Sunday, February 9, 2014

Walter Block: The Case for Suing the New York Times for Libel

A Libertarian Analysis of Suing for Libel
By Walter E. Block

For those of you who have not been paying attention, Rand Paul and a whole host of other people connected to libertarianism have been smeared by the New York Times. I was a minor target of this daily newspaper, but, an infuriated one. So much so that I have so far written not one but two responses to it. They can be found below (Block, 2014A, 2014B). Several libertarians have risen to my defense; for these missives see also Block (2014A). I am not here today going to rehash these issues. I stand by my previous responses. Let me just say I am very grateful for the defenses of me, particularly by my friends Tom Woods and Bob Wenzel.

I now want to broach an entirely different issue: would it be appropriate for me to sue the New York Times for libel and defamation? I have had several dozen letters from libertarians who should have known better begging me, imploring me, demanding of me that I not do any such thing, lest I act incompatibly with the libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP). This is something I take very seriously, as I very much try to understand and abide by the logical implications of this philosophy.

At the outset, it would indeed appear impossible for a consistent libertarian, such as I hope to be, to sue anyone for libel. For, defamation, slander, etc., are a besmirching of reputation, and the good name of each of us, paradoxically, cannot be owned by the person to whom it refers. That is, A’s reputation consists of the thoughts about A on the part of everyone else but A, for example, B, C, D, etc. Ditto for B, C, etc. And, since we cannot own the thoughts of other people, paradoxically, none of us can own our own reputations. If they are “taken” from us, then, no property rights of ours have been abridged.

Murray N. Rothbard said it best when he asked:
 … should “libel” and “slander” be illegal in the free society?

  ... how can they be? Smith has a property right to the ideas or opinions in his own head; he also has a property right to print anything he wants and disseminate it. He has a property right to say that Jones is a ‘thief’ even if he knows it to be false, and to print and sell that statement. The counter-view, and the current basis for holding libel and slander (especially of false statements) to be illegal is that every man has a ‘property right’ in his own reputation, that Smith’s falsehoods damage that reputation, and that therefore Smith’s libels are invasions of Jones’s property right in his reputation and should be illegal. Yet, again, on closer analysis this is a fallacious view. For everyone, as we have stated, owns his own body; he has a property right in his own head and person. But since every man owns his own mind, he cannot therefore own the minds of anyone else. And yet Jones’s ‘reputation’ is neither a physical entity nor is it something contained within or on his own person. Jones’s ‘reputation’ is purely a function of the subjective attitudes and beliefs about him contained in the minds of other people. But since these are beliefs in the minds of others, Jones can in no way legitimately own or control them. Jones can have no property right in the beliefs and minds of other people.
 Let us consider, in fact, the implications of believing in a property right in one’s ‘reputation.’ Suppose that Brown has produced his mousetrap, and then Robinson comes out with a better one. The ‘reputation.’ of Brown for excellence in mousetraps now declines sharply as consumers shift their attitudes and their purchases, and buy Robinson’s mousetrap instead. Can we not then say, on the principle of the ‘reputation’ theory, that Robinson has injured the reputation of Brown, and can we not then outlaw Robinson from competing with Brown? If not, why not? Or should it be illegal for Robinson to advertise, and to tell the world that his mousetrap is better?  In fact, of course, people’s subjective attitudes and ideas about someone or his product will fluctuate continually, and hence it is impossible for Brown to stabilize his reputation by coercion; certainly it would be immoral and aggressive against other people’s property right to try. Aggressive and criminal, then, either to outlaw one’s competition or to outlaw false libels spread about one or one’s product.
 We can, of course, readily concede the gross immorality of spreading false libels about another person. But we must, nevertheless, maintain the legal right of anyone to do so. Pragmatically, again, this situation may well redound to the benefit of the people being libelled (sic). For, in the current situation, when false libels are outlawed, the average person tends to believe that all derogatory reports spread about people are true, ‘otherwise they’d sue for libel.’ This situation discriminates against the poor, since poorer people are less likely to file suits against libelers. Hence, the reputations of poorer or less wealthy persons are liable to suffer more now, when libel is outlawed, then they would if libel were legitimate. For in that libertarian society since everyone would know that false stories are legal, there would be far more skepticism on the part of the reading or listening public, who would insist on far more proof and believe fewer derogatory stories than they do now. Furthermore, the current system discriminates against poorer people in another way; for their own speech is restricted, since they are less likely to disseminate true but derogatory knowledge about the wealthy for fear of having costly libel suits filed against them. Hence, the outlawing of libel harms people of limited means in two ways: by making them easier prey for libels and by hampering their own dissemination of accurate knowledge about the wealthy.




I enthusiastically agree with these scintillatingly powerful words of Murray’s. Indeed, I devoted an entire chapter of my book Defending the Undefendable I to making precisely that case, and Murray was my guide and mentor on that issue and on so much else as well.


How, then, can I justify suing the New York Times for libel? It is simple. The libertarian case against suing for libel applies only to innocent people, and this newspaper does not at all qualify. Rather, this organization is a member in good standing of the ruling class, and all bets are off for criminals of that ilk. This applies, also to using other kinds of violence against those who themselves have broken the libertarian law. For example, Ragnar Danneskjold, the pirate hero in Atlas Shrugged, was in my opinion entirely justified in attacking government ships. But, suppose, for some reason, who was unable to physically invade these boats, but (work with me here) was only able to sue them for libel. Would have been justified in doing so? In my understanding of our libertarian philosophy, this certainly would have been a licit act on his part.


“Ruling class?” might be the response of a critic of these words of mine. “Why,” splutter, splutter, “that is Marxism. Surely, libertarians, Austrian economists, should have no truck with this communist concept.”  There is some truth to this objection. There is indeed such a thing as Marxist ruling class theory. Summarizing this very briefly, employers, entrepreneurs, capitalists, are members of the ruling class, and they exploit all others, customers, citizens, and especially workers. Needless to say, the Austro-libertarian cannot find any such theory conducive, let alone even coherent. It is fatally based on some sort of labor theory of value. If falsely sees exploitation stemming from voluntary interaction between consenting adults. 

But we need not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Just because this version of ruling class theory is irredeemably flawed, does not mean that all such concepts must be tossed out. To wit, there is such a thing as libertarian ruling class theory, or class analysis, and this is entirely consistent with the freedom philosophy. Here, in sharp contrast, the make-up of the exploiters, and the victims, is very different: the former are those in power who continuously and systematically violate the NAP; the latter are all those who suffer from such depredations. Since the government is always and ever the main violator of rights, the ruling class consists of higher echelon statists, and those who aid and abet them. This is close to, but not exactly the same as, Calhoun’s distinction between net tax recipients and net tax losers. For example, there might be an Austro-libertarian professor at a public university who actively works for freedom and is a net tax recipient; but no member of the ruling class, he. Alternatively, the person who cleans the toilets in the White House, or the Fed, or the Pentagon, is not at all a good candidate for membership in the ruling class. Traditionally, when one state beat another in a war, they treated the officers very differently than the enlisted or drafted men. Only the former were seen as members of the defeated nation’s ruling class, not the latter.


This is, admittedly, a slippery concept. People do not come with signs emblazoned on their foreheads indicating that they are members of the ruling class, or not. There is a continuum here. Some people are clearly over the mark; others, not. For instance, a mom and pop operation that supports statism does not qualify; but these companies have been characterized as large scale crony capitalists; e.g., good candidates for membership in the ruling class: ABC, Alliant Techsystems, Archer Daniels Midland, BAE Systems,  Blackhawk Industries, Blackwater,  Boeing,  CBS, Chrysler, Colt,  Fox News, General Dynamics, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Halliburton, KDH Defense Systems, Lenco, Lockheed Martin, Martin-Marietta, Monsanto, MSNBC, NBC, New York Times, Northrup-Grumman, Oshkosh Defense, Raytheon, Washington Post.  There are of course grey areas, where it is difficult (Block and Barnett, 2008) to separate the sheep from the goats. For example, just how big is big? How strong must be the support?


Hans-Hermann Hoppe (1990), as per usual, is brilliant in his analysis of the ruling class from the libertarian perspective. He avers: “One can acquire and increase wealth either through homesteading, producing, saving, or contracting, or by expropriating homesteaders, producers, savers, or contractors. There are no other ways. Both methods are natural to mankind. Alongside homesteading, producing, and contracting, there have always been non-productive and non-contractual property acquisitions. And in the course of economic development, just as producers and contractors can form firms, enterprises, and corporations, so can exploiters create large-scale exploitation enterprises, governments, and states. The ruling class (which may again be internally stratified) is initially composed of the members of such an exploitation firm.” For more on the ruling class see: Block, 2006; Domhoff, 1967, 1971, 1998; Donaldson and Poynting, 2007; Hughes, 1977; Kolko, 1963; Mises, 1978; Oppenheimer, 1975; Raico, 1977; Rockwell, 2001.


What are the criteria for ruling class membership? Obviously, aiding and abetting statist depredations in a large scale manner will tend to qualify a given candidate. The New York Times certainly passes muster in this regard. According to Wenzel’s incisive analysis, this newspaper is a “propaganda machine for the state.” He continues: “Under the government manipulated economy that we live in, certain ‘private’ entities must be considered agents of the state. Goldman Sachs comes to mind, but so does New York Times.”


Another criterion is a hypothetical one. Is this entity “too big to fail?” If it were on the verge of bankruptcy, would the government bail it out, give it a subsidy, or some sort of protection against competitors? (I owe this point to Michael Edelstein). It can only be speculative, but it would appear that the “Grey Lady” fits the bill in this regard as well. Would the U.S., New York State and New York City governments all allow this icon of left liberalism progressivism to fail? It seems unlikely.


Then there is the issue of donating money to the government. If a supposedly private person or firm does this, then to that extent they are also good candidates for ruling class membership (see Block, 2009A, 2009B, 2011). For evidence that the New York Times, and/or its significant owners, the Sulzbergers, have donated money to the government, see here, here and here.


What about ownership positions in industries heavily regulated by government, such as radio and television, etc. This, after all, is how Lyndon Baines Johnson “earned” a goodly part of his ill-gotten crony capitalist wealth. Here, too, there is evidence supporting the membership claim for the “newspaper of record” in the ranks of the ruling class. See on this here, here and here. The New York Times may not have garnered much in the way of money from its foray into this field, but it cannot be denied that it has gained in terms of respectability, reputation, ability to influence opinion, etc.


One counter-argument is that this newspaper did no more than engage in its rights of free speech. Therefore, it should not be considered guilty of any crime under the libertarian code, let alone being a member of this “ruling class.” Stuff and nonsense. Libertarians are not free speech absolutists. There are some speaking acts that are forbidden since they violate the NAP. For example threats: “Your money or your life” is a “mere” act of speech. But, when uttered in the context where it is a threat (not in a play or movie or novel, not in my present use of this phrase), it is a rights violation. Let us stipulate that neither Hitler nor Stalin ever personally murdered anyone. Are they therefore guiltless of violating the NAP? Of course not. They engaged in “free speech” of the sort that is proscribed by libertarianism: giving orders, making threats, being part and parcel of a relevant ruling class. I do not say the speech acts of the New York Times approach that level of criminality. I merely note that this organization cannot hide behind rights of free speech to deflect criticisms of guilt under the libertarian code.


“So what,” it might be objected. Even stipulating that this periodical is as guilty as has now been demonstrated, it still does not logically follow that it is justified to sue them for libel, as to do this would be to launch an invasive act against them, and this, too, is forbidden under libertarian law. Once again Wenzel (2014) comes to the rescue. He states: “governments and their agents have no rights.” If the New York Times is really an agent of the government, and it is, it is, it has no protection against being sued by a libertarian. Were I to win such a lawsuit, I would be awarded damages. It is illicit for a libertarian to accept money from a government, or a government agent such as this one? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no a thousand times no.


As it happens, I have decided not to pursue any course of legal action on these grounds against the New York Times. My reasoning is as follows: 1. It would cost a lot of money; estimates are, at a minimum, about $30,000. I don’t have anything like that amount to spend on such a course of action; several dozen people have offered to contribute to such an effort, for which I thank them, but I really think this money could be spent in other ways more likely to promote liberty (my suggestion: donate these funds to the Mises Institute, that bastion of liberty and sensible, e.g., Austrian economics). 2. It would take a lot of time; not only mine, but of numerous other libertarians too. I would rather spend these hours writing, publishing, giving speeches, etc., on a personal basis, and I have become convinced liberty would better be enhanced in that way too. 3. The last thing I would want to do is even slightly undermine the campaign for president of Rand Paul’s, and I am convinced that further focus on the mud-slinging against him by the newspaper that prints “all the news that is fit to print” would risk this. But, the argument that it would be incompatible with libertarianism to sue these rascals, I think I have shown, is invalid.


P.S. A while ago, I wrote on this very same subject (Block, 2008). I came to the erroneous conclusion, then, that it would be improper for the libertarian to sue anyone for libel. I now think I was greatly mistaken in this earlier foray of mine into this difficult issue.


References:


Block, Walter E. 2006. “Radical Libertarianism: Applying Libertarian Principles to Dealing with the Unjust Government, Part II” Reason Papers, Vol. 28, Spring, pp.  85-109; http://www.walterblock.com/publications/block_radical-libertarianism-rp.pdf; http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/block_radical-libertarianism-rp.pdf


Block, Walter E. 2008. “Sue for libel?” December 29; http://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block124.html


Block, Walter E. 2009A. “Libertarian punishment theory: working for, and donating to, the state” Libertarian Papers, Vol. 1; http://libertarianpapers.org/2009/17-libertarian-punishment-theory-working-for-and-donating-to-the-state/


Block, Walter E. 2009B. "Toward a Libertarian Theory of Guilt and Punishment for the Crime of Statism" in Hulsmann, Jorg Guido and Stephan Kinsella, eds., Property, Freedom and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, pp. 137-148; http://mises.org/books/hulsmann-kinsella_property-freedom-society-2009.pdf


Block, Walter E. 2011. “Toward a libertarian theory of charitable donations.”Economics, Management, and Financial Markets. Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 9-28; http://www.addletonacademicpublishers.com/abstracts/economics-management-and-financial-markets/volume-64-2011/toward-a-libertarian-theory-of-charitable-donations-to-criminals-governments.html; http://www.addletonacademicpublishers.com/component/option,com_sectionex/Itemid,103/id,23/view,category/#catid143


Block, Walter. 2014A. “Reply to the Scurrilous, Libelous, Venomous, Scandalous New York Times Smear Campaign.” January 30; http://www.lewrockwell.com/?post_type=article&p=473740&preview=true; http://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/01/walter-e-block/scurrilous-libelous-venomous/; http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2014/01/walter-block-how-nyt-mischaracterized.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+economicpolicyjournal%2FKpwH+%28EconomicPolicyJournal.com%29; http://libertycrier.com/scurrilous-libelous-venomous/; http://libertycrier.com/scurrilous-libelous-venomous/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LibertyCrier+%28Liberty+Crier%29; http://www.reddit.com/r/Anarcho_Capitalism/comments/1wm4l1/you_must_hear_tom_woods_commentary_the_antitruth/; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0V5GwxkanD4; http://tomwoods.com/blog/on-handling-a-new-york-times-reporter/; http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2014/02/outrage-if-only-walter-block-was.html; http://www.law.nyu.edu/sites/default/files/ECM_PRO_060927.pdf; http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2014/02/outrage-if-only-walter-block-was.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+economicpolicyjournal%2FKpwH+%28EconomicPolicyJournal.com%29; http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/02/04/libertarian-wants-help-suing-nyt-for-libel-over-accurately-quoted-remarks-on-slavery/


Block, Walter. 2014B. “Sue New York Times for libel?!?!” February 1;
http://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/sue-new-york-times-for-libel/


Block, Walter and William Barnett II. 2008. “Continuums” Journal Etica e Politica / Ethics & Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 151-166, June; http://www2.units.it/~etica/ ; http://www2.units.it/~etica/2008_1/BLOCKBARNETT.pdf


Domhoff, G. William. 1967. Who Rules America? Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall.


Domhoff, G. William. 1971. The Higher Circles: The Governing Class in America. New York: Vintage Books


Domhoff, G. William. 1998. Who Rules America? Power and Politics in the Year 2000, Third Edition, Santa Cruz: University of California


Donaldson, Mike and Scott Poynting. 2007. Ruling Class Men: Money, Sex, Power. Peter Lang.


Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 1990. "Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis," The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2, Fall, pp. 79-94; http://mises.org/journals/jls/9_2/9_2_5.pdf; http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache:K12nTci91bQJ:www.mises.org/journals/jls/9_2/9_2_5.pdf+%22Marxist+and+Austrian+Class+Analysis,%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us


Hughes, Jonathan R.T. 1977. The Governmental Habit: Economic Controls from Colonial Times to the Present.  New York: Basic Books,


Kolko, Gabriel. 1963. Triumph of Conservatism, Chicago: Quadrangle Books


Mises, Ludwig von. 1978. The Clash of Group Interests and Other Essays. New York: Center for Libertarian Studies. http://www.mises.org/etexts/mises/clash/clash.asp
Oppenheimer, Franz. [1914] 1975.  The State, New York: Free Life Editions


Raico, Ralph. 1977. "Classical Liberal exploitation theory: a comment on Professor Liggio's paper," The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 3, Summer, pp. 179-184; http://mises.org/daily/4567/; http://mises.org/document/1641/Classical-Liberal-Exploitation-Theory-A-Comment-on-Professor-Liggios-Paper


Rockwell, Jr. Llewellyn H. 2001. “Liberty and the Common Good” December 31;
http://www.mises.org/article.aspx?Id=860


Wenzel, Robert. 2014. “Will Walter Block Be On Firm Libertarian Principle If He Sues NYT?” February 3; http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2014/02/will-walter-block-be-on-firm.html

Dr. Walter Block  is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the UndefendableThe Case for DiscriminationLabor Economics From A Free Market PerspectiveBuilding Blocks for LibertyDiffering Worldviews in Higher Education, and The Privatization of Roads and Highways. His latest book is Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty.

14 comments:

  1. Fantastic, knew Walter would deliver. Not sure i am entirely clear on the criteria of "member of the ruling flass" however. What about a big campaign donor's private blog? Twitter account? That of a poor obscure man who hopes to join the ruling class someday? At some level, anybody who slanders libertarians with politicalg oals in mind?

    Jerry Wolfgang?

    A new can of worms is opened with the fealty to Rand Paul's campaign. Would love to read Walter's defense of Rand's realpolitik. True indeed his time is well spent writing rather than suing.

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  2. "For evidence that the New York Times, and/or its significant owners, the Sulzbergers, have donated money to the government, see here, here and here."

    This is really all that needs to be said. Monetary support to the authoritarian state means being complicit with that authoritarian state's actions. it means the NYT has "bought away" its innocence vis-a-vis the NAP.

    But for me it needn't even comply with that standard. I think a libertarian is justified to begin with to battle statists with laws that the statists themselves accept. Libel is a state law. The NYT is a massive supporter of the state; ergo, there is no moral problem with fighting this collaborator with the state's laws.

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  3. First, a big "THANK YOU" to Dr. Block for explaining his reasoning to us.

    I will start be quoting the crux of the debate IMO via Rothbard:

    "For everyone, as we have stated, owns his own body; he has a property right in his own head and person. But since every man owns his own mind, he cannot therefore own the minds of anyone else. And yet Jones’s ‘reputation’ is neither a physical entity nor is it something contained within or on his own person. Jones’s ‘reputation’ is purely a function of the subjective attitudes and beliefs about him contained in the minds of other people. But since these are beliefs in the minds of others, Jones can in no way legitimately own or control them."

    What I am about to say, I don't want to say, for the record- I'm trying to be intellectually honest(with myself), even if I'm proven wrong.

    I disagree with Murray Rothbard.

    Why? His ENTIRE argument is the quoted passage by Block(which I highlight a part of above) is dependent on the notion that an idea can not be property.

    I understand that this is a dominate view within the libertarian community(but not the only view), but if one undertakes it, you have to use a different definition of "property" as it's defined by John Locke, Bastiat, & Spooner-who all employ elements of the labor theory of property- WHICH ROTHBARD SEEMS TO SLAM:

    " It is fatally based on some sort of labor theory of value."

    Yet in his own exploration of what property is, he has explored such:

    "If there is more land than can be used by a limited labor supply, then the unused land must simply remain unowned until a first user arrives on the scene." (M.E.S.)

    If Rothbard did truly feel that property must be physical, then how does this square with this:

    "Yet this bracketing of patents and copyrights is wholly fallacious; the two are completely different in relation to the free market.
It is true that a patent and a copyright are both exclusive property rights and it is also true that they are both property rights in innovations. But there is a crucial difference in their legal enforcement. If an author or a composer believes his copy¬right is being infringed, and he takes legal action, he must “prove that the defendant had ‘access’ to the work allegedly infringed. If the defendant produces something identical with the plaintiff’s work by mere chance, there is no infringement.”Copyrights, in other words, have their basis in prosecution of implicit theft. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant stole the former’s creation by reproducing it and selling it himself in violation of his or someone else’s contract with the original seller. But if the defendant independently arrives at the same creation, the plaintiff has no copyright privilege that could prevent the defendant from using and selling his product." (M.E.S.)

    Does an innovation not start with an idea(like a REPUTATION)? Isn't that the concept behind "self discovery" as an exoneration?

    Even more painful to this whole issue to me personally, is that I don't like Kinsella personally but I can now see and fully understand why he calls Rothbard "confused" on the issue of IP.

    Rothbard does seem consistent to me either now after having read the above.

    Even further, I must know declare myself as being what looks like to be a "outer fringe" member of libertarians that think ideas can be property, against the thoughts of Rothbard, Block, Hoppe, etc......UGH!

    I really hate this whole discussion now.

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    1. edit: "Rothbard does NOT seem consistent" & "His ENTIRE argument in the quoted passage"

      I wish there was a way we could edit our posts.

      Delete
    2. Nick

      I share your sentiments, struggles, disdains, etc., on this general topic.

      Delete
    3. Thank you for the note BM, I appreciate your work and everyone's else's here I reference, including Block, Wenzel, Hoppe and many others.

      Delete
  4. Walter, your trials and tribulations notwithstanding, have you considered the fact that the NYT's article represents an opportunity? Other than recently, when was the last time that major news outlets talked about libertarianism? (pretty much never)

    Okay, I will grant that the NYT will probably be non-existant in less than 10 years, and will thus be irrelevant. But still! It's exposure.

    Sure, there has been a recent attack from the MSM against libertarianism, that much is for certain (it's coming from all angles). But this is all the more reason to stick to libertarian principles and show the world what libertarianism is all about. There's no room for martyrs or hop-skips.

    If you would have sued, that would only put these ideas 10 steps behind, whereas--even with the bad publicity--these ideas are already 10 steps ahead of where they were before. Now is the most important time to be consistent and stick to first principles; libertarians are now in the spotlight.

    While I am highly respectful and appreciative of your work, this has gone far beyond just you. Let you not be so selfish as to believe that you're the target.

    If you would have sued, then the rest of the libertarian community would be spending time explaining or debating the peculiarities of your case rather than addressing the issues put forth to them. We only have so much time in the day, it's best that we put them to good and consistent use.

    (Just to be clear, I came to a libertarian position by reading thinkers like yourself, Rothbard, Hoppe, and many others. I was never a Randian. In fact, I've tried to read Rand's fictional works, but was bored to tears within short order.)

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  5. Thanks, Dr. Block! I have been waiting on the edge of my seat for your analysis of your decision, and it was a great read! However, I disagree...

    The libertarian NAP is ultimately a framework for the application of violence. When the NAP is violated, the victim can justifiably use violence in defense. Your assertion (as well as Wenzel's) that the State and it's agents have no rights, (and are not innocent parties) and that, thus, violence can be justifiably employed in response to an action that doesn't violate the NAP (like libel) is inconsistent with the proper application of force. If Joesph Stalin himself calls a person a "doo doo head" and hurts the feelings of that person, the person is not justified in using violence in response, because calling someone a "doo doo head" is not a violation of the NAP. Only in the defense of property is the use of violence justifiable if one is to be consistent with the NAP.

    This does not mean we cannot rejoice as the State and it's agents are undermined, as in the assassination of a dictator, or the nullification of a federal law by a state law. However wonderful these events and actions may be from the utilitarian perspective, they are not acts that are consistent with libertarianism.

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    1. "Your assertion (as well as Wenzel's) that the State and it's agents have no rights, (and are not innocent parties) and that, thus, violence can be justifiably employed in response to an action that doesn't violate the NAP (like libel) is inconsistent with the proper application of force."

      That's how I see it too Rick. Deciding when someone or something maybe be an agent of the State is as subjective apparently as deciding what is or is not property. :)

      As usual, I appreciate your comments.

      Delete
    2. I disagree.
      While this does apply in a libertarian society, we are not living in one, and are ruled by laws which are profoundly unjust.

      We can apply the NAP in a way conforming with libertarian principle in a libertarian society, because in that case the results are according to libertarian justice.

      However, in a statist society, it would be entirely counter-productive to apply libertarian standards to behaviors and laws which are protecting a monopoly of force and its supporters, and we therefor cannot count on results in accordance with libertarian justice.
      For instance, if you defend yourself against aggression from the state (as according to the NAP), you know you can count on even MORE aggression, and society, the justice system et al will see YOU as the bad guy.

      As an example: In a libertarian society, one does not have to sue a Stalin for calling you a "doo doo head". Who cares? You just call him something nasty back and be done with it.

      But in a society "as is", if you call HIM a "doo doo head" he can have you forcefully arrested and sent to the gulags because of the discrepancy of power and because of the lack of libertarian justice as a result of the law. This discrepancy of power should be taken into consideration because one cannot truly defend oneself against this power. Would it be the correct position to accept one's fate then? I say nonsense.

      I don't believe the NAP really means anything, unless we can count on libertarian justice to be at the end of it. We can still apply the NAP to innocent and peaceful people now, because they "behave" in such a manner even within in statist society. However this does NOT apply to the state and its agents, who keep the state alive and therefor libertarian justice out of reach.

      The state makes libertarian justice impossible, therefor the libertarian system of "law" does not apply to them anymore, than you can reason with a crocodile.

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    3. "Deciding when someone or something maybe be an agent of the State is as subjective apparently as deciding what is or is not property."

      I would like to clarify that this does not apply to the case of the NYT's, as pointed out by RW in the post dated 02/10/14 and any suggestion that it should or does is not what I intended nor represents the objective truth that the NYT's is clearly an agent of the state.

      It was a flippant comment on my party and intended to be a small poke(in fun) to Rick Miller on a side debate we are having on what "property" is/is not.

      My apologies to everyone.

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  6. Tony,

    I have a friend who once told me he was going to sign up for food stamps, welfare, any government freebie that he could acquire because "it's all fiat money anyway!" This friend is a state-hater, but had essentially come to the same conclusion you have when you say:

    "...in a statist society, it would be entirely counter-productive to apply libertarian standards to behaviors and laws which are protecting a monopoly of force and its supporters..."

    One's principles become quite irrelevant if in the pursuance of life's challenges they are tossed to the wind by taking a "when in Rome..." attitude. Our heroes have refused to compromise in their pursuit of living life in the right way according to their principles. Consider this passage from Lew Rockwell's Fascism verses Capitalism (page 73):

    "In different ways, in different sectors, and in different countries, it seemed like Mises and Hazlitt were living parallel lives. At each crossroad in life, they had both chosen the path of principle. They chose freedom even when it was at the expense of their own bank accounts and even though their choice brought professional decline and risked failure in the eyes of their colleagues."

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  7. I didn't see anyone else mention this, but there are some unpleasant externalities to a libel suit. If there is a jury trial, a jury pool of perhaps 30 or more persons will be subjected to the involuntary servitude imposed by the state. A judge and others will also be paid for by the taxpayers.

    I also oppose suing because it seems hypocritical. Just because the libeler is a part of, apologist for or dupe of the state seems to me a poor excuse to toss out your conviction that NO ONE HAS A PROPERTY RIGHT IN THEIR REPUTATION.

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