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I was expecting to get some Rothbard supporters in the comment thread, but so far have not. That could be because none of them read my substack.

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I believe that Rothbard regarded "lying to the public" as a type of persuasion-weapon employed by the government. Perhaps he viewed his own use of such a weapon as justifiable self-defense?

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Your viewpoint reminds me of this passage from Gene Callahan's "The Right to Walk Away" (2003):

"The embracing of diverse ethical bases for libertarianism might lead some people to accuse me of moral relativism. The suggestion is slanderous. I don’t for a minute contend that all philosophies are created equal, or that there is no best worldview. There certainly is a best worldview . . . and of course it is the one that I hold. But I do realize that not all of you agree with me on everything, at least not at present. (Many of you will come to see the light. I’m certain of it.) However, when I go to my butcher to get a roast, I don’t worry about whether he agrees with me about metaphysical dualism. Similarly, when I look for allies in the fight for liberty, their opinion on the doctrine of transubstantiation is of minor importance to me. (This is not to belittle the importance of such topics. They are just not important to the task at hand, be it buying beef or realizing liberty.) Frankly, I am more interested in ethical behavior than in ethical systems. As I see it, an ethical system supports, not determines, ethical behavior. I applaud any ethical system that steers its followers away from using aggression to achieve their ends. Disputing the merits of various ethical systems is hardly pointless. But I don’t think that attempting to resolve that debate is how we will advance on our road. In order to progress toward liberty, we must convince “the Average Joe” that liberty is important to him."

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Following the Mises Interpretation of Hamburg (Rolf Puster is Professor of Philosophy of the Hamburg University), you are closer to Austrian Economics than Rothbard.

Setting laws in stone, like "property rights" or a specific code regarding property rights, is akin to fixing the price of a loaf of bred based on some theory/moral intuition.

Or in Austrian terms: the existence of property rights is an empirical thing. A priori we only know that a society will give itself some rules, because one can assume a process (like the one you describe) in which laws are put in place to optimally serve society's members and:

A society without rules becomes victim to the dominance of the most offensive members. If the the set of rules is the empty set, there are additional rules conceivable that would improve the situation for everyone (unlike me, Puster would give a formally sound argument here).

And a society where every objection of any member at any point in time becomes law (e.g. the maximum number of laws that is conceivable) would improve by eliminating laws.

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I’ve often had to tell minarchists that market anarchism, which they view as more extreme than minarchism, would probably result in much less libertarian law, because it has to be broadly acceptable, including to people with no libertarian tendencies. And that would make it more stable than minarchism.

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Lots of non Libertarian political and intellectual movements seem to be dominated by people with styles similar to Rothbard and Rand in the ways you outline. The broader and perhaps more interesting question is what this says about human psychology generally and the nature of political and intellectual life.

My guess is that the various features we find ugly in such thinkers are part of the reason they manage to be so successful, that being disinterested and epistemically careful, fail to properly engage the tribal aspects of our mind, that motivate politics etc.

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I certainly support Professor David Friedman, and in fact one of my former friends was a Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist. In her view, even if supporting Rothbard's proposition would lead to worse consequences (such as the rise of a more authoritarian government), it should still be implemented because then we can get "philosophical justice" and "philosophical justice". "Justice" itself should not care about actual interests.

I asked her a hypothetical scenario (although I thought it was impossible): What if a group of Korean “supporters of anarchocapitalism” instigated populism and overthrew the Korean government, killed or arrested all government civil servants and military soldiers, and plunged Korea into anarchy state and refused all assistance from foreign governments, which eventually led to the North Korean army taking the opportunity to invade and turning South Korea into a country ruled by a totalitarian government - their behavior was completely in line with Rothbard's requirements, so is it okay?

Her answer to me was: Yes, it is all worth it. Although we cannot control the behavior of the North Korean government, we have the right to demand that anarcho-capitalists who "identify with the principles of natural law" fully comply with Rothbard's ideas.

By the same token, she also fully supports the Maoist protests in China's "A4 Revolution" because the actions of the Maoists can bring down the current Chinese government (even though the Maoists may establish a more terrifying totalitarian state, plus On the other hand, Rothbard supported the source of motivation for young people to worship Mao Zedong); on the contrary, he had a cold attitude towards the resistance of Chinese liberals (because liberals do not necessarily demand the complete destruction of the Chinese government).

So Rothbard's problem, in my opinion, is that unless everyone or the vast majority of people on the planet are required to agree with Rothbard's point of view, it is almost impossible for his vision to be realized.

(I'm from China, my English is very bad, please forgive me)

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

Perhaps the area Rothbard’s position is strongest is in issues like Slavery which he covers in detail. If a system is clearly in violation of natural rights, then anyone (or any group) has the authority to take action to end that system.

The problem with rothbards position is how his system will preventing people from having their own interpretations of natural rights or simply using them as a false justification. Still to a lot of people, a system of private courts that would allow even theoretically slavery to exist is abhorrent.

Even though slavery is illegal everywhere today it is still common in practice. If a system of private law would reduce slavery in total even though it might allow pockets of slavery in theory, it would be a more just system than the current one.

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All these schemes assume that cognitive effort has no cost. That everyone has the ability, time, and inclination to shop carefully. I don’t think that’s reasonable.

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In 2020, my wife and I moved from California to Kansas, after evaluating three dozen cities in a dozen states, and visiting two. We weren't motivated solely by the legal and policy environment—the high and rising cost of living in California was a factor (though of course the policy environment there is not irrelevant to the cost of living). But the different political climate certainly was a factor. There seems to be an element of consumer choice among different legal systems there, even though both states have governments. And it also seems that in an anarchocapitalist society, there would not be complete freedom to choose any legal package you liked; there would be certain firms offering legal codes, and you would have to accept one that was available where you wanted to live—or move somewhere else. I'm not sure there is a sharp boundary between those two cases.

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"Rothbard’s answer was that the thief must give back twice the value he stole"

That he would come up with an arbitrary number like that out of his hat is really laughable.

Why do you think Rothbard had such a large following?

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I hear the faint echo of Plato's philosopher-king in the assertion of spontaneous unanimity on the law. But isn't that effectively a "no true Libertarian" fallacy identical to the "no true Scotsman"?

Also, Vernor Vinge's "The Peace War" has a couple of lines that imply different sets of laws and even rights amongst contracted legal systems. In a related short, we even see the statist media take on that. I am of the opinion that what he shows is plausible under the slightly contrived initial condition, the "Peace Authority" doesn't permit anything they recognise as a government.

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It was hard to take Rothbard seriously after reading A Positive Account of Property Rights.

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Some combination of market "law and order" and libertarian philosophy seems to be required. Neither is likely to be sufficient on its own. On the specific issue of how much "the thief must give back", I have offered a "risk-multiplier" solution: the greater the likelihood of evading capture; the greater the rectificatory libertarian amount. This at least appears to avoid the most obvious problems with any fixed amount. https://jclester.substack.com/p/libertarian-rectification

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Yours is the correct approach, but Rothbard's seems the more influential style. At least, for now.

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