05/27/08 – Anthony Gregory – The Scott Horton Show by Scott | May 27, 2008 | Interviews | 10 comments The Independent Institute’s Anthony Gregory explains why we’re libertarians. Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSSMore places to listen to The Scott Horton Show. 10 Comments Fry on June 2, 2008 at 1:44 pm I agree with Bentham, Natural Rights are rhetoric on stilts. That’s the problem with libertarian philosophy, it assume that we have rights outside of force. Force is the only thing that creates rights. What right do I have to live without the force to stop an attacker? What right do I have to own property without using force to keep people off my land? What right do I have to own property without using force to prevent others to use that property. Why should your grocer honor any price without violence and censure to enforce the deal? Force is a necessity and do deny the initiation of force is to deny any society. There is nothing in the laws of physics, or divine hand, or anything “self evident”. Natural rights are an indefensible idea. Gregory backs me up by making no distinction between retaliatory force and initiatory force (charge you fines, etc.). Gregory also lays out a good argument for reforming the state, but no good argument for the abolishment of the state. Anthony Gregory on June 2, 2008 at 2:39 pm Enforcibility does not make rights. Sometimes, rights cannot be effectively enforced. If we all relied on violence to protect our rights, we’d be doomed. All it would take is a determined, large minority of criminals, and society would have a hard time surviving at all. What protects rights, mostly, is culture. It was culture that allowed the world’s first real stock market, in the Netherlands, to thrive – contracts were almost never enforced, and certainly not by the state. Is is a culture that prevents people from murdering each other. Without a classically liberal culture, modern civilization is impossible. With it, no state is necessary, and self-defense is rarely even needed. If someone is determined to violate your rights, he probably will. Unfortunately, our freedom does depend on the attitudes of other people. Fortunately, the culture around you can improve to respect individual rights ever more. The Iraqis fighting to defend themselves have plenty of force and weapons, as do the Americans trying to pacify the nation. But not until the American people sour on the war will it end. Ultimately, social attitudes protect rights far better than guns, even in the hands of private individuals. The only reason we need not worry that the government will nuke America is ideology and some degree of self-interest. There is no weapon that can defend against nuking, yet thankfully there have been no nukings in 60s years. Ideology, culture and social norms are what matter most. You can say without force there are no rights. Actually, history has had plenty of force and plenty of violations of rights. What matters above all else is a culture that respects rights, grounded in the natural law. The case for abolishing the state is the same as the case that people shouldn’t steal from or murder one another. Lionel on June 2, 2008 at 4:02 pm “Force is the only thing that creates rights.” Interesting. I think if we lived in a world where subjectivity and intersubjectivity did not exist and/or is completely arbitrary, I would completely agree with you. But it ain’t that way. As subjective beings, there does remain a strong pattern of what we deeply feel is ethically right and wrong. Say we lived in a primitive society, even though you were able to run away with my spear and no-one had the “force” to stop you, there is still a feeling that your doing so was wrong. This is an example of how property rights naturally exist despite the lack of effective enforcement. Conversely, “Force” in the absence of backing by what people can by themselves conclude is just is simply not sustainable. That’s why I think that in the long run, tyranny will always be overthrown. The sneakier it is, the longer it may last, but that is the exception that makes the case for the rule stronger in fact. brian on June 2, 2008 at 4:04 pm fry, before i post criticizing an issue, i try to make sure that i have at least a working knowledge of the issue. anyone with only a cursory understanding of libertarian philosophy and natural rights theory would never make the claims you’ve made above. i recommend making an objective study of libertarianism and natural rights first, then returning to make reasonable criticisms. Lionel on June 2, 2008 at 4:06 pm re: my previous post All of this of course does not mean that man can live on “Natural Rights” alone, so to speak. Strong ethics in combination with the ability of the individual and community to defend themselves and their property go very well together. Erich on June 2, 2008 at 4:19 pm Interesting conversation, particularly about Marxism poisoning the Left. (Personally, I think Vladimir Ilyich administered the fatal dose.) I’ve often thought that Libertarianism is an orphan from the Left, it appears that Anthony Gregory agrees.With this in mind, I’d like to see a dialogue between you or Mr. Gregory and someone from a Bakunist Anarchist or an Anarcho-Syndicalist perspective. How does a Radical for Capitalism differ from a Wobbly? Where do you converge? Did you dream of seeing Joe Hill last night? Do you fly the Black Flag? John Howard on June 2, 2008 at 6:34 pm To Fry (above) A “right” is something which is right. “Having” a right simply means being right. It is right that I be left free, whether or not I can defend myself. Your word-gaming is so confused, I can only conclude that you have attended a government institution of higher learning. What they teach there – aside from world-class sarcasm – is the ability to give to any word the least likely definition and then pretend it is the most likely – all for the purpose of debate-finessing. This little trick allows one to interpret a “right” as a strength, rather than a moral judgement. But obviously, what is right is not the same as the strength to defend what is right. Even children understand that, but then they haven’t been to college yet. How silly your post was. And how well educated. Or do I repeat myself? Oscar Goldman on June 2, 2008 at 8:49 pm If natural rights are exercised universally, people remain alive, trade freely, engage in creative wealth building, travel freely, and do not harm one another. If the rule of force is practiced universally, eventually we all end up killing one another. And the last one left standing is the biggest, the strongest, and the most sadistic. Where are humans most human? In small groups of hunter gatherers, or as cogs in the machinery of the state and its neverending meat grinders? Sam Grove on June 2, 2008 at 11:13 pm I submit that your error is in holding that the concept of ‘natural rights’ is pulled from the ether and is thought by supporters to be independent of humanity. Natural rights: the assignment of responsibility to individuals for their own lives and the authority and right of individuals to engage in whatever actions they may choose to support and fulfill their lives based upon their ‘nature’ as biological and intellectual beings. Thus, natural rights are determined by humans, for humans, with the goal (usually unexpressed) of social harmony. For natural rights to exist, there must also be ‘equality’ of rights. Michael J. Palmer on June 4, 2008 at 12:20 am Anthony Gregory sounds like a left-libertarian! As for the “millionaire murdering a homeless person” problem, it’s easy to solve. Some people think that the millionaire can avoid punishment in a market anarchist society by bribing all the private arbitrators, but there’s a counterbalancing force – people who are greedy enough to take the bribe are also greedy enough to use the murder as an “excuse” to confiscate all of the millionaire’s property. Since the millionaire’s bribe offers can’t possibly exceed the value of all his property, nearly all private arbitration agencies would prefer the “convict him and confiscate his property” option over the “take the bribe and shut up” option.