The facts of the matter speak for themselves. I encourage readers to read first my original post, and then Sandefur's reply. His misconduct is so apparent that further commentary on my part is quite unnecessary. Still, for your convenience, I will offer some highlights below.
Here's my argument:
Property is a “social construction” [rather than a “fixed and immutable” natural category], and recognition of this fact can open our eyes to the possibility of various different systems of property rights. We can then make an informed moral choice between the various options. We shouldn’t just assume the absolutist propertarian conception from the start.
Note also the open-ended nature of my conclusion, that we should "dispute the merits of alternative institutional systems". Clearly, my purpose is to open the debate, not conclude it.
Now, compare this to Sandefur's straw man:
Since property is created by social mores and by government’s laws, therefore there can be no real objection when the government changes the rules and says that what you own is not really yours.
The mind boggles. This is quite obviously not an accurate representation of my argument. It's not even close. It misses the entire thrust of my introduction and conclusion (i.e. the need for moral assessment of our social/legal institutions). Worse, it contradicts my explicit repudiation of this view. I wrote:
That's not to say that "anything goes", or that any system of legal rights instituted by a society would be equally legitimate. Any system which allowed the rulers to arbitrarily seize all a worker's holdings and leave them to starve would be plainly immoral. The system must be set up in a fair and equitable manner.
There is no possible way that one could reasonably interpret me as suggesting the exact opposite, i.e. that governments may do as they please and "there can be no real objection". Yet that is how Sandefur presents my argument. It beggars belief. A first-year philosophy student would flunk out (and probably be sent to remedial reading comprehension classes) if they offered such an unsupported and uncharitable interpretation of an argument.
[The only way to support this dishonest reading would be to ignore my actual argument (introduction, conclusion, and bits in between) and instead take a couple of select quotes out of context. Sadly, that's exactly what Jason Kuznicki did in his misguided attempts to excuse his co-blogger. Needless to say, that's not a responsible way to form an interpretation of another's argument.]
The matter is simple, really. My post makes it perfectly clear that I think there are limits on what governments may rightly do.* I was very explicit on this point. Yet Sandefur presented me as saying the very opposite, and then he viciously attacked me on that transparently mistaken basis. A plainer case of intellectual dishonesty would be hard to come by. No-one of any intelligence who made a minimal effort to read and comprehend my post could possibly interpret it as Sandefur proposed. And if you're going to employ such scathing invective, you are surely obliged to first ensure that you've understood the other person's position.** His failure here is breathtaking.
* = (My follow-up post explains what I think underwrites those moral limits. But that's a separate question.)
** = (If the ethical reasons don't move one, you'd think self-interest would. Mocking an argument you don't understand is a sure way to make a fool of yourself -- as we've had occasion to note before.)
As if that weren't shameful enough, Sandefur then went and wrote another post mocking those phrases of mine that he'd taken out of context (i.e. the idea of "constructing" institutions, and the distinction between "creating" and "violating" laws). By this time he knew that I considered it a misrepresentation. But instead of revising his interpretation like any minimally honest person would, he instead continued to mock the straw man.
I don't know what else to say. Sandefur's misconduct is plain as plain can be. He made a stunning mistake, and now he refuses to accept responsibility for it. If words fail me, perhaps it's best to let Sandefur's writing speak for itself... "idiotic" and "deserving of the bitterest ridicule", indeed!
I've reluctantly removed Positive Liberty from my blogroll, until such a time as they restore their integrity with the requisite retraction and apology. (It's a pity, because I otherwise like the blog, and the other contributors often write intelligent and interesting posts. But some behaviours are simply unacceptable, and I hold such blatant intellectual dishonesty to be among them.)