Posts Tagged: vs


Slavery Contracts and Inalienable Rights: A Formulation

… Supply-Side Virtue Ethics

Moral theorists are fond of dividing ethical theories into two varieties: consequentialisttheories, according to which the rightness of an action is a matter of its having beneficialconsequences, and deontological (“duty-centered”) theories, according to which the rightness of an action is a matter of its falling under the appropriate rule. But in recent years, many moral philosophers have begun to revive a different approach to ethical questions, one with roots in Greek antiquity. For the Greek moralists, the central question of ethics was not “What rules should I follow?” or “What consequences should I promote?” but rather “What kind of person should I be?” For the Platonists, Aristoteleans, Stoics, and their modern admirers, the rightness of an action is a matter of its expressing the virtues — that is, those attitudes and dispositions of character that best exemplify what it means to be truly human. This ethical approach is known as Virtue Ethics — and I might as well confess immediately that it represents my own ethical convictions as well.

One distinctive feature of Virtue Ethics is that, to borrow a distinction from Douglas Den Uyl, it represents a supply-side rather than a demand-side approach to ethics. According to a demand-side ethics, the way that A should treat B is determined primarily by facts about B, the patient of moral activity; but for a supply-side approach like Virtue Ethics, the way that A should treat B is determined primarily by facts about A, the agent of moral activity.

Let’s apply this distinction to the special case of justice, that virtue which determines the proper sphere for the use of violence among human beings. My having a right consists, at least primarily, in other people having an obligation to act toward me in certain ways; those others act justly insofar as they respect my rights. The rights-bearer is thus defined as the patient of just activity. A demand-side conception of justice, then, would focus on the rights-bearer; its primary concern would be to determine the features of human beings in virtue of which they possess rights.

It seems to me — though not all Virtue Ethicists agree — that a Virtue Ethics approach should reverse this direction of scrutiny. In questions of justice, the focus should be, not on the person qua moral patient, the bearer of rights, but on the person qua moral agent, the respecter of rights. In other words, from the supply-side perspective of Virtue Ethics, the moral agent’s main question in matters of justice should be, not “What it is about other people that requires me to respect their rights?” but rather “What is it about me that requires me to respect the rights of others?”

Virtue Ethicists, particularly those in the Aristotelean tradition, see the aim of the moral life as one that best expresses what it means to be truly human, as opposed to erring on the side of either the subhuman or the superhuman; for example, Aristotle counsels us to live the life of a human being, not the life of a beast or a god. The cowardly, the stingy, the sensualistically self-indulgent, pay too much respect to their animal side, their vulnerable embodiedness, and neglect the divine spark within them; the rash, the spendthrift, the ascetically self-restrained, pay too little respect to their animal side in their quest to divinize themselves. Only the courageous, the generous, the temperate find the distinctively human path, the Golden Mean between less-than-we-can-be and more-than-we-can-be. …


Want to really treat ALS? Legalize pot

The Ice Bucket Challenge continues to generate viral waves across social media, garnering awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) — popularly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Meanwhile, over half of the 30,000 Americans who suffer from the illness continue to be denied a viable medical treatment that has been proven to mitigate their painful symptoms and even to help increase their life expectancy.

ALS is a neurological disease that causes the body’s motor neurons to degenerate and die, resulting in a loss of muscle movement control and eventual muscle atrophy. Those who suffer from the disease experience a number of symptoms ranging from cramps and twitching to muscle weakness and depression. Once symptoms of ALS appear, the large majority of victims usually dies from respiratory failure, often within three to five years.

Over the past few weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge has promoted awareness for ALS and has raised over $15 million in funding for the ALS Association. The challenge has attracted attention from many notable celebrities, public figures, and even a few politicians. However, as awareness burgeons, many remain unmindful of the significant benefits that cannabis has in treating ALS and the continued governmental restrictions that impede research and treatment.

A number of studies have shown that cannabis functions in many ways that are beneficial to those with ALS, from serving as an analgesic to acting as a soothing muscle relaxant. Cannabis also functions as a saliva reducer, and so it has the ability to reduce symptoms of uncontrollable drooling that is common among those with ALS. Additionally, cannabis has been found successful in use as an antidepressant, results which have also been confirmed by an anonymous, self-reported survey of ALS patients conducted by the the MDA/ALS Center at the University of Washington. …


Universal Healthcare Does Not Mean Government Healthcare

I’ve seen this note that I wrote a while back at popping up here and there on the Internet. I’m glad that people have found it useful. Since it is currently locked up in a horrible Facebook-based dynamically transcluded comment thread thingy, I figured that I would re-copy and re-print here, so that the point, if it was worth making, can have a something of a real home on the Internet. The comment was in reply to a reply to Matt Yglesias’s reply to Roderick Long’s reply to a conversation between Wolf Blitzer and Ron Paul about healthcare policy. Roderick (rightly) thought that Paul’s answer to the questions betrayed a serious mistake about how to think about free-market healthcare. Yglesias (wrongly) thought that Roderick was encouraging libertarians to avoid the important question. A commentator called ds_at_yglesias chimed in:

If you oppose universal health care, you by definition support letting people who can’t afford health care die.
Most conservatives are socialized to not say such things in public, but of course they believe it. –ds_at_yglesias, 15 September 2011, 7:39pm

Of course, I don’t give a tinker’s cuss about saving the reputation of political conservatives. But there’s an important conceptual issue for anti-authoritarians. So I replied (emphasis added):

Maybe so. (Certainly, there are plenty of conservatives who are all too comfortable with — or even enthusiastic about — a lot of needless suffering in the world.)

But I hope that you realize that not everyone who supports universal healthcare supports government healthcare, and not everyone who opposes government healthcare opposes universal healthcare. The one might follow from the other if the only way to get universal coverage were by means of a political guarantee of coverage. But that’s not so: there are folks who oppose government healthcare because they think corporate healthcare is awesome and they don’t mind if people die; but there are also folks who oppose government healthcare because they support non-governmental, non-corporate universal coverage through grassroots social organization and community mutual aid. (See for example or the closing sections of

Of course, that leaves open the question of whether they (we — I’m one of ‘em) are right about the best means for getting universal coverage. Maybe social means are inadequate; or maybe there is some reason, which has yet to be mentioned, why governmental control is preferable, as a means for getting it, to voluntary associations for mutual aid. But whether the position is right or wrong, it’s certainly not one that can be answered simply by defining it out of existence, as you do when you pretend that the only alternatives available are (1) corporate coverage of only those who can afford it; or else (2) universal coverage by means of government mandates; as if there were no (3) universal coverage by non-governmental means. –Charles Johnson, 16 September 2011, 10:32pm


“Capitalism”: The Known Reality

… If libertarians continue to use the word “capitalism” as some kind of ahistorical ideal, if they refuse to look at the fuller cultural and historical context within which actual market relations function, they will forever be dismissed by the Left as rationalist apologists for a state-capitalist reality. That’s ironic, considering that so many Leftists have been constructivist rationalist apologists for a different kind of statist reality. But it does not obscure a very real problem.

Reaching out to the Left or to any other category of intellectuals requires a translation exercise of sorts. Real communication depends upon a full clarification of terms; if we end up using the same term to mean different things, I fear we’ll be talking over each other’s heads for a long time to come.


C4SS Feed 44 presents Natasha Petrova's “Public vs Private Dualities and Contextual Analysis” read and edited by Nick Ford.

It’s certainly possible for a non-government controlled space or institution to meet the criteria above. An example is a privately owned local library called Linda Hall Library that is nonetheless open to the public. This example also shows the problematic nature of the dualism between private and public. You have an entity that is privately owned in the sense of non-government owned and yet accessible to the general public. This shows the importance of contextual analysis in deciphering what is private and public under what definitions. It depends on the context. In one context, public may be a reference to government ownership, but that’s not what it means in the context of anarchy.

Feed 44:

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"It’s time for free marketers to stop acting as hired prize-fighters for the present system of power, and start using free market ideas to defend actual economic justice."


Engagement with the Left on Free Markets

… If the market and the state have coexisted historically, they can be separated logically. The question of whether class differences originally arose from successful competition in the market, and the state was then called in to reinforce the position of the winners; or whether the class differences first arose from state interference, is a vital one. The fact that the state has been intertwined with every “actually existing” market in history is beside the point; social anarchists themselves face a similar challenge–that the state has been intertwined with every society in history. The response, in both cases, is essentially the same–the seeds of a non-exploitative order exist within every system of exploitation. Our goal, not only as anarchists but as free market anarchists, is to supplant the state with voluntary relations. If the absence of something in historical times, in a society based on division of labor, is a damning challenge–well then, they’re damned as well as we are.

The questions of whether state capitalism is an inevitable outgrowth of the free market, of whether decentralized and libertarian forms of industrial production can exist under worker control in a market society, etc., are at least questions on which we can approach the Left with logic and evidence. They are, for the most part, rational and open to persuasion. At the very least, there is room for constructive engagement. And remember, it is not an all-or-nothing matter. It is possible, if nothing else, to reduce the area of disagreement on a case-by-case basis.


U.S. Military Bans The Intercept - The Intercept

The U.S. military is banning and blocking employees from visiting The Intercept in an apparent effort to censor news reports that contain leaked government secrets.

According to multiple military sources, a notice has been circulated to units within the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps warning staff that they are prohibited from reading stories published by The Intercept on the grounds that they may contain classified information. The ban appears to apply to all employees—including those with top-secret security clearance—and is aimed at preventing classified information from being viewed on unclassified computer networks, even if it is freely available on the internet. Similar military-wide bans have been directed against news outlets in the past after leaks of classified information.

A directive issued to military staff at one location last week, obtained by The Intercept, threatens that any employees caught viewing classified material in the public domain will face “long term security issues.” It suggests that the call to prohibit employees from viewing the website was made by senior officials over concerns about a “potential new leaker” of secret documents. …


Capitalism versus Capitalism, Continued

… As Long notes in his Rothbard lecture, the word “capitalism” today contains implicit contradictory market and interventionist elements. Much of the world, and perhaps most Americans, think of it as something other than laissez faire. Quoting Long:

Now I think the word “capitalism,” if used with the meaning most people give it, is a package-deal term. By “capitalism” most people mean neither the free market simpliciter nor the prevailing neomercantilist systemsimpliciter. Rather, what most people mean by “capitalism” is this free-market system that currently prevails in the western world. In short, the term “capitalism” as generally used conceals an assumption that the prevailing system is a free market. And since the prevailing system is in fact one of government favoritism toward business, the ordinary use of the term carries with it the assumption that the free market is government favoritism toward business.

Carson doesn’t object to the use of the word in the libertarian sense, as long as it is clearly defined. But he is not wrong to use it in the neomercantilist sense. “Hodgskin was one of the earliest writers to use the term ‘capitalism,’ and may indeed have been the first to coin it,” he writes in his book. We saw above how Hodgskin used it. In his rejoinder Carson adds, “Like Benjamin Tucker in ‘State Socialism and Anarchism,’ I advocate an end to capitalism by means of laissez-faire and free markets.” There is a long history behind the use of “capitalism” in an non-free-market sense.

Language and definitions surely evolve. But it is just as surely not the case that “capitalism” has come to mean laissez faire, no matter how hard Ayn Rand and we libertarians have tried to make that happen. The fact is, “capitalism” means, at best, the privilege-laden mixed economy we see all around us. We will fail to communicate if we ignore that fact.


Capitalism versus Capitalism

While reading the symposium on Kevin Carson’s book, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, in the latest Journal of Libertarian Studies, I was struck by how upset people can get when someone uses a term differently from how they use it — even if he makes his usage perfectly clear and explicitly draws on legitimate historical precedent. This comes up on at least two occasions in the commentary on Carson. I’ve read Carson’s book, and I had no trouble seeing how he uses the word “capitalism.” Much of the book is devoted to showing that historical capitalism — the real-life mercantilist political-economic system that most people attach that word to — bears only superficial resemblance to the laissez-faire free market, which he favors. Indeed anyone who does not quickly see this in Carson’s work is not paying attention. It is not some obscure point buried under other material. It is the point! Moreover, Carson shows the historical precedent — in the work of Thomas Hodgskin and Benjamin Tucker, for example — for such usage. It shouldn’t be hard to grasp.

Yet two critics can’t or won’t see it. Drs. Walter Block and George Reisman go for Carson’s jugular in retaliation for his alleged confusion of laissez faire with (state) capitalism. Carson handily disposes of the criticism and needs no help from me, but I can’t restrain myself from jumping into the fray. …