ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context: OnProperty, OnLibertarianism, CriticismsOfRightLibertarianism

Quora Answer : What do progressives think of Rob Weir's answer to "Why is the Libertarian philosophy unpopular?"

May 11, 2017

I find Libertarianism fascinating.

It's intellectually rich. Quite compelling. It certainly has many attractions.

But what I can never quite get my head around is the extraordinary blind-spot that Libertarians have about "violence".

I just can't understand how they can't see something that is so massively, blatantly obvious.

Which is that you need the threat and, indeed, practice of violence to maintain a system of private property.

I don't get it. It's all around us. In the form of police. And courts. And prisons. You can watch it happening every day. In front of your nose. People get arrested and prosecuted and put in jail. All in the defence of someone's property rights. It's there in history. When the "enclosures acts" put fences around previously commons land. It's there when Europeans militarily invaded the new world and exterminated the indigenous peoples to make way for "homesteaders" on this "virgin" territory.

Every time anyone "gets rich", just look behind the curtain and you'll see government backed legislation and the threat of violence there. Microsoft and Google and Facebook create huge "wealth" out of pure ideas and peaceful co-operation, right? Sure, if you don't happen to notice that their mega-valuations are all based on their patent portfolios which are themselves the result of the government bundling up ideas into property and being willing to use the court system (ie. violence) to enforce it.

So, every time Libertarians talk about violence, honestly, I feel like, to use a currently popular expression, they are "gaslighting" me. Blithely talking as though violence is somebody else's problem, nothing at all to do with them or the system that they advocate.

Oh, no. They're about nothing but peaceful voluntarism.

Quora Answer : What do liberals not understand about libertarians and conservatives?

Nov 16

For me it's "how can you not see the obvious fact that private property is a coercive institution? how can you keep repeating the obvious untruth that capitalism is voluntary and that trades in the market are not coerced?"

This seems so self-evident to me, and so backed up by our experience (ie. the existence of all the property laws, police, courts, prisons etc. which punish people who violate those property laws) that it seems to require a cosmic degree of self-delusion to go around the world imagining that private property isn't one more example of oppression imposed by the state / government which, even if justified, can only be justified by its ends. Just like all the other government regulation.

At least some libertarians and conservatives seem to be smart. Why do they have such a blind-spot about this?

Quora Answer : I am a right-wing libertarian; as a Marxist, where do you think I am mistaken?

Feb 23, 2019

I suspect your main mistake is that you fail to see that property rights are a kind of restriction on liberty.

In other words, every property right that exists is an instance of the government, enforcing, with the threat of violence, a restriction on what you can do.

For example, farmer Giles's ownership of his orchard, is a constraint, backed up by government violence, on you going and picking apples there for your picnic.

Bob's ownership of his house is a constraint, backed up by government violence, that prevents you sleeping there if you find yourself tired in his street.

Aramco's titles to Arabian oil wells are a constraint on someone else going and drilling there.

Microsoft's patents are a constraint on what technologies other companies can develop and sell.

Once you realize that property isn't an extension of liberty, but a government enforced diminution of liberty, then you'll start to understand that the simplistic dichotomy between government and market that right-Libertarians like to assume, can't possibly be correct.

If you like property and property rights, then you'll have to come up with a more sophisticated notion of liberty that recognizes that government constraints can actually extend it. And once you do that, if you're honest, you'll see that other political positions that also argue that government constraints can extend liberty, are not as self-evidently wrong as you thought.

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