What Are The Limits of Free Speech

This week, Anjem Choudary was convicted in the UK for supporting ISIS. He is facing up to 10 years in prison. I am not familiar with all the details of the case. Maybe he did more than just preach. But apparently a lot of is crime consists of preaching hate. He was vocally supporting ISIS and was preaching death to its enemies.

This is a good opportunity to reflect on how far free speech should go? Should there be any limits? Should we therefore care if someone like Anjem Choudary, undoubtably a not very nice human being, is being sent to prison?

So far, my own attitude towards free speech is probably best describes by the English saying “sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt me”. That is to say, words in and off itself do not cause any damage. Therefore, they can hardly be a crime.

I believe that everyone is responsible for their own actions. Just because someone tells me to hate or commit a violent crime does not mean that I have to do it. It is my own choice and therefore my own responsibility if I act on someone’s proposal. Therefore, the person making the proposal is not responsible for my actions. To argue otherwise is to assume that there is a deterministic relationship between the words and my actions.

However, it seems that this argument leads to some unpleasant results. Say I advertise this job opening. “Looking for someone to kill Donald Duck, living at XY. Offer £50 000 reward”. Is this speech or a crime? It seems that the same principle from our argument above applies here. No one has to take up my offer to kill Donald Duck. There are no costs involved with ignoring it. By costs I mean, no one is worse off after rejecting my offer than he was before. Sure £50 000 seems like a big incentive. But so what? It seems foolish to deny that a good speech can incentivise people. If speech could not motivate people, then ideas would be worthless. And if ideas are worthless then who cares about free speech anyway? If an incentive is the only thing that matters, then it seems we might also have a good argument against hate speech.

The way I see it is that if you offer someone money to murder a person, you are involved in the crime. Certainly, the biggest responsibility lies with the killer. But allowing people to hire killers with impunity for themselves seems like a foolish policy to me. And I am willing to bet that I am not the only one who feels that way.

If that is true than I am not sure if it is correct to say that there is no kind of determinism between someone’s speech and someone’s actions. Let us say a guru of a cult is preaching violence to his followers. His followers see him as an authority and are likely to act on his demand. And the guru himself knows that this is the case. It is difficult to argue that such a guru does not bare at least some responsibility when his followers go out and commit crimes.

This of course was the case in the famous murder cases of Charles Manson. The Manson Family, as his little cult was called, committed some extremely brutal murders that shocked America at the end of the 60s. Charles Manson is currently still serving 9 life sentences for conspiracy of murder. The thing is, he did not actually take part in any of the murders. He just instructed his followers to do so. So does anyone want to argue that Charles Manson has been imprisoned unjustly for the last few decades?

It seems to me that the argument that there cannot be any determinism between someone’s speech and another person’s actions does not hold. Speech is too powerful for that. So is there maybe another argument in favour of free speech?

My argument is that free speech is the best weapon against hate speech. If we are arguing in favour of censorship, we will need to give someone the power to censor. History tells us that giving someone that power is very dangerous. The danger is that it makes debating very difficult. If you threaten people to not make certain arguments, you are poisoning the environment in which debate takes place. You are biasing the debate towards certain ideas. And these ideas are more likely than not going to be false ideas.

In France, it is a crime to deny that what Turkey did to the Armenian’s a century ago was not a genocide. In Turkey it is a crime to say that it was a genocide. Both sides claim to censor in order to prevent false and dangerous ideas from spreading. At least one of them has now certainly achieved the opposite.

People with the truth on their side tend to not fear debate. Because debating is the process of debunking false ideas. And it is the sharpest weapon there is against the latter. Much sharper than any censorship could ever be. So the tested solution to stop dangerous and false ideas is liberty. The track record of censorship is the opposite. It is helping false ideas to spread.

Still, I am inclined to think that it is legitimate to hold someone responsible who motivates people to commit very concrete violent crimes. At the very least, he is responsible after the crimes have been committed. How responsible needs to be determined on a case by case basis. Someone carelessly throwing away a remark about killing someone in a side sentence is certainly not as responsible as the cult guru explicitly instructing his followers.

If we need free speech in order to have an open debate, this limitation does not seem to do any damage. Ordering a crowd to commit a crime is not really an act of debate. But for that to be true, it needs to be very concrete. Because censorship itself is very dangerous, the line needs to be drawn as far in favour of freedom as possible. However, a complete freedom of speech, saying whatever you like, whenever you like, without ever having to fear any responsibility for the actions or your audience seems to lead to unpleasant results at times. The test is probably when someone starts giving people concrete instructions to commit a crime with the clear and justified hope that his audience is going to act on it. Unless someone can show me why I am wrong, a complete freedom of speech seems impracticable to me.

  39 comments for “What Are The Limits of Free Speech

  1. Julie near Chicago
    Aug 17, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    A thoughtful piece. Two things. One, the guy who hires the murderer is, I’m pretty sure, chargeable with being “an accomplice before the fact” or some such. Or perhaps the charge is “conspiracy to commit murder.” (My law degree, received under the tutelage of attorney Perry Mason, was some few years back and I seem to have lost track of the fine details. Come to think of it, maybe I never had the track to lose. *g* But the general point remains.)

    More to the topic: I agree that each person is properly responsible for what he does. After all, he did whatever he did and not someone else. (It is mitigating so a small or large degree depending on what the circumstances were; in particular, whether he was under duress and if so, how serious was said duress. I am sure, also, that it is sometimes possible to drive some people to mental incapacity by one means or another. For instance, through the use of drugs, or of physical or emotional torture; serious threat to loved ones or to some group of vital importance to the subject might be examples of the latter, as well as “brainwashing” to whatever extent it exists, and ongoing shaming and relentless humiliation.)

    But, people’s behavior is also affected by external circumstance. So somebody’s inciting speech does not determine the subject’s evil action, but I imagine it is quite often one of the causative factors, or at the least one of the enabling factors.

    Still, banning “hate speech” is not the answer; to do so is to act in “prior restraint,” and with a presumption that the speaker will precipitate wrong or evil acts. Besides which, not all speech found “hateful” by some is “hateful” to somebody else. Ads about the “beach-ready body” or however it goes may be hateful to some tender snowflakes and militant feminists, but most people of reasonably balanced disposition will barely notice them, and if they do they’ll either start exercising or go “you betcha, and mine is!”

    And at the same time, you do have to draw a line somewhere between legitimate free expression and threatening intimidation — the last step before physical terrorism, although it may be a long step. IF I were in any way prejudiced toward people because they have some Negro blood — which I stress that I certainly am not — I might see fit to wander on the public street through a “Negro” neighborhood wearing a white sheet an carrying a cross. Should this be illegal? Or is it simply nasty and disturbing expression, which we seem to have decided is protected under the First Amendment?

    When you come right down to it, in reason if all the nut does is the foregoing, he hasn’t hurt anyone physically, nor actually even threatened to, there are no rational grounds for considering him criminally guilty of anything. (Talking about what the law should be, not necessarily what it is.)

    Laws based on trying to suss the state of mind of a person engaging in some act or other are slippery slopes indeed, and should probably be thrown out before enactment.

  2. Mr Ed
    Aug 17, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    I hope that we all know the fictionalised Sir Thomas More’s ‘For what?’ Speech from the film A Man For All Seasons, ‘I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for mine own safety’s sake’.

    The law on Manson, and this convict, is about inchoate offences, not the acts themselves. However, it is clear that Manson facilitated the crimes of his ‘family’, under whatever California law provided, he was guilty, but in moral terms, what he partly responsible? Did he cause or permit things to be done, on, by or through his property or person, acts that were crimes? It seems to me that he did.

    Responsibility is personal, but it need not be diminshed by sharing. Were I to lend a car to a suicide bomber jihadist, knowing his intentions, am I not responsible for the ultimate act? The law attributes no percentage to liability, perhaps in mitigating a sentence, but that is a consequence of liability.

    It may also come as a surprise to some, but the Common Law of England does not know what free speech is, indeed quite the opposite, it has had no end of restrictions, but there was a culture of freedom in England (tense intended) that led to a sense of indignation about restrictions on speech.

    • Nico Metten
      Aug 17, 2016 at 9:47 pm

      I am actually not making a statement about what the law is. I know that every legal code knows limitations of speech. But what is the libertarian position on it, that is the question. If you provide resources without which a crime cannot be committed, knowing that these resources are used for that purpose, you are of course part of the crime. But is pure instruction of people a crime? If it is then it is an argument against certain types of speech and we can therefore not have absolute free speech. That is my point.

    • Julie near Chicago
      Aug 18, 2016 at 6:28 am

      Good points, Mr Ed.

  3. Mr Ed
    Aug 18, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Nico,

    Sorry, my post would have been fuller had not I had an incident to deal with when posting. Your question is a very sharp one, and sharp questions expose bad law. (Hard cases do not make bad law, they reveal it).

    I suppose it may be an unsatisfactory situation without a clear-cut answer. If a pure instruction is given (or even a pure wish expressed) ‘Let all heretics be burned’, that is, to me, on the face of it, a simple expression of wish, albeit a nasty one.

    If on the facts, the instruction contributes to the commission of a crime that would otherwise not have been committed, then I suppose that might be criminal. But one might be like Henry II and Thomas à Becket, where mere words might cause others to act to rid the King of a turbulent priest (as the story goes and leaving aside the then Royal Prerogative). Of course, the individual doing the deed has a choice not to do anything, and English law does not recognise duress as a defence to murder, so if someone points a gun at you and says ‘Stab X dead or I will kill you’, you are guilty of murder by saving your own life. It may be that there is an element of policy in making ‘incitement’ a crime. But if the OP’s subject has been an ‘agent’ (in the contractual sense) bringing together parties who go on to commit crimes, then that of itself would be a mischief and perchance a criminal mischief.

    If I go up to my local vicar (whoever he or she is) and implore him to kill non-believers, I am committing a crime, even though it is impossible to imagine that he would follow my suggestion. That’s a bit of a variant on the (silly) question “If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, is there a sound?”.

    Likewise were I and the Sage of Kettering to conspire to go to Tavistock in Devon to urge the locals to kill Sir Francis Drake, the town’s most noted son, for a reward from the King of Spain (unaware of his death and ignorant of human lifespans), my suggestions would be illegal but absurd, as attempting the impossible is still a crime in English law, but would it be in a libertarian law?

  4. Jan
    Aug 18, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Perhaps it is possible and useful to draw a distinction-in-principle between always-libertarian, ‘free speech’ (or any communication, for that matter) and never-libertarian ‘invasive speech’.

    ‘Free speech’ does not proactively impose costs on other people and their property to any significant degree, and it would proactively impose costs to a greater extent to disallow it. Thus making racist jokes in a private comedy club that allows such jokes is an example of free speech.

    ‘Invasive speech’ does proactively impose costs on other people and their property to a significant degree. Thus making racist jokes in a private comedy club that disallows such jokes is an example of invasive speech.

    This distinction does not automatically or axiomatically allow us to see immediately whether any example of speech is one or the other. But it does enable us to stick to full free speech in principle and gives us a criterion to apply as best we can.

    • Nico Metten
      Aug 18, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      I am not sure if that solves the problem. If I am giving instructions to murder someone, how am I imposing costs on that person? It is not me who is murdering him, but someone else. And as long as this person is not put under pressure, as in as long as I don’t put costs on that person for rejecting the offer, he is free to decline.

      Of course, the target of my instructions might be worried that something will happen, that someone will take on the offer. But if being worried that someone else will act is an argument, it is an argument against all kinds of speech. I am worried about the teachings of Islam against atheists like me. Is this an argument to outlaw it?

      • Jan
        Aug 19, 2016 at 1:38 pm

        You can use a gun as an instrument to murder someone, and you can use a person as an instrument to murder someone. The main difference is that the person you use is also guilty of the murder. Hence, successfully ordering a murder does not look like free speech (harmless voluntary communication) but invasive speech (communication that intentionally causes impositions on the person or property of someone).

        • Nico Metten
          Aug 19, 2016 at 1:43 pm

          The difference is that I control the gun. But I don’t control the person with my speech. If I do control people with speech, then we cannot have any free speech as speech would be real power. What you are saying contradicts the idea that people are free to act.

          • Jan
            Aug 19, 2016 at 3:01 pm

            In a sense we can often “control” people with our speech. A boss “controls” his employees: he tells them what to do and they generally do it. The fact that they do so willingly does not mean that the boss is not in control of them. That does not make speech itself “real power” nor “contradicts the idea that people are free to act”. A willing instrument of another’s will is still an instrument. And if someone orders a murder that then takes place, then he is the main cause of that murder. And to cause a murder is certainly to flout the victim’s liberty.

            • Nico Metten
              Aug 19, 2016 at 3:17 pm

              > A boss “controls” his employees: he tells them what to do and they generally do it.
              No he does not. They are freely entering an agreement with him. If you are arguing that the boss is in control, then you are arguing that they are not free to act, what else?

              > The fact that they do so willingly does not mean that the boss is not in control of them.
              Yes it does. If they can say no without having to fear any costs, then he is not in control. To argue that he is in control is to argue that they are not free to act to some degree. There seems logically no other way.

              Maybe they are not free to act. But if they are not then that has consequences for all kinds of freedom.

              > That does not make speech itself “real power” nor “contradicts the idea that people are free to act”. A willing instrument of another’s will is still an instrument. And if someone orders a murder that then takes place, then he is the main cause of that murder. And to cause a murder is certainly to flout the victim’s liberty.

              But now you are arguing against any kind of hate speech. Anyone who suggests that some people no good can be made responsible for that if another person acts on that hate. And that is definitely a limitation on free speech. You cannot just say whatever you like. You are responsible for the acts of people that act on your proposal.

            • Jan
              Aug 19, 2016 at 5:26 pm

              >> A boss “controls” his employees: he tells them what to do and they generally do it.

              >No he does not. They are freely entering an agreement with him. If you are arguing that the boss is in control, then you are arguing that they are not free to act, what else?

              They are free not to be controlled but they choose to be controlled. They are willing instruments. Just as an orchestra is willingly controlled (in broad terms) by its conductor.

              >> The fact that they do so willingly does not mean that the boss is not in control of them.

              >Yes it does. If they can say no without having to fear any costs, then he is not in control.

              It seems absurd to say that a boss has no control over his employees. It is his job to control what they do (in general terms, at least).

              >To argue that he is in control is to argue that they are not free to act to some degree. There seems logically no other way.

              That is only your idiosyncratic usage of ‘control’. Logic has nothing to do with it. “Control” does not mean “manipulate like a puppet” in this context.

              >Maybe they are not free to act. But if they are not then that has consequences for all kinds of freedom.

              The are not free to flout the controls of the boss without risking the sack.

              >>That does not make speech itself “real power” nor “contradicts the idea that people are free to act”. A willing instrument of another’s will is still an instrument. And if someone orders a murder that then takes place, then he is the main cause of that murder. And to cause a murder is certainly to flout the victim’s liberty.

              >But now you are arguing against any kind of hate speech. Anyone who suggests that some people no good can be made responsible for that if another person acts on that hate. And that is definitely a limitation on free speech. You cannot just say whatever you like. You are responsible for the acts of people that act on your proposal.

              It depends on the alleged “hate speech” and its context. A speech that intentionally whips up a mob into hanging someone is invasive speech. “Hate speech” that says people should completely boycott a certain group is free speech.

            • Nico Metten
              Aug 19, 2016 at 8:56 pm

              > They are free not to be controlled but they choose to be controlled. They are willing instruments. Just as an orchestra is willingly controlled (in broad terms) by its conductor.

              Yes they are free not to be controlled and also willing. That is why they are fully responsible if we respect freedom. To argue that the responsibility also lies with the person who gives instructions is to argue that their freedom cannot be taken 100% seriously.

              > It seems absurd to say that a boss has no control over his employees. It is his job to control what they do (in general terms, at least).

              Yes, but not in terms of responsibility for their behaviour when they are committing crimes. Usually bosses only instruct people to do things that are perfectly legitimate, but can be done in various ways.

              > That is only your idiosyncratic usage of ‘control’. Logic has nothing to do with it. “Control” does not mean “manipulate like a puppet” in this context.

              But it is only this usage of ‘control’ that matters here. If there is no puppet like control, then there is no responsibility for the person who gives instructions, if we respect liberty. Because there is no deterministic, tool like relationship between the instructor and his followers. For the simple reason that it does not cost anything to ignore the instructions. That is exactly the point. So to argue that despite the lack of a puppet like control, the instructor is still responsible is to question the freedom of the people who follow. There is logically no other way.

              >The are not free to flout the controls of the boss without risking the sack.

              Yes, but they do not own the job, so that is not a cost.

              > It depends on the alleged “hate speech” and its context. A speech that intentionally whips up a mob into hanging someone is invasive speech.

              Not if we observe freedom. I cannot see which costs the instructor is inflicting on the victims. It is only true, if we argue that people are not fully free to act. It is an argument against freedom, but it seems correct anyway, because people are probably not that free to act.

            • Jan
              Aug 20, 2016 at 2:12 pm

              >Yes they are free not to be controlled and also willing. That is why they are fully responsible if we respect freedom. To argue that the responsibility also lies with the person who gives instructions is to argue that their freedom cannot be taken 100% seriously.

              A hit man can be 100% responsible for committing a murder and the person instructing him is also 100% responsible. Libertarian retribution should not be divided between them. Otherwise, for instance, a large crowd stoning an innocent person to death might each receive a few months in prison.

              >> It seems absurd to say that a boss has no control over his employees. It is his job to control what they do (in general terms, at least).

              >Yes, but not in terms of responsibility for their behaviour when they are committing crimes.

              He is also responsible if he told them to commit those crimes.

              >But it is only this usage of ‘control’ that matters here. If there is no puppet like control, then there is no responsibility for the person who gives instructions, if we respect liberty.

              The person who gives the instructions is intentionally part of the cause of what then ensues. If the result is murder, then the instructions are culpably causal. But the people who choose to follow the instructions are also culpable.

              >>The are not free to flout the controls of the boss without risking the sack.

              >Yes, but they do not own the job, so that is not a cost.

              It is not a proactively imposed cost, but it is an opportunity cost.

              >> It depends on the alleged “hate speech” and its context. A speech that intentionally whips up a mob into hanging someone is invasive speech.

              >Not if we observe freedom.

              To whip up a mob to hang someone is to be an intentional cause of that person’s death. That is what does not observe freedom. And preventing such activities preserves freedom.

              >I cannot see which costs the instructor is inflicting on the victims.

              The victim is the hanged person, not the mob.

              >It is only true, if we argue that people are not fully free to act. It is an argument against freedom, but it seems correct anyway, because people are probably not that free to act.

              This seems to be about Hobbesian freedom and metaphysical freewill. People can be fully free from external constraints to act (Hobbesian freedom), even if they act as they must due to deterministic internal constraints (they lack metaphysical freewill).

            • Nico Metten
              Aug 20, 2016 at 3:04 pm

              > A hit man can be 100% responsible for committing a murder and the person instructing him is also 100% responsible. Libertarian retribution should not be divided between them. Otherwise, for instance, a large crowd stoning an innocent person to death might each receive a few months in prison.

              That is fine and not the problem. The problem is that why is the person who gives the instruction at all involved in the crime? If we assume that the hitman is 100% free to act then there is no deterministic causality between offering the job and taking it on. All the person who is offering the job is doing is saying something. So in order to have this kind of causality, we have to assume that the hit man is not 100% free to act.

              >He is also responsible if he told them to commit those crimes.

              The question is, why is that, if they are indeed free to act.

              >The person who gives the instructions is intentionally part of the cause of what then ensues. If the result is murder, then the instructions are culpably causal. But the people who choose to follow the instructions are also culpable.

              You keep saying that. And I actual agree that this causality seems to exist. And yet it seems to contradict the idea of liberty. No one’s liberty is violated by me saying words (excluding IP cases maybe). I am not even a danger to anyone, because I am not personally threatening anyone to harm them. So why am I responsible for the actions of other people? People who are apparently free to act. I can only be responsible for the actions of other people if they are not free to act and I am imposing costs on them if they don’t do what I tell them.

              > It is not a proactively imposed cost, but it is an opportunity cost.

              Exactly, so it is not a violation of liberty.

              > To whip up a mob to hang someone is to be an intentional cause of that person’s death. That is what does not observe freedom. And preventing such activities preserves freedom.

              You can definitely prevent the activity, as in preventing the mob from hanging someone. But can you prevent someone from saying something? If so, why? If the thesis is correct that people are free to act, then this causality you are talking about does simply not exist. And yet, it seems to exist. That means that people are probably not free to act. That is the only logical conclusion left, after we exclude the other possible conclusion that the person inciting the violence has no responsibility.

              >The victim is the hanged person, not the mob.

              Exactly, and is the instructor involved in the actual hanging? It seems not if people are free to act.

              > This seems to be about Hobbesian freedom and metaphysical freewill. People can be fully free from external constraints to act (Hobbesian freedom), even if they act as they must due to deterministic internal constraints (they lack metaphysical freewill).

              No, it is interpersonal liberty. I am not proactively imposing anything on anyone by saying words that are not directly announcing a threatening action of myself.

  5. Mr Ed
    Aug 19, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Coming back to the OP: “This is a good opportunity to reflect on how far free speech should go? Should there be any limits?”

    Would a libertarian law look at intent, consequence, or both?

    In my ludicrous Drake example, I and my friend have intent, but consequence there is none. Is it law to criminalise the impossible? It would look to me like a pragmatic policy to ban speech regarded as ‘wrong’ and let the hard cases fall as they are.

    If we look at intent, then the prosecutor has to show intent as well as the fact of speech. Not easy, nor should it be.

    If we look at consequence, then the prosecutor has to show consequence, and surely the free will of the actual wrongdoer is a break in the chain of causation. i.e. If I incite my vicar to evil, I am (I hope) wasting my time. But what if I only find out too late, to my horror, that the trendy vicar is a blood-crazed Leninist itching to murder millions, and he acts on my instinct to ‘break the ice’ and finds his niche.

    Or would it require both intent and consequence for a libertarian legal system to penalise some speech, if at all?

    And when I write about English Common Law, I think that it is because in my heart I think of the Common Law, in the 17th Century with judges like Sir Edward Coke, as moving towards a libertarian position in many areas. In my guts, I know that’s nuts.

    • Mr Ed
      Aug 19, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      ‘instinct’ = ‘instruction’.

  6. Jan
    Aug 21, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    >The problem is that why is the person who gives the instruction at all involved in the crime?

    Because he caused the crime to happen. What we cause to happen intentionally (or recklessly/reasonably foreseeably/grossly negligently) we are responsible for happening. We can cause a crime to happen by using inanimate objects, or plants, or animals, or people. When it is with people who are knowingly doing our bidding, we are still the original, intentional, culpable cause of the crime.

    >If we assume that the hitman is 100% free to act then there is no deterministic causality between offering the job and taking it on.

    There is no deterministic causality, but there is still originating causality. The free co-operation of the hitman is part of the causal chain that starts with the person instructing him.

    >All the person who is offering the job is doing is saying something.

    He is saying something that intentionally causes a crime.

    >So in order to have this kind of causality, we have to assume that the hit man is not 100% free to act.

    But we don’t need such deterministic causality here. The culpable initiating causality does not disappear just because another person co-operates to effect the crime.

    >>He is also responsible if he told them to commit those crimes.

    >The question is, why is that, if they are indeed free to act.

    Because he caused the crime to happen by intentionally initiating it. We are responsible for what we intentionally cause. That responsibility does not disappear just because we have the voluntary co-operation of other people to do the proximate deed.

    >>The person who gives the instructions is intentionally part of the cause of what then ensues. If the result is murder, then the instructions are culpably causal. But the people who choose to follow the instructions are also culpable.

    >You keep saying that. And I actual agree that this causality seems to exist. And yet it seems to contradict the idea of liberty. No one’s liberty is violated by me saying words (excluding IP cases maybe).

    That is like saying that no one’s liberty is violated if you pull a trigger. So you point your gun at someone and pull a trigger and they die. Pointing a hitman at someone and telling him to kill that person (for £X) is just like pulling that trigger. In this context, your words cause the eventual murder as the trigger-pulling causes the eventual murder.

    >I am not even a danger to anyone, because I am not personally threatening anyone to harm them.

    You are covertly initiating the murder of someone. That sounds dangerous for that person.

    >So why am I responsible for the actions of other people?

    In this case, because you are paying them to do your bidding.

    >People who are apparently free to act.

    And that includes being free to act as part of a causal chain leading to murder, but starting with you.

    >I can only be responsible for the actions of other people if they are not free to act and I am imposing costs on them if they don’t do what I tell them.

    No, you are causally responsible for what you tell your hirelings to do. They would not have done it otherwise (we may suppose). You are the witting, intentional, initiating cause.

    >>To whip up a mob to hang someone is to be an intentional cause of that person’s death. That is what does not observe freedom. And preventing such activities preserves freedom.

    >You can definitely prevent the activity, as in preventing the mob from hanging someone. But can you prevent someone from saying something?

    On the basis of defending liberty, yes.

    >If so, why?

    Because “saying something” can mean intentionally initiating a murder. And you would be the prime (but not sole) cause of that murder.

    >If the thesis is correct that people are free to act, then this causality you are talking about does simply not exist.

    An initiating, intentional, cause is not vitiated by the fact that there are mediating volunteers to a crime. To order a crime (successfully) is to cause that crime as its originator.

    >And yet, it seems to exist. That means that people are probably not free to act.

    Ordering a hitman to murder is invasive speech by its consequences, as pulling a trigger (that fires the gun, that kills a person) is invasive action by its consequences.

    >That is the only logical conclusion left, after we exclude the other possible conclusion that the person inciting the violence has no responsibility.

    As we have now seen, he does have initiating, causal, responsibility.

    >>The victim is the hanged person, not the mob.

    >Exactly, and is the instructor involved in the actual hanging? It seems not if people are free to act.

    He caused it by intentionally initiating it. He was assisted by volunteers. That does not stop his being the cause.

    >> This seems to be about Hobbesian freedom and metaphysical freewill. People can be fully free from external constraints to act (Hobbesian freedom), even if they act as they must due to deterministic internal constraints (they lack metaphysical freewill).

    >No, it is interpersonal liberty. I am not proactively imposing anything on anyone by saying words that are not directly announcing a threatening action of myself.

    When a proactive imposition is the eventual and intended consequence of your words, then those words are the cause of it if not a PI in itself (as pulling a trigger is not the murder in itself).

    • Nico Metten
      Aug 21, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      > Because he caused the crime to happen. What we cause to happen intentionally (or recklessly/reasonably foreseeably/grossly negligently) we are responsible for happening. We can cause a crime to happen by using inanimate objects, or plants, or animals, or people. When it is with people who are knowingly doing our bidding, we are still the original, intentional, culpable cause of the crime.

      This is going in circles. I try one more time to explain what I mean. The basic assumption of promoting liberty is that people should be left alone to do what they like with their lives. If that is the right model for society than that assumes that people are fully responsible for their actions. That is another way of saying that they are free to act. The most popular argument against liberty is that people cannot be allowed to make their own decisions, because they might come to bad conclusions. But if it is true that liberty is the correct model for society then I cannot use people unless I restrain their ability to act. Short of that they are free to do what they like and fully responsible for their actions.

      From that follows that I do not cause the murder by simply giving instructions. The hitman is free to reject the offer. Therefore, it is his very own decision to do the murder. I may have motivated him to come to that conclusion, but ultimately it is his freely achieved decision. That distinguishes him from a tool that does not have a will on its own and is not free to act. A gun shots a bullet when I pull the trigger. It cannot think about whether it wants to shot a bullet or not. It simply does what I want it to do. That is why I am the one who is responsible for pulling the trigger. Free human being cannot logically be tools. They are not free when they are tools, they cannot be both at the same time.

      The reason why allowing to hire a hitman seems like a fools thing to do is, because someone will almost certainly accept that offer and do the hit. If that is true then the assumption that freedom is always the best solution for society seems wrong. Although the mere encouragement of people to commit a crime does not in itself violate someone’s liberty, the assumption that people act responsible with their freedom is too week to allow these acts.

      > There is no deterministic causality, but there is still originating causality. The free co-operation of the hitman is part of the causal chain that starts with the person instructing him.

      If that were true than we basically cannot have any free speech. If I insult someone that person will feel bad. I caused that and therefore am responsible for it. Since enjoying live is probably one of his core projects in his life, I have violated his liberty. Or me spreading a non libertarian ideology that leads to people being taxed or otherwise hassled cannot be allowed, since that creates a climate in which these acts are possible. It all started with me spreading that ideology. And I clearly had the intend to create that climate. Therefore speech in and of itself can only be used in a very specific form. Essentially only libertarian ideas are allowed to be spread.

      • Mr Ed
        Aug 22, 2016 at 8:31 am

        “spreading a non libertarian ideology that leads to people being taxed or otherwise hassled cannot be allowed”

        Yes, I have sometimes wondered if it ought to be unlawful to propose any increase in government spending or taxation as incitement to theft. That is purely a ‘policy’ matter, i.e. it is pulling law out of the air for a specific purpose. And if one proposes a reduction elsewhere in spending or taxation (as the case may be) then one can say that freedom might not be unduly restricted. However, if one is not be free to spread bad ideas, is one free?

      • Jan
        Aug 22, 2016 at 2:06 pm

        >This is going in circles.

        I think there has been useful elaboration of explanation and criticism on both sides. That is not “going in circles”. In any case, once the vying of positions is completed it can take time for arguments to sink in and then possibly have a different effect.

        >I try one more time to explain what I mean. The basic assumption of promoting liberty is that people should be left alone to do what they like with their lives.

        Although persuasion to do things differently is acceptable, if people are willing to listen.

        >If that is the right model for society than that assumes that people are fully responsible for their actions.

        And speech, and its intended consequences, is a form of action for which people are also responsible.

        >That is another way of saying that they are free to act.

        As long as they do not thereby significantly proactively impose on the person and property of other people.

        >The most popular argument against liberty is that people cannot be allowed to make their own decisions, because they might come to bad conclusions.

        That is the paternalistic argument, at least.

        >But if it is true that liberty is the correct model for society then I cannot use people unless I restrain their ability to act.

        You cannot use people by restraining their ability to do what they wish with themselves and their property.

        >Short of that they are free to do what they like and fully responsible for their actions.

        Agreed.

        >From that follows that I do not cause the murder by simply giving instructions.

        This is where you leap to a conclusion that does not follow from anything you have said so far. If a murder only happened because you gave instructions for it to happen, then you are the initiating cause as a purely factual matter. All the previous stuff about libertarianism is completely irrelevant to this factual state of affairs. One may assume any system of morals or property (or none), and the fact remains that to successfully instruct a murder to happen is to cause it to happen.

        >The hitman is free to reject the offer.

        Agreed.

        >Therefore, it is his very own decision to do the murder.

        Yes, and it was your very own decision to cause the murder by instructing him to do it. That the causal chain involves the co-operation of another person does not mean that you are not the primary cause.

        >I may have motivated him to come to that conclusion, but ultimately it is his freely achieved decision.

        Agreed.

        >That distinguishes him from a tool that does not have a will on its own and is not free to act.

        Yes, he is a tool of your instruction only because he chooses to be so.

        >Free human being cannot logically be tools.

        Logically, free human beings can only be willing tools.

        >They are not free when they are tools, they cannot be both at the same time.

        When you are a willing tool (or instrument) of another person’s instructions, then you are both free and a tool.

        >The reason why allowing to hire a hitman seems like a fools thing to do is, because someone will almost certainly accept that offer and do the hit.

        Yes, some people are willing tools for crimes.

        >If that is true then the assumption that freedom is always the best solution for society seems wrong.

        Because you are overlooking the factual chain of causality that starts with the instruction.

        >Although the mere encouragement of people to commit a crime does not in itself violate someone’s liberty,

        Only in the way that “pulling a trigger” does not. But both pulling a trigger and instructing a killing can cause murder.

        >the assumption that people act responsible with their freedom is too we[a]k to allow these acts.

        I’m not sure what this means.

        >>There is no deterministic causality, but there is still originating causality. The free co-operation of the hitman is part of the causal chain that starts with the person instructing him.

        >If that were true than we basically cannot have any free speech. If I insult someone that person will feel bad. I caused that and therefore am responsible for it. Since enjoying live is probably one of his core projects in his life, I have violated his liberty.

        Not if you are in a property forum that allows insults, and many fora do (usually within limits). Then he chose to accept the risk of insult by entering that forum. So it is not proactively imposed.

        >Or me spreading a non libertarian ideology that leads to people being taxed or otherwise hassled cannot be allowed, since that creates a climate in which these acts are possible. It all started with me spreading that ideology. And I clearly had the intend to create that climate. Therefore speech in and of itself can only be used in a very specific form. Essentially only libertarian ideas are allowed to be spread.

        The chain of causality is so long and tenuous that an ordinary person advocating a tax. etc., is very unlikely to have that effect. Much less likely than winning the lottery, I should have thought. In any case, we need people to say why they think some tax, etc., is good so that we can try to refute their arguments.

        • Nico Metten
          Aug 22, 2016 at 4:01 pm

          > And speech, and its intended consequences, is a form of action for which people are also responsible.

          They are responsible for the damage that is done with their speech. But unless they are violating a contract that they have signed, there cannot be any damage done from speech according to the liberty thesis. And here is why:

          > This is where you leap to a conclusion that does not follow from anything you have said so far. If a murder only happened because you gave instructions for it to happen, then you are the initiating cause as a purely factual matter. All the previous stuff about libertarianism is completely irrelevant to this factual state of affairs. One may assume any system of morals or property (or none), and the fact remains that to successfully instruct a murder to happen is to cause it to happen.

          Your description is correct, but your conclusion seems false. As a purely factual matter the murder would also not have happened if the parents of the hitman would not have given birth to him. Are they now guilty of man slaughter? See, this is where the basic thesis of liberty comes in. It says that people should be best left alone to do what they like with their lives. This means that is that they should be seen as fully responsible for their actions. The latter means that whatever may have influence you in your life, you are responsible to filter out the bad from the good influences. Demanding liberty basically says that people are capable of doing that, and that therefore liberty will result in an attractive society. The opponents of liberty question that thesis. According to them, people need to be controlled to some degree. In this scenario, people are only responsible if they have not been badly influenced by someone else.

          If the liberty thesis is correct, then the person giving instructions is not responsible. The hitman, as a free man, is responsible for filtering out the good from the bad influences. If he fails to do that then he is fully responsible for that. That is why people who are demanding liberty are arguing for free speech. Because speech itself apparently does not hurt anyone. Only actions do. And according to the liberty thesis, which demands to leave people alone, the people who are executing the actions are fully responsible for those, as long as they are free to make the decision.

          If you are arguing that the person who influences another person has some responsibility for that person’s actions, you have to question the ability of that person to make his own decisions. And if you are questioning that you are questioning that he is fully responsible, which means that you are basically saying that the liberty thesis is not correct. You are agreeing with the opponents of liberty who say that we cannot be fully responsible as we are too weak to filter out all the good from the bad influences. We therefore need to have a system that guides people to make decisions. And the core of such a system is to control the environment, so that people are not exposed to bad influence. That is why those people like public education systems, public media and speech prohibitions. That is why they in particular see money as tool of power, because you can influence people with it.

          By shutting up the person giving instructions, you, and also me, are basically agreeing that this anti-liberty thesis is probably the better approach in certain situations.

          > Logically, free human beings can only be willing tools.

          A willing tool is something very different from a tool that does not have a will in the context of liberty. In fact calling them both tools is misleading. The basic idea of liberty is that a free man cannot be a tool, even if it may look like it at times.

          >When you are a willing tool (or instrument) of another person’s instructions, then you are both free and a tool.

          No, because the basic idea of liberty is that you alone are responsible for your actions as long as you are free to make that decision.

          >The chain of causality is so long and tenuous that an ordinary person advocating a tax. etc., is very unlikely to have that effect. Much less likely than winning the lottery, I should have thought.

          There are many instances in which the cause and effect are much more clear. Like in the case of this preacher for example. A political leader can on his own often change the political climate as we see with Trump in the US at the moment, who has unleashed a mob of racists.

          > In any case, we need people to say why they think some tax, etc., is good so that we can try to refute their arguments.

          Now you are arguing for liberty again. People in an open debate will see what the better theory is. That assumes that people can come to the correct conclusions on their own. I agree with that in most cases, but not when someone is instructing people to commit violent crimes.

          • Mr Ed
            Aug 22, 2016 at 7:12 pm

            “They are responsible for the damage that is done with their speech. But unless they are violating a contract that they have signed, there cannot be any damage done from speech according to the liberty thesis”

            But there is also liability in tort in common law, not everything is contractual. And contract formation is not always done with formalities such as signatures, contracts can be formed by conduct.

            And what if someone is misled into committing an act that they might not otherwise have committed? e.g. by a false cry of ‘He raped your daughter!’ The English Common Law developed over many centuries, the nuances of which should be looked at for an example of the complexity of deciding what ought and ought not be a decent system of law.

            • Nico Metten
              Aug 22, 2016 at 7:39 pm

              I am not defending the reality of the common law system or any other law system here. But with liberty, you are responsible for what you are doing. If you are acting on false information then it depends on whether you had a contract with the person providing these false information. If you have a contract with someone to provide you with accurate information, and it turns out he lied to you, then you have a claim against him. If you read something on a website and you act on it, then you are responsible for it, because you do not have a contract with the person operating the website that he guarantees you that the information are correct.

              If you lie to enforcement authorities, then there is some kind of implicit contract that your information need to be correct.

          • Jan
            Aug 23, 2016 at 2:33 pm

            >They are responsible for the damage that is done with their speech. But unless they are violating a contract that they have signed, there cannot be any damage done from speech according to the liberty thesis. And here is why:

            >> This is where you leap to a conclusion that does not follow from anything you have said so far. If a murder only happened because you gave instructions for it to happen, then you are the initiating cause as a purely factual matter. All the previous stuff about libertarianism is completely irrelevant to this factual state of affairs. One may assume any system of morals or property (or none), and the fact remains that to successfully instruct a murder to happen is to cause it to happen.

            >Your description is correct, but your conclusion seems false. As a purely factual matter the murder would also not have happened if the parents of the hitman would not have given birth to him. Are they now guilty of man slaughter?

            No, because having a child is not to intend, or foresee, or likely to produce, a murderer.

            >See, this is where the basic thesis of liberty comes in. It says that people should be best left alone to do what they like with their lives.

            Or persuaded to do things willingly–if they are willing to listen.

            >This means that is that they should be seen as fully responsible for their actions.

            Agreed.

            >The latter means that whatever may have influence you in your life, you are responsible to filter out the bad from the good influences.

            Agreed–unless someone was intentionally misleading you, perhaps.

            >If the liberty thesis is correct, then the person giving instructions is not responsible.

            This does not follow. The fact that the hitman is fully responsible for being a murderer, does not mean the person employing him is not also fully responsible for causing the murder that he intends to cause and that would not have happened but for his actions (instructing and paying).

            >The hitman, as a free man, is responsible for filtering out the good from the bad influences. If he fails to do that then he is fully responsible for that.

            Agreed.

            >That is why people who are demanding liberty are arguing for free speech. Because speech itself apparently does not hurt anyone. Only actions do.

            To successfully order a murder to happen is invasive speech in causal terms. An order is what is known in linguistics and philosophy of language as a ‘speech act’ (most speech acts are not invasive).

            >And according to the liberty thesis, which demands to leave people alone, the people who are executing the actions are fully responsible for those, as long as they are free to make the decision.

            They are fully responsible but not thereby solely responsible. The hitman and his customer are both fully responsible for the murder.

            >If you are arguing that the person who influences another person has some responsibility for that person’s actions,

            It depends on the details of the examples.

            > you have to question the ability of that person to make his own decisions.

            That does not follow.

            >And if you are questioning that you are questioning that he is fully responsible,

            No, the hitman is fully responsible for the murder. And so is the customer that ordered the murder. They are engaged in a joint criminal enterprise. And responsibility for crimes is not shared out like the price of a meal.

            > which means that you are basically saying that the liberty thesis is not correct.

            Your interpretation of it is not correct.

            >You are agreeing with the opponents of liberty who say that we cannot be fully responsible as we are too weak to filter out all the good from the bad influences.

            No.

            >We therefore need to have a system that guides people to make decisions.

            We need to guide people away from crimes, at least.

            >And the core of such a system is to control the environment, so that people are not exposed to bad influence.

            Full restitution and retribution for criminal activity is the main control required here.

            >That is why those people like public education systems, public media and speech prohibitions.

            Agreed.

            >That is why they in particular see money as tool of power, because you can influence people with it.

            Money can influence like a carrot. Only the state has the stick of power.

            >By shutting up the person giving instructions, you, and also me, are basically agreeing that this anti-liberty thesis is probably the better approach in certain situations.

            Most instructions are fine. It is only instructions that attempt to cause a crime that flout liberty.

            >> Logically, free human beings can only be willing tools.

            >A willing tool is something very different from a tool that does not have a will in the context of liberty. In fact calling them both tools is misleading. The basic idea of liberty is that a free man cannot be a tool, even if it may look like it at times.

            Wrong. A hitman is clearly the willing tool (or instrument) of his customer. He does exactly what he is told to do (for money, of course).

            >>When you are a willing tool (or instrument) of another person’s instructions, then you are both free and a tool.

            >No, because the basic idea of liberty is that you alone are responsible for your actions as long as you are free to make that decision.

            The hitman is fully responsible for being a murderer. And his customer is fully responsible for causing a murder by commissioning it. Again, liberty is not really relevant here. To pay a hitman is intentionally to cause a murder as a matter of fact.

            >>The chain of causality is so long and tenuous that an ordinary person advocating a tax. etc., is very unlikely to have that effect. Much less likely than winning the lottery, I should have thought.

            >There are many instances in which the cause and effect are much more clear. Like in the case of this preacher for example. A political leader can on his own often change the political climate as we see with Trump in the US at the moment, who has unleashed a mob of racists.

            It would probably be a distraction to move away from the hitman-example at this stage of the debate. The hitman and his customer is a good clear test of the disagreement.

            >> In any case, we need people to say why they think some tax, etc., is good so that we can try to refute their arguments.

            >Now you are arguing for liberty again.

            I never stopped!

            >People in an open debate will see what the better theory is. That assumes that people can come to the correct conclusions on their own.

            Open debate is an example of free speech.

            >I agree with that in most cases, but not when someone is instructing people to commit violent crimes.

            That is an example of invasive speech which you are confusing with free speech.

            • Nico Metten
              Aug 23, 2016 at 3:07 pm

              > No, because having a child is not to intend, or foresee, or likely to produce, a murderer.

              That is why it is man slaughter.

              >>If the liberty thesis is correct, then the person giving instructions is not responsible.
              > This does not follow. The fact that the hitman is fully responsible for being a murderer, does not mean the person employing him is not also fully responsible for causing the murder that he intends to cause and that would not have happened but for his actions (instructing and paying).

              Yes it does follow. Because if people are autonomous to make decisions then the chain of events breaks with each person. That is what it means to be fully responsible. There is no causality between me saying something and the hitman making the decision to murder. The influence does not matter. That at least follows from liberty. It seems however that is not factually correct. Therefore, liberty is not the correct position.

              Two people can both be fully responsible for the same crime, but only if they are actually both committing the crime. And in this case this is not the true. Only the hitman commits the murder.

              >>The hitman, as a free man, is responsible for filtering out the good from the bad influences. If he fails to do that then he is fully responsible for that.
              > Agreed.

              And if that were true, then the chain of events starts with him. But it does not seem true.

              >To successfully order a murder to happen is invasive speech in causal terms. An order is what is known in linguistics and philosophy of language as a ‘speech act’ (most speech acts are not invasive).

              But it is not an order. It is an offer that the hitman can refuse cost free.

              >> If you are arguing that the person who influences another person has some responsibility for that person’s actions, you have to question the ability of that person to make his own decisions.
              > That does not follow.

              It clearly follows. If the person can make his own decisions and acts responsible then there is no deterministic causality.

              > No, the hitman is fully responsible for the murder. And so is the customer that ordered the murder. They are engaged in a joint criminal enterprise. And responsibility for crimes is not shared out like the price of a meal.

              That is how our current legal system would see it. But that is not based on liberty. You can have the same responsibility, but only if both actually committed the crime together.

              > Full restitution and retribution for criminal activity is the main control required here.

              That is not enough. You also need to prevent people from seducing people to commit crimes. Because too many people will not be able to act responsible.

              > Money can influence like a carrot. Only the state has the stick of power.

              Exactly, and that is why the job offerer should not be responsible.

              > Most instructions are fine. It is only instructions that attempt to cause a crime that flout liberty.

              Than you are saying that the surrounding of someone are responsible for his actions. That means he is not fully responsible.

              > Wrong. A hitman is clearly the willing tool (or instrument) of his customer. He does exactly what he is told to do (for money, of course).

              That is in contradiction with the idea that people are autonomous beings.

              > hitman is fully responsible for being a murderer. And his customer is fully responsible for causing a murder by commissioning it. Again, liberty is not really relevant here. To pay a hitman is intentionally to cause a murder as a matter of fact.

              We agree on that fact. What is relevant here is that it should not happen if liberty was the correct position. But it does happen.

            • Jan
              Aug 24, 2016 at 1:27 pm

              >> No, because having a child is not to intend, or foresee, or likely to produce, a murderer.

              >That is why it is man slaughter.

              Having a child is not to intend, or foresee, or likely to produce, a manslaughterer, either.

              >>If the liberty thesis is correct, then the person giving instructions is not responsible.
              > This does not follow. The fact that the hitman is fully responsible for being a murderer, does not mean the person employing him is not also fully responsible for causing the murder that he intends to cause and that would not have happened but for his actions (instructing and paying).

              I can restate my general position on this as regards both causality and responsibility. What we intend to occur that does then occur, and that is because of our intentions and actions (including speech, or other communication) to make it occur, we have both caused (but not necessarily solely caused) and are fully (but not necessarily solely) responsible for causing. And when the occurrence includes an intended proactive imposition on the person or property of other people, then we are an illiberal culpable cause.

              >Yes it does follow. Because if people are autonomous to make decisions then the chain of events breaks with each person.

              We are talking about the causal and responsible “chain of events.” If what happens only happens because of our actions, then we are at the beginning of an unbroken chain of causality. And if it is precisely what we were intending to happen (not an unintended consequence, or unpredictable, etc.), then we are responsible for initiating that causal chain of events.

              >That is what it means to be fully responsible. There is no causality between me saying something and the hitman making the decision to murder.

              Of course there is causality. The hitman would not have done it otherwise. You cause him to do it by getting his voluntary cooperation.

              >The influence does not matter.

              You cause him to do it by your influence.

              >That at least follows from liberty.

              It is only your idiosyncratic interpretation of liberty that insists that voluntary cooperation breaks the chain of causality or responsibility.

              > It seems however that is not factually correct. Therefore, liberty is not the correct position.

              Your interpretation is factually and morally incorrect.

              >Two people can both be fully responsible for the same crime, but only if they are actually both committing the crime. And in this case this is not the true. Only the hitman commits the murder.

              And only his customer causes him to commit the murder (with financial inducements) that would otherwise not have occurred.

              >>>The hitman, as a free man, is responsible for filtering out the good from the bad influences. If he fails to do that then he is fully responsible for that.
              >> Agreed.
              >And if that were true, then the chain of events starts with him. But it does not seem true.

              How can the “chain of events” start with him when he would not be doing it unless he were commissioned to do it?

              >>To successfully order a murder to happen is invasive speech in causal terms. An order is what is known in linguistics and philosophy of language as a ‘speech act’ (most speech acts are not invasive).
              >But it is not an order. It is an offer that the hitman can refuse cost free.

              It is an ‘order’ in the sense that you order a good or service. The commissioning party is causally and morally responsible for getting what is ordered, even though it is by the (equally causal and morally responsible) voluntary cooperation of others. If I order my handyman to paint the fence black, then it is absurd for me to assert that I have no causal or moral responsibility for the fence being painted black.

              >>> If you are arguing that the person who influences another person has some responsibility for that person’s actions, you have to question the ability of that person to make his own decisions.
              >> That does not follow.
              >It clearly follows. If the person can make his own decisions and acts responsible then there is no deterministic causality.

              Deterministic causality is not required. We can cause things to occur (that would not otherwise have occurred; so we must be causal) by getting the voluntary cooperation of other people.

              >> No, the hitman is fully responsible for the murder. And so is the customer that ordered the murder. They are engaged in a joint criminal enterprise. And responsibility for crimes is not shared out like the price of a meal.
              >That is how our current legal system would see it. But that is not based on liberty. You can have the same responsibility, but only if both actually committed the crime together.

              It is based on liberty. The hitman causes the murder directly by doing it. The customer causes it indirectly by commissioning the hitman.

              >> Full restitution and retribution for criminal activity is the main control required here.
              >That is not enough. You also need to prevent people from seducing people to commit crimes. Because too many people will not be able to act responsible.

              Luckily, “seducing people to commit crimes” is also causally and morally criminal.

              > Money can influence like a carrot. Only the state has the stick of power.
              >Exactly, and that is why the job offerer should not be responsible.

              But he is using a carrot to guide the stick, hence he is responsible for the stick.

              >> Most instructions are fine. It is only instructions that attempt to cause a crime that flout liberty.
              >Than you are saying that the surrounding of someone are responsible for his actions. That means he is not fully responsible.

              People are responsible for voluntarily acting on a criminal commission and for voluntarily giving criminal commissions.

              >> Wrong. A hitman is clearly the willing tool (or instrument) of his customer. He does exactly what he is told to do (for money, of course).
              >That is in contradiction with the idea that people are autonomous beings.

              No. If you choose to do what someone tells you to do, then you are still autonomous (because it was a free choice).

              >> hitman is fully responsible for being a murderer. And his customer is fully responsible for causing a murder by commissioning it. Again, liberty is not really relevant here. To pay a hitman is intentionally to cause a murder as a matter of fact.
              >We agree on that fact. What is relevant here is that it should not happen if liberty was the correct position. But it does happen.

              Intentionally causing a murder to occur (by whatever means) is a proactive imposition, and hence it flouts liberty.

            • Nico Metten
              Aug 24, 2016 at 3:54 pm

              >Having a child is not to intend, or foresee, or likely to produce, a manslaughterer, either.

              No of course not. But you said that it only matters what is the factual cause. And factually, without them conceiving the hitman, the murder would not have happened. But this is of course absurd and shows that we are really discussing who is responsible for the murder. And moral responsibility presupposes control. The parents are clearly not in control.

              >I can restate my general position on this as regards both causality and responsibility. What we intend to occur that does then occur, and that is because of our intentions and actions (including speech, or other communication) to make it occur, we have both caused (but not necessarily solely caused) and are fully (but not necessarily solely) responsible for causing. And when the occurrence includes an intended proactive imposition on the person or property of other people, then we are an illiberal culpable cause.

              You are ignoring the problem. We agree that the person giving instructions is the cause. The problem is, if liberty is the correct position he should not be the cause. The hitman would be a free man. And as a free man he is fully in control of himself. If this were true then the person giving instructions does not have any control over the hitman. And since he has no control, he is not responsible.

              But what we are observing is, that the person giving instructions seems to be in some control, because he reliably achieves his goal to get someone murdered through his job offer. That is why the assumption that the hitman is fully in control and therefore fully responsible cannot be correct.

              >We are talking about the causal and responsible “chain of events.” If what happens only happens because of our actions, then we are at the beginning of an unbroken chain of causality. And if it is precisely what we were intending to happen (not an unintended consequence, or unpredictable, etc.), then we are responsible for initiating that causal chain of events.

              No objections. That is what we observe, in other words those are the facts. But we should not observe these fact if liberty was the correct position to take. Therefore, these facts contradict the liberty thesis.

              > It is only your idiosyncratic interpretation of liberty that insists that voluntary cooperation breaks the chain of causality or responsibility.

              Well then show me what is wrong with it. So far you only constantly repeating what seems obvious, that the person giving instruction is in some control of the murder.

              Again, if we assume that people are suppose to be fully left alone, we assume that they are fully responsible for their actions. And to assume that means to assume that they are fully in control of their lives, because you can only be responsible for what you are in control off. This liberty assumptions seems to work pretty well in most aspect of life. But when it comes to inciting violence, it seems we have to rely on another theory. Liberty seems to lead to bad results.

              >> And if that were true, then the chain of events starts with him. But it does not seem true.
              > How can the “chain of events” start with him when he would not be doing it unless he were commissioned to do it?

              Chain of events is a wrong formulation, yes. The chain of events start with the instructor in any case. But the responsibility should lie with the hitman, as he is autonomous to make his own decisions. If he is morally autonomous, that is if he is free from constrains imposed on him, then the instructor has no control over him. And if he has no control over him then he can logically not be responsible for the acts of the hitman. And yet, it looks like we have to make him responsible, otherwise we end up in an unpleasant society in which people can hire hitmen. This factual observation is contradicting the assumption.

              To say that the instructor is constraining the target of the murder with his instructions is only the case if we assume that the hitman is not an autonomous moral actor. Because if he is the latter, then it is only the hitman who is a threat to the victim.

              > It is an ‘order’ in the sense that you order a good or service. The commissioning party is causally and morally responsible for getting what is ordered, even though it is by the (equally causal and morally responsible) voluntary cooperation of others.

              No, this type of order is the acceptance of another offer. This is just playing with words. A real order is an offer you cannot refuse without having proactive constraints being put on you. In other words, it will cost you to reject the order, while it will cost you nothing to reject an offer.

              > If I order my handyman to paint the fence black, then it is absurd for me to assert that I have no causal or moral responsibility for the fence being painted black.

              You don’t have moral responsibility as that would mean you have control over the handyman.

              > Deterministic causality is not required. We can cause things to occur (that would not otherwise have occurred; so we must be causal) by getting the voluntary cooperation of other people.

              But we are only morally responsible for our own acts, if we assume liberty. Even if you are cooperating with people, everyone is still morally responsible for their own actions only. Often people hire other people exactly so that they don’t have to be responsible themselves. For example if you hire a security service for money and the event does not turn out to be save, you blame the security service responsible and not yourself.

              > But he is using a carrot to guide the stick, hence he is responsible for the stick.

              No, influence is not power, if we respect liberty.

              >>> Wrong. A hitman is clearly the willing tool (or instrument) of his customer. He does exactly what he is told to do (for money, of course).
>>That is in contradiction with the idea that people are autonomous beings.
              >No. If you choose to do what someone tells you to do, then you are still autonomous (because it was a free choice).

              You are not autonomous if you don’t have a choice but to do what you have been told. In that case you are a tool. Or you are autonomous in which case you cannot be a tool. Even though it may look like you do what you are being told, if you are autonomous you really do what you want. The question is, is it reasonable to assume that people are autonomous if we can very reliably get them to do what we want without putting any constraints on them.

            • Jan
              Aug 26, 2016 at 12:00 pm

              >>Having a child is not to intend, or foresee, or likely to produce, a manslaughterer, either.

              >No of course not. But you said that it only matters what is the factual cause.

              No, I said there has to be intentionality too.

              >And factually, without them conceiving the hitman, the murder would not have happened. But this is of course absurd

              Hence, I have kept mentioning intentionality as well.

              > and shows that we are really discussing who is responsible for the murder.

              And that is both the hitman and his hirer.

              >And moral responsibility presupposes control.

              No, it presupposes cause and intention.

              >The parents are clearly not in control.

              Nor do they have intention.

              >>I can restate my general position on this as regards both causality and responsibility. What we intend to occur that does then occur, and that is because of our intentions and actions (including speech, or other communication) to make it occur, we have both caused (but not necessarily solely caused) and are fully (but not necessarily solely) responsible for causing. And when the occurrence includes an intended proactive imposition on the person or property of other people, then we are an illiberal culpable cause.

              >You are ignoring the problem.

              There is no problem.

              >We agree that the person giving instructions is the cause.

              Along with the hitman, of course.

              >The problem is, if liberty is the correct position he should not be the cause.

              I take libertarianism to be the position that we should not intentionally (recklessly/foreseeably/etc.) cause proactive impositions on the person and property of other people–as both hirer and hitman do.

              >The hitman would be a free man. And as a free man he is fully in control of himself. If this were true then the person giving instructions does not have any control over the hitman. And since he has no control, he is not responsible.

              He does not need to have deterministic control. Intentional influence is also causal.

              >But what we are observing is, that the person giving instructions seems to be in some control,

              By intentional influence.

              >because he reliably achieves his goal to get someone murdered through his job offer. That is why the assumption that the hitman is fully in control and therefore fully responsible cannot be correct.

              It is mistaken to rule out intentional influence as causal.

              >>We are talking about the causal and responsible “chain of events.” If what happens only happens because of our actions, then we are at the beginning of an unbroken chain of causality. And if it is precisely what we were intending to happen (not an unintended consequence, or unpredictable, etc.), then we are responsible for initiating that causal chain of events.

              >No objections. That is what we observe, in other words those are the facts. But we should not observe these fact if liberty was the correct position to take. Therefore, these facts contradict the liberty thesis.

              Libertarianism does not entail that people cannot causally, intentionally, and culpably influence others.

              >> It is only your idiosyncratic interpretation of liberty that insists that voluntary cooperation breaks the chain of causality or responsibility.

              >Well then show me what is wrong with it.

              I keep doing so.

              >So far you only constantly repeating what seems obvious, that the person giving instruction is in some control of the murder.

              Yes. And that intentional influence is what makes him a culpable cause. That seems to be clear and unproblematic.

              >Again, if we assume that people are suppose to be fully left alone, we assume that they are fully responsible for their actions.

              The hitman is fully responsible for the murder. That does not entail that only he is fully responsible for murder. By his intentions and actions, the hirer is also fully responsible.

              >And to assume that means to assume that they are fully in control of their lives, because you can only be responsible for what you are in control off.

              And the hirer controls the hitman by influencing him with money.

              >This liberty assumptions seems to work pretty well in most aspect of life. But when it comes to inciting violence, it seems we have to rely on another theory. Liberty seems to lead to bad results.

              No, when someone intentionally and causally (it would not have happened otherwise) incites violence, he is using other people as willing cooperators to achieve an illiberal end. That his intentions and causality achieve violence means that he has acted illiberally. There is no problem with liberty here.

              >> And if that were true, then the chain of events starts with him. But it does not seem true.
              > How can the “chain of events” start with him when he would not be doing it unless he were commissioned to do it?

              >Chain of events is a wrong formulation, yes. The chain of events start with the instructor in any case. But the responsibility should lie with the hitman, as he is autonomous to make his own decisions.

              It does lie with him. It lies with the hirer too: he autonomously hired a murderer and thereby caused a murder.

              >If he is morally autonomous, that is if he is free from constrains imposed on him, then the instructor has no control over him.

              Of course the instructor has some control over him: by the influence of money and choosing the target. Deterministic control is not required.

              >And if he has no control over him then he can logically not be responsible for the acts of the hitman. And yet, it looks like we have to make him responsible,

              He clearly is factually, and by libertarianism, responsible for what he intentionally causes.

              >otherwise we end up in an unpleasant society in which people can hire hitmen. This factual observation is contradicting the assumption.

              Only your perverse interpretation of the assumption.

              >To say that the instructor is constraining the target of the murder with his instructions is only the case if we assume that the hitman is not an autonomous moral actor.

              The hitman autonomously agrees to be the instrument of his hirer’s will.

              >Because if he is the latter, then it is only the hitman who is a threat to the victim.

              Without the hirer there would be no threat.

              >> It is an ‘order’ in the sense that you order a good or service. The commissioning party is causally and morally responsible for getting what is ordered, even though it is by the (equally causal and morally responsible) voluntary cooperation of others.

              >No, this type of order is the acceptance of another offer.

              That is the relationship between the hirer and the hitman.

              >This is just playing with words. A real order is an offer you cannot refuse without having proactive constraints being put on you.

              I am not talking about that kind of order, but the equally real kind that is commercially ordering a product.

              >> If I order my handyman to paint the fence black, then it is absurd for me to assert that I have no causal or moral responsibility for the fence being painted black.

              >You don’t have moral responsibility as that would mean you have control over the handyman.

              Of course I control the handyman–by paying him to do as I say.

              >> Deterministic causality is not required. We can cause things to occur (that would not otherwise have occurred; so we must be causal) by getting the voluntary cooperation of other people.

              >But we are only morally responsible for our own acts, if we assume liberty.

              Yes, and hiring a murderer is a causal and culpable act.

              >Even if you are cooperating with people, everyone is still morally responsible for their own actions only.

              No, people are morally responsible for whatever they intend and cause to happen.

              >Often people hire other people exactly so that they don’t have to be responsible themselves.

              One cannot escape moral responsibility this way.

              >For example if you hire a security service for money and the event does not turn out to be save, you blame the security service responsible and not yourself.

              There is not culpable intentional causality here.

              >> But he is using a carrot to guide the stick, hence he is responsible for the stick.

              >No, influence is not power, if we respect liberty.

              Influence over A can be power over B, and hence the influence flouts liberty.

              >>>> Wrong. A hitman is clearly the willing tool (or instrument) of his customer. He does exactly what he is told to do (for money, of course).
              >
>>That is in contradiction with the idea that people are autonomous beings.
              >>No. If you choose to do what someone tells you to do, then you are still autonomous (because it was a free choice).
              >You are not autonomous if you don’t have a choice but to do what you have been told. In that case you are a tool. Or you are autonomous in which case you cannot be a tool.

              A willing instrument is autonomous (hence culpable) and an instrument (hence not the only one who is culpable).

              > Even though it may look like you do what you are being told, if you are autonomous you really do what you want.

              And sometimes people really want to do as they are being told.

              >The question is, is it reasonable to assume that people are autonomous if we can very reliably get them to do what we want without putting any constraints on them.

              And the answer is, yes. There is no inconsistency between being autonomous and also freely choosing to be the instrument of another’s will.

            • Nico Metten
              Aug 26, 2016 at 12:41 pm

              I think we will have to agree to disagree on this Jan. This is going in circles for while now and I really have better things to do than to write another round, arguing exactly what I have already argued many times. The world is not objective is once again the lesson here.

            • Jan
              Aug 26, 2016 at 2:33 pm

              We have done somewhat better than argue in circles, I think. In Popper’s sense, the physical world (W1) and the intellectual world captured in memes (W3) are ‘objective’ in the sense that they are there for anyone to check on and interpret. But that does not mean that we are bound to reach the same conclusions about them–for all observations and arguments are theory-laden: full of inescapable assumptions. And arguments often need time to be better absorbed and appreciated. It will be interesting to see whether we still hold exactly the same positions in six month’s time.

  7. Mr Ed
    Aug 23, 2016 at 9:49 am

    Nico,

    From what I have read of what you have written, it appears that you would deny liability in tort in a libertarian society, am I wrong to suggest that?

    Or put it another way, have you read and digested too much Rothbard?

    • Nico Metten
      Aug 23, 2016 at 10:03 am

      I am not talking about a libertarian society. No real society will ever allow people to hire hitman. That would be silly. And the fact that it is silly, is the premise of my argument. I am just trying to answer the question of whether that means that liberty cannot be the guiding principle in every aspect of human interaction. It is a philosophical argument.

  8. Mr Ed
    Aug 24, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    “The problem is, if liberty is the correct position he should not be the cause. The hitman would be a free man. And as a free man he is fully in control of himself. If this were true then the person giving instructions does not have any control over the hitman. And since he has no control, he is not responsible.”

    Let’s unpack this a bit:

    ‘…since he has no control, he is not responsible…’

    Seriously? Responsible for what?

    For what the hitman did? Well the hitman did the ‘hit’, but that is just the ‘end product’.

    But we are not looking at responsibility in the way that an ion may cause a chemical reaction, in terms of causation, we are talking about legal responsibility. As I have pointed out, that the hitman is responsible for the ‘hit’ does not diminish the hirer’s responsibility for the murder. The hirer is also responsible as being a causative agent but for whom, there would have been no murder.

    It appears to me, unless I am mistaken, that you are not clearly distinguishing mechanistic causation from responsibility in law, even if the law is ‘liberty’ as you would have it.

  9. Paul Marks
    Aug 24, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    I am disturbed by this case – I am not shy of opposing Nico when I think he is wrong, so I am morally obliged to say when I think he has a point.

    As far as I know this Islamic preacher did not specifically suggest murdering any individual – let alone hire a hitman to carry out the murder of someone.

    What he did was suggest that infidels (non Muslims) should be fought till we are dead – or till we submit.

    But that is mainstream Islamic theology (it really is) and has been ever since Mohammed invented Islam.

    What this man appears to be guilty of is being unusually frank (open) about Islamic theology – rather than covering it in double talk to trick infidels. Actually Mohammed would fault him (and ISIS) for that – not on moral grounds, but on tactical grounds.

  10. Mr Ed
    Aug 25, 2016 at 5:36 am

    Another disturbing thing about this case is that, so I’m told, the now-convict was able to life off benefits for years, whilst clearly able to pursue an active life.

    Put him in jail for saying things, and the Left and media, i.e the ruling class, barely murmur.

    Cut his benefits, and they would scream to Hell of the injustice.

    • Oct 3, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      Benefit sanctions are not being applied equally. There needs to be a nationwide investigation into this.

  11. Oct 5, 2016 at 10:08 am

    My own take on this is that in the real world, we have to make some speech illegal – Charles Manson never personally killed anyone as you say. A preacher at the Orlando mosque was preaching the killing of gays and then someone who visited that mosque went and killed 49 people (although these were not necessarily directly connected events). When you have people openly preaching murder in public it is particularly important I believe to prosecute those people in part because they are showing open contempt for the authorities and encouraging others to do the same. Of course this will always be difficult but by proposing a clear framework splitting direct/indirect incitements I believe we can make a good attempt at it.

    Its interesting though to think about what might happen in a truly free society. Private justice firms might show up with armed people and start objecting loudly. Other private justice firms might then start showing up and defending the preachers right to speak freely. A bloodbath might ensue or maybe, just maybe, a standoff might occur and eventually some sort of debate take place. Until such a society exists and we see it working in practice it will be very hard to know what would happen.

    I think on the whole I would prefer to live in a society with a single legal system – its up to ordinary people to make sure it operates fairly, something we have been manifestly failing to do. The internet however I believe is becoming a breeding ground for better justice because people are sharing info on injustices like never before, as I did here:

    “Its NO LONGER A Free Country”

    https://chaunceytinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/its-no-longer-a-free-country/

    and here:

    “The Principle of the Thing – Equality Before The Law”

    https://chaunceytinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/the-principle-of-the-thing-equality-before-the-law/

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