04 Sep 2014

Private Judicial Rulings and Law Enforcement

private law 38 Comments

I looked this up because some people were arguing about these issues in the comments of a previous post. I’ve given this talk at Mises U several times, but I think I really nailed the private law enforcement part in this version. Specifically, from 4:00 – 22:00. I talk about the distinction between being morally justified in taking certain restitution, versus the wisdom or utility of doing so when the community at large doesn’t know whether you are justified. I also explain very precisely why the private enforcement agency would want to first get a ruling by a respected judge before taking action.

38 Responses to “Private Judicial Rulings and Law Enforcement”

  1. Major.Freedom says:

    Good explanation. Much better than what I’ve done.

    Important point about some people rushing to the defense of cops no matter how egregious their behavior.

  2. K.P. says:

    Bob, do you think anarcho-capitalism would require widespread understanding or belief in natural law?

    • Samson Cora says:

      Whose version? Most versions of natural law feature “statism”.

      • K.P. says:

        Probably not one that features that. Which version isn’t my concern, just whether one is required.

        The question could apply to statists as well as anarchists, though.

        • Ken B says:

          That “statist” law requires “statism” would not be a reductio of “statist” claims though. If “stateless” law always ends up relying on an effective state though …

          • K.P. says:

            Again, not my concern at the moment.

    • Philippe says:

      “do you think anarcho-capitalism would require widespread understanding or belief in natural law?”

      Chaos Theory:

      “The route to a free society will vary according to the history of a region… The one thing all such revolutions would share is a commitment by the overwhelming majority to a total respect of [ancap] property rights.”

      • Philippe says:

        “such universal, intuitive [ancap] notions of justice would constitute the foundation for a system of private law. This widespread agreement would allow for more specific, contractually defined rights to evolve.”

        this is despite the fact that Bob (apparently) doesn’t have ‘a “rational theory of the source and nature of legitimate property rights”.


        • Major.Freedom says:

          Philippe I am not sure you can *only* go around saying such and such doesn’t have a rational theory of property rights, when you yourself do not have a rational theory of property rights.

          • Philippe says:


            “some readers may wonder how I can propose a replacement for the State’s “justice” system when I haven’t first offered a rational theory of the source and nature of legitimate property rights. The answer is simple: I don’t have such a theory.”

            Yet Bob still seems to claim legitimacy from “the overwhelming majority’, and “widespread agreement”.

            • Ken B says:

              I don’t think you have that right. Murphy seems to be saying those widespread agreements aare practical requirements to make his scheme workable, not justifications for it. As in: Removing all water pipes in society will only work if we have a widespread agreement to use buckets.

              • Philippe says:

                “not justifications for it”

                So… does he think it would be legitimate for his ideas to be enacted by a minority without the consent of the “overwhelming majority”, or the “widespread agreement” of the population?

                If so, why does he mention the “overwhelming majority” and “widespread agreement”?

              • Ken B says:

                Because he realizes his crackpot ideas do not represent anything remotely like a stable situation? Because he reslizes that any significant opposition would cause his utopia to devolve into a Hobbesian nightmare? I don’t know. But in any case the bit you quoted sounds like a specification of required conditions not a claim of justification. That reading also fits with Murphy’s earlier pronouncements. I am pretty confident from reading Murphy over these past (painful) years that he does NOT believe ancap’s legitimacy depends on the opinions of the masses.
                I’m all for nailing Murphy’s errors and inconsistencies, none more so, but this just isn’t one of them.

              • Philippe says:

                “he does NOT believe ancap’s legitimacy depends on the opinions of the masses.”

                If you watch the video above (from around 18:00 onwards) you will see that he justifies the actions he speaks of by referring to the general agreement of the community and the widespread communal and professional respect for the judge as legitimating factors..

              • Major.Freedom says:

                Hobbes’ thesis is self-refuting.

                Believing states, which violate property rights and initiate violence in order to even exist are necessary to protect against violations of property rights and initiations of violence, is crackpot confusion on stilts.

                Significant opposition to ancapism IS statism itself. Statism is permanent war of some (statesmen) against others (civilians) within a society. The fact that your mind has adapted to it, the fact that it feels normal to you, the fact that you’re numb and apathetic about it, only occasionally sensing something is off, e.g. when there is a significant enough change, does not mean that there is no perpetual conflict taking place.

                Battered spouse syndrome.

            • Major.Freedom says:


              The only reason why you sense me not willing to change my mind, is because you are unwilling to change yours. If you were willing to change your mind, you would not sense the barrier you do now.

              I will not believe in your fallacious worldview. You will not change my mind with these really poor posts that have virtually zero positive contributions. You are just antagonizing, nothing more.

              Why? Because you’re too afraid to explain in detail your worldview. Understandable of course, because every time you come close to it, and make an attempt, it is almost immediately understood as full of errors.

              It is why you can only try to expose my errors. You know you can’t rigorously defend your convictions. You have no rational grounds.

              You have fear, and little else.

              • Joseph Fetz says:

                MF, I suspect that Philippe is a moral relativist and a logical positivist in other areas of the social sciences (i.e. those not necessarily dealing in the normative realm).

                If my suspicion on this count is true, then surely you and he won’t ever see eye-to-eye on matters; your philosophical underpinnings are entirely different.

              • Joseph Fetz says:

                Plus you’re both very stubborn and unmoving in your worldview. Just sayin’.

              • Major.Freedom says:

                Stubbornness in outward appearance is often covering up changing of one’s mind.

                Kind of like a stubborn person being stubborn their entire school life, even though they are learning new things.

                We all have our limits Joe. You’ll know when I reach mine.

              • Major.Freedom says:

                Minds can change.

                Philippe has already accepted ancap ethics is a guide to his actions in dealing with other citizens.

                He is just afraid at this time of extending it to all areas of life. Fear can be eliminated with knowledge.

            • Philippe says:

              no, I only had you and your genuinely strange comments in mind.

      • K.P. says:

        The overwhelming majority could respect ancap property rights due to consequentialist or utilitarian reasons rather than natural law. That might indeed be a direct answer to my question, and I thank you for posting it, but it looks kind of vague. (Which Bob probably had good reason to be)

  3. Bob Murphy says:

    Sometimes you guys make this harder than it needs to be: The overwhelming majority of people think it should be illegal–that it is a crime–to break into someone’s house and kill any infants inside for sport. Yet if you then asked the people to explain why it is a crime, they would give all kinds of different answers. Moreover, for any particular theory of law that someone advanced, I could repeat a list of objections that I have read scholars make, and some of those objections would be very good.

    But just because I agree that I can’t give a compelling, purely rational exposition of WHY, I am comfortable saying that breaking into somebody else’s house and killing any babies in there for sport, is a horrible crime.

  4. Carl says:

    Weird how it’s just the same four or five people commenting at this site, saying the same old stuff.

    If I thought someone was a foaming-at-the-mouth crackpot deluded lunatic I would NOT spend all my time visiting their website to tell them how WRONG they are.

    Maybe that’s just me.

    • Richie says:

      One of the resident trolls admitted in a recent comment that reading Dr. Murphy’s blog has been painful. SMH.

      Dan has made me realize that responding is not beneficial. My MO is to now just read the posts and gloss of the rest of the stuff below the posts.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      I think I may have conjured up Philippie with my constant griping that all that the statists can ever do is obfuscate and distort the widely understand concepts of private property and personal integrity. I’m deeply sorry.

      BTW, Ken B and LK are gossiping about us behind our backs.


      • Richie says:

        I won’t waste my precious time clicking on the link because I don’t care what resident trolls have to talk about anymore, but I will say this: That they do that says much more about them than it does about Dr. Murphy and/or any of the others here with Austrian and ancap sympathies.

        • Carl says:

          I always just presumed they were disaffected libertarians of some kind. Like bitter ex-Marxists.

  5. Patricia Colling says:

    Bob, the interview I think you did with Tom Woods was very good, too.

  6. Joseph Fetz says:

    I think that I’ve told you a few times that this is one of the best lectures of yours that I’ve seen on Youtube. You did a similar one a year or so ago, but I think that this one is much better.

    On the libertarian property rights question above, your answer is satisfactory. We are talking about norms, after all. However, I do appreciate Kinsella’s distinction between the first appropriator vs the late-comer, and I also like Hoppe’s a priori approach. To me, the natural rights theory was always a bit lacking in intellectual rigor (circularity, is/ought dilemma, the actual source of rights, etc), but I think that guys like Hoppe and Kinsella gave it a bit more meat. But yes, at the end of the day the only way a truly libertarian society would come about is if the general population respects these property rights. Many do–dare I say that most do!–but they also have a major disconnect when it comes to the idea of a stateless society.

    What many people forget in these discussions is that libertarians aren’t proposing a system, they aren’t saying what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future (most of the theorizing in this area is either the positive science of history, or the speculative nature of prediction), they are merely taking the normative position that aggression (specifically, the initiation of aggression) is everywhere and always unjust. I have yet to have seen an argument that addresses this statement! All arguments tend to go outside of the bounds of such a statement, even though most everybody on Earth would tend to agree with this statement (putting aside their statist tendencies).

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