How to make Right-Libertarians bite the bullet.

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The funny thing about WalterBlock’s quote defending sexual harassment in the workplace is that the nature of the argument and its unfortunate compatibility with right-libertarian principles can serve as a very easy way to make those espousing said principles get in a very tight ethical conundrum. When this quote is presented to someone (something especially effective when someone is a Block disciple) they either have to find a way to distance themselves from this argument (much like Walter Block himself has done) and thus risk cognitive dissonance, or they must bite the bullet and admit that Block was right.

It’s amazing, not only how often you’ll find them defending sexual harassment in the workplace in the name of liberty but also how often and easily they will trip on their own argumentation and put their foot firmly in their mouth.Oh, they won’t call it “harassment” of course, they’ll dance around the words until it can sound like some kind of normal human relationship, but functionally they will be defending the exact same situation and the right of the employer to make sexual advances to his secretaries under the guise of voluntarism.

Witness this latest example in reddit, where a commenter took the opportunity to defend Block’s argument and give us gems like this:

In a society of private property, there is no inherent reason whatsoever why a woman will be compelled to accept a job that contains sexual advances that she does not want. If a job does not specifically contract against it, then the employer can engage in that behavior. If it does, then he can’t.

(emphasis mine)

How about a woman that does not have enough money to feed herself and her family? A very rare scenario I know…

And this:

If I have $50,000 say, then I do not owe anyone that money. It’s mine. If I want to pay a woman to help me with my paperwork, then I can offer them that money. If they are so destitute that they are willing to accept my sexual advances, then I can follow the non-aggression principle and not once harass her. She is not obligated to stay with me. If she wants to quit and find money somewhere else (the number of potential jobs are numerous), then she can. If she stays, then that’s her choice that you must respect. If she stays because she accepts it, then how can you say that I am acting improperly? I am not doing anything she doesn’t want me to do. I will not harass her because that violates the NAP. If she accepts, then she must want it. That’s how relationships work.

This is the common fetishism of voluntarism that AnCaps do all the goddamn time. Here in all its ugly glory for all to see. A rich boss hiring a destitute girl and advancing sexually on her? No problem. She must want it or she would have left. You can easily see how much they need to assert that in a AnCap society there would be no unemployment which flies against all logic as this would make such a society immediately implode in a capitalist crisis. But as long as we can assume that no unemployment will exist, we can sweep all such contentions under the blanket.

But the best quote is this:

If you condemn this because she is only sleeping with me because she wants my money, then does not reflect poorly on me or her? It’s not me. I’m not the one sleeping with somebody else because I want their money. It’s her moral failure. Nobody is destitute enough in a private property society that they must resort to prostitution. Prostitution is a choice, just like every other occupation. You can’t change that.

I won’t even try to point out how disgusting this paragraph is on it face. How much it flies in the face of reality and women’s plight. I will only point out how one small Walter Block quote led this AnCap to say something like this.

Seriously, this thing is like an instant way to make right-libertarians say something so absurd or reprehensible that they will automatically lose all credibility and leverage in the eyes of those not already convinced of their ideology. Use it with abandon and make them face up the ugly consequences of their ideology.

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67 thoughts on “How to make Right-Libertarians bite the bullet.

  1. Are you kidding? You don't have to *make* libertarians say what's in the last quote of the article. I would expect every libertarian, whether they've even heard of Block or not, to agree to exactly what you quoted. And to be honest I know quite a number of non-libertarian women, women who perhaps haven't even heard of the word libertarian, who also subscribe to the text in-quote.

    In any case I actually agree with you that your strategy probably works as advertised. Libertarians definitely look bad when they stand up for choice in a great many number of things. But that's mostly due to the biases of the conservative left and right and not due to the inherent reprehensibility of what they are saying.

    1. So let me get this straight: You're in fact agreeing with Sage_Advice that women who "consent" to sexual harassment are immoral and that there's no circumstances where a woman would become a prostitute if she didn't want to?

    2. In any case I actually agree with you that your strategy probably works as advertised. Libertarians definitely look bad when they stand up for choice in a great many number of things.

      They stand up for choice while simultaneously supporting in a system which limits choice to unwanted options.

  2. But to be a bit more to the point, saying that prostitution can be a choice does not mean that prostitution is always or even mostly a choice.

  3. From a strictly volyntaryist perspective it does. If one assumes that a secretary "consenting" to sexual advances is doing it as a choice (or alternative, she's being immoral), then with the same exact argumentation, one can assume that every prostitute is one by choice, or else she would not be one.

  4. As I said in another comment, unemployment is no different an option than any other job. If you're unsatisfied with the job options available you can be unemployed and it's conceivable that for a specific person that choice would be at one time or another the correct choice for him. So having a degree of unemployment is not necessarily evidence of lack of choice.

    1. Haha. Good to know I can just walk outside my door and have a job. Damn, and this whole time I thought it was because no one is hiring. What a relief to know that I'm just *choosing* to be unemployed!

      1. Hey, I see you are using Facebook which presumably means you can read and type. It is an asounding testimony to your elitism and disconnection from reality that you believe that "no one is hiring" when it is a fact that there are people employed all around you that are either illiterate or cannot read or type in the prevailing language. The problem is not that no one is hiring my friend, it's that you prefer to be unemployed than to work for a living, choosing instead in the best case scenario to depend on your parents or in the worst case scenario to depend on unemployment benefits stolen from taxpayers.

    2. So stop criticizing the State you live under, you're just unsatisfied with the options of hundreds of States! You also voluntarily choose to live under one State, therefore you must consent to that option you have! </sarcasm>

      1. Pay your taxes and smile at the camera. You choose to live in the country. If you're unsatisfied, find another job… whoops,I mean country to live in! Or make the choice to be unemployed…. whoops, I mean become become a stateless nomad. (good luck across major borders like that)

  5. Unemployment, especially in a right-libertarian society with no social safety nets, is as much a choice as starvation. If you think this is a valid choice, then I can only surmise that you've never been unemployed and poor (as in, no money to pay the rent or buy food) for any amount of time.

    1. While you on the other hand, are being so dramatic because of being unemployed and poor? Show me a person who is starving from unemployment and I'll explain to you very quickly why he is in such a position. Hint: it's not because of a lack of safety nets – which exist in all societies, libertarian or not – but because of coercion, and state coercion at that. Btw, take a look at Venezuela, it seems that there even the employed are having trouble getting food.

      1. Venezuela is a capitalist society, so it doesn't escape from unemployment. Furthermore, you are dismissing the very real and psychological pain that being poor and unemployed brings. I won't argue this point. I will let any person who is, was or might be poor and unemployed to decide for themselves if it's their own damn fault as you assert.

      2. While the State does play a role to some extent, in a pure stateless capitalist society that allows sticky property rights, very soon you would have all the capital being monopolized by the capitalists, and the rest of the people are left with no choice but to obey a boss or starve. Some 'freedom.'

  6. Certainly some women do it by choice (although I can still challenge if that choice would exist if they had the chance of making as much money without selling their body) but this does not tell us anything about whether most want to be a prostitute or not.

    1. What does "wanting to be a prostitute" mean? What is the context? When would you conceed that a person actually wants to be a prostitute?

      1. When they had ample other opportunities that would allow them to live a decent life (given the living standard of their society)

  7. Your argument is fallacious. You are purposely twisting your moral aversion of the mistreatment of people, women in this case, with the principles of right and liberty. No person has a right to employment nor a right to demand their subjective judgment of respect. There is no legitimate argument based upon anything other than someone’s moral opinion that justifies those rights. I will not condone such treatment of people, but to punish someone for such treatment is an egregious display of moral authority.
    It is also highly hypocritical. For instance, homosexuality is seen as a moral aberration among certain religious sects. Should their morals dictate the liberty of people based solely upon sexual preference? What about marijuana usage? Because some people are morally opposed to the use of such drugs, should it truly be unlawful? The answer is absolutely no to both of those questions. Individual morals have no place amongst the body of law.

    1. So you won't condone beating a woman (based on what?), but see no reason for anyone to step in and save her because that would be administering "personal moral authority". Riiight…

      1. First, where in the original article was physical violence mentioned? I don't remember it being anywhere, so my comment on "condoning" was meant to clarify that I, personally, do not condone the type of verbal abuse or even physical advances that were mentioned in the original piece.
        Second, as far as your opinion as to what I would or wouldn't do in a violence situation, that was nothing more than your own conjecture. Violence against other people is not a moral issue, it is a liberty issue. An aggressor who acts in the manner which you attempted to depict is violating the right to life of his/her victim. Stepping in and stopping that scenario is not "administering 'personal moral authority'", it is putting a halt to the violation of a woman's right to an unmolested life, ie, her liberty.
        Try again.

    2. "sexual preference"

      Homosexuality, like heterosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality, is an orientation, not a preference.

      "Individual morals have no place amongst the body of law. "

      Just what do you think laws are based on? Ostensibly, they're based on the moral code of the majority. Realistically, they're based on the economic interests of the ruling class, which is to say, the moral code of a minority (i.e., "it is moral that the rich should rule"). Either way, it's individuals, who are sufficiently powerful (whether by numbers or by wealth), imposing their morals on everyone else. That's what the law *is*.

      1. 1. Preference, orientation. My bad for wrong terminology. No harm was meant by my words.

        2. What do I think laws are based on? My statement was that "individual morals have no place amongst the body of law", meaning that in a free society, the only laws that should exist are those that protect liberty. So, back to your original question, I think that laws in today's society are exactly what you said they are: "based on the moral code of the majority." That they are, most certainly does not make it right. The law should not be that which exists today. But that is because we DO NOT live in a free society, and we DO NOT live under a capitalist economic system.

        1. The laws, even those laws of a "capitalist economics sytem" would still be based on the moral code of the majority. It may simply be the case that the moral code of the majority decides that it's important to protect a particular strain of "liberty"

          1. That's only assuming that the people would allow a body of law to encompass matters other than what are basic and necessary in civil society. We can disagree about the nature of property and derivation of rights, but from my opinion, if laws only existed to protect people and their property, then moral issues would be left to the individual to decide.
            What I believe is not necessarily what my neighbor believes. Even people who subscribe to the same religious institution have subtle differences in how they choose to interpret certain doctrines. That fact alone should be enough to demonstrate to people that morals are subjective and therefore have no place being forced upon others. That and the fact that not one of us is perfect.

          2. f laws only existed to protect people and their property, then moral issues would be left to the individual to decide.

            Your unbased assumption here is considering that private property is a "matter basic and necessary in civil society". In short you deny society from deciding on "the body of law" except in the case of the law that you think go without saying.

          3. It is irrelevant how the law was formed or if it coincides or not with the "moral code of the majority" (an extremely dubious concept in any case). Firstly, the law, as it is or as it could be, could be formed by any number of ways. If there is conceivably a just way for the law to have been formed then we can say that the political situation has been explained as a just consequence of the non-political and that is, from a purely political perspective, all that needs to be said in order to command respect for the law (just what is a just way for the law to have been formed is left unspecified).

            Also at times the law can be and is different than both the moral code of the majority and that of the elite because the law is an instution that has unintended or wider consequences than desirable. So the majority and the elite can be sometimes in a position where it is in their interest today to accept a law that can and might protect behaviour that is both against their moral code and against their interests.

            So the question addressed to Christopher is irrelevant, i.e. the moral factors that have historically lead to the present legal system have no impact on the assertion that morals should remain outside the law.

          4. I don't claim that morals should remain within the law. In fact I say that any core laws are based on the moral sentiments of the majority. The unfortunate fact of statism is how we get laws that are not based on the moral sentiments of the majority and how difficult it is to repeal them.

            My personal idea is that we do not need codified laws at all given a healthy sociopolitical system but my point to Christopher was to point out that if you have laws, you cannot escape the fact that they are formed as a majority decision, at least on the initial phase, before a society statifies and allows laws to be formed by a minority decision.

          5. Regarding laws, you do not need to "escape the fact" of their formation for them to command respect. Their nature is quite a different thing than their construction. For example freedom of expression is quite a different thing than is the group of rich publishers that might at one time or another demanded and secured such a right.

          6. Regarding laws, you do not need to "escape the fact" of their formation for them to command respect.

            The only reason that laws command respect is because you have not escaped the fact. You are still part of the collective majority which wished such a law to exist and therefore you respect it.

            When the collective majority stops respecting a law, even if that law was requested in the past by a previous generation's collective morals, then that law slowly but surely loses its power. Such is what happened to anti-nudity laws and what is happening to copyrights currently.

  8. Violence against other people is not a moral issue, it is a liberty issue.

    Actually it is a moral issue and you are even admitting this in your own argumentation. You simply punt the morality one level higher into Liberty and "administer personal moral authority" when you assume and force people to be free.

    I'm playing devil's advocate here of course but only to show you that you argumentation path is simply obscured in the language you use.

    1. It is most certainly an assumption that all people desire to be free, and so very sad to realize that some would be content in being indentured. That is the catch-22 of intervention, a damned if you do – damned if you don't type of situation. My own personal opinion, though, is that we are all responsible for our own actions, and therefore have the 'power' to either walk away from, or to at least seek help for an uncomfortable situation.
      You and I both know that no matter which side of the Anarcho spectrum one falls on, the depravity and baseness of some human beings will never cease. Unfortunate as that reality may be. We can just try to raise our children (if one chooses to procreate) to treat everyone with the respect and dignity that they would wish to treated with themselves.

      1. This does not change the fact that you claim a normative proposition in favour of liberty (i.e. make it a moral issue). You just won't act on it (except in the case of your own progeny) because I can only imagine you listen to another normative proposition which says that you must make normative propositions. In short, I think your ideology is confused and can't really progress anywhere.

    2. Actually I think Christopher does not correctly explain himself. What he means to say, if I undestand correctly, is that violence against other people is not only a moral issue but a political and legal issue. Liberty is a political and legal concept. If we recognize that people have often different moral concepts we must, as democrats, advocate keeping morality out of law and political institutions. Politics and law by the way are not a strictly normative game, they are also institutions and types of human action that are quite separate from morality. So if Christopher is speaking in this sense then I agree with him and do not see where his argument is wrong.

      1. Democracy itself is a moral issue. We ought to have a democratic society. You cannot escape the ethical aspect by resorting to a moral value which you assume is a given.

        1. Well perhaps it is a moral issue for you. It is not a moral issue for me. I do not believe that it is morality that compels us to have a democratic society. Actually In some types of societies e.g. in the currently hypothetical society comprised by my children and myself I believe that we ought *not* to have a democratic society. What I do believe is that democratic institutions are beneficial when in synergy with other liberal institutions like the rule of law, protection of individual rights and private property. They are beneficial because my personal moral code calls for the respect of individual rights. It is non-moral consequence of this that I desire rule of law, private property and democracy.

          But the above is irrelevant to the core of your argument . The problem with your argument is that fact that I have a moral reason to advocate individual rights does not mean that the political institutions that are derived as consequence are dependent on my personal our our collective morality. These institutions do not have an ethical aspect just as the fact that the organic reasons that compel me to construct a metal chair do not mean that the chair has an organic aspect.

          1. Weak analogy. While you build the chair out of external material and thus end up with an external result, you build society by taking part in it. You are part of the society. So if a political institution is estabilished because a sufficient majority has the correct moral values to make them strive together to build it, then that political institution is a result of the collective moral values.

  9. Some of you may appreciate this quote by Zhwazi: "Enslaving by creating dependence is just as evil as enslaving by force, but harder to object to."

    And a follow-up comment by Tom Ender: "When using force to enslave, the slaves know they have been enslaved. Often when enslaved by dependence, slaves believe they are free. (My comment rephrases the famous Goethe quote: "None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.")"

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