Tricky Questions for Libertarians

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    I am a Libertarian and believe very strongly in the non-aggression principle and right to private property. There are however, a few circumstances that I have questions about based on things I have read. If my scenarios that I have constructed are obvious or if my logic us faulty and I just don’t see it I apologize in advance.
    What does Libertarian philosophy feel about:
    1. The difference between damaging someones property by painting flowers on their house vs. painting a swastika on a Jew’s house or the word nigger or an African American’s house (Is there any extra weight given to the fact that you are emotionally damaging the other party?).
    2. Buying a massive bomb (not nuclear) in a crowded urban area. (It may not be able to be contained to just bad guys)
    3. Downloading a homemade pornographic movie from someones computer (who let you use it to check your email) and putting it on the internet (It is not a scarce resource and cannot be owned)
    4. Keeping guns and drugs out of the hands of the insane or mentally handicapped.
    5. Allowing people with an extensive (violent) criminal history enter the borders of a country


    1. I’m not an expert regarding law but I’d think that both cases would be handled very similarly. The convicted person, who painted the swastika or the word nigger, however might face social ostracism…

    2. Check out:

    3. Since the person was not allowed by the owner of the computer to download the movie (only to check emails), has he not violated an implicit contract? Or would he not have to ask for permission to use another person’s private property?

    4. Check out the part on gun control (starting at page 36) of “Chaos Theory” by Robert Murphy:

    5. Hans-Hermann Hoppe argues that immigration in a libertarian society would be very restrictive, since every piece of land would be privately owned.

    I don’t know the right answers to your questions but I tend to agree with Walter Block, Robert Murphy and Hans-Hermann Hoppe on the various issues. I hope I could add some food for thought and I’d love to hear other people’s opinions!


    5. Under anarcho-capitalism, all airports, roads etc. are privately owned, and the owners have the right to arbitrarily decide who can use them and who can’t. Most owners would probably exclude habitual criminals.
    It isn’t easy to decide how public property ought to be managed while it’s still (unjustly) “owned” by the state. Rothbard (in his last years) and Hoppe think the state ought to manage it’s “property” the way it would probably be managed by it’s rightful owners (the net tax payers); this should preferably be done at the local level. This means that local governments ought to be able to exclude criminal immigrants. In addition to the article Sons of Liberty linked to, see “What To Do Until Privatization Comes” by Rothbard (here) and this short argument by Stephan Kinsella against open borders. See also this article by Hoppe against free immigration and this article by Hoppe on privatization.


    I would mostly agree with Sons on those points.

    #3 If the person has not specifically said that they can view or use such a video, then, even if permission was given to use the computer, this kind of a video is not a matter of private property but a matter of privacy. Copying such a video (I am speaking of the content as opposed to the specific action as in #1) without permission to view, copy and duplicate the video would have the same result as installing a hidden camera in a bedroom and posting the video on the Internet.

    #5 as was stated, a known criminal would have a difficult time both getting to a country because of private airports, would have a difficult time buying land, and I would venture to say that real crimes would be more heavily enforced in a private society than what we have now because the victim would either rely on the best private police force they can afford, or would go after the criminal themselves.


    Thank you guys so much for your answers, begin with I wanted to respond to some of the answers…
    1. The point for me is that there is no extra weight given to non-tangible things like turning regular graffiti into racist graffiti , unless I have misunderstood something. A law which doesn’t distinguish between writing a swastika on a holocaust survivors house and drawing a daisy on it is somehow unsettling.
    2. I have read Walter Blocks paper on guns and it was the basis of my question. One could theoretically find a defensive use for a massive bomb on planet earth which would allow it but I still feel threatened. His article is specifically why I excluded atom bombs
    3. My issue, similar to the issue that caused me discomfort is question 1 is, once I have taken that home video file, couldn’t I do whatever I wanted with it because it is not a scarce resource? Let’s even take it a step further in case I am wrong. Let’s assume that person A had a private file stolen by person B who then gives it on a flash drive to person C. Certainly Hoppe and Kinsella would agree that person C can put it all over the internet, would they not? Or let’s say I hacked into his computer from a satellite location, have I really trespassed on his property? Could I not in that situation also put it up on the internet without violating any laws? If the answer to those questions (and I am not sure it is) are yes, than again, I am uncomfortable.
    4/5. I haven’t had time to read through all these incredible links yet. Thanks so much everyone!


    #1 As was said before, the LAW would not distinguish because a person also has a right to say whatever he pleases (While others, of course, have the perfect right to treat a person differently based on things that he has said but my not prosecute based on speech). A specific punishment would be the same whether a person paints a bunny or a swastika on their house, but it would be the social punishment dealt through freedom of association that would serve to worsen the punishment for the racist graffiti.

    For instance:
    If a 14 year old kid paints, say, his name (he would be stupid but lets suppose) he may still be able to find an acceptable first time job and move on with his life. If a man paints a swastika on a holocaust survivors house, based on freedom of association, that person may well be fired from his job, businesses may refuse to deal with him, and he may have a very hard time finding another job. If he tries to move, a home seller and perhaps some kind of neighborhood association would do a background check and may deny him the ability to move there. In short, I believe that the social punishment that would come around would be far greater than what a court would deal out and the difference between the kid writing his name and the man drawing the swastika would be much larger.

    #3 The data on my computer, while it may not be a scarce resource, is still private data. I gave the illustration before, if I were to put video cameras in your house (ignoring trespassing problems on property for the moment) and recorded you throughout the day, could I then do whatever I wanted with that video because it is not a scarce resource? I dont think so.

    This would be different from, for instance, an iPod sold by Apple. In the absence of copyright etc. any person could reverse engineer an Ipod and its operating system, copy, improve and sell. But this it because this data has been released to the public. The same would go for music and movies. In my view, personal video such as you described would be personal until it is in some way released to the public, not that someone else has copied it without the knowledge of the author. Should personal medical records necessarily be public information simply because a record is not a scarce resource? I dont think so either.

    Hacking into a computer is accessing private property without the knowledge or consent of the owner. that would be against property rights. This would be different than hacking the OS of an iPod you bought


    Sterling: Thank you so much for your answers. I think that your response to my first question was thoughtful and persuasive. I sort of felt that way beforehand, but I think your example really solidified things for me 🙂
    As far as question 3 however, I am not sure. I do believe that there are things in your statement that would go against the understanding of IP that I took from reading Stephan Kinsella but I could be wrong.


    I agree with Sterling!
    But Mises007 I’m sure you know Stephan Molyneux of Freedomainradio! You mighr send him your questions, he often replies to those of his listeners!


    Writing, “I love you, man!” on someone’s wall is a trespass. Writing, “I’m going to hurt you!” is a trespass and a threat. If there is a threat then it is a different level of violation. But the threat would have to be proved.


    First thanks for the kind words. Actually, The response to the IP (#3) was mostly my own deduction based on both the fact that information is not a scarce resource but there is still a right to privacy. I do think that there would be a difference between some home video not intended for any public release and the OS for an iPod which is released publicly with every device sold. The same would go for publicly sold movies, music, books, art etc.

    I could very well be wrong in some of my reasoning. Intellectual property is one of the things I have not quite reconciled yet. If you do get an answer from Stephen Molyneux I would be very interesting to know what it would be.

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