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Thread: The Great Libertarian Debate

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    The Great Libertarian Debate

    Okay, @exploited, here we are.

    First, I'm not going to be debating Chris or Ethereal's views on libertarianism. They can speak for themselves. I'm going to speak from my own views and maybe touch on some other aspects. The thing is that every libertarian has different views on what libertarianism. It's kinda like the old joke that if you ask two Jews a question you'll get three opinions.

    Now that that's out of the way, I'll let you make the opening argument/pose questions for me. If there are any terms you want defined before we begin, we can start with not. If not, the opening argument goes to you.
    "For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'." John Greenleaf Whittier

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    Hey Hal. This is gonna have to wait until tomorrow because I'm currently on the 16th Hole and the 7th Beer. Thanks for starting this. I'll think on how I'd like to begin and get back to you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by exploited View Post
    Hey Hal. This is gonna have to wait until tomorrow because I'm currently on the 16th Hole and the 7th Beer. Thanks for starting this. I'll think on how I'd like to begin and get back to you.
    No worries. A good debate shouldn't be rushed. Prepare what you need to prepare.
    "For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'." John Greenleaf Whittier

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    @Hal Jordan

    Okay, let's get some ground-work out of the way.

    Definitions

    1. Can we agree that private property refers to land, natural resources and capital, under exclusive ownership of a particular individual?

    2. Can we agree that the three core principles of libertarianism are natural rights (including private property rights), the non-aggression principle and some form of democratic consensus-building? If not, I think we should at least agree on a definition of libertarianism, so that we can keep this discussion on track - feel free to submit one that you feel is more suitable, if you wish.

    Debate Rules

    1. If possible, can we keep the debate as essay-style as possible? I understand that some have a preference for breaking every point down into individual quotes, even to the point where paragraphs are broken down into three or four (or more) points and addressed piecemeal. While that may be appropriate from time to time, can we both agree to try to avoid this as much as possible? This is just a personal preference thing and I'm not going to refuse to debate if you don't agree, I'm just saying.

    2. Can we agree to go about this in a fairly ordered way? For instance, we could cover alot of ground if we agree that each individual subject should only consist of an assertion, a rebuttal, and a counter-rebuttal. Because you've given me the first point, I'll make an assertion, you can rebut, and I'll make a counter rebuttal. Then we would switch. If you would prefer a more organic approach, and just see where it takes us, that is fine too. However we might quickly become bogged down. Let me know your thoughts.

    3. Can we agree that it is fair game to point out logical fallacies? Can we also agree on a third-party to rule on this on our behalf, so we don't get bogged down on procedural questions?

    4. Can we agree not to reference each others past posting in any way, shape or form? The only thing to be discussed here is what is said here.

    Let me know your thoughts dude. I'm more than willing to work with you to come up with some ground rules that are satisfactory for both of us. Feel free to make any suggestion, or add any definition. Once we get these basic things out of the way, I'll make my first post.
    Last edited by exploited; 09-19-2016 at 05:09 PM.

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    As to the definitions, I can agree with the first one. However, as I see it, the definition of libertarianism is going to be the heart of the debate. If we pre-define the core principles, that will take a lot out of the discussion. I feel that since this is the core matter of the debate, we can't pre-define that.

    Now on to the rules.

    1. As to the first rule, I can agree to that. I so tend to prefer breaking it up for clarity, but I have no issues with doing it essay style.

    2. Regarding the second rule, to an extent, I can agree. There will naturally be some level of an organic approach, but I do tend to be more ordered with my debates, so that is mostly my debate style anyway. There has to be some leeway for organic responses, but other than that, I agree.

    3. With rule three, the ability to point out logical fallacies is not only fair game, but a necessity. Giving up the ability to point out logical fallacies would cheapen the debate.

    4. I think the fourth rule goes without saying. I think the focus of the debate should be that particular debate.

    I think this is a fair setup for the discussion, but am open to hear any objections or addendums.
    "For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'." John Greenleaf Whittier

    "Our minds control our bodies. Our bodies control our enemies. Our enemies control jack shit by the time we're done with them." Stick

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    I'm on board with that. It's late for me but I will begin tomorrow. Cheers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by exploited View Post
    I'm on board with that. It's late for me but I will begin tomorrow. Cheers.
    I look forward to it.
    "For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'." John Greenleaf Whittier

    "Our minds control our bodies. Our bodies control our enemies. Our enemies control jack shit by the time we're done with them." Stick

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    1. In my experience, libertarians hold that all people possess certain rights. These rights are derived from something, be it God, nature, or simple self-interest. They include, but are not limited to: the right to defend oneself from force, the right to speak freely, the right to life, the right to private property and the right to associate freely. What is the source of these rights, in your opinion, and do you hold them to be inalienable? If so, how can something inalienable be rightfully limited or restricted by government? As an example of what I mean, I present freedom of speech - this is supposed to be an inalienable right, and yet I suspect most people would say that death threats (however baseless) are not protected by this right. How can one explain this discrepancy between theory (inalienable) and reality (rightfully restricted)?

    2. The non-aggression principle states that the only time force is justified is in self-defense. And yet, it seems to me that private property is, in itself, a form of force. Let me use an example. Let us say that there is an island. There are three people on this island. One of them spots a tree that grows fruit. He spends the day gathering the fruit, clearing the weeds, and generally making the tree more productive. Does this piece of land become his, for his exclusive use? Or does it require the consent of the two other people before it becomes his? Now what happens if he puts a fence around the tree? Would you consider that force, or would that be self-defense of his property? Alternatively, does his right to property only extend to those pieces of fruit he removes from the tree, while the tree remains common property? If he requires the consent of the other inhabitants to claim possession of the tree, how can property be considered a right?

    3. Consent seems to be a large part of libertarianism. This is the idea that people must consent to the laws that will govern them. And yet the self-evidence of rights seems to remove a great deal of that consent. For instance, freedom of speech would require that nobody be able to force a person to stop saying something offensive or crude - but what if that "something" is advocating mass murder, or racial genocide, or uttering death threats? If people must consent to their form of governance, must they not also consent to the idea of people having rights? What if they disagree? What if they think that the only thing you should be permitted to do are those things that all agree on? In other words, how can the proposition of rights be reconciled with the need for people to consent to the rules that govern them?

    There is alot there, and I realize that I have both asked questions and made something like an argument. Please feel free to address this however you like, in whatever format you like, and to ask your own questions.
    Last edited by exploited; 09-20-2016 at 09:21 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by exploited View Post
    1. In my experience, libertarians hold that all people possess certain rights. These rights are derived from something, be it God, nature, or simple self-interest. They include, but are not limited to: the right to defend oneself from force, the right to speak freely, the right to life, the right to private property and the right to associate freely. What is the source of these rights, in your opinion, and do you hold them to be inalienable? If so, how can something inalienable be rightfully limited or restricted by government? As an example of what I mean, I present freedom of speech - this is supposed to be an inalienable right, and yet I suspect most people would say that death threats (however baseless) are not protected by this right. How can one explain this discrepancy between theory (inalienable) and reality (rightfully restricted)?

    2. The non-aggression principle states that the only time force is justified is in self-defense. And yet, it seems to me that private property is, in itself, a form of force. Let me use an example. Let us say that there is an island. There are three people on this island. One of them spots a tree that grows fruit. He spends the day gathering the fruit, clearing the weeds, and generally making the tree more productive. Does this piece of land become his, for his exclusive use? Or does it require the consent of the two other people before it becomes his? Now what happens if he puts a fence around the tree? Would you consider that force, or would that be self-defense of his property? Alternatively, does his right to property only extend to those pieces of fruit he removes from the tree, while the tree remains common property? If he requires the consent of the other inhabitants to claim possession of the tree, how can property be considered a right?

    3. Consent seems to be a large part of libertarianism. This is the idea that people must consent to the laws that will govern them. And yet the self-evidence of rights seems to remove a great deal of that consent. For instance, freedom of speech would require that nobody be able to force a person to stop saying something offensive or crude - but what if that "something" is advocating mass murder, or racial genocide, or uttering death threats? If people must consent to their form of governance, must they not also consent to the idea of people having rights? What if they disagree? What if they think that the only thing you should be permitted to do are those things that all agree on? In other words, how can the proposition of rights be reconciled with the need for people to consent to the rules that govern them?

    There is alot there, and I realize that I have both asked questions and made something like an argument. Please feel free to address this however you like, in whatever format you like, and to ask your own questions.
    I apologize for my delay in answering. It has been a busy few days, and I wanted to have proper time to respond.

    1. I hold that the rights come from God, as I am a Christian. As to how the rights can be unalienable and by rightfully restricted by government, I hold that they are not rightfully restricted. They end up being restricted by the people as a whole giving them up. That doesn't make it right. As for things such as death threats, they can fall under different situations, for example, the example of committing murder in your heart. The problem is that there is a great deal of subjectivity in our understanding of natural law. We have learned more about natural law as a whole, which explains how things such as slavery, where once seen as a common thing, has since become generally understood to be wrong.

    2. Again, the non-aggression principle is subject to subjectivity, and thus, our understanding. Regarding property, there are a number of libertarians that don't see land ownership as a right. I admit that I'm on the fence about that. I can see both sides of it. As property rights have been understood throughout history, though, land ownership tends to fall to the discoverer of the land. Therefore, according to history, he would be within his rights to put a fence around it. To some libertarians, he would be in the wrong for doing that, though. I believe all can agree that he has a right to the fruit of his labors, but there is disagreement beyond that. As I said, I am undecided regarding the right to the possession of the tree. This is really an issue that would differ depending on who you speak to.

    3. Again, regarding speech, that can be affected by other factors. Our understanding of natural law is hampered by a variety of factors. Basically, it boils down to the fact that we have flaws. Anyway, regarding the question of governance and rights, while the people must consent to governance, rights are rights regardless of our understanding. It's similar to truth. If we understand something to be false, but it is true, does it become less true? If the people decide that all that should be permitted is that which all agree on, that falls under their consent of governance. If people disagree on the governance, that should be worked out through discussion until agreement can be reached. People can, and have surrendered rights. That doesn't make it a proper thing, and doesn't make it right for them to be taken. I don't deny that those right's haven't been taken at times, but that is through people allowing it to happen, and it has been wrong. I believe, in the end, that it has been allowed through our fallen nature.

    I would like to add that I fall under the minarchist classification. In other words, I feel the power should be weakest at the federal level, and strongest at the local level, comparitively. If this opens up additional questions for you, feel free to submit them.
    "For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'." John Greenleaf Whittier

    "Our minds control our bodies. Our bodies control our enemies. Our enemies control jack shit by the time we're done with them." Stick

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hal Jordan View Post
    I apologize for my delay in answering. It has been a busy few days, and I wanted to have proper time to respond.

    1. I hold that the rights come from God, as I am a Christian. As to how the rights can be unalienable and by rightfully restricted by government, I hold that they are not rightfully restricted. They end up being restricted by the people as a whole giving them up. That doesn't make it right. As for things such as death threats, they can fall under different situations, for example, the example of committing murder in your heart. The problem is that there is a great deal of subjectivity in our understanding of natural law. We have learned more about natural law as a whole, which explains how things such as slavery, where once seen as a common thing, has since become generally understood to be wrong.

    2. Again, the non-aggression principle is subject to subjectivity, and thus, our understanding. Regarding property, there are a number of libertarians that don't see land ownership as a right. I admit that I'm on the fence about that. I can see both sides of it. As property rights have been understood throughout history, though, land ownership tends to fall to the discoverer of the land. Therefore, according to history, he would be within his rights to put a fence around it. To some libertarians, he would be in the wrong for doing that, though. I believe all can agree that he has a right to the fruit of his labors, but there is disagreement beyond that. As I said, I am undecided regarding the right to the possession of the tree. This is really an issue that would differ depending on who you speak to.

    3. Again, regarding speech, that can be affected by other factors. Our understanding of natural law is hampered by a variety of factors. Basically, it boils down to the fact that we have flaws. Anyway, regarding the question of governance and rights, while the people must consent to governance, rights are rights regardless of our understanding. It's similar to truth. If we understand something to be false, but it is true, does it become less true? If the people decide that all that should be permitted is that which all agree on, that falls under their consent of governance. If people disagree on the governance, that should be worked out through discussion until agreement can be reached. People can, and have surrendered rights. That doesn't make it a proper thing, and doesn't make it right for them to be taken. I don't deny that those right's haven't been taken at times, but that is through people allowing it to happen, and it has been wrong. I believe, in the end, that it has been allowed through our fallen nature.

    I would like to add that I fall under the minarchist classification. In other words, I feel the power should be weakest at the federal level, and strongest at the local level, comparitively. If this opens up additional questions for you, feel free to submit them.
    No worries. We almost got shutdown it has been so long! My bad.

    1. I cannot speak to your beliefs in re: God, other than to say that such beliefs are beyond the purview of human reason, and cannot be assessed rationally. I might say "God exists" or "God doesn't exist," but in either case, I would be speaking far beyond what I am capable of reasonably concluding. My overarching point is that I do not think that one can speak of natural rights in a way that is consistent and logical - in my opinion, the only rights that exist are those that are agreed upon democratically and respected in most, but not necessarily all, situations. To give an example, I am adamantly opposed to torture, on the grounds that people ought to have the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment... and yet I can think of a myriad of scenarios in which I would endorse torturing a person if it meant preventing much greater harm. This, I believe, is the essence of my belief system: utilitarianism.

    2. In regards to property rights, I agree that people ought to have a right to the product of their labour. If you combined your labour with common resources, the outcome is yours, and yours exclusively. However, I do not believe that property rights extend to land or resources. These things are commonly held and must be treated as such. People may purchase exclusive use for a time, but that use is not a right, because they can reasonably be expected to pay for that privilege. Further to that point, the value of the resource must determine the cost of the "rent." As a general example, consider something like water. Right now, there are companies who pay basically nothing for taking water out of the ground and bottling it. I view this to be an atrocity, and one of the most disgusting political realities of our time - fresh water is a rare and valuable resource that is important to each and every human being on this planet, and it should not be simply given away as if it has no inherent value. In fact, I think that most government can be paid for by the sale of common resources, if only they were valued appropriately.

    3. I think the idea that there is an objective, universal truth is incorrect... although as a Christian, I'm sure you'll disagree. There is only what we agree is true - and, in fact, the process of convincing people that something is true is integral to the process of establishing truth. To give an example, consider the scientific process: the whole value of that process is that anyone can take a result and replicate it, time and time again. Once enough people agree, and once something has been replicated in various scenarios, and the differences between those scenarios accounted for, we hold it to be true (at least until it is disproven). In regards to how this impacts rights, I'd say that rights are something that only exist if enough people agree they exist, and fight for that point of view to be accepted as "true." In that sense, natural rights are a clearly positive evolutionary step. People have decided that these rights exist regardless of opinion of them. And yet, at the end of the day, I hold that no amount of positive thinking can substitute for real action - you either fight for your rights, or you don't. You either are willing to die for a right, or you're not. If you are not willing to do these things, rights don't, and can't, exist. To expand on that point further, rights can only exist in the sense that they are sensible and widely agreed upon. To quote the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: "1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."
    Last edited by exploited; 10-10-2016 at 10:52 PM.

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