Tag Archives: justice

In Defence of Booby Traps


Note: As COVID-19 and the ongoing culture war are likely to be saturating our thoughts at the moment, this somewhat lengthy essay may provide a refreshing opportunity to delve into some libertarian theory concerning the defence of one’s home or business premises from trespassers. Self-defence generally is relatively neglected in libertarian theory compared to theories of private policing and court systems. Nevertheless, if political division continues to translate into increasing violence and civil unrest, then the greater clarity on this topic that the essay below seeks to achieve may not be entirely irrelevant to our current problems.

*     *     *

In Defence of Booby Traps

By Duncan Whitmore

Recently, Walter Block began a short thread on the LRC blog concerning the libertarian position on setting booby traps for the purpose of defending private property from trespassers. The discussion by no means exhausted all of the considerations involved in this topic, but a longer treatment may help to clarify some of the principles concerning self-defence in a libertarian legal order.

Every person in a free society is permitted to use defensive force against invasions of their person or property. Booby trapping does not question the principle of self-defence per se; rather, the difficulty is with whether this particular mode of protection may be considered defensive at all or whether the trap constitutes, in and of itself, an aggressive act in the event that it is sprung. Read more

Libertarian Law and Legal Systems Part Four – Liability for Wrongs


Libertarian Law and Legal Systems Part Four – Liability for Wrongs

By Duncan Whitmore

The fourth part of our survey of libertarian law and legal systems will explore causative events of legal liability arising from wrongs – that is a breach of some obligation owed by one legal person to another without the necessity of a pre-existing relationship such as a contract.

There are two issues that demarcate the approach of a libertarian legal system towards wrongs as opposed to that of a contemporary legal system. First is the definition of a wrong and second is the standard of liability – that is, the point at which the defendant becomes legally liable for a wrong.

Libertarian Definition of a “Wrong”

In contemporary legal systems, a wrong is some sort of act on the part of an individual that is viewed as being subject to legal sanction. Unfortunately, we have to start off with such a vague tautology as, looking at the variety of acts that are subject to legal regulation, this is about as precise as we can get. In many cases, of course, the wrong will be some form of harm caused by one individual to another which serves as the causative event to generate a legal response.

“Harm” is very broadly defined and can include violent and physical inflictions, such as murder, serious bodily injury, or damage and destruction to property, all the way to more ethereal harms that may include nothing more than speaking one’s mind such as “defamation” and causing “offence”. However, events currently classified as legal wrongs needn’t have a victim at all as the act may either be wholly unilateral or take place between consenting individuals. As an example of the former we can cite nearly all offences related to drug possession and dealing, and of the latter the criminalisation of certain sexual practices owing either to their nature (such as in sadomasochism) or to the gender of the participants (i.e. homosexual intercourse). Basically, it is no exaggeration to admit that a wrong, legally defined, in our contemporary, statist legal systems means nothing more than some act that the ruling government or legislature doesn’t like and wishes to outlaw, to the extent that even quite innocuous behaviour may find itself being subjected not only to legal regulation but to criminal sanction.

As we outlined in part one, no legal liability is generated in a libertarian legal order unless the wrong, or the “harm”, consists of a physical invasion of the person or property of another – in other words, only those actions that violate the non-aggression principle are subject to legal regulation. Read more

Libertarian Law and Legal Systems Part Two – Self-Ownership and Original Appropriation


Libertarian Law and Legal Systems Part Two – Self-Ownership and Original Appropriation

By Duncan Whitmore

In part one of this five-part series we outlined some preliminary considerations concerning how a libertarian legal system might unfold and develop. We are now in a position to begin exploring the causative events of legal liability in a legal order governed by libertarian prescription.

Prior to considering any specific area of the law such as tort or contract we must explore the ways in which a libertarian legal system will recognise and enforce self-ownership and also the original appropriation of previously ownerless goods.

Technically speaking, the latter topic at least could be covered as part of the law of consent. This concerns the moral imperative that a person should only be liable for the actions that he has undertaken as a voluntary agent – i.e. through his own choice and volition. Both self-ownership and titles over goods allow their owner to not only enjoy the productive services flowing from his body and external goods, but equally and oppositely they burden him with the responsibility of ensuring that, through his actions, those goods do not physically interfere with the person and property of anybody else. Indeed, although law, as understood by libertarians, responds to actions rather than to ownership per se, there is likely to be at least prima facie liability of the owner of property if that property is found to have physically interfered with the person or property of somebody else. Thus, in the same way that it is unjust to physically interfere with someone else’s property, so too is it unjust to hold someone responsible for property that he has not voluntarily asserted control over through his actions. Read more

Libertarian Law and Legal Systems Part One – What is Libertarian Law?


Libertarian Law and Legal Systems Part One – What is Libertarian Law?

By Duncan Whitmore

One of the more fascinating but less discussed areas of libertarian theory is how law and legal systems will operate in a libertarian society. To complete such a survey in its entirety would, no doubt, take a lifetime of study and authorship of one or several treatise-length works. We shall, therefore, be placing a very necessary limit to the scope of this survey by concentrating on where, why and how legal liability would arise in a libertarian society – in other words, our primary question will be what are the causative events that trigger legal liability in a libertarian society, and how will legal bodies develop and apply the law in accordance with libertarian principles? We will not be exploring in too much detail the further questions of legal responses to liability such as punishment, retribution, restitution and so on, nor will we be looking into the question of how competing police and civil or criminal court systems might operate (except, as we shall see below, to contrast them to state-based legislative law-making systems). Even though the treatment of the topic of liability alone will still contain many omissions and areas requiring expansion with more detail, we hope to lay the foundations of how libertarian law might operate.

This first part of this five-part series will examine what law is from a libertarian perspective, how different areas of the law can be categorised, and how legal principles will arise in a libertarian society. Part Two will investigate how libertarian legal systems will recognise self-ownership and the original appropriation of ownerless goods. Parts three and four will explore the laws of consent and of crimes/torts respectively while part five will deal with some miscellaneous but nevertheless significant considerations. Read more

Equality, justice and the social contract


Abstract

“Equality” and “justice” are much talked about in politics; but it isn’t always clear just what these words mean. In this essay, I’ll look at different senses in which the words are used, and at the idea, favoured by many on the left, of “social justice.” I’ll also take a look at the “social contract” which is supposed to underlie political society. Read more

Lord Ahmed – Was it Just?


Communicated to Dr Sean Gabb

Hi Sean,

Have you been following the story of Lord Ahmed?

He was jailed last month after admitting sending 3 text messages
and receiving 2 others about 10-15 minutes before a fatal
accident (2 minutes before he arrived on the scene) on the M1
near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, on Christmas Day 2007.

It is widely accepted that the accident was in no way Ahmed’s
fault and the court accepted that the texting and accident were
un-related events.

Ahmed had no fault in the crash, as it happened 15 minutes
before he arrived at the crash site.  The crashed car was facing
the wrong direction in the fast lane when he arrived and swerved
violently to avoid it but unfortunately clipped the open door.
It had already been clipped by 2 other cars.

Martyn Gombar who was killed, was found to be drunk, which
some believe caused the crash in the first place as well as him
standing in such a dangerous place, trying to retrieve his phone.

The impact sadly killed Mr Gombar and briefly knocked Lord
Ahmed unconscious. It also resulted in injuries to his Wife and
Mother who were in the car.

Ahmed then got out to help warn other motorists before the
emergency services arrived.

It seems that the judge sent him to prison not because of anything
to do with the accident – which was not his fault – but because
he admitted to texting while driving.

This is not the first time that someone has gone to prison for this
and it will certainly not be the last.

So the question is: Did Lord Ahmed deserve to receive a prison
sentence for texting whilst driving?

Take the poll: http://btst.co.uk/poll4/

Whether he deserved it or not, I never, ever want this type of
thing to happen to any BTST Member and for that reason I called
my Installer Ian Roots of Iris In-Car last night and agreed a price
for BTST Members to have a Parrot Hands Free kit professionally
installed in your car.

I’ll email you the link later in the week when we have the page up.

All the best,

Adam Blair
Founder, BTST