Do Progressives Fake Naïveté?

Morgan Warstler
Jul 2, 2014 · 7 min read

@MattBruenig insists there are three types of governing regimes:

Lawless — There are no rules preventing people from acting on the bodies of others. There are no rules preventing people from acting on pieces of the world.

Grab World — There are rules preventing people from acting on the bodies of others. There are no rules preventing people from acting on pieces of the world. Roderick Long has called this the “Grab What You Can World.” This is the world that is consistent with negative liberty, self-ownership, and the non-aggression principle. It lacks property rights because property rights empower individuals to act on the bodies of others. Every person is free to do literally anything short of acting on the body of another person.

Statism — There are rules preventing people from acting on the bodies of others. There are also rules that limit people from acting on pieces of the world. The latter rules, aka economic regulations, trump the former rules when they are in conflict. Right-Wing Libertarianism as espoused in America is a flavor of statism in that it advocates a massive web of rules that limit people from acting on pieces of the world, e.g. property rules and contract rules. It also maintains that those rules trump the rules preventing people from acting on the bodies of others: it permits people to act on the bodies of others to enforce economic regulations. Almost everyone is a statist in this regard. They just disagree on what the economic regulations should be.

Is this ignorance or high school debate tactic?

First, his framing is not about governing regimes at all. It’s some baseless line drawing around body, property, violence. But also, he goes tabula rasa without any historical notion of HOW we got here.

Without further adieu, this is the historically accurate binary framework for Libertarian property rights:

State of Nature (SoN)— best explained by the opening scene of Deadwood

Theorizing on property requires marathoning Deadwood every couple years.

There are rules. There is property. Individuals make rules and claim property in nature, but must enforce it with one another using only their only own ends (they can make credible or non-credible threats). Sometimes violent: Touching someone violently will likely result in violence back, sometimes it ends in slavery. Touching property someone has placed a rule on will likely end in violence, but may result in them not defending it (their threat was non-credible).

Contrary to dystopian savage fantasy, SoN is day-to-day mostly non-violent, because after the first couple rounds of credible threats are proven, others tend to respect the rules. Apes don’t spend all day fighting.

Humans in SoN are highly organized. Smart guys will aggregate and put to work many dumb bigger guys. Each big dumb guy must decide if he’ll put his labor towards the will of smart guy A or smart guy B. Some dumb guys are too dumb to follow anyone, so they end up dead. A good modern working example of the state of nature occurred with the fall of the USSR, or say Rwanda today.

Some Libertarians argue SoN can be more peaceful than the State. Perhaps, but I don’t see it.

Bruenig should conceptualize SoN as a pure meritocracy, where the sole defining merit is whatever rules individuals are able create and enforce.

The State — Season 1, Episode 9 Deadwood

The State is a more formal, structured, REFLECTION of the State of Nature.

The State is a more formal, structured reflection of SoN. The rules of the powerful in SoN, tend to become the laws of the state.

Fact: States are ALWAYS created by the will of those holding power within the boundaries of the proposed state.

States draw boundaries and must defend them. When one state fails by war or revolution, and another is created, there exists in-between a state of nature. Hegemons in SoN must reach a consensus amongst themselves to join the club. Usually this entire discussion is about ensuring property held in SoN will be titled in the State. In some crazy failed states, titled property hasn’t existed. #fullcommunism

Once hegemons have reached this agreement, the state is ratified and the first office of government is the title office.

Note: if two states seek to title the same property… that’s war.

Other laws are created to be applied to all citizens and non-citizens in the state. Enforcing laws costs money (like the rules before them) but states share the costs between the hegemons (and the citizens).

When seeking to change the rules in a state, it is helpful to understand the intentions of the original hegemons. It is imperative to remember that underneath the State ALWAYS is SoN comprised of the very same people. In a state, individuals will continue to personally defend themselves. They will continue to threaten to dissolve the state if their property title isn’t respected according to the laws. Hegemons will continue to use all their power within the boundaries of the laws to keep them from being changed. Generally, I’d argue given any one group of people, the State on balance will have slightly less violence, but higher economic productivity, because the security costs for hegemons are much lower vs. SoN

Hegemonic Libertarianism — the top 1/3 are just value shoppers.

Free marketers are hegemons debating whether the current government is worth it to themselves and other property owners. Most Americans / Texans / Ohioans with skills and capital are able and willing to pick up and move between US states and countries.

Own property in one place, own some wherever you go.

As such, Libertarians comfortable with the real value of their own human capital, are not arguing out of radical ideology or pure greed. They just believe the US has succeeded historically because of the procedural justice enshrined by their hegemony. It is a better environment for humans to thrive.

130K American children are not bum rushing the Mexican border.

Matt is undeterred and unimpressed with the US vs. other countries which I don’t think he’s spent much time visiting…. so, on his blank slate, Bruenig creates a definition of property without any historical accuracy, to go after those Libertarians who cheer groovy non-aggression:

Most of the time, I use Grab World in debates to simply push people off of procedural justice arguments.

This doesn’t push me an inch off my procedural justice argument. He’s just afraid to confront my historically accurate frame, so he punches hippies.

Matt, the US was created by, and is managed by hegemons with agreeable laws (rooted in laissez-faire) and deep structural impediments to changing those laws. This Libertarian procedural justice is obvious. Process has its own inertia: We are very likely to stick with the formal contract established as we shifted from SoN to The State.

This further suggests a long term Techno-Libertarian outcome, not only for the US, but the whole of the Earth.

Bruenig can’t blank slate his way out of the strictures of US law. Matt can’t wave off that the hegemony PREFERS the future Techno-Libertarian strategy of, “much better government for much less money.”

This is why his naive ternary frame on property dumbfounds me, unless it is willful.

He seems to want to our state to fail, so his peeps can set up another one where he is finally a hegemon and we can try it all without titled property?

But if Bruenig wants a failed state, why argue with Hippie Libertarians?

Why not violently confront the 1/3 of America that owns their own home, run the schools, pay all the salaries of the cops and soldiers, and have 300M guns ? They aren’t debating. They are aggressive. They don’t have to accept his “statist” option. They collectively believe they will have property without this state, because if this one gets bad, they’ll just set up another one they like more. They are the home team.

Before the top 1/3 lose their titled property, the state will be disbanded, form anew, and recognize their stuff is theirs.

Clearly, the state today functions to provide them an added layer of security for their property and bodies, from those Matt wants to rile up to steal it.

I’m not being hyperbolic here, I generally think Bruenig’s trying to heroically rally troops for war.


He turned on a dime yesterday in a piece at The Week on Hobby Lobby and no more naïveté for Matt:

“Should believers be allowed to ignore private property laws and conduct their life as if all the things of the Earth belonged to everyone collectively?

Of course not. And guess what? You don’t need to worry that anything close to resembling this will happen as a result of the Hobby Lobby ruling.”

Matt suddenly understands SCOTUS is reflecting the cultural and political will of a nation that started with “Freedom of Religion” and didn’t start with “Free Healthcare.”

Which leads me to the last question:

Bruenig obviously groks Realpolitik when talking to Liberals, why can’t he see Property Rights are drawn from it when talking to Libertarians?

    Morgan Warstler

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    Habitual tech/media startup guy, new dad.

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