General Comments

   Feel free to make any general comments regarding natural rights libertarianism or suggestions for improving this site here.

10 Responses to General Comments

  1. John says:

    Mark, following up on the BHL union discussion I’m really only commenting on two points.

    1) If we take both right to work laws and union shop laws as intervention into voluntary contract, are they both consistent with above free market wages? Or was that a bit of a misread in the comments?

    2) I get the point that if a law ties the employer’s hand regarding ability to negotiate with other workers one different terms than those agreed to with the union does interfere with the natural right of association on agreed terms. That said, it’s not clear to me that an employer agreeing to a closed shop is violating any natural right. So if you claim is that some federal law violates a natural right, I agree in general.


    • Mark Friedman says:

      I’m not 100% sure that I completely understand your first comment, but I will respond to the best of my ability. I don’t accept the idea that right to work laws interfere with the right to contract, other than in a purely theoretical sense (discussed immediately below). Right to work laws simply prevent unions from making workers join or pay dues as a condition of employment, and precludes unions from acting as the exclusive bargaining agent for workers. I agree that (as I understand them) they also prevent an employer from voluntarily agreeing to a closed shop arrangement, but I question whether any sane employer would actually desire to so.

      A closed shop agreement means that in the event of a strike the employer is going to suffer major economic loss compared to an open shop situation. The former arrangement means that months will go by while the legally mandated process of bargaining with the union plays out, while in a right to work state the employer could immediately make offers to individual employees who don’t want to strike and to outside workers who would like a job even at wages less than the union demands. That said, I agree that from a natural rights perspective an employer should have the right to agree to ANY deal it wishes, although for the reasons discussed above I think this is a little like saying that someone should have the right to agree to be the victim of an armed robbery.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Mike Mooney says:

    Recently you wrote at ON THE WING that cigarette and cigar smoking should be deregulated in privately owned buildings, I noted.

    Over 35 states have legislated against this kind of smoking in areas where the public is served.

    And 105 municipalities in the U.S. have legislated against smoking at public parks and beaches.

    New York City began its regulation of smoking in parks and beaches just today, Monday, May 23rd.

    Thirty-five states and one-hundred-five cities and towns say you’re on the wrong side of progress.

    You are not persuaded by all this support for a ban on toxins in the air we breathe?

    ~ Mike M.

    • Mark Friedman says:

      Well…no. Democracies often do stupid things, or worse, things that violate people’s rights. Witness what happened to our Japanese-American citizens during WWII. Private owners have the right to control what happens on their property, unless they wish to do something that violates the rights of others, e.g. experiment with the Anthrax microbe. When private business owners set the rules for their space they violate no person’s rights, because those who do not wish to abide by those rules can stay out of that building–problem solved. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Mike Mooney says:


    Slate, in the internet magazine, has just published, on June 19, an article about Robert Nozick, in which the author Stephen Metcalf, claims that Nozick eventually found Libertarianism less defensible after the mid-1970’s (when his book was first out in print.) By the the 1980’s he was more interested in democratic institutions and less interested in unregulated capitalist markets. I’d be interested in seeing you write a comment at Slate’s site.

    ~ Mike M.

    • Mark Friedman says:

      Hi Mike,
      This is an old issue, one that I briefly mention in my book (n.10, pp.161-2). Those who say Nozick renounced his libertarianism in any meaningful way are either badly misinformed or spreading propaganda. He did later question some of the more extreme elements of his earlier views, but never offered any arguments against his earlier positions. Near to his death he gave an interview where he noted that his so-called recantation was greatly exaggerated. This story has been told a number of times, and I feel no need to respond to the guy writing in Slate. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Mike Mooney says:

    Did Robert Nozick even view himself as a “libertarian?” He had met Murray Rothbard of the Von Mises Institute, and he was aware, in his discussions with Rothbard, of Ludwig Von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, and many others — but he was more a scholar of fundamental issues from the 1700’s Enlightenment Era, the era of John Locke thru Immanuel Kant, one wasn’t likely to see someone like him at a third-party convention of practical politics wearing a Ron Paul pin, I’d assume. Did Nozick use the word Libertarian to refer to his convictions?

    • Mark Friedman says:

      Yes he did. See p. ix of ASU: “With reluctance, I found myself becoming convinced of (as they are now called) libertarian views, due to various considerations and arguments.” I also recall reading that he attended one of the Libertarian Party conventions, but I can’t swear to this.

  5. Mike Mooney says:

    Mark, Any news from you about your next book. I heard there’s a book by you due out in August? True? Mike M.

    • Mark Friedman says:

      Hi Mike,
      Its true that I am working on a new book that will present a streamlined, more accessible version of the moral perspective argued for in Nozick’s Libertarian Project, and will then apply the natural rights perspective to current policy debates. But, it is not yet finished and I have no publication date. I will let you know. Thanks for your interest.

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