Locke’s theory. Man becomes rightfully the owner of the product of his labour which is simply an extension of his self. And unowned land and natural resources become the legitimate property of the pioneer, the homesteader who is the first to use them: “The homesteader-just as the sculptor, or miner-has transformed the nature-given soil by his labor and his personality. The homesteader is just as much a "producer" as the others, and therefore just as legitimately the owner of his property.” (49). The soil undergoes transubstantiation. The Lockean passage from produce’s property to land’s property is of the kind of alchemist ‘s magic. There is also a Lockean proviso which limits the legitimate property to the surface that our man can actually work. Which Rothbard admits, but he adds that ownership is kept for eternity, even if the owner let afterwards his land unused. Naturally, in a libertarian perspective, gift and bequest transfer legitimately ownership. Rothbard recognises that there has been much land theft in history; if it is impossible to identify the original proprietor’s heirs, the present user benefits of the presumption of legitimacy. Well, think of Europe’s history: almost 100% of the land would be legitimated by presumption.

Nozick had modified Locke’s proviso in this way: legitimacy of land first appropriation is conditioned by the offer of compensation to other people who are made worse off. He adds that the monopoly-ownership of a vital resource (e.g., a unique spring of water) is never legitimate. Rothbard does not agree and we easily understand why: “In fact, Locke's (e.n.: Nozick’s) proviso may lead to the outlawry of all private ownership of land, since one can always say that the reduction of available land leaves everyone else, who could have appropriated the land, worse off.” (244). True! Rothbard shows no sympathy: “If latecomers are worse off, well then that is their proper assumption of risk in this free and uncertain world.” And he confirms the divine right of the monopolist of a spring to choose if he supplies water, to whom, and at what conditions.

Let us now examine how owner’s freedom applies in some specific situations. Streets are presently public ownership: the political authority has to manage such choices as priority to demonstrators or to traffic. Necessarily arbitrary, declares Rothbard. In the “free society”, streets belong to private firms. These ones take the decisions, but why is it no more arbitrary? According to Rothbard, the street’s owner has the right to prevent entry on his property to whom he wishes.

In the “free society”, human rights are extended. So, you get the right to disseminate all the information you know about other persons, without concern for their privacy; you have even the right of calumny. And the right to blackmail too. Nozick regards blackmail as belonging to the category of “risky non-productive actions”, a category which may possibly be prohibited. Rothbard contests the non-productivity of blackmail: “we must join modern economic theory in labelling all voluntary exchanges as productive.” (249). Under the reign of Rothbard-like liberty, it is not admissible that risky behaviour be regulated or outlawed. If you live in an apartment in a building and the owner of the apartment next to yours stores explosives, it is his right.

Nobody has obligations of any kind towards anybody else (except non-aggression). Even parents have no obligations towards their children. In the free society, there will exist a flourishing market of children where unmotivated parents sell their children to candidates for adoption. And the free society will decree no obligations such as compulsory school attendance or child labour prohibition.

Rothbard asks “Would bankruptcy laws be permissible in a libertarian legal system?” and answers “Clearly not, for the bankruptcy laws compel the discharge of a debtor's voluntarily contracted debts, and thereby invade the property rights of the creditors. (…) But even if the defaulting debtor is not able to pay, he has still stolen the property of the creditor by not making his agreed-upon delivery of the creditor's property. The function of the legal system should then be to enforce payment upon the debtor through, e.g., forced attachment of the debtor's future income for the debt plus the damages and interest on the continuing debt.” (143-144).

Conclusion
Rothbard thinks- I suppose- that he has designed a kind of paradise. I think it is rather hell. This results from his way of thinking. From a premise- nature has given us total freedom-, he deduces without any compromise or critical analysis, the implacable rigorous logical conclusions. But the premise is weak. We are not Robinson Crusoe.

After this negative conclusion, I must recognise some positive aspects in Rothbard’s theory. He condemns items generally accepted by right-wing circles or at least by some of them:
- Illegitimate land ownership, especially in underdeveloped countries. An agrarian reform is needed.
- Economic and political Western imperialism upon underdeveloped countries
- War and army enlistment
- Slavery. After abolition, the slaves should have been compensated, not the slave owners.
------
(*):Murray N. Rothbard. The Ethics of Liberty. New York University Press. 1982 [1998]. The numbers in parenthesis are the page numbers of this edition.
(**): Ludwig von Mises. Human Action. Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn, Alabama. 1949 [1998]. p. 174.
User avatar
By Puffer Fish
#15256537
Unfortunately most of the Left has a very different view of "natural rights" than Libertarian-leaning Conservatives or even Progressive Liberals (who almost seem to be a dying breed close to extinction).

I think many Conservatives and Libertarians so strongly believe in ethical values and principles that they take it for granted and assume it is a universal that their opponents would be willing to accept. For many on the Left, the means justify the ends. In philosophy, it is the difference between "ontological" and "deontological" ethics. (Deontology involves ethical principles, whereas ontology is only concerned with results)

Those who believe in "the collective" tend to deny the rights of the individual (or at least often be willing to sacrifice those rights for various social and economic objectives in the society).
User avatar
By ckaihatsu
#15256548
Puffer Fish wrote:
Unfortunately most of the Left has a very different view of "natural rights" than Libertarian-leaning Conservatives or even Progressive Liberals (who almost seem to be a dying breed close to extinction).

I think many Conservatives and Libertarians so strongly believe in ethical values and principles that they take it for granted and assume it is a universal that their opponents would be willing to accept. For many on the Left, the means justify the ends. In philosophy, it is the difference between "ontological" and "deontological" ethics. (Deontology involves ethical principles, whereas ontology is only concerned with results)

Those who believe in "the collective" tend to deny the rights of the individual (or at least often be willing to sacrifice those rights for various social and economic objectives in the society).



I don't think it's the 'natural rights' part that's problematic (speaking from the far-left), but rather the 'property rights' part that's far more controversial.

Leftism isn't about blind obedience to 'the collective' -- that's a *stereotype* -- it's about collective social *production*, on collective *machinery*, for mass production.


Anatomy of a Platform

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User avatar
By ckaihatsu
#15256566
Monti wrote:



Natural rights are in essence property rights, property of oneself and property of goods obtained following natural rules. “The concept of "rights" only makes sense as property rights. For not only are there no human rights which are not also property rights, but the former rights lose their absoluteness and clarity and become fuzzy and vulnerable when property rights are not used as the standard.” (113).



Even a Marxist like myself, or the fiercest collectivist, could find this statement / position unobjectionable *if* this sense of 'natural' / *personal* property only extended as far as the person him/herself could themselves *use* -- this is the 'toothbrushes' issue.

Deal?


= D
User avatar
By ckaihatsu
#15256574
(Note the socially-significant placement of 'markets' in the following diagram, if you like.)


Multi-Tiered System of Productive and Consumptive Zones for a Post-Capitalist Political Economy

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By Rich
#15256581
Puffer Fish wrote:I think many Conservatives and Libertarians so strongly believe in ethical values and principles that they take it for granted and assume it is a universal that their opponents would be willing to accept.

That's right many of us that are not conservatives or libertarians think a ten year old rape victim should have a right to an abortion.
User avatar
By Monti
#15256619
Puffer Fish wrote: Unfortunately most of the Left has a very different view of "natural rights" than Libertarian-leaning Conservatives or even Progressive Liberals (who almost seem to be a dying breed close to extinction).

Natural rights do not exist. They are an illusion. This is not an item of opposition between Left and Right: utilitarianist liberals as Ludwig von Mises contest also their existence: what is important is human happiness. Human rights are necessarily a social construction. Rights could only be natural if the rights of one person do not trouble the rights of someone else and this never happens. So, people have to find a compromise between thei rights of everybody: so, theses rights get a social nature.
**

Puffer Fish wrote: Those who believe in "the collective" tend to deny the rights of the individual (or at least often be willing to sacrifice those rights for various social and economic objectives in the society).

Many marxists have defended views aiming at the oppression of the individual by the collective. But in capitalism can also the rights of individuals be denied. I think that it is impossible to justify socialism without refering to individual rights. For a part of the Left, this is a cultural revolution.
User avatar
By ckaihatsu
#15256623
Monti wrote:
Natural rights do not exist. They are an illusion. This is not an item of opposition between Left and Right: utilitarianist liberals as Ludwig von Mises contest also their existence: what is important is human happiness. Human rights are necessarily a social construction. Rights could only be natural if the rights of one person do not trouble the rights of someone else and this never happens. So, people have to find a compromise between thei rights of everybody: so, theses rights get a social nature.
**



This entire realm is summed-up in the term 'civil society' -- which, I'll remind, hasn't been *completed*. If you're *that* concerned about civil society / civil rights / civil liberties, then 'human rights' have to be *struggled for*, as for abortion and an end to killer cops.


Monti wrote:
Many marxists have defended views aiming at the oppression of the individual by the collective.



You *may* want to elaborate here. That's quite an accusation.


Monti wrote:
But in capitalism can also the rights of individuals be denied. I think that it is impossible to justify socialism without refering to individual rights. For a part of the Left, this is a cultural revolution.



I think it's important to distinguish *context* here -- do 'individual rights' extend to the receipt of *full labor value* for the individual worker's work-product, or is the capitalist economic system going to be allowed to *continue* to economically exploit the worker's surplus labor value -- ?


labor and capital, side-by-side

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material-economic exploitation

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User avatar
By Puffer Fish
#15256645
ckaihatsu wrote:I don't think it's the 'natural rights' part that's problematic (speaking from the far-left), but rather the 'property rights' part that's far more controversial.

Perhaps, in a very theoretical sense you are correct, but in reality the Left always seems to extend their program of control beyond just the normal moderate redistribution of wealth or taxation.

The same mentality that applies to one area invariably seems to apply to other areas.

In other words, most of the Left doesn't seem to stop at just Fabianism.
User avatar
By ckaihatsu
#15256675
Puffer Fish wrote:
Perhaps, in a very theoretical sense you are correct, but in reality the Left always seems to extend their program of control beyond just the normal moderate redistribution of wealth or taxation.

The same mentality that applies to one area invariably seems to apply to other areas.

In other words, most of the Left doesn't seem to stop at just Fabianism.



You don't *have* to speak so mysteriously -- if you *have* an example of 'the Left always seems to extend their program of control' you should probably *include* it here.

I don't think the Left is Fabianist -- the term 'utopian' gets thrown around a lot, also *abstractly*.
User avatar
By ckaihatsu
#15256681

The term "nouvelle gauche" was already current in France in the 1950s, associated with France Observateur, and its editor Claude Bourdet, who attempted to form a third position, between the dominant Stalinist and social democratic tendencies of the left, and the two Cold War blocs. It was from this French "new left" that the "First New Left" of Britain borrowed the term.[10]

The German-Jewish critical theorist Herbert Marcuse is referred to as the "Father of the New Left". He rejected the theory of class struggle and the Marxist concern with labor. According to Leszek Kołakowski, Marcuse argued that since "all questions of material existence have been solved, moral commands and prohibitions are no longer relevant". He regarded the realization of man's erotic nature, or Eros, as the true liberation of humanity, which inspired the utopias of Jerry Rubin and others.[11] However, Marcuse also believed the concept of Logos, which involves one's reason, would absorb Eros over time as well.[12] Another prominent New Left thinker, Ernst Bloch, believed that socialism would prove the means for all human beings to become immortal and eventually create God.[13]
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By Potemkin
#15256688
@ckaihatsu This sounds like the God-Building of Bogdanov & co., who were political and ideological rivals of Lenin both before and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
User avatar
By ckaihatsu
#15256696
Okay, thanks, Potemkin.

Here's the source of the divergence:



faith in the inevitable victory of socialism,



It's *dialectics*, if one accepts the premise of *class struggle* determining the course of history.



as well as its belief in science and material existence as producing all human relations.



I think the terms that fit this are 'technological determinism', and 'vulgar materialism'. (Please note where I have 'technology / technique' placed on the vertical up-down / macro-micro continuum in the taxonomy image below.)


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_determinism


---



Vulgar Materialism

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Vulgar Materialism

a tendency of mid-19th century bourgeois philosophy that came into being at the same time as the great discoveries in the natural sciences of the century.

The theoretical predecessor of vulgar materialism was the French materialist P. Cabanis, and its principal representatives were the German philosophers C. Vogt, L. Büchner, and J. Moleschott. F. Engels called them vulgar materialists (Anti-Dühring, 1966, p. 339), because they simplified the materialistic world view, rejected the specific character of consciousness (identifying it with matter), and rejected the need to develop philosophy as a science. At the same time, by popularizing the achievements of natural science and atheism, vulgar materialism had a certain progressive importance, especially in places such as Russia where clericalist viewpoints were strong. Even in Russia, however, vulgar materialism was criticized by the revolutionary democrats. Vulgar materialist tendencies were characteristic of the “mechanists” in the USSR.



https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary ... aterialism



---


(Again.)



as well as its belief in science and material existence as producing all human relations.



Again, not a 'belief' in the sense of religious 'faith'.

For the record:


‭History, Macro-Micro -- politics-logistics-lifestyle

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By Monti
#15256809
ckaihatsu wrote:
You *may* want to elaborate here. That's quite an accusation.



The question is about marxists who " have defended views aiming at the oppression of the individual by the collective"
I was thinking of stalinist or neo-stalinist communists who were supporting the Soviet government and of maoïsts who supported the cultural revolution in China.
I agree that they are not representative of what marxism is, but we must not forget that these events have much impressed the Western public opinion.
User avatar
By ckaihatsu
#15256815
Monti wrote:
Many marxists have defended views aiming at the oppression of the individual by the collective.



ckaihatsu wrote:
You *may* want to elaborate here. That's quite an accusation.



Monti wrote:
The question is about marxists who " have defended views aiming at the oppression of the individual by the collective"
I was thinking of stalinist or neo-stalinist communists who were supporting the Soviet government and of maoïsts who supported the cultural revolution in China.
I agree that they are not representative of what marxism is, but we must not forget that these events have much impressed the Western public opinion.



Can you name *one* -- ? Any *material* to go by at all -- ?


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