Thursday, 10 April 2008

Testing liberty against slavery

What's liberty?  In a sentence, it's the absence of physical coercion.

So, what does it mean then when some of you argue that we can't have complete liberty?  That we need restraints on our freedom? Well, you do the maths: What you're really saying is you prefer to take your liberty with just a little bit of slavery.  And as F.A (Baldy) Harper used to say, "Strange is a concept of 'liberty' [where]…you enjoy the right to be forced to bow to the dictates of others."

Some of you will try to wriggle free of what's just been pointed out by declaring that you disagree with that simple sentence at the top of the post.  Harper was onto your ploy and, paraphrasing Lincoln, he pointed out what it gains you:

We all declare for liberty, but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different but incompatible things.

Harper sagely rebutted most of the bromides that are used to argue that a little bit of slavery does you good, which is what you're saying when you tell me the price of liberty for you is too high.  You know the sort of thing; you've head them all before:  "Our liberty is maintained because the government can only do what advances the general welfare" ... "Though our power to vote, infringements on our liberty are prevented" ... "Government does not violate our liberty because it just provides goods and services people want" ...  Taxation is the price we pay for civilization ...  To them all, Harper applied the simple yet rigorous test of 'examining the statement for slavery,' and then demolished them by pointing out that the statements are simply pleas by those who exercise them to wield coercion over others.

Read a summary of Harper's use of slavery to test liberty at the Mises Blog: Distinguishing Liberty from Slavery. It's good.


  1. Thanks for the link. Concise litmus test.

  2. “What's liberty? In a sentence, it's the absence of physical coercion.”

    A fundamental test of liberty would be: is one free to leave the plantation? Democratic and even authoritarian countries do not force their citizens to remain in their native land. Subject to minimal health and legal requirements one is free to leave at any time.

    Therefore, the slavery test fails.


  3. Brendan

    Really? I assume you have a US residency permit or an EU residencey permit. If you do not then those destinations are forbidden to you. You simply can't go there to live permanently unless you get permissions from your masters and betters. What about Hong Kong? Same deal. Bet you can't go there to live either. Same with Singapore. OK then. What about Canada or Mexico. No? Have you tried Japan yet? No?

    What you'll find is that your choices are severely restricted. Conditions and permissions apply. Yo Massa! You are certainly not free to leave as you please and even if you did, what will you discover at your new place of residence? Physical coercion. You would not be in control of your property or the product of your labour. Far from it. Liberty indeed.

    Have you read the link to the Mises Institute provided? It offers some clarification of what PC is getting at.


  4. I was thinking about liberty the other day when someone started washing my windshield at the lights despite my hand signals not to do so. The guy seemed shocked that I didn’t want this service even for free. Liberty means having the right to refuse even a free service. Window-washers need to be instructed in the ways of Libertarian thought.

  5. "A fundamental test of liberty would be: is one free to leave the plantation?"

    "Fundamental test" my arse.

    So you're in favour of retaining plantations, Brendan.

    You'd be against eradicating slavery, Brendan.

    You'd be happy to protect the privileges of slave ownership, Brendan.

    Fucking arsehole.

  6. Simply the absence of physical coercion seems, to me, to be not going far enough. What about emotional pressure, religious sensibilities, guilt tripping, appeals to fair play and sophisticated arguments etc? To be truly free one needs to be free of these also. We are enslaved in more than one sense.

  7. One can certainly be enslaved to ignorance and sophism.

    But only metaphorically. And only by oneself.

    "To be truly free one needs to be free of [emotional pressure, religious sensibilities, guilt tripping, appeals to fair play and sophisticated arguments] also."

    Really? Do tell. You mean to be truly free we must have Nanny hold our weenies for us?

  8. lgm: “I assume you have a US residency permit or an EU residencey permit. If you do not then those destinations are forbidden to you.”

    Remember that the analogy is, at least implicitly, that the – even democratic – state is equivalent to slavery. The slave owner aims to keep his property on the plantation, and is supported in this aim by the force of the law. The fact that a country of destination may bar my entry is irrelevant to the argument.

    What we’re talking about here is the plantation on which I reside. I am not being held here against my will, devoid of rights, and by an owner who possesses me as property, to dispose of as he wills.

    Furthermore, the argument as stated is based on a definition of liberty as “absence of physical coercion”. Nobody is forcing me to stay in my country. Therefore, on the arguments own premise, I am free.

    (But of course, not ‘absolutely’ free, and my conclusion reveals the absurdity of the argument.)


  9. "A fundamental test of liberty would be: is one free to leave the plantation?"

    Bunch of arse.

    A fundamental test of liberty is whether I am under physical coercion whilst going about my peaceful business.

  10. Brendan

    The govt retains the power to keep you in the country just as surely as those other governments have the power to keep you out. Result is the same. You need permissions to leave. That you don't have to get on your knees and beg for them doesn't alter the fact.

    Most important for you to realise is that were you to move out (and don't get me wrong here, there are superior places to live than NZ) you'll still find that you need to get permissions, satisfy conditions and will not have control over your own property.

    Using your own (poor) analogy all you have achieved is to shift from one plantation slavery to another. Sure the chains are longer and looser then what the African slaves had to endure, but they are still just as effective if needs be.

    The suggestion was that you read the link kindly provided by PC. Clearly you have yet to so do.


  11. You mean to be truly free we must have Nanny hold our weenies for us?

    No not at all. I was just thinking that physical coercion was a last resort of the state and that there are more subtle methods of coercion to be on the lookout for. A lot of us need to overcome years of conditioning imposed by various influences and it sometimes seems like you need to be one of Nietzsche’s supermen to be truly free.

  12. PC: “'Fundamental test’ my arse… Fucking arsehole.”

    Sounds painful. Have you seen a doctor about this condition? I don’t usually offer personal advice over the internet, but I would recommend clear soup with a side of dry toast. Stay clear of fibrous foods and of course alcohol, especially beer. Nothing like an excess of beer to punish an inflamed arsehole.


  13. lgm: “You need permissions to leave.”

    Not from our country. If you doubt me, check with your local immigration office. Travel documents are required for entry to the country of destination, not for leaving the home country. That’s why they’re called travel documents.

    The major bar to the movement of people around the world is entry requirements, not exit requirements, as you admit. The slavery analogy is therefore arse-backwards, and for that reason, false.


  14. Brendan

    Go out to the airport. Make sure you leave your passport at home. Try to catch a flight out. Even should you have cash to buy a ticket, you will not receive permission to leave.

    No passport = no permission.

    If you push your luck and claim that you are free to leave (after all, that's what you are claiming) you will end up cuffed up in a cell. Later you'll end up on a charge and likely get a conviction, you uppity slave you!

    Note that the passport is not your property. It belongs to the NZ Government. It is a permission slip which permits you to vacate the country under certain circumstances. That it is normally granted in advance makes no difference to the fact that you need the permission. Nor does it alter the fact that you are not free to just up and go in the absence of the permission. You certainly are not free to do that. The government can deny you permission to leave any time and for whatever reason they select. No permission, no fly. Simple.

    BTW have you read that link yet?


  15. I wouldnt mind being a slave if the master forced me to do what was best for me(not just having best intentions). The reason that I dont agree with government having to much power, is that the government is not capable of deciding what is best. On that basis one could justify government intervention on the basis of enforcing things that are obviously benifical as judged by the vast majority. I reiterate however that I do doubt the abilities of the majority/governments of being able to determine the best for others. giving people authority also gives rise to the risk of abusing that.

    Also Libertarians seem to think its ok for kids to be "enslaved" by their parents

  16. lgm: “It [a passport] is a permission slip which permits you to vacate the country under certain circumstances.”

    Wrong again. A passport is an identity document, not a “permission slip”. It certifies the bearer as a citizen of his country. The passport shows that the holder has certain rights, including the right of entry to his own country, and by reciprocal arrangement is able to travel to other countries.

    “Nor does it alter the fact that you are not free to just up and go in the absence of the permission.”

    Ministry of Justice guidelines on the NZ Bill of Rights Act say this about freedom of movement:

    “Section 18 of the Bill of Rights Act is as follows:
    Freedom of movement
    (1) Everyone lawfully in New Zealand has the right to freedom of movement and residence in New Zealand.
    (2) Every New Zealand citizen has the right to enter New Zealand.
    (3) Everyone has the right to leave New Zealand....”

    Slaves don’t have rights. Thus, your argument is again negated.


  17. Brendan

    You are merely playing with words. Call the passport an ID or a certificate or whatever you like. It won't get you around the fact that without it you aint going anywhere.

    You can't leave the country without permission. It is not allowed. You do not have permission to leave unless you have the passport on your person. The pasport acts as ,and is, a permission slip. It identifies you as a person to whom a limited, conditional permission has been granted.

    Don't argue with me about it. Why not go out to the airport and try your arguing out there. Tell them all the bullshit you've written here. Betcha get a swift kick up the backside and a one-way trip to the cells.

    No passport = no permission.

    Have you read the link yet?


    PS BTW you will also not be granted permission to leave NZ if there are fines and tributes the government requires from you that you have not yielded up- passport or not.

    The Bill of Rights is toothless. It does not in general supercede other legislation or necessarily bind the Crown. Try reading the damn thing and checking some of the related legislation and precedence before quoting out of context. You end you looking foolish.

  18. lgm: “You are merely playing with words.”

    The words I’m “playing” with are the plain words of legislation.

    Legal documents such as passports have specific purposes. For example, a mortgage document gives you a right that is specific to a particular piece of property. It doesn’t give you a right to ‘property’ in general. A visa is issued by the country of destination and is valid for a specific time for specific purposes. Similarly, the passport has a specific purpose – the identification of the bearer for purposes of travel.

    These purposes are objectively verified by the documents and by the laws of the particular country. Your opinion has no objective verification.

    A passport is required at the airport as a matter of administrative convenience because the aircraft will be landing in a foreign destination, which requires you to show your passport. You can in fact leave the country by other means, and you are free to depart. You will only be required to produce your passport if you intend to set foot on foreign soil.

    “Betcha get a swift kick up the backside and a one-way trip to the cells.”

    And you have evidence for this claim?


  19. Brendan

    Wriggle. Wriggle. Wriggle. You can't slime your way out.

    Fact is, unless you have that permission, you aint leaving. You are not free as you claimed! And so, for you the argument is lost.


    So you are a lawyer now?

    This bit was really silly, "plain words of legislation". Just laughable. Still, the barristers at the Crown will enjoy it.


  20. Elijah Lineberry14 Apr 2008, 09:19:00


    Before quoting the NZ Bill Of Rights Act you need to familiarise yourself with Section 4...

    No court shall, in relation to any enactment (whether passed or made before or after the commencement of this Bill of Rights),—

    (a) Hold any provision of the enactment to be impliedly repealed or revoked, or to be in any way invalid or ineffective; or

    (b) Decline to apply any provision of the enactment—

    by reason only that the provision is inconsistent with any provision of this Bill of Rights

    In other words if the State wants to deny you:

    1. Freedom of speech
    2. Protection from cruel treatment or torture
    3. Freedom of expression
    4. Rights after arrest
    5. Protection from unreasonable search or seizure
    6. etc
    7. etc

    ...there is nothing to stop the State from doing so.

    This is the most disgraceful, shameful section in any act ever passed in New Zealand.

    One reason I am a libertarian is to see the repeal of Section 4 of the NZ Bill of Rights Act.

    (The main reason Labour and National people are not libertarians is to preserve Section 4)

  21. LGM, you must accept that your illogical argument here on this thread has been exposed by Brendan, so it looks like that you're the one that is playing with words.

  22. Elijah , how about you stick to being a forex trader which is something that you've boasted frequently about here at Not PC for doing well in. Stop trying to have an un-informed opinion about the law because you're not a lawyer.

  23. Elijah Lineberry14 Apr 2008, 10:50:00

    Anonymous...I take it you are Natalie Harrington ..(I am surprised you are up this early in the morning and not sleeping off the 2 bottles of vodka from last night)

    Oh, and please, if you are going to have an alcoholic misanthropic rant, have the guts to show your face rather than posting anonymously.


  24. Anon,
    funny how desparate statists and authority worshippers, such as yourself, will go to almost any lengths to avoid admitting the point.

    By all means back your words up. have the courage of your convictions. Try what Brendan is too chicken to try. If you are so certain of your freedom to leave without permission, go out to the airport and try to do it. Remember, I am betting that if either (or both) of you weenies ever really did try it on, you'd be receiving a good kick in the pants and a trip straight to the cells. Rather than argue in circles, have the courage of your convictions and do as your mate reckons; leave without permission. That means no passport.

    Course, neither of you will. Two reasons;
    1. you are too frightened
    2. you are full of bullshit, piss, bad manners and lies. You know it. Everyone else knows it.


  25. lgm: “Fact is, unless you have that permission, you aint leaving.”

    And your evidence is? Your claim, your burden of proof. But hey, I’m a fair man. Do you a deal. You buy me a ticket to an agreed overseas destination, I’ll turn up at the airport without a passport. You risk losing a few hundred dollars, I risk getting thrown in the slammer. How about it?


  26. Elijah: “One reason I am a libertarian is to see the repeal of Section 4 of the NZ Bill of Rights Act.”

    As I understand it, Section 4 is intended to maintain the supremacy of Parliament as supreme lawmaker, as against the judiciary. I think this situation is preferable to one where the way is opened for judicial activism.

    And there are other provisions in the Bill of Rights that aim to safeguard its principles, such as Section 5, which requires a justification for limitations on rights, and Section 6, which requires that statutes should be interpreted consistently with the rights enumerated in the bill.

    The law is an evolving instrument and establishing rights is a matter of balancing sometimes competing interests.


  27. Brendan

    No. You are wrong again. The burden of proof falls on you since you are claiming the positive. I've challenged your assertion. You need to provide the proof and when you can't you must retract the claim. Basic stuff.

    Have you read the link PC provided yet? The reason I bring this up yet again is that you are contributing your comments on a Libertarian site. The physical coercion issue is important in Libertarian thought. You'd do well to make the attempt to understand it and its significance.


  28. lgm: “The burden of proof falls on you since you are claiming the positive.”

    I have provided evidence that New Zealanders have a legal right to freedom of movement into and out of this country. Regardless of your opinion of the law, the right exists. The fact that the right is constrained simply recognises that rights are not absolute, under any system.

    Your claims are that a passport is a “permission slip” to leave the country, and that if one were to attempt to leave the country without a passport, one would “get a swift kick up the backside and a one-way trip to the cells”.

    If you don’t want to put your money where your mouth is, a cheaper option would be to provide some evidence for your assertion.

    Evidence in this instance could mean: 1) a statement from the relevant authority that a passport is a “permission slip” to leave the country; and/or 2) some empirical evidence, ie a case where failure by a NZ citizen to present a passport while attempting to leave the country resulted in a spell in the pokey. (The mentally infirm and criminals do not count.)

    “Have you read the link PC provided yet?”



  29. Brendan

    You are attempting to substitute the notion of a "legal right" (which is a form of permission) for that of freedom to act. They are not the same thing. Far from it. It does your position no good to confuse them.

    You do not have the freedom to act in this matter, as you well know and have specifically admitted. Hence a permission to act is required from the body or organisation which has the power of control over you. The form of the permission is irrelevant. The point is that it is a permission you MUST obtain prior to acting or else you are not allowed to act.

    Since it is you who claim the positive, it is up to you to go out to the airport and demonstrate the freedom you THINK you have. As stated previously, I reckon that if you push your luck and argue, in the manner you have attempted in this venue, you'll soon find yourself on the receiving end of some physical coercion. A good ol' kick in the pants and some cell time being but the start of your problems. Still, if it is proof you are wanting to provide for your claim of being able to leave freely, without let or hinderance (and that means not needing to seek a permission), then it is up to you to provide the proof. It is, after all, your claim. I'm merely the one challenging you to prove it.

    In conclusion, the physical coercion test works just fine; your example being yet one more demonstration of that fact.


    BTW, if you are going to copy another person's means of argument, you really do need to understand how it works first.

  30. lgm: “You are attempting to substitute the notion of a "legal right"…for that of freedom to act.”

    I’m talking about evidence, and the existence of the legal right is evidence of an intention to recognise the freedom to act.

    “…if you push your luck and argue, in the manner you have attempted in this venue, you'll soon find yourself on the receiving end of some physical coercion.”

    You need to clarify in your own mind what you are claiming. If you are claiming that arguing with airport staff will result in an unpleasant situation, I agree. However, if you are claiming that turning up at the check-in counter without a passport will land you in a cell, I disagree.

    Where is your evidence for the latter?


  31. Brendan

    It does not matter what you waht to talk about. The situation remains as before. You can't talk your way around it.

    Whether the authority (the govt in this case) has an intention to grant you a permission does not mean you have freedom to act. You still need that permission. You will find that in the absence of the permission you are not allowed to act. If you attempt to, then physical coercion will certainly be applied. The harder you try to express your "freedom" in the absence of the necessary permission, the more seriously and vigorously the coercion will be applied on you.

    As far as ending up in the cells is concerned, you've been challenged to back up your claims, so go try your luck. Go get the real first-hand evidence by direct means. Stand up for your claim and fight for your freedom! See how far you get. Push your luck hard enough and the cells await as you know full well.


  32. Elijah Lineberry17 Apr 2008, 08:10:00

    There is a way around this sort of thing, if you had the time, a boat and the inclination...and that is to have a yacht and just sail away to foreign places without a passport.

    You could simply sail out of Auckland and sail into Sydney Harbour, or wherever, without much to worry about as, generally speaking, the authorities do not actively police this sort of thing, they just put a sign up saying "Foreign yachts to contact the harbour master and Customs"..or words to that effect.

    In a funny kind of way, it is voluntary.

  33. Elijah

    You certainly do not have the right to enter Australia. It is not a good idea to get caught trying it.

    The Australian govt are very sensitive about that sort of thing. If they find out you're a boatperson and they don't like your ethnicity, then there are concentration camps in the desert waiting...

    They get especially strict during the run up to an election.



  34. Elijah Lineberry17 Apr 2008, 09:34:00

    I think you misunderstand me, LGM.

    I did not say you had a 'right' to do that.

    I was saying if you sailed a yacht out of NZ without a passport, you could sail into Sydney and are required to 'voluntarily' register with the Harbour master and Customs.

    Because they are socialist civil servants they automatically assume everybody does so.."Because it is *gasp* the LAW so you have to do it, mate"... hence not policing yachts entering the Harbour, and would be horrified to think anyone just ignored them and proceeded to have a holiday in Australia passport-less.

    It is a similar situation in numerous other could, for example, sail into virtually any Country bordering the Mediterranean and not be bothered..(especially if you were White, wore a suit and spoke well)..the UK or Eire..all sorts of places just rely on voluntary registration with authorities because they assume people will do as they are told... because they are slaves to the State

    This is a good example of Libertarians vs Socialists...the libertarians reading this will be nodding their heads and smiling, the Socialists will be shocked at the idea of not following rules and think of 1001 reasons why it cannot be done, and be worried about getting caught.

  35. Elijah

    Aha! Works well enough if you are the "right" sort of person, as all right thinking people know!



  36. Elijah: “There is a way around this sort of thing...and that is to have a yacht and just sail away…without a passport.”

    That’s right, Elijah, as I suggested on 13/4: “You can in fact leave the country by other means…”.

    Lgm has confused two separate issues: 1) the freedom to leave New Zealand; 2) the requirement to carry a passport to enter a country.


  37. Brendan

    Oh stop telling lies you little brat. You've attempted to mislead and deceive at every opportunity and here you go again.

    What Elijah is discussing is illegal. There is no legal right to do it. If the government becomes aware of you acting like that there is indeed physical coercion they have recourse to apply- seizure of your yacht for one thing, a trip to the cells for another.

    As you are well aware, you must have a passport not only to enter another jurisdiction, but also to exit this one. You do not have permission to leave NZ without undergoing all the customs formalities and being granted all the permissions associated with that. In the absence of that you are not free to leave, not legally. Of course, you are welcome to go out to the airport and prove me wrong as you have been challenged to do. I'm betting you can't. Reckon that's because you're all puff, no substance.


  38. Elijah Lineberry18 Apr 2008, 07:43:00

    As an hilarious coda to my posts...

    Out of curiousity yesterday I telephoned the Customs people at the Wharf to ask about sailing a yacht into Auckland.

    The lady said it was a requirement to contact them 48 hours before arrival.. (to let them know you are coming)... and to visit their Quay St Marine office upon arrival.

    I asked it they policed it and she did not seem to 'get it'.
    The idea of someone not complying with those laws and regulations did not compute!

    Eventually, after about 20 minutes of repeating myself, she admitted that no it was not policed.

    I then asked if someone was, as we speak, sailing a yacht full of drugs, or semtex, or nuclear weapons (!)to New Zealand how likely it was to be intercepted before arrival? which she meekly said "virtually none".

    I asked what the chances were of anyone bothering the yacht after arrival if the people (understandably) did not immediately contact Customs and register? ...once again, "virtually none" was the reply.

  39. Elijah

    Ask them what would happen if the "Lone Ranger" ever cam back to NZ!



  40. Elijah Lineberry18 Apr 2008, 13:05:00

    Ummmm...?? (not following you, LGM)

  41. "Lone Ranger" is a superyacht which exited NZ territorial waters without clearing customs and going through all the proceedures a few years back. They gave the authorities the metaphorical finger. It was a big deal at the time I understand. She can't come back... I guess the skipper can't either.


  42. lgm: “If the government becomes aware of you acting like that…seizure of your yacht…a trip to the cells for another.”

    What evidence do you have to back this claim?



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