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Showing posts from 2008

A Simple Account of Rights

Here's what I'll call the Simple Account of a right: A moral subject, S , has a right against a moral agent, A , that A not engage in a specified course of conduct, C , provided that ( i ) it is wrong, all things considered, for A to engage in C and ( ii ) C constitutes ( a ) an all-things-considered harm to S , or ( b ) a failure to fulfill a duty owed by A to S . What makes the Simple Account simple is that it defines rights in terms of moral duties. Wherever there's a (perfect, in the Kantian sense) duty , there's a right that the duty be fulfilled. I offer the Simple Account as a deliberate alternative to accounts of rights in accordance with which a right is a moral claim that can be backed up by means of force (however defined). Tendentiously, I'll refer to these as Narrow Accounts. I think the distinction between the rights-violations that can and the rights-violations that cannot be remedied using force is important, and I do not mean to trivial

Update! Carson on Anarchism and Organizations

Kevin Carson ’s first-rate Organizational Theory is now listed at Amazon. Carson offers a powerful set of arguments designed to show that centralized, hierarchical business organizations exist—primarily—because of past and ongoing acts of dispossession and because of subsidies and monopoly privileges granted by the state. He points toward an alternate model grounded in the rights of workers, freed markets, and environmental sustainability. If you’re not acquainted with Carson’s work, read him. Now. An articulate proponent of “free market anti-capitalism,” he’s developed a fascinating synthesis of Proudhonian, Austrian, and Marxist perspectives on economic issues. Check out his stuff here and here . Look for a full review of Kevin’s new book in the next few weeks.

Bailouts and More

On December 19, I enjoyed the chance to participate in a discussion on Liberty Cap Talk Live with hosts Todd Andrew Barnett and James Landrith, Jr., and fellow guest Bill Westmiller. Check it out.

A Political Fable from Stephen R. L. Clark

“There was once a band of brigands, living as predators rather than producers. The brigands formed some friendships with each other, but their relationships were mostly those of dominance and submission. One winter it occurred to them that instead of taking food away from the productive villagers down in the valley they could simply set up residence there. This they did, killing such of the villagers as openly opposed them and telling the rest that they were now their protectors against any (other) robber bands. The villagers, who had hitherto organized their affairs by the laws of free will, were slowly forced into a sly submission. The robbers took the village women, reared children and grew old. Their descendants might have been peacefully absorbed, but it occurrred to that same brigand genius to enlist youngsters in his military elite. At first only their own descendants became nobles, but likely looking villagers were also taken up. After a few hundred years the common people were

“Socialism” for Left Liberty

I know I'm coming a bit late to the game, but I wanted to offer some brief responses to Shawn Wilbur's request (in anticipation of the first issue of Left Liberty) for analyses of "socialism," "solidarity," and "individualism." I'll start with "socialism.” The socialist definitional free-for-all that has captured the ongoing attention of a number of people on the libertarian left (and others) has put back on the agenda the question whether there is a way of understanding socialism that renders it compatible with a genuinely market-oriented anarchism. If socialism must mean either conventional state-socialism or state socialism with ownership of the means of production vested in local micro-states or some vaguely defined model of collective ownership rooted in a gift economy, then it has to be clear that socialism and market anarchism aren't compatible. But it ought to be troubling, then, that one of the founding spirits of marke

The “Left” in Left Libertarian

My previous post regarding the nature of left libertarianism was fairly general and vague about what I mean by “left.” If the notion of left libertarianism is going to make sense, we need to be clear on what is and isn’t left . I don’t think there's anything wrong-headed about other recent characterizations of the central concern of the left as anti-authoritarianism, openness to the future, or opposition to privilege. I want, though, to offer a different proposal regarding what I take to be the central elements of a leftist agenda and to suggest what may be a thread capable unifying these elements. An authentically leftist position, I suggest, is marked by opposition to subordination , exclusion , and deprivation . Subordination One person, A, is subordinate to another, B, when B has significant, persistent power over A. The power involved may be physical, but it may also be economic, psychic, social, or cultural. The important thing is that B determines, to some meaningful de

Framing Left Libertarianism: A First Pass

Left libertarianism (hereinafter LL) can be seen as an exercise in packaging and propaganda. Or it can be seen as a powerful expression of concerns that ought to be at the heart of movements for freedom. Cynical libertarians and leftists alike might see talking about LL as an exercise in spin. Perhaps it's an attempt to sell unsuspecting leftists on libertarian ideals that are fundamentally at odds with the left's agenda. Or perhaps it's an effort to graft an alien life-form onto the body of the libertarian movement, saddling it with concerns that have no place on a genuinely libertarian agenda. Neither account of LL is remotely persuasive or appealing. LL is authentically libertarian both because it is anti-statist (the LLs who come readily to mind are all anarchists; I take it as a given here that the LL is an anarchist or something close enough for the difference to be irrelevant) and because it affirms the value of markets and property rights . At the same time,

Worth Celebrating: Carson at C4SS!

The Center for a Stateless Society has just announced the appointment of Kevin Carson as Research Associate. Carson is the author of some extremely insightful social analysis. His Studies in Mutualist Political Economy and Organization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective are remarkably provocative and creative developments of the Proudhonian anarchist tradition from which I've learned immensely. The more research and writing he's able to do, the better!

Unexpected Internet Radio Appearance

Brad Spangler of the Center for a Stateless Society , Stefan Molyneux of FreeDomain Radio , and some other guy talk about the shape of things to come during a C4SS-sponsored bloggers' teleconference here .

Making the Case for Prosecution

In the latest Boston Review , Elaine Scarry makes the case for prosecuting Bush and Cheney for their crimes after they leave office, arguing that failing to do so will encourage the view that respect for the rule of law is simply a matter of personal preference. I'm skeptical about the criminal law as it's currently conceived; neither retribution nor deterrence nor rehabilitation seems to me to provide independent justification for the kinds of things the criminal justice system does--I'd prefer a system focused on restitution, restraint, and reconciliation. But it seems to me that Scarry is nonetheless right to stress that something needs to be done. Clearly, the craven Democrats in Congress can't be counted on to act, and Bush and Cheney have likely learned a lesson from the experience of Augusto Pinochet and will therefore avoid travel to countries with developed legal systems. But perhaps a local prosecutor, inspired by Vincent Bugliosi's arguments, will opt to

Slapping Down the Netroots

Senator Obama's selection of Delaware Democrat Joe Biden as his running mate looks nothing if not uninspired. That's true even if all you're concerned about is, say, his vote in support of an illegal war--or if you remember his light-weight performance as the overseer of the hearings on some of the most important and controversial judicial nominations of the last quarter-century. But if you care about issues like net neutrality, you've got even more reason to regard Biden as a disappointing choice. Despite their initial enthusiasm for Obama, members of the netroots were justifiably disappointed by his sharp tilt to the right on issues like FISA. His decision to tap an opponent of digital freedom to join him on the campaign trail is a further sign of his seeming willingness to ignore elements of his core constituency. Ironicallly, however, the Biden pick may give some netizens a new reason to vote for Obama--to get his running-mate out of the Senate and into a setting

Firing Your Boss

Many people's work environments--from factories to law firms--are deeply unpleasant and dehumanizing. This Australian pamphlet offers a variety of suggestions for changing the power dynamics in your workplace. It's all worth reading, though I have some reservations about the fairness of some of its proposals. The left-libertarian political economist Kevin Carson offers a spirited defense of even the more radical tactics for which it argues here (note that there's a good deal else in Carson's post, which forms an entire book chapter). What do you think?

A Further Embarrassment

As with last month's impeachment hearings, so, too, with today's striking revelation from Ron Suskind that the President ordered the creation of back-dated intelligence to support the planned invasion of Iraq: where's the coverage of what a naive observer might think of as shocking and disturbing new about the abuse of presidential power? Again, I look in vain for up-front coverage in the on-line editions of the Washington Post and the New York Times . If the multiple justifications for impeachment floated during the Judiciary Committee's hearings didn't provide sufficient reason to move forward with the trial, conviction, and removal from office of a president who has shown unequivocal contempt for the Constitution and the American people, is it too much to hope that what Suskind has to say will do so? (Suskind's own account is here .)

In Defense of the Anarchist

During the next two to three weeks, I will be completing work on “In Defense of the Anarchist,” which has been accepted for publication in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies . The paper is a response to Mark Murphy’s critique of moral and epistemological arguments against the authority of law; I suggest that the anarchist is on better footing than Murphy supposes. Professor Murphy has already offerd me some thoughtful, helpful observations. I am continuing to reflect on the best way to take account of these observations. But I would be very pleased, at the same time as I decide how best to respond to Professor Murphy, to hear from readers of this blog who might see ways in which the paper could be improved or who can think of arguments I would do well to address. Please let me know if you'd like to take a look. Thanks a lot to those who opt to offer comments.

An Embarrassment of Riches

I'm dismayed, but I probably shouldn't be surprised, at the paucity of coverage being afforded to the hearings the House Judiciary Committee began today on Dennis Kucinich's proposed impeachment resolutions (I've linked to a page displaying only some of Kucinich's proposals). It's not just the New York Times (the word "impeach" doesn't appear anywhere on the electronic front page of America's purported newspaper of record). It's leading liberal blogs, including the Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, Washington Independent, and Matt Yglesias. To their credit, Glenn Greenwald and Kagro X on Daily Kos give the hearings something like the extensive treatment they deserve, and Politico's John Bresnahan discusses some of the day's developments helpfully, too. It's hard not to see the deafening silence as a reflection of the intra-Beltway consensus that sensible people really can't take seriously the notion of impeaching a

Welcome to LiberaLaw

This blog is called LiberaLaw because I’m a law professor, because I want to talk about issues related to law, and because I’m a liberal. Liberal can mean lots of different things. I use it to signal the fact that I’m for freedom and against subordination, exclusion, and privation. The political convictions I endorse as an idiosyncratic left-wing market anarchist place me—whether altogether accurately or not—well within the lower left quadrant of the Political Compass . But I hope people from across the spectrum will feel welcome here—left-liberals, classical liberals, libertarians, social democrats, anarchists of all stripes, Burkean and Humean conservatives, socialists, monarchists, minarchists, Marxists, paleocons, crunchy cons, and anyone else who wants to participate, and perhaps to find some unexpected common ground.