Friday, May 28, 2010

Civil Rights and Libertarianism

Over at EconLog Bryan Caplan started a discussion about the relationship between libetarianism and the Civil Rights movement. I contributed a couple of comments. This is part of a post from someone doing some head-scratching regarding libertarian thought, and what follows is my response to him:

Will says...

"I'm really struggling with these analogies. If I own a restuarant and only allow service to my friends and relatives, I don't need a lighted sign visible to the highway that I am serving food. But if I advertise that I am selling food to passersby, then it makes sense that the government can prohibit my arbitrary discrimination of people based on gender, class, or race. A restuarant is not a private eating club..."

I think most of the the contention for libertarians is two-fold here:


The first issue is that of what is private property. It seems that most of the people who are in support of government intervention here do believe that these places of business are private property - yet there is some sense in which owners of these properties have less rights than others. If I own a house, I can openly discriminate regarding whomever is allowed to enter my house, regardless of the reason. It's my ownership of that property that entitles me to remove tresspassers. Having the right to do what I wish with that tract of land or the object in question (including deciding who may interact with it) is inherent in the Lockean concept of property itself. I don't have to have morally virtuous reasons for excluding anyone from taking or using that which is mine.

As mentioned, detractors do seem to view businesses as private property, but they seem to ascribe only partial property rights to the owners. Libertarians might (and do) contend that, if I don't have the right to exclude another person from using my property, then how do I really even own it? In a way, it seems we treat it as more of a communal property claim in reality than a private one, even though we attempt to acknowledge it as private.

And even if we were to openly accept the idea that property becomes somehow public when commerce occurs, I think it becomes even more fuzzy. I won't answer the questions for you, but consider some of the following:

  • Is it alright to discriminate regarding who enters my house?
  • What if I start giving away free food?
  • What if I start charging for said food?
  • If I advertise for people to come over and eat, is it still within my rights to not let anyone into my house if I choose to do so?
  • If someone wants to cut my grass for free, can I say no?
  • What if it is because of their race?
  • If someone wants to cut my grass for $20, can I say no?
  • What if it is because of their race?
  • If I'm the one mowing lawns, can I refuse to even attempt to offer service to a resident?
  • What if it is because of their race?

I think with many people, the answers to these questions would be completely different if we were talking about a "business," even though commerce between individuals on private property is clearly taking place. It doesn't even really seem that it's commerce that's making the situation different (when's the last time you were forced to pay into FICA or extend employment benefits for your baby-sitter?). So when do I start losing my property rights here?


I won't be overly tedious with this point, but I think it has to be made. It seems to me pretty atrocious that we're under-handedly buying into the concept that you should be forced to provide a product or service for any given person. Even if I advertise that I'm selling something, I'm under no contract to labor for anyone. If you went by a child's lemonade stand, and they decided they didn't want to squeeze any more lemons just so you could have a cup of lemonade (it could even be because you're "stinky"...) it's not apparent to me what right you have to put a gun to their head and make them squeeze the lemons.

It seems to me that even if we can't agree to the idea of owning external property we could at least acknowledge that we own ourselves and our own bodies. If you had an elderly African-American who owned a small cafe, and because he felt sleighted by arrogant whites in his youth he did not wish to offer his labor to them, I would consider it pretty shameful that our collective view would be that we could force this black man to serve whites - regardless of whether we felt it was racist or not. The idea of not being able to control your own labor seems to clearly disregard our historical struggles in America (particularly one in the 19th century).

Now, I think it's entirely appropriate to entertain the idea of what we should do. Clearly racism is no virtue, and we should do whatever we can to combat it. But what we shouldn't be doing is abridging the rights of other people in the process. There is a difference between a crime and a vice. I think that's the point most libertarians are trying to make.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Responding to Marc Eisner

Marc Eisner recently made a post regarding the obstinance of principled libertarians, and entertained the idea that they generally have it easy; only having to debate in a theoretical context. I offered the following:

This is an interesting post, and I’ve gone back and forth with people of all stripes over many of these same contentions. This might be an over-simplification, but I think libertarians are actually less free in some regards; as opposed to having the lack of constraints you’ve denoted. I’ve come to find that libertarians have the peculiar habit of trying to fight a war on two fronts.


I think this is the playing field for most political ideologies. It’s mostly a tug-of-war involving differing views of the most pragmatic ends and the most pragmatic means to achieve those ends. Whether those ends are the welfare of the people, the abolition of vice as it is perceived, or anything else, we tend to squabble about what the best ends are and the easiest way to get there. Libertarians do this just as much as anyone else.

In fact, libertarian sensibilities regarding their economic dispositions revolve pretty heavily on the idea that freedom will actually produce these preferred results more completely than their statist counterparts’ ideas will. And I have to say, in their defense, that some of the more particular aforementioned contentions are just going to leave most libertarians shaking their heads. There is certainly such a thing as market failure (that is the entire concept of public goods). But pointing blame at free-markets for an economic crash that happened in a market that is anything but free from government perversion seems pretty
unreasonable; as does pointing to a disaster perpetrated by a company that is tucked well away under government protection and privilege.

But even if we were to accept the premise that we have been operating under some utopian, free-market regime, the argument would still stand (in most cases) that free markets would correct themselves much better than ratcheting reactionary regulations (which mysteriously seem to fail in light of the next crisis). In fact, I think a strong argument is made that the free-market pattern of failure and self-correction is what makes the whole system work so efficiently. Economists like Peter Boettke make
this point time and time again, that it’s actually the friction – the creative destruction – within the free market that resolves so many of these problems. The argument is not that free-markets never run into problems. The argument is that free-markets self-correct, and that political intervention most often makes things worse in the long run by perverting incentives (see: 2008 market crash & 2010 BP oil spill).


This is arguably the playing field where libertarians find their political enemies doing a bit of a different dance. Libertarians often find themselves in line, ethically, with many of the ends of both their liberal and conservative brethren. Few of us will be found praying for human suffering and misery. However, even if we did not believe that freedom was a pragmatic answer to our political question, we would generally find it
unconscionable to openly perpetrate harm against innocent people in order to achieve some greater good.

If we were offered the chance to shoot 75 innocent people to save 100, I think many people of other persuasions would just start shooting. I think most libertarians would ask how we, in light of the ethical ends of trying to preserve life in this situation, could justify taking innocent life in the process. It certainly may not seem pragmatic, but what the libertarians are trying to offer is a way out of this binary dichotomy of choice(s) we seem to be presented with. We entertain the idea of putting down the gun altogether.

But even if we found ourselves talking pragmatics, I think the annoying “consistency” of libertarians still has value. If nothing else, libertarians, at the expense of political power (ha!) and expediency, offer a reminder to those who believe themselves to be somehow more “mature” than their counterparts; to constantly be aware of what hangs in the balance. I think people find it too easy to push aside the inconsistency of their views even in light of their own ethical norms, and libertarians will (hopefully) keep reminding them that two wrongs don’t make a right.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Deep Thoughts

(An excerpt from Rachel Maddow's interview with Rand Paul)

"MADDOW: But isn't being in favor of civil rights but against the Civil Rights Act a little like saying you're against high cholesterol but you're in favor of fried cheese?"

Any libertarian: No. It's like saying you're against high cholesterol but you couldn't imagine telling other people that they shouldn't be allowed to eat fried cheese. Is that really hard to understand?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pause for Thought

I haven't been able to view the relevant clips myself, but it appears that Rand Paul is being blasted in the public forum for some comments he made recently on the Rachel Maddow Show. It seems (incoming shocker!) that the self-proclaimed libertarian is against a portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act legislation. This is a heated issue that is near-and-dear to most principled libertarians. I don't particularly like Rand - he's too conservative for my liking. On the other hand, while most people seem to be in utter shock regarding his comments, he gets some points in my book for sticking to his principles.

The portion of this particular legislation which libertarians hold in contention establishes the prohibition of businesses from making decisions based on race (in regards to consumers and employees alike). On the surface, at least at this point in time, even questioning such legislation seems suspicious to most people. After all, we view racial prejudice as a horrible thing (and rightly so). Why should we let businesses discriminate in their day-to-day affairs? I think the question is plausible enough. I'll retort with another question; Why should we let the KKK publish a book that says terrible things about blacks and Jews? Is "hate-speech" not as equally despicable? I'd venture to say it is.

So why are we allowed to freely say horrible and nasty things about someone, yet we are not free to NOT conduct business with a person? This question is a little harder to answer. But as per the liberal tradition ex Enlightenment, we derive our right to speak freely from our Lockean concept of self-ownership. Because we own ourselves we are free to say whatever we wish. It would seem to follow (at least for libertarians) that this very concept of self-ownership would suggest we have the right to associate with others (or not) as we wish. In fact, the very concept that you would be forced to undertake any physical action (and particularly when it comes to exchanging private property) would seem to be antithetical to the concept of self-ownership.

For a lot of us, the conversation ends right there. But there are a lot of people who don't seem to agree. Some of them don't understand our contention (and there may be little we can do to avoid this). But still others get into meta-liberty concepts to further back their claim(s).

Some claim that, although it's true that liberty is being infringed upon, it's really simply restitution for what has been done to slaves in our country in the past, and therefore it is just. The collectivist nature of this argument seems not only muddled but contradictory to me. I, nor any of my contemporaries, have ever "claimed" ownership over another human being. And no minority alive in America today was ever enslaved by me to be sure. I'm no more personally responsible for what happened to slaves in this country than I would be for what King George did to the early colonists. And even if that somehow was the case - anyone have a time machine? - those victims would be long dead and gone. Their descendants have no claim to recompense for crimes I didn't even commit. In fact, the whole notion of racial retro-restitution smacks of the same absurd and prejudiced generalizations that we're decrying in the first place. Even if you've had a bad experience with a particular group of people (whether common in race, location, or creed), that certainly gives you no right to blanket guilt over all people who share one of those particular attributes. Does it really make sense that it's OK to take away my freedoms because a different individual happened to commit a crime against someone else decades ago?

Another interesting claim is that a free-market (one that is tolerant of bigots) would be able to, hypothetically, band together and refuse certain groups of people service altogether. For instance, white people could all suddenly agree to never serve black people; and that this would be a horrible plight against minorities. Well, I have two objections to this line of thought. The first one (and it is minor) is that this argument presupposes, ironically, that minorities cannot create wealth in and of themselves. That is to say, the question seems to lie on the premise that only white people can offer valuable services and products, and that without their agreeable nature minorities simply wouldn't be able to have anything. This seems much more racist in abstract than the concept that is in contention in the first place.

Nevertheless, my primary objection would be this; and what of democracy? The claim is made that it is these restrictions of freedoms that "saved" minorities from the horrible free-market. But they seem to be missing something very key here. If we make the claim that government created the environment for dissolving racial boundaries, then shouldn't we ask what created the environment for government to do such a thing in the first place? Contrary to the "free-market" hail-mary-argument the detractors have been lofting, government made some pretty bold, strong-armed moves (read: not so "free-market") long before the Civil Rights Act (Social Security, Central Banking, Income Tax, Federal Reserve, etc.). In fact, it would seem that government strong-armed in the other direction (Jim Crow Laws, etc.). So was it bringing government largess into the mix that changed the political tide, or is it possible that we experienced a change in culture that facilitated a change in government policy? It seems to me that, in a democracy, the plurality generally gets its way (that's the idea anyways). So, in effect, the only way government could really get away with forcing people to not discriminate would be if a fair majority of the people ALREADY FELT IT WAS WRONG TO DO SO! It's a circular argument to proffer otherwise. In fact, I'd argue that if the majority simply felt that minorites were not people at all, and indeed had no rights, that our democracy would not be able to thwart that; for it is the majority that directs policy in the first place. Doesn't this describe EXACTLY what was happening prior to the Civil Rights Act to begin with?

I know that some of these ideas may not sway some of the more liberal readers out there. You may still think that if it wasn't for big government that we would currently have mass racial discrimination (to the point of detriment). I know that not everyone can be convinced. But I might ask those people to stop and consider the following thought:

If we restrict the free trade of business owners in order to prevent mass discrimination against a particular group of people, then why do we allow consumers to freely engage in trade? We don't have any laws preventing consumers from discriminating on any basis whatsoever. We bar business owners from discrimination because we believe it would prevent minorities from being able to obtain economic stability and wealth. Yet, any particular business depends solely on the consumption of their product or service. We're scared that people will band together to not hire or sell to minorities, yet we're not afraid that people will band together and refuse to purchase goods and services from those same minorities? Do those two views really seem consistent?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Left-Libertarianism Revisted

I've been doing some more reading (and listening) regarding the ideas of "thin" and "thick" libertarianism; which appear to appeal to right-libertarianism and left-libertarianism respectively. I have to say, I started into it with some of the same eerie feelings I had when I first started reading into Austrian Economics and Anarcho-Capitalism. That is to say, that feeling you get when you think some of your views are about to be seriously questioned, and possibly shifted considerably. Change is always a scary proposition. We all tend to believe we're on the right path to some extent. And a sense of invested time and effort results in a sometimes unwarranted stalwart defense against new ideas, even when your views don't stand up. However, my exposure to some of these left-libertarian ideas, in addition to bringing up more questions, has oddly left me feeling even more comfortable with what would appear to be my own "thin" view of libertarianism.

Before leveling some of my grievances, I think it's best to give the "thick" view of libertarianism its due. If anything, the Anarcho-Communist/Mutualist view serves to ask important questions that more right-leaning libertarians have not successfully addressed. Concepts like freedom of access and travel within a propertarian framework, the aggregation of land-ownership, indentured servitude, and reciprocity in defense are all issues which libertarianism (of the right-leaning sort) has traditionally had a problem distilling down into constituently proper conclusions. However, I think there are several additional problems that flow from not only the premise of the questions, but also the normative conclusions drawn by the libertarian-left borne out of these questions. My primary criticisms in regards to these objections and their fore drawn conclusions can be roughly divided into three categories; Economic Luditism, Containment/Implication, and Ethical Scope.


Most of the objections brought forth by left-libertarians invoke direct ethical and cultural sensitivities. This concerns me. Beyond the fact that even the most strictly propertarian view derives from some sense of an ethical claim (regardless of whether you believe that claim to be true or not), it always rubs me the wrong way when someone is invoking an emotional response when trying to persuade someone. It's one of the first barriers I found myself overcoming when digging into economics; there are many concepts which initially sound counter-intuitive from an ethical perspective, even if they broadly conform to your own consequentialist norms in the end.

When digging into the subject, there are many altruistic - albeit absurd - conjectures made by leftists of all stripes. As a libertarian you become somewhat battle-hardened in this cat-and-mouse game; thus earning us us the title of "heartless"...and we wear it like a badge. However the beauty of understanding economics is that you come to realize that even your own "heartless" conclusions about policy would achieve more in the truest sense of altruism than even the most utilitarian among the left would desire. We use economics to turn the sword of our enemies against themselves...and we do it well.

So, it is interesting to try to reconcile some of the left-libertarian conclusions in light of their promotion of personal sovereignty and a somewhat leftist view of economics. Now, it would be unfair to make the simple comparison of left-libertarians and left-statists in general because left-libertarians, at least on the surface, do not promote state-based rectification of perceived economic injustices. However, their commitment to the support of the labor movement and various vestiges of socialist/communal ideologies have left them in a place where they have somehow managed to largely ignore some of the key subjectivist insights of the marginal revolution in economics. Their adherence to the anti-"capitalist" tradition of many 18th century thinkers like Proudhon have left them in the position of giving an ad hoc economic justification for labor seizing the means of production. And they do this largely by propping up ideas like the labor theory of value; something which admittedly was greatly inspired by Adam Smith, but has nevertheless been crushed by subsequent frameworks.

It's unclear to me whether their views on capital, interest, or value have led to their political conclusions or the other way around, but they nonetheless bandy some of these tenets as justification for what I would label exceptions to (from their point of view) a system of non-aggression based on property. This strikes me as making aggression out to mean something more arbitrary than what I find it to actually be. Under this paradigm, a violent confiscation of capital would be seen as just; as the left-libertarian would not consider it aggression to take something which does not contort with their concept of possible property formation in the first place.

Now, property formation is a concept which is open to philosophical engagement to be sure. However, it is not clear to me that some of their mis-steps in economic thought are not leading them in an untoward direction regarding their sense of property and property-rights in general. In this way, I think our devotion to economic schools of thought (on both sides) have blinded us to the real discussion; which should be about liberty. Instead, our varied view on economics has left those on the right supporting business while decrying labor and has left those on the left supporting labor while decrying business. And so, I will concede that many right-libertarians give too much reactionary support to corporatism and too much criticism to labor when it shouldn't (although most anarcho-capitalists are good on this). But it seems that left-libertarians are far more willing to vilify not only corporatism, but business itself. And the complications of that mindset in a framework supposedly born out of "freedom" is disconcerting.


Another problem I have with some of these objections is that it's not clear to me that, given the proposition that a propertarian sense of justice does not discretely resolve some issues, we should abandon property-based aggression principles, or that they are necessarily, therefore, inconsistent. Take the issue of the level of reciprocity in force when it comes to self-defense. Most forms of property-based libertarianism lay out a right to self-defense in some sense. But it is not specifically clear what is acceptable in terms of self-defense. We may mostly agree that it would be acceptable to, for instance, kill someone who broke into our house and was attempting to kill us. However it is less clear that it is acceptable to kill someone who breaks into your house to steal your TV. And then it is even less clear that it is acceptable to shoot someone who is simply standing on your front lawn.

This point is an excellent one raised by left-libertarians that right-libertarians have paid too little credence to. This much is true. However, it seems like a non-sequitur to conclude that a property-based sense of aggression is not integral to the concept of aggression. To be fair, there is a wide variation in the left-libertarian approach to this objection. But a good deal of them seem to concede that if propertarian justice (as currently understood) cannot discretely resolve an injustice, then it is therefore incorrect OR that the only resolution to the problem must be borne out of some contradictory sense of sense of justice (a "just" violation of property-rights). I have a problem with both of these conclusions.

It is true that at some fundamental level, propertarian justice can get fuzzy. In fact, a great deal of any ethical proposition can get fuzzy at a certain level. So unless you've resigned yourself to some nihilistic outlook, be prepared to confront this truth. However, troublesome as it may be, it doesn't make sense to conclude that a resolution would be necessarily inconsistent with property-rights, per se. Take Newtonian physics versus Einsteinian physics. When we moved to adopting Einstein's theories over those of Newton, we did not dispense with the primary concept of gravity, or how it practically works in the real world. Indeed, most practical applications of physics have remained unchanged. We still teach Newtonian concepts as a practical/elementary approach to understanding physics. However, Einstein's insights have left us with a different framework for that understanding, and has in several ways strengthened some of the conclusions brought forth by Newton, even though Newton's own framework was not sophisticated enough to grapple with the better understanding that Einstein proffered.

If we were to start to see limitations to Einstein's ideas (as we once did for Newton), it wouldn't make sense to simply throw out all the pragmatic conclusions we have drawn from his insights (as we understand them to be practically correct). We would merely come to the understanding that it is incomplete. The formation of a new concept would not necessitate new conclusions perhaps, but rather a more complex framework. In this way, a fuzzy understanding of property-based liberty could be reaching the limits of its framework. But it's not clear that a resolution couldn't be an extension to or a rebuilding of that framework, without violating its a priori conclusions.

It sometimes seems that left-libertarians are willing to throw away the concept of property altogether when discussing aggression, which seems even more bizarre than the inherent problems they point out in the first place. I would contend that responding to the incompleteness of propertarian justice theory by throwing out the implications of property altogether would be like us throwing out gravity because we believed that maybe Newton and Einstein hadn't quite figured everything out. Yes, acknowledge the shortcomings surely. But we must seriously grapple with the consequences of dispensing of our practical conclusions altogether before we start building things on the proposition that gravity itself doesn't exist, merely because we don't properly understand it.


The rebuttal to many of the left-leaning normative claims are difficult to procure because, in essence, their view results from a synthesis of various senses of virtue with justice. And I believe this may be the subtle core of the issue altogether. I believe what is occurring is a certain amount of cognitive dissonance regarding the reconciliation of virtues like charity with the concept of justice. From the point of view of any individual, there are many virtues which we generally believe we should strive for. And these virtues make up our sense of ethics, and more generally our sense of morality. But, while they are all integral, in the sense of being virtuous as a person, it isn't quite clear to me that any single virtue is clearly consequential, in the Aristotelian sense, to any other aspect of virtue itself and particularly with justice. I believe that when right-libertarians view the political sphere, they consider it to be a sole question of justice. Therefore, any aggregation of "rights" in the positive sense, seems silly to them. Courage, generosity, pride, temperance; all of these may certainly be questions of virtue. But among virtue, law is the purview of justice alone, and so it follows with political recourse.

To the right-libertarian justice is merely the balance weighing human interaction. In the classically liberal sense, justice is the measure of liberty itself. I would contend that virtue, in many ways, is outside of the scope of justice. Justice makes no calls on the vice of gambling or drug-addiction. Likewise, it makes no calls on the virtuous nature of feeding the poor and healing the sick. I believe that many left-libertarians find this disconcerting.

But I think they may be too eager to put the horse before the cart. I don't believe that putting virtue out of the purview of justice is binding us to self-destruction in any sense. It doesn't follow, to me, that we are saying that justice TRUMPS these perceived virtues. The right-libertarian merely claims that it's not a matter that justifies reciprocal force or coercion. In that sense, justice actually precludes obligations to be moral or amoral. Instead its concern is lateral; that of actually defending your right to remain neutral . In this way, justice is merely inconsistent with virtue only to the extent that it's indifferent to it. Many left-libertarians may find this abhorrent, but when you consider some of the radically subjective notions that could spring forth from moralizing our notions of justice, you might understand that the hesitance of many libertarians in latching onto the application of virtue through justice. It may be preferable, instead, to consider justice a seperate sphere of ethics altogether.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Heroes and Thieves

There seems to be a bit of a "bah-humbug!" moment on behalf of some critics in the film industry regarding the upcoming film-adaptation of the legend of Robin Hood. Needless to say, this is a myth that, much like Through the Looking Glass, has seen many iterations through many mediums. But it appears that this prequel to the well-known story explores a tighter focus on Robin of Loxley's relationship with the government in particular. The critics opine that he appears much more like a tea-party tax-protester rather than the socialist fever-dream proletariat-hero that they have always envisioned him to be.

Let me say first and foremost that, although I've enjoyed some incarnations of the Robin Hood story, I've never been a huge fan of the myth...just from an aesthetic standpoint. Most of the adaptations just haven't captured my interest (although a few have). Nonetheless, I can at least somewhat sympathize with their qualms regarding the film. It is certainly true that we generally regard this particular story as a socialist one; indeed we are told he stole from the rich and gave to the poor. I've often thought that this particular distillment does somewhat of a disservice to the story itself. Could the lore of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men hold any other meaning(s)?

I think it's safe to say that most authors want to convey some kind of message in their stories. They may not all be axiomatic and of ethical origins, but there is usually something - a feeling, a question, an idea - that they wish to convey. But, even being fairly aware of an artist's intentions, we often have our own bias in retrieving some kinds of messages that were never intended. For instance, someone can walk away from a movie like Aliens and get any combination of the following messages:
  • Technology is bad
  • War is bad
  • Capitalism is bad
  • Mining is bad
  • Respect animal rights
  • You can't trust people
  • We shouldn't explore space
  • There really are extra-terrestrials
  • People in the military are not intelligent
  • Children are smarter than adults sometimes

That is not to say that any of these items are or are not true; but I've heard any one of these messages gleamed from that film at any one point in time. The author of the story, or the director of the film, may or may not agree with any of these points. It's less likely he intended to convey ALL of these messages (at least consciously). So it's safe to say we all have a bias to see stories through the prism of our own dispositions. So I will go ahead and make it clear that my interpretation of the Robin Hood legend is probably tinted; however I do not believe that makes it incorrect.

While I think that the story is quite saturated with overtones of the virtue of charity, I've always felt that it was a story primarily concerned with the virtue of justice. Indeed, it was actually a story about injustice; A tyrant who oppressed his people by over-taxing them and then passing favor to rich government officials who squandered that wealth. The dichotomy of a poor peasant/warrior vs. the rich tyrant/king may certainly connote class inequity. But I've often felt that it just as easily connotes inequity of authority. The protagonists are generally the common people, whereas the antagonists are wealthy aristocrats who are entrenched with government power (the faux-king and sheriff in particular stand out). Indeed the story is not about the inequitable wealth incurred by a free society, but of a people who are heavily taxed of every last dime by their government, under the threat of being imprisoned.

Taxation and government power, at least to me, were key parts of the plot. In fact, it was the crux of the whole story in many regards. And while I believe the class aspects of the story are important, I felt that they merely provide the appropriate sentiment in the struggle of those with no authority over government officials whom hold all of the authority. Is it possible that this cherished legend of rich vs. poor could really be about the governing vs. the governed? You may be too attached to the prevailing interpretation to concede much ground on the idea of the story as centered around government power, but, given the angle I've introduced here, would you not concede that my story could be an equally plausible explanation? I don't think it's that much of a stretch. After all, is the idea of Robin of Loxley stealing from the government to give to the poor really that frightening?