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Posts by Neverfox

That’s Unpossible!

Gene Callahan confesses to a problem he sees for “ideological anarchism”:

But consider the institution of private property, which anarcho-capitalists [sic - only them?] often hold out as ‘peaceful’ and ‘voluntary,’ as opposed to the ‘violent’ and ‘coercive’ State. Well, it is true that private property is peaceful – just so long as everyone agrees to follow the same property rules, in other words, its peacefulness depends upon its voluntariness. But the latter is often absent. Many, many times, people fail to agree on just who owns what – and then private property turns violent and coercive. Let’s say you believe wild lands should be free for all to roam, while I believe I own some woods in which I employ my truffle pigs. If this difference of opinion cannot be resolved, and the issue is of some importance to each of us, one of us will wind up coercing the other to accept his point of view.

The State is either peaceful and voluntary or violent and coercive in just the same way and for just the same reasons. As long as everyone agrees to and follows the State’s rules, there is no need for violence and coercion. It is only when there are disputes over the rules, or an unwillingness to follow them, that violence ensues.

…government can exist without coercion in the exact same way and to the exact same extent that private property can exist without coercion: to the extent everyone voluntarily respects its rules.

But what if it is not possible to “voluntarily respect [the state's] rules” or for the state to “exist without coercion”?

If there is no effective possibility of refusal, then there is no possibility of publicly expressing consent, and if there is no possibility of publicly expressing consent, then there is no possibility of consenting. If existing states make a standing threat to force people to submit to their terms, even if they do not agree to those terms, then governments cut off any effective possibility of refusal, and thus nobody can do anything that would count as consenting to be ruled by an existing state — even if she wants to do so, and even if she sincerely says that she agrees to the terms. Since all existing states do make that standard threat, no existing state rules by consent over any individual subject. And if governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, then no government has any just powers at all. Even the most patriotic pledger or the most dutiful voter has not consented to be bound by the terms the state imposes, even if she tried to get herself bound by them; she is not bound in conscience to pay taxes, or to obey government prohibitions, or to obey the government’s requirements in any other way, for even one second longer than she wants to. And no existing state has either the duty or the right to enforce those terms on her.

- Charles Johnson, Can anybody ever consent to the State? (Emphasis mine)

If Charles is right (hint: I think he is), does the concept of private property suffer from the same impossibility? If it doesn’t, it seems Callahan’s analogy cannot work. If it does, it only seems so much the worse for private property rather than adding support to Callahan’s (impossible) suggestion that:

The actual way forward towards a less coercive society consists not in de-legitimizing the State, but in legitimizing it, in other words, promoting voluntary compliance with the State’s laws in so far as they are just, and working to change them peacefully in so far as they are not.


Filed under: Anarchism, Property Tagged: Charles Johnson, Gene Callahan
Categories: Anarchism

The Last Thing the State Sees Before It Dies

Charles Johnson, Gary Chartier, Steven Horwitz, Sheldon Richman, and Roderick Long at APEE's Free-Market Anti-Capitalism panel in Las Vegas, 13 April 2010


Filed under: Anti-Capitalism, Fun, Left-Libertarianism, Miscellany Tagged: Charles Johnson, Gary Chartier, Roderick T. Long, Sheldon Richman, Steven Horwitz

Rape, OK!

TRIGGER WARNING This post and its links contain information about sexual assault and/or violence against women which may be triggering to survivors.

Let’s be clear: the Oklahoma legislature has instituted legal rape (though the law is temporarily suspended).

And, no, it is not OK because it’s common practice to receive a pap smear or other vaginal exam as part of medical care.

“Tenured Radical”:

Don’t you think that there is a difference between giving someone an ultrasound/vaginal exam to promote good health and one that is done to punish women who want to access their legal right to abortion? Just like there is a difference between consensual sexual intercourse and having sex with someone because he won’t let you out of the car until you do?

“Historiann”:

The difference between your pap smear and the Oklahoma law just vetoed [passed] is that no one has passed a law requiring you to submit to your pap smear on pain of criminal prosecution. The problem is the coercive arm of the state, not the specific form of a given medical procedure.

“skylanda”:

A point of technical clarification: An ultrasound is done before every abortion in this country…an ultrasound through the abdomen, which is done to date the pregnancy and ensure it is within legal dates. Requiring an ultrasound through the vagina is an additional burden that serves no clinical purpose other than to harass women (nevermind the providing doctors) with an invasive, unnecessary procedure that can be doubly traumatic for those whose pregnancies resulted from penetration they did not consent to in the first place. The sanctimonious whining about “holocaust” and “murder” – that women would change their mind if they just saw that little baby first? Every women already gets an ultrasound first. Just not one by phallic probe up the vagina.

And, no, it’s not OK because it can be looked at as a take-it-or-leave-it package deal.  A woman cannot refuse, and a doctor cannot choose to offer, an abortion option without it. The threat of force and the seriousness of pregnancy do not allow for genuine consent.

And, no, it’s not OK because you can “just” go to another state. Unreasonable demands undermine consent, amount to victim-blaming, and presuppose the legitimacy of the law.

And, no, it’s not OK because she might have something inserted into her vagina anyway to perform the desired abortion. Any amount of time that someone’s body is violated that is longer than they consent to (and, again, consent is impossible under this law) is too long.

And, no, it wouldn’t be OK if a provision was added exempting victims of rape or incest. The very act itself is rape. “Being raped once is “Oklahoma, OK”,…but being raped twice is an act to which the state cannot consent?”


Filed under: Feminism, Law, News Tagged: Rachel Maddow
Tagged with: , , ,

What a Bunch of…

I’ve always had my doubts about Francois Tremblay, although other anarchists tried to talk me out of it. But now it seems that my suspicions were in fact warranted. Look at this page criticizing C4SS’ first online course. You’re going to double-take when you see this:

Can anyone now doubt of their evil intentions, to propagate capitalism and portray it as Anarchism?

Now keep in mind, his blog is called CHECK YOUR PREMISES. And his main approach here is to jump to conclusions! There is absolutely no indication that he bothered to ask anyone involved with the course or that he watched the introductory lecture that provides extensive qualifications about the choice of text. In fact, he completely overlooks the work of Gary Chartier, the instructor, opposing capitalism. Can anyone now doubt his evil intentions, to propagate disinformation and portray it as fact?*

* I, of course, don’t think Francois has evil intentions. This was parody designed to show the absurdity of this kind of intellectually lazy attack on people doing good, solid work for anarchism. If I had a few bucks (people used to say “nickel” but inflation…) for every assigned text in school that had nothing to do with the instructor’s own views, I take my wife out for a long session at Kaito Sushi. Osusume wa nan desu ka.

Here’s Gary, from the intro lecture:

The point of the course is to introduce you to anarchism, not exclusively or primarily the variety of anarchism laid out by the Tannehills…Again, we are using this book…not because it’s perfect but because it’s a useful conversation starter and is readily available. You can question and you can challenge the Tannehills…as much as you like. We are not reading a sacred text; we are exploring one illustrative proposal. And your goal, especially in a course about anarchism, is not to submit to the authority of the author…Your goal is to think critically and reflectively…

What a wonderful idea!


Filed under: Anarchism, ATP 101, Left-Libertarianism, Miscellany Tagged: Francois Tremblay, Gary Chartier

Happy May Day

I saw the machines, the things that men had made to ease their burden, the wonderful things, the iron genii; I saw them set their iron teeth in the living flesh of the men who made them; I saw the maimed and crippled stumps of men go limping away into the night that engulfs the poor, perhaps to be thrown up in the flotsam and jetsam of beggary for a time, perhaps to suicide in some dim corner where the black surge throws its slime.

I saw the rose fire of the furnace shining on the blanched face of the man who tended it, and knew surely as I knew anything in life, that never would a free man feed his blood to the fire like that.

I saw swarthy bodies, all mangled and crushed, borne from the mouths of the mines to be stowed away in a grave hardly less narrow and dark than that in which the living form had crouched ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day; and I knew that in order that I might be warm — I, and you, and those others who never do any dirty work — those men had slaved away in those black graves, and been crushed to death at last.

I saw beside city streets great heaps of horrible colored earth, and down at the bottom of the trench from which it was thrown, so far down that nothing else was visible, bright gleaming eyes, like a wild animal’s hunted into its hole. And I knew that free men never chose to labor there, with pick and shovel in that foul, sewage-soaked earth, in that narrow trench, in that deadly sewer gas ten, eight, even six hours a day. Only slaves would do it. I saw deep down in the hull of the ocean liner the men who shoveled the coal burned and seared like paper before the grate; and I knew that “the record” of the beautiful monster, and the pleasure of the ladies who laughed on the deck, were paid for with these withered bodies and souls.

I saw the scavenger carts go up and down, drawn by sad brutes, driven by sadder ones; for never a man, a man in full possession of his selfhood, would freely choose to spend all his days in the nauseating stench that forces him to swill alcohol to neutralize it.

And I saw in the lead works how men were poisoned; and in the sugar refineries how they went insane; and in the factories how they lost their decency; and in the stores how they learned to lie; and I knew it was slavery made them do all this. I knew the Anarchists were right — the whole thing must be changed, the whole thing was wrong — the whole system of production and distribution, the whole ideal of life.

And I questioned the government then; they had taught me to question it. What have you done — you the keepers of the Declaration and the Constitution — what have you done about all this? What have you done to preserve the conditions of freedom to the people?

Lied, deceived, fooled, tricked, bought and sold and got gain! You have sold away the land, that you had no right to sell. You have murdered the aboriginal people, that you might seize the land in the name of the white race, and then steal it away from them again, to be again sold by a second and a third robber. And that buying and selling of the land has driven the people off the healthy earth and away from the clean air into these rot-heaps of humanity called cities, where every filthy thing is done, and filthy labor breeds filthy bodies and filthy souls…

You have done this thing, gentlemen who engineer the government; and not only have you caused this ruin to come upon others; you yourself are rotten with debauchery. You exist for the purpose of granting privileges to whoever can pay most for you, and so limiting the freedom of men to employ themselves that they must sell themselves into this frightful slavery or become tramps, beggars, thieves, prostitutes, and murderers. And when you have done all this, what then do you do to them, these creatures of your own making? You, who have set them the example in every villainy? Do you then relent, and remembering the words of the great religious teacher to whom most of you offer lip service on the officially religious day, do you go to these poor, broken, wretched creatures and love them? Love them and help them, to teach them to be better? No: you build prisons high and strong, and there you beat, and starve, and hang, finding by the working of your system human beings so unutterably degraded that they are willing to kill whomsoever they are told to kill at so much monthly salary.

This is what the government is, has always been, the creator and defender of privilege; the organization of oppression and revenge. To hope that it can ever become anything else is the vainest of delusions. They tell you that Anarchy, the dream of social order without government, is a wild fancy. The wildest dream that ever entered the heart of man is the dream that mankind can ever help itself through an appeal to law, or to come to any order that will not result in slavery wherein there is any excuse for government.

- Voltairine de Cleyre, “The Dawn-Light of Anarchy”


Filed under: Anarchism Tagged: Voltairine de Cleyre
Categories: Anarchism

Pissed Off

The government will fall that raises the price of beer. – Czech proverb

When you invite the whole world to your party, inevitably someone pees in the beer. – Xeni Jardin

The Lost Abbey tasting room is literally an oasis in the desert. They are no joke and one of  only two breweries (along with Stone) to have two beers on Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s list of the top 25 beers of 2009. The San Diego area has 33 breweries, part of what makes it Men’s Journal’s top pick for American beer towns (Portland has a mere 29). Yes, it’s good to live in San Diego.

What was I saying before this turned into a tourism ad? Oh, yes. The tasting room. A dollar doesn’t get you much these days, but in their tasting room, “it’ll get ya drunk” on a seriously generous serving (4 oz.) of high-ABV beer of outstanding craftsmanship; full pints are a bank-breaking $4. It’s a ridiculous deal in a wonderful atmosphere, right among the barrels, tanks and attendant smells of a working brewery.

It was a good deal; then the state showed up to put a stop to it. The frustration, anger, and raw emotion expressed in this post makes for a breathtaking read. There isn’t much more to say. But I’ll say it anyway.

Prohibition in the US nominally ended at the end of 1933. I say “nominally” because, as Gary Chartier reminds us, “the end of Prohibition was not accompanied by an end to cartelizing laws and regulations…” In this case, the regulation isn’t directly about alcohol per se but is one of “public safety,” because, as everyone knows,  alcoholic beverages are teeming with all kinds of nasty things that can kill you (and it’s not like, you know, the process of making beer requires cleanliness). But Kevin Carson knows that these kinds of regulations are no less draconian than outright prohibition:

One of the central functions of business and occupational licensing, and “health” and “safety” regulations, is to mandate minimum levels of overhead and make such small-batch production effectively illegal.  “Health” and “safety” codes, for instance, typically require our would-be microbaker to purchase an industrial-sized oven, refrigerator and dishwasher:  an enormous debt which can only be serviced by large batch production on a full-time basis, in a separate building with permanent hired staff.

Under such circumstances, the only people who can afford self-employment and entrepreneurship are those who can raise the artificially high, state-mandated capital outlays;  everyone else must offer himself for hire to an employer who can afford such outlays.  And since the entry barriers artificially reduce the number  of employers and inflate the number of people seeking wage employment, obviously, the dynamic tends to be one of workers competing for jobs, and the terms of employment being artificially set by the employer.

Of course this is lost on the trolls, who arrive right on cue:

Awe [sic]…what a shame that someone running a business has to comply with health regulations. I bet if you think about it there are a lot more throughout your business that you don’t really need either, right.

What they, you and I (“we”) need is “an effectively functioning tort law system that hasn’t been hampered by preemption and similar sorts of limitations.” What “we” need is to understand that “decisions about health and comfort are best made by the individual people who bear the costs and reap the benefits.” What “we” need is to let markets work, the actual, freed market:

Government interference only seems necessary to regulate a market, in the positive sense of the word regulate, if you think that the only way to get social order is by means of social control, and the only way for to get to harmonious social interactions is by having the government coerce people into working together with each other.

And further:

American state corporatism forcibly reshapes the world of work and business on the model of a commercial strip mall: sanitized, centralized, regimented, officious, and dominated by a few powerful proprietors and their short list of favored partners, to whom everyone else relates as either an employee or a consumer. A truly free market, without the pervasive control of state licensure requirements, regulation, inspections, paperwork, taxes, “fees,” and the rest, has much more to do with the traditional image of a bazaar: messy, decentralized, diverse, informal, flexible, pervaded by haggling, and kept together by the spontaneous order of countless small-time independent operators, who quickly and easily shift between the roles of customer, merchant, contract laborer, and more. It is precisely because we have the strip mall rather than the bazaar that people living in poverty find themselves so often confined to ghettoes, caught in precarious situations, and dependent on others—either on the bum or caught in jobs they hate but cannot leave, while barely keeping a barely tolerable roof over their heads.

The poorer you are, the more you need access to informal and flexible alternatives, and the more you need opportunities to apply some creative hustling.

- Charles Johnson, “Scratching By: How Government Creates Poverty as We Know It”

I don’t know if the brewers at The Lost Abbey are anarchists; they write like anarchists might write. If not, I hope, after this, they’ll head over to C4SS and have a look around. Maybe then they will see all facets of the state as not worth a pitcher of warm piss. If warm piss isn’t your thing either, let me call for solidarity with The Lost Abbey folks. Buy their beer!* Become a Patron Saint or Sinner.  I’m sure it will help them cover these unexpected and downright evil costs.

* I’m not affiliated with the brewery.


Filed under: Anarchism, Culture, Law, News Tagged: Charles Johnson, Gary Chartier, Kevin Carson

Take It Easy

Anarchists are radical types and some of us love a good boycott. The recent immigration law in Arizona, being an abominable piece of garbage, seems as good a reason as any to ostracize the hell out of somebody. But I’ve seen a few calls for “boycotting Arizona.” Not Arizona business X or Arizona group Y…just Arizona. It’s quote possible that this is just a shorthand way of saying the government or supporters of the law; sloppy, but right on. If they mean something more like anyone or anything from the artificially-demarcated area known generally as Arizona, I have to raise an eyebrow. Isn’t boycotting AZ residents or products en masse akin to the tactic of state sanctions of other states? State sanctions aren’t normally something I see anarchists praise. So why would we want to emulate them?

Jim Davidson, in a conversation on Facebook, agrees:

…a boycott of Arizona as a region makes no sense, to me, because of the parties not involved in, or opposed to, the acts of oppression being boycotted and ostracised.

But he also point out a subtle difference:

I don’t know about the extent to which private actions are similar to state actions….it would be individual actions in a boycott by persons consenting to participate. A state sanctioning another state or country causes everyone in the state which is sanctioning to suffer even if they don’t consent to the sanctions, as well as causing all those in the state being sanctioned to suffer even if they don’t agree with the actions purportedly motivating the sanction. Sanctions are different from individual action in the extent to which they are coercive to all parties.

This is a good point as far as it goes. But the fact remains that they are, if used indiscriminately, directed at “those in the state being sanctioned…even if they don’t agree with the actions purportedly motivating the sanction.” Is it appropriate to boycott just anyone (primarily businesses I imagine, export or tourist) that happens to be from AZ just because the government that no one can ever consent to passed a horrible law? If so, it seems to give credence to the idea that “you are where you live.” That seems to be more than a little ironic when used in support of the idea that people should not be discriminated against because of an accident of birth. I just question the sense of wide-ranging boycotts over large territories simply because the goons forcibly maintaining a monopoly over force there are behaving goonishly. You lose something in both efficacy and the moral high ground.


Filed under: Anarchism, Casuistry, Culture Tagged: Jim Davidson
Categories: Anarchism

Momento

Today, I starting going through old draft blog posts that died on the vine; a little spring pruning. If there is anything worth saving from the trash folder, I might even publish it. The following passage is one such worthy clip. The strange thing is that I can’t for the life of me recall if (a) it’s a quote from someone else, (b) it’s a paraphrase of someone else’s idea that I read somewhere sometime, or (c) I wrote it my own damn self. (c) seems highly unlikely given that, you know, I don’t remember developing the thought. I was either in so much of a hurry that I didn’t write down the source or I had a moment of clarity that is totally alien to me now that I read it months later. Oh well. Here it is. If you know what it’s from (if it’s from anything), please let me know. My apologies to the clever individual responsible. If it turns out to be me, I’m sure my memory will return post-haste….unless you hate it.

Public goods theory states that non-rivalrous and non-excludable goods (e.g. governance) will be underproduced on a free market. In order to correct this underproduction, the government must step in and coerce free riders into paying, thus assuring adequate funding for the public good.

The consent theory of political obligation says that citizens’ duty to obey the law and the government’s authority are derived from the voluntary agreement of the citizens to be ruled by the government.

One of these theories must be wrong:

If public goods theory is true, then consent theory must be false — if the government coerces free riders, then they cannot consent.

If consent theory is true, then public goods theory must be false — if people fund government voluntarily, then there is no free rider problem.

I can think of a few objections. Can governance be considered a public good, in whole or in part, even in light of private production of law codes? It seems the resulting peace and civility promised would be. Is it necessarily the case that universal voluntary funding doesn’t underproduce governance? So perhaps it’s better to say not that public good theory per se is false if consent theory is true but rather that the prescription for what government should do would, by norm, have to be blocked. Well, FWIW…


Filed under: Anarchism, Law
Categories: Anarchism
Tagged with:

What Is Aggression?

The following essay was my submission for an ATP 101 assignment asking: What is aggression? How can we distinguish between aggression and other kinds of undesirable influence? The space in the assignment was limited so I only intend this to be a starting point for further research.

A key concept underlying aggression is that of a moral agent’s ‘boundary’. I do not mean for this term to imply a continuous, spatiotemporal boundary [1] , though it will often correspond to exactly that. Instead, the boundary is a logical entity that divides the set of all actions that can be performed by others into (a) those that treat our agent as a means [2] (“inside the boundary”) and (b) those that do not (“outside the boundary”).

Simply performing an action that treats another person as a means (i.e. is within that person’s boundary) is not sufficient to make the action one of aggression, however. That would count most, if not all, of human interaction as aggressive, making it a poor basis for a legal system [3] . Therefore, we might be tempted to separate out those ‘boundary crossings’ that occur without the consent of our agent. But that too seems a poor basis for a legal system that needs to enforce its judgment without being itself unjust.

I do think, however, that lack of consent from our agent is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for an action committed against her to be classed as one of aggression. Either of two other conditions must obtain: (a) the action is not necessary to end an act of aggression on the moral agent’s part; or (b) the action is necessary to end an act of aggression but morally disproportionate (in the direction of excess) to the seriousness of that act. Therefore, aggression is treating someone as a means without their consent where doing so is either (a) unnecessary to end aggression or (b) disproportionate to the seriousness of that aggression [4] . (Long)

Because I have given a definition that relies on the concept of “treating someone as a means,” using it to distinguish between aggression and other kinds of undesirable influence will require a method for knowing what “treating someone as a means” means. It also relies on an ability to determine the necessity of an action (to end aggression) and whether an action found so necessary is disproportionate in moral seriousness. The necessity of an action to end aggression is likely something that can be determined empirically, for the most part. The other two factors will require more complex methods of determination (e.g. critical reflection, reflective equilibrium, intuition-pumping, additional moral principles, community norms etc.)

I will say something further about “treating someone as a means.” I do not think that treating someone as a means requires intention. Nevertheless, intention can play a role in certain contexts, e.g. “threatening to invade someone’s boundary is itself an invasion of that person’s boundary (since in announcing my intention of using you as a means I am already treating you as the sort of thing it is legitimate to use as a means).” (Long) I do think it requires subjecting or subordinating someone to some condition, rather than simply taking advantage of the facts about someone.

You will notice that I do not refer to property rights nor do I specifically refer to physical force. It may be the case (and I think there are good reasons for thinking) that in the process of unpacking ‘treating someone as a means’ that it will necessitate some consideration of external property and/or a limit to actions that are physical violations of person or property. This more general definition, however, keeps the underlying moral premise in the foreground so as to prevent any question-begging formulations prior to a discussion of property rights or non-physical harm among those who share a desire to capture the spirit of non-aggression.

Works Cited

Long, Roderick T. “Abortion, Abandonment, and Positive Rights: The Limits of Compulsory Altruism.” 1993. <http://praxeology.net/RTL-Abortion.htm>.


[1] Imagine a sphere in 4D space-time surrounding our moral agent.

[2] I will not be defending this notion here but it comes from (though not only from) the Aristotelian virtue-ethical normative principle that states that, “Every person has the right not to be treated as a mere means to the ends of others,” where ‘right’ is understood to mean in the sense of ‘legally enforceable’. (Long)

[3] I will only focus on aggression as it relates to legal institutions concerned with the legitimate use of force. There are many other domains concerned with correctly defining ‘aggression’, including psychology and biology, but these are not generally concerned with the normative realm implied by a non-aggression principle.

[4] The recursive nature of this definition is not problematic because (a) obtains in the case where there is simply a lack of any reciprocal boundary crossing.


Filed under: ATP 101, Ethics, Justice, Philosophy Tagged: ATP 101, Roderick T. Long

ATP 101 Week 1 Critique

The following essay was my submission for an ATP 101 assignment asking: What is aggression? How can we distinguish between aggression and other kinds of undesirable influence? The space in the assignment was limited so I only intend this to be a starting point for a research program.

A key concept underlying aggression is that of a moral agent’s ‘boundary’. I do not mean for this term to imply a continuous, spatiotemporal boundary [1] , though it will often correspond to exactly that. Instead, the boundary is a logical entity that divides the set of all actions that can be performed by others into (a) those that treat our agent as a means [2] (“inside the boundary”) and (b) those that do not (“outside the boundary”).

Simply performing an action that treats another person as a means (i.e. is within that person’s boundary) is not sufficient to make the action one of aggression, however. That would count most, if not all, of human interaction as aggressive, making it a poor basis for a legal system [3] . Therefore, we might be tempted to separate out those ‘boundary crossings’ that occur without the consent of our agent. But that too seems a poor basis for a legal system that needs to enforce its judgment without being itself unjust.

I do think, however, that lack of consent from our agent is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for an action committed against her to be classed as one of aggression. Either of two other conditions must obtain: (a) the action is not necessary to end an act of aggression on the moral agent’s part; or (b) the action is necessary to end an act of aggression but morally disproportionate (in the direction of excess) to the seriousness of that act. Therefore, aggression is treating someone as a means without their consent where doing so is either (a) unnecessary to end aggression or (b) disproportionate to the seriousness of that aggression [4] . (Long)

Because I have given a definition that relies on the concept of “treating someone as a means,” using it to distinguish between aggression and other kinds of undesirable influence will require a method for knowing what “treating someone as a means” means. It also relies on an ability to determine the necessity of an action (to end aggression) and whether an action found so necessary is disproportionate in moral seriousness. The necessity of an action to end aggression is likely something that can be determined empirically, for the most part. The other two factors will require more complex methods of determination (e.g. critical reflection, reflective equilibrium, intuition-pumping, additional moral principles, community norms etc.)

I will say something further about “treating someone as a means.” I do not think that treating someone as a means requires intention. Nevertheless, intention can play a role in certain contexts, e.g. “threatening to invade someone’s boundary is itself an invasion of that person’s boundary (since in announcing my intention of using you as a means I am already treating you as the sort of thing it is legitimate to use as a means).” (Long) I do think it requires subjecting or subordinating someone to some condition, rather than simply taking advantage of the facts about someone.

You will notice that I do not refer to property rights nor do I specifically refer to physical force. It may be the case (and I think there are good reasons for thinking) that in the process of unpacking ‘treating someone as a means’ that it will necessitate some consideration of external property and/or a limit to actions that are physical violations of person or property. This more general definition, however, keeps the underlying moral premise in the foreground so as to prevent any question-begging formulations prior to a discussion of property rights or non-physical harm among those who share a desire to capture the spirit of non-aggression.

Works Cited

Long, Roderick T. “Abortion, Abandonment, and Positive Rights: The Limits of Compulsory Altruism.” 1993. <http://praxeology.net/RTL-Abortion.htm>.


[1] Imagine a sphere in 4D space-time surrounding our moral agent.

[2] I will not be defending this notion here but it comes from (though not only from) the Aristotelian virtue-ethical normative principle that states that, “Every person has the right not to be treated as a mere means to the ends of others,” where ‘right’ is understood to mean in the sense of ‘legally enforceable’. (Long)

[3] I will only focus on aggression as it relates to legal institutions concerned with the legitimate use of force. There are many other domains concerned with correctly defining ‘aggression’, including psychology and biology, but these are not generally concerned with the normative realm implied by a non-aggression principle.

[4] The recursive nature of this definition is not problematic because (a) obtains in the case where there is simply a lack of any reciprocal boundary crossing.


Filed under: ATP 101, Ethics, Justice, Law, Philosophy Tagged: ATP 101, Roderick T. Long