The voluntaryist delusion.

NOTE: if you’re interested in more entries against voluntaryism, check out my anti-voluntaryism category.
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Voluntaryism is a popular ideology amongst people who like Anarchism but recoil at its leftist implications. By adopting the simple principle, “whatever is voluntary is ethical,” they believe that they have found the high ground, the ruler with which all other ideologies must be evaluated.

Some openly advocate a “rule by landlords,” a sort of extra-small minarchism where whoever owns the land can impose whatever laws he wishes on anyone who works or lives within his land. This is the “ultimate decision-making power” which defines the State: these landowners are effectively rulers over that land. Although they refuse to see this pretty direct deduction (but to be fair, even Rothbard was too blinded by his pro-property bias to see it), it is clear that the voluntaryists who hold to this ideology have nothing to do with Anarchism.

One famous example from the Mises forum is the question of whether we are justified in shaking off someone who is hanging for his life on a flagpole that we own. Many people there were of the opinion that “property rights” alone justified an act which is, to be clear, nothing more than murder.

Most voluntaryists recoil at the idea that their ideology might justify this sort of baseless murder, and as such adopt a “softer” position. They then try to draw a line, beyond which their belief in “property rights” becomes harmless and does not affect other people’s rights. But as I have pointed out in my past exposé of “anarcho-capitalism,” there is no line beyond which voluntaryism, in its support of “property rights,” does not suffer from this sort of contradiction, because “property rights” are by their very nature an obstacle to all other, real human rights.

In fact, we don’t need to go beyond real life to see that this is the case. Voluntaryism, under the form of STV (Subjective Theory of Value, which basically states that any price or usury people agree upon is just, by circular definition), is the core justification for capitalist exploitation. Of course, they strenuously object to the word “exploitation,” because they believe that anything voluntary is by definition good and thus cannot be “exploitation.” But this is circular reasoning.

In the same way, they object equally strenuously to any attempt to unincentivize or prevent what they see as “voluntary acts,” saying things like “you just want to tell people what they can’t do!” And yet no one disputes that we must often “tell people what they can’t do.” We don’t want to live in a society where people are free to hurt or defraud each other without being stopped, because these actions go against innate morality and go against the free will of the victim. Many “voluntary acts” are equally unacceptable (some of which I will discuss in the points below).

Even some crimes, especially clever frauds, can be said to be voluntary, but that does not make them any less criminal; like these “voluntary acts,” they rely on false beliefs in order to foster acceptance or even cheerful participation in the harming of the person’s life. Religion, I suppose, should be added to that category of clever frauds as well.

“Whatever is voluntary is ethical; whatever is not voluntary is not ethical.” Like the Golden Rule, this rule is simple and wrong. There are four main reasons why it is wrong.

1. It reduces ethics to a matter of mere personal opinion. Because of this, it goes against all other ethical principles ever put forward by man, since one may at any time hold an opinion contrary to them, even if those principles are logically sound and empirically demonstrated.

Voluntaryists, however, do their best to redefine other people’s terms so they fit within their own worldview. For instance, an Anarchist may rightly points out that the voluntaryist would allow people to form hierarchies, and that this is contrary to our goal of freedom. The voluntaryist will then generally either define freedom as “doing whatever you feel like” (omitting the fact that forming hierarchies restricts our desire to “do whatever we feel like” later on), or redefine hierarchy so as to exclude willing obedience (as if the willing or unwilling nature of obedience had any relevance to the unethical nature of hierarchies).

Also, when I discussed the arguments against STV, I briefly pointed out that there can be no “true subjectivity” in a world where indoctrination is a constant fact. The same objection can be leveled against voluntaryism in general. The voluntaryist cannot ensure that one’s opinion is really one’s personal opinion, and not just someone else’s attempt at indoctrination that was internalized in the past. And if opinions are molded by whoever has the money or power to make its message heard by the masses, then voluntaryism basically reduces itself to “might makes right.”

2. It does not take into account the coercion embodied by our institutions. In the same way that we say that commodities embody (give a concrete form to) a certain amount of labor, we can also say that institutions embody coercion. This is ignored by voluntaryists, who examine actions towards any institution in a vacuum, divorced from context, and thus do not acknowledge the coercion that was necessary for the institution to exist.

Let me give you a simple example to illustrate what I mean by this. A group of people goes around breaking people’s legs. A significant percentage of people’s legs have been broken, and now they all need crutches. Crutch-makers, who are few (since many people simply can’t work at all due to having their legs broken, and because we still need people to produce food, potable water, houses, and other vital commodities), are now forming a cartel and are asking for thousands of dollars in exchange for crutches, because there are so few crutches being made and so many people vitally need them.

My example is not an analogy, as I don’t have any specific system in mind while writing it (I am not making a statement about cartels or health care or anything like that). All I am pointing out is that the system of crutch production is dependent for its power on acts of coercion that were done “in the past,” “by other people.” The fact that it was done “in the past” and “by other people” makes voluntaryists say that the system in the present is voluntary, but the system embodies the coercion of the leg-breaking which occurred before the rise of the cartel, and would not exist without it.

This means that voluntaryists are good at identifying institutions which rely on force “in the present” and “by the people in charge,” but they are very bad at identifying these institutions when time has passed and coercion is no longer directly necessary.

For instance, the fact that land was initially distributed through coercive acts like the extermination of the natives, the enclosure of the commons, the selling of unused land by auction. These acts of coercion are embodied by landlordism, laws against squatting and beggars, “gentrification,” and capitalism as a whole, because capitalism everywhere necessitated the creation of a class of people uprooted from their land who would serve as its workers. And of course we cannot dissociate land ownership issues from that of statism, which is a form of ownership claim over a piece of land and its inhabitants.

Therefore, when voluntaryists claim that landlordism and capitalism are voluntary and therefore benign, they are not only omitting the facts of landlordist and capitalist exploitation, but they are also omitting the coercion embodied by those institutions. To take a more concrete example of this, the Zapatista revolutions were brought about because natives were chased from their land and were forced to sell their labor to the new land owners who bought their land at auction. It would do no good for a voluntaryist to point out that the work contract they signed was voluntary: the work contract is merely an extension of the violent acts of enclosure and selling.

If my point is not clear enough, the Scientology “billion year contract” might provide for a simpler example. Even though capitalists may scoff at a “billion year contract,” the concept is logically acceptable for people who believe that their souls are immortal. That issue aside, the contract is entirely “voluntary,” if you refuse to examine the fact that the person was brainwashed “in the past” and “by different people.” But this is obviously nonsense (although, since most forms of brainwashing are voluntary, I suppose that wouldn’t bother them anyway).

As a conclusion to this point, it is hard not to consider the fact that all human activity has as its cause a non-voluntary act, the act of being born and the breeding/parenting institution in general.

3. There are fundamental contradictions between the belief in “voluntary contract” and the belief in human rights. If a “voluntary contract” includes clauses which go against a person’s human rights, such as pretty much all capitalist work contracts ever written, then the voluntaryist is forced to reject human rights in favour of the contract. This can get to rather extreme lengths, as I have shown in my discussions of the Block Corollary. Basically, the voluntaryist response is to call the victims crybabies for complaining about a contract they signed “voluntarily.”

In practice, people sign such contracts because they have no viable alternatives, and a lot of this is related to point 2. The background conditions of society are molded by the coercion of the past much more than that of the present. The more power workers have in a given field, the better conditions they get, but businesses have more power than the workers. This is why they end up routinely having the upper hand and are able to demand concession from the workers which would be considered unacceptable or even absurd in any other context.

4. The term “voluntary” is weaker than the term “consensual.” What is consensual is necessarily voluntary, but what is voluntary is not necessarily consensual. For a person to perform a voluntary choice only requires acceptance on the part of the person, but for a person to perform a consensual choice requires a viable possibility of refusal. This means that the concept of consent includes consideration of structural issues (such as whether a viable alternative exists) which are not part of voluntariness. I have examined the issue of consent in detail in my entry Some considerations on consent (see part 1 and part 2).

The upshot of all this is that a totalizing system like capital-democracy, or capitalism or democracy alone, precludes the possibility of consent. The same can be applied to any totalizing system whatsoever, since by definition totalizing systems does not accept, or permit the rise of, viable alternatives. Therefore, any such system, or any part of such a system, may be “voluntary,” but it cannot be consensual.

This presents a problem for the voluntaryist, as he is either forced to abandon the notion of consent or to trivialize the non-consensual nature of whatever he is defending. Because consensus relies on structural issues which voluntariness does not, the voluntaryist can accomplish the second goal by examining actions and systems in a vacuum. In this way, the voluntaryist joins the right-winger in his stubborn refusal to consider society’s ever-present influence on people’s actions (let alone society’s role in the formation of the self). To the voluntaryist, ongoing coercion alone accounts for all social ills. If there is no coercion present, all responsibility falls on the individual. This is only one step better than the right-winger, and not a big step at that.

If the voluntaryist abandons the notion of consent on the basis that it is too restrictive, then we must conclude that his professed love of freedom is a lie. How can people be free when they are forced to live in non-consensual ways?

It is like saying that surrendering one’s wallet to an armed robber means you were free to take that decision. There is nothing voluntary about being attacked by an armed robber, but the choice itself is voluntary, in the same sense that voting or paying taxes is voluntary: one can decide to do it, or not to do it. And if we look only at the choice itself, in a vacuum, this analysis might make sense. The same might be said of the decision to surrender one’s labour or starve. But these are not the choices that make life happy or meaningful or purposeful. There is more meaning in deciding what to eat for breakfast than in any such non-consensual choice.

This is related to the principle of embodied coercion, given that most non-consensual actions or choices are the result of embodied coercion. But in certain cases, they are not. To follow the right-wing stereotype, what if a specific person is poor because he is dumb or lazy? Well, so what? His dumbness or laziness is his responsibility, but this does not turn non-consent into consent by magic. And the dumbness or laziness of any given person surely has a marginal effect on the nature of the structure that frames his choices.

The child renter argument, which I posted last year, provides an example of a distinction between a voluntary choice and a consensual choice. One may argue that the child has the voluntary choice of staying, and paying the rent, or leaving, and finding another place to live (or becoming homeless). One may also argue that the scenario as a whole is voluntary, since no coercion was involved at any step of the way. But one cannot argue that the choice is consensual: he never consented to the lease contract, and any choice he makes is surely out of necessity (either because he has no other place to live, or because he doesn’t have the money to stay).

Voluntaryism is subjectivism run rampant; it is, at its roots, a might makes right ideology, and can only lead to the perpetuation of power relations and all the suffering that comes with them. The fact that an action is voluntary is not a sufficient criterion for calling it moral or ethical. As one part of an ethical worldview, it is essential. As an independent standard, it is pure nonsense.

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158 thoughts on “The voluntaryist delusion.

  1. James March 26 2011 at 9:22 Reply

    I have a couple of quibbles here and there but this is pretty good and I agree almost entirely. What’s immensely frustrating is when people justify all kinds of things that, at least at face value, look blatently immoral by saying stuff like “that’s just your opinion, it’s all subjective” but take being voluntary as some kind of absolute standard…

    Can I add a potential 5th reason why it’s absurd? It butchers any sense of libertarian ethics. Most, if not all, forms of libertarianism will distinguish between what is ethical and what is an ethical use of force. “I disagree with what you say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” makes no sense if you think everything voluntary is good. Identifying ethics with legality this way essentially turns libertarianism into just another branch of social engineering, the law is supposed to enforce morality (just this time morality consists of very little). However, by doing away with the distinction between ethics and law their assertion that force is the only thing relevant to morality is arbitrary, there’s no longer a principled reason why we should oppose force that couldn’t be applied to other forms of social conduct (except the rather circular “we oppose force because it is force”). Combined, these two points would demolish libertarianism.

    Furthermore, it severs any connection between liberty and values. We can’t say liberty respects people as ends in themselves, we can’t say aggression isn’t virtuous activity, we can’t say freedom promotes happiness etc because these all apply to many forms of behaviour. However, by refusing to ground freedom in any other value the “voluntary=good” position must either posit that being voluntary is the sole irreducible good, the prime-mover of morality if you will, or that freedom isn’t connected to value but for some reason we should still have it. Both are objectionably wierd, therefore placing a large burden of proof on them to demonstrate it, and the latter is probably incoherent.

  2. Properal April 4 2011 at 13:38 Reply

    The “flag pole” argument is an appeal to the universal value of life. The argument assumes that the audience values the life of the person hanging from the flag pole. The universal value of life is the foundation of property rights. For one can’t live without appropriating property to ones self for the necessities of life. The “flag pole” argument on the surface seem to prove property rights as absurd, but ends up validating that everyone assumes the foundation for property rights.

  3. [...] is a clear case in point of the profound subjectivity of capitalism. Bylund seemingly believes that people’s time preference overturns facts. To Bylund, it is [...]

  4. Jay Schmidt July 2 2011 at 12:58 Reply

    The “flagpole argument” is interesting because it implies that a state could solve the problem… but they never offer any specifics about what that solution might be… Point a gun at the owner of the flagpole? Real life is rarely like a scene from “24”, and states aren’t born out of “flagpole incidents”.

    Also, to refute self-ownership is to implicitly support slavery. This is a dangerous slippery slope.

    The most-accurate position to take is a position of moral-nihilism. After all, value cannot exist outside of the human consciousness. This axiom also happens to be the foundation of Austrian economics.

    • Francois Tremblay July 2 2011 at 13:07 Reply

      “The “flagpole argument” is interesting because it implies that a state could solve the problem… but they never offer any specifics about what that solution might be… Point a gun at the owner of the flagpole? Real life is rarely like a scene from “24″, and states aren’t born out of “flagpole incidents”.”

      I am an Anarchist, so no. The solution has nothing to do with the State. The solution has to do with rejecting the contradictory concept of “property rights.”

      “Also, to refute self-ownership is to implicitly support slavery. This is a dangerous slippery slope.”

      Um… no. You are confused. Only if you accept that human bodies can be owned would slavery even enter the picture.

      “The most-accurate position to take is a position of moral-nihilism. After all, value cannot exist outside of the human consciousness. This axiom also happens to be the foundation of Austrian economics.”

      Well, at least you have correctly identified the fanatically subjectivist nature of Austrian economics, but you don’t seem to have any problem with it. Oh well.

      • Voluntarist November 19 2012 at 12:43 Reply

        “Only if you accept that human bodies can be owned would slavery even enter the picture.”

        Doesn’t slavery prove that human bodies can be owned?

        • Francois Tremblay November 19 2012 at 13:21 Reply

          Not any more than homeschoolers being indoctrinated to believe Creationism is valid makes Creationism valid.

          To be a little more clear, it seems to me that the belief that slavery represented a claim of ownership on other people was a mass delusion. I’d say that the fact that slaves periodically rebelled, ran away, and that slavery was finally abolished is all evidence in my favor…

  5. MRDA July 4 2011 at 4:01 Reply

    “It reduces ethics to a matter of mere personal opinion.”

    As if they were anything else!

    • Francois Tremblay July 4 2011 at 4:03 Reply

      There is something else. Facts.

      If I punch you in the face, you will hurt.

      • MRDA July 4 2011 at 4:05 Reply

        Of course, but whether this is “right” or “wrong” is another matter.

        • Francois Tremblay July 4 2011 at 4:07 Reply

          If I value not hurting you, then I shouldn’t punch you in the face. There’s where your “right” and “wrong” come in.

          This is a silly discussion anyhow. I’ve described in great detail on this blog how I derive ethics from the existence of human values. Whether you agree or disagree is of little concern to me unless you bring new objections to the table.

  6. MRDA July 4 2011 at 4:10 Reply

    “If I value not hurting you, then I shouldn’t punch you in the face. There’s where your “right” and “wrong” come in.”

    The key word there being “if”.

    “I derive ethics from the existence of human values”

    That’s terribly vague: got any links?

  7. Francois Tremblay July 4 2011 at 4:14 Reply

    “if” is not the key word. “shouldn’t” is the key word. The point is that based on our values we can determine what actions are most beneficial and which are most detrimental. That’s how we determine right and wrong. We all have values as a consequence of being living, sentient beings, so how can the “if” be the key word? You just don’t get any of this.

    As for the entries in question:

    http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/from-morality-to-ethics/

    http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/from-morality-to-ethics%E2%80%A6-part-23/

    http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/from-morality-to-ethics%E2%80%A6-part-33/

    Based on what you said so far, I am honestly not interested at all in what you have to say about this, but I hope you have an interesting read anyhow.

  8. deesine July 10 2011 at 10:57 Reply

    “Hierarchies are bad.”
    Oversimplify much?

    • Francois Tremblay July 10 2011 at 12:46 Reply

      Are you going to explain why you believe it’s an oversimplification, or are you just posturing?

      • Kite August 22 2013 at 19:33 Reply

        Your post doesn’t make a distinction between voluntary hierarchies and collectively oppressive hierarchies. The term hierarchy has multiple contexts. Perhaps, that’s the source of your reduction into binary absurdity.

        Most organizations, groups, businesses, and the like make use of hierarchies. People who submit themselves to those hierarchies are doing so willfully. This generally means being at the mercy of those entities in the hierarchy, generally with the maximum extent of a control and punishment being the disassociation of that entity from your control. Such is the nature of people and groups who have the freedom to conduct their affairs without the violent encroachment and demands of others.

        You may find some particular organization, on a personal level, not proper and not in line with your methods. You may want your own policies or lack thereof in your own group or collective. That’s your personal opinion. Your personal dislike of a particular entity maintaining a voluntary hierarchical policies doesn’t render it inherently “bad.” It doesn’t put into the equivalent of collective/state hierarchies that give dominion and power to further punish and destroy people. Voluntary states of being are neutral and not inherently “bad,” unless a person is so uncompromising to the point they feel entitled to intrude upon the private spaces and practices of everyone else at all times.

        I have no authority to enter your home.

        I am not an administrator of your site.

        You do and you are. These are implicit, voluntary hierarchies. I choose to take part and comment on your post, knowing full well that it’s under your discretion. I choose to value your right to maintain private space and authority over your personal dominion because I understand that I’m not entitled to what’s in your fridge. Hierarchies backed by interaction, rather than force, are extremely important, useful, and generally morally neutral (and therefore ethical), irrespective of your personal disagreement of their structures.

        The difference is always whether one is being forcefully subjugated and to what extent.

        • Francois Tremblay August 23 2013 at 0:06 Reply

          “Your post doesn’t make a distinction between voluntary hierarchies and collectively oppressive hierarchies. The term hierarchy has multiple contexts.”

          And this is relevant because…

          “Most organizations, groups, businesses, and the like make use of hierarchies. People who submit themselves to those hierarchies are doing so willfully. ”

          And this is relevant because…

          Your entire comment is a red herring. There is absolutely nothing relevant to my entry in here.

          • Kite August 23 2013 at 23:01

            My comment is not a red herring. It’s explicitly relevant.

            Read the comments above. You asked that person, regarding hierarchies, ["Are you going to explain why you believe it’s an oversimplification, or are you just posturing?"]. I was directly commenting on your confusion over “hierarchies.”

        • Francois Tremblay August 23 2013 at 23:10 Reply

          No “confusion” here. Hierarchies are bad, your voluntaryist waffling notwithstanding. My question was rhetorical.

  9. [...] argument Pakaluk uses in his analogy is basically a voluntaryist argument (although voluntaryists would recoil at the implications, mainly because they are ideological [...]

  10. Dave Scotese May 25 2012 at 16:26 Reply

    I am a voluntaryist who does not adopt the simple principle, “whatever is voluntary is ethical.”
    I think the guy who first invented the word by purposefully misspelling “voluntarist” puts it this way (though it may be someone else): “Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society. We reject electoral politics, in theory and in practice, as incompatible with libertarian principles. Governments must cloak their actions in an aura of moral legitimacy in order to sustain their power, and political methods invariably strengthen that legitimacy. Voluntaryists seek instead to delegitimize the State through education, and we advocate withdrawal of the cooperation and tacit consent on which State power ultimately depends.”
    Your discussion of the difference between consensual and voluntary is interesting. I can voluntarily punch you in the face, but you probably won’t volunteer your face as my target. So the discussion between the two seems kind of silly because consensual is obviously the better choice. Why not argue that it should be called “consensualism”?
    If ethics aren’t “a matter of mere personal opinion” but rather derive from “human values”, then I suppose “mere” personal opinion isn’t a human value? That seems odd to me. Perhaps you use “mere” because for you “personal opinion” is what “other people” say. For me, there is a deeper and more honest “personal opinion” that cannot be called “mere” because it is the essence of who I am. I suspect a lot of people have that deeper sense too. You seem a bit too presumptuous to admit that everything you’ve written here comes from the essence of who you are, and is, therefore “mere” (if you want to call it that) personal opinion. You seem to claim objectivity. But perhaps I am wrong about your presumptions.

    • Francois Tremblay May 25 2012 at 17:24 Reply

      I am not interested in voluntaryism or in consensualism. Consent is no more a necessary condition than voluntary action is, although consent is a much, much stronger condition than voluntaryism is.

      Personal opinion is not a value, no. That’s a category error. If you want to say that morality itself is a matter of opinion, you’re still wrong, unless you also want to say that things like evolution or the law of gravity are personal opinions and are not backed by actual facts.

      • Dave Scotese May 25 2012 at 19:43 Reply

        I’d recommend not posting a “The X delusion” if you’re going to A) redefine X to create a straw man (“whatever is voluntary is ethical”) and then B) Claim that you aren’t interested in X anyway. At least you got me to comment on your blog, and that is admirable.

        I will say that evolution and the law of gravity are personal opinions, although they are also generally accepted as fact. Opinion, from the latin, means “what one thinks”. There is no requirement that it not be generally accepted as fact. “Personal” is an unnecessary modifier that people use in an attempt to defeat the power of individuality. Every opinion is personal because it requires a single mind to hold it. That it they are so widely held and regarded as fact make evolution and gravity more useful than opinions in general. But the ubiquity and acceptance as fact does not apply equally to ethics.

        • Francois Tremblay May 25 2012 at 20:37 Reply

          From my experience, it’s not a straw man. But we’ll have to agree to disagree.

        • peach cabron (@PeachCabron) April 20 2013 at 2:05 Reply

          And this is where dave destroys francois. Good back and forth. Enjoyable read.

          • Francois Tremblay April 20 2013 at 2:06

            Just goes to show how people will always interpret debates as being favorable to their side… “destroys”? Get a life, loser.

  11. [...] Francois Tremblay writes: Voluntaryism is a popular ideology amongst people who like Anarchism but recoil at its leftist implications. By adopting the simple principle, “whatever is voluntary is ethical,” they believe that they have found the high ground, the ruler with which all other ideologies must be evaluated. [...]

  12. Wanooski August 17 2012 at 16:11 Reply

    http://www.infoshop.org/page/AnarchistFAQSectionF

    The Anarchist FAQ, section F, from infoshop. The penultimate deconstruction of An-Cap and its little bastard offspring.
    In short: anarcho-capitalism, right-libertarianism, and voluntaryism are all crap.

  13. Some guy August 17 2012 at 23:11 Reply

    What the fuck is “voluntary” about being shaken off of a flag pole?

    • Francois Tremblay August 31 2012 at 2:38 Reply

      Well, voluntaryists would say that the person didn’t ask for permission to be on the flag pole, and that therefore the owner of the flag pole is entitled to what basically amounts to killing them.

      • Proudhon November 7 2012 at 19:06 Reply

        “Well, voluntaryists would say that the person didn’t ask for permission to be on the flag pole, and that therefore the owner of the flag pole is entitled to what basically amounts to killing them.”

        force should be used proportionally this whole blog has misunderstood the concept of voluntaryism entirely.

        • Francois Tremblay November 8 2012 at 14:01 Reply

          You’re exactly the same as the Christians who claim that no one who becomes an atheist was a “real” Christian. Get over yourself. I was a real voluntaryist for years.

  14. [...] main criticism of voluntaryism is that it assumes actions exist in a vacuum. Like the political Libertarians, sexual libertarians can only arrive at their positive conclusions [...]

  15. consentient September 22 2012 at 16:35 Reply

    1. The voluntaryism you describe above has nothing in common with the views I hold.

    2. I can’t think of a single person ever who would shake a flagpole with someone on it, or who would cling to a flagpole. Clearly if this is the way in which you conduct philosophy you will end up missing the point.

    3. Actions are either voluntary or not, autonomous or not, reasonable or not. If they are not, I am not in favour. Q: Why would ANYONE be in favour of involuntaryism, heteronomy or unreasonable behaviour? A: Dogshit ideology that blinds them from serious impartial analysis.

    Please look at my views if you wish to continue a correspondence:

    http://consentient.wordpress.com

    • Francois Tremblay September 22 2012 at 16:50 Reply

      Not really interested, sorry. You haven’t presented any argument, just “your ideology is dogshit.” Why the fuck would I want to talk to you?

      • consentient September 23 2012 at 2:42 Reply

        Actually no, I presented an argument. I also didn’t say your ideology was dogshit. I don’t know what your views are. What I’m saying is that for me, voluntaryism, autonomy and reason are axiomatic, and arguing against them only seems to occur when someone has an ideological stance that is stopping them from seeing this. Surely you are not going to argue against autonomy? That would be completely self-detonating.

        I don’t care much if you don’t want to correspond, but you should realise that you wrote an exceptionally self-righteous article attacking voluntaryism, without – to my mind – a proper understanding of the range of nuanced views out there that the word is associated with.

        In other words, you’ve built a strawman. Shaking people off of flagpoles? Jesus, that really is clutching at straws! :P

        • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 2:52 Reply

          “Actually no, I presented an argument.”
          What argument? Where is it? Disagreeing with an example without stating a reason, or disagreeing with a definition without stating a reason, is not an argument. If you want to present an actual argument to back either of these, then please do so.

          “I also didn’t say your ideology was dogshit. I don’t know what your views are.”
          My view is that voluntaryism is a delusion. This should be made evident, if anything, by the title.

          “What I’m saying is that for me, voluntaryism, autonomy and reason are axiomatic”
          One half out of three is pretty damn bad (rationality is a nice idea in theory, so I give you that- the other two are just delusional).

          “and arguing against them only seems to occur when someone has an ideological stance that is stopping them from seeing this.”
          Yes, that’s true. I do have an ideological stance that prevents me from seeing voluntaryism as correct. It’s called “not being full of shit.”

          More seriously, you seem to be into what I call the self-generating triad (free will-self-ownership-relativism), and have bought into this whole “little god” conception of the individual. You need to address the points that I’ve raised in this entry.

          “Surely you are not going to argue against autonomy? That would be completely self-detonating.”
          Please don’t tell me you’re going to borrow a page from the ancaps and accuse me of performative contradiction. Or do so, so I can debunk your argument and then laugh at you.

          “I don’t care much if you don’t want to correspond, but you should realise that you wrote an exceptionally self-righteous article attacking voluntaryism, without – to my mind – a proper understanding of the range of nuanced views out there that the word is associated with.”
          I don’t care about the nuanced views because the nuanced views are rationalizations of the extreme view. But there is no logical reason why you should be a voluntaryist and reject the flagpole argument, or other arguments I’ve written about, like the child renter argument. And I know there is no logical reason because I have asked people like you again and again and again for a rationale for following voluntaryism and rejecting these arguments, and I’ve gotten no argument in response, ever, just more whining.

          And this is why I predict that your response will be… more whining. Because that’s ALL I GET from you people.

  16. consentient September 23 2012 at 2:57 Reply

    I get it, you don’t like people who think for their selves. Fine. Good luck with that.

    • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 2:58 Reply

      Just like I said, you have no arguments, just more whining, like every single voluntaryist who has posted on this blog.

      I used to think like you, until I realized that this ideology is bankrupt. Give it up.

      • consentient September 23 2012 at 3:00 Reply

        I am as certain as I am certain about anything, that YOU have NEVER thought like ME.

        • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 3:02 Reply

          Kay, keep telling yourself that then. But I was a voluntaryist 100%, that I swear to you. I even used to be a Stefan Molyneux fan. You sound just like a Christian who is convinced no atheist ever really believed. Open your eyes buddy.

          • consentient September 23 2012 at 3:07

            I challenge you to read the four pages linked above the banner on my blog and then tell me you used to hold all the views expressed there. Only if you did would you even have BEGUN to think like me. Your approach is very narrow and pigeonholing. You imagine that a word like voluntaryism only subsumes a limited and bespoke number of principles for every person. You also suffer the fallacy that because your mind has decided to reject older information and accept newer information, that you are closer to being objectively correct, and what’s more, everyone else would be if they copied you.

            It irks me that you read what I wrote in these comments and don’t recognise the numerous arguments I’ve made, but it irks me more that anyone could be so paralysed by their own gullibility. Don’t you leave ANY room for uncertainty or humility?

            You tell me everything I believe is wrong without having read it, and then tell me I have some kind of ‘mini-god’ delusion.

            Wow.

        • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 3:14 Reply

          Actually I wouldn’t have agreed with you, because I believed in rights even then. I don’t really see how believing in rights precludes one from believing in voluntaryism, but if that’s gonna be your answer, well, *cough* No True Scostman *cough*. If you believe that you can believe in rights and be a voluntaryist, then I was one, through and through.

          • consentient September 23 2012 at 3:27

            It’s not about whether your thoughts made you a ‘voluntaryist’ or not, is it?

            Your claim was that you thought like me. I am not seeking to clutch a label from the branches of the Platonic tree of forms and hug it close to me, making sure I then bring all of my other views into line with it. That’s why I despise ideology because it represents a mindset by which people are not encouraged to separate off the individual ideas.

            I believe in separating ideas from ideologies, and from idealists (I can agree with someone on 5% of their principles and disagree with them on 95%).

            I also reject the use of nouns to subsume people. I “am not” a voluntaryist, nor any other noun. I will not fit my thoughts into whatever essentialist geist-suit is required to take on such labels.

            But I’m glad that we’ve identified that you didn’t think like me. I hope too, that you’ve at least CONSIDERED the possibility of, in future, not treating people like labels, and when they mention certain words, not springing to assumptions and berating them on ‘points of order’ that are completely irrelevant to them.

            My original point is that you are treating voluntaryism as if it implies adherence to all manner of other arguments. You’re doing this, ostensibly, because other people you have encountered who also said they were advocating voluntary principles, said them. This is a fallacy, and can be avoided by separating idea from idealist.

            Moronic religious debaters try to tar all ‘atheists’ with the Hitler/Stalin/Pol Pot brush as though atheism were synonymous with genocide. Establishment lackies try to tar all ‘anarchists’ with the “you wear black and fight with the police in Pittsburgh” brush.

            Please, in future, don’t assume that everyone you encounter who mentions the word ‘voluntaryism’ would shake someone off a flagpole, or that if they wouldn’t, that they “aren’t” a ‘voluntaryist’.

            Words can be misinterpreted and problematic. Ideas are what is important, and, looking at your Mission Statement, I think that we have some in common (not the natalism stuff).

            Could you not control your temper and your righteousness to discuss the differences with someone? Or are you only interested in ideological turf war?

            Cuz if its the latter, you’re just mimicking the aggression inherent in the dominant culture, just in a new way. :(

          • consentient September 23 2012 at 3:30

            Oh, and btw, there ‘are’ no ‘Scotsmen’. Essentialism is part of what I call ‘the triumvirate’ of epistemological error (along with consequentialism and determinism).

        • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 3:30 Reply

          You’re not getting my point. My point is that you saying that you don’t believe in the flagpole argument is a rationalization. You don’t like that it’s a consequence of voluntaryism, so you reject it without regard to logic.

          I know this because I’ve never gotten any cogent argument from anyone on why the flagpole argument, or any other argument I’ve presented like the Hoppean sexual harassment argument or the child renter argument, is incompatible with voluntaryism. And I don’t think you are smarter than voluntaryist luminaries like Molyneux, Kinsella or Hoppe. But if you think you are, you are free to present arguments.

          But again, you have yet to present any arguments, so this is beginning to look like more of the same.

          • consentient September 23 2012 at 3:37

            There are no ‘voluntaryist’ arguments.

            For me, voluntaryism does not lead to the same conclusion on the moronic flagpole hypothesis that you are claiming it does. I see no way in which its a “consequence of voluntaryism”, nor do I recognise the validity of using a thought experiment that is so completely stupid.

            You mention Molyneux…I have no idea nor interest in whether or not he is smarter than I. But he does make a very good point in one of his videos about how philosophy is not about finding answers to stupid unrealistic scenarios like people on a train track, washing up on desert island fortresses, or hanging off flagpoles.

            If you want to spend your time doing that, fine. But don’t assume that because someone has a commitment to autonomy and non-violence (which you said earlier don’t exist) that they would automatically give a certain answer to this crazy scenario.

            I’m really sick of you saying I haven’t made arguments. I have made a good number now.

            What to you would constitute an argument?

            Please enlighten me…or…you know, you can just keep tarring me with the “Prime Directive visitor” brush and tell me that just because I’m here means I am “more of the same”.

            If you don’t WANT to ascertain the individual, unique qualities of other people’s viewpoints, constantly choosing to say they are “just like the others” is a fine escape.

        • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 3:31 Reply

          Of course you think determinism is an error. As I said, you believe you are a little god, and cannot be subject to causality. You can deny this all you want, but it’s true.

          • consentient September 23 2012 at 3:40

            Yes, YOU said it.

            YOU said “you believe you are a little god” (a meaningless sentence, btw).

            I, ME, MYSELF, the other person in this situation…NEVER said it. NEVER said ANYTHING like it.

            Of course I am subject to causality. But if you are denying volition, then I will end this conversation. Or will I not? Hmm…let me think about it for a second.

        • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 3:40 Reply

          “For me, voluntaryism does not lead to the same conclusion on the moronic flagpole hypothesis that you are claiming it does. ”
          Prove it or shut up. If you fail to do this on your next comment, you’re banned. Like I said, I’ve been through this bullshit many times before, and you’re using exactly the same tactics. There is no point to this discussion unless you start proving something.

          • consentient September 23 2012 at 3:43

            “Intolerence does not a “strong community” make.”

            Francois Tremblay, 2005
            (shame about the typo, eh Frank?)

          • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 3:48

            I have asked you AGAIN AND AGAIN to present an argument or address the contents of my entry. You have refused to do so, so you are wasting our time and the space of my blog. Goodbye.

        • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 3:42 Reply

          “But if you are denying volition, then I will end this conversation.”
          Define “volition.” But since you’re already about to get banned on the other issue, you might want to concentrate on that first.

  17. [...] and that my conception of voluntaryism was very different to the one he attacked in this article, I managed to get myself into a very heated argument [...]

  18. Dave Scotese September 23 2012 at 10:06 Reply

    I think people who identify with “Voluntaryism” need to recognize that you are not talking about the same “Voluntaryism”. You’re talking about shaking people off flagpoles, and some idealized platonic philosophy that you’ve chosen to label “Voluntaryism” based on a phrase which I’m now wondering if you invented: “Whatever is voluntary is ethical.”

    You do embrace anarchism, and probably even the same “voluntaryism” as I and many others do, but you’ve got just as much a problem with shaking people off flagpoles as I (and I assume most voluntaryists) have with it. Can you express this if without dicking around with the label? I accused you of a strawman argument, as Consentient has also, but I don’t think that’s right. We never agreed on what voluntaryism means, but we’ve all agreed that shaking people off flagpoles is unethical.

    Do you recognize that some people abuse our language by insinuating meanings into words that weren’t there originally? As an anarchist, I assume you do, since the mainstream media has tended to connect anarchy with violence. I submit that you are doing this to the term “Voluntaryist” by connecting it to that phrase – perhaps accidentally, or not. Do you know where “Whatever is voluntary is ethical” came from?

    • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 14:43 Reply

      If you think that “voluntaryism” is not defined as an adherence to voluntary decisions or a voluntary society, then please, for the love of Bob, stop calling yourself a voluntaryist. If you don’t believe in actions being voluntary as the primary standard of ethics, then you’re not a voluntaryist. Use the correct label.

      If you actually are a voluntaryist who just recoils at the consequences of your ideology, then you are a hypocrite, and stop doing that.

      “Whatever is voluntary is ethical” comes from the writings of pretty much every voluntaryist thinker I ever followed. They may not have stated it this clearly, but they all believe it. I wish I had a cent for everyone who’s ever argued to me that some form of oppression is okay because people voluntarily agreed to be a part of it… I’d have at least enough money for a candy bar.

      • Dave Scotese September 23 2012 at 19:56 Reply

        ““Whatever is voluntary is ethical” comes from the writings of pretty much every voluntaryist thinker I ever followed.”
        But you have no links to any of those writings, eh? Perhaps in an issue of The Voluntaryist? You can find them all here: http://voluntaryist.com/toc.html. I’ve done a search for “ethical” and found no instance of that phrase. It’s sounding more and more like you really did invent it! But I doubt that. It’s really not that important anyway, at least not to me. I am comfortable using your definition of “Voluntaryist” in our discussion, though I may slip up here and there and use my own. What is important is that we both reject any philosophy that entitles the owner of a flagpole to kill someone clinging to it by shaking him off.

        So I searched them all for “flagpole” too and got ZERO hits for the word “flagpole” as well as “flag pole”. I tried searching Google for “flagpole voluntaryist” (without quotes) and got plenty of hits, but your posts were at the top of the list (which may be tailored for me, I don’t know). The best hit I found (http://www.skepticaleye.com/2011_03_01_archive.html) used this blog entry as its source.

        The evidence is mounting that you really did invent a strawman with that phrase, on purpose! I still don’t believe it, but perhaps you could help me doubt it more by providing some links to the voluntaryist writers who have expressed a position that justifies murdering someone who has made their life dependent on their property or otherwise convinced you that:

        “They may not have stated it this clearly, but they all believe it.”

        That right there is kind of funny. Shout it from the rooftops so everyone has a better understanding of where you’re coming from. It should be in your initial blog post.

        • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 20:01 Reply

          Yes, I made up the whole flagpole debate from Mises.org forum. Whatever, dude. If this is all happening in my imagination, why isn’t it a lot cooler?

          Either way, why don’t you present your definition of voluntaryism that does not involve voluntary actions or a society based on voluntaryiness as its criteron?
          (and no, I am not going to ask this forever, so get to writing)

          • Dave Scotese September 23 2012 at 20:37

            I use the term voluntaryism as it is defined on voluntaryist.com, “Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society. We reject electoral politics, in theory and in practice, as incompatible with libertarian principles. Governments must cloak their actions in an aura of moral legitimacy in order to sustain their power, and political methods invariably strengthen that legitimacy. Voluntaryists seek instead to delegitimize the State through education, and we advocate withdrawal of the cooperation and tacit consent on which State power ultimately depends.”

            That describes me pretty well, though I have some clarifications. I define a non-violent strategy as one in which coercion is avoided. Coercion is the threat to violate or the actual violation of rights in order to make someone exhibit or avoid a particular behavior. I realize that set of rights I recognize may differ from that of others, but I don’t worry about that. If someone recognizes a right that I don’t, I may be perceived by them as coercive when I think I’m not. Maybe they violate some of my rights in return. Then I exercise my right to self-defense.

            Thus, while a flag pole owner has a right to his property, the flag pole hanger has a right to his life. He has made his right dependent on the property of the owner (perhaps by accident). I wouldn’t call that coercive, but I would call it a property violation (I would steal to avoid starving too). If the owner threatens to shake or actually shakes the flagpole, the owner exercises his right to his own property but violates the right of the victim. So the owner’s strategy is unacceptable as it is not non-violent. There may be other strategies that I find unacceptable which are non-violent, but that’s out of the scope of our discussion, right?

        • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 21:00 Reply

          Yea, it’s easy to be non-violent when you don’t have the power to use violence and get away with it. Excuse me if I’m not overly impressed.

          “Thus, while a flag pole owner has a right to his property, the flag pole hanger has a right to his life. He has made his right dependent on the property of the owner (perhaps by accident). I wouldn’t call that coercive, but I would call it a property violation (I would steal to avoid starving too). If the owner threatens to shake or actually shakes the flagpole, the owner exercises his right to his own property but violates the right of the victim. So the owner’s strategy is unacceptable as it is not non-violent.”

          Why is it “non-violent” for the hanger to break the “property rights” (which don’t exist) of the owner, but it’s “violent” for the owner to break the right to life of the hanger? If you believe in self-ownership, then you have to concede that ownership is the basis for all rights (I don’t, but it’s usually what voluntaryists start from). If you don’t, then what is your basis for believing in rights?

          • Dave Scotese September 23 2012 at 23:25

            ” Why is it “non-violent” for the hanger to break the “property rights” (which don’t exist) of the owner, but it’s “violent” for the owner to break the right to life of the hanger?” Neither is non-violent. Both are violent. Maybe you misread something, or I mistyped something? As I said, I would steal (not non-violent) in order to avoid starving. I would then try to repay my debt.

            “…If you don’t, then what is your basis for believing in rights?” Utilitarianism. Believing in the rights I believe in makes my life better, as far as I can tell.

        • Francois Tremblay September 23 2012 at 23:27 Reply

          “Neither is non-violent. Both are violent.”
          If you really believe this, then your answer is incoherent. The hanger initiated the aggression against the owner’s rights, and you should side with the owner.

  19. Dave Scotese September 23 2012 at 20:42 Reply

    By the way, what I suspect you may have invented isn’t the flagpole thing, but the phrase “Whatever is voluntary is ethical”. I found the flagpole discussion on mises – thanks for the hint!

  20. [...] can also be based on voluntaryist analysis, which omits the context or history behind existing institutions and judges them purely on the [...]

  21. [...] My original entry, where I give four reasons why voluntaryism is [...]

  22. [...] Before I begin, though, I want to point out the self-righteous attitude taken by Watner throughout. Voluntaryists in general seem to believe that their non-violent position makes them compassionate, tolerant individuals who rightfully oppose coercive ideologies. Yet, as I’ve explained before, voluntaryists refuse to oppose institutions which could not exist without the past coercion that they embody (see point 2 here). [...]

  23. Bob Ladoceur February 13 2013 at 19:08 Reply

    The grammatical errors in this article, in addition to the numerous unjustified conclusions you jump to from sentence to sentence, make this difficult to read. In short, I do not believe you conclusively refuted any of the arguments for voluntaryism. You build numerous straw men and tear them down, acting as if the conclusions were obvious.

    Poor writing.

    • Francois Tremblay February 14 2013 at 1:09 Reply

      Are you going to give an example, or are you just gonna be a troll about it?

  24. Cogent1325 March 20 2013 at 8:56 Reply

    What is the context around the man on the flagpole example? Is he there because he is trying to steal the flag? Is he armed? Has he threatened violence against the person who owns the flagpole? Is he there because he is afraid of a mountain lion or giant man-eating ground worms? If the person was threatening my life on the flagpole by attempting to shoot me with a sniper rifle then I don’t have a problem with shaking him down if that means acting in self defense. If he is up there because of giant man-eating worms then I might climb up the flagpole with him! If he is up there to protect himself and is unable to come down, I would help him down by finding a ladder for him.

    • Cogent1325 March 20 2013 at 8:57 Reply

      I might also consider shaking him down (or shooting him down) to prevent or interrupt serious offense against persons.

    • Francois Tremblay March 20 2013 at 13:09 Reply

      If property rights are absolute, then there’s no need for context; no one can have any right or justified reason to be on the flagpole. Otherwise, obviously context is important, but the example is used in response to absolute property rights.

  25. Fred Autonom April 7 2013 at 15:13 Reply

    Understanding the coercion embedded in institutions is the bedrock of Voluntaryism.

    • Francois Tremblay April 7 2013 at 16:03 Reply

      Can you show me some articles from voluntaryist thinkers on that topic?

  26. [...] as well. Much like we shouldn’t evaluate individuals as if they lived in a social vacuum, or evaluate actions as if they took place in a causal vacuum, a contract can not, and should not, be judged in a vacuum, but rather must be contrasted with the [...]

  27. Linda May 3 2013 at 10:09 Reply

    Hi, I just wanted to say that I recently talked to someone who is a Voluntaryist. I asked some questions, and found myself being hammered repeatedly by someone who clearly did not understand the concepts of the Constitution.In fact, I would say he did not believe in my right to express my views at all. He effectively engaged in a monologue and refused to answer any of my questions.
    He began with the idea that Voluntarism can be equated with the Constitution. I do not agree. From that point forward, he argued as if that was true, despite never having proved it. Further, he ignored all of my questions and concerns about what sounded to me like a heydey for the amoral; a dangerous and chaotic form of anarchy that espoused no rule of law and ignored the actual intention of the founding fathers: the establishment of a three part system of government that was intended to have checks and balances to reign in the government, and whose judicial system was intended to provide consequences for those who violated the rights of others, committed violence, theft and so forth. While it is true that we have gradually lost more and more rights and are now living in a full-blown tyranny, – when I consider what kind of government I want to replace it, I certainly do not want a government where it is ‘every man for himself’ (or woman, in my case).
    The issue of safety was a particular bugaboo in his monologue. I asked about children and pregnant women and their safety under voluntaryism, and he just kept banging the hammer, saying “you are responsible for your own safety”. That is a preposterous response. It is perfectly true that I am responsible for my own safety, but…Given that the person was an author and editor at a well known website devoted to protecting Constitutional rights, and, given that on many occasions he has published articles that described how the country would be safer, the children would be safer, if we could all have Constitutional carry,his response to me seems ridiculous. How can Voluntaryism and Constitutional government be the same, if Voluntaryism does nothing at all about public safety, and cares for nothing and no one. Again, that is not freedom, it is pure chaos.
    I don’t know much about voluntaryism, and, after that conversation, I don’t want to know anything more at all.
    I believe in the individual right to bear arms; and I believe in the necessity of enforcing the Constitution; I have long worked for the return of our Constitutional rights. Voluntaryism fragments the cohesive effort to return our country to a Constitutional government. Fragmentation will work against us in the coming years, since the socialists seem fairly cohesive in their desire to do away with all of our rights and to impose a tyranny. If we allow ourselves to be fragmented, we will not win out. Therefore, I want nothing to do with Voluntaryism, and I agree with the article posted above.

    Thank You for listening. Linda.

    • Francois Tremblay May 3 2013 at 15:36 Reply

      You do know I’m a socialist, right? :)

    • Cameron July 20 2014 at 8:04 Reply

      Your ignorance is obvious to voluntaryism. For one the flagpole argument never answered any questions as to why the man was on the flagpole or why the owner of the pole was shaking him off. Only libertarians seem to ask these questions. You cant answer if the owner would be justified in possibly killing the man without more detail. So until thse are answered the author made no valid points and made no arguement against voluntaryism because he absolutely failed to explain why he was there.
      Suppose the man was there because the flagpole owner chased him up there threatening to stab him. Then the flagpole owner may be the aggressor. Even still you must know why he chased him up there. Perhaps the man was raping his daughter. The article bases its arguement on speculating on a theoretical arguement.
      Where did anyone get the authority to bind me to the constitution. I never signed the constitution and neither did you. Legally binding contracts need to be signed by both parties.
      The so called voluntaryist is NOT a voluntaryist if he was working to promote the constitution.

      • Francois Tremblay July 20 2014 at 14:24 Reply

        I am not “ignorant.” You are the one who’s demonstrating “ignorance.” What the hell does it matter why he’s on the flagpole? Property principles don’t change depending on motives. You don’t get to infringe on someone’s property because the owner threatened to stab you. Where did you get such ideas?

        • Cameron July 20 2014 at 15:00 Reply

          I do believe I actually hit reply to Linda. I was referring to her ignorance on voluntaryism. It has everything to do with why he is on the flagpole. How do we know if the owner of the flagpole didnt kidnap the man. The man tried to escape but realized he was a slower runner than the flagpole owner. He chose to climb the flagpole. This theoretical flagpole arguement is vague to facts. Facts are needed to determine anything. Thats why it matters.
          Can you point to even one voluntaryist who thinks the flagpole owner has the right to murder just because someone climbed their flagpole?

          • Francois Tremblay July 20 2014 at 15:05

            If you don’t believe property is absolute, then how are you a voluntaryist exactly? Can you name any voluntaryist who’d agree with you on that principle? Because I sure as hell haven’t met any.

        • Cameron July 20 2014 at 16:02 Reply

          In your flagpole arguement you have not determined who violated who innitially.

          • Francois Tremblay July 20 2014 at 16:08

            Again, how the fuck is that relevant if you believe property rights are absolute?

          • Cameron July 20 2014 at 16:26

            Its relevent because we must determine the innitial violator before we can begin to determine property rights. How come you refuse to answer any of my questions?

          • Francois Tremblay July 20 2014 at 16:29

            Again, how the fuck is any of that relevant if you believe property rights are absolute?

            We can keep going in circles like this forever if you want.

          • Cameron July 21 2014 at 8:40

            I have no interest continuing to debate anyone who wont answer basic questions and who cant debate without using foul language.

          • Francois Tremblay July 21 2014 at 11:26

            Nice evasion, asshole, but we weren’t “debating.” I was stating that voluntaryists believe property rights are absolute, and you kept denying it, which is bullshit and you know it. Get the fuck off my blog..

  28. […] have also discussed the fact that many of our “non-coercive” institutions actually embody past violence. So even acts which are not in themselves violent were made possible by coercion. So there really […]

  29. […] I am aware that there has been a lot of controversy around BDSM in anarchist circles. Some argue that BDSM merely reproduces already existing hierarchies in the sexual realm, and others argue that people should be free to do whatever brings them orgasms. The latter is a voluntaryist argument, and as readers of this blog should know, I think voluntaryism is a flawed ideology at best. […]

  30. colyn July 22 2014 at 3:13 Reply

    So the cornerstone of your argument is that voluntaryists believe property rights are absolute? I’m not even sure what means in practice. But let’s say you’re correct and that we’re all just robots with zero humanity and only conform to absolutes and ridiculous thought experiments. If self ownership is the bedrock from which we derive property rights, why would the rights of the flagpole owner be more important than another human life? Is not murder the most fundamental violation of property rights? I don’t follow your reasoning.

    • Francois Tremblay July 22 2014 at 3:29 Reply

      *I’m* not the one saying it. Voluntaryists are. Why don’t you ask them?

      • colyn July 22 2014 at 8:36 Reply

        I’ve called myself a voluntaryist at times, though I’m not sure I conform to some canonical definition if one really exists other than to serve as a scape goat for your own problems with it. I’ve never met any voluntaryist who would say that flagpole ownership rights are more important than that of a human life. If you say then they aren’t true voluntaryists, fine whatever. Go ahead and continue living in a bubble, but who is the one committing the no true Scotsman fallacy here? Meanwhile the rest of us have real work to do to spread freedom and virtue. How are you unlike a guy barging into an operating room with a guy bleeding to death and asking the surgeon to think twice about saving him because he’s unconscious and did not ask to be saved? If you believe the state is responsible for most human suffering, what value do you bring to the table by writing about obscure flagpole scenarios?

        • Francois Tremblay July 22 2014 at 12:42 Reply

          The flagpole argument in my entry is one paragraph that illustrates the fact that voluntaryists believe in absolute property rights and therefore have to find excuses to dodge the argument. That’s what it’s bringing to the table. I don’t see what’s so controversial about that.

          Keep spreading freedom and virtue, but there’s none of either in voluntaryism.

          “How are you unlike a guy barging into an operating room with a guy bleeding to death and asking the surgeon to think twice about saving him because he’s unconscious and did not ask to be saved?”

          The fuck are you talking about. That sounds like something a voluntaryist would do.

      • colyn July 22 2014 at 8:53 Reply

        But just to be clear, the point of my response is that I fail to see the contradiction you’ve posited. Even speaking strictly in the confines of your definition of voluntaryism, if property rights are absolute, and murder is the most fundamental violation of those rights, where’s the contradiction in insisting the flagpole owner not commit murder? With that contradiction out of the way the only thing left is defining how a free society would go about punishing a guy who commits murder, which is not in scope for the issues you’ve raised so we need not digress.

  31. Marc Anthony Nolan September 13 2014 at 10:08 Reply

    A very well written article exploring a very interesting understanding of the Voluntaryist philosophy.

    Two points though ran through my mind throughout though: first that it seems like your understanding of Voluntaryism negates one whole half of the philosophical doctrine which is the Non Aggression Principle. Yes, taking that out of the mix would totally destroy a free society. You spend the whole article totally focused of trying to show how property rights by themselves are a system that doesn’t account for actual ethical treatment of people but not once talk about how the entire other half if the Voluntaryist message is the non initiation of aggression. Only with those two tied together can a Voluntary society function in peace otherwise it leads to scenarios as you suggested.

    Seeing as you appear quite intelligent (if not just eloquent) it doesn’t make sense to me that you would negate such a vital inclusion unintentionally, but I’ll move on…

    Secondly I like your distinctive exploration between voluntary and consensual. Perhaps one day we can all be Consensualist, in that we progress socially there by non coercive means. Perhaps technology will progress truly to a point where there is no scarcity or the need to assign prices to goods to give some correlation to cost/benefit analysis in production. Perhaps we can move past production? Idk, there is so much long term work to get all of everyone into the fantasy of “everything for free and never having to work” which runs at the core of arguments for the abolishment of money and private property. I understand the idea against perpetual holders through corporations or inheritance. Or against the idea of owning a methodology or intellectual property. Im even very open to alternatives to hourly wage labor such as per task payment or time/skill trade. Im for anything people agree works for them as long as it doesn’t infringe on the individual rights of others. That includes polluting your neighbors environment or creating a crisis to take advantage of the human need for survival. You agress on people by creating a false scarcity. You violate their self ownership and property rights by forcing them to breathe air you polluted or by contaminating their water supply.

    It seems like what you want to abolish is the uneveness imposed upon us by the past and I can respect and admire that as its very much in line with my thinking. But we cant escape the reality if choices made prior to us, and we also cant just take everything by force and redistribute it. We can’t just give out fish, we have to teach fishing.( Im not against giving out fish, just not stealing fish to give out, or to give fish without also teaching fishing so as to avoid dependence, the cornerstone of exploitation) The idea is to give people opportunity to not need to turn to someone else for help or a job or a means to live because they can actually do it themselves. Freely.

    Anyways I wish you well, I hope this clears up any confusion though I suspect it wont.

  32. paulos October 2 2014 at 15:17 Reply

    Francois, if nothing else I hope you realize this article is a raging success in that you have a comment thread going some three plus years later!

    P1. “Whatever is voluntary is ‘ethical’ (moral)” is not a fair understanding of Voluntaryism, but rather, “Whatever is voluntary is ‘lawful’ (permissible), and the use of force to interfere is illegitamate.”

    Q1: Do you argue that one has the right to initiate force and interfere with a voluntary arrangement if it doesn’t abide your understanding of morality?

    Q2. If the answer to Q1 yes, on what basis is your system of morality justified or authoritative?

    • Francois Tremblay October 2 2014 at 18:42 Reply

      Francois, if nothing else I hope you realize this article is a raging success in that you have a comment thread going some three plus years later!”
      A fair point, although it’s mostly negative comments.

      “P1. “Whatever is voluntary is ‘ethical’ (moral)” is not a fair understanding of Voluntaryism, but rather, “Whatever is voluntary is ‘lawful’ (permissible), and the use of force to interfere is illegitamate.””
      I do not recognize a distinction between “ethical” and “lawful.” Such a distinction makes the “law” an arbitrary construct of the power elite, as it is today. Real, legitimate “law” must be a result of the “ethics” of the people involved.

      “Q1: Do you argue that one has the right to initiate force and interfere with a voluntary arrangement if it doesn’t abide your understanding of morality?”
      Yes, of course. What a silly question. Is there ANY person who DOESN’T want to implement their understanding of what’s right and wrong in the world?

      “Q2. If the answer to Q1 yes, on what basis is your system of morality justified or authoritative?”

      http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/what-is-ethical-intuitionism/

      http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/evolutionary-intuitionism-and-politics/

      http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/from-morality-to-ethics%E2%80%A6-part-23/

      http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/self-interest-and-the-free-market-are-not-ethical-positions/

      • paulos October 2 2014 at 20:46 Reply

        Thanks for the responses and direction to further reading! I will take some time to read and digest those, but I did have a couple of quick questions in regards to your answers thus far:

        “I do not recognize a distinction between “ethical” and “lawful.” Such a distinction makes the “law” an arbitrary construct of the power elite, as it is today. Real, legitimate “law” must be a result of the “ethics” of the people involved.”

        I understand what you are getting at, but I hope you recognize that you are basically suggesting what amounts to a theocracy, with no tolerance for individual or unique views on matters of ethics and morality.

        The NAP (albeit ‘imposed’) allows for fully developed systems of morality to flourish (even laws backed by force), but in a greater voluntary context. That is to say, whatever vision for law and order you foresee could exist within a broader free society, although the people would have to live under your system voluntarily rather than via imposition.

        It would appear to many people a non-starter to suggest a system of morality or society that begins with “One person the right to initiate aggression against another person” such as you suggest. How is this better or even substantially different than what has been tried all along?

        I look forward to any responses and further reading – thanks!

        • Francois Tremblay October 2 2014 at 20:56 Reply

          “I understand what you are getting at, but I hope you recognize that you are basically suggesting what amounts to a theocracy, with no tolerance for individual or unique views on matters of ethics and morality.”
          That would only be true if your ethics are one of complete authoritarianism. Which I trust, in your case, they are not…

          “The NAP (albeit ‘imposed’) allows for fully developed systems of morality to flourish (even laws backed by force), but in a greater voluntary context.”
          Logically speaking, the only ownership system that can arise from a universal “non-aggression” principle is a “grab-what-you-can” system. I know of no one who seriously advocates for such a system. For more, see

          http://www.demos.org/blog/1/29/14/what-world-following-non-aggression-principle-looks

          “It would appear to many people a non-starter to suggest a system of morality or society that begins with “One person the right to initiate aggression against another person” such as you suggest.”
          The “system of morality” you posit is incoherent. A right is a description of the justifications for one person to inflict violence on another. By definition any right involves defining what aggression is and how to respond to it, and therefore is the counter-reaction to “initiating aggression.” Any right to “initiate aggression” is a contradiction in terms.

          • paulos October 2 2014 at 21:24

            “I know of no one who seriously advocates for such a system.” -FT

            It would appear there are numerous advocates of a self-ownership/property rights based society!

            “By definition any right involves defining what aggression is and how to respond to it, and therefore is the counter-reaction to “initiating aggression.”” -FT

            I don’t think this follows. We are inundated every day by laws (derived from popular ethics) that justify the commonly understood ‘initiatory use of force.’ From the sounds of it, you are proposing a system of law and morality that justifies the ‘initiatory use of force’, at least as understood by anarcho-capitalists.

            “The solution has to do with rejecting the contradictory concept of “property rights.”” -FT (previous thread)

            It isn’t immediatly clear how “property rights” are inherently contradictory. Do you not yourself argue a theory of property rights? Perhaps you could point me to any articles in particular that discuss your understanding and treatment of property and property rights?

            -Thanks, Paulos

        • Francois Tremblay October 2 2014 at 21:36 Reply

          “It would appear there are numerous advocates of a self-ownership/property rights based society!”
          But there are NO advocates of a “grab-what-you-can” society, which is the logical consequence of NAP. Read the article I linked to you again:

          http://www.demos.org/blog/1/29/14/what-world-following-non-aggression-principle-looks

          “I don’t think this follows. We are inundated every day by laws (derived from popular ethics) that justify the commonly understood ‘initiatory use of force.’”
          I said “rights,” not “laws.” Read more carefully.

          “It isn’t immediatly clear how “property rights” are inherently contradictory. Do you not yourself argue a theory of property rights? Perhaps you could point me to any articles in particular that discuss your understanding and treatment of property and property rights?”

          http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/property-rights-as-pseudo-rights/

      • paulos October 2 2014 at 21:01 Reply

        Quick follow up:

        I seemed to grant that the NAP could be ‘imposed’, but this is not logically possible. How can one ‘impose’ the defensive response to an aggression (or imposition).

  33. paulos October 2 2014 at 22:25 Reply

    I wan’t to read up on all the links you have provided (thanks!), but I still don’t concede this:

    “By definition any right involves defining what aggression is and how to respond to it, and therefore is the counter-reaction to “initiating aggression.”” -FT

    A right is (AFAIK) understood as a moral or legal entitlement to ‘property’. Thus, rights are up for debate and are indeed a reflection of commonly held ethics, as you point out. There is no inherent restricion of what constitutes a right that precludes aggression of one person against another, or rights which allow the expropriation (or claim illegitamacy) of external property.

    I think it stands that ‘rights’ can be whatever one argues they are, but are manifest by what a society chooses to adopt and enforce (laws). Please let me know if I am missing something in your comment about the distinction between rights and laws.

    • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 10:34 Reply

      “A right is (AFAIK) understood as a moral or legal entitlement to ‘property’.”
      Well, no. Since the concept of property is contradictory, that can’t possibly be the case. If you’re thinking of justifying rights by self-ownership, the concept of self-ownership is also contradictory.

      • paulos October 3 2014 at 12:39 Reply

        From http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/self-ownership-is-a-meaningless-concept/ : “But the mind is an activity of the brain, and therefore we cannot isolate the mind from the brain.” – FT

        This is an unproven assertion (just as the notion that the mind exists is not ‘proven’). For more, see ‘Deepak Chopra offers $1 million to atheists who can explain how a thought is formed’ http://www.christiantoday.com/article/deepak.chopra.offers.1.million.atheists.who.can.explain.thought.formed/38931.htm

        …But lets instead start here: “When I say “I own this chair,” I mean nothing more than the fact that I legitimately control the chair.” -FT

        This is what I refer to as a ‘property right’! Please let me know if you are using a different terminology. I want to consider the inherently hierarchal process by which this control is exercised. If you are in control, I do not have control unless you decide to relinquish or I take by force. The question at present is ‘what determines the right of control (or ownership of property).’

        While you argue against the concept of property rights here http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/property-rights-as-pseudo-rights/ in practice you demonstrate the concept of property right (Eg ‘the chair’). You also point out that rights are needed to determine the legitamate use of force or aggression.

        I want to understand the process or rationale by which you determine who gets to control the chair. I see you employ the term ‘value-expression,’ as part of the equation, but I do not see a coherent definition. Please let me know if you have further resources on this concept.

        • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 17:41 Reply

          “This is an unproven assertion (just as the notion that the mind exists is not ‘proven’).”
          I respect your opinion but reject it. There is no reason to believe that the mind is anything but a product of the brain.

          “This is what I refer to as a ‘property right’! Please let me know if you are using a different terminology.”
          So-called “property rights” are a sub-species of ownership, yes. That is not under dispute.

          “I want to consider the inherently hierarchal process by which this control is exercised. If you are in control, I do not have control unless you decide to relinquish or I take by force. The question at present is ‘what determines the right of control (or ownership of property).’”
          Not sure what your point is here. What hierarchy are you referring to specifically? Control over an object is not hierarchical by definition.

          “While you argue against the concept of property rights here http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/property-rights-as-pseudo-rights/ in practice you demonstrate the concept of property right (Eg ‘the chair’). You also point out that rights are needed to determine the legitamate use of force or aggression.”
          Okay, but I still have no idea what your point is.

          “I want to understand the process or rationale by which you determine who gets to control the chair. I see you employ the term ‘value-expression,’ as part of the equation, but I do not see a coherent definition. Please let me know if you have further resources on this concept.”
          Are you asking me about my preferred ownership system? I have not written anything about that, and I don’t see how that’s relevant to the conversation. As long as we both agree that a “grab-what-you-can” world is a bad idea, voluntaryism is off the table (as it should be).

          • paulos October 3 2014 at 19:06

            “There is no reason to believe that the mind is anything but a product of the brain.” -FT

            If you have proof – go collect a million bucks from Deepak Chopra ;-)

            “What hierarchy are you referring to specifically? Control over an object is not hierarchical by definition.”

            Control over an object is most definately heirarchical! Either I control it, or your ‘right’ to control it trumps (ie supercedes) my ‘right’. Thus, the ‘right’ to object control is in effect heirarchical. Only one person can control the object in question at a time, and claims to right of control operate on a heirachical basis – whatever your theory of ‘object (property) control’ is, must take this into account.

        • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 19:14 Reply

          “If you have proof – go collect a million bucks from Deepak Chopra ;-)”

          I’m not interested in someone else’s challenge.

          “Control over an object is most definately heirarchical! Either I control it, or your ‘right’ to control it trumps (ie supercedes) my ‘right’. Thus, the ‘right’ to object control is in effect heirarchical.”

          You don’t appear to be using the term hierarchical in the social sense, which is the only one I’m interested in.

  34. paulos October 2 2014 at 22:52 Reply

    Let me ask one last question, if I may!

    In the article/essay, you say “In practice, people sign such contracts because they have no viable alternatives”. Do you argue that there is no distinction between ‘viable’ and ‘no’ alternatives?

    Are you saying that someone who is hungry and voluntarily decides to work in horrible conditions to feed herself is in the same circumstance as someone who is forcibly enslaved to work horrible conditions (or even ‘good’ conditions for that matter)?

    You don’t recognize a difference?

    • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 10:36 Reply

      “Are you saying that someone who is hungry and voluntarily decides to work in horrible conditions to feed herself is in the same circumstance as someone who is forcibly enslaved to work horrible conditions (or even ‘good’ conditions for that matter)?”
      “in the same circumstance”? No, obviously, since you set up a scenario with two different circumstances.
      I think you mean to ask “is there any difference in the nonconsensual nature of these two scenarios?” to which the answer is no.

      • paulos October 3 2014 at 13:03 Reply

        “For a person to perform a voluntary choice only requires acceptance on the part of the person, but for a person to perform a consensual choice requires a viable possibility of refusal” -FT

        I believe you have confused the meaning of voluntary and of consent. Voluntary acceptance by definition *implies* consent. One cannot consent unless there is a option to NOT accept (or consent) – It has nothing to do with the ‘viability’ or other quality of the alternative option!

        That is why I brought up the example: You argue that there is no difference in the consensual nature of the person who is forcibly enslaved and the person who can choose to rejects forcible enslavement.

        • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 17:47 Reply

          “I believe you have confused the meaning of voluntary and of consent. Voluntary acceptance by definition *implies* consent.”
          This is incorrect. Consent is a much, much narrower standard than voluntary. I’ve written quite a bit about standards of consent:

          http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/some-considerations-on-consent-part-12/

          http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/some-considerations-on-consent-part-22/

          http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/the-absence-of-possibility-of-consent/

          http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/a-further-discussion-on-consent-courtesy-of-femonade/

          Any attempt to equate voluntary with consensual would severely mutilate the concept of “voluntaryism” to the point that it would certainly no longer fit the conclusions generally adopted by voluntaryists.

          “One cannot consent unless there is a option to NOT accept (or consent) – It has nothing to do with the ‘viability’ or other quality of the alternative option!”

          It’s not one or the other: both are necessary criteria to establish whether consent is possible. Without a viable signal of refusal AND viable alternatives, there can be no consent given. My complete list of criteria is the following:

          1. The absence of a viable signal of refusal. If there is no signal that one or the other party would accept as a refusal (i.e. there is no actual alternative to agreement), then there is no consent.
          2. Any signal given under a threat of force is the product of duress, and is therefore not consent.
          3. A signal given where there is a credible alternative but said alternative is not viable due to pre-existing conditions is as invalid as one given without actual alternatives.
          4. In a situation where there is no possibility of consent, one should never infer consent (this may seem painfully obvious, but a lot of people believe the exact opposite).
          5. If consent cannot be given prospectively, then there is no possibility of consent.

          • paulos October 3 2014 at 19:28

            Obviously it will take some time to work through your prolific writings – please allow ;-)

            …But let me comment briefly.

            “1. The absence of a viable signal of refusal. If there is no signal that one or the other party would accept as a refusal (i.e. there is no actual alternative to agreement), then there is no consent.” -FT

            OK, but my question is what you qualify as ‘actual alternative’. As I understand voluntaryis,, this qualification is simply the ability to not agree to enter into the ‘contract’.

            “2. Any signal given under a threat of force is the product of duress, and is therefore not consent.” -FT

            Fine.

            “3. A signal given where there is a credible alternative but said alternative is not viable due to pre-existing conditions is as invalid as one given without actual alternatives.” -FT

            Again, who determines what ‘pre-existing conditions’ are valid or invalid? God? An actual alternative is the ability to say ‘no’ and not be forced BY THE OTHER PARTY into the arrangement. That is to say, you cannot determine a contract involuntary by virtue of external circumstance.

            E.G. A person is offered wages for labor, and the person needs eat. The person is not involuntarily forced to work at the job becuase he needs to eat. He can freely choose to not eat, or seek other wages for labor. etc. My understanding of an involuntary version of this scenario is when the person is FORCED to labor for wages by the employer themself.

            “4. In a situation where there is no possibility of consent, one should never infer consent (this may seem painfully obvious, but a lot of people believe the exact opposite).”-FT

            If there is no posibility of consent, IE the person is threataned or forced to perform an action, then I aggree, consent is not inferred!

            “5. If consent cannot be given prospectively, then there is no possibility of consent.” -FT

            I don’t understand this one, might need an example.

        • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 19:54 Reply

          “OK, but my question is what you qualify as ‘actual alternative’.”
          An alternative signal, such as saying “no,” shaking your head negatively, or not signing a document.

          “Again, who determines what ‘pre-existing conditions’ are valid or invalid?”
          What do you mean who? We’re having a conversation, not setting up an arbitration system. I don’t see the relevance of this question.

          “That is to say, you cannot determine a contract involuntary by virtue of external circumstance.”
          I agree… that’s why we are talking about *consent*, not voluntaryism. Again, two very different things.

          “E.G. A person is offered wages for labor, and the person needs eat. The person is not involuntarily forced to work at the job becuase he needs to eat. He can freely choose to not eat, or seek other wages for labor. etc. My understanding of an involuntary version of this scenario is when the person is FORCED to labor for wages by the employer themself.”
          Again, I agree. So what? We’re talking about consent, not voluntaryism. The voluntary criterion is your position, and I agree that you hold this position.

          “I don’t understand this one, might need an example.”
          It means to give consent at an earlier time, and then having it brought up at a later time. For example, an actress signing a contract about performing this or that pornographic act at a later time and then, at the time of performance, refusing to do it.

      • paulos October 3 2014 at 15:23 Reply

        “is there any difference in the nonconsensual nature of these two scenarios?” to which the answer is no. -FT

        In other words, there is NO difference in the nonconsensual nature of someone *forced* to perform a labor and someone who can *reject* the performance of that labor.

        This is the contradiction I see.

        • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 17:51 Reply

          “In other words, there is NO difference in the nonconsensual nature of someone *forced* to perform a labor and someone who can *reject* the performance of that labor.

          This is the contradiction I see.”

          You have failed so far to point out any contradiction. The existence of a non-viable alternative to acceptance does not make an action consensual. It is, at best, a hollow pretense of consent.

          Likewise you can argue that the victim of a theft could have chosen to die instead (your money or your life!). That does not make the theft consensual.

  35. paulos October 3 2014 at 19:45 Reply

    “You have failed so far to point out any contradiction. The existence of a non-viable alternative to acceptance does not make an action consensual. It is, at best, a hollow pretense of consent.” -FT

    Again, the only alternative necessary is the ability to decline the agreement, and the only way person would not be able to decline the agreement is if someone else unjustly exerted force against them in order to acheive ‘consent’.

    Consider again a person who finds work. The have the ability to accept or decline that work, independent of external circumstances, such as hunger. That is voluntary, or consentual. However, if they were unjustly *forced* to work (by another party), then that is not voluntary or consentual. As far as I can see, you are conflating these situations, and saying they are both unconsensual.

    “Likewise you can argue that the victim of a theft could have chosen to die instead (your money or your life!). That does not make the theft consensual.”-FT

    I entirely agree with you. This is not a consentual action. The victim was forced (threatened with death) by the other party to give his possession to the thief.

    PS I thought you dont recognize property ;-)

    –> http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/property-rights-as-pseudo-rights/

    • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 19:57 Reply

      “Again, the only alternative necessary is the ability to decline the agreement.”
      That is your position. I do not agree with it, obviously, because I think you are confusing consent and voluntary. Again, so what?

      “Consider again a person who finds work. The have the ability to accept or decline that work, independent of external circumstances, such as hunger. That is voluntary, or consentual.”
      False. It is voluntary, yes, but we cannot say that it is consensual unless we know more about the transaction, including “external circumstances.”

      “As far as I can see, you are conflating these situations, and saying they are both unconsensual.”
      No, you are the one conflating voluntary with consensual. Please do try to follow.

      “I entirely agree with you. This is not a consentual action. The victim was forced (threatened with death) by the other party to give his possession to the thief.”
      Well at least we agree on that.

      “PS I thought you dont recognize property ;-)”
      I don’t recognize it as a valid concept, no.

  36. paulos October 3 2014 at 20:06 Reply

    “As long as we both agree that a “grab-what-you-can” world is a bad idea, voluntaryism is off the table (as it should be).”-FT

    I read http://www.demos.org/blog/1/29/14/what-world-following-non-aggression-principle-looks and In fact, I was just reading ‘Why Libertarians Believe There is Only One Right’ by Roderick Long http://c4ss.org/content/25648 as quoted in the article.

    If you read Long’s article, he uses the “Grab-what-you-can” metaphor as an example of a world NOT free of aggression, however you define property and thus aggression.

    “Any conception of aggression according to which the world so described is free of aggression is not a plausible one.” – Roderick Long

    So by what system do you or Bruenig objectively determine competing claims of ownsership?

  37. Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 20:20 Reply

    But Long makes NO ARGUMENT regarding this. He simply states that the grab-what-you-can world is not free from aggression. Can you point out what aggression is part of the grab-what-you-can world? Because Long didn’t. All he wrote about it was:

    “Imagine a world in which people freely expropriate other people’s possessions; nobody initiates force directly against another person’s body, but subject to that constraint, people regularly grab any external resource they can get their hands on, regardless of who has made or been using the resource. Any conception of aggression according to which the world so described is free of aggression is not a plausible one. ”

    This is plainly and obviously wrong. Define aggression as force directed against another person’s body (which I think is a good definition either way). The grab-what-you-can world IS free from such aggression, by definition. Any further concept of aggression which takes into account property would have to smuggle in that premise, first, so it’s a circular argument.

    “So by what system do you or Bruenig objectively determine competing claims of ownsership?”
    I am not interested in discussing that. All that matters within the context of this discussion is that a voluntaryist, NAP system is clearly wrong: my personal position is not relevant.

    • paulos October 3 2014 at 20:36 Reply

      “This is plainly and obviously wrong.”-FT

      In other words, if you had a barrel of potatoes for the winter (and this was your only food), you would NOT consider it aggression if I came and took the potatoes, but did not harm you? Furthermore, you would consider it aggression if you defended your potatoes with an act of force against my person?!?

      • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 20:38 Reply

        “In other words, if you had a barrel of potatoes for the winter (and this was your only food), you would NOT consider it aggression if I came and took the potatoes, but did not harm you? Furthermore, you would consider it aggression if you defended your potatoes with an act of force against my person?!?”
        If I assume property rights are valid, then yes I would consider it aggression. But that’s a circular argument, as I’ve already pointed out.

        • paulos October 3 2014 at 20:48 Reply

          “If I assume property rights are valid, then yes I would consider it aggression.”-FT

          You don’t assume property rights are valid, but you argue the right to self-defense. It seems like you are missing the link between the potatoes (property) and the body – without the potatoes you would die over the winter.

          The thief has, in effect, harmed your body! You still wouldn’t consider stealing potatoes aggression?

          • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 20:50

            “You don’t assume property rights are valid, but you argue the right to self-defense. It seems like you are missing the link between the potatoes (property) and the body – without the potatoes you would die over the winter.

            The thief has, in effect, harmed your body! You still wouldn’t consider stealing potatoes aggression?”
            In a grab-what-you-want world, you could just grab someone else’s potatoes. So, if we follow that argument, where’s the harm committed?

        • paulos October 3 2014 at 21:00 Reply

          “In a grab-what-you-want world, you could just grab someone else’s potatoes. So, if we follow that argument, where’s the harm committed?”-FT

          I don’t suscribe to this world and neither does Long! This is the point of his example: Long says its obvious the world he described is NOT free of aggression! —“Any conception of aggression according to which the world so described is free of aggression *is not a plausible one*.” – Roderick Long

          On the other hand, you appear to argue for a “grab-what you can-world”, where force against the body is never justified, but one is free to take whatever property is available (becuase you don’t recognize property as valid)! Please tell me what I have missed…

          • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 21:03

            “I don’t suscribe to this world and neither does Long!”
            You do, by virtue of being a voluntaryist.

            “This is the point of his example: Long says its obvious the world he described is NOT free of aggression!”
            And I think it equally obvious that it IS free of aggression, as I’ve told you many times already. Either prove the aggression in the scenario or concede the point…

            “On the other hand, you appear to argue for a “grab-what you can-world”, where force against the body is never justified, but one is free to take whatever property is available (becuase you don’t recognize property as valid)!”
            No… I am arguing that the “grab-what-you-can” world is the ONLY possible ownership system if voluntaryism is true. Obviously I do NOT think voluntaryism is true. I think voluntaryism is complete bollocks, as the entry you’re commenting on makes clear…

  38. paulos October 3 2014 at 20:24 Reply

    “Again, who determines what ‘pre-existing conditions’ are valid or invalid?”
    -What do you mean who? We’re having a conversation, not setting up an arbitration system. I don’t see the relevance of this question. -FT

    We need to bring it up becuase it is a subjective judgement as far as I can see. Thus, you may say alternative is not viable due to pre-existing condition ‘A’ and I say pre-existing condition ‘A’ does not preclude viability – see?

    You say: “a credible alternative but said alternative is not viable due to pre-existing conditions is as invalid as one given without actual alternatives.” -FT

    “It means to give consent at an earlier time, and then having it brought up at a later time. For example, an actress signing a contract about performing this or that pornographic act at a later time and then, at the time of performance, refusing to do it.”-FT

    How about a pilot who consented at an earlier time to fly a person across the country and decides doesn’t want to perform as obligated and parachutes out of the plane? This is OK?

    I will definately read more on your distinction between consent and voluntaryism but I dont immediatly see a huge difference:

    consent |kənˈsent|
    noun
    permission for something to happen or agreement to do something

    voluntary |ˈvälənˌterē|
    adjective
    done, given, or acting of one’s own free will

    volunteer |ˌvälənˈtir|
    noun
    a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.
    (important example) • a person who freely enrolls for military service rather than being conscripted

    Thanks for the chat – I look forward to reading more of your work!

    • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 20:33 Reply

      “We need to bring it up becuase it is a subjective judgement as far as I can see. Thus, you may say alternative is not viable due to pre-existing condition ‘A’ and I say pre-existing condition ‘A’ does not preclude viability – see?”
      Then bring out an example and we can talk about it. I think most examples are pretty obvious.

      “How about a pilot who consented at an earlier time to fly a person across the country and decides doesn’t want to perform as obligated and parachutes out of the plane? This is OK?”
      No, I meant does not want to perform at the time of the performance, which would in this context mean: refuse to get on the plane and start it. Obviously it doesn’t apply when you have already accepted the responsibility in the present and must complete a task on which other people’s lives depend.

  39. paulos October 3 2014 at 21:13 Reply

    “You do, by virtue of being a voluntaryist.”-FT

    No, I believe the use of force is justified to defend one’s property, *contrary* to the ‘grab-what-you-can-world’!

    “Either prove the aggression in the scenario or concede the point…” -FT

    …The person is harmed as a result of having his potatoes taken?

    “No… I am arguing that the “grab-what-you-can” world is the ONLY possible ownership system if voluntaryism is true. “-FT

    I absolutely do not follow. Voluntaryist respect property rights and the defense of such, again contrary to the ‘grab-what-you-can-world’.

    • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 21:17 Reply

      “No, I believe the use of force is justified to defend one’s property, *contrary* to the ‘grab-what-you-can-world’!”
      Then you do believe in some use of aggression. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

      “…The person is harmed as a result of having his potatoes taken?”
      They can always steal someone else’s potatoes. We already went through that.

      “I absolutely do not follow. Voluntaryist respect property rights and the defense of such, again contrary to the ‘grab-what-you-can-world’.”
      Yes, I know what you believe, you don’t have to keep repeating it to me. Again, what I AM saying is that if you are a voluntaryist then the only logical ownership system that derives from that is the “grab-what-you-can” system. I know you don’t believe in it. I am stating that your belief system is inconsistent. Do you get it now?

      • paulos October 3 2014 at 21:26 Reply

        “Then you do believe in some use of aggression. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” -FT

        I see where you are comming from – you define aggression solely as force against the body. But this is exactly what Long is arguing against in his example! He says how can you have a world that is considered peaceful where property rights are not respected? Or in his words “Any conception of aggression according to which the world so described is free of aggression is not a plausible one.”

        “I AM saying is that if you are a voluntaryist then the only logical ownership system that derives from that is the “grab-what-you-can” system.” -FT

        The only way you reach this conclusion is to presume the definition of aggression that Long is arguing *against* in his essay.

        Gonna call it quits for tonight. I appreciate the dialouge and wll read your links!

        • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 21:29 Reply

          “I see where you are comming from – you define aggression solely as force against the body. But this is exactly what Long is arguing against in his example!”
          False. Long does not “argue” against this. He provided no argument.

          “He says how can you have a world that is considered peaceful where property rights are not respected?”
          I agree, but since when does “peaceful” enter into it? You haven’t said that word until now. You’ve talked about voluntary agreement and consent, but not about peacefulness. Can you define what that is and how it figures into voluntaryism?

          “The only way you reach this conclusion is to presume the definition of aggression that Long is arguing *against* in his essay.”
          Again, there was no argument. Sorry.

          “Gonna call it quits for tonight. I appreciate the dialouge and wll read your links!”
          Provide an argument against the voluntaryism=”grab-all-you-can” equation first, otherwise it seems there is no point in continuing.

  40. paulos October 3 2014 at 21:29 Reply

    And,

    “Either prove the aggression in the scenario or concede the point…” -FT

    …The person is harmed as a result of having his potatoes taken!

    He can’t go steal someone elses – he is snowed in! ;-)

    • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 21:30 Reply

      Very funny, but logically, if he was snowed in then the original thief would have been too.

  41. paulos October 3 2014 at 23:09 Reply

    Some major points:

    “Long does not “argue” against this. He provided no argument.”-FT

    True: “I shall merely attempt to show that there are certain difficulties in regarding the welfare-statist system as an instantiation of the right of non-aggression, and that the libertarian system is not subject to these particular difficulties.” -Long

    —–

    “since when does “peaceful” enter into it? You haven’t said that word until now. You’ve talked about voluntary agreement and consent, but not about peacefulness. Can you define what that is and how it figures into voluntaryism?”-FT

    I undertstand peace as the absence of aggression. However, I acknowledge that what constitutes aggression is presently in contention!

    peace |pēs|
    noun
    –> 2 freedom from or the cessation of war or violence

    —–

    “Provide an argument against the voluntaryism=”grab-all-you-can” equation first, otherwise it seems there is no point in continuing.”-FT

    You want a formal argument or logical proof? That is a good question! I will need to think about that one!

    In the meantime, here is Long: “Libertarian property rights are, famously, governed by principles of justice in initial appropriation (mixing one’s labour with previously unowned resources), justice in transfer (mutual consent), and justice in rectification (say, restitution plus damages). [12]”

    So, at the very least, the Libertarian notion of property is *by definition* in conflict with the grab-what-you-can world.

    —–

    On the other hand, you can’t argue that “Voluntaryism = the grab-what-you-can world” solely by virtue of YOUR asserted definition “aggression as force directed against another person’s body (which I think is a good definition either way)”-FT

    So likewise, please provide a proof/logical argument of “Aggression as force directed against another person’s body.” You do not even account for initiatory or retaliatory force here, so please expand/clarify.

    But most importantly, you haven’t explained how your vision (definition of aggression and lack of lack of observation for property rights) is not in total harmony with the the grab-what-you-can world! This is what you said:

    1.”aggression as force directed against another person’s body (which I think is a good definition either way)”-FT
    2. property: “I don’t recognize it as a valid concept, no.”-FT

    So in other words: “a world in which people freely expropriate other people’s possessions; nobody initiates force directly against another person’s body”-Long

    —–

    “Very funny, but logically, if he was snowed in then the original thief would have been too.”-FT

    Okay, then consider the ‘grabber’ of a rope bridge that is supporting a person walking over a raging river.

    Or Long himself in the notes: “11. …If I starve to death because someone raids my food stores every time I turn my back, it does not seem implausible to describe the situation as one in which I am forced into starvation.”

    • Francois Tremblay October 3 2014 at 23:26 Reply

      “I undertstand peace as the absence of aggression.”
      Then the term adds nothing to the discussion.

      “You want a formal argument or logical proof?”
      No. Just an argument.

      “So, at the very least, the Libertarian notion of property is *by definition* in conflict with the grab-what-you-can world.”
      We already agreed on that.

      “On the other hand, you can’t argue that “Voluntaryism = the grab-what-you-can world” solely by virtue of YOUR asserted definition “aggression as force directed against another person’s body (which I think is a good definition either way)”-FT”
      All right then, please present your own definition of “aggression” or “voluntary,” since you are the one defending his position.

      “But most importantly, you haven’t explained how your vision (definition of aggression and lack of lack of observation for property rights) is not in total harmony with the the grab-what-you-can world! This is what you said:

      1.”aggression as force directed against another person’s body (which I think is a good definition either way)”-FT
      2. property: “I don’t recognize it as a valid concept, no.”-FT

      So in other words: “a world in which people freely expropriate other people’s possessions; nobody initiates force directly against another person’s body”-Long”

      Not sure how you got from “I don’t recognize property as a valid concept” to a “grab-what-you-can” system. I believe ownership systems are not brute facts: what we conceive as being valid ownership systems depends on our views about freedom and fairness. More generally, all our political concepts are based on how broadly we define power. I have written about this here:

      http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/the-narrow-nature-of-political-words-and-how-that-distorts-discourse/

      A “grab-what-you-can” world is utterly incompatible with a conception of equality or freedom made in the broadest sense.

      “Okay, then consider the ‘grabber’ of a rope bridge that is supporting a person walking over a raging river.”
      Sure, you can keep adding more and more to the story. You can concoct any hypothetical that makes any rule false. But this is not leading you anywhere close to your actual objective, to show that the “grab-all-you-want” world necessarily entails harm. If you adopt such a wide criterion as you’ve been using, then ANY ownership system necessarily entails harm, and it gets you no closer to winning the point.

      “Or Long himself in the notes: “11. …If I starve to death because someone raids my food stores every time I turn my back, it does not seem implausible to describe the situation as one in which I am forced into starvation.””
      Again, only if you are beholden to property rights and do not raid other people’s food stores. Either way, why should a voluntaryist particularly care one way or the other? If your only ethical standard is agreement, then you have no particular reason to complain about starving people.

  42. paulos October 4 2014 at 8:51 Reply

    “No. Just an argument.” – FT

    The argument is that to the extent that a society respects property rights (as understood by voluntaryists/an-caps) precludes the possibility of the the grab-what-you-can world, or a world where property rights are NOT respected.

    These property rights are founded in: 1)justice in initial appropriation (Locke) 2)justice in transfer (mutual consent), and 3) justice in rectification (eg restitution plus damages).

    I can’t figure out why you think Long is using the example as support *against* the An-Cap position, because he is in fact using it to illustrate the necessity of clearly delineated property rights.

    ***

    “All right then, please present your own definition of “aggression” or “voluntary,” since you are the one defending his position.” -FT

    Aggression is the initiatory use of physical force against a person OR legitimately held property (according to as above described).

    ***

    “I believe ownership systems are not brute facts: what we conceive as being valid ownership systems depends on our views about freedom and fairness.”-FT

    Yes, of course! I think the an-cap system is just and you don’t! ;-)

    “A “grab-what-you-can” world is utterly incompatible with a conception of equality or freedom made in the broadest sense.”-FT

    I wholeheartedly agree! That is why I can’t figure out why you think I am arguing for it!

    ***

    “Sure, you can keep adding more and more to the story… But this is not leading you anywhere close to your actual objective, to show that the “grab-all-you-want” world necessarily entails harm.” -FT

    It absolutely demonstrates harm! The bridge walker is not harmed? What if you are a patient on the sole life support machine in a hospital: One society decides it is ethical for another person to have the machine, and not you. This is not harmful to you?

    This is what you open yourself up to if you leave property up to a democracy, or monarchy or Pope, etc. Only the libertarian position puts forth a consistent and objective way of determining ownership. It is fair to all, because it grants no special privileges.

    ***

    “Again, only if you are beholden to property rights and do not raid other people’s food stores.”-FT

    Yes, lets not criticize the an-cap philosophy with an example of a society not adhering to the an-cap philosophy!!!

    “Either way, why should a voluntaryist particularly care one way or the other? If your only ethical standard is agreement, then you have no particular reason to complain about starving people.”-FT

    This is the point I tried to make at the beginning of the discussion. The NAP is not an entire ethical system. It just specifies the appropriate use of force (See above), nothing more. It is possible to be a voluntaryist and devote your life to feeding the poor through voluntary means, as opposed to devoting one’s life to advocating the forcible appropriation of other peoples property in order to feed the poor. Both ways feed the poor – one way is consensual and the other isn’t.

    Society demands a way to allocate scarce resource (determine property). The libertarian theory is the most logical and fair that I have seen. If you disagree, you need to account for the above ‘life-support’ or ‘bridge’ scenario. You also need to account for the fact that society is not homogenous, and that everyone has a different idea about what is ethical.

    • Francois Tremblay October 4 2014 at 9:11 Reply

      “The argument is that to the extent that a society respects property rights (as understood by voluntaryists/an-caps) precludes the possibility of the the grab-what-you-can world, or a world where property rights are NOT respected.”
      Again, I didn’t ask what you believe. I agree that this is what you believe, but I disagree with your assertion that voluntaryism entails property rights and not a “grab-what-you-can” system.

      “I can’t figure out why you think Long is using the example as support *against* the An-Cap position, because he is in fact using it to illustrate the necessity of clearly delineated property rights.”
      I didn’t claim any such thing. I merely asked you to provide an argument to support Long’s bald assertion. You are clearly unable to do so.

      ***
      “Aggression is the initiatory use of physical force against a person OR legitimately held property (according to as above described).”
      I already answered that. In the context of defining aggression, using the term “legitimately held property” is circular because the concept of aggression is tied to the concept of legitimacy. Please try to follow the conversation.

      ***

      “Yes, of course! I think the an-cap system is just and you don’t! ;-)”
      Precisely. Thank you for conceding the point.

      “I wholeheartedly agree! That is why I can’t figure out why you think I am arguing for it!”
      Seriously? After all this conversation you still don’t get it? BECAUSE IT’S THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCE OF THE VOLUNTARYIST STANDARD. I have told you this time and time again.

      If you are unable to follow the conversation as such a basic level, why are we still talking? Are you wasting my time?

      ***

      “It absolutely demonstrates harm! The bridge walker is not harmed? What if you are a patient on the sole life support machine in a hospital: One society decides it is ethical for another person to have the machine, and not you. This is not harmful to you?”
      Your new example does fit the “grab-what-you-can” system, in which “society” doesn’t decide anything at all, only individuals grab. So how is it even relevant?

      ***

      “Yes, lets not criticize the an-cap philosophy with an example of a society not adhering to the an-cap philosophy!!!”
      I’m criticizing voluntaryism based on its premise, not ancap. Ancap is a different ideology entirely. You’re moving the goalposts.

      “This is the point I tried to make at the beginning of the discussion. The NAP is not an entire ethical system. It just specifies the appropriate use of force (See above), nothing more. It is possible to be a voluntaryist and devote your life to feeding the poor through voluntary means, as opposed to devoting one’s life to advocating the forcible appropriation of other peoples property in order to feed the poor. Both ways feed the poor – one way is consensual and the other isn’t.”
      I will not indulge your loaded language of “forcible appropriation” and “consensual” (a word which you apparently still don’t understand). This is just fanatical rhetoric meant to portray egalitarians as violent and criminal (based on your incoherent notion of “property”). I might as well say that you advocate structural oppression and exploitation, and that you hate human rights (based on how I define “rights”). So what? Let’s insult each other all day, but it will lead nowhere. I am not interested.

      “Society demands a way to allocate scarce resource (determine property). The libertarian theory is the most logical and fair that I have seen. If you disagree, you need to account for the above ‘life-support’ or ‘bridge’ scenario.”
      I need to do no such thing. These absurdly specific scenarios were imagined by you to try to demonstrate that the “grab-what-you-can” system leads to harm. Even if you were right about that, it would not show that “the libertarian theory is the most logical and fair way to allocate scarce resources.” Insofar as I believe the “libertarian theory” leads directly to the “grab-what-you-can” system, your point proves MY position right!

      “You also need to account for the fact that society is not homogenous, and that everyone has a different idea about what is ethical.”
      Thanks for the obvious factoid, but why do *I* need to account for it? I am not the one defending a position, YOU are. How do YOU account for people like me who reject voluntaryism as grossly unethical and are doing their best to prevent you from bringing it about?

  43. paulos October 4 2014 at 8:59 Reply

    I just had an idea: Lets forget property for now and just consider people. An example: A doctor is not willing to treat a patient. As I generally understand your position, the doctor must be compelled to treat the patient, regardless of whether he consents or not, correct?

    • Francois Tremblay October 4 2014 at 9:13 Reply

      I already told you I am only interested in refuting voluntaryism, not discussing my political position. Why do you persist in asking me after I’ve told you this many times?

      • paulos October 4 2014 at 10:04 Reply

        “I already answered that. In the context of defining aggression, using the term “legitimately held property” is circular because the concept of aggression is tied to the concept of legitimacy. Please try to follow the conversation. “-FT

        You disregard that you ALSO hold a position on the legitamacy of held property — it isn’t legitamate! Hence, your reasoning is also ‘circular’ for purposes of understanding rights and what constitutes aggression.

      • paulos October 4 2014 at 10:06 Reply

        Voluntaryism has some pretty important things to say about rights as they relate to the individual and compulsory action. Focusing on the individual might help narrow the discussion, since we have ‘agreed to disagree’ about property for the time being.

  44. paulos October 4 2014 at 9:44 Reply

    I disagree with your assertion that voluntaryism entails property rights and not a “grab-what-you-can” system.” -FT

    “I’m criticizing voluntaryism based on its premise, not ancap. Ancap is a different ideology entirely. You’re moving the goalposts.”-FT

    Voluntaryism and Anarcho-capitalism are generally understood to be ver simillar if not interchangable words that describe the same philosphy:

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

    “It is closely associated with, and sometimes used synonymously with, the anarcho-capitalist philosophy. “…The non-aggression principle is the moral principle most frequently used to support voluntaryism.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-aggression_principle

    “NAP and property rights are closely linked, since what aggression is depends on what a person’s rights are.[1] Aggression, for the purposes of NAP, is defined as the initiation or threatening of violence against a person or legitimately owned property of another.”

    ***

    “BECAUSE IT’S THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCE OF THE VOLUNTARYIST STANDARD.”-FT

    This is apparently your argument, but I don’t see how you have reached this conclusion: “A society which respects property rights results in society which does not respects property rights”. Please humor me and point me to a specific passage or essay which describes this process.

    “Your new example does fit the “grab-what-you-can” system, in which “society” doesn’t decide anything at all, only individuals grab. So how is it even relevant?”-FT

    Okay, forget the society, just the individual and the harm to the body that results from lack of observance of property rights: stolen potatoes (starvation), bridges (maiming/death) and life support machines (death). I don’t see why these examples aren’t valid.

    “Insofar as I believe the “libertarian theory” leads directly to the “grab-what-you-can” system, your point proves MY position right!”-FT

    Again, please humor me and point me to a specific passage or essay which describes this process.

    ***

    “So what? Let’s insult each other all day, but it will lead nowhere. I am not interested.” -FT

    I’m not interested either, and please forgive any insult – it wasn’t intended.

    ***

    “How do YOU account for people like me who reject voluntaryism as grossly unethical and are doing their best to prevent you from bringing it about?”-FT

    Well, I am trying to understand where you are coming from and reason with you. I appreciate the dialogue! It could be we have gotten as far as we can go for now ad thats OK! I still have plenty of links to read and that should keep me busy for a while!

  45. Francois Tremblay October 4 2014 at 12:17 Reply

    I already posted you the entry where the voluntaryism=”grab-what-you-can” system equation is established:

    http://www.demos.org/blog/1/29/14/what-world-following-non-aggression-principle-looks

    You can disagree with his position here but at least he provides a reasoning. Long does not provide any reasoning for his side.
    Since our discussion seems to be boiling down to this issue, please explain to me, in non-circular terms, why you think Bruenig’s case is wrong.

    “You disregard that you ALSO hold a position on the legitamacy of held property — it isn’t legitamate! Hence, your reasoning is also ‘circular’ for purposes of understanding rights and what constitutes aggression.”

    Actually I didn’t present any positive case to you. If you are referring to Bruenig’s entry, then you are right insofar as Bruenig does acknowledge the question-begging in his own argument:

    “The phrase “other people’s possessions” is a bit question-begging if it is understood to connote ownership or entitlement.”

    What he does is use a baseline concept of “aggression” which is not circular, that is to say, a definition which is simply “attacking someone’s body.” This is done for the sake of argument. I think Bruenig, like me (although I could be wrong on that), would agree that the concept of aggression is much wider than that.

  46. paulos October 4 2014 at 20:22 Reply

    “I already posted you the entry where the voluntaryism=”grab-what-you-can” system is established.”-FT

    Let me first say, I have read more of Bruenig and I appreciate his work. However, I still reject your claim here (and his), because this argument is not established in the least!

    Let me start with Bruenig’s own quote on the issue at hand:

    “You can’t figure out what is and isn’t aggression unless you first establish (without any reference to aggression) who is entitled to what.”-MB

    http://mattbruenig.com/2013/10/03/non-aggression-never-does-any-argumentative-work-at-any-time/

    Clearly, the system of property rights demonstrated in the grab-what-you-can world
    are in diametric opposition to the voluntaryist understanding of property rights. These are, according to Long: “governed by principles of justice in initial appropriation (mixing one’s labour with previously unowned resources), justice in transfer (mutual consent), and justice in rectification (say, restitution plus damages). [12]”

    Lets forget anyone’s *assertion* of aggression and instead focus solely on property rights. The libertarian view is laid out (not defended) above.

    ***

    “You can disagree with his position here but at least he provides a reasoning. Long does not provide any reasoning for his side.”-FT

    Long actually does provide reasoning:

    “Someone who claims that the less affluent have a right to the excess wealth of the more affluent (or, for that matter, vice versa) [7] is asserting a right, on the part of one group, to exercise control over certain resources that have heretofore been under the control of another group.”

    “The truth or falsity of libertarianism, however, is not my present concern. I claim to have shown only the following:”

    “3. Given the Positive and Negative Theses, the libertarian view of property rights is more defensible than the welfare-statist view, and so there is nothing mysterious or one-sided about preferring the former to the latter.”

    ***

    “Since our discussion seems to be boiling down to this issue, please explain to me, in non-circular terms, why you think Bruenig’s case is wrong.”-FT

    Please let me know if the above satisfies your request.

  47. paulos October 4 2014 at 20:39 Reply

    Meant to include these, the lines of argument. Obviously, please refer to the peice to read in entirety:

    “1. “First, if Cratchit was initially as wealthy as Scrooge, and through some misfortune has become poor overnight, then Scrooge, through no action of his own, has unwittingly passed from rightful possession to wrongful possession of the resources in question.

    2. Moreover, how great must the disparity of wealth between Scrooge and Cratchit be before the transfer of property rights is triggered?

    3. it is the government’s right to control Scrooge’s resources that stands in need of justification. [16]

    4. Since governments, on any liberal view, are not mystical bodies of social union but are simply collections of individuals, on an equal moral footing with the individuals they govern, a government can have no rights in excess of the sum of the rights of the individuals composing it. [17]” – Roderick Long

    The first one is for me especially compelling, how can someone unknowingly and unwillingly agress against another? The second implies questions of abiguity and subjectivity, the third an fourth questions of moral superiority.

    • paulos October 4 2014 at 21:17 Reply

      I apologize if it isn’t clear: the second post is a continuation of quotes on Long’s argument in response to your claim he didn’t provide one.

      But first and more importantly, we should finish the grab-what-you-can world debate.

  48. Francois Tremblay October 4 2014 at 22:18 Reply

    I have decided to cover Long’s article in a separate entry which I am currently working on. You may address these issues there at your leisure. Apart from those issues highlighted by Long, I think this conversation has reached its natural end.

    • paulos October 4 2014 at 22:23 Reply

      Thanks for the offer, and I look forward to checking out your response to Long’s article. I am happy to leave this conversation here, but I am curious if you find my critique of Bruenig on the grab-what-you-can world satisfactory?

      • Francois Tremblay October 4 2014 at 22:26 Reply

        I don’t know why you’re even asking me, since you’ve just covered the same ground we already have. Have fun with your little walk, but don’t involve me. As I said, I’m working on the entry and I’m currently about half done.

        • paulos October 4 2014 at 22:46 Reply

          “What he does is use a baseline concept of “aggression” which is not circular, that is to say, a definition which is simply “attacking someone’s body.” This is done for the sake of argument.”-FT

          You and he both do more than use this conception of aggression ‘for sake of argument’. You think this has proven that voluntaryism = the grab-what-you-can world! All you have done is substitute one definition of aggression for another.

          I gave you his quote (with which I agree): “You can’t figure out what is and isn’t aggression unless you first establish (without any reference to aggression) who is entitled to what.”-MB

          It is easier leave aggression out of the picture and focus on property rights. If you think that the property rights demonstrated in the the grab-what-you-can world are the same as what voluntaryist propose, you might need to do a bit more reading.

          Thats all I have on that – I look forward to your future work and catching up on previous work!

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