Liberty vs Coercion is a Fight Over Property Rights

So recently i have been binging on Econtalk Podcast so I have been hearing a lot of libertarian perspective recently (I highly recommend econ talk, the host leans towards libertarianism but is very open minded and balanced relative to the average commentator from any political ideology). So the next few posts will probably be about that. Libertarians often use the phrases liberty and coercion. Liberty is the freedom to make your own choices, both social and economic whereas coercion is when someone (the government) forces you to do something against you will, likely pay taxes, which is theft (according to libertarians).

My first problem with this is that most peoples values (definitely mine , could be typical mind fallacy) value other things besides liberty in the way libertarians use the. Libertarian Liberty is negative freedom (the freedom from interference by an outside force i.e the government) rather then positive freedom (the right to have access to something, like clean water, giving others an obligation to provide that thing to you). Now as a consequentialist I don’t look at the situation in terms of rights, but its seem intuitively obvious to be that there is no difference between taking food away from a person and refusing to give them food, either way the affect is a person who is hungry doesn’t have food.

On the other hand it seems that libertarians/free market advocates see taking food from a hungry person to be coercive and wrong but to refuse giving food that you legitimately own to a hungry person is completely within your right. Of course libertarianism can be argued for on consequentialist grounds, that free markets will likely lead to hungry people have food so redistribution will be unnecessary. But Many libertarians (possibly the majority) seem to advocate on deontological right theories rather than consequentialism.

The other problem is that the meaning of words like “coercion” and “force” as used by libertarians and particularly Anarcho-capitalists is completely dependent on what system of property rights is being used. If a hungry person is about to eat an apple from a tree and you use force to prevent them from doing so, this is seem as wrong if they own the tree (stealing from them/not letting them use their property as the choose) but it is fine if you own the tree (preventing them from stealing your property). So when an Anarcho-capitalist and and Ancarho-communist debate, they will mostly likely talk past to each other because they have different ideas of what property rights there should be (the Anarcho-communists doesn’t recognize private ownership of the means of production)and therefore different definitions of force and coercion.

I once heard an exchange that went like this:

Anarcho-capitalist: In my preferred society you would be able to form a communist commune within that society, would i be able to form a capitalist commune with private property and trade under Anarcho-communism?

Anarcho-communist: Of course, as long as you don’t use force to prevent me from using the means of production.

Now form my Trying Really Hard To Be Non-ideological But Still Somehow Far Left perspective, property rights are subjective and we should choose the set of property rights that are best for the particular society we are in, which will depend both on the technologically level of that society and the psychological stat of it s inhabitants (including there preference of one system n over another). So I don’t think there is an inherently true and correct set of property rights that one side has correctly identified, it seems like both sides have different sets of property rights and therefore different definitions of words like force and coercion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s