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What is the Libertarian Alternative to Zoning?

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

libertarian alternative to zoningQUESTION: I am a homeowner in a low-income neighborhood. I work hard to keep my property up, and my yard is beautiful. I am enraged by people who leave tires and garbage cans in front of their houses, don’t cut the grass, and scatter their garbage all over the street. They do not have the right to denigrate my quality of life.

How do I reconcile my libertarianism with the fact that I call the city on these offenders and advocate stricter laws regarding how one keeps the outside appearance of his property?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, when builders created a subdivision, they might choose to put deed restrictions on the homes. Prospective owners would need to accept these as a condition of purchase. Alternatively, property owners’ associations might be put in place with a starting set of restrictions, to be modified in time by the buyers into the subdivision. Such restrictions could include standards of upkeep. People who desired a well-kept neighborhood would likely buy in such communities.

People who would rather not be restricted would buy in communities or other areas where such standards were minimal or non-existent. In this way, everyone’s preference would be honored. Everyone wins!

Today, however, standards — even zoning — can fluctuate overnight with changes in city councils, zoning boards, or inspectors. Sometimes these standards are selectively enforced (e.g., a neighbor has to complain before action is taken). Buyers don’t always know what they are getting into and understandably become resentful when their neighbors use government to restrict them. Thus, unfortunately, today win-win solutions to these problems are rare.


Learn More: Liberator Online editor James W. Harris suggests the following articles for further reading on this topic:

  • How Zoning Rules Would Work in a Free Society“ by Ben O’Neill, Mises Institute, June 17, 2009. This short article shows what’s wrong with zoning, and why market alternatives are better and fairer. 

    Excerpt: “Contrary to the alleged necessity of zoning laws, there is ample scope for non-coercive solutions to zoning issues in the context of a free society of private-property ownership and nonaggression. In particular, private ownership of property allows for restrictive covenants to be agreed between the property owner and another party so that the allowable uses of land are limited according to the wishes of the parties. It follows that property owners within a given neighborhood may contractually agree to impose restrictions on themselves with respect to the allowable developments on their land or the allowable uses of their property.”

  • Zoning Laws Destroy Communities“ by Troy Camplin, Mises Institute, April 30, 2010. This short article discusses problems with zoning, including huge unintentional consequences that subvert zoning’s alleged goals of fostering and preserving communities.Excerpt: “Zoning laws are a violation of property rights. They destroy the sense of community in neighborhoods, increase crime, increase traffic congestion, contribute to urban and suburban air pollution, contribute to poverty, contribute to reliance on government — and, thus, reduce self-reliance — and contribute to the ruin of our schools. Most of our urban and suburban problems arose with zoning and other anti-property laws, to which welfare programs and public housing projects have contributed…”

Won’t Big Businesses Abuse Their Power in a Free Market?

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Won’t big businesses abuse their power in a free market? What if the only choices you have are bad businesses? For example, what if such companies grew so big that they could control the entire market?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In today’s society, you could indeed have a sector where all businesses are “bad,” because government lets some companies have a monopoly (e.g., local utilities, AT&T before deregulation, etc.) or a cartel (e.g., banks).

In a libertarian society, however, this would be much less likely. A sector with only “bad” businesses would soon be invaded by competitors who recognized that they could earn and retain customer loyalty (and profits) by being “good.”

In today’s society, many businesses are bigger than they would be in a libertarian one, because the high cost of regulation drives small firms out of business. For some examples, check out the cases of the small businesses that the libertarian Institute for Justice has tried to protect from over-regulation.

We are told, usually by government entities, that the free market creates monopolies, but actually it is the government that does so. For more on this subject, check out Chapter 7 in my book, Healing Our World (the 1992 edition is a free read on my website, www.ruwart.com).

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

Antitrust: The Case for Repeal by Dominick Armentano. This outstanding 100-page book — available as a FREE ebook from the Mises Institute — shows that anti-trust and anti-monopoly regulation, far from serving and protecting the public, is merely a tool used by powerful businesses against their competitors.

* “Federal Regulations Have Made You 75 Percent Poorer“ by Ronald Bailey, Reason magazine. This short and very readable 2013 article summarizes research by economists John Dawson and John Seater. The two compared U.S. economic growth with the growth in federal regulation since 1949, and calculated that federal regulations cost the average American household more than a quarter-million dollars in lost income — annually.



Short Answers to Tough Questions
Got questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Two Questions on Blackmail

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

BlackmailQUESTION: I am concerned about the problem of blackmail. Some libertarians, as you recently discussed, consider blackmail simply an economic interaction involving the exchange of information that, however distasteful, does not involve direct use of force against others, and therefore should be legal. However, I am hard pressed to think of any instance of blackmail where no one is being harmed. As libertarians shouldn’t we base our actions upon sober observation of what is actually happening in a given situation, not on some abstract concept of free speech?

Please comment on these two examples:

EXAMPLE ONE: A gay man lives in a conservative neighborhood, but loves his community. His friends would not understand his orientation. I find out, and offer to not tell anyone — for a fee. Is it just a business interaction that I hold the threat of ruining his life over his head to coerce him into giving to me what belongs to him, when he has harmed no one?

MY SHORT ANSWER: I suspect that not all libertarians would have the same answer to this question. Here’s mine:

If you simply told this man’s friends that he was gay, you would only be saying what is true. It would be his so-called friends who harm him by shying away from him because of that truth. This very scenario undoubtedly happens a lot. The only reason that you would share this information is to disrupt this man’s life by revealing something he has kept private. While that’s certainly unkind, it isn’t legally actionable.

Sexual orientation is something that most of us would consider private, and not something that neighbors and friends should necessarily be privy to. But If the man wants to pay you not to reveal the truth to his friends, you aren’t coercing him.

Of course, someone could make a living discovering things about people that they wouldn’t want broadcast and suggesting that they pay him not to tell unsavory truths. That could backfire if one of his “clients” decided to share just how this person made his money, leaving few people excited about interacting with him.

EXAMPLE TWO: A young woman is assaulted and I know who did it. I offer to keep silent for a fee. Is it merely a business interaction if I allow a rapist to continue to prey on the community so I can get paid?

MY SHORT ANSWER: No. In this case, you know the identity of an aggressor. In today’s society, and most likely in a libertarian one, you would be considered an accomplice if you let the aggressor pay you to keep silent.

The principle here is not, in my opinion, free speech, but whether you are using first-strike force, fraud, or theft against your neighbor. In the case of accepting money from the rapist, you are colluding with an aggressor so that he can continue to perpetrate harm on others. That would make you, in most people’s eyes, an aggressor too.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for further reading on this topic:

* “Defending the Blackmailer” by Walter Block. Walter Block has been writing about libertarianism and blackmail for decades. His collected writings on this topic are in his 2013 book Legalize Blackmail. This provocative selection is a chapter from his classic 1976 book Defending the Undefendable, which you can download as a free ebook from the Mises Institute.

Excerpt: “What exactly is blackmail? Blackmail is the offer of trade. It is the offer to trade something, usually silence, for some other good, usually money. If the offer of the trade is accepted, the blackmailer then maintains his silence and the blackmailed pays the agreed-upon price.

“If the blackmail offer is rejected, the blackmailer may exercise his rights of free speech and publicize the secret. There is nothing amiss here. All that is happening is that an offer to maintain silence is being made. If the offer is rejected, the blackmailer does no more than exercise his right of free speech.”

* Anarchy, State and Utopia by Robert Nozick. Nozick was a libertarian and one of the premiere philosophers of the twentieth century, and Anarchy, State and Utopia is widely regarded as one of the most important philosophical books of the century. Nozick briefly discusses blackmail and the case for prohibiting it near the end of chapter four, but unfortunately I cannot find an excerpt online. You can read a summary of Nozick’s argument in “Blackmail, Extortion and Free Speech: A Reply to Posner, Epstein, Nozick and Lindgren“ by Walter Block and David Gordon, who disagree with it and offer opposing arguments.


Short Answers to the Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Won’t Big Businesses Abuse Their Power in a Free Market?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 21 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Big BusinessQUESTION: If you free big businesses from government regulations, how do you keep these same businesses from becoming an aristocracy and turning America into a feudal state?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, you, the consumer, control businesses by voting to buy or not buy their products. You vote to keep them in business or shut them down. You eliminate the “bad guys” by purchasing only from the “good guys.”

In today’s society, government regulates some companies out of business, leaving a monopoly (like most local utility companies) or a cartel (like the banking industry). Limiting your choices limits your control.

Government doesn’t keep big business in check; government keeps big business big.

Business only has two ways to get big: by serving customers better than the competition or by getting Big Brother to regulate their competition out of business. Keeping government out of the marketplace keeps business in its true service role.

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LEARN MORE: Suggestions by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for further reading on this topic:

* “Big Business and Big Government“ by Tim Carney, Cato Institute Policy Report, July/August 2006.

EXCERPT: “The history of big business is the history of big government. As the federal government has progressively become larger over the decades, every significant introduction of government regulation, taxation, and spending has been to the benefit of some big business. …big business and big government prosper from the perception that they are rivals instead of partners (in plunder). The history of big business is one of cooperation with big government. Most noteworthy expansions of government power are to the liking of, and at the request of, big business.”

* “The Only Way to Get Money Out of Politics“ by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom Foundation.

EXCERPT: “It’s a great myth that businesses, especially big prominent corporations, want less government intervention in the economy. On the contrary, they love government power because it provides things they can’t achieve in a freely competitive marketplace where force and fraud are barred. Corporations support and lobby for interventions that benefit themselves by hampering their competitors, both foreign and domestic. You often find companies asking for tariffs and other restrictions on imports that compete too effectively with their products. Agribusinesses welcome government (taxpayer) help in selling their products abroad; they also love subsidies, price supports, and acreage allotments. … In American history big companies were behind virtually ever advancement of the regulatory state.”


Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Would Blackmail be Legal in a Libertarian Society?

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

blackmailQuestion: How would a libertarian society deal with blackmail? Thinking of the blackmailer as a gossip offering the service of his silence for a fee, I cannot find any reason why it should be illegal in a libertarian society. Both parties receive something of value and the agreement is consensual.

My short answer: The criteria for illegality in a libertarian society would be: “Does it threaten first-strike force, fraud, or theft?” For example, if I pay blackmail to someone who would otherwise beat me, they are using the threat of first-strike force to take my money, very much like a thief does. This would clearly be against libertarian law.

If I pay blackmail to someone so that they won’t tell a true but embarrassing tale about me, I am not being threatened with first-strike force, fraud, or theft. Quite possibly, such “blackmail” might (depending upon the circumstances) be considered a private contract under libertarian law. If the blackmailer told his or her story anyway, I might be able to sue for contract violation!

If I pay blackmail to someone so that they won’t lie about me, the situation is not as clear. Many libertarians consider slander of a person’s reputation to be a violation of the non-aggression principle; others don’t.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Defending the Blackmailer“ by Walter Block. Walter Block has been writing about libertarianism and blackmail for decades. His collected writings on this topic are in his 2013 book Legalize Blackmail.

This provocative selection is a chapter from his classic 1976 book Defending the Undefendable, which you can download as a free ebook from the Mises Institute.

Excerpt: “What exactly is blackmail? Blackmail is the offer of trade. It is the offer to trade something, usually silence, for some other good, usually money. If the offer of the trade is accepted, the blackmailer then maintains his silence and the blackmailed pays the agreed-upon price.

“If the blackmail offer is rejected, the blackmailer may exercise his rights of free speech and publicize the secret. There is nothing amiss here. All that is happening is that an offer to maintain silence is being made. If the offer is rejected, the blackmailer does no more than exercise his right of free speech.”

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Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Is Liberty Doomed — or Inevitable?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarianism by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

I’ve heard both of these arguments for many years:

1.) “The libertarian cause is doomed. People will never understand liberty; even those who do understand it don’t want it. So why should I waste my time in such a futile cause?”

and:

2.) “Libertarianism is certain to succeed. The state cannot out-compete the marketplace. Given time, the superiority of the market will inevitably lead to a libertarian society. So why should I spend my time working on what will come about inevitably anyway?”

Ironically, both arguments lead many people to stop working for liberty, to stop supporting libertarian causes, to turn their back on the freedom movement.

I think both arguments are wrong.

I certainly believe that liberty is winning — in fact, our ideas are spreading at an incredible pace. I speak from experience. I’ve been in the libertarian movement since the early 1970s, when almost no one believed these ideas — when the joke used to be: “How many libertarians can fit into a phone booth? Answer: all of them.”

Today no one would even understand that joke. Libertarians are everywhere, and libertarianism is constantly discussed in the media. It’s nothing less than a sea change — a true rEVOLution.

Sure, I wish things were moving even faster. But the logic of our ideas is winning us converts daily, while the Big Government left and right are increasingly seen as bankrupt.

But liberty is NOT inevitable. Our ideas are fighting other powerful ideas and movements in the marketplace of ideas. There’s no guarantee those ideas won’t defeat our own. Their proponents are certainty trying hard to make that happen. Have you noticed the many attacks on libertarianism recently, by scholars, journalists, pundits, politicians, and other influential people?

A major reason libertarianism has seen such great success in recent years is because untold thousands of people have worked so hard, and contributed so much, to bring us to this point.

You yourself learned about liberty from someone. Maybe someone gave you a copy of the #libertyWorld’s Smallest Political Quiz.

Maybe you heard a libertarian candidate or speaker on television or radio.

Maybe you read a book or article written by a libertarian writer.

However you learned about libertarianism, it was because someone, in some way, reached out to you. That person, too, learned from someone else.

And that outreach was backed up by a network of libertarian organizations that have worked for decades to create a powerful movement ready with information and opportunities for people who want to make a difference in the world.

Those organizations didn’t spring up out of the ground by magic. They were only possible because someone — someone like you — years ago decided that this cause was so important they wanted to make sure these organizations existed, so that people like you could learn about liberty and the liberty movement.

For almost thirty years the Advocates has been a vital part of the libertarian movement. Our mission is a unique one. We help people encounter and learn about the ideas of liberty — and we provide them with the best methods and tools to help them, in turn, take those ideas to others.

The Advocates has helped millions of people encounter, evaluate and embrace the ideas of liberty. And we’ve helped countless libertarians become highly successful in convincing others to accept these ideas.

Our World’s Smallest Political Quiz has been taken online over 22 million times. Thousands of people take it each month, learning more about their political views and discovering libertarianism.

The Quiz has reached additional millions through newspapers, magazines, OPH booths, over 10 million card copies, textbooks, talk radio, and many other ways.

The Liberator Online — you’re reading it right now — takes information about liberty, the liberty movement, and the best ways to communicate libertarian ideas to over 30,000 subscribers.

We reach out in many other ways, too. New technology offers incredible opportunities. I recently did an online communication seminar from my office in Georgia with a group of libertarian students in Arizona. That would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.

But it still comes down to you. You — your activism, your donations, your outreach to friends, neighbors, families and others — make the work of the Advocates, and the growth of the liberty movement, possible.

Your participation is vital. The future of liberty — for yourself, your family, the world — will be shaped by the actions of the libertarians of today.

This is incredibly important. Liberty matters. The lives and well-being of millions of people are at stake.

Your efforts make a difference. Your participation in the struggle is essential.

As the great libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises said:

“No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result.”

Victory is NOT inevitable. But our ideas are moving forward, and there is great reason for optimism.

When you contribute to the work of the Advocates — or other worthy libertarian organizations — you are helping move the world in the right direction. You are making a real difference.

DonateJust as someone, once, did for you.

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Libertarianism and Racial Discrimination

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Do libertarians support laws prohibiting racial discrimination by businesses?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, businesses could refuse service to individuals for any reason. However, they would be punished for racial discrimination by losing the profit they otherwise would have made. This feedback is so powerful that even in the post-Civil War South, segregation could only be maintained when governments made integration (serving blacks and whites in the same establishment) a crime.

If integration could only be stopped by outlawing it in the post-Civil War South, surely today it would take place readily without government mandates. If some individuals, black or white, wished to maintain some separateness, why should we force them together?

In a libertarian society, laws enforcing segregation could never have been passed in the first place. Slavery would never have been legal. In short, if the U.S. had been a totally libertarian society, Africans would never have been enslaved and given second-class status. Government creates conditions that foster racial prejudice, then creates backlash and further prejudice by forcing people together.

Want to learn more? I recommend black economist Walter Williams’ concise and hard-hitting book The State Against Blacks, which offers easy-to-read documentation on the real root of discrimination — government!

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Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Who would make health decisions about children in a libertarian society: parents or medical professionals?

in Children's Rights, Healthcare, Liberator Online, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Marriage and Family by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I just read about Boston Children’s Hospital taking children away from their parents if children's health decisions in a libertarian societythey don’t agree to treat their children the way the doctors recommend. Would this happen in a libertarian society?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, a child’s guardians, normally the parents, would decide whether the treatment was worth the risk. No treatment works for everyone and every treatment has side effects in some people. Parents might not always make the optimal decision for their child, but doctors won’t always either. If the doctor feels strongly about a certain treatment, he or she should take the time to convince the parents of its worth, rather than use aggression to enforce their recommendation.

The article you cited indicated that children are taken from their parents most frequently “when doctors diagnose the child with a psychiatric disease, but the parents think the condition is a physical one.” Mental problems can be caused by physical factors, such as diet, genetic abnormalities, and certain vitamin deficiencies, which blur the distinction between psychiatric and physical. These factors are often downplayed or totally ignored in physician training. Licensing boards determine the medical school curriculum and reinforce the status quo, rather than cutting-edge or “politically incorrect” knowledge. Emphasis is placed on drug treatment instead of prevention or nutritional therapy, primarily due to FDA regulations. Since children often respond more negatively to psychiatric drugs than adults, forcing children to take them can actually be detrimental.

In a libertarian society, medical practice would be more diverse, since doctors would be certified instead of licensed and prevention wouldn’t be hampered by FDA regulations. Consequently, our medical science would be more advanced. In a society accustomed to using persuasion, rather than coercion, parents are likely to become better informed by doctors and make the best decision for their children.

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Short Answers to Tough Questions - Dr. Mary RuwartGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Libertarianism and Forced Testimony in Courts

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: In a libertarian society, when marriage becomes a private institution, what will happen to the right of a person not to be forced to testify against their spouse in a court of law?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, no peaceful person could be forced to do anything, including testify against another. Today’s government simply threatens people with prison and fines unless they give information, often at great cost to themselves (e.g., missing work).

Does this mean if you were charged with murder that the witness who could save you wouldn’t testify? Probably not. Witnesses could be reimbursed for lost work and other expenses for testifying, so their cost would be minimal. Withholding crucial information would likely be considered socially unacceptable. Few people would want to be embarrassed by a public announcement that they had done so — and caused an innocent person to suffer.

Even today, it’s almost impossible to force someone to testify truthfully. Witnesses lie to protect themselves and others, even under oath. That’s probably the real reason that spouses can’t be forced to testify today: they are the ones most likely to twist the truth for the benefit of their loved ones.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

Free or Compulsory Speech“ by Murray N. Rothbard. The great libertarian thinker Murray Rothbard explores this issue with his characteristic vigor and consistency in this article, which first appeared in Libertarian Review in November 1978.

Excerpt: “The most flagrant example of continuing compulsory speech takes place in every courtroom in our land: the compulsory bearing of witness. Now surely each person is the absolute owner of his or her own body; as the owner of his own body, only the individual should decide on whether or not to speak in any given situation, and there should be no compulsion upon him to talk or not to talk. And yet in every court, witnesses are dragged in by force (the subpoena power) and compelled to bear witness for or against other people.”

What Are the Rights of Fathers on Issues Like Abortion and Child-rearing?

in Liberator Online by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 18, No. 15 of the Liberator Online Volume. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Do libertarians believe in the rights of fathers in regards to issues of abortion and child-raising? After all, he is partially responsible for the pregnancy. What if the man wants the baby but the woman doesn’t? What about mandatory child support?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Libertarians don’t always agree on the answers to these difficult and controversial questions. Some libertarians believe that the creation of a child obligates both parents to support the child until he or she is self-sufficient. Others believe that giving the gift of life doesn’t create an obligation to maintain it for either parent. Consequently, some libertarians believe in obligatory child support and others don’t.

A libertarian society would likely render abortion obsolete sooner than the society of today, because of rapid technological and economic growth. Technology should soon allow a fetus unwanted by a mother, but desired by the father, to be transferred to another womb, whether artificial or natural. This isn’t science fiction; by some reports (see “Learn More” below) we may have this option available in the near future.

Before this option becomes available, the woman is the one literally giving of her life’s blood to support the fetus. She will probably have the final say about whether it continues to reside within her. The father might be able to persuade an unwilling mother to carry the baby to term, rather than abort, by compensating her for doing so.

Although not a popular idea in today’s culture, potential baby-making activities are best undertaken with partners who can agree on how a surprise pregnancy will be handled. We wouldn’t take on a business partner without planning, via written agreement, for unexpected consequences. Should we undertake sexual congress with a partner without agreeing how unexpected consequences — a new, individual life — will be handled?

LEARN MORE: Suggestions by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for further reading on this topic:

* “Will Science Trump Politics in Resolving Abortion Debate?“ by libertarian feminist Wendy McElroy. EXCERPT: “[T]he extent of the problem may well be diminished by science, by new reproductive technologies that sustain the viability of fetuses removed from women who do not wish to become mothers. Like heart transplants or intrauterine operations to correct birth defects, ectogenesis may be taken for granted some day.”

* “Artificial wombs: bold, controversial science coming soon,” by Dick Pelletier, PositiveFuturist.com. EXCERPT: “Cutting-edge research in the U.S. and Japan will soon launch a new era in human procreation: a world in which embryos can be ‘brought to term’ in artificial wombs, eliminating traditional pregnancies.”

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Got questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR “tough questions” on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s brand new book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Should Slander be Protected as Free Speech?

in Liberator Online by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(By Dr. Mary Ruwart from Ask Dr. Ruwart, Volume 18, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here.)

QUESTION: I have questions about a past column of yours on the topic of blackmail. You wrote: “Manyslander libertarians consider slander of a person’s reputation to be a violation of the non-aggression principle; others don’t.”

I’m confused. It seems to me that slander should be protected as free speech in a libertarian society. There’s no aggression involved. So what’s the problem?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Not all libertarians agree on whether or not a lie constitutes aggression. A lie does not necessarily affect only one’s reputation. For example, a service provider could be put out of business by a well-publicized lie and lose all their assets before they were able to set the record straight. I have actually seen this happen to a publicly-traded company, where stockholders lost their investments and the employees lost their jobs.

Does a person have the right to free speech? Of course! Must they take responsibility for the consequences of their speech? That is the real question.

For example, if a person purposely yells “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, and people are killed in the stampede, is he or she guilty of manslaughter if there was no fire? The person yelling “Fire!” has the right to free speech, certainly. Must that person pay restitution to those who are injured or the survivors of those killed?

What if the person thought they smelled smoke and truly believed that there was a fire? They were trying to help people and didn’t lie, but the result was the same. Are they responsible for the dead and injured?

This is where libertarians disagree over this issue. Some libertarians would agree with you that the only consequences that a liar should have to face is damage to his or her reputation, regardless of the consequences of that lie. Others believe that a liar is responsible for the resulting damage.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

As Mary Ruwart notes, libertarians disagree on these issues. Below are examples of differing views.

* Ayn Rand on libel and slander: In the book Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q & A, Rand answers the question “What do you think of libel and slander laws?” in this way:

“They are appropriate laws, because the freedom of ideas does not permit you to lie about a person. Under the older interpretation of the courts, truth was your defense. If you know something defamatory about someone, and it’s true, then you have the right to say it. But today, you can practically say anything, so long as you’re supposedly not motivated by malice. There are some standards, but they are unclear and impractical.

“This type of law is strictly to protect specific individuals; it has nothing to do with ideas. It’s an issue of whether or not you lied about someone, and caused him damage.”

* Murray Rothbard on libel and slander: In his book The Ethics of Liberty Rothbard argues that libel and slander, while immoral, should not be illegal:

EXCERPT: “Smith has a property right to the ideas or opinions in his own head; he also has a property right to print anything he wants and disseminate it. He has a property right to say that Jones is a ‘thief’ even if he knows it to be false, and to print and sell that statement.

“The counter-view, and the current basis for holding libel and slander (especially of false statements) to be illegal is that every man has a ‘property right’ in his own reputation, that Smith’s falsehoods damage that reputation, and that therefore Smith’s libels are invasions of Jones’s property right in his reputation and should be illegal.

“Yet, again, on closer analysis this is a fallacious view. For everyone, as we have stated, owns his own body; he has a property right in his own head and person. But since every man owns his own mind, he cannot therefore own the minds of anyone else. And yet Jones’s ‘reputation’ is neither a physical entity nor is it something contained within or on his own person. Jones’s ‘reputation’ is purely a function of the subjective attitudes and beliefs about him contained in the minds of other people. But since these are beliefs in the minds of others, Jones can in no way legitimately own or control them. Jones can have no property right in the beliefs and minds of other people.”


 

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