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The Opposition
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Rothbard on Defending Property
Dec 22nd, 2018 at 8:51pm
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https://mises.org/library/right-self-defense
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Secondly, we may ask: must we go along with those libertarians who claim that a storekeeper has the right to kill a lad as punishment for snatching a piece of his bubblegum? What we might call the "maximalist" position goes as follows: by stealing the bubblegum, the urchin puts himself outside the law. He demonstrates by his action that he does not hold or respect the correct theory of property rights. Therefore, he loses all of his rights, and the storekeeper is within his rights to kill the lad in retaliation.

I propose that this position suffers from a grotesque lack of proportion. By concentrating on the storekeeper's right to his bubblegum, it totally ignores another highly precious property-right: every man's — including the urchin's — right of self-ownership. On what basis must we hold that a minuscule invasion of another's property lays one forfeit to the total loss of one's own?


This boils down to Rothbard insisting that the urchin's life is more valuable than your stick of gum. His argument does not work without that premise: The value of a life is more than a stick of gum. That's where the disproportionality comes from.

Alright; I agree. I don't know anyone, anywhere, who would say it's alright to shoot someone for stealing a stick of gum.

But this does raise the uncomfortable question of what a life is worth. If the urchin's life was worth more than a stick of gum once, then it is surely the case the next time.

It follows from that, that if the kid's life has a greater value than N sticks of gum, it also is more valuable than N + 1 sticks of gum.

There exists no N + 1 for which the Nth time stealing the same object was permissible, and N + 1 was not.

Therefore, the value of a life is infinite and there is no object permissible to defend with deadly force.

A stick of gum (for the purposes of this axiom of no shooting the kid) might as well be a hot wheels car, and a hot wheels car might as well be a video game, and a video game might as well be $300 from the cash register.

Surely, the kid's life is still worth more than $300. If I've made some error, it should be easy to pinpoint where exactly - what value of property, exactly - is morally (not legally) permissible to defend with deadly force, because the only claim I have made is that stealing a stick of gum the next time is not different than the time before it. Surely, if it was different, and permissible to shoot the kid the 50th time, or the 7,852nd time, Rothbard would have mentioned this.

Welfare is actually justified on this basis.

Let's take Sally, the welfare queen. It's not justified for the government to redistribute to her, but what if she proposes to steal?

"I will steal my welfare check's value from you every week." Sally declares. "I've read Rothbard. You can't kill me to stop me, because that would be disproportionate punishment."

You consider a moment. "I can stop you as long as I don't kill you," you realise, "because that would still be okay."

Sally laughs in your face. "No, it wouldn't be." she insists, "because, you see, I'm Hell-bent on having my welfare check. I will do whatever I have to do to get that welfare check, and I won't stop trying to steal its value unless I am dead."

Well shit, she's right, you realise, so if you believe Rothbard's initial premise, you hand over the money. And if you want to put her in prison, pay up: Enough to keep her alive, plus enough to confine her. (You're paying to keep her alive either way.)

Boom. Welfare state. Libertarian-style.

Or a reductio ad absurdum of Rothbard's initial premise that you can't defend your stuff.

Whichever.

A couple of more thoughts about this...

If I'm a shopkeeper, and I run a dollar store, I must let the urchin steal every item. This means I'll go out of business, which means that then, it's my life too. Why is the urchin's life so much more valuable than mine? If it's him or me, and I kill him to keep myself alive, isn't that exactly in proportion?

What if, instead of an urchin, I'm faced with a multibillionaire who barges into my house and insists that he has stolen it, and I must leave? His net worth is much more than the value of my house, so if he's Hell-bent on having my house and I'm forced to kill him or leave, I'd have to just let him have my house.

The thing is, the multibillionaire's accounting of the value of a normal house is the same as the urchin's accounting of the stick of gum: Practically nothing. And Rothbard is flat-out stating that people should be allowed to steal what is practically nothing, in a situation where it's that or kill them (which the thief can easily manufacture by simply being Hell-bent on stealing).

Thieves will wear theft-indemnity devices if they have to: They'll have heart surgery to weaken their hearts, so if you agitate them by, say, grabbing their arm and restraining them, they'll die.

Rothbard's only stating it's a kid for the sympathy value. The meat of his argument is absolutely separate from the matter of whether it's a kid or not. Not once does he mention that the kid doesn't know any better.
  

This moral relativism of yours is exactly what lets government take this freedom, then that freedom, until we have lost them all.
-SnarkySack
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Jeff
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Re: Rothbard on Defending Property
Reply #1 - Dec 23rd, 2018 at 8:08am
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The Opposition wrote on Dec 22nd, 2018 at 8:51pm:
https://mises.org/library/right-self-defense

This boils down to Rothbard insisting that the urchin's life is more valuable than your stick of gum. His argument does not work without that premise: The value of a life is more than a stick of gum. That's where the disproportionality comes from.

Alright; I agree. I don't know anyone, anywhere, who would say it's alright to shoot someone for stealing a stick of gum.

But this does raise the uncomfortable question of what a life is worth.
What's your opinion?

I agree with the law that the punishment must be proportional to the crime. That's why there are separate crimes called petty theft and grand larceny, none of which have ever been punished in civilized countries by the death penalty.

The way to defend your property from redistribution by government is to strictly limit government, giving it no power to redistribute property. Sacky will tell you that the general welfare clause of the U.S. Constitution creates a general power that includes the power to redistribute property, because SCOTUS "found" that general power in order to authorize the New Deal. You know how I feel about that, and you also know the Sack claims that taxation to fund schools is a redistribution of wealth, just like sending out a welfare check.
  
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Little Big Man
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Re: Rothbard on Defending Property
Reply #2 - Dec 23rd, 2018 at 10:37am
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Very well written.  You lay out a case for acceptance of thievery much better than Jeff, who tries so hard at it.

S05 Episode 05 of the Rifleman discusses that very topic.  A bad guy comes into town hell bent on a gunfight with Lucas McCain.  Failing to get McCain to "draw" on him, he steals the horse of McCain's son Mark, tossing him a dollar to "buy" it.

On hearing the story the marshal immediately picks up his rifle and he and McCain start to go after the bad guy.  Mark says, "I can catch another horse, let him have it."

The marshal says, "Shall we throw in a few head of cattle or half interest in your ranch?"

McCain says, "I know what you're saying.  That a man's life is worth more than a horse.  But what is a man's life worth if he doesn't defend what's his?

Mark insists that he will just say he sold it.

McCain says, "If he takes that horse and rides out of town, I'll let him have it.  But if he comes back to keep on grabbing, we've gotta stop him"

Sure, I'd let the little girl take her gum and go.  I'd pity her more than be angry at her because she's being raised to think that she is entitled to other people's stuff and sooner or later it will lead to her downfall.  I'd shoot her mother rather than let her mother think she could come in daily and help herself to a bag full of forties.

My daughter had her phone stolen recently and she was able to track exactly where it was.  She called 911 expecting that she could give the police the location and they would go get it for her.  You know, because government protects us from anarchy.  911 gave her the number to non-emergency dispatch which was an answering machine that referred her to the website on which to report thefts of items valued at less than five thousand dollars.  For a college girl, a phone is worth much more than five thousand dollars, but police are way too busy writing tickets for no seat belt to bother with it.  Seeing how distraught she was, I would have gladly confronted the thief.  But even if I could have found him or her, she no doubt would be hell bent on keeping the phone and I might get the worst of it.

In a libertarian society, police would also not get you phone back unless you were a high-level contributor.  Most of us who don't have thousands to contribute in order to get a five hundred dollar phone back know we have to backup our data in case our phone gets stolen or just falls into the toilet. 

Under libertarianism, every petty theft will not be prevented or punished.  We have to watch out for property ourselves, and no thief has the moral authority to question how we do it. 

  

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The Opposition
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Re: Rothbard on Defending Property
Reply #3 - Dec 23rd, 2018 at 11:55am
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Little Big Man wrote on Dec 23rd, 2018 at 10:37am:
My daughter had her phone stolen recently and she was able to track exactly where it was.  She called 911 expecting that she could give the police the location and they would go get it for her.  You know, because government protects us from anarchy.  911 gave her the number to non-emergency dispatch which was an answering machine that referred her to the website on which to report thefts of items valued at less than five thousand dollars.  For a college girl, a phone is worth much more than five thousand dollars, but police are way too busy writing tickets for no seat belt to bother with it.  Seeing how distraught she was, I would have gladly confronted the thief.  But even if I could have found him or her, she no doubt would be hell bent on keeping the phone and I might get the worst of it.

In a libertarian society, police would also not get your phone back unless you were a high-level contributor.  Most of us who don't have thousands to contribute in order to get a five hundred dollar phone back know we have to backup our data in case our phone gets stolen or just falls into the toilet.


Isn't it interesting that it's regulated by value? So the people who happen to have $5000 phones, well, they get their phones back.

People who don't own anything valuable... their property is all forfeit.

Little Big Man wrote on Dec 23rd, 2018 at 10:37am:
Under libertarianism, every petty theft will not be prevented or punished.  We have to watch out for property ourselves,


Agreed. And we should embrace this, not be frightened of it.

Little Big Man wrote on Dec 23rd, 2018 at 10:37am:
and no thief has the moral authority to question how we do it. 


Well, Rothbard disagrees.

So does Jeff.

This is what I'm talking about when I say the NAP falls apart the instant someone violates it. Consensus is destroyed and if you ask five libertarians what to do about said violation, you'll get seven or eight different answers. If you ask Jeff, he'll strip rights (I'm sorry, he won't acknowledge nonexistent rights) when he feels like it, and pile up rights when he feels like it.

This is what makes people Statists: The desire to serve one master, not eight billion, and the need for consistency. The more tyrannical the government, the more consistent the rules.

Libertarians can't even agree on whether or not hiring a hit man is aggression.

Jeff wrote on Dec 23rd, 2018 at 8:08am:
What's your opinion?


It doesn't matter because you'll drag whatever I say through the mud until every member of this forum universally accepts it as wrong.

So it matters what you say, and what Rothbard says.

Ironically, you advocated Rothbard's refuted maximalist position with me, because you say I don't have rights. Respect for rights, according to you, is not enough. I must respect them for the right reasons. I must understand them, the way you do.

↓   ↓   ↓   ↓   ↓   ↓   ↓   ↓   ↓   ↓   ↓   ↓   ↓   ↓   ↓

Jeff wrote on Feb 24th, 2018 at 7:49am:
You have no more rights than an animal, because your understanding of rights is at the level of a predatory animal.


↑   ↑   ↑   ↑   ↑   ↑   ↑   ↑   ↑   ↑   ↑   ↑   ↑   ↑   ↑

Imagine if we held thieves to that standard.

...Actually, they'd still have rights, because they understand rights perfectly. They know they have a right to steal, because you can't kill them to stop them.

So... acting with disrespect for a person's rights... perfectly fine. The thief keeps all rights. And his right to his person trumps my right to my stuff, so if he's Hell-bent on stealing, I just lose my stuff.

But asking the tough questions, even while willing to follow the NAP better than any of the rest of you do? Lose all rights, do not pass Go.

It's a wonder no one thinks libertarians are trying to run a scam.
  

This moral relativism of yours is exactly what lets government take this freedom, then that freedom, until we have lost them all.
-SnarkySack
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Jeff
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Re: Rothbard on Defending Property
Reply #4 - Dec 23rd, 2018 at 3:34pm
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Little Big Man wrote on Dec 23rd, 2018 at 10:37am:
My daughter had her phone stolen recently and she was able to track exactly where it was.  She called 911 expecting that she could give the police the location and they would go get it for her.  You know, because government protects us from anarchy.  911 gave her the number to non-emergency dispatch which was an answering machine that referred her to the website on which to report thefts of items valued at less than five thousand dollars.  For a college girl, a phone is worth much more than five thousand dollars, but police are way too busy writing tickets for no seat belt to bother with it.  Seeing how distraught she was, I would have gladly confronted the thief.  But even if I could have found him or her, she no doubt would be hell bent on keeping the phone and I might get the worst of it.

You said your daughter knew exactly where it was.

It's too bad you live wherever you do where you essentially have no police. Cool
  
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Re: Rothbard on Defending Property
Reply #5 - Dec 23rd, 2018 at 3:34pm
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The Opposition wrote on Dec 23rd, 2018 at 11:55am:
Isn't it interesting that it's regulated by value?
Where?

BTW, defending your property is different from trying to retrieve it after it's been stolen.
  
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Re: Rothbard on Defending Property
Reply #6 - Dec 23rd, 2018 at 11:23pm
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Jeff wrote on Dec 23rd, 2018 at 3:34pm:
You said your daughter knew exactly where it was.

It's too bad you live wherever you do where you essentially have no police. Cool


That's everywhere, though.  Are you seriously claiming that you live in a magical place where police would get a person's phone back under those conditions?


  

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Re: Rothbard on Defending Property
Reply #7 - Dec 24th, 2018 at 8:37am
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The Opposition wrote on Dec 23rd, 2018 at 11:55am:
Imagine if we held thieves to that standard.

You were claiming to be a dragon at the time... Dragons are animals, not humans, so dragons don't have human rights.
  
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Re: Rothbard on Defending Property
Reply #8 - Dec 24th, 2018 at 8:39am
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Little Big Man wrote on Dec 23rd, 2018 at 11:23pm:
That's everywhere, though.  Are you seriously claiming that you live in a magical place where police would get a person's phone back under those conditions?


Knowing exactly where the phone is, even the most incompetent of my local sheriffs could get it back. The phone service provider would be happy to help them.
  
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Re: Rothbard on Defending Property
Reply #9 - Dec 24th, 2018 at 8:42am
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The Opposition wrote on Dec 23rd, 2018 at 11:55am:
Well, Rothbard disagrees.

So does Jeff.

This is what I'm talking about when I say the NAP falls apart the instant someone violates it.
The most common libertarian position, which I share, is that aggressive acts should be punished and, as far as possible, the victims should be made whole.
  
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