Worshipping the Boss

[cross-posted at C4SS]

In an anti-libertarian rant titled “You’re Not the Boss of Me! Why Libertarianism Is a Childish Sham,” David Masciotra charges that libertarianism amounts to the petulant selfishness of a child who resents all restrictions on his or her behavior.

Masciotra conveniently focuses on libertarians’ saying “you have no right to impose stuff on us,” while ignoring its corollaries “we have no right to impose stuff on you” and “you have no right to impose stuff on them.” But then it’s a bit harder to spin the latter two as childish selfishness.

yes-yes-boss

Judging from what he writes and where he writes it, I reckon Masciotra fancies himself a man of the left. There was a time when “Dump the Bosses Off Your Back” was a popular leftist slogan. But the idea of a society without bosses seems to carry no charm for Masciotra.

It’s also telling that Masciotra sees libertarian opposition to being bossed as in tension with “bonds of empathy and ties of solidarity.” Apparently, for Masciotra empathy and solidarity are impossible among equals, and can exist only between benevolent shepherds and their docile, subservient flocks. Libertarians, by contrast, see empathy and solidarity as realized in their fullest and healthiest form between free and equal persons in voluntary, uncoerced, unbossed association.

It seems a safe bet that anyone who ridicules resentment against bosses either is a boss, or aims to be a boss, or wants to curry favour with the bosses. But here at C4SS, our attitude toward bosses — be they politicians and bureaucrats, or corporate beneficiaries of state privilege — is: dump ‘em. In a truly libertarian world, no one will be the boss of anyone else.

 

[Note: for longer discussion of Masciotra’s article, see Sheldon Richman and Kevin Carson.]

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Secret Service Incident Highlights Double Standard

[cross-posted at C4SS]

Imagine the following scenario: You’re driving along one fine evening, pretty thoroughly drunk, and ram your car through police tape and into a barricade. Suppose further that the barricade you’ve smashed into is in front of the White House. For good measure, let’s add that the police tape you broke was marking off an active crime scene — an ongoing bomb investigation, which you’ve now dangerously disrupted.

The cops quickly approach your car. What are your chances of avoiding arrest, or worse?

Oh wait, I forgot to mention that you’re a Secret Service agent. So it turns out you don’t get shot, or tased, or roughed up, or slapped in jail, or even detained. You just go home.

rosco-coltrane-driv

Precisely this scenario unfolded on March 4, with two seemingly intoxicated Secret Service agents crashing into a barricade at the east entrance to the White House grounds, nearly running over a suspicious object that agents on the scene were in the course of investigating as a possible bomb.

Officers on duty wanted to arrest the two or give them sobriety tests, but were instructed by a supervisor to let them go. They’ve been placed in “non-supervisory, non-operational” (but presumably paid) positions pending further investigation. What are the odds that this would have happened to you or me?

Predictably, the incident has led to renewed calls for major reforms of the Secret Service. But the double standard — leniency for the elite in-group, severity for the rest of us — is inherent in the system and cannot be corrected by mere reforms.

Implicit in the idea of a governmental police force, from the Secret Service down to your local beat cop, is inequality of rights. Police by definition are supposed to have rights that other people don’t have: Rights to stop, search, or incarcerate peaceful people, and to use deadly force against those who resist.

But as long as this double standard is inherent in the police system as such, all attempts to reform the system are destined to fail, whether in Staten Island, in Ferguson, or in the Secret Service. So long as power corrupts, and attracts the corruptible, any system characterized by inequality of rights renders abuse inevitable. Reforms that target only the symptoms (abuses) and not their root cause (unequal rights) will achieve, at best, only limited success.

The right to use force in defense of oneself or others is a basic and universal human right. But the rights that police claim for themselves go beyond this. Tossing someone in jail for smoking a joint, or shooting them when they resist being thus kidnapped, cannot plausibly be construed as defense.

ABOLISH THE POLICE

And anything a cop is allowed to do that an ordinary citizen is not — carry a gun, perform arrests, and so on — violates the basic equality of rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (“all men are created equal”) and the Constitution (“equal protection of the laws”).

If we do not wish to perpetuate a two-tiered system of justice, any purported right must either be extended to all or denied to all.

There’s nothing wrong with a group of people choosing careers specializing in rights-protection. But it makes no more sense to give such people special rights, rights denied the rest of us, than it does to give professional bakers the right to prevent you from baking bread in your kitchen. A free society cannot recognize special rights enjoyed by some and denied to others.

So long as we permit the double standard inherent in a system of government police, abuses will continue, and reforms will founder.

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CFP: Lockean Libertarianism

[cross-posted at BHL]

Billy Christmas (who was part of the same MANCEPT 2014 workshop as me (“The Current State of Libertarian Political Philosophy”) in September, and who also participated in the Molinari Society’s symposium on libertarianism and privilege with me this past December) writes to tell me that he is convening a workshop on “Lockean Libertarianism” at MANCEPT 2015 (Manchester UK, 1-3 September 2015). Check out the description below and consider submitting an abstract. I greatly enjoyed last year’s MANCEPT gig and can recommend its sequel.

 

Call for papers: MANCEPT workshop on Lockean Libertarianism

MANCEPT workshops, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, UK.
Tuesday 1st September – Thursday 3rd September 2015.

john-locke-lives

Lockean libertarianism is a family of theories of justice based upon property rights: those we have over ourselves and those we have over the external world. The connection between these two sets of rights is a contentious issue. The self-ownership principle holds that all individuals are, initially, the full moral owners of their own person, including their body, mind, and the product of their labour. The world-ownership principle specifies the rights we have to use and appropriate external resources, including natural resources (e.g. a plot of land, water, forests, deposits of fossil fuels) and products of human labour (e.g. a house, a pencil, a car). Locke himself claimed there is a proviso on the appropriation of external property that required one to leave ‘enough and as good in common for others’. Nozick favoured a weak interpretation of the proviso, while others reject it altogether (e.g. Rothbard, Hoppe), or believe the only proviso that is consistent with self-ownership is so minor that it has no effect of equality (e.g. the ‘Blockean proviso’). Others still think the proviso should be interpreted as in strong support of extensive redistribution of external resources to those who have less than an equal share (e.g. Steiner, Van Parijs, Otsuka, Vallentyne, Roark). Whereas some claim an unjust appropriation of previously unowned resources is an incoherent idea (e.g. Feser), or that resources do not exist independently of an act of discovery (e.g. Paul, Rassmussen & Den Uyl). Some from outside the Lockean tradition believe that the reconciliation of self-ownership with equality is incoherent (e.g. Risse, Cohen), while some within it would agree and oppose any form of egalitarianism (e.g. Rothbard and Hoppe), others reject the incoherence theses (e.g. Steiner and Otsuka), and others still believe equality should be reconceived as equality of authority, which stands in a natural equilibrium with respect for one’s self-ownership (e.g. Long). Lockean libertarianism then, is a very diverse set of political theories, with diverging socioeconomic implications. This workshop aims to provide a space to critically discuss Lockean libertarianism: what it is, and what its implications are. Whether the Lockean approach is taken to be problematic or promising, we invite papers that discuss self-ownership or world-ownership separately, as well as papers on the conceptual connection between self-ownership, world-ownership, and the proviso. We also encourage investigations into potential applications of these different forms of Lockean libertarianism. How should we conceive of, both philosophically and socioeconomically, things like public property and national borders? Can intellectual property be justified on a Lockean basis? Are children self-owners, or the fruits of their parents labour? How ought a Lockean respond to historical injustices such as land theft and slavery?

Please submit abstracts by email to Kasper Ossenblok (kasper.ossenblok@ugent.be) and/or Billy Christmas (billy.christmas@manchester.ac.uk).

Deadline for submissions: 1st June 2015. You will be notified of the success of your submission by 20th June. Please note that the deadline for registering for a graduate student bursary from MANCEPT in June 10th.

u-manchester

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Like Noises In a Swound

I enjoyed my trip to Duluth. After my left-libertarian talk (powerpoint slides here), several leftists in the audience told me that they’d come prepared to do combat with the evil libertarian but ended up surprised and intrigued instead. (Upcoming speakers in the “Ethics of the Market” speaker series may not be as lucky.)

My host, Shane Courtland, was fun to hang out with as well (even if he is a Hobbesian). His office is filled with action figures, ranging from Darth Vader to Walter White.

The hotel where they put me up is in a cool old brewery overlooking the vast frozen expanse that is Lake Superior. Imagine this picture but with everything much whiter:

fitgers-inn

Less delightfully, my bag took a couple of days longer to get back from Duluth than I did (and Delta told me it had delivered my bag to me fifteen hours before it actually did so).

In other news, over the next couple of days I’ll be at my department’s annual conference.

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