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Thread: How Libertarians Rationalize Slavery

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    How Libertarians Rationalize Slavery

    It goes like this: According to libertarians, the fundamental basis of all rights is property. Not humanity, property. Human beings only have rights because we are each our own property. But...wait a second...if we are our own property, then we have to a right to sell ourselves to someone else, don't we? Uh-oh. This sounds like it's going in a dangerous direction. And if we can sell ourselves to someone else, then that person can in turn sell us to yet another person. In fact, if they own us, don't they also own whatever we produce, whether it be work or children? Oops. It seems we've gone full circle - the libertarian claim to be against slavery actually ends up rationalizing slavery.

    The lesson is this: Our rights are based on our humanity, not on the idea of property. You do not steal because stealing hurts people, not because it would violate some abstract absolute of possession. You do not kill because killing destroys people, not merely because rules of property do not permit you that prerogative. You pay taxes that fund government programs because they serve people, and property-based complaints are trivial next to that fact. You do not wield absolute power over your children because they are not your property, they are people whose interests are held in trust by you, not something you own because you created them.

    To the extent property helps people, it is to be protected. To the extent it does the opposite, as in the reasoning above - which drove the ideology of the Confederacy, and motivates so much conservative/libertarian politics today - it is subordinate to humanity. Either humanity is the absolute right or property is, and if property is then you support slavery. There is no escaping it.

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    Re: How Libertarians Rationalize Slavery

    Are you sure property is the fundamental basis? Why do you argue it is?

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    Re: How Libertarians Rationalize Slavery

    The fundamental basis for all rights is power. Whoever holds all the power gets to determine the rights. A large group of people tends to have more power than a small group of people, so the larger group tends to rule over the smaller group. That is democracy. Wealth is the accumulation of resources, and it bestows power. Wealthy individuals are more powerful than poor individuals and thus have more sway in determining what is and is not a right, particularly if they can sway the larger group of people to agree with their views. That is the American democracy. There is also this idea of a social contract where the large group of people agrees to recognize the legitimacy of a government as long as the government can defend a set of explicit rights agreed upon by the large group of people. That is a Constitution and whoever can figure out the broadest or narrowest way to interpret it in their favor has the power.

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    Re: How Libertarians Rationalize Slavery

    Quote Originally Posted by Troubadour View Post
    It goes like this: According to libertarians, the fundamental basis of all rights is property. Not humanity, property. Human beings only have rights because we are each our own property. But...wait a second...if we are our own property, then we have to a right to sell ourselves to someone else, don't we? Uh-oh. This sounds like it's going in a dangerous direction. And if we can sell ourselves to someone else, then that person can in turn sell us to yet another person. In fact, if they own us, don't they also own whatever we produce, whether it be work or children? Oops. It seems we've gone full circle - the libertarian claim to be against slavery actually ends up rationalizing slavery.

    The lesson is this: Our rights are based on our humanity, not on the idea of property. You do not steal because stealing hurts people, not because it would violate some abstract absolute of possession. You do not kill because killing destroys people, not merely because rules of property do not permit you that prerogative. You pay taxes that fund government programs because they serve people, and property-based complaints are trivial next to that fact. You do not wield absolute power over your children because they are not your property, they are people whose interests are held in trust by you, not something you own because you created them.

    To the extent property helps people, it is to be protected. To the extent it does the opposite, as in the reasoning above - which drove the ideology of the Confederacy, and motivates so much conservative/libertarian politics today - it is subordinate to humanity. Either humanity is the absolute right or property is, and if property is then you support slavery. There is no escaping it.
    So now all you need to do is find a libertarian rationalising slavery, and you're good to go.
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    Re: How Libertarians Rationalize Slavery

    The basis for Libertarianism is freedom and liberty. It's like Liberalism with fiscal responsibility.

    Slavery is involuntary servitude and goes against Libertarian principles.
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    Re: How Libertarians Rationalize Slavery

    Quote Originally Posted by spud_meister View Post
    So now all you need to do is find a libertarian rationalising slavery, and you're good to go.
    Yeah - I don't recall ever hearing a single libertarian making such an argument to begin with.
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    Re: How Libertarians Rationalize Slavery

    Quote Originally Posted by Troubadour View Post
    According to libertarians, the fundamental basis of all rights is property.
    This is a false premise. Libertarians typically understand the fundamental basis of human rights to be human dignity. The right to property ownership is an extension of human dignity.

    The fact that the initial premise is false renders the entirety of your argument unsound.

    In reality, libertarians are usually opposed to any form of slavery or coercion.

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    Re: How Libertarians Rationalize Slavery

    Quote Originally Posted by SheWolf View Post
    Are you sure property is the fundamental basis? Why do you argue it is?
    Because (a) Libertarians regularly tell me it is, and (b) they spend a lot more of their time ranting about taxes than human rights. Everything other than property is an afterthought to them.

    Quote Originally Posted by CriticalThought View Post
    The fundamental basis for all rights is power. Whoever holds all the power gets to determine the rights.
    They get to determine which rights are respected. Rights are fundamental. The idea that power defines rights is totalitarianism.

    Quote Originally Posted by CriticalThought View Post
    A large group of people tends to have more power than a small group of people, so the larger group tends to rule over the smaller group. That is democracy.
    Democracy is the nexus of majority rule and minority rights. In the absence of the latter, what you have is merely a numerically large oligarchy.

    Quote Originally Posted by spud_meister View Post
    So now all you need to do is find a libertarian rationalising slavery, and you're good to go.
    I run into libertarians who rationalize slavery constantly - they just never admit that's what they're doing. The whole point is that their cherished premise - liberty = property = is logically inextricable from many of the key historical rationalizations of slavery going back to the Roman Empire.

    Quote Originally Posted by joe six-pack View Post
    The basis for Libertarianism is freedom and liberty.
    That's the basis of the word Libertarianism, not the political ideology associated with the word. A more etymologically correct term would be "Propertarianism," because they deny any distinction between liberty and property, with the emphasis being on the latter. In other words, any liberty that transcends property is deemed invalid, and any property that transcends liberty (i.e., slavery) is treated as a special case rather than something fundamentally and rationally wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by joe six-pack View Post
    It's like Liberalism with fiscal responsibility.
    Libertarianism is not fiscally responsible - it denies proven facts of economics and relies on quasi-religious doctrines to make fiscal decisions. The most generous thing one could say about its approach to fiscal policy is that it's parsimonious at best, and at worst is actively malicious to all but the wealthy.

    Quote Originally Posted by joe six-pack View Post
    Slavery is involuntary servitude and goes against Libertarian principles.
    Property is not against libertarian principles, and they claim people are their own property. Are you saying that people cannot sell their own property to whomever they please? And are you claiming that the people they sell their property to do not then own that property? Could those people not sell their property to a third party? Do they not own the output of their property?
    Last edited by Troubadour; 03-01-11 at 10:55 PM.

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    Re: How Libertarians Rationalize Slavery

    Selfishness is the basis of libertarianism. Its the lipstick on the pig named MEMEME.
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    Re: How Libertarians Rationalize Slavery

    Nobody gives libertarians around here more crap(just ask them), and even I think this thread is way over the top.
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