Sam Bowman promoted to deputy director of the Adam Smith Institute

Congratulations to Sam Bowman. Sam is the young bright and likable spokesperson for free-market think tank the Adam Smith Institute, an organisation that has done more for the libertarian movement than I am qualified to name. Sam is good looking, well spoken and smart so you will have seen him on the TV with increasing regularity. In fact Sam also appeared in person at the Rose and Crown meetup where he gave an excellent and useful speech summarising the argument-so-far over the minimum wage issue. It has been obvious that Sam is being pushed to the front by his older colleagues at the ASI and so his promotion to deputy director, announced to friends on Facebook, is not a surprise.

Here is how the Institute describes Sam:

His current research agenda is the political economy of “Bleeding Heart Libertarianism”, a school of thought that tries to use free market policies to improve the welfare of the poor. His key policy areas are immigration and planning, which he sees as the two major areas where states hurt the poor globally and in the UK respectively. He is also interested in market monetarism, the epistemic challenges facing social democracy, and the case for wealth redistribution within free markets. He likes food, beer and pop music.

These are important areas for academic research and discussion, someone will want to research them and so it is good that a consequentialist libertarian like Sam is the one doing it. You have guessed it already, but there is a but coming.

Before I get to the but, here is where I am coming from intellectually. I am a product of Samizdata, since it was first chronologically to spread it’s influence through the web and through the mess of self-contradictory and free-floating nonsense that was the blogosphere at the time. Later, I am the product of Popper, Rand and Hayek, chronologically. The one that has stuck is Rand (and on economics, Hayek) and Rand has stuck for two reasons.

Going under the intellectual hood and putting scaffolding under your libertarianism is empowering, and helps to put a range of ideas (including non-political ideas, frequently) into order. Libertarian political policy makes more sense, rather than less, if taken alongside a study of Rand. This is about empowering the mind to see connections across topics of thought.

People do not vote their pocket-book. Actions to not arise, politically, as they do commercially. In commerce a spreadsheet is a viable tool for calculating the best option from a range of options. In politics however, not only is this impossible as a matter of economic calculation, it is inappropriate and doesn’t occur. Instead, people vote for what is good and proper and just.

That which is good and proper and just is determined by a moral code (often but far from consistently an altruistic code) which is absorbed from some combination of school assemblies, fiction, sermons, art, self-help books, government communication, journalism and more. Moral assumptions are present in all those cultural endeavors and is in all of them poorly backed up, usually not even argued out but is assumed, and is nearly always implicit. No one ever explicitly says that individuals are the means to the end and their labour ought to be taken by force to achieve that end, but such is the basis of taxation and where welfare cheques come from. Of course the one time people will vote on an economic calculation is when one party promises them more money, an argument the labour-confiscating left generally wins.

Now for the “but”, the reason Sam Bowman’s promotion needs to be approached with caution and sandwiched with a tactical analysis, is that his favoured policies are a tactical error. Land value tax will communicate and economically incentivise the idea that we are a collective and that ownership ought to a privilege, not a right. It will legitimate the idea that luck is a factor in the moral decision about how to approach other human beings, that their luck means taking more labour from them by force is okay. Citizen’s basic income is an economic nightmare undermining all incentives, but also undermining the moral idea that one ought to pay one’s own way.

I like Sam, on a personal level, and have liked him since we met, but his consequentialism was the second thing he told me about himself after his name. He wears his bleeding heart on his sleeve, and we ought to take that pronouncement at face value. The moral argument for liberty is both strong and essential, and cannot be omitted or mixed up with Rawlsian moral ideas.

This is welcome news, and guarantees the ASI has a future, but watch closely where that future leads.


  1. Churlish, Simon.

    Not all libertarians use intellectual scaffolding to construct some Randian ivory tower which they can inhabit. Some have ambitions to push the world in a libertarian direction and are prepared to do so by trying to change the debate.

    You may look at LVT and CBI as less than perfect instruments however they are a considerable improvement on what we’ve got and will give Sam real policies that he can articulate without being laughed at.

    That which is good and proper and just is determined by a moral code

    Whose code?

    There is no “objective” morality and to try to impose such a thing on another is ultimately to be coercive. Morality is an individual construct and is only pertinent in that context. Your moral code, or Rands, is not superior to mine, although, of course, you will believe it to be so.

    Citizen’s basic income is an economic nightmare undermining all incentives, but also undermining the moral idea that one ought to pay one’s own way.

    If you believe that, I don’t think you really understand the concept. CBI is all about retaining incentives for work, both within and outwith the “legitimate” economy.

    It is about preventing welfare killing aspiration.



    1. Ken
      I am not arguing that libertarians use an intellectual scaffolding, I would not have opened my mouth if they did. I am arguing that they should, for their own sakes, do so — that doing so will have better practical consequences in terms of our shared goals. Our opponents have the courage of their convictions, we do not even pretend to.

      “Whose code” you ask? Not mine, not often anyway. I’m arguing that political decisions are made according to the moral code of people that vote, who exercise their sovereignty over yours by doing so.

      I am not seeking to enforce my moral code over you or over anyone, I offer it as a tool of persuasion and a tool for living your life. You might use it without believing it, or part of it while believing part of it, it makes no difference to me. That I believe it to be true and better is a happy co-incidence, but I believe you won’t achieve your goals without adopting an ethics based argument. Use a different ethical argument, that’s fine also, but have the courage of your convictions.



  2. Thanks for the congratulations, Simon. I always enjoy our debates and, as I said on Twitter, I look forward to many more in future.

    I’m happy to agree to disagree, but let me try to outline where I’m coming from in case you or your readers are interested.

    Morally we agree to disagree. I am a strict and convinced utilitarian. I think that the world is good when people can do what they want, and the world is bad when people can’t. That means giving people the freedom to do what others may view as bad things (take drugs, say very unpopular things) but it also means that it’s good for people to have the resources to do things too. If you’re stuck down a well, it’s all very well that you have free speech, but you really want a ladder to get out. That is why free markets are good – because they make people richer. They give people ladders.

    On my specific policy heresies: I don’t actually feel very strongly about a Land Value Tax, although most economists think that an LVT is less bad than many other taxes. As such, and because I want to reduce the harm the state causes, I would be open to shifting taxation from things like income and capital to land. The political problem here is that most new taxes that come along don’t replace old taxes, they just add to them. If that would be the case, then I wouldn’t want an LVT.

    The biggest heresy I am guilty of is favouring a measure of redistribution of wealth. The state currently redistributes huge sums of money, usually from the poor to the middle (the NHS, the education system and the planning system are three major examples of this). I hate this. I want to stop this. Redistribution from the rich and the middle to the poor is, on the face of it, less horrible, although the way it is done currently is very harmful.

    I favour a Negative Income Tax to replace all of this redistribution, which would pervert incentives less than any other kind of welfare I am aware of and would only redistribute to the poor. (As I’ve written before this is almost identical to the Basic Income: It’s imperfect, and I’m quite happy to be convinced that under laissez-faire no welfare at all would be superior. The evidence is not there yet, but if it’s true then I hope we’ll get it eventually. My business is to make the world better now, by persuading people about improvements we can make now, and I do not think absolutism will help me tactically, nor is it intellectually appealing to me.

    As for the moral idea that one must pay one’s way, we will have to agree to disagree. The moral idea that compels me is the one that says that you should have a good life whatever bad luck or bad decisions you’ve made.

    I believe that most people want the same thing – to be able to live their lives prosperously without interference from others – but are not yet persuade by our arguments. My role, and the ASI’s role, is to persuade them by using the reason and evidence that persuaded us originally. In the interim I think we also have a role to reduce the suffering of other human beings, which to an enormous extent is caused by bad government policies.

    If you convinced me that free markets made people poor and miserable I would not like them. Happily, in the real world, this does not seem to be the case. I am an empiricist and I am happy to report that the evidence for the value of free enterprise is very, very strong. We try to persuade people of that every day and, so far, I think it’s had an impact. I can only hope we continue to do so.



    1. Thanks Sam

      I am happy to agree to disagree. Your elevation to deputy director makes you heir apparent and secures the future of an institution which is a undoubtedly net force for good. However, seeing consequentialists rise (your self, and Ben Southwood) has the dangers I outlined and people should be aware of those dangers and should discuss them. In your link you mention that the Green Party supports a policy identical except in technical detail, what then, is to stop the dominant Green movement taking the credit? What is to stop them gaining popularity on account of your arguments? What will they do with the popularity they gain from that false-attribution? A libertarian solution should look and feel libertarian.

      The choice is not between the 1. the status quo, 2. CBI/NIT and 3. nothing. Free markets are capable of providing welfare solutions, and have done so before. Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell have proposed localising welfare provision as a step in the right direction. I would localise it and then privatise it, leading to an ecosystem of many small, innovative, welfare institutions.




  3. I sometimes get the impression from reading ASI stuff that the writers are desperately keen to be part of the ‘Westminster bubble’ and the ‘cheeky choppy’ pointing out the insanity of the current state of affairs, but doing so ever so politely, and that the rest of the horde simply regard them as Cinderellas at the Ball, who don’t quite ‘get it’, i.e. the point of politics is to enrich and beat down respectively the sides on any political issue.



  4. Sam, you write:

    The moral idea that compels me is the one that says that you should have a good life whatever bad luck or bad decisions you’ve made.

    Do you really, fully, right down to the root, understand that that means forcing — by means of extortion — some persons to pay money to other persons so as to make up (in some sense) for their bad luck or bad decisions?

    Do you think that a person should have a “good life” regardless of his bad decisions? In the first place, just what exactly do you mean by a “good life”? And in the second, by this account a murderer, a stone-cold killer, Jeffrey Dahmer for instance, should — should — have such a good life, irrespective of the “bad decisions” he made when he committed all those murders. Do you really want to adopt this position?

    Utilitarianism. Have you considered the state of the minds of people when they know that some amount of their labor is going to be taken from them by force, in the form of money from their own earnings, in order to pay for the “good lives” of those other people who aren’t so fortunate as to have the opportunity to be forced to pay for still others’ “good lives”?

    And have you considered the state of the minds of people when they know they’re a burden and a drag on the people who pay their way for them?

    A society constructed that way cannot produce a very high percentage of “good lives,” if by that you mean lives that are satisfying to the people living them. At worst there will be violent warfare within it; at best everyone will numb himself to conditions and just — exist.

    It is a fact that we all live together on the planet, or in our own countries, and that inevitably we jostle each other somewhat. So each of us diminishes the “space” in which he can exercise his self-determination, to accommodate this; and from this fact and this necessary accommodation, many people draw the conclusion that utilitarianism is the valid political philosophy.

    But Utilitarianism is, specifically, the putting of Society before Self. The core principle of it requires each person to be willing to give up whatever ration of the “good life” he has, if it will “make society better.” Or failing that, the second-best, according to the core principle, is to force each man or woman to give his or her life, or a portion of it, if he or she won’t do so willingly.

    These aren’t rhetorical questions, Sam. I’m sure you’ve considered them. But have you truly ***used your imagination*** to feel your way deeply into the conditions of the questions? Are you truly comfortable with the idea that somebody with power and a weapon told you personally, you YOURSELF, Sam, that you MUST spend, say, 1/4 of each day — four hours — plunging toilets, because that’s what society needs of you, and that if you don’t do it “of your own free will,” your assets will be seized and you will spend years in prison?

    Yes, of course Sam would do this willingly, no matter the cost to himself. But — what if he didn’t?

    Would you really be able to live with yourself if you put other people in this position?



    1. “you MUST spend, say, 1/4 of each day — four hours — plunging toilets, because that’s what society needs of you”

      The inca’s had a similar system, they – like the Russians – needed guards to keep the toilet cleaners in the camp.

      The toilet cleaners were farmers, but I have seen the guard towers with my own eyes. The interesting thing is that the incas literally confiscated labour – physically taking people away from villages for a third of a of the year – rather than taking money.



      1. That’s interesting about the Incas, Simon. At least they were honest about forced labor as payment for being allowed to exist.


  5. There are things that one might criticise Ayn Rand for and there are many things one might criticise Murray Rothbard for – but not believing in “Social Justice” is not a legitimate line of attack – of course neither of these people believed in “Social Justice”. Pro liberty people believe in the traditional definition of justice (to each their own) not in some “distribution” of goods and services according to some principle of “fairness”.

    One need not go into the absurdities of P.C. ism. I well remember listening to a lecture by Sam Bowman where he attacked non “bleeding hearts” for being against women and ethnic minorities – there was a picture of Ayn Rand directly behind his head, if only he had turned round the absurdity of what he was repeating (for it is not his own thoughts) might have struck him – as Rand was a women and was of Jewish origin (an ethnic minority).

    Let us leave that aside – it is the basic PRINCIPLE of Bleeding Heart ism that is wrong.

    This idea of “the poor” as a class (group thinking). The whole point of Classical Liberal and Libertarian economics (and political philosophy) is the harmony of rightly understood long term interests. To think in terms of policy benefitting a certain “socio economic class” (such as “the poor”) or a “race” or a “gender” is wrong – wrong in principle. It is exactly what we oppose in the P.C. (or “Critical Theory”) academics of the universities.

    The nonaggression principle must be our guide – both our shield and our sword against the attacks on Civil Society (upon what is left of liberty and civilisation) from the Ivory Towers of the followers of Plato and other such.



  6. Simon, your remark about “scaffolding” to provide support for the political policies of libertarianism prompts me to remind everyone that libertarianism is a political philosophy, and as such it is applied moral or ethical philosophy, in the same sense as engineering is applied physics. It ought to be clear (pace sceptics and relativists like Mr. Ferguson and PoMo’s and so forth) that any political philosophy worthy of the name has its base in some theory of morality, although as in so many human inventions, the object may be developed ahead of the theory.

    (Of course both politics and engineering, being real-world endeavours, involve a lot of just plain art. The ancient Romans hadn’t heard of the Krebs cycle, as far as I know, but I understand they did have the steam engine — they just couldn’t figure out what to do with the thing.)

    Any reasonably cogent moral philosophy that has as its fundamental principle the idea that it is right and proper for men to determine for themselves what they will do, and how and when and where, within the constraints of reality itself; any such philosophy can support libertarianism, whose whole and sole point is to secure each individual in his person and his just possessions. In practice, I think libertarianism is, so to speak, trying to find the moral philosophy that supports it. Miss R.’s is one such, of course. There are others. Douglas B. Rasmussen is a neo-Aristotelian, for instance. I’m not sure how to categorize Randy Barnett except as a Barnettist, whose understanding of Natural Law boils down to,

    If you want to do or have or accomplish X, then given Y and the state of everything in general, you had best do Z. He says, “I suppose this makes me some sort of consequentialist.” *g*

    Works for me. Of course in Prof. B.’s case, we know he’s all for individual autonomy, what I often call the “right of self-determination,” and most people call “self-ownership,” though I’m not happy with that characterization, on logical grounds. To me it’s a category error.

    But the only alternative to the belief that it is right for men to be entirely self-determined is the belief that it is NOT right for men to be entirely self-determined. Who then should determine whatever part of who I am and what I do that it’s improper for me to decide upon myself, and to act upon, myself? Dear Leader? Dolores Umbrage? The City Council? Society? Why is it right for those people to extract some part of my life by force?

    Actually, there’s also the position of Mr. Ferguson: that there is no right-and-wrong. But that has no strength as a structural support for anything except nihilism. (“Nothing is anything,” therefore nothing matters. Which is self-refuting, as is the sentence on the otherwise empty page that says, “Every sentence on this page is false.)



    1. Actually, there’s also the position of Mr. Ferguson: that there is no right-and-wrong. But that has no strength as a structural support for anything except nihilism.

      What I was saying is that there is no absolute right and wrong. Morality is an individual construct- a consequence of the way in which the world is viewed by each individual and the blueprint for the interaction between that person and others.

      There can be no meaningful group morality because that is inherently collectivist and involves the individual compromising his own moral compass to the agreed position of the group. History tells us that those seeking to set up groups who share a moral or political consensus eventually become coercive in imposing their vision of the world on others.

      For a libertarian there is only one moral absolute which is to be found in the non-aggression axiom- the rest is all intellectual candy floss. If that is nihilistic, then so be it.



    2. I think of political philosophy as little more than excuses for why some people can, at some times, break the laws laid out in moral philosophy. It’s anti-ethics, in that sense, or plain apologism for evil.



  7. The rejection of the politics of class, race and gender (and so on), the politics of “Social Justice”, is absolutely central – it is foundational.

    Once one adopts the view that policy should be in the interests of a particular group one has adopted a crooked foundation for policy – and only evil will come of it.



  8. Pleased to see the ‘but’ in the original posting – I’d go further. I think Sam is deluded about ‘librtarianism’ (bleeding heart or otherwise) – it is not to be used (and cannot be used) *for* anything – it is giving freedom to individuals to do as they see fit (harm notwithstanding). If you are trying to use if *for* anything else then you are trying to coerce people to act according to your will not their own – and it is defato not libertarian.

    Utiitarianism is also 100% incompatible with libertariansim – it puts the needs of the many over the needs of the few (over the needs of the individual). This is simply tyranny by the majority. I don’t care if people think they can make better use of my resources than I can – if they are my resources then I will use them as I please.

    It is a shame that ASI is falling to the social democrats – they are almost everywhere now



      1. ‘The Draft’ – not needed. If you aren’t prepared to protect your property (not everyone will be non-aggressive) then you won’t have it for long, so unlesss you are expecting others to do that work for you, then if you want any share you’ll have to be prepared to protect it, if you don’t bye bye already. (Hopefully being preapred to defend your equal share means you’ll never will have to – but hey…).

        ‘National Borders’ – got to start somewhere – roll it out globally once its established- roll out means nothing more than self sufficiently farming your share of land – or renting it to others if you wish (maybe through an exchange, pooled… up to you).

        Neither point is pro/anit libertarian – just procedureal.


      2. LVT=Capitalist solutions to the Worlds problems.

        All conflict really being about (economic) control of land.

        If we are all co-proprietors, it’s in our interest that our neighbors prosper. Citizens Income is our share dividend.

        This is the opposite of what happens under our current neo-feudal model.

        The Barbarians don’t understand it. But they thought the abolition of slavery was a fundamental abrogation of their property rights too.


  9. pperrn has (unintentionally) illustrated my point. Almost needless to say a “citizens income” is a radically ANTI libertarian – but pperrn went much further than that, he-or-she said “a country belongs to its citizens”.

    The central principle of the “Social Justice” doctrine – that all income and wealth (everything in a country) belongs to the COLLECTIVE- “the people”, “the citizens”. That money should be paid to people not out of mercy (because they would starve in the streets without it, or would not be able to afford medical care), but as a matter of RIGHT – that all income and wealth BELONGS TO THEM (to the collective), that no individual or private organisation can take the “hands off my stuff” position because it is NOT their income and wealth (as everything belongs to “the people”).

    This is much worse than the philosophy behind the Welfare State (unsustainable though that may be) – the idea that everything belongs to the collective and that we all deserve an income as a matter of RIGHT (not mercy – RIGHT- JUSTICE as in “Social Justice”) is about as bad as it gets.

    With such people the only logical relationship, in the end, is confict. Philosophy does matter and this sort of Social Justice philosophy (that all income and wealth are rightfully the property of “the people” and, therefore a “citizens income” is a RIGHT) is the philosophy of the enemy.

    One can argue with people who say they want XYZ as a matter of MERCY – one can debate better ways of helping the poor, old and sick, but with people who say it is a matter of RIGHT (of Social JUSTICE – that the money is their property, that they “own” it) there can be no debate, only war.



    1. ‘Country’ refers to the ‘land and sea’ – the natural resources that no man created, and no man can create more of… If you don’t want to share, I may happily kill you and take it… as may anyone else. The only logica/rational position is for the natural resource of ‘land/sea’ to be shared equally. Kill those who disagree, otherwise they are already killing you…

      Not a ‘collective’ just lots of individuals accepting peace through equal division of the *natural* resource of land to live on is better than war over it. Until there are too many to be supported then we have war/murder/slaughter to remove enough to leave plenty for the victors.



      1. It’s heartening to read this comment. Not many people understand that true freedom ultimately means sharing(economically) what nature provides for free.

        When this is understood by the majority, we will have taken our biggest step forward yet as humans.


      2. This comment is not heartening, it’s disgusting. pperin is explicit that there is not a moral objection to end another persons life through murder (in paragraph 1) or war (in paragraph 2).


      3. Your moral objection is not going to save your life – so unless you are looking for a pie-in-the-sky utopian fantasy rather than a practical, implementable frame work you will need something with a bit more weight.

        When there are two people and food only for one, at least one is going to die – the only question is how the situation resolves itself.


      4. That’s an artificial scenario in which you have removed all choice. In practice, what has happened for centuries is that people decide to co-operate to create more food, or trade which amounts to the same thing.


      5. Simon at Nov 27, 2014 at 5:40 pm:

        Actually there have been real-world situations where food shortages, i.e. famines, have been so bad as to induce parents to eat their children (but I would kill both my child and myself rather than do such a thing!), if the reported historical record is correct. The Holomodor if I am correct, perhaps the Irish Potato Famine and the starvation of the kulaks.

        However, in the main you’re quite right. (At least in the history of Western civilization, for the most part. In other parts of the world mores sometimes differ. And in those places, human life isn’t considered very important except perhaps to its several owners.)


      6. pperrin, don’t forget that libertarian’s fundamental moral code is the non-aggression principle. Think of us as trying to implement change via a Ghandi / buddhist sort of way.
        The non aggression principle is simple, practical, and carries a lot of power.


      7. I took it for a parody that those against LVT use to justify their position.

        Murder, war and violence are the origin of all land titles, are they not?

        My position is that people don’t have to have LVT if they don’t want it. But if they are the minority then their land becomes their own sovereign responsibility and they loose the citizenship rights of the majority.

        Then it becomes a straight cost/benefit analysis. Is is whole more than the sum of it’s parts?

        I say yes. But no coercion required. Joining a geo-federation should be entirely voluntary.


      8. ‘Murder, war and violence are the origin of all land titles, are they not?’

        No, e.g. The Falkland Islands, terra vacanta.


      9. Mr Ed – who first took title to (say) the falklands to then transfer them by treaty?

        They were not offered to me – were they offered to you? So who had the right to transfer ownership and exclude you and I from owning them?

        The ownsership was plucked out fo the air and is preserved by the threat of violence – as it is for all land.

        If WW1 or 2 had been lost, it could be that all land would be owned by a nazi state – a soldier from 2 up 2 down saved the UK just as much as the son of a lord owning thousands of acres – everyone paid the same for the UK, so owns it equally…


      10. Murder, war and violence are traceably the origin of all politically appropriated land. Not all owned land through history though, as studies into conflict resolution in stateless societies such as ancient Ireland, Mediaeval Iceland, Saxon England, and the Indus Valley Civilisation have shown.

        Yes, people en bloc have in the past politically appropriated land off one-another through war. So what? There ain’t any of them going on in the UK today, and neither is there going to be, unless the state initiates it.


      11. Simon, as is said, “It is difficult to argue with your comment.”

        By which one means, “Exactly so.” :>)

        Although sometimes war and even deliberate homicide (but not murder, which by definition is strictly speaking unjustified) IS justified and even moral — though not for any reasons remotely related to the ones pperrin alleges here (Nov. 26, 2014 at 7:58 pm).


      12. ‘Not Justified’ – good epitaph. Good luck with that.

        I can explain my basis for land ownership while the barbarian decides whether to kill me or not – good luck explaining yours… in fact, please do. What’s your killer (saviour!) explanation to the barbarian with the gun?


      13. To pperrin
        Nov 28, 2014 at 12:34 am
        “What’s your killer (saviour!) explanation to the barbarian with the gun?”
        Again, the non aggression principle. Not being prepared to defend yourself (with guns, martial arts, teleportation skills… whatever you can think of) is, well, stupid.
        Pacifism has teeth. Ghandi regretted allowing the Indians to be un-armed by the Britsish. The buddhists came up with a ton of martial arts, like karate, aikido, shaolin kenpo, etc.


  10. No natural resources should not belong to the people – they should belong to individual persons or private organisations.

    And many countries do not have much in the way of natural resources anyway.



    1. You want people to recognise ‘private organisations’? – what are they? Are they something like a ‘god’ – nothing mateial just non physical concepts that *you* have chosen to recognise and then expect others to believe in too?



      1. “A private organization” means a group of people who have come together on a voluntary basis, usually with a set goal.


      2. Hi fellow compassionate human. Who are these barbarians? People from pre-agriculture subsistence cultures like rainforest tribes in New Guinea? Cos they ain’t numerous, or particularly deadly, or here…


  11. pperrin – a private organisation is a voluntary association, for example a club, a fraternity, a society, a Church, or a trading company.

    If you do not accept such free association (into voluntarily financed colleges and so on) you are about as far from a libertarian as it is possible to be. The Jacobin doctrines of the French Revolution (“atomistic” individuals and a mighty state – and nothing else) are not libertarian – not even vaguely.

    For the legal arrangements see (for example) private Law Merchant and Canon (Church) law, which dealt with such things as limited liability as far back as the Middle Ages.



    1. People can do what they please – but I only recognise individuals as having any inate worth.

      What is your ‘organsiation’ gong to do to me? how is it going to do it? Oh – nothing, it can’t it is just your own mental creation – like gods, if it works for you, great, but don’t dump it on me.

      It is only people/individuals who can *do* anything – morality doesn’t come into it – logic and morality are different spheres.



      1. @pperrin,

        Given that you state above a willingness to exterminate all those who oppose land communism, your claim to believe in the innate worth of individuals is somewhat dubious.


      2. It is true that the discipline of logic, that is the study of logic, is different entirely from that of moral theory. However, cogent and practicable moral theory depends in part upon the application of logic as strict as we can manage.

        (It’s true that we often say “this just doesn’t seem logical, but it works, so…” in all kinds of cases, from forming moral theories and political policies to building machines and inventing recipes. But that’s generally because some of our ideas have been inspired guesses, and/or the “logic” isn’t build on premises that are entirely correct.)

        Logic is a tool that must necessarily be applied to moral theory in order to discover certain classes of flaws that will prevent it from real-world applicability.

        Like any human invention (or discovery), the object which we call “moral philosophy” has to undergo many trials and examinations, and hence iterations, as we work to improve it to improved serviceability in the real world.

        Logic is one of the tools we do and must use in arriving at improvements.

        [It should go without saying that life-experience and observations of history inform intuition and prompt inspiration; these are the building-blocks of art, including the art of logic (believe it or not) and certainly of moral theory.]


      3. Scott Peck said one’s “sub-conscious is always a step ahead of your conscious.” So as long as you have a good heart, meaning you’re constantly questioning if something is right or wrong, if you’re looking for goodness and truth, then, your unconscious instincts will lead you the right way. After which the conscious mind may, or may not, explain the logic of what you did.

        This relates to why I’m a libertarian. (I’m just speaking out loud here, your comment Julie, got me going) Because there is no ‘set’ truth. The right and wrong of most everything depends on so many other things. Bottom line, only god (and I, if I’m not bound in preconceptions) know if whatever I did was wrong or right. Nobody else. It’s healthy to debate about it, discuss it, but ultimately it’s up to nobody -definitely not the government- to cast a judgement.

        Here’s where the non-aggression principle comes in. It’s the simplest and fairest way to maintain a peaceful society where people are free to live their own lives as they see fit, as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of another individual. (And yes, self defense is part of the principle). That’s where the line is. One individual is equally as important as any other. That’s why dividing people into classes, races, sexes, etc is wrong, because everyone, every situation, is different. Judging a group is even more wrong.

        Because the world is Soooooo complicated, it’s best to keep things simple. Therefore, the non-aggression principle.


      4. Expanding on my previous comment, about war… this is wrong, because this is 1) grouping people and 2) casting a judgement on that group of people.
        If we are part of a group, and volunteer to protect that group, then self defense of that group is right. But only when attacked. No preemptive attacks are right.


  12. Mr Bowman states: “If you convinced me that free markets made people poor and miserable I would not like them. Happily, in the real world, this does not seem to be the case. I am an empiricist and I am happy to report that the evidence for the value of free enterprise is very, very strong.”

    it would appear from that statement, if the evidence Mr Bowman saw pointed one way or the other, he would follow the evidence without any critical examination based on any internal moral compass. He does not sound certain of any principles of economics, or even if there is such a discipline.



    1. Sounds like the scientific method to me! If the best evidence points to the world being flat, yet someone proves the world is round, then that is the way to proceed, all the while trying to test, improve and disprove our current assumptions.



      1. This is not a matter for which the scientific method is applicable, e.g. where is your positive control, where is your negative control?


      2. I agree that economics ‘the dismal science’ finds has difficulties in conducting reproducible scientific experiments, hence Keynes’ nonsense still holds traction after so many years.

        I do however think that there are different moral starting points that might arrive at the same conclusion regarding free markets and individual freedoms.

        They are not all ‘libertarian’ however.


      3. Nevertheless we can look at the past, and see what policies there were, and hopefully which ones prevailed and which died away, and attempt to discern the similarities among the prevailing, i.e. “more successful” ones; and then see which of our theories propose the elements that apparently produced the similarities among the patterns of the successful ones.

        We do have to be a little cautious, though. An economy might “prevail” (i.e. have a relatively long life) because it’s relatively efficacious, or it might last as a symptom of some sort of political order rather than of economic policy or style. Whether this has happened I can’t say, but it seems to me to be something to watch out for.


  13. There are markets within markets, and one market is the market of consensus or political systems themselves.

    We do not live in a world with infinite land, such that we can up and move whenever we disagree with our neighbours, and as such there are liberties that are denied by the wealth held by others.

    One example might be in you live in certain oil producing states, whereby the shear wealth from the land itself reduces any kind of competitive pressure for the land owners to permit social liberties on their land/country.

    Given the barriers to movement in an ever more populous world a political system needs to appeal to all in society to reduce the incentives for violence.

    Thus governments, welfare states etc are supported.

    BUT some forms of wealth redistribution, are vastly economically superior, in terms of not reducing incentives to economic and social activity, than others.

    LVT and UBI seem to fit this bill, and as such might be politically acceptable, although some might argue they are policies which might unite the left, middle and right in opposition!

    I’ve not commented much on this site on these issues as I’ve not resolved the conflict myself between non aggression principle, and a political system that disincentivises the desire for aggression itself, through maximising individuals chances to have economic and social freedom.

    There is certainly an issue of ‘isms here though, and it would be reasonable for individuals to understand how ‘libertarianism’ differs from ‘classical liberalism’, so that it is clear where there might be alliances or disagreements on particular issues.

    I think Simon advertises the Libertarian Home meetup as inclusive of Libertarians, Minarchists, Anarchists and Classical Liberals however so I would hope this remains a reasonable forum to explore routes to freedom, even if they are from different moral start points.

    One more thought – I think a consequentialist position can be moral, if the aim is create a system where there are no incentives to violence.



  14. Ben Jamin’s @ Nov 26, 2014 at 7:06 pm:

    ‘All conflict really being about (economic) control of land.’

    Not all war, and far from all murder, is the result of a desire for increased wealth, or possessions, or land.

    There have been many times in history when leaders or others have been moved to start unjust war in the name of an ideology or a philosophy — more often the former, I suppose, and please note that they are not the same thing.

    In humans’ natures (to differing degrees, as always) there are urges for aggrandizement of the group or the self. Aggrandizement is often realized as an increase in social status, or in political power; and some find a support for their self-esteem in it. This has resulted in war. There is also a tendency toward romanticizing certain states or conditions, such as that of being a warrior.

    “Crimes of passion” will always be with us, as will sociopaths.

    For these reasons, even in Libertopia there will be murders, and at a minimum initiatives to commence “small wars.”

    As we work toward a political condition closer to that of the unreachable ideal (“or what’s a heaven for”), we also need to deal with the fact that sometimes there is a genuine and valid need to conduct war, when all other means have failed, in defense of self, or group (or family, tribe, society, culture). There is lots of room for debate here as to whether a given war is undertaken primarily as a matter of self-defense or the legitimate defense of others.

    In short: In the real world, not all war is unnecessary or unjust, and not all war is bad (=immoral); and arguably, here and perhaps even in Libertopia, there will be cases in which not all “murder” is wrong.

    . . .



  15. I see – so money should be taken by the threat of violence and given to people (just take by violence and given – people should not have to work for it) and this is libertarian. It this is libertarian then I am a camel.



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