Peace Requires Anarchy

Libertarianism as Common Sense Morality

5 Comments

A modest libertarian foundation in one minute.

Words excerpted from Prof. Michael Huemer’s book The Problem of Political Authority (page 177):

Libertarian political philosophy rests on three broad ideas:

(1) A nonaggression principle in interpersonal ethics. Roughly, this is the idea that individuals should not attack, kill, steal from, or defraud one another and, in general, that individuals should not coerce one another, apart from a few special circumstances.

(2) A recognition of the coercive nature of government. When the state promulgates a law, the law is generally backed up by a threat of punishment, which is supported by credible threats of physical force directed against those who would disobey the state.

(3) A skepticism of political authority. The upshot of this skepticism is, roughly, that the state may not do what it would be wrong for any nongovernmental person or organization to do.

Chapter 1: http://spot.colorado.edu/~huemer/book3.htm

Buy it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1137281650/

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Author: PeaceRequiresAnarchy

“A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist.” – Roderick T. Long

5 thoughts on “Libertarianism as Common Sense Morality

  1. Nice summary unfortunately, there are two obvious flaws. Firstly, it recognises that coercion should not be allowed except for a few special exceptions. The government is one of those exceptions.

    Secondly, it says the government should not be allowed to do anything that any other individual or organisation should be allowed do. That’s just silly. That makes as much sense as saying no corporation should be allowed do anything an individual can’t do.

  2. —–“Firstly, it recognises that coercion should not be allowed except for a few special exceptions.”

    Yes.

    For an example of such a scenario, see the description of a starving person lost in the woods stumbling across a cabin that is mentioned near the beginning of this post: https://peacerequiresanarchy.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/morally-permissible-unjust-acts/

    —–“The government is one of those exceptions.”

    No, it’s not.

    The exceptions are made in light of the fact that some acts of aggressive coercion (rights violations) are strongly expected to lead to much greater benefits than harms (e.g. the starving person in the woods stealing food from the cabin they come across to prevent themselves from dying is a substantially better outcome than the outcome of the person starving to death that the act of theft is morally justified).

    No government, even a minimal state, meets the criteria necessary to justify aggressive coercion. The benefits do not sufficiently outweigh the harms (note: they might not even outweigh the harms at all). As Michael Huemer said, “We’re nowhere close to the case where government would be justified” (Source: https://peacerequiresanarchy.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/nowhere-close-to-the-case-where-government-would-be-justified/ ).

    —–“Secondly, it says the government should not be allowed to do anything that any other individual or organisation should be allowed do.”

    This is merely the *rough* implication of the view that governments lack the political authority they claim. It’s not exact. I encourage you to read the first section (only about ~2 pages) of the first chapter of Michael Huemer’s book, available online here: http://spot.colorado.edu/~huemer/1.htm . This will give you an understanding of the sense in which the vast majority of people hold governments to a different moral standard than they hold all nongovernmental persons and organizations/businesses/etc.

    So, to reiterate and be clear, the view that it would be morally wrong for governments to do things which it would be morally wrong for all nongovernmental persons and organizations to do is merely the rough implication of the view that governments lack the “political authority” (defined in the beginning of Ch. 1of Huemer’s book, linked above) that most people believe governments have.

  3. Additionally, Robert, I’d like to say, now that I’ve read Michael Huemer’s book “The Problem of Political Authority” ( http://www.amazon.com/dp/1137281650/ ), it is without a doubt the best book defending (anarchist) libertarian political philosophy that I have read. You can read the short abstract for the book at the bottom of this webpage: http://spot.colorado.edu/~huemer/book3.htm

    I’d definitely recommend it before Bruce Benson’s “The Enterprise of Law,” (which I formerly recommended to you and which you said you’d add to your reading list) which merely makes the economic case that “justice” could be provided without a state, and doesn’t attempt to make the case for libertarian anarchism.

  4. Pingback: “The Problem of Political Authority” by Professor Michael Huemer | Peace Requires Anarchy

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