Morals, Force and Freedomware

In my last post about Freedomware I tried to define it without relying on the copyright law since I no longer believe in it. My conclusion was that Freedomware, for me, is essentially more about a particular kind of culture and mentality than it is about a given license and that the only equivalent to such a license that can exist in a free market is a contract with particular terms and conditions for use and distribution.

I further argued, especially in my discussion with Thomas in comments, that ultimately contracts which require of users not to copy the contracted software would fail in the market and be considered undesirable by both the users and developers. However I focused a little too much on how could some arbiters rule in favor of the one breaking the contract by copying because his breakage didn’t deprive the original developer of the copy. The thing is, I might be quite wrong about this as if you agree to a contract and yet break it, no matter how stupid the conditions were you’re responsible for signing up to them and should live up to them or terminate the contract by ceasing to use the product or service offered through it, even if that meant deleting a copy of the software you bought and making no backups.

However, even if we assume that all proprietary software contracts broken by the user (by something like an act of copying not authorized by the contract) are judged by the arbiter in favor of the developer and against the user, it doesn’t exactly change the likelihood of proprietary software contracts becoming undesirable. In fact, the more efficient developers are in suing the contractors that broke their contracts the more undesirable and less tolerant may customers be to accepting such contracts in the first place.

So basically, no matter how you turn this around, it seems to me that without the support of a coercive monopoly and its heinous regulation of the market, proprietary software would probably end up being rather unpopular compared to software offered under less restrictive contracts, most of which possibly being classifiable as Free Software (as in freedom), with the source code, right to copy, modify etc.

That said, I would now like to turn to the issue of morality as it relates to Free Software. Being a voluntaryist, the highest principle I uphold is the principle of non-initiation of force and the more I focus on that conditional the more tolerant I seem to become towards other people doing what I once perhaps considered immoral or unethical. Some would call this to be moral erosion, but they have to bear in mind that being a voluntaryist does not mean accepting non-initiation of force as your ONLY moral principle. It just means that whatever other moral principles you have, you shouldn’t give yourself the right to force it on other people.

You can write, campaign, try to influence people any way you can think of to accept your own moral principles as long as you don’t force them to, as long as it ultimately still remains their own free choice.

That said, an interesting question that pops up in my mind is; what else, aside from non-initiation of force, conditions the acceptance of a particular principle as a moral one? Let’s say someone is doing something you find disgusting, but he or she is not initiating force or fraud by doing it. You could still say that what he or she is doing is wrong thereby making a moral statement and implying that it is part of your own moral principles not to do that and not to condone other people doing that.

What is it that makes you consider this wrong though? Just the fact that you are disgusted by it? Often times this probably is the case. Merely the fact that something seems heinous and ugly to you makes you feel like it’s wrong. Sometimes, however, it may be that you believe proliferation of such acts will have adverse consequences to you and your society, that they will establish a path towards something much worse and so on.

But then we just get back to the old situation. If nobody is forcing you to participate what do you care? The “society” you are talking about isn’t “you”, an individual and you can’t control other people, just yourself. So all it comes back to is your mere disgust. You think an act that you find disgusting will lead to more people acting in a way you don’t like and then more etc. and wish to prevent this somehow, but the only reason you are doing so is because you are disgusted, because you don’t like what you see, not because there is some universal “wrong” in it. As I stated earlier, I don’t believe there is such a thing as morally wrong or right in the universe at large. These are the judgments human individuals assign to things and acts themselves.

What’s especially interesting about this, then, is that if the only thing that makes something wrong, aside of initiatory force is the fact you don’t like it yet your likes and dislikes tend to change over time, all other morals aside from the moral of non-initiation of force are totally relative and subjective and are NOT worth forcing people for. In other words, the moral of non-initiation of force and fraud completely overrides all others. When you realize this you might, like myself, find yourself in a situation in which you actually become more tolerant towards some things you found to be “immoral” before because, perhaps, the fact you don’t like it just doesn’t seem like a strong enough reason to sweat over, nor strong enough reason to waste your breath over.

This is how the “be and let be” mentality starts to settle in, the mentality of true tolerance.

Let’s go back to Freedomware and how this ties in to that. Richard Stallman believes and actively propagates the idea that developers who provide their software under the terms which restrict people from unlimited use, copying and modifying of it are doing something morally wrong. The first question I would ask to verify that claim is whether such developers initiate force or fraud?

1. Do developers of proprietary software force or fraud people into accepting their restrictive terms of use and distribution?

Generally, no! There are of course some exceptions and Microsoft is guilty of some of them (often using law because this is the only way they can “legitimately” force people). But most proprietary software developers probably don’t force anyone to accept their terms. They wont give you a copy, of course, but they wont force it upon you either. You might even get a copy of their software elsewhere for free (warez…) and most of them still wouldn’t actively go about pursuing you.

So in what way is offering software under restrictive terms unethical??

Well, that’s where I reach the crunching point. I don’t seem to have a very satisfactory answer. Universally speaking, nothing. It’s not initiation of force and nobody is being harmed. If someone accepts the license then (s)he is responsible for accepting the restrictions that come with it. So what makes someone, like Richard Stallman, believe that it is unethical or immoral is pretty much because he doesn’t like it, a feeling that he developed throughout his life’s experiences, when he felt like being pressured into non-cooperation by the trend of releasing software under restrictive terms.

This trend, however, wouldn’t have continued if people refused to accept such restrictive terms. However, it would also have quite a bit of difficulty continuing should have the market been free of government regulation. Just think of continuous extensions of the term and scope of copyright law and the “limited liability” blanket for big corporations (obviously, including Microsoft) or all the lobbying those corporations then successfully did to force even worse restrictions upon us. The state played a very significant role in fueling the trend of restrictive licensing. What I’m basically saying is that we probably wouldn’t have a proprietary software monopoly in 90s nor would some of us be so adamantly disgusted by proprietary software if state regulation didn’t help make restrictive terms THE standard contract under which software was distributed.

If it was a Free Market and restrictive contracts somehow gained such foothold then we would just be the “unfortunate” minority, but at least it’d be much easier for us to just do our GNU thing and be left alone, no laws to fight against which threaten the existence of even our nice GNU software itself (DMCA, software patents etc.).

So in essence the true problem was not the fact that many people wanted you to agree to certain restrictive terms before they give you the binary of it, because this is a choice every individual is free to make. The problem was that the governments, coercive monopolies, actually helped make such a model standard – they forcefully (how else) interfered with the natural developments in the market to artificially create a situation in which we are.

So what do people who don’t like such terms do about it? Earlier I expressed that I believe that whatever you do it shouldn’t include initiatory force or fraud. Richard Stallman responded with a license, turning copyright law’s default terms on their head: copyleft. Given the circumstances this probably was the smart thing to do. However, there is a problem.

It was the state, the government and their laws which created the bulk of the problem in the first place and now we are trying to solve it by using, again, the state, the government and its laws. We are “forcing back”. We are “regulating back”. We are spinning in circles. And what is the ultimate conclusion of this trend? What would happen in Free Software way of using copyright, regulating the market etc. took as much foothold as proprietary software has today? Take it from Richard Stallman’s mouth:

“Proprietary software should be illegal” — Richard Stallman

There you have it. Richard’s morality imposed on everyone else by force through law. People who for whatever reason want to release their software under more restrictive terms than Stallman would allow could be punished for it.

It’s just replacing one kind of regulation with another. Free Software may be better, but forcing it is not the way and that’s what Stallman wants to do.

The bottom line is this. Freedom is not “be free or I’ll rob you or throw you in jail”. Freedom is not “freedom or else”. Freedom can only exist without force. You therefore CANNOT force freedom.

Therefore, I would rather live in a free market where proprietary software has 90% market share than in a state where Free Software is enforced by law.

Of course, I extremely doubt that proprietary software would ever win in the free market. The point is, I would have exactly the same amount of freedom whether proprietary software has most or least market share, if it was a free market. Compare that to our “regulated market” with all the laws actually favoring proprietary software and threatening the existence of Free Software.

Another point I want to make, based on all this, is that someone using proprietary software is a choice everyone has a right to, just as the choice to use Free Software. This whole “100% Free Software or you’re helping evil” mantra is largely missing the point. You wont be free if you put exclusively Free Software on your computer. You will be free once you become aware of the fact that only you can control your own life and nobody else and that you have no right to control anybody elses life. By realizing this you would become a voluntaryist and you would free your mind.

That’s where freedom is, not in how many which licenses or contracts you willfully accepted, but in being aware of your personal power enough to make what you think and feel is the right decision in any moment, yes even if that decision sometimes includes proprietary software.

Thank you

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  • http://www.blaise.ca/ Blaise Alleyne

    A few quick comments…

    Anyone who thinks there's something wrong with "legislating morality" is not actually thinking. Is it not legislating morality to say that killing someone or stealing something is wrong? Is it not legislating morality to say that the use of force or harming someone should be considered wrong?

    You can't possibly avoid moral issues entirely in law. Law is about the common good.

    I do agree with you, in general, about changing people's hearts rather than forcing them though. I'd rather convince people to use free software that force them, it's much better if they understand the reasons behind it and choose it out of their own free will.

    That said, making proprietary software illegal would hardly be forcing anything on anyone. Right now, proprietary software is largely dependent on copyright law. That's an artificial construct. It's *unnatural* for proprietary software to exist in the first place, because it's a restriction on freedom based on an artificial government granted monopoly.

    If the government no longer grants the monopoly, how is that forcing something on people? The current situation much more resembles one of force, where software copyright holders are given unreasonable and artificial power over their software to the point where basic freedoms over one's own private property no longer exist. That sounds more like force to me.

    You said, "every set of rules that comes from the government organization and is usually called “law” is forced." Proprietary software wouldn't exist in nearly the same way without that force. Without that government force, two of the four software freedoms would be granted by default.

    And, free software isn't defined by it's license, that's only coincidental. Both the FSF and OSI have their free software definitions, and then it just so happens in our current legal software the only way to protect such freedoms is through licenses, so the licenses are checked against the definition. The *definition* is the definition, not the license.

  • admin

    Hi Blaise,

    > Is it not legislating morality to say that killing someone or stealing something is wrong? Is it not legislating morality to say that the use of force or harming someone should be considered wrong?

    I guess we'd have to more precisely define what "legislating" means. Within the prevalent framework I think of it as "passing into law" therefore forcing a certain rule through government's enforcement agencies on other people.

    When I say that stealing and killing, that is the initiation of force and fraud, is wrong, I am indeed making a moral value judgment based if anything then on the fact that I do not want to be killed or stolen from. The reason why I further state is as the fundamental moral principle is because I believe that effectively every human which exists does not want to be killed, hurt or stolen from, which by itself makes it quite an universal moral (which is hard to say for any other moral I can think of..).

    The reason it is so universal is rooted in our nature as alive, self aware, thinking and acting beings. We want freedom to be all of that to the full extent. Everyone wants that until someone convinces them that they must submit to the rule of others (as well as help rule others by giving taxes, voting etc.), which is when the self defeating delusions begin, unfortunately.

    > That said, making proprietary software illegal would hardly be forcing anything on anyone.

    Well, the fact I don't believe in coercion makes me principally unable to support any law. Forcing people not to use particular terms and conditions in their contracts is coercion. It denies them the freedom to choose under which conditions they offer their copy of software even when they don't force anyone to accept such conditions. There is nothing wrong in the act of asking for an agreement to certain conditions before you offer something to someone.

    > Right now, proprietary software is largely dependent on copyright law. That’s an artificial construct. It’s *unnatural* for proprietary software to exist in the first place, because it’s a restriction on freedom based on an artificial government granted monopoly.

    I totally agree with you there. I do believe that removing law will essentially make Free Software win out in the market by default. There may still be people who offer software under restrictive terms, but without government they will be on a much more level playing field with those who offer under no terms or under much less restrictive ones.

    I just think using government in favor of the Free Software cause is misguided. Government (coercion) is the problem, not the solution.

    > The *definition* is the definition, not the license.

    Thanks for pointing that out.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • James Dixon

    > Therefore, I would rather live in a free market where proprietary software has 90% market share than in a state where Free Software is enforced by law.

    Well, yes and no. Yes with respect to individuals. Yes with respect to companies (but more on that in a moment). However, governments owe it to their taxpayers to make responsible use of the money they take from them. For that reason, I see nothing wrong with mandating the use of free software whenever possible in government operations.

    Now publicly traded companies also have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders. Whether they are required to use free software whenever possible is a matter between their shareholders and management, but it's none of the government's business.

  • admin

    Hi James,

    The thing is, in short, I am a voluntaryist, someone who believes all human action must be voluntary and not coerced. Since government is essentially a coercive monopoly I oppose government. “Voluntaryist” is essentially an “anarchist” (anarcho-capitalist in my case, to be precise), but using the term voluntaryist is emphasizing the pro (positive) rather than anti (negative) attitude. I am pro voluntary choice and anti-coercion (hence anti-government).

    That said, as long as they exist it barely makes any difference whether they mandate each other to use only Free Software. A few more users perhaps. :) My point against legalizing against proprietary software is that it would mean denying an individual to choose freely, which unfortunately government does all the time.

    Cheers, thanks for the comment.

  • http://www.blaise.ca/ Blaise Alleyne

    "There is nothing wrong in the act of asking for an agreement to certain conditions before you offer something to someone."

    Sure, but proprietary software companies use copyright law to enforce those agreements.

    "I just think using government in favor of the Free Software cause is misguided. Government (coercion) is the problem, not the solution."

    I do agree, to a certain extent. Again, I like the notion of changing people's hearts and minds rather than forcing them. I don't think the government can get involved (e.g. to significantly reduce the reach of copyright law, for example) until most people's hearts and minds have been changed.

    That said, I don't see anything wrong with a government adopting a policy in favour of free software for use by government offices, in the name of transparency, etc. That's different than forcing it on all society though.

  • admin

    > Sure, but proprietary software companies use copyright law to enforce those agreements.

    True, but the same is essentially done with Free Software licenses like GPL. There may be a smaller track record of actually pursuing people under the copyright law, but principally it's the same thing. Just the terms are much less restrictive so it's harder to break the license.

    This is precisely why, as a voluntaryist, I no longer really wish to focus on copyright licenses as a significant component of Freedomware. Rather I would talk about the actual terms conveyed by whatever the document is used to convey it, even if it is today a copyright license.

    So when I say it's not wrong to seek certain terms and conditions to be obeyed before offering a copy of software I mean it outside of the whole context of law we have today.

    Imagine someone doing that in a free market where there is nothing *enforcing* an agreement. Instead of by the threat of force, free market agreements are obeyed because people want to be respected as trustworthy to do business with, not as someone who breaks agreements. So instead of force you've got economic incentive.

    I would, in such a free market, personally get most if not all of my software from people who do not seek me to obey restrictive terms and conditions, but that doesn't invalidate their freedom to do so anyway, even if nobody takes them up on that offer. :)

    > That said, I don’t see anything wrong with a government adopting a policy in favour of free software for use by government offices, in the name of transparency,

    Yeah, that's what I basically agreed on in a prior post. While we, unfortunately, have a government I see no real issue in them adopting mandating use of Free Software from each other… Being more transparent makes freedom activist's job of exposing government for what it is a little easier. ;)

    Cheers

  • Bob Robertson

    Blaise falls into the trap of considering the prosecution of the initiation of force to be a "morality". This is a trap simply because he's accustomed to a group which initiates force all the time, and it's "ok": Government.

    The reason the initiation of force is wrong is because someone is harmed. Where there is no harm, there is no crime.

    That is not "legislating morality", because there is no moral judgement. There is harm, or there is not harm. Morality is "should".

    I'm glad that someone else disagrees with Stallman on his stand mandating "free" software. I've gotten a LOT of heat in discussions on various Linux sites over the years when I point out that I disagree with Stallman's desire to enforce his idea of freedom on others.

    A _LOT_ of heat. Almost like I attacked their messiah.

  • Bob Robertson

    Oh, BTW, have you read any of Stephen Kinsella's works? He is a patent attorney who has gone way out on the fringe to oppose all Copyright, Patent, and other supposedly "intellectual" property. I find his arguments compelling, even if I don't agree with every conclusion.

    http://blog.mises.org/archives/author/Kinsella

  • http://www.blaise.ca/ Blaise Alleyne

    @Bob

    You are saying initiation of force is wrong and we should not do it. That's a "wrong" a "should" – how is that not a moral statement?

  • oiaohm

    OK Missed the Critical point. Long term storage documents. I would quite except goverements demanding that they are stored in a approved format that has a open source applications to process it. I have many people with old files in discontinued applications some even today I am forced to run windows 3.11 to access there documents.

    Closed Source I can Live with. Closed Formats that companies can discontinue at will I cannot.

  • Bob

    RMS believes proprietary software is unethical enough to be illegal. RMS believes that nobody should have the right to subjugate other people out of their essential freedoms.

    The analogy that I like to use to show how proprietary software infringes freedom is one of loud music: your right to play your music loudly in within the range of my residence at unconscionable hours infringes on my right to peace and rest. Sure, it is possible that I can move away from your noisy house to a more peaceful location but that won't change the contemptible non-ethical nature of your action. There are actually laws in place that limit the amount of noise you are allowed to make at certain times because without these laws, a lot more people will take the liberty to play loud music at the expense of someone else's right to peace.

    Likewise, proprietary software is intended to take away freedom from users and move them to the software proprietors: your right to impose unethical restrictions on the software under your control infringes on my right to freedom. Sure, it is possible that I choose to not accept your user-subjugating software but my rejection won't change the contemptible non-ethical nature of your action; your right to distribute software that infringes on user freedom remains just as contemptible. This is where RMS believes that proprietary software should be illegal as there is a massive industry and culture that exists to subjugate users out of their essential freedoms. If there were laws in place to stop software user freedom infringement, then no user would be subject to software subjugation.

  • admin

    @ Bob Robertson

    > That is not “legislating morality”, because there is no moral judgement. There is harm, or there is not harm. Morality is “should”.

    Actually I didn't really disagree with Blaise on that non-initiation of force and fraud is a moral judgment. I do disagree that making such a judgment is immediately legislating morality. That doesn't quite make sense and is in fact a contradiction. Legislating is "passing into law" which is forced yet the statement is that force is wrong. Doesn't compute. :)

    However, I do believe it is an universal moral because no human being wants to be harmed or coerced.

    > I’ve gotten a LOT of heat in discussions on various Linux sites over the years when I point out that I disagree with Stallman’s desire to enforce his idea of freedom on others.

    I may have been among those who put on the heat few months ago. ;) Later discovering voluntaryist ideas made me reconsider a whole lot about the way I think which led me to this point.

    > Oh, BTW, have you read any of Stephen Kinsella’s works?

    Probably not, but I am aware the Mises Institute site has a lot of quite enlightening material. I'll check it out, thanks.

    @ oiaohm:

    > Closed Source I can Live with. Closed Formats that companies can discontinue at will I cannot.

    You don't have to "live with" either, regardless of whether they exist or not. Unless someone puts a gun to your head to coerce you to buy a piece of software which uses a particular file format, you can support free software with free formats. And the more people do so the more of a free market standard will it be.

    And just as nobody should force you to use particular kinds of software and sign particular kinds of contracts or licenses, you shouldn't force anyone else from offering whatever software they want under whichever terms.

    @ Bob

    > RMS believes that nobody should have the right to subjugate other people out of their essential freedoms.

    How does one subjugate you by making an offer that you are not forced to accept?

    I believe freedom to think and act without coercion is the fundamental freedom from which all other freedoms derive. I also believe this freedom should apply to all human beings, not just those you agree with.

    > your right to play your music loudly in within the range of my residence at unconscionable hours infringes on my right to peace and rest.

    If it does you should seek to make an agreement with the one playing the music loudly and pursue the most efficient and mutually beneficial resolution to the problem.

    Just making a blanket law stating conditions on how should people listen to their music and when, a law which applies even when there is nobody around to mind loud music, is simply not the solution. There are better ways to resolve such disputes than imposing rules at the threat of force.

    > Sure, it is possible that I can move away from your noisy house to a more peaceful location

    That's a poor analogy though. Moving to a different place to live is a very proactive thing to do whereas simply choosing not to buy a particular piece of software, not to sign up to particular terms and conditions requires of you to do nothing particularly proactive. You just have to choose to move on and get Free Software instead.

    > There are actually laws in place that limit the amount of noise you are allowed to make at certain times because without these laws, a lot more people will take the liberty to play loud music at the expense of someone else’s right to peace.

    Why treat other people as if they were your enemies by default, as if it would be impossible to make a civil agreement with them? Force is not the answer dude. Law is forced.

    > Likewise, proprietary software is intended to take away freedom from users and move them to the software proprietors

    They can't take away anything unless you give it away yourself. It is you who is choosing whether to buy a particular piece of software and submit to particular (restrictive or not) terms of use.

    > your right to impose unethical restrictions on the software under your control infringes on my right to freedom.

    You can't impose restrictions on "software", only individuals. And again, if you agreed to a license/contract that restricts your use of the software you got after signing it then it is YOU acting in your freedom to choose who chose to accept those restrictions. You blame someone else for something you give up yourself.

    > Sure, it is possible that I choose to not accept your user-subjugating software but my rejection won’t change the contemptible non-ethical nature of your action; your right to distribute software that infringes on user freedom remains just as contemptible.

    Man, you make it sound like doing anything that you yourself find contemptible is reason enough to force me against doing it. That's a seed of tyranny, not freedom. You have to let people be free just as you are. What you find contemptible someone may find acceptable and vice versa.

    You can label a particular act anything you want, but as long as that act does not include force being initiated upon you then you have no right to force them from making such an act or else it will be you who is initiating force and thereby restricting freedom.

    Here's a quick example. Jimmy comes along and asks of you politely if you would take his car in exchange for you being his servant. What did the act of him making such an offer do to you? Did he came and threatened you with a gun? Did he grab you by your neck? No. He made an offer. It may be a disgusting offer, but it is still just an offer.

    By your logic you would, by the threat of force (by law), deny Jimmy's freedom to make such an offer, solely on basis of you finding it morally disgusting.

    And all you could've done is said no and walk away. You could've even remarked something like "What? Are you freaking nuts? Of course I don't accept the offer!". But whatever you do you can't just force people by law to never make an offer you might not like.

    > This is where RMS believes that proprietary software should be illegal

    Think of the meanings of words you use. Making something illegal is making an act be forbidden according to the law which is the set of rules forced on everyone in a given country by the threat of a fine, jail and guns. Therefore what RMS essentially believes is that particular kinds of offers should be prohibited at the threat of a fine, jail or a gun. I think that would be far more immoral than any "immoral" offer made by some proprietary software developer.

    > there is a massive industry and culture that exists to subjugate users out of their essential freedoms

    And it is called government, and everyone who believes in it and actively supports its continued subjugation of people by forcing a particular set of rules on everyone else.

    Think about it. If government didn't exist would copyright law exist? Nope. If copyright law didn't exist what would be "proprietary software"? That's in fact a topic I talked about in my blog above. Without the government and copyright, the only way software can be proprietary is if someone seeks to offer you something under the condition that you agree to certain terms of use. You refuse to agree and move on to someone who will make you a better offer, one you consider more acceptable, in line with your free software principles.

    All government ever did was mess up the "free" market by allowing its (stolen) power to be used by special interests. They created a bubble of "limited liability" to help the big dogs in the industry run their business without full responsibility for its consequences. They then allowed them to, through lobbying, put such things into law that threaten the existence of Free Software.

    Yet you rely on government and its laws to protect you? All it has done is help the very thing you want to fight!

    If you want freedom then declare sovereignty from "your" government, withdraw your support for it any way you can and cease to believe in the validity of their "authority" and "law". Once you try to do that all you'll see where you once saw "government" is a gang of bandits.

    Thank you.

  • Rye Terrell

    Hello!

    I am also a voluntaryist, although perhaps I am a voluntaryist's voluntaryist. I say this because I feel that many stop short in their application of the non-aggression principle, particularly with respect to the enforcement of contracts. If person A and person B sign a contract, A breaks the contract, and B uses force against A in order to recompense himself, then B has used aggressive force against A. No force was used until B used force, and so B initiated the use of force.

    Of course, some will say, "How then will contracts be enforced, if not through force?" But this is an ends-justify-the-means approach to the issue, and is therefore invalid in my humble opinion. I can provide a possible solution to the issue, and will, but it should be clear that it does not matter whether or not I provide some solution to the problem. It is wrong to initiate force, period, and so even if there was *no* solution to the problem, I would still find the enforcement of contracts through force immoral.

    That said, the free market would likely address this issue in much the way it is addressed today: through some sort of credit reporting scheme. I think you see where I am going with that.

    Thanks for reading, thanks for being a voluntaryist, and thanks for the new word! :)

    Much respect,

    Rye Terrell

  • Bob Robertson

    Rye, a contract is itself voluntary. If you don't like the terms of the contract, don't enter into it.

    In your example, A initiated fraud, by not following the terms of the contract.

    B has every right to seek damages. There is no initiation of force in the seeking of damages for actions already taken (by A).

    The idea of operating without statute law of any kind is not new. "Voluntaryism" is perfectly good, I call it "unanimity".

    Time for some links, since the thread on LXer.com was deleted:

    The Probability Broach. Good story, lots of application of voluntary and unanimous principles.
    http://www.bigheadpress.com/tpbtgn?page=1

    But, wouldn't the WarLords take over?
    http://mises.org/story/1855

    Roderick Long, answer to 10 objections to anarchy
    http://mises.org/mp3/MU2004/Long2.mp3
    (I think it valuable for the deconstruction of government run courts especially)

    The Covenant of Unanimous Consent
    http://www.lneilsmith.org/new-cov.html

  • admin

    Hello Rye, I'm glad there's another voluntaryist around. :)

    About your remark:

    > No force was used until B used force, and so B initiated the use of force.

    Fraud is equivalent to force in that it is a way to artificially induce an action which would not otherwise voluntarily be taken, therefore disrupting the natural stability of the free market. This is why with the principle of non-coercion we tend to include both non-initiation of force AND *fraud*. Whenever someone breaks a contract (s)he essentially cheats.

    I think that's where Bob is getting at as well.

    That said this doesn't necessarily mean that fraud must always be sanctioned by an act of force. If it is sufficient to incentivize the contract breaker to compensate without using any threat of force then great. A Free Market justice isn't about punishing people as much as it is about *repairing the damage*. If damage can be repaired by means which include no force more power to them! :)

    Bob, about the term "unanimity" it seems to mean (and wikipedia agrees) "complete agreement by everyone". I suppose in the context you mean it, this agreement need not be on all things, but only on the most basic principles: non-initiation of force and fraud.

    Then again if it is used to describe what we believe in people might get it to mean more, that we perhaps advocate that people all be the same and think the same way, which is in fact counter productive for a free market which depends on people being different and exchanging between each other in pursuit of the unique things they find valuable.

    "Voluntaryism" focuses clearly on only the non-coercion principles.

    Anyway, thanks for those links. Gonna check them out. :)

    Oh and btw, I've asked about the deletion of that lxer thread and apparently there was too much political discussion in it which is against LXer's TOS (wasn't aware of that personally). I realize I provoked the political nature of the discussion so.. well.. my bad. Should've read the TOS. :)

    Cheers

  • Bob Robertson

    "Unanimity" is simply that everyone involved in an action is doing it because they wish to.

    The people involved are unanimous, even if they reached that point through consensus. They all agree to participate.

    All business is done this way, for example. All parties agree to the transaction, it is unanimous, even if it's just the buyer and seller this one time.

  • admin

    I see. Well I think it can be an useful term to use, at least interchangeably with "voluntaryism" and depending on the context.

    I do like what it represents.

  • Rye Terrell

    Hello again,

    I must respectfully disagree with the idea that fraud is, or is equivalent to, force. It most clearly is not force. I do believe it to be immoral to lie, but I do not believe it moral to respond to a lie with force. Suggesting that fraud is force is in the same vein as suggesting that withholding your money from a poor person is force.

    Neither use force.

    Probably the only place I'd be willing to bend on this is with respect to the threat of force, although I do admit that bending on this is absent any logic respecting the non-aggression axiom.

    Much respect,

    Rye Terrell

  • http://www.thenixedreport.com Thomas Holbrook II

    I would like to start off by thanking you for writing this. I myself have linked to this from my blogger blog. :)

  • admin

    Hi Rye,

    > I must respectfully disagree with the idea that fraud is, or is equivalent to, force. It most clearly is not force.

    I probably didn't express myself properly. I meant that it is equivalent only to the extent to which it causes someone to act in a way (s)he otherwise wouldn't (therefore unnaturally). Fraud in itself indeed is not force, but as you also seem to agree it is still wrong and can therefore give the cheated one the right to seek damages. But of course, no immediate force need be used against fraud.

    That's one point to make about voluntaryism. Whenever force is even admitted as rightful, it's amount should never exceed what is necessary for the damage to be repaired or else it would be a slippery slope towards revenge, not reparations.

    Thomas, my pleasure and thank you for the link! :)

    Best regards

  • Rye Terrell

    Hello again,

    I am sorry to keep pressing this point, but I feel it is a valid one and should not be dropped. When you say, "No immediate force need be used against fraud," you seem to imply that at some point, force may morally be used against fraud. I respectfully disagree with this. The point at which force is used in response to fraud, aggressive force has been used, not defensive force, because fraud is not force. This is in conflict with the nonaggression principle. I agree with you, people may morally attempt to collect damages, but may only morally do so without using force (e.g., credit reporting agencies).

    Your point about measured force is well received here; it's very rare to hear a voluntaryist bother to discuss the extent to which defensive force is moral. I couldn't agree with you more – I think you nailed it on the head.

    Much respect,

    Rye Terrell

  • admin

    I have to be honest, I'll have give your points some thought. What you're saying does make sense and in all honesty I would favor such way of dealing with fraud far better than responding with force.

    Thanks for sharing your point of view.

    Regards

  • Bob Robertson

    Rye, you might enjoy the online comic _The Probability Broach_, where even someone convicted in court of some violation, if they cannot abide the ruling, may simply leave.

    As you say, they don't use violence, so no one uses violence against them. Even to "enforcing" a judgement.

    http://www.bigheadpress.com/tpbtgn?page=1

    You'll find lots of people talk about proportional response to aggression. Someone who violates a contract being sued is not answering "fraud" with "violence". It is answering fraud with suit, neither of which is violence.

    I'm not sure human nature will ever reach that point, but at the least the laws against personal self defense must be repealed. The rapist deserves to fear for his life if he ever tries to do his thing.

  • Attethack

    tests time mashine

  • admin

    Attethack, feel free to let us know how it is in the future. :)

    I'd especially like to know if voluntaryists have made significant progress on Earth or should we plan on colonizing some rock in space before Earthlings destroy themselves by means of a government gone mad and nuking the planet. ;)

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