Walter Block has written one last response in his debate with Robert Wenzel about the primacy of property rights over all.
Although In my view Block has certainly made a better attempt at stating his case this time around, he still makes several mistakes.
1: Walter Block ignores the fact that parents, first and most of all, bear responsibility for their childrens’ actions and safety. Nowhere in his response does the question of parental responsibility even arise. Do they no longer tell their children not to go with strangers in these new, libertarian times?
2: Walter Block ignores that any predator who uses aggression against people on his own property would feel the wrath of society through social and economic isolation. Whatever ties this predator has to the outside world, he is extremely likely to lose. This can include economic ties, social ties, technological and infrastructural ties (the provision of electricity, water, gas and permission to enter property outside his own). Also, after the very first instance of this predator’s actions, his infamy will reach the outside world and nobody would make the same mistake again. As a matter of fact, if he so much as leaves his own property all bets are off and he himself can be released from this world. Walter Block suggests that in order to prevent wrong doing even on one’s own property, private property rights must by definition be violated through law and some ruling body. Can we simply state, then, that Walter Block simply does not believe in private property rights? Where does aggression end, and mistakes or even defense of property rights begin? What if someone is invited and then starts badmouthing the owner’s wife, or thrashing his furniture, or simply refuses to leave? Without the presence of any other witnesses, how does Block think it will be determined who was in the right? Since in a libertarian society nobody that is still officially innocent can be compelled to cooperate with investigations, good luck trying to find out the facts of the case.
3: The child invited by the predator is a rather extreme example and as noted Block makes no attempt to even consider how this matter would be resolved without the necessity of a ruling body. As if a ruling body will prevent a predator from doing this very thing. A ruling body would only act after the fact. Why not let society act after the fact? A much more dubious example made by Block is the one where a property owner should be made to place fences signs on his own property to denote the presence of guard or “attack” dogs?
Why? Is the property not his? Are the dogs not his? Are people, in this specific case, invited by the owner onto his property? Whomever chooses to wander onto someone’s property should take the responsibility of his own actions. One should simply assume that without a specific invitation one is not allowed on someone else’s property, regardless of the presence of guard dogs and signs or fences or not. Any property owner would also be very likely to fence off his property on his own, for he bears responsibility for the dog’s actions outside of his own property, so if dogs leave his property and do harm, he is responsible and can be made to pay for it. Also the dogs can be put down, which he is likely not to want see happen.
The notion that a property owner should be made to place fences and signs on his property about his dogs is a violation of private property right, PERIOD. Without aggression, no responsibility whatever can be placed on anyone. Block is here contradicting even his own understanding of the NAP, the Non-Aggression Principle, by wanting to force private property owners to do something on their private property even when no aggression has occurred.
4: Block keeps insisting that private property rights come from the NAP. Let me ask, if someone were out in the open, yet on his own property, and decides to lie in the sun nude, would this be a form of aggression toward passers by who may not desire to see nudity while on their own property? Where exactly does aggression on one’s own property start?
5: All of this can be immaterial if we simply question: what is a ruling body which decides what behavior on one’s OWN property is allowable and which not, if not a monopoly of force? What is such a ruling body, if not government? Just because it is extremely limited by some overarching principles, does not mean it is not a government. Limited government, after all, is also limited by overarching principles, even if not substantially libertarian. So by all accounts it seems as if Block is suggesting, YES, a libertarian government. And whether he likes to admit it or not, this would make him a minarchist. How exactly, one must ask again, does Block differ from his Objectivist opponents that claim there must be some final arbiter, lest chaos ensues?
The difference between Block and other anarcho-capitalists, is that Block demonstrates a profound lack of faith in society to deal with these types of problems, and instead vests his confidence in a government-type ruling body. If society at large would not see, and act against, these types of problems with predators, then what legitimacy, exactly, does any ruling body truly have anyway?
Block exhibits the mentality of a minarchist statist; the mentality of a man profoundly scared of a society that is truly free and will deal with problems itself. A man scared of a society sans a government-like body. A man who does not even truly believe in the sanctity of private property rights and believes a ruling body should have some right to invade these property rights, even when no aggression has been committed. But where, exactly, does a ruling body get these rights? To simple state they get them from the NAP is insufficient without explaining exactly where the NAP itself comes from.
As far as situations are concerned, where people can be invited only to be aggressed against, in such a society it is likely that all invitations would be subject to open contracts signed voluntarily by the property owner not to commit any particular behaviors in the case of voluntary invitations. A refusal of any property owner to sign such a contract, would likely result in not being serviced by social institutions in any way for lack of dependably peaceful and reliable conduct. In other words, society itself would shun such persons to the degree that such a person could hardly survive for long. No law is needed here (and would only act after the fact anyway).
The response of some commentators that want to draw analogies with the mafia is absurd, because there is no analogy. The mafia violates other people’s property rights, when what we are discussing here are actions on one’s OWN property. Second, the mafia is a phenomenon of statist societies, in which certain goods or behaviors have been criminalized (liquor, drugs, gambling etc), rendering them extremely profitable in a black market environment. No goods or victimless behaviors in a AnCap society would be criminalized. The market would drive prices down. One small consideration of the environment in which mafia families flourish should render this analogy to a stateless society to the realm of the ridiculous.
And why should people residing on the properties around a predator’s domain not put walls or fences on the edges of their own property to limit entrance to the predator’s property in the case where such a predator is not willing to sign an open contract regarding his conduct? After all, if we assume complete property rights, then anybody has the right to put walls or fences on his own property with the end result being that the predator is completely boxed in.
As you can see, society has ways of dealing with people whose social conduct cannot be relied upon. Why would we need a ruling body? Block claims that Wenzel is not libertarian at all when it comes to these issues. Quite the contrary: Block argues like a statist who sees a need for a government-like institutions to force compliance, when there are arguments that such an institution is simply not needed. Who, then, is the better libertarian?
P.S. How is the NAP based on homesteading? Or homesteading based on the NAP?
The first presumes that non-aggression on one’s own property is somehow inherent in claiming a virginal piece of property for oneself, yet Block makes no case how this is so. The second presumes that homesteading a piece of virginal land (land not owned by anyone) is subject to some rules/laws, implicitly making the claim that the virginal land in fact IS the property of another.
What is the NAP? It means that no man has the right to initiate aggression. This principle is derived from the rightful ownership of property. One may not aggress against another because this would be a violation of one’s property in himself. Not vice versa. One’s body is one’s property. One’s land is one’s property. This is why a property owner gets to set the RULES of conduct on his own property, whether the property in question is one’s body or material goods (for example one decides that one may be punched by another in cases such as boxing). It makes much more sense rationally for the non-aggression principle to be derived from property rights than from property rights to be derived from the non-aggression principle. By committing aggression you are violating someone’s property rights. But if not from property rights, where is the non-aggression principle actually derived from? Being an owner of your body and life means this property may not be violated. How does ownership of your body derive from the NAP, logically?
Suppose we agree that private property rights are a result from the NAP. Can someone explain where the principle of non-aggression originates from, if not the sanctity of one’s property? Why is someone not allowed to punch me, if the reason is not that i and i alone am the owner of my body? Why is someone not allowed to steal my property, if the reason is not that the property belongs to me?
Aggression is a result. The result comes from the violation of private ownership. If we do not first accept private property ownership, how can we even define theft, or physical harm? If we do not first determine that we own our bodies, how can we determine someone is assaulting us? If we do not first determine that we own our house, how can we determine that someone has burglarized it? What is aggression, if we do not first define the meaning of property?
You see where i’m going. I seriously doubt that private property rights can be logically derived from the NAP, rather than the other way around.