February 20, 2008 4 Comments
individualism for the masses
February 20, 2008 4 Comments
November 29, 2007 Leave a comment
Actually, that’s the wrong question, since the law-enforcement lobby would make it very, very expensive to abolish the police through legal channels, and any violent attempt to bypass legal channels would probably end up having the opposite effect.
What I mean is this: if we pushed the Rothbardian button* and made all the cops go away tomorrow, how much would it cost to implement a private libertarian replacement, where person and property are protected, and victimless so-called crimes are nobody’s business but the nonexistent victims?
“The libertarian, then, should be a person who would push the button, if it existed, for the instantaneous abolition of all invasions of liberty.”
** If the payouts were capped at your homeowner’s insurance deductible, it would only be $25.
September 3, 2007 Leave a comment
In the summer of 1940, with Hitler’s troops moving through France to encircle Switzerland, Ludwig von Mises sat beside his wife Margit on a bus filled with Jews fleeing Europe. To avoid capture, the bus driver took back roads through the French countryside, stopping to ask locals if the Germans had been spotted ahead — reversing and finding alternative routes if they had been.
Mises was two months shy of his fifty-ninth birthday. He had left Vienna some years earlier, escaping only days before the Nazis ransacked his apartment, confiscated his records, and froze his assets. He had hoped to be safe in Geneva. Now nowhere in Europe seemed safe. Not only was he a prominent intellectual of Jewish descent; he was widely known to be an archenemy of National Socialism and of every other form of socialism. Some called him "The Last Knight of Liberalism."
Failing to catch him in Vienna, the Nazis tried to snatch him in Switzerland. Again they did not succeed. Mises did not assume his luck would last.
July 4, 2007 Leave a comment
Among the Latin phrases, I found this common-law term I learned from reading Murray Rothbard on property theory:
Cuius est solum eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos: “Whoever owns the land it is theirs up to the sky and down to the depths.” The state of Kansas used this law in the 1970s to argue that airlines could not serve liquor when flying over Kansas, a dry state. “Kansas,” Attorney General Vern Miller said, “goes all the way up and all the way down.” (If that’s true, Kansas can lay claim to, and prohibit drinking in, about 82,282 square miles of western China.)
There’s plenty wrong with the Kansas interpretation, but there’s even more wrong with Neatorama’s snide aside about western China.
Here’s my summary of Rothbard on the ad coelum rule:
Property Units: Rothbard versus Common Law
Rothbard’s main departure from common law tradition is his disagreement with the common-law principle “that every landowner owns all the airspace above him upward indefinitely unto the heavens and downward into the center of the earth. In Lord Coke’s famous dictum: cujus est solum ejus est usque ad coelum; that is, he who owns the soil owns upward unto heaven, and, by analogy, downward to Hades.”
But according to Rothbard, the ad coelum rule never made any sense in the context of homesteading: “If one homesteads and uses the soil, in what sense is he also using all the sky above him up into heaven? Clearly, he isn’t.”
So Rothbard rejected ad coelum, but we needn’t side with Rothbard to reject both the Kansas interpretation (pro–ad coelum) and the Neatorama interpretation (anti–ad coelum).
What’s wrong with the Kansas Attorney General’s argument is that ad coelum is a common law property precedent, and the state of Kansas does not own the entire territory of Kansas, according to common law. Even if you recognize the state government as a legitimate property owner (which Rothbardians don’t, of course), its property is limited to those areas not owned by the citizens and residents of Kansas. The irony of the state’s mouthpiece citing common law as an excuse to extend the reach of its “dry law” is that alcohol prohibition is itself a violation of common-law property rights.
But Neatorama’s parenthetical commentator is wrong at a much more rudimentary level, because ad coelum establishes a three-dimensional property boundary in the shape of a cone, not a cylinder. The point of the cone starts at the theoretical center of the planet; its supposedly infinite reach is only heavenward, not bidirectional.
Lord Coke’s dictum extends ownership “upward unto heaven, and, by analogy, downward to Hades.”
China isn’t Hades.
June 29, 2007 Leave a comment
[This article is excerpted from the first two chapters of The Enterprise of Law by Bruce Benson.]
Anyone who would even question the “fact” that law and order are necessary functions of government is likely to be considered a ridiculous, uninformed radical by most observers.
|“No one would voluntarily recognize a legal system that was not expected to treat him fairly.”|
This study will use economic theory to compare institutions and incentives that influence public and private performance in the provision of law and its enforcement. Some critics may contend that law is not an appropriate subject for “economic analysis,” because it is not produced and allocated in exchange markets. To be certain, economics has a great deal to say about market institutions, but its relevance and scope are not so narrowly limited. Economic theory requires only that scarce resources be allocated among competing uses. Clearly, the enterprise of law — the use of police services, court time, and all other inputs in the process of making law and establishing order — requires scarce resources that must be allocated. Beyond that, economic theory explains human behavior by considering how individuals react to incentives and constraints.
Using economic theory, then, it can be convincingly demonstrated that private-sector (i.e., market or voluntary) institutions are capable of establishing strong incentives that lead to effective law making and law enforcement. The resulting legal constraints facilitate interaction and support social order by inducing cooperation and reducing violent confrontation. It can also be shown that public-sector institutions create incentives that can lead to substantial inefficiencies in the provision of these same functions. In fact, our modern reliance on government to make law and establish order is not the historical norm.
June 11, 2007 1 Comment
Here’s a typical irony. Defenders of current anti-prostitution laws often make 2 claims: one is absurd on its face; the other is often more compelling to anyone who isn’t a principled libertarian.
The first claim is that anti-prostitution laws are meant to help the prostitutes themselves — protect them from their terrible lives, protect them from their terrible pimps, protect them from their terrible customers, etc.
But anyone can think beyond two steps of cause and effect can tell you that it is the criminal status of their trade that makes these women so vulnerable to less-than-ethical pimps and johns. Recognize self-ownership and contract rights, and they are no more vulnerable than any other private service worker. (OK, maybe they’d still be more vulnerable than a telecommuter, but no more so than, say, a massage therapist or a chiropractor.)
The second claim — the one that many otherwise liberally inclined people are often sympathetic to — is that prostitution ruins neighborhoods. Here the prostitution prohibitionists are appealing to our images of streetwalkers. The irony is that streetwalkers may also be a creation of the prohibitionists.
From the most recent Weekend Edition at Mises.org:
IV. Saving Our Boys from Alcohol and Vice
One of organized womanhood’s major contributions to the war effort was to collaborate in an attempt to save American soldiers from vice and Demon Rum. In addition to establishing rigorous dry zones around every military camp in the United States, the Selective Service Act of May 1917 also outlawed prostitution in wide zones around the military camps.
At that point, the new Secretary of War, the progressive former mayor of Cleveland Newton D. Baker, became disturbed at reports that areas near the army camps in Texas on the Mexican border, where troops were mobilized to combat the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, were honeycombed with saloons and prostitution. Sent by Baker on a fact-finding tour in the summer of 1916, scoffed at by tough army officers as the “Reverend,” Fosdick was horrified to find saloons and brothels seemingly everywhere in the vicinity of the military camps. He reported his consternation to Baker, and, at Fosdick’s suggestion, Baker cracked down on the army commanders and their lax attitude toward alcohol and vice.
Employing the argument of health and military necessity, Fosdick set up a Social Hygiene Division of his commission, which promulgated the slogan “Fit to Fight.” Using a mixture of force and threats to remove federal troops from the bases if recalcitrant cities did not comply, Fosdick managed to bludgeon his way into suppressing, if not prostitution in general, then at least every major red light district in the country. In doing so, Fosdick and Baker, employing local police and the federal Military Police, far exceeded their legal authority. The law authorized the president to shut down every red light district in a five-mile zone around each military camp or base. Of the 110 red light districts shut down by military force, however, only 35 were included in the prohibited zone. Suppression of the other 75 was an illegal extension of the law. Nevertheless, Fosdick was triumphant: “Through the efforts of this Commission [on Training Camp Activities] the red light district has practically ceased to be a feature of American city life.” The result of this permanent destruction of the red light district, of course, was to drive prostitution onto the streets, where consumers would be deprived of the protection of either an open market or of regulation.
Murray N. Rothbard, “World War I as Fulfillment: Power and the Intellectuals”
(emphasis added, of course)
Well, you might say, the federal government of the United States can’t possibly be to blame for streetwalkers, since they could be found in London in the 19th century, and probably elsewhere throughout the history of cities.
My guess is that brothel-based prostitution is the norm wherever it is legal (and call girls, after the invention of the telephone), and that streetwalking is a black-market phenomenon … throughout the history of cities.
May 10, 2007 Leave a comment
“[Virginia] Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell is warning New York to stop, by the summer, sending private agents into Virginia to look for illegal gun sales, saying that the agents could face legal action. Because of a Virginia law that goes into effect in July, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R) and his agents could be charged with a felony if they continue to target Virginia gun dealers with undercover sting operations, McDonnell said.” (Washington Post, Thursday)
This could get interesting.
FEE Timely Classic
“Guns, Gun Laws, and Liberty” by Lawrence W. Reed