Saturday, September 02, 2006


Again, I have been shamefully neglecting you, dear readers. However, this is to be a short comment. You see, I have many projects on the go. Nigel Meek requested, some time ago, an article version of my old post Easing Fears Over Outsourcing, with an addition taking in possible left libertarian responses. The issue is that my article seems to suggest that outsourcing is OK in a free market, but what if the market is not free. What if, for instance, firms are outsourcing production because wages in foreign companies do not reflect marginal productivity due to monopolistic intervention prohibiting competition amongst employers? I have been working on a number of responses that basically argue that outsourcing would still be OK even then.

Meanwhile, I am chuffed and honoured that Jan Lester has written a response to my review of his book. So, since philosophers hate not getting the last word, I will be constructing a response. So far, lines of thought question whether Lester is indeed offering a non-moralised conception of liberty when he defines it as an absence of imposed costs; observing that imposing property rights allowing owners to ban blue shirts on their property is imposing a cost on all blue shirt wearers now deprived of the opportunity of wearing a blue shirt their, and more. I just noticed an interesting bit concerning the example of being locked in a room one has no intention of leaving. In part of his response, Lester says, "To be locked into a room is a constraint, to be sure. And if the person who did it had no libertarian right to do so, then it is also a initiated imposed cost assuming (as seems likely) that you would not have agreed to have this done to you, simply because you would have wished to be able to leave in the event that you made that choice." Note that closing the door imposes a cost "if the person who did it had no libertarian right" to lock the door. In other words, it seems (though I may be wrong), what counts as an imposed cost is a violation of libertarian rights. This makes the notion of cost moralised, and by implication makes the definition of freedom moralised. Beyond this, of course, it would seem straight forward to me to suppose that, if I had no intention of leaving the room, didn't know the door was locked, and did not know it was unlocked again later, then, in the time it was unlocked, I was constrained from leaving the room, and yet no cost was imposed. Also I will respind to what I consider to be inaccurrate criticisms of the pure negative ("zero-sum") view of liberty, and contractarianism. (It is interesting that the contractarian philosopher Jan Narveson heartily praises Lester's book, and notes that it seems to endorse a negative view of liberty, when Narveson's own view of liberty is very definitely an impure negative view, and is well and truly moralised). In short, though, Lester's claim that it is a consequence of the pure negative view that "there is no line that it is inherently ‘unlibertarian’ to cross" because all social rules must allow zero-sum liberty (the ‘liberty’ to enjoy smoke-free clubs everywhere, to check people’s identity, to receive money from taxes) just as much as they limit it" is question begging. This is because it assumes that what is libertarian is a maximisation of liberty, but the zero-sum view is precisely that liberty cannot be maximised. One persons gain is another's loss. So in effect this is a complaint that the pure negative view fails to do what the pure negative view says is impossible anyway. Moreover, there most definitely is a line that it is "unlibertarian" to cross. It just comes from defining the libertarian project differently: Libertarianism is not about maximising liberty. Libertarianism is a view of rights, it is a view of what rights are, and what rights people have, and so what and how much liberty people are entitled to. The line that it is unlibertarian to cross is provided by libertarian rights. The zero sum consequences of the pure negative view of liberty imply that the only complaint that can be made about some alteration producing a loss of liberty for someone and a gain for another are about whether or not people are entitled to the liberty they lose or the liberty they gain. This implies a theory about what liberty people are entitled to, and so, given that pure negative liberty is distributed by compossible rights, which in turn must be property rights, it implies a thoery about what rights people have. Libertarianism has always had an answer to this: People own themselves, virgin land they "homestead," and derivatives thereof.

Lester is associated with one of the UK's libertarian Alliances. The other one is arranging their annual conference. I will be going. Even if the talks are no good, the event is great for the networking opportunities and the conversation! But, I suspect that the talks will be good. Johann Norberg will be giving one, which I look forward to. There will also be one on the private exploration of space, an interesting talk. I heard that Dana Rohrabacher was coming, and I know he has worked in this area, but I don't see his name on this line up.

Beyond this, what else has been going on? Oh yeah... Read James Bartholemew's The Welfare State We Are In. Occasionally I would experience reticence in my adherence to libertarian principle in opposition to the welfare the state. However, the shear wealth of evidence that Bartholemew has compiled has ended that! Now I can show know hesitation in heartily endorsing the abolition of this awful, awful failure in socialist experimentation!

What else? Ah yes. I hate the Lethal Weapon films. I have decided this. OK, I haven't seen the first for a long time, and the fourth featured the amazing Jet Lee, plus a vaguely pro-immigration view, despite the racist jibes at a chinese character. But the second and third films. a) The stories are awful, and b) just what the hell are they promoting?!!! The second film has the worst story ever. It simply does not make sense. the two heros, Riggs and Murtaugh are out on a chase, they do incredible amounts of damage to the city, whilst also discovering that the people they are pursuing are foreign (later identified as south africans) and have car fulls of South African currency. Because of the damage they cause they are "punished" with a "shit assignment" of protecting a star witness against some drug dealers, a Leo Getts. They learn that this witness was a money launderer turned witness for the prosecution against a big drug baron. So Riggs and Murtaugh take it upon themselves to go to the drug baron's house. Riggs attempts to break in, attacks two security men, rendering one person unconcious and eventually killing the other. He and his partner then return to the house with a truck load of cops to arrest the owner, the drug dealer, who turns out to be a South African with diplomatic immunity. Riggs hisses menacingly, "I'm gonna get you, dick head." Why? Why? Its not his case! He broke into the guys house without a warrant, and hijacked somebody elses case! And in the end, of course, the "good guys" win, and the "bad guy2 gets killed!

The third film is the same. Here is a scene: An internal affairs officer... internal affairs, the guys that are supposed to police the police... breaks into a garage. Breaks in! She uses a knife to jimmy the lock. When inside she snoops around, but is spotted by a worker who is obviously curious as to her presence. She shows her badge, as if to say, "Its OK that I broke in: I'm a cop." The guy responds quite reasonably, "do you have a warrant?" After all, legally, the police are not entitled on to the property without a warrant. This is a right to protect us against tyranny. The police officer then says, "No, but I can get one." To which the guy responds, again, wit6hin his rights, "well until you do, fuck off." What happens? Well our brave heroine kicks his ass! And we are supposed to cheer! Later on Murtaugh is forced to kill a kid in a gang since the kid is trying to shoot him using a sub-machine gun firing armour piercing bullets sold him by a corrupt policeman turned arms dealer. The killed kid is a friend of Murtaugh's family, so Murtaugh takes it upon himself, and with the blessing of the kid's family, to get the guy that put the gun in the kid's hand. In the final act of the fim we see Riggs and Murtaugh getting ready to raid the baddies lair. Murtaugh pulls out a sub-machine gun. Riggs asks, "is that..." And Murtaugh admits that he has stolen ploice evidence so that he can go and kill a suspect! What are these films telling us is good and just?!!!

In the same vein, I also saw New Jack City. This film stared a young Wesley Snipes as a black entrepreneur in the Ghettos of New York. Poverty stricken from birth, the character clawed his way up, established a flourishing business, made himself and his partners very rich. What is more, he used his profits to set up a charitable concern, providing food for his fellow poor on the streets. In the end the guy gets arrested and shot. You see, he was not the hero of the film, despite his struggle against adversity, bettering himself by selling what others want, and generous charitable work. No, he was a bad guy because the business he was in was that of selling crack cocaine.

OK, I have dressed the character up a little too nicely. Whilst much of the violence in the film concerns his retaliations against competitors attempts to use violence rather than successful business strategies to put him out of business (Sicilians try to bomb him and machinegun a family wedding), he starts in business by shooting competitors himself. But, regardless, we are already told that he is a bad guy anyway, because he deals drugs. the law breaking, rights ignoring cops that eventually arrest him are the heroes. It sickens you when you actually think more deeply and realise that this is a film that says it is OK to prevent to cut off one route that the poor could be using to escape their poverty, that they could be using to help other poor people, all because of a nanny state mentality preventing people from risking poisoning themselves with drugs that would kill fewer if they were legal anyway.