We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Why be libertarian? It may sound glib, but a reasonable response is, Why not? Just as the burden of proof is on the one who accuses another of a crime, not on the one accused, the burden of proof is on the one who would deny liberty to another person, not the one who would exercise liberty. Someone who wishes to sing a song or bake a cake should not have to begin by begging permission from all the others in the world to be allowed to sing or bake. Nor should she or he have to rebut all possible reasons against singing or baking. If she is to be forbidden from singing or baking, the one who seeks to forbid should offer a good reason why she should not be allowed to do so. The burden of proof is on the forbidder. And it may be a burden that could be met, if, for example, the singing were to be so loud it would make it impossible for others to sleep or the baking would generate so many sparks it would burn down the homes of the neighbors. Those would be good reasons for forbidding the singing or the baking. The presumption, however, is for liberty, and not for the exercise of power to restrict liberty.

A libertarian is someone who believes in the presumption of liberty. And with that simple presumption, when realized in practice, comes a world in which different people can realize their own forms of happiness in their own ways, in which people can trade freely to mutual advantage, and disagreements are resolved with words, and not with clubs. It would not be a perfect world, but would be a world worth fighting for.

– The concluding paragraphs of Why Be Libertarian? by Tom G. Palmer, which is the opening essay in Why Liberty? edited by Palmer for the Atlas Foundation.

Here’s a picture of Palmer waving a copy of Why Liberty? during the speech he gave to LLFF14 at University College London last weekend:


Free copies of Why Liberty? were available to all who attended.

34 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I quite like the term “dilbertarian,” indicating someone who thinks the comic strip “Dilbert” portrays bureaucracies pretty accurately: almost everyone psychotic with self-interest and a few brave souls trying to do the right thing. It’s libertarianism for non-virgins.

  • Paul Marks

    Someone should indeed be free to bake a cake – or NOT bake a cake (even if this means allowing “discrimination” – which is actually another word for CHOICE, “a discrimination person” being someone who has strong preferences and behaves according to those preferences).

    Also liberty without PROPERTY RIGHTS is just chaos – “I want to back a cake – so I am using your kitchen”, “I want to bake a million cakes – so I am using your factory”.

    Somalia is NOT an example of libertarianism – libertarianism (like Classical Liberalism and the Old Whigs before it) is based upon private property rights in the means of production, distribution and exchange.

    And that includes large landed estates and large factories (and so on).

    If someone does not want that, does not want that so much that the desire to end it is the centre of their politics, then they are NOT libertarians and no effort to “include” them should be made.

    Angry that someone is vastly better off than you? So angry that you are prepared to “express your freedom” by taking their stuff?

    Then go jump in the nearest lake (whilst wearing large lead weights).

  • RAB

    The elephant in the room is “Equality” this is now reckoned to trump “Liberty”.

    We are the World, we are the sheeple, and we have to do things in perfect harmony (No exceptions or else!)… and if this is beginning to sound like a Coke advert, it is.

  • Fraser Orr

    FWIW, I think this is a bit of an echo chamber argument, which is to say it is only convincing to people who already like the conclusion, but not so much to others. Really, any more than a surface examination shows the flaws of the argument, such as the one Paul Marks pointed out — namely the need for an enforceable right to property.

    For example, I could readily put the cat among the pigeons even with libertarians by asking this question: “What if I wanted to bake a cake with a recipe you invented, a recipe so good that makes a cake so delicious that you have built a business around it. Should I have freedom to do that? Should I be free to share the love and sell my cakes made with your recipe?”

    The nature of people is to be gregarious and hierarchical. We are animals who come from the typical tribal societies we find among simians today, and the idea of “freedom” is a pretty new one in terms of human society.

    So I don’t agree that we can take it as the default position. I think the case for freedom needs to be made expositorially, and to assume it is to assume one’s conclusion. It needs to be argued from a utilitarian point of view, and from a point of view of what people already know in their hearts about politicians.

    The advance of tyrants comes in small steps. At the start it was reasonable to demand separate smoking cabins in planes, then the next step was banning smoking on planes, and before you know it, step by step, you can have your kids taken by social services for possessing a pack of cigarettes in your home.

    The case for liberty does indeed have to be made more holistically though. I remember LP candidate here in the USA Harry Browne had as his headline “would you give up every government benefit if you never had to pay taxes again” was a great argument. It failed, for a lot of complicated reasons, including the fact that nearly half of the population doesn’t pay taxes any more, but those are the kind of holistic arguments than win. The small arguments need to be about dirtying up politicians (which isn’t hard because they are all so scummy.) “Your senator can’t keep his hands out of his intern’s pants, yet you trust him to decide what is being taught to your kids in school?” Ms. Clinton did this extremely dubious cattle deal that netted her a fortune, but you think she is the right person to tell you what is and isn’t insider trading.

    This argument about “freedom is the default” doesn’t seem all that convincing to me, and I say that as someone already convinced of the conclusion.

  • For a logical deduction of the presumption of liberty see here

    BTW the answer to the cake question is, yes.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Fraser makes a good point, but i think the problem can be circumvented by rephrasing what Tom Palmer wrote:

    The burden of proof is on the one who would deny liberty to me. Without a cogent argument to the contrary, i am not going to give up my liberty.

    I admit that my reformulation sounds self centered, but it has advantages: there is not even a hint of petitio principii, and i do not appeal to other people’s moral intuitions: i only state what my moral intuitions are. Who can argue that i am lying about that, without making themselves ridiculous?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Paul: presumably you are aware that almost all social indicators have improved in Somalia after the collapse of the State.
    But i admit that improving on a communist dictatorship is not much of an achievement.

  • I also most often restrict myself to Snorri’s tactic, but OTOH I take a somewhat different view of petitio principii, and some times try to present it to those willing to listen – that is, that principles are not disconnected from reality or practicality.

  • Fraser Orr

    Thanks for the link, I read it with anticipation, but was rather disappointed. He didn’t really say anything with respect to the subject at hand than the OP. This sentence is the essence of his argument:

    “If a claim is made that someone is not free to do something, the burden should be on the person who challenges that freedom. ”

    But that is just the same claim made above. Moreover, I think a lot of people would find it extremely unconvincing if given a few examples. For example, if I claim the right to drive off in your car, is the burden on you to prove that I don’t have that right, or is the burden on me to prove that I do?

    And in regards to the cake recipe, you might be of the opinion that there is no such thing as intellectual property, and I’d largely be on that same page with you, however, there are lots of libertarians who make a strong case opposing that view. So my question wasn’t what is right, but whether the burden is on the freedom snatcher or the freedom asserter is not nearly as simple and clear cut as the OP makes it out to be.

  • Mr Ed

    The cake ‘issue’ raises the question not of who believes in property rights per se, but rather what the limits and scope of property rights are.

    Some may argue for IP on a moral basis, or a utilitarian basis or on some other bases or combination thereof. It is typical, perchance diagnostic, of Liberbabble to get distracted by such arguments from more pressing issues.

  • Laird

    In offering as a counter-argument the statement “if I claim the right to drive off in your car, is the burden on you to prove that I don’t have that right, or is the burden on me to prove that I do?”, Fraser Orr evidently misunderstands the concept of “liberty”. Liberty means the right to be free to use your person and property as you see fit. The theft of someone else’s property isn’t “liberty”, so this is no refutation of Palmer’s formulation. The cake recipe scenario is different only in that there is a difference of opinion as to the scope of such intellectual “property”, but once that definitional issue is resolved (either way) there is also no conflict with Palmer’s formulation.

    I also disagree with his assertion that the case for freedom must be made “from a utilitarian point of view.” That is ultimately self-defeating; if we’re reduced to utilitarian arguments the battle is lost. At its heart utilitarianism is completely antithetical to libertarianism and individual freedom. However, I don’t express an opinion on his claim that the case for liberty must be made “holistically” because, frankly, I don’t understand what he means by that.

  • Fraser. Follow the links, dude. Specifically the Radnitzky one, Against politics, for ordered anarchy (pdf)

  • Fraser Orr

    > Liberty means the right to be free to use your person and property as you see fit.

    But I think you are missing my point Laird. The OP gives us a “liberty is self evident, and self evidently the default” argument. But my point is that liberty is far from self evident. As a talking point perhaps, but as soon as you get any level of depth with someone this argument just falls apart. Obviously I am reductio ad absurdum with regards to the car thing, but as soon as you start talking about property under the banner of liberty then things become much less convincing to people. And that, after all, is the point here. Not what is a valid argument but what is a convincing argument.

    Unless you have some common shared moral and ethical framework with your interlocutor, then really the only thing that works is utilitarianism. You might thing that that means all is lost, perhaps because you feel you have conceded the moral high ground. But what is the moral high ground? If you don’t have an agreed moral/ethical framework, then no such thing exists. And to say the liberty is intrinsically a right is to declare a moral/ethical framework unilaterally, which only people you agree with will subscribe to. It is, as I said earlier, assuming your conclusion.

    Which was my original point. It is a great argument in the echo chamber, but it is not convincing for those who live outside there cozy place of agreement.

    Same goes for @Rocco. If I, a person who already agrees with you, have to follow bunch of links, and read lots of turgid philosophy, then once again the OPs point that liberty is self evidently the default position, is, in the words of Jamie and Adam totally busted.

    (I have Mythbusters on in the background as I am typing.)

  • Fraser. In your first comment you said the case had to made “expositorially”, that to “assume it [liberty], is to assume the conclusion”.

    I provided you with a link to just such an “expositorion” wherein, naturally, the conclusion was not assumed.

    You then complain that that “expositorially” made case for the presumption of liberty is far too philosophical, not nearly common sense-ical enough.


    Do you think if you weren’t watching Mythbusters whilst typing it’d be easier to concentrate? 😛

  • Fraser Orr

    > Do you think if you weren’t watching Mythbusters whilst typing it’d be easier to concentrate?

    Maybe, it is a fun episode about Pirate Myths, thank you Netflix. Nonetheless, you are mistaking what I am advocating and what the OP is advocating. The OP seems to think that his clever argument is convincing. It isn’t, unless you already believe it. My recommendation is different — exposition, which I’m sure your link does a great job with. However, its very existence repudiates the idea of “self evident.”

    Arrr,that scurvy idea goes down to Davy Jones’ locker…

  • Fred Z

    It’s a matter of demographics. The young think they are more clever than the universe; Clever enough to bring order to chaos. Fools.

    We old guys know that the true philosophy of life is: “Fuck off and leave me alone.”

  • Fraser, re-reading the post I notice that nowhere is the term “self-evident” used. The term “should”, however, is used several times.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Rocco @Bogpaper
    > Fraser, re-reading the post I notice that nowhere is the term “self-evident” used. The term “should”, however, is used several times.

    Yes, that was meant to be my interpretation of his theme, nonetheless, same goes. “Should” implies a shared moral and ethical framework too, and so exactly the same arguments follow from “should” as follow from “self evident”.

    There are, after all, many people who think that if you are wealthy that you should give a large portion of your wealth to the poor, or that you should only buy coffee at a “fair” price to the little farmer in Africa or that you “should” pay for the schooling of children that you did not sire. In fact, they think that these truths are self evident. I’d say more people agree with that “should” or that “self evident” than do with the “should” or implied “self evident” in the OP.

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri – there are several governments in Somalia, locked in war with each other (although there are some break away areas with relative stable governments who are at peace).

    As for statistics – you may well be correct, but I would not pay much attention to stats collected at the moment (see above for why), although they may be slightly more trust worthy that Obama Administration statistics (which are total fiction).

    Fraser – I do not doubt that Tom Palmer understands the point. But the point must be made explicitly and clearly – the infiltration of the libertarian movement (like that of the liberal movement more than a century ago) by anti large scale property forces is a deadly threat

    RAB – yes, and this religion of equality is all over the world (threating to destroy civilisation and return what would be left of the population, after the mass death of most people, to savage hunter-gatherer packs). Civilisation is thin – as F.A. Hayek was fond of point of out, human nature evolved in savage hunter-gather packs (those who appeal to our emotions, who tell us to do “whatever feels good”, are at best idiots – or, more likely, the enemies of civilisation itself).

    As Edmund Burke explained this sort of “freedom” (the freedom to do whatever we “feel” like doing) is a lie (a depraved delusion) – the only choice we really have is between SELF restraint, and being restrained by tyranny (and tyranny just leads to the same chaos and breakdown in the end).

    Take a small example – a tiny (but illustrative) example where is “universal pre education” now being suggested?

    I.E. that all children (even before they reach school age) are subjected to “free” conditioning by the state.

    Some Texas city overrun by people who wish to impose “Social Justice” and reclaim the land for Mexico?

    New York City with its “Occupy” Mayor (a supporter of the Communist regimes of Nicaragua and Cuba)?

    Yes – but also GUERNSEY.

    Little free market conservative Guernsey is going to get “universal pre K” – according the best (i.e. worst) world fashions.

    The government there is already running into fiscal problems (due to its wild spending on “recycling” and government employees and ……), but it must spend MORE money.

    The sacred religion of egalitarianism must be followed – all children (even when they almost too young to walk) must be “educated” by the collective (by the pack).

    Partly this shows the power of international statism (the fashions followed in the education system and the Civil Service – but I repeat myself), but it is more than that.

    This evil would not be so deadly if it did not appear to something deep (and dark) in human nature itself.

    To be fought it must be seen for what it is – and it must be fought (inside each human mind) with reason.

    So Hayek was right about the problem – but wrong about the solution.

    His solution (odd for a man who declared himself not a conservative) of habit, tradition, custom – is no solution at all.

    All of these things collapse if people do not understand the REASONS for them.

    Freedom that is based on tradition, custom, habit….. is based upon quicksand.

    People have to know what they are fighting for.

    Both against the followers of the Red Flag (and the Black Flag – for communal “anarchism” is on the same side as Marxism, in everything from the “Occupy” movement to the Chicago Teachers Union), and in the grim endless battle that each person must fight within themselves.

    For we all have a dark side – me perhaps more than many people.

    In the end the desire for equality (although it is often dressed up in the language of “love”) is based upon the desire to destroy – upon envy and hate.

  • Fraser, “should” and “self-evident” are not synonyms, neither does “should” imply a shared moral/ethical framework. Given that the post is the last two paragraphs of an essay that attempts to convert people to libertarianism, that itself is taken from a book made up of essays that attempt to convert people to libertarianism, I think it’s safe to assume that the OP doesn’t think libertarianism is “self-evident”.

    But whatever, bro.

  • Laird

    Fraser: “Unless you have some common shared moral and ethical framework with your interlocutor, then really the only thing that works is utilitarianism.”

    Sorry, but it doesn’t work. Utilitarianism is no more a starting moral framework than is individualism. It is a claim that what is best for the majority justifies the action. First of all, it simply ignores both the definition of “best” and who gets to make that decision. Second, it doesn’t provide any qualitative guidance. Thus, a very slight “good” for a majority of people could be (and is) used to justify a very large harm to a small minority. Furthermore, any group is necessarily merely an aggregation of individuals; harming any one of them, even (especially) for the purpose of benefitting others is indefensible. Utilitarianism is a morally bankrupt philosophy; it certainly cannot form the basis for a shared moral and ethical framework.

    “[A]s soon as you start talking about property under the banner of liberty then things become much less convincing to people.” Not so, or at least not with respect to tangible and real property (intellectual property can be more difficult, although it need not be). Ayn Rand had it right in that the first duty of a human is to survive. Any philosophy which denies that (such as utilitarianism, however cleverly you dress it up) is inherently anti-human and cannot rationally have a place in the debate. (If you don’t accept the right of an individual to survive there is no debate to have.) From that is derived the right to the “ownership” of one’s body and thus the right to its products. This is the source of property and is a more than acceptable foundation for a discussion of normative ethics. And it leads directly and quite simply to individualism. With even a little probing most people are already there, even if they aren’t consciously aware of it. So I maintain that liberty as the default position is as close to self-evident as anything humans can conceive.

  • Snorri Godhi

    With the help of the link provided by Rocco (thank!) i have looked again at Tom Palmer’s claim and i noticed a subtlety that escaped me at 1st reading: namely, that his burden-of-proof argument is logically incompatible with the sort of natural-rights arguments favored by Locke, Rand, Rothbard, et al … even though the two arguments lead to similar conclusions.

    Let me make my case, and maybe you’ll tell me that it was obvious all along and i was dumb not to see it.
    My case is that the burden of proof must be placed on those who can bear it.
    You are innocent until proven guilty, because you cannot prove to be innocent even if you are, but you can be usually proven guilty if you are indeed guilty.
    Similarly, the burden of proof is on experimenters to falsify scientific theories, because such theories cannot be proven true.

    By saying that the burden of the proof is on the enemies of liberty, Palmer and deJasay are saying that libertarians cannot prove their claim to rights to life, liberty, and estate, or to the validity of the non aggression principle; in other words, they are saying that even if there are natural rights, we cannot prove their reality.

    Now, this is fine for de Jasay, who seems to deny any metaphysical reality for natural rights (see Rocco’s link) but reading Palmer’s essay it is not at all clear to me that he, too, is willing to do without any positive justification for natural rights.

  • Fraser Orr

    > Sorry, but it doesn’t work. Utilitarianism is no more a starting moral framework than is individualism.

    Again, I don’t agree. As far as a Schelling point, “what brings the largest net benefit” is far more widely accepted (IMHO) than “you need to justify taking away my liberty.” In a quicksand of moral relativism, Schelling points seem to be the most effective tool.

    How you measure “what brings the largest net benefit” is indeed a challenging problem. However, I entirely understand where you are coming from, because utilitarianism has been used to justify many horrors. However, it is a starting point for an argument that goes “you want to trust politicians who can’t keep their hands out of their Intern’s pants, or who cheat on their expense accounts, to define the moral framework taught to your children?”

    The problem is not utilitarianism, it is that we libertarians continue to allow the myth of the philanthropic politician and government. That is the key point to argue (and it is a strong argument because most people are disgusted with politicians and government), and from there the measure of utilitarianism can flow — which is anyone in control except a amoral, unethical criminal politician.

    In a sense it is hoist on their own petard.

    > Ayn Rand had it right in that the first duty of a human is to survive.

    I am not a fan of Rand, and it is because she says stuff like this. It is plainly the case that many people would disagree with this. For example, many parents would be willing to sacrifice their lives for their children’s lives, and many people would admire people who risk their lives for a good cause. For example, was Giovanni Falcone an admirable individual? I think most people would say yes, in direct contradiction to Rand’s position here. From his point of view his duty was not to survive, but to take down the Mafia, for the benefit of others.

    Again, I am not arguing what you or I think, but if we are to convince anybody we need to find some shared ground, and Rand’s position here is not shared ground.

    > Any philosophy which denies that …is inherently anti-human and cannot rationally have a place in the debate.

    Saying your interlocutor’s argument is ineligible for discussion does not advance your case at all. It makes enemies not converts.

    > This is the source of property

    One can survive with a lot less property than most westerners have. Is that really the claim you want to make, that we own property to fulfill our right to survive? I think a vastly better argument is the tragedy of the commons. Property is an effective tool to maximize utility. So you might tell me that there is a slippery slope argument, where the government can claim increase utility by taking your property. But then one must return to the “scuzzy politician” argument, which is far more effective and convincing than the long train of moral philosophy from an individual’s right to integrity all the way to a complex set of property rules.

    But hey, if the “self evident” argument is working for you to bring in your big government friends to the fold of liberty, then more power to you.

  • Laird

    Fraser, I don’t agree with anything in your last comment. We’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this.

    Sacrificing oneself to save the life of a loved one is not inconsistent with Objectivism; indeed, many of Rand’s fictional characters were ready to make precisely such a sacrifice. Making that assertion merely demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the philosophy. What matters is that the decision to make the sacrifice is freely and intelligently made. What is wholly immoral is the demand that one sacrifice oneself as some sort of obligation, and that is precisely the central flaw of utilitarianism (which, of course, is merely Marxism in fancy dress).

    Of course we could live with fewer material possessions than we have now. What matters is that those possessions were acquired through honest effort. If that is so, no one has a superior claim to them, period. You can ask for alms, which can be freely given or withheld at the discretion of the owner, but to demand someone else’s property as some sort of “human right” is not justifiable. This is the trap of utilitarianism, and is the reef upon which democracies inevitably founder. My neighbors can’t simply decide that they “need” my house more than I do and take it away, no matter how large a majority they may be. Because any political philosophy which doesn’t recognize that one “owns” one’s body and thus the results of its efforts is, at its core, founded on theft and slavery. There is no debating with slavers.

    And if saying so makes enemies, not converts, so be it. We were enemies before, so nothing has changed.

  • Snorri, “incompatible” is perhaps too strong. Irrelevant would probably be better (certainly for de Jasay).

    Regarding incompatibility, it’s worth bearing in mind that the reason for a presumption of innocence is not because it’s impossible to prove innocence. Rather, it’s because – logically, at least- a presumption of guilt means everyone should be locked up all the time.

  • Fraser Orr

    Yes you could be right about my lack of understanding of objectivism, I have never enjoyed reading Rand. I find her novels tedious, and her philosophical writings turgid, and full of the very sorts of assertions that I am complaining about here.

    However, I did think about this discussion recently when reading a news article. Your quote of her, which of course is what I was responding to, that a person’s first duty is to survival came to mind when I was reading about this ferry disaster in South Korea. Apparently the captain and a couple of the crew have been arrested, one of their crimes being leaving the ship to save their own skins while leaving a ship full of kids to drown.

    Following the principle of a person’s first duty is to survive, his actions were exactly right. My innate moral sense though tells me, assuming the facts as reported are correct, is that he is a horrible coward and should suffer some sort of criminal liability for his actions. After all, he did have a fiduciary responsibility to those kids.

    Anyway, perhaps the original quote needs a few caveats around it to account for this. But what limited I know of her views on altruism, I think are not really well in line with the ethical framework that comes from our human nature. But like I say I’m not an expert.

    I did watch the movie of Atlas Shrugged. Dagny, played by Taylor Schilling, was made all the hotter by her raw, unadulterated capitalism. Perhaps we can at least agree on that point…

  • Snorri Godhi

    [T]he reason for a presumption of innocence is not because it’s impossible to prove innocence. Rather, it’s because – logically, at least- a presumption of guilt means everyone should be locked up all the time.

    What’s the difference?

  • @Fraser: I also have mixed feelings about the actions of those captains (we have had a rash of them) who abandon ship rather too soon. I don’t agree that a captain should go down with his ship as a matter of honour, but I expect most employment contracts for captains include a duty to do everything possible to preserve the lives aboard ship. It seems some captains have not adhered to that agreement and have simply legged it at the first sign their life is in actual danger.

    I beleive is quite valid within Objectivism for a captain to enter into such an obligation, and indeed for that obligation to be in his self-interest, afterall he should not expect to be on a sinking ship in the first place. There is of course a role for a reciprical obligation on crew and the ship’s owners to support the captain in conducting his duties.

  • Snorri. The difference? You mean apart from everyone not being constantly locked up awaiting trial? 😀

    What I mean is this. It’s not logically impossible to prove that you’re innocent of a specific crime. But if anyone can, at any time, accuse anyone else of any crime, any number of crimes, in a society where a presumption of guilt is the norm, the result is at best terribly unfair, not to say impractical. At worst it would be catastrophic for social life.

    As for a presumption of ‘un-liberty’. The presumption that a person is not at liberty to perform a given act without first proving this, or unless they can refute all possible objections, is irrational. If anyone can, at any time, accuse anyone else of a rights violation, or any number of rights violations, in a society where the accused have to prove that they are at liberty to perform a given act, then – logically – all action must cease. There are an infinite number of accusations that could be raised against any given act. Under such conditions human life becomes impossible.

  • Snorri Godhi

    It’s not logically impossible to prove that you’re innocent of a specific crime.

    I never said that it is LOGICALLY impossible.

    But if anyone can, at any time, accuse anyone else of any crime, any number of crimes, in a society where a presumption of guilt is the norm, the result is at best terribly unfair, not to say impractical. At worst it would be catastrophic for social life.

    In other words it is PRACTICALLY impossible to prove you are innocent. I agree.

    The rest of your comment seems to be a restatement of your quoted claims, so i won’t add anything, except to say that obviously i am not the only person who missed the (logical) incompatibility of the burden-of-proof argument and the natural-rights argument.

    Actually, i must make a partial retreat:
    IFF you have already made a sound argument for liberty based on natural rights, then the burden of proof is indeed shifted to the anti-libertarians.
    That implies, however, that the burden of proof was on you, before you made the case for natural rights.
    This is not what the quote of the day says: Tom Palmer says that you don’t need to make a case for liberty in the first place.

    For the record, i agree that you don’t.

  • Look, dude, I’m not trying to fall out with you or anything, I wasn’t even aware we were arguing frankly. I just wanted to make myself clear.

    I’ll leave it at this: in my opinion, natural rights and burden-of-proof arguments are not incompatible in any way shape or form.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Rocc: sorry about my tone, dude, but nobody would choose to remain in jail if they could prove their innocence. When you say that everybody would be locked up all the time, the implication is that nobody can prove their innocence. Pointing this out is not “arguing”, dude. But i admit that my tone is often confrontational.

    Look at the positive side: you don’t see the incompatibility, but at least you see the difference between the 2 arguments. Before following your link i was not even clear about that.

  • But they are not incompatible. It’s perfectly possible for there to be natural rights and for there to be a presumption of liberty at the same time. The presumption of liberty (in de Jasay, I don’t know about Palmer) is a purely logical argument about not asking people to do the impossible. It is irrelevant to it whether natural rights exist or not. If they do, awesome.

    The presumption of innocence does not rule out (and is not an admission of the impossibility of) proving innocence. Likewise the presumption of liberty does not rule out the existence of natural rights.

  • Paul Marks

    Actually Ayn Rand tended to be careful to say that she believed that people should survive as people – man as a human being, not brute animal survival.

    A rather important difference.

    To Rand if one could not live as a human life was not life – not human life. To an older generation this would have read “better to die than to live without honour”.

    Besides there is the answer that the warrior gave to the dragon.

    “If you take my gold [i.e. the gold that the dragon had stolen from his murdered victims) I will curse you and you will die”.

    “You mean if I do not take the gold I will live for ever?” replied the warrior.

    As one grows older “do this I will kill you” sounds less and less threatening.