In Libertarian Theory, There Are Only Negative Obligations, Not Positive Ones

Dear David:

In my humble opinion, there are NO positive duties, only negative ones.

You ask: Is the only positive duty that of if you break it, you must fix it sufficient

I think that’s a NEGATIVE duty. It’s part and parcel of the negative duty not to violate the non aggression principle.

Once we let the cloven hoof of positive duties into the tent, there’s no stopping them. Soon, we’ll have a positive duty to feed other people, not discriminate against them, who knows what else.

We all have negative duties not to murder, not to rape, not to kidnap, not to threaten violence, etc. But we have no positive duties to feed, clothe or shelter other people, unless we have a contract with them to do so so.

Best regards,


From: David Hunt

Subject: Please comment upon the question of what Free People Must Do

Dear Walter Block;

Politics is the means by which society decides upon what is the proper use of socially sanctioned initiatory violence.  While there are many things free people should do,… what must free people do,… as in literally do this or you will be forced to with the proviso that if you resist you may be killed.

Consider the following as a starting social contract between free people that is a work in progress.

The Anarchist’s Constitution

1. There is no Sovereign Immunity.  Any Person (or Persons) who commits force, fraud, or trespass against any other Person’s life, body, or property is liable for restitution to repair the victim to their original condition.

2. The Right to be left alone is Absolute, subject only to the enforcement of the first rule.  Any Person (or Persons) may deny the use of their life, body, or property to anyone else without any necessity to justify the reasons for their denial.

3. There are no exceptions to these 4 rules.

4. These rules being observed,… do whatever you will.

Remember,… any additional positive duties imposed necessarily imply the state’s right, even duty, to kill anyone who does not comply.

Is the only positive duty that of if you break it, you must fix it sufficient,… or might there need to be more such positive duties.  I am basically asking what unchosen, positive duties would all free people have to observe always,… even in an anarcho-capitalist libertopia.  Rather than considering a contract between the government and a free people,… I am considering a contract between all free peoples with each other and regardless of individual consent.  How can it be a contract,… regardless of individual consent,… you may ask?  I think of it as the political equivalent of the necessity of all mathematics having to rely upon the use of axioms,… statements that are taken as self-evidently true requiring no further effort to prove.  Anarcho-capitalists talk of rules without rulers.  Okay,… so I am asking, what are these rules,.. how do we arrive at a consensus of what these rules are,… and what happens to those who dissent from these rules?

I am trying to start projects where anyone participating can submit a peer to peer social contract,.. similar to the way the internet itself works so well.  Forget governments for a moment.  Think specifically in terms of what positive, affirmative duties do we have towards each other.  While there are many things free people should do, what must free people do,… literally,… or risk being killed for not doing it.  This is serious shit!

I understand Anarcho-Capitalists as believing there should be no unchosen, positive, affirmative duty,… other than everyone has to fix what they break, ie., restitution.  That unless it’s consensual, it ain’t moral.  Minarchists aren’t so sure that that is enough.

Do people consent to having to make restitution for the damages they cause others?

What is to be done with those people who refuse to make restitution for their injurious actions to others?

What is to be done with a serial killer, and how is this paid for?

Is it okay not to help an abandoned infant who will otherwise die?

Would it be okay for a mother to just leave a newborn infant?

What do you think should be done about international trafficking in children as sex toys.

What do you want done with adults who do this?  Is restitution really enough?  Is it satisfying?

What is to be done with someone who is very wealthy and regards paying restitution as merely an inconvenience with no qualms about the injuries he does to others?

Can no violent response be made to those who gratuitously mistreat and harm animals?

Can someone who owns the last breeding pair of an endangered species destroy them at will?

Would it be okay for entrepreneurs to create limited liability corporations in which costs from debts and pollution are socialized and profits are held privately?

Is it just that such shareholders are liable only for the money they have invested, with no liability for any costs that corporation may have involuntarily imposed on innocent third parties?

A very practical question is what duty would citizens have in libertopia to cooperate with those trying to enforce what rules are to exist upon everyone,… even without everyone’s individual consent?

Is justice always satisfied simply by paying restitution,… even when someone has violently violated your daughters?

This list is in no sense exhaustive.  I consider all of this to comprise various works in progress.  What are the minimum set of rules (these rules without rulers ) that even anarcho-capitalists seem to recognize as necessary?  How do we arrive at such a consensus?  What happens to those who dissent?

Again, politics is the means by which society decides upon what is the proper use of socially sanctioned initiatory violence.  This is unavoidable, even in libertopia.  Just curious, but would you hold that The Anarchist’s Constitution is sufficient for a functioning free society.  Can you really not think of various instances where even free people would have to submit, regardless of their individual wishes?

And please remember, I would be just as happy to learn more from this debate, but where Libertarians only see violence as a means to protect value and not as a means to create value, I am now asking, in all good will,… is this really necessarily so?  Because certainly we are alone in believing this to the extent that we do.

Does the truth derive from authority or

Does authority derive from the truth?

Does respect flow more from admiration or from fear?

Is it easier to effectively organize people using voluntary association or threats of violence?

If it is wrong for the strong to exploit the weak,… how is it not wrong for the weak to exploit the strong also?

I wish men to be free, as much from mobs as kings, from you as me.

~ Lord Byron, 1788-1824

Basically I am trying to ascertain what would be a set of individually unchosen, positive, affirmative duties that would apply to all free citizens, even in the best of all imagined libertopias.  What would be a proper use of socially sanctioned initiatory violence, even in the an Anarcho-capitalist society.  What would be the minimum set of axioms that would always apply to everyone to establish a free and just society.  If you don’t like my Anarchist’s Constitution, then, by all means suggest your own.  Once I’ve worked the Anarcho-Capitalists side of the street fairly thoroughly, I then intent to ask hard core socialists, and other such believers in state power, what peer-to-peer contracts they would prefer.  Hopefully, such discussions can generate greater universal goodwill and understanding between all political theorists.

[W]hen a group of people make something sacred, the members of the cult lose the ability to think clearly about it. Morality binds and blinds.

~ Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

A free man is as jealous of his responsibilities as he is of his liberties.

~ Cyril James

.. the sense of meaning that life can provide to you, is proportionate to the amount of responsibility you decide to take on..

~ Jordan Peterson

Yours in Liberty,

David Rogers Hunt

While Liberty is never Utopian, it is always melioristic.


2:13 am on July 10, 2020