And, as I have pointed out before, it is useless for anarcho-capitalists to try and evade the question by claiming that the situation imagined is “unrealistic” or “unlikely.” Hypothetical scenarios that are possible are perfectly legitimate to test ethical theories and their implications.
And it now strikes me that even that alleged “unrealistic” nature of the scenario can be questioned. Asteroid strikes and other threats we might face from natural events in our local part of the galaxy are no joke:
“Every century or so, a 10-meter meteor slams into the Earth with the force of a small nuclear device. Tunguska was the site of the last, in 1908, and it was pure luck that that meteor landed in the uninhabited wilderness of Siberia. Every few thousand years, Earth can pass through unusually thick parts of the debris trail of comets, turning the familiar light show of a meteor shower into a deadly firestorm. Roughly every 100,000 years, a projectile hundreds of meters across unleashes power equal to the world’s nuclear arsenals. The result is devastation over an area the size of England, global tidal waves (if the impact is in the ocean), and enough dust flung into the atmosphere to dim the Sun and kill off vegetation. That could ruin your day.We live in a dangerous, dangerous universe indeed, and humanity in fact needs to devote itself to detecting and dealing with threats like this.
Then there's the “Big One”. About every 100 million years, a rock the size of a small asteroid slams into the Earth, causing global earthquakes, kilometre-high tidal waves, and immediately killing all large land animals. Creatures in the sea soon follow, as trillions of tons of vaporised rock cause drastic cooling and the destruction of the food chain based on photosynthesis. There's good evidence that this happened 65 million years ago and our tiny mammal ancestors were the beneficiaries as the giant lizards were extinguished. .... When massive stars exhaust their nuclear fuel, the result is a titanic explosion called a supernova. The dying star brightens to rival an entire galaxy and emits high-energy particles that can destroy the ozone layer of a planet like Earth if it occurs within 30 light years. The demise of large North American mammals 41,000 years ago has been linked to a supernova, and several other mini-extinctions may be tied to the cataclysm of stellar death. A supernova is a small squib compared to a hypernova. In this dramatic and rare event, the violent collapse of a very massive star ejects jets of gas and high-energy particles at close to the speed of light, and for a few moments the star outshines the entire universe in gamma rays. If a hypernova went off within 1,000 light years, and Earth was within the narrow cone of high-energy radiation, we’d experience an immediate global conflagration. It’s brutal luck if a hypernova ever goes off with its beam aimed at us.”
Chris Impey, “The End of the World as we Know It,” Independent, 14 June 2010.
And one immediately wonders: has the private sector concerned itself with threats like this, and by pure private funding provided a solution or detection system? I see no evidence of it. By contrast, both the UK and US governments certainly have:
Centre to Monitor Asteroids Opens, Guardian, 18 April 2002.Furthermore, the technology required for actually doing something about any such threat now exists because it has been developed in the state sector, with decades of government funding to programs like NASA.
Robert Matthews, “Britain Leads Defence Against Asteroid Impact,” Telegraph, 1 March 2001.
If such a threat occurred and the solution required not just national mobilisation of resources and labour, but international co-operation by governments as well, the pure natural rights libertarian would be forced to condemn such coercive measures as an immoral violation of private property rights.
The extinction of the human species in scenarios where government intervention would be required to save it follows logically from natural rights ethical precepts. That is a very high price to pay for a theory which also lacks any credible justification.
The two major Austrian defences of absolute rights to property are Rothbard’s natural rights theory (which I have criticised here) and Hoppe’s argumentation ethic. Neither overcomes the ought from is dilemma of Hume. In the case of Hoppe, one can note that, just because you require the use of certain body parts in debate, it simply does not follow from this that you have any absolute moral right to the use of your body or of any external property.